Page images




William Robinson, the founder of the seminary which bears his name, was born at Excter, N. H., September 18th, 1794, and here his early life was passed. While yet a child his parents died, and he was left, without property, to make bis own way in the world as best he could. After having to some extent availed himself of the advantages afforded by the public schools of the day, and, as it used to be termed,"served his time" at the trade of a printer, he left Exeter for the South, and finally settled in Augusta, Georgia, where the rest of his life was passed, and where the largest part of his property was accumulated. Here he died, May 13th, 1864.

Having amassed a large fortune, the most of which he carefully invested at the North, and proposing to spend some time in travel in the Old World, Mr. Robinson made his will in the year 1853, in which, after legacies to his wife and relatives (he had no children), he left the bulk of his property to an institution in Georgia, and to found a seminary for girls in his native town. The war of the rebellion breaking out soon after, Mr. Robinson seems to have concluded to postpone his visit abroad, and his purposed travels were never undertaken. How much of his property was sacrificed during the war is not known to the writer, but the greatest portion, probably, remained safely invested at the North, where it rapidly accumulated. At the time of his death it is supposed that Mr. Robinson was, in a measure, unacquainted with the extent of his own fortune,-however, he seems to have changed his purpose just before he died, so far as to propose leaving a comparatively limited bequest for the founding of a seminary in bis native town, and a new will was drawn up to that effect, but he died before it could be executed.

The town of Exeter was put in possession of the sum thus left in the year 1866, amounting to $240,000, and at the organizing the Seininary, to about $300,000.

A monument erected over bis remains at Augusta, has this inscription :


Born in
Exeter, N. H.,
September 18, 1794.

Died at
Summerville, Ga.,

May 13, 1864. A resident of Augusta and vicinity for nearly fifty years, he was known as a courteous gentleman, an honorable merchant, and a benefactor to the poor.

His name will be held in grateful remembrance by the people of his birthplace and of his adopted home, for the bounty which secured to their children, and children's children, the priceless benefits of education.

Mr. Robinson's views of the use to be made of his 'bounty' are very clearly set forth in his will, a part of which is appended to this notice. Any doubt of his intentions is easily resolved by recalling the fact that he was a poor boy once, who felt the want and knew something of the power of a thorough education. He had lived as child, youth, and in early manhood in sight of Phillips Academy,'—was a daily witness of its operations, was conversant with its students, and not unlikely may have sometimes envied them the superior advantages which they enjoyed. He was accustomed to hear them and others speak of college and of educational institutions, and thus became familiarized with something of their characteristics. His experience, too, as a printer's boy, may have often led his thoughts in the same direction. He, doubtless, in after life appreciated, more than most men would have done, the inestimable blessing which Phillips' liberality had been and was likely to be in all coming time to the community. At the same time he evidently saw that Phillips, as was the custom in his day, had wholly overlooked one half of society, and, while providing the means of education for boys, had wholly passed by girls and young women, and generously determined to do for them what Phillips had done for their brothers. His purpose may have been early formed and long cherished, and not unlikely in the midst of the turmoil and vicissitudes of an extensive business he may have clung in secret to an early formed resolve that should wealth accumulate in his hands, a bountiful share of it should be reserved to give to females the educational advantages generally denied them.

As a poor boy, Mr. Robinson knew well the discomforts and deprivations of restricted means, and when he sighed for some of the privileges which wealth had it in its power to bestow, there can be no doubt that he deterinined in his heart that should he ever be called to discriminate between the rich and the poor, the poor and

* and

the orphan, other things being equal, should have the first consideration. In the part of his will making the bequest, he says :

* Being about to travel into various parts of these now happy and prosperous United States, and also intending to visit Europe, and to be absent from home some time to see men and things, and to become better acquainted with the manners and customs and the opinions of the people of the world, with the hope of improving and adding something to my limited knowledge, and life being at all times uncertain; but, in my opinion rendered more so by traveling in railroad cars, steamboats, and on the mighty deep, and by the blessing of the Great First Cause of all things, being in the possession of a sound mind, do make this my last Will and Testament.

