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Notable Alumni of Black River Academy

One of the most important people in Vermont history, Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States of America, graduated from Black River Academy. Calvin was born on July 4, 1872 in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. Calvin was born in a small red house that was connected to the rear of his father's store. Calvin was a wiry little kid with red hair. When he was four years old, his only other sibling, his sister Abigail was born and the family moved across the road to what is known now as the Coolidge homestead. calvin coolidge photoThis homestead remained in the Coolidge family until 1956 when it as given to the state of Vermont so the public could visit it. When Calvin's grandfather died in 1878, Calvin's father gave up running the store and took over the family farm. Calvin's mother Victoria had been in a horse and buggy accident, and never recovered. She died when Calvin was 12 and he missed her very much. Calvin began his school years at the Plymouth notch, one room school down the road from his home. He only had 25 other students in his entire school. He stayed there until he was 13. Then he went off to school at Black River Academy in Ludlow, Vermont. Because this school was so far from his house, Calvin boarded at various houses in Ludlow and Proctorsville. Calvin called it one of the greatest events of my life.

During his senior year at Black River Academy, Calvin's sister died after being sick for a week. It is now thought she had appendicitis.

coolidge graduating class photoAfter graduating from Black River Academy, Calvin went to Amherst College in western Massachusetts to take the entrance examinations. On the train on the way to Amherst, Calvin caught a cold and became very sick. The examinations didn't go too well, and his cold got worse, and he had to return to Vermont. Once he got better, Calvin spent a term at St. Johnsbury Academy. A following semester there he was given a certificate and entered Amherst College.

At Amherst he did not make friends quickly, but by senior year, he was invited to join the fraternity of his choice, and was also chosen to deliver a humorous address at graduation. Calvin graduated from Amherst in 1985 with honors. Several of his friends that Calvin made while at school were appointed to important positions while he was president.

Calvin spent that summer helping out on the farm, and expected to enroll in law school in the fall. However: there was an opportunity to work in the law office of Hammond and Field in Northhampton, Massachusetts, so Calvin went to work. After a time of hard studying and being an apprentice at the firm, he passed the examinations and began working in the courts of Massachusetts. A little while after, Calvin was elected city solicitor of Northhampton.

During all this, Calvin met a young teacher that worked at the Clark school for the deaf in Northhampton named Grace Goodhue. They fell in love and soon after got married. The Coolidges had two boys, John and Calvin Jr. Shortly after the birth of John, Calvin was elected to Massachusetts House of Representatives. Following that he became mayor of Northhampton. After two terms as mayor, Calvin became a state senator, and eventually his friends in the senate elected him president of the senate. He was elected as Lieutenant Governor for three terms. In 1918, the people of Massachusetts elected him governor of the Commonwealth that he had been serving for so long.

Governor Coolidge turned out to be a very strong governor. In 1919, Governor Coolidge faced the Boston Police strike, where his actions brought him to national attention. Governor Coolidge was asked to become Warren G. Harding's running mate for president, and on March 4, 1921, Calvin was sworn in as Vice president of the United States.

In August of 1923, Calvin, who was vacationing at his father's home in Plymouth notch was awoken in the middle of the night and was told that president Harding had died. At 2:47 in the morning of August 23, 1923, Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as the 30th president of the United States of America by his father, Col. John Coolidge, who was a notary public. During his time in the White House, President Coolidge suffered a big loss when his youngest son, Calvin Jr. died from an infection that came from a blister on his foot. Today the deaths of President Coolidge's mother, sister, and son could have all been prevented.

After completing President Harding's term, President Coolidge was elected by the people, and served a full four-year term, until March of 1929, when President Herbert Hoover took the presidency. President Coolidge, still upset from the loss of his son chose not to run for reelection in 1928, but rather to retire back in Northhampton where his political life all began. President Coolidge retired to his original house, a duplex on the main road but due to the large number of people that were going to see the president, he bought another house, the Beeches so he and Mrs. Coolidge could have some.

