The giant Maine reference book The History of Androscoggin County published in 1891 by W.A. Fergusson & Co. out of Boston, Mass. opens its detailed chapter on Auburn with a striking ode to the city… “Auburn… A city of energy and progress, of rapid and beautiful growth, of stirring manufacturing activity, of artistic and beautiful homes, of thoroughly American people…. Where temperance, morality, and culture walk hand in hand with thrift and intellect, science and wealth.”
Auburn, it seems, was the crown jewel of New England at the end of the 1800s!
Edward Little was one of Auburn’s early citizens who helped to contribute to its sterling reputation. Known today mainly for the high school named in his honor, Edward was born in 1773 in Newbury, Mass., to Josiah Little, a descendant of one of Auburn’s first settlers. Little was raised in New Hampshire, attended Phillips Exeter Academy, graduated from Dartmouth College in 1798 and eventually became an attorney.
In establishing the early layout of the town, Merrill notes that “by the coming of Edward Little in 1819, an element of prosperity was introduced.” References make it clear that Little was seen as a noted, respectable member of society, and history records his arrival as being a positive element of change for the growing city on the river.
Little was known as a “quiet, scholarly person” devoted to the community. He made many outstanding donations to the state, including the congregational church building at Bowdoin College.
Goff’s Corner — so named because it was the site of James Goff’s store which stood on Court Street (at what is now Goff Street) — was the site of Edward Little, Esq. a law office opposite Goff’s store and just down the street from Elm House, formerly owned by the Littles.
After his father’s death in 1826, Edward Little inherited the family’s extensive land and waterpower holdings. In 1834, Little founded Lewiston Fall Academy with the donation of nine acres of his own property. The academy charter remarks that it was incorporated “for advancing science and literature, and promoting morality, piety, and religion.” Prominent L-A citizen Alonzo Garcelon, M.D. was one of the first instructors, teaching both anatomy and physiology before going on to become an instructor at Bates, then mayor of Lewiston, and eventually Governor of Maine.
As Auburn changed, so did the school. In 1848, Principal Alvin Boody’s objective was “to afford to youth of both sexes every facility for acquiring a practical and thorough education. Particular attention has been, and will continue to be, given to those who intend to teach.” There were four terms annually, each consisting of 11 weeks of instruction. A sampling of tuition rates were: English Studies $3 per term; High English Studies $3.50; Languages $4.
During the Industrial Revolution, when Auburn changed from a rural, farming community to a manufacturing center, the winter term was shifted from January through March to October through December as it was argued that most of the boys now attending school were shoemakers, not farmers, and no longer needed to miss school in the fall.
Public education in the 19th Century was such that all children had to attend school full time until age 12 and four months in order to be certified to work in a factory. This accounts for why many biographies show notable men starting to work in factories at age 13. In Maine, students who went to work were still required to attend school three months out of the year.
After Auburn became a city in 1869, Edward Little Institute re-established itself as a public school. The shift in charter was made to take advantage of a state law passed in 1873 such that a free public high school would receive state funding. The trustees negotiated with the city to ensure that the school retained its name and honoree, and the statue of Edward Little by Maine sculptor Franklin Simmons was placed in the Edward Little High School Park on October 11, 1877.
The school is now situated on 56.25 acres on the top of Goff Hill in Auburn Heights with a total enrollment of just under 1,000 students. The school’s sports teams are known as the Red Eddies, with the ghost of Edward Little as their mascot.
Hodgkin, D. I. (n.d.). Frontier to industrial city: Lewiston town politics 1768-1863.
Merrill, G. D. (1891). History of Androscoggin County, Maine .. Boston: W.A. Fergusson &.
Skinner, R. B., Libby, J. E., & Merrill, D. W. (1968). Auburn, 1869-1969: 100 years a city, a study in community growth. Auburn, Me.: Auburn History Committee.
Stetson, Mary Louise. “Lewiston Falls Academy Published Thriving Newspaper 93 Years Ago.” Lewiston Evening Journal. Web. 1 June 2016.