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Hamill Letters

Samuel McClintock Hamill049.jpg

An exhibition of letters to Samuel McClintock Hamill (1812-1889) and Hugh Hamill (d. 1881) relating to The Lawrenceville School.

Samuel McClintock Hamill originally came to Lawrenceville as teacher of the Latin and Greek languages, having just graduated from Jefferson College in Pennsylvania.  During his directorship at Lawrenceville, Hamill received the degree of D.D. from Hanover College, Indiana.  Principal for nearly fifty years, Dr. Hamill named the school Lawrenceville Classical and Commercial High School and co-directed the institution with his elder brother the Rev. Hugh Hamill, who taught classics.  Noted more for wise management and firm but generous discipline than for innovative teaching philosophy, Dr. Hamill cultivated Lawrenceville’s prestige and enrollment while leaving intact the traditional curriculum and methods with their emphasis on memorization and recitation. 

Under the Hamills’ care, the school flourished and student enrollment grew from eighteen boys in 1837 to sixty-eight boys and a faculty of six in 1849.  Lawrenceville’s increasing fame and the respected reputation of Dr. Hamill were reflected in his 1850 appointment as chairman of a Select Committee to report on the “Whole Subject of Instruction and Training” before the National Convention of the Friends of Public Education held in Philadelphia.  Ten years later, Lawrenceville boasted a student body of nearly one hundred, a number that temporarily dropped during the Civil War years. 

By 1865 and despite Hamill’s conservatism, changes began to occur in the form of school schedule revision, a new gymnasium, and the introduction of organized sports.  In 1879 Dr. Hamill sold the School for $25,000 to the residuary legatees of the late John Cleeve Green, a first cousin to Mrs. Matilda Hamill and one of the first students of the school at its founding. As part of the contract Dr. Hamill agreed to continue directing Lawrenceville until a new principal could be secured.  His collected records and those of the school were lost when his home for retirement, built in the Lawrenceville orchard, burned down in the winter of 1887.  Dr. Hamill moved to Trenton and, almost two years later, passed away on September 20, 1889.  He is buried in the Lawrenceville cemetery.