President Coolidge remained living at the Beeches until his death from a heart attack on January 5, 1933, four years after he left the White House. He was buried at the Plymouth Notch Cemetery, in Plymouth Vermont in his family plot alongside his parents, sister, son Calvin Jr. and his wife, Grace.

Abby Hemenway

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abby hemenway photoWhen you think of all of the famous women in history, you might think of people like Amelia Earhart, Harriet Tubman, Ida Fuller, or Rosa Parks. Of course, there was once an amazing woman that not many people remembered. She had ambition, originality, strength, and so much more that led her to a great writing career that changed the lives of many writers around the world. Her name was Abby Hemenway.

Abby Hemenway was born on October 7, 1828. She had two sisters named Lydia and Carrie Hemenway. Her father's name was Daniel Shefield Hemenway, and her mother was named Abigail Dana Barton.

From age fourteen, Abby worked as a teacher. She always had a desire to write. She had a great relationship with her Uncle Asa and went to Michigan to teach, but some down points in her life turned out to be the years that she spent in Michigan. Above all things, she always loved to read. She especially loved history books! She was a student and graduated from the Black River Academy right here in Ludlow, Vermont.

Abby Hemenway wrote a lot of poetry. She published her poetry in 1858 and 1859. She never married because she was always so busy with her writing. Her devotions to writing made it nearly impossible for her to combine her writing career and marriage.

Abby wanted to take her writing to another step. She loved history books, and she loved Vermont! She wanted to preserve the history of every Vermont village and every Vermont town. So she wrote a gazetteer. A gazetteer is a book that told almost everything about Vermont and each town in Vermont. With a few exceptions, Abby only edited the Gazetteers that she wrote, while others wrote the town histories themselves. Of course, Abby traveled all over the state of Vermont and gathered information to put into the Gazetteers.

Some of the places that she traveled to were Michigan, Chicago, Boston, and Essex County (in the fall of 1860). She had completed four Vermont Historical Gazetteers. A fifth gazetteer was published after her death. She had collected manuscripts for the sixth volume but it was burned in a fire in North Carolina in 1911. The fifth volume that her sister Lydia had finished after her death was also burned in the fire.

Abby Hemenway died in February 24, 1890 form a stroke. She was sixty-two years old when she died. She died in Chicago, Illinois and was buried in Pleasant View of Ludlow, Vermont.

Abby was an amazing woman that was meant to write. She inspired so any writers around the entire world and will always be remembered. She had a fulfilling life and the history and memory of Vermont will always be cherished because of her.

John Garibaldi Sargent

sargent photoJohn Garibaldi Sargent graduated from the Black River Academy in 1883 and became the U, S Attorney General for fellow BRA alumni President Calvin Coolidge. John was a native of Ludlow where he was born on October 13, 1860. Son of John Hemon, and Eliza Sargent. His mother was Irish; his father was half-Irish. John married Mary Gordon of Ludlow in 1887. Sargent died March 5, 1939 at 78 from a heart ailment and complications.

Believe it or not, Sargent became known because Charles Dawes, Coolidge's Vice President slept through a tie vote in the Senate. (I know that little things like that make history.) Here is the story. In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge nominated his Attorney General, Harlan Fiske Stone, to take a seat on the Supreme Court. This created a vacancy in the Attorney General's office. Coolidge, with little consultation with Congress or his staff, chose Charles B. Warren of Detroit, Michigan. (Why did Coolidge not consult? Another research question). Warren had been counsel for the Michigan Sugar Company and they had violated some anti-trust laws, so Progressives and Democrats opposed Mr. Warren's nomination. However, on March 1 1Oth, Mr. Warren's name came before the Senate and Charles Dawes, the Vice President who is to break tie votes, was napping at a hotel. Thus Warren was rejected. Biographer Fuess calls this "the most humiliating defeat of Coolidge's career." Coolidge re-submitted the name and it was rejected more strongly, 46 to 39. Then Coolidge wanted a recess appointment, but Warren refused.

