The old Freedom Academy, one of the veteran schools of Maine, was located in Freedom Village, and was incorporated by an act of the Maine State Legislature on February 19, 1836. George Rigby and Bradford S. Poster were chosen to go to Augusta and advocate the Petition after citizens of the community voted to petition Legislature. The land for the building was given by John True, who became the first president of the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees had 24 members.
A building was proposed and plans drawn up by Lincoln Hussey, who was also a first member of the Board of Trustees. Mr. Hussey estimated the cost at $1,175. Funds were solicited and in September the building was ready for occupancy.
The past records of instructors are incomplete. Loring B. True is the first name which appears on the records in the spring of 1840. In 1844 began a ten year period of service by Rineldo Elder, self-made Scholar and distinguished citizen. Mr. Elder is said to have mastered mathematics and Spanish and read his Bible in Latin, all without the aid of teachers. These early instructors were obliged to collect their own pay from the students in the form of tuition. Their salary thus varied in direct proportion to their ability as teachers to draw students to the school.
During the first 50 years there were no graduations. Students entered and remained as long as their circumstances allowed. In school they were called by numbers rather than by their names. There were no restrictions as to age, preparation or extent of study. A student could learn as much as the preceptor could teach. Following the Civil War, two officers were in school. They were Captain Alvana Lowell of Unity and First Lieutenant Daniel Bowen of Morril. With the coming of Prince E. Luce as instructor in 1884, graduation exercises were begun.
The original building had no belfry; this was added some years later. Through the years other changes were made as many generations of the same families entered its doors to seek knowledge.
With a gift of $5,000 from Carter B. Keene of Washington, D. C., some much needed repairs were made. The floor boards, worn by the feet of many young people, were replaced by hardwood floors. A system of indirect lighting with 21 units and approved by the State Department of Education was installed. A course in home economics was added to the curriculum. The laboratory was renovated for the new course, and the science classes were moved to a room in the basement of the gymnasium. The repairs also included new doors and stair treads The old double seats of wood were removed, and individual adjustable seats purchased for the study hall.
Perhaps the most significant change of all was the removal of the platform upon which for many years had been the principal's desk. To it have been summoned students whose conduct was not exemplary. From it students delivered addresses or debated on lyceum days which were held weekly. On these programs students frequently debated with townspeople on questions of current interest. A paper of essays, editorials, and jokes prepared by students was read. The second copy of this paper, dated October 14, 1878, bears this introduction on its opening page, "A fireside journal, its purpose, to elevate, to instruct, and to amaze. This periodical is published weekly by an association of scholars. Terms, good attention while reading and liberal contributions from each. This paper finds its way into every hamlet in the land, making it one of the very best advertising mediums." Alumni have vivid recollections of these and other associations connected with the old platform.
Two other men who gave unselfishly of their time and efforts for the advancement of the academy were Dr. Billings and Dr. A. M. Small.
The building was destroyed by fire on January 25, 1947. After the fire of the first academy in 1947, the academy trustees, with Chairman William A. Thompson of Freedom and Archie T. Knight of Freedom as building chairmen, sought ways and means for building a second academy. Insurance on the building came to $10,000. $5,000 was added from the estate of the late Carter B. Keen, a prominent official and a graduate of the school. The committee had a bond of $1,000 which was sold, and the State Legislature voted $29,000 to aid rebuilding. This total of $45,000 was deemed not quite sufficient to make the school ready for use. However, being sure the balance would be forthcoming, Roscoe Penny, as supervisor, with a crew of fourteen men started work in August 1947. They were assisted by Norman Elliot who designed the school and drew the plans. The new academy was a modern, self-contained building. It opened in 1948. In the meantime. the 70 pupils were taught in other halls in the village. The academy burned again in January 1957. The first Freedom, fire trucks were housed in the basement of the academy.
Before 1908 girls as well as boys attending the Academy from outside secured rooms in private homes in the village. Sufficient rooms were a problem until the fall of 1908, when through the indefatigable energy of the Academy Trustees and the generosity of ever responsive friends, the girls dormitory opened.
The dormitory was built on the site of the Hotel Maine. It had three stories, plus a basement and attic. The dining room was in the basement with a capacity for 100 persons and there was also a kitchen where the girls prepared their meals. The basement also provided a store room, woodshed, and a pantry.
Six rooms for students or teachers, a reading and reception room were on the first floor. The second and third floor each had eight large rooms. At first the fourth floor was used as a trunk storage room; later boys were allowed to use this floor for rooms. The entrance to their floor was an outside stairway. A matron and two lady teachers had charge of the dormitory and lived there.
The girls provided a cot bed and any other furnishings required. Also, they brought their own bedding, towels, etc. Stoves for heat were furnished by the Dormitory Association. The price of a room ranged from 40 cents to 60 cents per week, if two girls shared a room. Later steam heat was installed throughout the entire building.
The dormitory operated with minor changes until the early or mid 1930's when transportation by car became a more popular means for out-of-town students to attend the academy.
When students no longer used the dormitory for living, it provided housing for families seeking rents in the village and was occupied until around the middle 1950's.In 1958 the town sold the dormitory for $5 and it was used to grow chickens in. It was demolished around the early 1970's.
from Historical Scrapbook Freedom Maine 1794-1976