The Birth of Yale University by Peggy Adler
When Benjamin Franklin was Postmaster General, he traveled the road to Boston in his cushioned chaise, with gangs of men behind in carts filled with stones, which they dropped as each mile was registered on the cyclometer Franklin had attached to his chaise’ wheels. One of these stones, marked "25 N.H.", was set on the south side of the "Boston Post-road", in colonial Kenilworth. It can be seen, today, on East Main Street, in the town now known as Clinton, in the State of Connecticut.
Monument on the hill in front of the Congregational Church in Clinton, CT:
I GIVE THESE BOOKS FOR FOUNDING A COLLEGE
Well in the yard of the Stanton House
Stanton House, 63 East Main Street, Clinton, CT 06413
Statue of Abraham Pierson on the lawn adjacent to the Abraham Pierson School
75 East Main Street, Clinton, CT 06413
Yale sills laid across stone piers in basement of Stanton House
Across the street from Benjamin Franklin’s ancient marker is the birthplace of one of our country’s greatest universities. For it is here that Yale came into existence.
In 1700, ten of the Connecticut colony’s leading ministers were appointed "to found, erect and govern a college", which came to be known as the Collegiate School. Each of these trustees is said to have brought or pledged books to the enterprise. The Colony’s General Assembly ratified their petition for approval and assistance the following year.
Three weeks after ratification, the trustees met in Saybrook, a town along the Connecticut shore, which had been chosen for the Collegiate School’s location, and named the Reverend Abraham Pierson as its first Rector.
At the time, Pierson was the pastor of a Congregational Church, in the Town of Kenilworth, just west of Saybrook. It was there, in his parsonage, that he taught the Collegiate School’s first undergraduates. In 1704, the Town of Kenilworth contracted to "have a scoll houes bult" adjacent to the church and Reverend Pierson taught there until his death in 1707.
Following Abraham Pierson’s death, the Collegiate School was removed to New Haven, which, according to Benjamin Franklin’s milestone, lay 25 miles west of Kenilworth. This move was due, in part, to a substantial contribution from Elihu Yale, a Boston born London merchant and former Governor of the East India Company. Yale had made a gift of goods, which were sold and the proceeds used to purchase books. It was the largest private donation to the College for more than the next hundred years. Thus, it came to pass that the Collegiate School was renamed Yale College at its 1718 Commencement.
Today, the Stanton House, built in 1789, when Rector Pierson’s house was torn down, rises at one end of the lot on which the Collegiate School once stood. Parts of the old Pierson homestead were built into its successor, and the sills of Yale’s first home can be found in the cellar, laid across great stone piers, supporting the two immense stone chimneys. In the Stanton garden is the well from which the first Yale students drew their water supply. And nearby, on the lawn adjacent to Clinton’s Abraham Pierson Elementary School, is a statue of Pierson himself. On its base is inscribed:
IN HONOR OF
THE GOOD AND LEARNED
YALE COLLEGE 1701-1707
PASTOR OF KILLINGWORTH CHURCH
NOW CLINTON 1694-1707
THE TIME HIS DEATH
BELOVED AND REGRETTED