From Dixwell to Nobles
Thirteen of the 16 Oneida players attended Epes Sargent Dixwell’s Private Latin School, better known as Dixwell. The school was just a few steps from the Common, behind what is now the State Transportation Building.
Founded in 1851, the school lasted until 1872 when Dixwell retired. The school was taken over by John Hopkinson, becoming the Hopkinson School. When Hopkinson closed in 1897, its students were split between the Volkmann School, which opened in 1895, and Nobles, which opened in 1866. Volkmann and Nobles and Greenough merged in 1917.
Nobles’s place in the story is important, and four of the school’s annual student awards pay homage to its past. The Epes Sargent Dixwell Medal goes to a Nobles student for excellence in Latin. The Winthrop S. Scudder Medal is awarded for excellence in fine arts. The James D’Wolfe Lovett Medal is awarded for excellence in baseball. And the Gerrit Smith Miller Award goes to a senior for excellence in scholarship and athletics. Last year’s Miller Award went to current Harvard freshman field hockey player Mary Kate Cruise.
A bronze tablet honoring Miller was unveiled at Noble and Greenough on Nov. 7, 1923. But look around the Dedham campus today and you won’t find the tablet. It disappeared soon after the unveiling, leaving only the four holes for the pins that held it on the wall of the old gymnasium.
His mother started a revolution, his grandfather a civil war.
When it comes to family history, few can match Gerrit Smith Miller, founder and captain of the Oneida Football Club.
Born in Cazenovia, N.Y., in 1845, Miller arrived at Dixwell, a school of about 55 students, in October 1860, a “handsome, husky-looking lad of 15,’’ according to an appreciation written by Winthrop Scudder for the Nobleman in 1924.
At the time, football was mainly played at recess, something for the boys to blow off a little steam. Miller organized occasional pickup games, often against Boston Latin. One day in June 1862, Miller and friends played Boston Latin in a best three-out-of-five set that lasted close to three hours. It was after this contest that Miller decided football must be organized.
Using players mainly from Dixwell, in the fall of 1862, he formed the Oneida Football Club.
The team’s name came from a lake that was a short distance from Miller’s home in New York. Oneida was composed of 13 Dixwell boys, two from Boston English (John Malcolm Forbes and John Power Hall) and one from Boston Latin (James D’Wolf Lovett).
The uniform was simple: a red silk handkerchief tied around the head and knotted behind. The most celebrated game Oneida ever played was on Nov. 7, 1863, against a combined team from Boston English and Boston Latin. Oneida won that day, and Miller held onto the ball they used for 59 years, until 1922, when he presented it, along with his red silk handkerchief, to the Boston Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, now Historic New England, on Cambridge Street. The display is open to the public.
When Miller graduated from Dixwell and enrolled at Harvard in 1865, Oneida’s four-year run came to an end.
And we mentioned Miller’s family. His mother Elizabeth, while working around the family farm, is credited with inventing bloomers. And she was a big part of the women’s suffrage movement. Among her friends was Susan B. Anthony.
Gerrit’s grandfather of the same name was opposed to slavery, and among his best friends were abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. And it was Miller who funded John Brown’s ill-fated raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859 that would eventually lead to the Civil War.
Born in 1847, Robert Means Lawrence was the son of Amos Lawrence, one of three brothers responsible for creating the city of Lawrence. Robert Means Lawrence’s grandfather was Samuel Lawrence, an officer in the Revolutionary War who founded Groton Academy, which is now Lawrence Academy.
Francis Greenwood Peabody graduated from Dixwell, then Harvard, and like his father was a Unitarian minister. Peabody was a pioneer in social ethics and spearheaded the campaign to transform Harvard from a Unitarian-dominated college into a non-sectarian university.
According to Harvard historical documents, his biggest success was persuading Harvard to make attendance at chapel optional, making it the first traditional college in the nation to give students such as option. Some critics at the time complained that Peabody’s campaign meant that God had become an elective at Harvard.Continued...