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History of Hopkins Academy, Hadley, Massachusetts
By Margaret Dwyer (Honorary Member of Class of 1964)


The history of Hopkins Academy in Hadley, Massachusetts, is the history of education in the United States. From a private school for boys preparing for the university, where they trained for the ministry and for teaching, Hopkins Academy has evolved into the twentieth-century free, coeducational public high school preparing students for college and for life.

The story of Hopkins Academy vibrates with intrigue, attempted murder, benevolence, frustration, religious controversy, legal entanglements, near failure and great success. It is a story that involves the Puritans and the Congregationalists, a story that embraces Connecticut and Massachusetts; a story that spans the Atlantic Ocean and has roots in both Old England and New England. Hopkins Academy is related, educationally, to Harvard University, Yale university, Amherst College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts. Hopkins Academy's history is closely related to the history of the Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven, Connecticut, and to a lesser degree it is associated with the history of the Cambridge Latin School in Massachusetts and the Public High School in Hartford, Connecticut.

Hopkins Academy exists today because of the wisdom, foresight, and benevolence of a seventeenth century London merchant who never saw Hadley, never knew of its existence, and who died in 1657, two years before the town of Hadley, Massachusetts, was founded. Though childless himself, Edward Hopkins expressed great concern for the education of the youth of the new world, and in his will he provided the financial assistance necessary "to give some encouragement in those foreign plantations for the breeding of hopeful youths both at the grammar school, and college, for the public service of the country in future times." He was the benefactor of four secondary schools and a college in New England. Although Edward Hopkins frequently traded with the Indians and negotiated with them on other matters there are reports that they attempted to murder him.

A complete copy of his will can be found in Chapter I of HOPKINS ACADEMY & THE HOPKINS FUND 1664-1964. He named five trustees, one was William Goodwin, and made financial arrangements that were important to the present Hopkins Academy some three hundred and forty five years later. One item of interest was a bequest of 250 pounds that never came to Hopkins Academy! Mr. Goodwin presented a document to the Court in Hampshire County March 30, 1669, regarding an agreement with the Town of Hadley concerning the Hopkins will. (Hampshire County Registry of Probate, Book I, p. 106.)

At one time the students at the school came from the entire eastern seaboard. The question arises, was it a boarding school? No. These boys and girls lived with families in the center of Hadley sometimes as many as twelve with one family. Originally a school for boys studying for the ministry and for teaching it gradually increased its course of study and welcomed girls.

For many years there was only one teacher at the Hopkins School and he served as the principal, teacher, guidance counselor, tutor, and, in some cases, as the minister of the community. In the twenty-first century there are 28 teachers as well as a principal; 256 students including few "school of choice" students from other communities, and there is a diversified and enlarged curriculum.

Chapter XI, Breeding of Hopeful Youths for Public Service of the Country contains a long and impressive list of Hopkins Academy Alumni who have spread across the country and many who have gone beyond its shores. In addition to missionaries there are many Hopkins graduates who had successful careers in medicine, law, higher education, agriculture, in the media and in service to our country, just to mention a few professions that Hopkins graduates have chosen for their life's work.


All who have been associated with Hopkins Academy can be justly proud of its accomplishments during its three hundred and forty-five year history. Chronologically, Hopkins Academy is the fifth oldest school in continuous existence in Massachusetts, the seventh oldest in New England, and it may well rank among the first ten in the entire United States. Here is a list of the early schools:

1635 Boston Latin School
1636 Harvard College
1638 Hartford Public High School
1642 Cambridge Latin School
1645 Roxbury Latin School
1660 Hopkins Grammar School, New Haven, Connecticut
1664 Hopkins Academy

Of the seven schools listed, five were beneficiaries of the Hopkins legacy. The only ones that did not benefit from the Hopkins will were the Boston and Roxbury Latin Schools.

The Alumni Association of Hopkins Academy welcomes the graduates of the future and all will be mindful of the great legacy of Edward Hopkins to a town he never knew, and of the determination of William Goodwin to give to Hadley the beginnings of a rich and valuable heritage that has increased in value and in scope since its inception in the latter half of the seventeenth century.

Almost forty years have passed since the publication of HOPKINS ACADEMY & THE HOPKINS FUND 1664 - 1964. Many changes have taken place. Research material is much more readily available via the computer in the comfort of your home. Are there some Hopkins Academy alumni who like challenges? Maybe they can bring up some interesting and valuable information.

  1. Can you find a portrait or likeness of Edward Hopkins in Old England or New England?
  2. Can you find a portrait or likeness of William Goodwin in Old England or New England?
  3. Can you determine the current value of the inheritance intended for Hadley that was diverted? (|250 at 5% simple interest from June 1700 to the present time? This is a real treasure hunt!)

FOREWORD, EPILOGUE and mention of Chapter 1 and Chapter XI in the main text all refer to the history of the school that was published under the direction of the Trustees of Hopkins Academy - HOPKINS ACADEMY & THE HOPKINS FUND 1664-1964.

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