Simpson’s Vision of New Hampton Academy

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Boston merchant John Kelley Simpson (1787-1837) establishes a school in the village of New Hampton. Simpson financed the project, and a tradition was born.

New Hampton School owes its existence to the vision, passion, and ongoing energy and oversight of John K. Simpson (JKS). He was a native son who left New Hampton in 1805 and walked to Phillips Andover Academy. He spent enough time at Andover to obtain “a Certificate that I am capable of teaching a Grammar School.” After having “found many acquaintances who have been valuable to me to this day…” he continued to Boston and opened up his business [JKS Letters p. 261 – from a reflective letter written in 1833]. His highly successful import business operated out of the sumptuous John K. Simpson building next to Faneuil Hall in Boston. 

As his young children became school-age, his idea was to offer the Free-Will Baptists $10,000 to fund a school in his native town. When they declined the offer (in those days, the Free Will Baptists were very opposed to any formal education around religion, including trained ministers), Simpson moved ahead on his own. He not only arranged for the building to be built but helped find the faculty and enlisted local families to board children from Boston. At the same time, he relied on his brothers – still in New Hampton – to help oversee the Academy. Up until he died in 1837, he recruited students, served on the Board, sent his children, funded the school, and oversaw the growth of the school, as is captured in this excerpt from an 1825 letter to his brother James about adding a new building:

Henry [another Simpson brother] thinks the old one might hold all the students, and so it probably may. But you need not crowd the students into one building when it would add so much to the appearance and respectability of the institution by having a neat and elegant set of buildings. Completing the additional building will add greatly to the reputation of the place. [see John K. Simpson Letter to Brother James 1825.12.10]


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