The Storrs Agricultural School
Its Formal Opening Friday -- Its Location and Its Uses

letter from James B. Olcott to the Hartford Daily Courant, October 10, 1881

South Manchester, Oct. 9, 1881
My Dear Courant:-

The Storrs Agricultural school is open and has been running for a week. A Friday was chosen for the formal opening, because that was as soon as the people and things are ready, and because also we may suppose, science don't know but what it is as lucky a day as any.

Those who are thinking that there is no use in such a school, should see it. The approach southward, from Willimantic, is a good one, since it includes eight miles of travel beyond Willimantic northward, through a very moderately prosperous farming country. Having seen the school from that way two or three times, my wife and I concluded to go for it across the hills by the old turnpike through Bolton notch. The new line of tall telegraph poles with eight wires is a first-rate guide, running close by the school -- or within a mile and a half of it at North Mansfield.

We were not content with that view, however, but after the opening exercises we took a run eastward among the peach orchards of Abington and Pomfret, returning Sunday in time for service in the Congregational church close by the school -- taking our dinner of baked beans with the school family. From any point of view or approach it looks like a good or hopeful thing.

Going over on the Friday we found the Mansfield people -- and the children especially with whom we talked by the way -- knew what was going on. "You are going over to the meeting," they said.

The services were opened by Mr. Barstow of the board of trustees, giving an account of its organization and modestly withholding allusion to his very considerable share of the trouble. The building has been put in complete order, from the bed rooms to the table napkins. The former barrack look is agreeably changed, and the comfortable and homelike appearance we have largely to thank Mr. Barstow for in the matter of judicious and tasteful purchases of the new furniture.

Secretary Northrup ran away from some other school meeting to be present awhile at this and gave the new institution a hearty send-off with encouraging words and counsel. Every thrifty white ash sapling we saw trying to make us rich in timber along the highway stands as a living witness for Mr. Northrup's efforts in regard to systematic forest culture, and his endorsement of this invaluable timber tree.

Professor Johnson, enspirited by the occasion; but somewhat poorly in health, as we were sorry to see -- allowed that we have in the state some of the best farmers in the world, able to teach agriculture to those who follow them; yet statistics show whole districts show a decline in agricultural vigor. In many places -- saying nothing about the cause of the need -- a change of crops and methods must be learned that the fathers never practiced. Hence the occasion for schools of agriculture and new means for training our youth to the farm. Professor Johnson expressed himself as abundantly satisfied with the success of the Storrs school at the start. "Now", said he, "we want farmers who have children to educate to remember that this is their school and help us take care of it."

Through Professor Johnson's means -- and he has been untiring in perfecting the working force of teachers -- we have secured the services of Professor B. F. Koons in the department of natural history. He is a graduate of Oberlin and our own scientide school, an excellent disciplinarian and experienced teacher -- able to teach anything required. You may have seen his name in connection with the United States fish commission. Just now he is employed by the Middlebury college in arranging its collection.

Dr. Atwater urged the need of primary schools in agriculture. Our colleges have worked upon a plane beyond the reach of the average youth of the farm.

Secretary Gold said the education provided for the people at large has tended rather to the increase of the professions than the tenents of the farm-taking farmers' sons right along into the ranks of the professions. The Storrs school is designed to remedy this defect and provide schooling that shall be specially adapted to train in agricultural and rural arts and attach the minds of its youth on the farm.

Mr. Hall of the board of trustees, gave the legislative history of the school. He said the only opposition to it came from farmers thenselves, so far as he could see. He believes that such schools are needed to wake up the minds of our youth and assist them in making the farm pay.

Mr. J. M. Hubbard congratulated us that popular education had at last come down from the useless scholasticism of ancient times, (when students chopped logic to acquit themselves creditably at intellectual wrangling,) to give a training in the arts of life, wherein agriculture is the chief. Now-a-days, whoever studies and knows his business thoroughly must be accounted an educated man.

Governor Hyde, who was the first to mention the school in public, made some humorous remarks in connection with the happy occasion. Mr. Day, formerly of the board of agriculture, made a speech full of hope for the future of the school, and brief remarks of a like character were made by several other gentlemen whose names I did not learn.

Mr. Beach, pastor of the Congregational church, where the services were held, expressed his gladness in private for such a meeting in filling his pews, and wished the like might happen oftener. The school is fortunate in having so scholarly a neighbor. I don't attend church often enough to be a critic, but must take occasion here to express our pleasure in Mr. Beach's characterization of Joseph, in his sermon of today. It could never have been more artistic, natural, beautiful, or useful, if done with the highest Grecian art in finished marble. I have heard it whispered that for simple loveliness and strength some of our country pulpits are excelling the fashionable town styles.

The new family so lately gathered together is what we were most pleased with. There are ten or a dozen likely boys and young men -- less than I was afraid there would be, and more expected. Mrs. Mead is a kind and lovable lady with children of her own. Dr. Armsby is there, you know, with his wife, and they make as handsome a young couple as the state would wish to see. Mrs. Mead's mother is there too, a very aged lady, bright as a button. I s'pose in my ransacking around I must have stumbled into the old lady's room. Em found her with a pair of boy's trousers that wanted fixing, so we may feel tolerably safe that the button and rip business is in skillful hands. You see, the boys are smashing into that swamp job of drainage, cutting bushes, etc., and their clothes come to a good deal of wear and tear.

The lame pair of oxen have been traded off to good advantage, and I believe the stags are going. I told 'em not to let that swamp job -- which has been waiting for a hundred or two years, probably -- prevent making things tidy and comfortable for winter and spring around the house and garden.

Perhaps some one would like to see one of their daily programmes: -- Rising bell 6:30 a.m.; breakfast bell 7:00; lectures, etc., 8-12; first bell for dinner 12 m; Dinner 12:15; work 3-5; first bell for tea 5:45; tea 6:00; study 7-9. Saturdays, work from 9-12a.m. and no school exercises in the afternoon.