Atkinson Celebrates 250: Atkinson Academy

Atkinson Academy. (WHAV News Photograph.)

Atkinson, N.H., is celebrating its 250th anniversary with a variety of events between Thursday, Aug. 31 and Monday, Sept. 4. To help give meaning to the festivities, WHAV presents a special series of little known facts about the town, heard on-air at 97.9 WHAV FM, Monday through Thursday, at 7:45 and 11:45 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.

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When it was founded in 1787, Atkinson Academy was only the second co-educational school in the country.

Its history helps cement Atkinson’s longstanding ties to Massachusetts, being built on land donated by Haverhill native Dr. William Cogswell. Besides Cogswell, Atkinson Academy was founded by Rev. Stephen Peabody and General Nathaniel Peabody.

Cogswell was also the grandfather of Bradford-born Congressman William Cogswell, who served in the House from 1887 to 1893. His education began at Atkinson Academy. Nathaniel Peabody, the first physician in the town, was born in Topsfield, while Parson Peabody was born in Andover. His second wife was another Haverhillite—the widow of Rev. John Shaw. To raise money for the school, the parson asked the Massachusetts legislature for permission to sell lottery tickets, but was denied.

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Built originally as a boys school, Atkinson Academy began admitting girls in 1791, now making it the oldest co-educational school still standing in the country.

The original Academy, built in 1789, was destroyed by fire in 1802 and, what is now the oldest part of the school, was built the following year. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Atkinson’s formal celebrations begin Aug. 31. A full calendar of activities appears at atkinsonnh250th.com.