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Small Group of Correspondence of Temple Grove Seminary (precursor of Skidmore College) officials, of Saratoga Springs, New York, to banker, Benjamin F. Bancroft, cashier of the National Bank of Salem, New York, 1870-1874

7 letters, 17 pp., dated 4 February 1870 to 16 August 1875. Letters in very good, clean and legible condition.

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Three, of the seven, letters were written by W.W. Dowd, A.M., principal and proprietor, of the North Granville Ladies’ Seminary, to B.F. Bancroft, cashier, National Bank of Salem, New York, dated 4 February to 10 February 1870; two letters were written by G. D. Bull, agent and book-keeper, of the North Granville Ladies’ Seminary, North Granville, New York, to B.F. Bancroft, dated 19 February 1870; and two letters were written by Charles F. Dowd, A.M., president, Temple Grove Seminary, Saratoga Springs, New York, to B.F. Bancroft, , dated 6 October 1874 and 16 August 1875.

The letters are financial in nature. Five of the letters are one-page, written to Bancroft and stating amounts of money enclosed to meet financial obligations of the school, two letters are a little more in-depth about the school’s finances, or lack thereof.

Temple Grove Seminary, Saratoga Springs, New York

In 1855 Rev. Luther F. Beecher went into business with Mr. Carter, principal of the Saratoga Female Seminary, to establish a school for young women. They constructed a new building designed to house a boarding school during the winter and used as a hotel in the summer, and called it the Saratoga Female Seminary at Temple Grove (New York). By 1860 Mr. Carter was no longer with the school. Beecher continued as its principal for a few years, changing the name to Temple Grove Institute but the school closed.

Charles F. Dowd (1825-1904) came to Saratoga Springs to purchase and re-open the Temple Grove school in 1868. Dowd improved the Temple Grove building with new plumbing, steam heat (an innovation in its time for the city), a gymnasium and laboratories. Dowd was a graduate of Yale College (1853). He later completed a Ph.D. in theology from the University of New York. He is known for having originated and promoted the System of Standard Time. Dowd was principal from 1868 to 1898 with his wife, Harriet M. Dowd, (Mount Holyoke, class of 1851). The charter was made permanent in 1879. Dowd retired in 1898 after serving as the principal at Temple Grove from 1868 to 1898. The school continued under his son, Franklin D. Dowd, until 1900.

In April 1903 the Seminary building and grounds were purchased by Mrs. Lucy Skidmore Scribner for the newly formed Young Women's Industrial Club. In 1911 the Club was re-named the Skidmore School of Arts and in 1922 was chartered as a four-year liberal arts college known from 1922 as Skidmore College. By 1922 the site of Temple Grove had evolved into the center of the downtown campus of Skidmore College. The Temple Grove Seminary building still exists in Saratoga Springs on the corner of Circular and Spring Streets.

        Benjamin F. Bancroft (1816-1886)

Benjamin F. Bancroft was born in Granville, Massachusetts, in 1816. His grandfather, Samuel Bancroft, Jr., was an officer in the Revolutionary War. B.F. Bancroft was the only son of Jonathan B. Bancroft and Betsy Clark. In 1838 he came to Granville, New York, and entered mercantile business which he carried on successfully for fifteen years. In 1853, he went to Salem, New York, and assisted in organizing the First National Bank of Salem, becoming one of its directors and its cashier, which position he held until April 1878, when he was elected president. The financial standing of the bank was very good. Bancroft was also listed as the treasurer of the American Popular Life Insurance Company as early as 1867. In politics, Bancroft was a Republican, and the nominee of his party as one of the presidential electors in 1876. He took a leading part in raising money and men in his town and county for the suppression of the rebellion. In 1844 he married Mary J., the daughter of Gen. Edward Bulkley (-1878), of Granville, New York. Bancroft died in Salem, 23 Nov 1886. His wife predeceased him, on 23 March 1881.

       Sample Quotes:

“Temple Grove Seminary, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Oct 6, 1874


B.F. Bancroft, Esq.


My dear Sir: I regret very much that I could not have a little quite talk with you on Saturday. If you had not more than ordinary perception of business I am sure you would have given me a severe wrench before this. The last year has been a very prosperous year for me in business & yet I have been more pressed than almost ever before. From you stand point, looking at me as one business man looks upon another, I can see much in my course to you deserving censure.


