Hampden Academy Chartered in 1803
Hampden Academy enjoys a long history that few other schools in Maine, or indeed elsewhere, enjoy. Less than 30 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock and others subscribed the sum of $3,400 to fulfill the charter of erecting and supporting a new school in the then District of Maine portion of Massachusetts. It was 1803 and Maine was still seventeen years from becoming a state. Thomas Jefferson was president; he signed the Louisiana Purchase in that same year. Dorothea Dix, who would become a crusading champion of the mentally ill, had been born in Hampden just the year before.
The first wooden schoolhouse that was Hampden Academy no longer exists. Fire consumed it in 1842. The brick building known now as “the Old Academy” was built for $1,125 and has been a traditional sight in town since 1843. Fire damaged the lower rooms of this building in 1854, and the doors were closed for a short time in the 1880s when post-Civil War populations diminished. Today, however, this building is the oldest building used to hold daily classes in the state of Maine.
The Battle of Hampden
The tragedy of war has also struck the Academy. When the Academy was only nine years old, the Battle of Hampden, part of the War of 1812, was fought on the school grounds. Personnel and students were also involved in at least six other major wars: the Civil War and the Spanish American War before the school turned 100; World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War before she turned 200.
A Historical Perspective
Think of some other historical moments Hampden Academy has witnessed:
Francis Scott Key wrote the “Star Spangled Banner,” destined to become the national anthem, when the Academy was only eleven years old.
Hannibal Hamlin, who practiced law in Hampden, became governor of Maine and then vice president of the United States under Abraham Lincoln — both happened before the Academy turned 60.
In 1903 as Hampden Academy turned 100, the Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk and Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company. Also that year and the next, a furnace and electric lights were added to the Academy, and it was voted to build an annex to the building.
In 1920, when HA was 117, women won the right to vote, and Maine women were some of the first in the nation to vote because Maine held elections in September.
Mickey Mouse took to the screen as HA turned 125 — with the Stock Market crash of 1929 shortly thereafter — and the Academy building got a new vestibule in 1930.
In 1953 when HA was 150 years old, the Russians put Sputnik in space. The school was 166 years old when Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969 — and it was 183 when the Challenger exploded.
Graduates of Note
Hampden Academy is also proud of its many graduates and folks who have worked here — just to name four relatively recent ones: Ricky Craven, NASCAR driver; Mike Bordick, baseball player; Forrest Hart, bronze sculptor and creator of the Bronco on the front lawn; and Stephen King, “king of horror.” Look around you at this gym. Steve worked here as an English teacher when he wrote about Carrie’s blood-bath of a prom in her school’s similar gymnasium.
For 157 years of its existence, Hampden Academy served the town of Hampden. Then, in 1960 and again in 1970, the towns of Newburgh and Winterport, respectively, joined with Hampden to form SAD #22. In 2013, the town of Frankfort joined the newly renamed RSU #22.
215 Years | A Tradition of Excellence
Hampden Academy has been here to witness almost all the the history of the United States and countless inventions and improvements. It has seen the number of states in the nation grow from seventeen to 50; the end of slavery after the Civil War and the beginning of the War on Terror after the attacks on the Twin Towers; the assassinations of four presidents and the impeachment proceedings of two; medical treatments from blood-letting with leaches to heart transplants to laser and robotic surgery; and the inventions of the telegraph, telephone, electric lights, passenger trains and passenger cars, and laptop computers, cell phones, Blackberries, and iPods. Through all that it has seen, Hampden Academy has been a school of tradition; a tradition of challenging students to achieve excellence. It will remain defined by the faculty and students who have in the past, do presently, and will in the future populate its halls with their tradition of focusing on excellence, a tradition that began in 1803.