Levi Stockbridge Reports on the first semester at Mass Aggie – Part I

The Fifteenth Annual Meeting of the State Board of Agriculture met “for lectures and discussions” in the Concord Town Hall from December 10-13, 1867.  Thirty-three leading farmers from throughout the Commonwealth were chosen to attend by the many local Agricultural Societies.  Three representatives were appointed by the Governor including Professor Louis Agassiz of Harvard College and four members were ex officio, including the President of the Massachusetts Agricultural College, Professor William S. Clark.


The Fifteenth Annual Report states that William Clark, President of the Massachusetts Agricultural College, was “detained by his duties at the College and that his place would be supplied by the Hon. Levi Stockbridge.”  The following excerpts were taken from Professor Stockbridge’s report on the first two months at Mass Aggie (students arrived on campus on October 1, 1867).

Let me assure you – we have an Agricultural College!

Gentlemen of the Board, I desire to ask your attention to the few remarks which I may make as a plea for the agriculture of Massachusetts, and for the agricultural education of the farmers of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Agricultural College.  You are by law the overseers of that institution.  Being connected with it temporarily, as one of its officers, I have been upon the ground ever since the first blow was struck the present year towards putting up the buildings and getting the institution in order for the reception of students; and I have been, to say the least, a very attentive observer of all that has taken place there.  I can, therefore, speak of the facts as many others, who are equally interested but who were not upon the ground, cannot speak.

In the first place, I find there is a great deal of ignorance in relation to the institution.  Why…. a man who has a son in the institution told me in this room, tonight, that he had hardly any idea that there was such an institution in the State, or that there was to be one, before his son started to go to Amherst. It is so, generally throughout the Commonwealth.  The people have had no idea that we were really to have an Agricultural College, notwithstanding the talk there has been about it, and notwithstanding the money that has been appropriated for it.  They have had the idea that there would be no college; that it was all talk, and nothing else.

Now, gentlemen, I can say that there is an Agricultural College in Massachusetts. In the first place, it is located, as you know in the town of Amherst.  We have there, in my judgement, a beautiful farm for the institution, of 400 acres, finely located in the valley of the Connecticut, with a great variety of soil.   I say, therefore, we have got a farm, we have got a college, and we have the encouraging feeling that we may possibly succeed.

I located myself upon the farm the first of April.  At that time, we had no buildings; the first blow, in fact, had not been struck. We have erected the past season, in the first place, a large dormitory building, four stories high, 100 x 50.

The Old South College Dormitory

The lower story is divided into recitation-room, reading-room, and cabinet; the three upper stories are rooms for the students, of which we have twenty-four, designed for two students each; giving each two students a sitting-room or parlor, 15 x 16; each of them a fine bed-room; each of them a fine clothes-press or wardrobe. These are the accommodations we give our students.


Sitting room or parlor in the Old South College Dormitory

We erected a laboratory, so-called, in which is to be placed the chemical apparatus of the professor of chemistry, and which is to be the working chemical-room.  In the upper story, we have a dining-hall, 50 x 16, where it is proposed by the trustees of the institution, that all the boys shall take their meals, if they desire it.


The Chemistry Lab

We have erected a convenient botanical building, with a recitation-room for the class in botany, on the lower floor, and a specimen-room for the reception of all sorts of specimens in the hall above it.  We have erected a large conservatory, 100 x 70, with propagating pits, and all the conveniences of the best modern houses.

These are the buildings which have been erected during the past year.  You will see from what I have stated with reference to our dormitory building, that the trustees have laid a plan for a college of forty-eight students, and yet today, the college building is full.  Our term commenced the 2nd of October, and we have a Freshmen class of forty-six, with the prospect of double the number for the next class.  One of the rooms is occupied by a professor, so that we are now full.


The campus as it appeared when the students first arrived on October 1, 1867

NOTE: There were many in Massachusetts who thought the Massachusetts Agricultural College would never succeed.  Professor Stockbridge, more than anyone else, was instrumental toward insuring the early success of the college.  In this speech he made it clear that “we have an Agricultural College” in Massachusetts. The above text represents part of his speech on December 10, 1867.  For the full text see:

Levi Stockbridge Address to the Massachusetts Board of Agriculture

Further remarks will be included in future blog posts….


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