Now, Warren's rejection and Dawes mistake did not please Coolidge. Some historians say that Coolidge retaliated against some Senators later. Definitely, this hurt Dawes, he was marginalized later.

Sargent was unanimously approved. So the Senate was not really opposed to Coolidge's choices as much as this first vote showed. Fuess in the Coolidge biography calls Sargent "a first class judge of men" and Chief Justice Taft praised Sargent since "the Department of Justice was in better shape under him than at any time before within his knowledge."

Sargent must have had a good relationship with Coolidge. He visited the Summer White House at White Pine Camp in 1926 and in 1928, accompanied the Coolidges to Northampton and to Vermont to tour the 1927 flood damage.

Pop Dorsey

dorsey photoOn June 13. 1872 a very important man to the town of Ludlow, Vermont was born. His name was Edward Howard Dorsey. Little did he know that he would be one of the most memorable men to the Black River Academy.

Pop Dorsey took a job as a teacher at Black River Academy in 1895. From 1895 on he lived in Ludlow and became known as "Pop". He got this name because he was more like a father than a teacher to the students. Don't get it wrong, he still was the teacher and had authority but if the kids needed a father, he was there for them.

There were many stories about this great man of Ludlow. Here is one people won't be forgetting. He used to be the baseball coach for the Academy and he had a kid that was one of the fastest pitchers m the state. At the time the gloves for the catchers were not very good in material and the ball would hurt your hand. It got to the point that it would hurt so much that Pop decided to run down to the local meat market and picked up a beefsteak. When he returned he put it in the catcher's glove, the baseball would hurt no more. He even had a kid go on to play in the professional league for the Boston Braves, his name was Jim Hastings.

dorsey with class photoOne of his favorite teaching methods was when he would ask a question he would look at one person on one side of the room and say someone else's name on the other side of the room. When he did this the person he called on wouldn't answer. This was his way of keeping everybody on their toes during class.

Pop was what many people called a perfectionist. He had to have every thing exact. If you were off by .0000001 he would mark it wrong. If you needed help with work you would stay after school to learn the material.

Pop Dorsey is one of the best things to happen to the Ludlow Academy. Its name will live in infamy for the Ludlow citizens.


Richard Matava: "How I used to hate to go to "Pop's" math classes and get mentally beat up by his insistance that I should know math, even tho it was trigonometry. Not many years after graduation 1 found out he had given me some of the essentials for a good Job, first as toolmaker, later as a businessman. I have said before but it's worth repeating: 'Thanks, Pop, for your help and guidance both during school hours and the great times after school'

dorsey with bear photoBob Armstrong: I think the idea of a BRAG-A-BIT book is good although I suspect that most of the credit belongs to BRA and teachers like E. Howard Dorsey. I personally owe a great deal to that man. It would be most interesting to see a compilation of the success ratio of his students to the average through-put of the Vermont schools of that day-or of any day.

Herb Butler: Looking back on our senior year, it was Mr. Dorsey who "woke us up" told us to "cut out our slovenly behavior" (seems I had a lot of it), taught us how to sing the fight songs such as "Fill the Steins to Dear Old Maine" and Boola- boola. I remember that he told the girls: "Cry all you want, but you are still going to learn math. A really versatile man!

Frances Moore: Pop Dorsey taught my uncle who graduated in 1923, my mother and aunt (28), so he was around for a while. When I lived in Grahamsville he come and picked us up to come to church in Ludlow. He used to pick up my uncle and his friends and take then up to his cottage on Lake Rescue. He liked my grand- mother's doughnuts so would always get Lewis to raid the doughnut jar. I understand that the townspeople gave him a car--I'm sure he couldn't load it down as he did the old Model T. His strict teaching of math helped me in my banking career. I never needed computers nor adding machines.