Chapter 14 - The Northfield Schools

Table of Contents

Marvellous Educational Work - The Beginnings of Northfield Seminary - Three Great Ends in View - Mt. Hermon - The Northfleld Training School.

A favorite aphorism with Mr. Moody was, that "it is better to set ten men to work than to do the work of ten men", and his institutions were every one of them founded with this idea in mind. He ever had a great desire more thoroughly to equip young men and women that they might more properly do the work to which God had called them. In one sense Mr. Moody was not an educated man, for, so far as the schools were concerned, he had the scantiest equipment for his life work. This was always a source of sincere sorrow to him, and he determined that others should not meet this difficulty if he could prevent it, yet in the very widest sense he was most thoroughly educated, and it was entirety fitting that Professor Henry Drummond should speak of him as "one of the greatest educators of his day."


There is really no greater proof of Mr. Moody's breadth of mind than that he should have started these different institutions. I think he is the only evangelist in this country that has ever, to any great extent, concerned himself with such matters, and since he is easily the greatest evangelist that this country has produced in modern times, it is all the more remarkable that in the very prime of his life, and at the time when he was really at the height of his success as an evangelist, he should give so much of his strength to educational causes.

If there ever has been a disposition to criticise Mr. Moody's latter day evangelistic effort, such criticism should always be made in the light of his truly marvelous educational work. Personally I do not think that he is rightly a subject for unfavorable criticism in his last efforts along evangelistic lines, for whenever I heard him, even to the very last, he always seemed to have a special anointing of God upon him. But I have heard men say that his special efforts in his last days were not to be compared with the work of his earlier ministry. However, let me repeat again, that if to his evangelistic work you add his educational interests, then each succeeding day of D. L. Moody's life was greater than the day that preceded it, and he was at the very zenith of his power when God called him home. He knew that the object of Christianity was to make men and women better in every way, and fit them, not only with all their heart but with all their mind to serve their God and their country, so he founded these institutions for the turning out of such characters.

Henry Drummond has said, "his pupils should be committed to nothing as regards a future profession. They might become ministers or missionaries, evangelists or teachers, farmers or politicians, business men or lawyers; all that he would secure would be that they should have a chance of becoming useful, educated, God-fearing men and women." But he would help them if he could to fill these positions to the glory of God.


On his return to America from Great Britain, Mr. Moody went with his family to the home of his boyhood days. He decided to make Northfield his permanent place of residence, and he settled clown to enjoy a period of rest before he formed new plans for work. It was a time of real preparation for the future, and the history of to-day proves that God was as truly speaking to him then as to Moses when He was alone with him on the mountain. During journeys over the hills about his native town, he met many of the farmers' daughters, bright, intelligent girls, with ambitions extending beyond the routine of the farm-house drudgery. They appealed so strongly to him that he conceived the plan of a school where such girls, possessed of moderate means, might receive a careful training in the Bible and ordinary English branches. This was the seed thought, and out of it has grown the Northfield Seminary, Mt. Hermon, and the Northfield Training School.


It has been said that this educational idea was not alone D. L. Moody's. A brother, not now living, Samuel Moody, an active, intelligent man, had long desired the establishment of a High School in his native place, and frequently talked of it. There is still another thing that should be mentioned. At this time Mr. D. L. Moody was deeply interested in the education of a young lady cousin, whom he afterward sent to Wellesley College. This cousin, Miss Fanny C. Holton, died in February, 1887, but her character, influence and helpfulness had a most important relation to the origin of the Northfield Seminary and to its entire history. In 1887, Mr. Moody held meetings in Boston, and there met Mr. H. N. F. Marshall, who was intimately connected with the founding of both schools. It was Mr. Marshall who made the first purchase of ground for the school.

In 1878, Mr. Marshall first visited Northfield, and this visit led to the above-mentioned purchase of the sixteen acres of ground nearly opposite Mr. Moody's house. In 1878 and 1879, while Mr. Moody was working in Baltimore, Mr. Marshall again joined him, and the project of the school for young ladies was further discussed. A second lot of ground was purchased adjoining the first, and on this the first recitation building was erected. In 1879, during the summer, Mr. Moody altered his own house for the accommodations of the pupils. A long wing, adjoining the house, was divided into ten rooms for the accommodation of the students. November 3, 1879, the school opened, not with eight or ten pupils, as they had dared to hope, but with twenty-five, and until the recitation hall was finished, in December, the pupils studied in Mr. Moody's own home. Miss Harriet W. Tuthill came as the first teacher and principal of the school. The price charged to every pupil then, as now, was but $100, and applications came pouring in from all parts of the country.


In this work of education there were three great ends which occupied Mr. Moody's thought in addition to the natural educational advantages. The first had to do with a better Biblical education, and his great object was to help and encourage them, and fit them in the best way for a happy and useful life, to bring them in close contact with the Fountain of Life, from which they might draw freely for all their needs. The second end in view was to meet the demand for trained women who would devote themselves to missionary work, either at home or abroad, but more particularly among the poor of the great cities. But a third object in founding the school was that the buildings which should be erected for purposes of education should be available during the summer and vacation months for another use. They could be used for gatherings of persons who delighted to study the Bible, and also to confer concerning matters touching the Kingdom of Christ. Mr. Moody lived long enough to see these three ends more than fulfilled, and great numbers of young women the country over bless God that he was ever used to inaugurate such a work in their behalf.

On the first day of April, 1880, ground was broken for East Hall, and on the first of October the building was finished. It became the home for sixty-three students. When the Hall was opened Mr. Moody said, "I would like to give this hall a motto, and let it also be the motto of the school. Isaiah XXVII: 3: 'I, the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." When this remark was made he committed the building and school, in a special prayer, to the continual service and never-failing care of God.


The second year of the Seminary began, with East Hall well filled, and a large number of day scholars, while the third year opened with every room that was obtainable more than crowded. Not only was this building used, but while Mr. Moody was absent in Great Britain, his own house was given up entirely to the use of the school. The school has always been much like a home, and the spirit of happiness and harmony, which is the real spirit of Christ, has always prevailed.

The fourth year of the Seminary began with a new dormitory. The building was named Bonar Hall, in memory of the visit made to Northfield by Dr. Andrew Bonar. This structure was afterward destroyed by fire. The school was constantly increasing in numbers and widening its influence. In 1885, Marquand Hall was formally opened. At the same time was celebrated the eightieth birthday of Mrs. Betsey Moody, and the forty-eighth birthday of her son D. L. Moody. In 1886 the corner-stone was laid of another dormitory, holding forty-five pupils. It was finished in the summer of 1887 at a cost of $25,000, and bears the name of Weston Hall.

It was this Hall that was set apart for the use of the New York Presbytery at the last meeting of the Northfield Conference. In the spring of 1887, the Talcott Library was built, the gift of James Talcott, of New York, a trustee of the school, and the Rev. Mark Guy Pearse, of England, made an address on this occasion. But even though the buildings were constantly increasing, and were not at all small in their dimensions, each succeeding year found them filled to overflowing, until in the ninth year there were 252 boarding pupils and eighteen teachers.


In the judgment of many of his friends D. L. Moody never performed a more important service than when he gave to the world the Northfield Seminary. Other buildings than those mentioned above have been erected, until to-day the school possesses as many dormitories as any girls' school in the country. In addition it has the Skinner Gymnasium, and the new Auditorium built by Mr. Moody in 1894, to accommodate the increasing crowd at the summer conferences. The buildings all possess a wide degree of artistic beauty. The 270 acres belonging to the Seminary show good results from the time and money expended on them. The hillside, once so desolate, is covered with a beautiful turf. Well built roads wind through the grounds and from ten to twenty men are kept constantly employed. The entire production of the farm, with the exception of a few apples, are used by the farm or the school. While the price of board and tuition at the Seminary from the outset has been $100 a year, as before mentioned, yet it must not be supposed that this pays for the education of the girls. in point of fact it covers not more than one-half the running expenses of the school. The other half Mr. Moody became responsible for, and he toiled day and night, early and late, that he might make the education of these girls possible, and the schools a success.

I am very sure that no one could ever invest his money better than to help in the memorial endowment fund which is now being solicited throughout the country, that Mr. Moody's work may be perpetuated and grow in increasing usefulness.


The plan for a school where boys could have a training in elementary English branches and also the Bible, really dates back to Mr. Moody's mission work in Chicago, and he never abandoned his purpose. Four miles distant from the Young Ladies' Seminary, on the opposite side of the river, the Mt. Hermon buildings, composing the Mt. Hermon School for young men are to be found. While the plan was conceived earlier it was carried out later than that of the Northfield Seminary, but it is not to be placed second in point of influence; side by side these two institutions have come along together to positions of influence and power.

In 1880 the ground for Mt. Hermon was purchased. Through the generosity of Mr. Hiram Camp, Mr. Moody was fortunately able to secure his farms, and subsequent purchases have put the boys' school in possession of more than 700 acres of ground. The price of board and tuition is the same as at the girls' school, and it was Mr. Moody's plan to have the work of the house and the farm performed by the boys themselves. For two years the school numbered not more than twenty-five boys, the ages ranging from eight to eighteen. Two farm houses served as dormitories and a small building was erected to serve as a schoolhouse. It was soon decided that better results would be obtained by admitting only older boys, and the minimum age of admission was made sixteen. In 1882 five brick cottages were built, four of which were used as dormitories, and the middle one designed to serve as a kitchen from which the meals were carried to the other buildings. Since then there have been added a three-story recitation hall, dining hall and kitchen, Crossley Hall and Silliman Science Hall.

Mt. Hermon gives a good education to boys who have been deprived of earlier advantages, and who cannot attend more expensive schools. The industrial system of Mt. Hermon tends to exclude undesirable students. In their spare time boys are allowed to do overwork, for which they are paid. Many of the students remain at Mt. Hermon throughout the year because they have no homes, or because they desire to earn money. during the vacation pupils pay three dollars a week for board. However, this is not paid in money but in work.


The educational plan in Mt. Hermon, as in all other institutions associated with Mr. Moody's name, centres around the Bible, and the results are apparent in the large number of students engaged in home and foreign missionary work.

People sneered in the beginning at the idea of an uneducated evangelist teaching the youth anything about education, but as the buildings rose one after the other their sneers soon changed to astonishment, and now one only hears words of praise for this noble work. Mr. Moody had the most supreme faith in God as touching this educational work at Northfield. He knew that God had laid it on his heart, and was persuaded that He would help him to carry it through.

I remember his telling at one time an incident which had to do with the completion of one of the buildings. They were out of money, and the work could not go on unless the money should be provided, so he made his way up to his study, wrote the strongest letter he could to a great business man, and told him that he must have several thousand dollars at once. When the letter was finished he put it on a chair before him and got down upon his knees to pray God that this letter should accomplish the object he had in mind. The letter went on its way and reached the business man in his home as he sat at the breakfast table. He read it with indifference, and then for some reason read it the second time, with a little bit of interest. For some reason he could not explain he read it the third time, and then went to his library and wrote a check for the full amount, saying in the letter which accompanied the check, "for some reason unaccountable I am unable to get away from your request, and I send you my check as you desire. I am sending it to you from my home for fear that I might change my mind when I reach my place of business."


Incidents like this could be multiplied without number, and when one looks at Mt. Hermon, studies its great buildings, familiarizes himself with the number of lives that have come forth from the school to make the world better and brighter, and then studies the whole of Mr. Moody's plant, his first impression is one of wonder and admiration, the second a feeling of gratitude that he has an object lesson proving the truth that, if God only has His way with His own, the day of miracles is not past.

I wish I might put into this chapter an appeal to philanthropists everywhere to support the work of this man who was sent from God. I am persuaded that the blessing of God will be on one who in any way answers the appeal sent forth.

There is a third institution at Northfield which should not be overlooked. On Friday, June 1, 1888, "The Northfield" was opened to the public. It is a fine hotel, designed expressly to meet the needs of the many who annually visit Northfield, who attend the summer conferences, or as friends of the two schools. It was opened with an overflow of guests. It was at this hotel that the friends of Mr. Moody gathered on the night preceding his funeral and the evening following it, and it is in this hotel that the Moody Training School for Women meets.


In his work in Chicago, and in his evangelistic work throughout the world, Mr. Moody had learned to appreciate the especial influence of women in ministering to the poor. He also found that it was almost impossible to secure the right standard of women to do the work he had in mind. Sometimes their influence was marred by inexperience, more frequently by lack of training. He determined to start a training school which city churches and mission fields could draw upon, not for highly educated missionaries, but for Christian women who could be trained especially in Bible knowledge and domestic economy.

The Northfield Hotel was an eyesore to Mr. Moody because it was empty from October to the end of March. He determined that this should not be so, and in 1890, the first term of the training school began there. Fifty-six students took up residence at once, and the next year the numbers were quite doubled. In addition to systematic Bible study, the pupils are taught such branches of domestic economy as will make them useful in their work with the poor, and they are especially instructed in preparation of foods for the sick.

It seems an incredible thing that a man without education himself, as the world speaks of him, should have been used of God to establish a work which in many ways is the wonder of all who see it, but it is an illustration of the fact, that we can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth us.

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