April 1st, I did not come up to my engagements. From that point till along in August I am always hard up. I was not able to recuperate, using the most rigid economy of my resources. I had hoped to square up with you in August, but the season here for our house was not quite so good as we have had before, yet we could not complain much. But we are not quite so full this fall as we were a y ear ago. I became alarmed about the 1st of August. I have not usually found much advantage in advertising & did not have money to spend this year anyhow, & therefore only watched for any who might come to my knowledge. I reviewed all my correspondence of the year about the 1st of August, & if I could see a sign of a chance anywhere I wrote or sent some circular or went myself to see the parties. I know that other business was shrinking nearly ½ and some much over that, therefore I was much worried about it. We have gotten in a good school, but it has been at a greater exertion than I have used for several years before.


A year ago, instead of absolutely requiring an advance payment I arranged my terms so that they could pay in advance or not, as they should choose, but making it an object to pay in advance by a discount. This year I made the discount for advance payment $5 each term less than last years & the consequence is that we have gotten in about $3000 less than we did last year. I think I made a mistake here, because I very much need the money. I had calculated pretty closely about my resources this fall, you may think that I have given you the go by without thought but I assure you that for the last two weeks when I saw how my advance payments were coming in, I have worried over it enough by night as well as by day.


You are dealing with men who cannot pay you when they ought & have all kinds of excuses presented to you. I have felt this & have begun to write to you once or twice & stopped disgusted. With your clear perception you see as clearly as I can tell you, & it only makes me lose confidence in myself when I am obliged to make excuses.


I presume you would not have taken hold of N. Granville if you had been in my place. But it seemed to me on the whole best to go in.  I have not expended largely in cash there, not much more than I shall get out in cash when the Court pays back the $1111.20 which it now has of our money. But Hatch will get out about $150 of that & perhaps a little expense will also come out.


I have just been reviewing my records that I might make an exact statement to you about my scholars. We have three less boarders than we had last year but one of these was the daughter of our French teacher and I took her at half price & besides paid her mother $100 a year more than I am paying my French teacher this year. So that in revenue I cannot count more than 2 ¼ less scholars as boarders than I had last year at this time. And we have exactly the same number of day scholars as we had last year.


The time for the discount is past & I fear that we shall not get any more advance payments & if we do not I am down about paying you, excepting what will come back from the Court on N.G. Sem. Acct. I think you will feel like censuring me, & I can not blame you if you do it, but I have proved myself too weak for the pressure. If you say so I will sell off some of my lots. It is not now I think a very favorable time to sell them, but I would almost rather do it than worry as I fear I shall for the next seven weeks.


I am in great doubt what to do with N.G. Sem. If I had only myself to consult, I think I should let it all lie till next Fall. I shrink from the expense of starting that school. Mr. Coles seems quite sanguine about it, but I fear he will be disappointed. I have no hope of getting any revenue from there for more than a year at least.


In adjusting matters, it comes easy to pay Mary & Annie Atkins 76 Shares of Stock. This would leave Mr. Coles 2123 Shares & 212 Shares for me, but Mr. Coles will no doubt act for those ladies so that will give him a controlling interest. Do you think this is worth looking after? After paying all up I shall have 35 Bonds and 212 Shares of Stock. I suppose I might insist on paying the aforesaid ladies in Bonds if the control will be anything of an object. But it has not seemed to me of any real acct. In order to absolutely own one half of the Sem.  I must buy 24 Bonds & 28 Shares of stock.


I fear you will scarcely have patience to wade through this interminably long letter. I want to make an honest statement. I don’t want to make my matters before you any better than they really are. I feel worried now more about my matters with you than about any other matters. I would rather pay you than any one else. Not simply my overdraft but reduce my debt. I know as I am now I am one of those dead weights which business men have to carry having upon you & I don’t feel comfortable in occupying that position.


I do not feel alarmed about my business. I don’t know as I am to be called upon for any money on my debts very soon. Beecher is never safe but I think he is satisfied for the present. I have got to pay the last of the Benedict debt for $5000 on the 15th inst. There is $1500 left on that & I have that provided for I think. No other claim will I am confident trouble me this year. Will you please write a word as to what I ought to do in my present emergency. I shall anxiously wait for your reply.

Very truly yours, Chas. F. Dowd”


“Temple Grove Seminary, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Aug 16th 1875


B.F. Bancroft, Esq.


My dear Sir: Home again!


Enclosed I send:


Draft on 1st Nat. B. N.Y. $900.00

Do     “Loaners bank   $189.10

In all                                $1089.10


Which please place to my credit. I send a check to day to Dr Sexton to square up my indebtedness to him. The check is for $486.63. Our house is very full. We have been ‘rooming out’ ever night for about a week.


I don’t yet get a clear view of what to do with N.G. Sem. Kind regards to Mrs. B. We shall expect that visit now pretty soon. I think we shall be thinned out by the end of this week.

Very truly yours, Chas. F. Dowd”