Ohio History Journal

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Over the scenic terrain of northern Pennsylvania, along the

Allegheny and Susquehanna rivers, through picturesque Wyalusing

and historic Azilium, we turned northward toward the Mohawk

Valley of central New York. The purpose of our pilgrimage was

to visit the historic village of Fairfield, and so we proceeded through

the Royal Grants along West Canada Creek as it came tumbling

down from the foothills of the Adirondacks to pour its black

waters into the Mohawk. Finally we arrived at Fairfield, high up

on a plateau four miles east and seven hundred feet above the

village of Middleville. My wife and I had been invited to participate

in the annual meeting of alumni of Fairfield Academy.

This school had functioned almost one hundred years, but we

recalled it as the former seat of a renowned medical school. Academy

buildings were erected about two sides of a quadrangle, and trees

were planted by successive classes. Today there remain the neatly

kept campus and the class trees, but the only building is the Old

Chapel, now a meeting place for the local Grange. Academy

alumni tell of laborious stoking of wood stoves with weather

twenty below zero.

On July 4, 1802, an enthusiastic Presbyterian minister, the Rev.

Caleb Alexander, and the cooperative Captain Moses Mather led

Fairfield pioneers in assembling materials, labor, and capital, and

together they erected the framework of the Old Chapel.1 The

following year the school was incorporated, with the Rev. Mr.

Alexander as president at $300 per year. In 1809 a stone laboratory

was constructed for teaching chemistry and anatomy.2 This proved

popular among local physicians, and in 1812 a complete medical


*Read before the Committee on Medical History and Archives of the Ohio State

Archaeological and Historical Society at its annual meeting, held at the Ohio State

Museum, April 5, 1952.

1 Carl Peterson, "Fairfield Academy," New York History, XXXI (1950), 41-46.

2 Fairfield Alumni Directory (Fairfield, N.Y., 1936).