After referring to the extent and character of his property, and making ample provision for his wife, he bequeaths the income of certain stocks, &c., to the Trustees of the Richmond Academy in the city of Angusta, Ga., and to the town of Exeter, N. H.:

"To be appropriated forever to the support of teachers in the Branch Acad. emy, on the sand-hills and in the vicinity where I now reside * * I beg leave most respectfully to suggest the selection of such teachers as will give the pupils a good practical education, one that will fit them for all the practical duties of the actual in life ; and in admitting children into the Acad. emy, all other things being equal, always to give the preferenco to the poor and the orphan.' * "The residue, or balance of my property, I give and bequeath to the town of Exeter, in the State of New Hampshire and county of Rockingham, being the place of my nativity, the income of said property and no more, to be appropriated forever to the support of suitable and proper teachers for the only and sole instruction of females, and I most respectfully suggest that in admitting applicants, all other things being equal, always to give the preference to the poor and the orphan. I expect the iown of Exeter will provide a suitable building for a female seminary and that the interest on the amount of money it will receive from my estate, will be appropriated to the payment of suitable teachers, contemplated by me to be employed in instructing females. If the inhabitants of the town of Exeter act in accordance with my suggestion, they will in a few years have a flourishing female seminary. In my poor opinion, there is altogether too much partaking of the fancy in the education that females obtain, and I would most respectfully suggest such a course of instruction as will tend to make female scholars equal to all the actual duties of life, such a course of instruction as will enable them to com. pete, and successfully too, with their brothers throughout the world, when they have to take their part in the actual of life. I have given my mite for this purpose, and if good comes of it I shall not have lived in vain.'

The town of Exeter received the bequest, and carried out the provisions of the will by placing the fund in the hands of trustees, chosen by and responsible to it—then borrowed $100,000, giving their note, principal and interest, payable all or in part, on demand of the trustdes, who are expected never to ask for a penny of it, making tuition free to all female children of the town, with books and stationery, and further deducting from the income thus rcduced all expenses for repairs, improvement on grounds, and all pecuniary expenses-practically leaving not more than one half of the income to make female scholars equal to all the duties of life.' This policy will not establish a 'flourishing female seminary' of the highest grade.



[ocr errors]




Samuel WILLETS was born at Westbury, in Queen's County, New York, on the 15th of June, 1795. His father was a substantial and highly respected farmer of that town, but Samuel, the son, was early impressed with a feeling that a wider field of usefulness was to be opened before him than he could find on his father's farm. He therefore went to the neighboring city of New York, where he began his commercial career, as clerk, in the


1812. He remained in this position three years, and during this early experience he had already adopted the motto which he never lost sight of, and which has made him so successful in every enterprise with which his name has been connected; the motto that · Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.' In 1815, at the age of twenty, he engaged in the hardware trade, and for an unbroken period of fifty-four years, he followed persistently, and with ever increasing success, the business of his choice; and few names have stood so high in the mercantile community of New York during the present century as that of · Willets & Co., 303 Pearl street.' It has long been associated with all that is just, upright, honorable, and true in commercial transactions.

During his long and successful career as a merchant, he never permitted himself to be wholly absorbed in amassing wealth ; but the various benevolent and charitable institutions of his adopted city have looked to him for substantial aid and encouragement, and he has, not unfrequently, occupied responsible positions in their management. The elevation of the character of woman, enlarging her field of usefulness, and furnishing the needed facilities for her higher culture, have claimed much of his time and thoughts for many years. He has also been, in his quiet, unostentatious way, a warm advocate of the cause of human freedom, and has been instrumental, in connection with his friend, Isaac T. Hopper of New York, in obtaining the liberation from bondage of many of the oppressed race in our Southern States. In common with many

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »