In 1885, Bethlehem had nine school districts, eleven common schools, and one graded school. There were 329 children attending school, thirty of whom were pursuing higher grades and were taught during the year by four male and fifteen female teachers. The graded school at the east end of the village was known as District No. 1. This schoolhouse was replaced in 1932 by a more modern building. In 1885, the people realized that the old-fashioned District school was fast becoming a thing of the past, so they elected a “Board of Education” with Dr. H. A. Hildreth as chairman, ably assisted by General George T. Cruft. These two gentlemen mapped out a course of study for the new high school that enabled a graduate to enter college. The principal at that time was Mr. Emerson Rice.

The first graduation from his high school was in 1889 and was held in Cruft Hall. Dr. R. E. Wilder of Whitefield, who was a Bethlehem boy, was a member of the first class of the high school. This first graduation from Bethlehem High School was a big event in the history of the town, and Cruft Hall was crowded to its utmost capacity. There were six graduates: Richard E. Wilder, Emma Lyle Bartlett, William Henry Corliss, Gertrude Isabel Tucker, Edward Philip Day, and Lizzie Farmer Blandin.

General Cruft spoke a few words to the graduating class and Dr. Hildreth, as chairman of the Board of Education, presented the diplomas. Mr. A. H. Brainard was the principal.

Standing in the doorway, left to right, Haskell, Clarence Simonds, Smith Quimby, James Turner, and Philip Sheridan.
Seated on steps, left to right, Bickford, Eddie Miller, Edith Miller, Amy Smith, Carl Abbott, Jennie Buck, and Bessie Abbe.
Front row, left to right: Wright, Mr. Wallace (Principal) , Miss Munsey, Frank Reynolds, Richard Atwood, Agnes Ramsey, Eva Guy, Howard Bickford, Fannie Seymour, Bessie Atto, Florence Johnson, Alice Kay, Will Rowe.

Some of the common or District schools were at Gilmanton Hill, West Hill, Agassiz Hill, Lewis Hill Road, Cherry Valley, Bethlehem Hollow, Bethlehem Junction, and South Road.

The little country or district schools had only one small room lighted by about six windows. There was no electricity so the only artificial light for a gloomy day was furnished by a kerosene lamp. Large blackboards were fastened on the walls. In one corner would be a shelf to hold the water pail and tin dipper. There were no sanitary methods in those days, and everyone drank from the same dipper. Another long shelf held the dinner pails of jam and bread. The desks and benches were long, and two or three scholars were seated at one desk. The one room was always heated by a large box stove which kept the boys busy bringing in the large chunks of wood. Usually, the boy living nearest to the schoolhouse was expected to arrive early in the morning and build the fire, but oftentimes, as in my own experience, the teacher would be the first to arrive, and the task of building the fire would fall to her.

The average monthly salary for the teachers was $38.50 for males and $21.90 for females. Edward P. Day, a graduate of the class of ’89 and who later became a doctor, taught the 1890 winter term of ten weeks in District No. 10 school, for which he received sixty dollars. Many years ago, an especially good museum containing collections of mineralogical and ornithological specimens was presented to the high school by Col. Charles A. Sinclair, son of John Sinclair, who built the Sinclair Hotel.


Thirteen years after Bethlehem High School graduated its last class, high school students from Bethlehem were attending classes back in town when the new Profile Junior-Senior High School opened its doors in September 1976. The Profile School District, officially formed on June 6, 1974, combined the Bethlehem and Lafayette Regional school districts. Voters from both school districts overwhelmingly supported establishing the new school district, with Bethlehem residents voting 200-85 in favor of the proposal and Lafayette Regional residents approving the measure 303-71.

Just six months after the district was formed, a $1.6 million bond was approved,
authorizing construction of a new grade 7-12 school on a 20-acre tract donated to the school district by John Glessner Lee and his sister, Mrs. Charles Batchelder, Jr. Actual construction on the school commenced in the spring of 1975, and the new school was officially dedicated on August 28, 1976.

In its brief 23-year existence, Profile has had just three principals. Charles Micciche was the school’s first principal. He was succeeded in 1977 by Stephen North, who held that post for 20 years. Richard Larcom, the former head administrator at Keene High School, was named to succeed North in June 1997, and he retained that position in 1999.

Mirroring student population numbers around the region, Profile has seen a sharp increase in the number of students it serves, particularly in the last 10 years. Less than 240 students attended the school as recently as the 1990-91 school year. That number is closer to 350 students in 1999. School budgets have ballooned along with the student population. It cost close to $3 million to operate the school district during the 1998-99 school year. That’s about three times as much as it cost just 15 years ago when the district spent $979,070 in 1983-84.

The new Profile School building was plagued with a series of physical problems in its early years, prompting a $357,000 school bond proposal in May 1980. Though that bond vote failed, a reduced $158,700 bond, earmarked for various renovations, did pass in March 1981.

The school population boom of the early 1990s brought voters back to the polls again in 1992 and 1993, this time, to vote on a new junior high wing and other renovations. It took three votes before a $965,000 bond was approved on December 14, 1993. Oddly enough, just a couple of years after the addition was completed (Sept. 1994), Profile had its smallest graduating class ever. Just 23 students were handed diplomas in the school’s June 13, 1997 graduation ceremony.


Formerly St. Mary’s-in-the-Mountains

In 1936 on the 50th anniversary of its founding, St. Mary’s School for Girls moved to Bethlehem. A small boarding and day school, St. Mary’s was established in 1886 in Concord, N.H., through an affiliation with the Protestant Episcopal Church. Its purpose originally was to educate the daughters of clergymen and other girls desiring preparation for post-secondary learning. A strong Christian upbringing as well as a concentration on cultural development became
the central emphasis at St. Mary’s School. The school, small in size and close in spirit, drew students mainly from New Hampshire and other New England states. Many were attracted to the comfortable, stately dwellings on Concord’s South Main Street because of the School’s “urban” setting and the proximity
to St. Paul’s Church.

Of the first three headmistresses, two were women well-acquainted with the North Country of New Hampshire – Miss Isabel M. Parks of Littleton, principal from 1898 to 1919, and Miss Mary E. Ladd of Lancaster, head of the School from 1919 to 1931. But it was not until another New Hampshire woman became the fourth principal that the School moved to its present North Country location.

When Mrs. Clinton A. McLane, then and now of Milford, accepted the principalship of St. Mary’s School in 1931, the problems of urban progress hampered the School’s educational advancement. Traffic on Main Street increased, and more encroachments on playground and classroom property occurred–the town of Concord seemed to close in on the School. So, with vision and courage, Dorothy McLane decided that the School should move to the mountains. First, Mrs. McLane moved St. Mary’s to the Poole residence on Sugar Hill for the years 1935-36. During that year arrangements were completed with Mr. and Mrs. Eman Beck of Bethlehem for the School to purchase their estate known as “Seven Springs.”

As part of its new venture, the School added an important dimension to its program, one that also became a harbinger of its future- appreciating the natural, outdoor life. Mrs. McLane spoke of this feature in 1935: “St. Mary’s will not only continue to maintain the recognized high standard of scholarship which it has always enjoyed and lead girls towards constructive and happy living, but the new location will add to unlimited opportunity for freedom and out-of-door life.” Riding, skiing, mountain climbing, and biking all became possible, where they had not been available in Concord. The blue parkas of St. Mary’s girls became omnipresent on the ski trails at Cannon Mountain!

In 1944 “Aunt Dot” McLane resigned from her position, knowing that in a little more than a decade, she had guided St. Mary’s through a major readjustment, she had adapted the School to the demands of a change in a new environment, and she had brought to her girls the unique benefits of the North Country. Her successor was Mary Harley Jenks, a woman of considerable academic prestige. Miss Jenks continued the pattern of leadership by expanding the physical facilities and size of St. Mary’s-in-the Mountains and by strengthening the academic curriculum.

For a decade “Seven Springs” had been the only building incorporating all the activities of St. Mary’s-in-the-Mountains. Miss Jenks foresaw the need to enlarge the living quarters and ultimately to expand classroom space. So Vaillant House, part of the original Beck estate, was first rented, then purchased to provide room for fifteen more girls and three teachers. The attached stable became the gymnasium. This expansion was quickly followed by the acquisition of Hill House, through the continued benevolence of the Beck family. Remodeling this comfortable, rambling home enabled the School to add more girls and faculty. In the Main House, a second dining room had to be added and the infirmary enlarged, taking former dormitory space.

But in her first five years as Headmistress, Miss Jenks increased the enrollment to 60 boarding girls. Five years later the enrollment had exceeded 70. However, more students meant increased pressure on the rooms set aside in the Main House for classrooms. In the chemistry lab in a subterranean cellar room, girls experimenting with chlorine gas frequently smoked out students who were studying World War I in an adjacent closet classroom!

So, for the first time, St. Mary’s embarked on a major fund-raising campaign, and in 1957, Miss Jenks and the Trustees enjoyed the deep satisfaction of seeing students in a brand new classroom building linked to the Main House by an attractive, sunny, glassed-in passageway. An all-purpose auditorium enabled plays, musicals, and concerts to be performed on campus instead of in local halls, thus permitting the School to become a hostess for more local community interchanges.

In the post-World War II era the academic program of St. Mary’s-in-the-Mountains underwent considerable change. More rigorous college admissions policies and a national trend toward more opportunities for advanced education for women convinced Miss Jenks that the General Course should be abolished and St. Mary’s should specialize in college preparatory education. She also strove to hire more married couples as teachers to offer strong academic courses and a family atmosphere, instead of continuing dependence upon all-female faculties. One such couple, joining the School in 1947, was Fred and Mary Steele, who celebrated their 25th Anniversary of teaching at St. Mary’s in 1972 and have been long-time residents of Bethlehem.

On Sundays St. Mary’s traveled en masse to attend services at All Saints Church in Littleton or at Ivie Memorial Chapel in Bethlehem. Since the School had no chapel of its own, the students and faculty participated in local church services for many years, even though the girls usually outnumbered the local congregation. With the School’s strong choral music tradition, it was natural for the St. Mary’s “choir” to become the church choir for the service.

In her fifteen years of leadership, Miss Jenks always tried to achieve “quality” in every change and every action. To her, this meant quality in intellectual performance and quality of personal integrity. She held out to her students the need to reach the highest of ideals in every part of human existence.

In 1959, Miss Jenks turned over the reins of leadership to a successor who broke precedent at the outset by being a man! The Trustees chose John C. McIlwaine, formerly a teacher of French and a housemaster at St. Paul’s School in Concord for ten years. Mr. McIlwaine brought with him an attractive family of four children and a wife, Debby.

Believing that a family influence at the helm of the School would be a positive asset, the Trustees decided that now was the time to build a separate home for the headmaster, one that could also be used for social functions for the School. The same style of field stone and white clapboard, so appropriately New England, that was consistent with “Seven Springs” and yet modern and forward-looking for a school, characterized both the new classroom wing and the new residence.

The McIlwaines carried forward the School’s continuing commitments to high-quality academics, religious development, and outdoor life. John McIlwaine is an avid ornithologist, an Audubon member, a tennis player, and an enthusiastic mountain climber. His own commitment to the respect and appreciation of the natural world was transmitted to the students on numerous expeditions and provided the foundation, along with that of Fred Steele, for a concentrated emphasis upon science. This growing concern evolved into the building of a Science Wing in 1962 to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the School. The wing extended off the classroom wing, housing chemistry, physics, and biology labs on the upper level and a projection room on the lower level.

On January 1, 1964, flames licking 100 feet into the black, early morning sky destroyed the Main Building of St.Mary’s-in-the-Mountains, the entire estate known as “Seven Springs.” The fire was discovered about 4 a.m. by both John McIlwaine, Headmaster, and Ernest Chase, the beloved Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds. Mr. Chase attempted to enter the blazing building to reach the fire hose near the Great Hall, but he was forced back by thick smoke and spreading flames. Mr. McIlwaine called the Littleton and Bethlehem fire departments, whose prompt arrival and untiring efforts were solely responsible for keeping the fire from spreading to the new classroom and science wings.

Despite this heartbreaking loss for all who know the School, all were thankful that the fire occurred during the Christmas holiday so that no one was occupying the Main Building at the time of the disaster, and thus, no lives were lost or injuries incurred. While sixty girls went to live at Peckett’s on Sugar Hill, a capital fund-raising campaign was mounted, and construction on a new major rebuilding project began. On May 15, 1965, a little over a year after the holocaust, The Rt. Reverend Charles F. Hall. The Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire dedicated the new $250,000 dormitory on the campus as the completion of the first phase of the overall million-dollar project.

Named for the late Dorothy W. Burroughs, chairman of the Board of Trustees, Burroughs House would house fifty students and several faculty families, thus permitting the Main Building to be utilized solely for school activities. The work continued on the core facilities that summer, and when the School opened its doors in the fall of 1965, a gleaming white new Main Building greeted the eyes of 96 boarders and eight-day students, a total of 104 girls. John C. McIlwaine had not let any mere problem like a major rebuilding task deter him from his excellent work in attracting students.

In fact, his work in increasing the population of the School was so effective, and the new, modern campus so appealing, that the Trustees decided to build a second, new dormitory in 1968. This was named Carter House in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Eliot A. Carter of Nashua, New Hampshire, faithful supporters of the School. The enrollment expanded to 110 students with 10-day pupils from the Littleton-Bethlehem-Franconia area, the largest enrollment the School had ever achieved.

When John McIlwaine retired in 1970 after eleven years of leading the school through a period of major crisis and growth, he could well be proud of the impact his work had had on the life of St. Mary’s-in-the-Mountains. However, in the early 1970s changing social and economic influences began to adversely affect St Mary’s-in-the-Mountains. A national trend away from boarding schools, a pattern of social liberalization among young people, and a recession in the economy – these and other factors contributed to lessening the demand for what a small, isolated, single-sex school could offer in the educational spectrum.

During this time, the Trustees began to look closely at what role the School should play in the new World of the Seventies. As the Board studied the need and the ways and means of change, the Headmaster’s role was assumed by Headmaster Donald Hagerman of Holderness School on an acting basis, assisted by Arthur Ingraham, III, for a two-year transitional period. In l971-72 the Trustees unveiled their carefully analyzed decisions regarding the vital changes St. Mary’s must make. They announced: 1 ) the School would become coeducational and non-denominational; 2 ) the name would be changed to TheWhite Mountain School to become more descriptive of its location and new programs; and 3) new directions in philosophy and program to capitalize on the total environment would be fully implemented and publicized. At the same time a new headmaster E. Charles Sanborn was found to carry forward the Trustees’ goals.

Basically, the new directions, or “New Horizons,” featured a strong commitment to integrating the outdoor life as fully as possible with the total education at the school – academic, physical, and spiritual. Especially strong in the natural and physical sciences, The White Mountain School, under “Chuck” Sanborn’s leadership, is an environmental school as well as a college preparatory school.

With these changes, the School has succeeded in overcoming its economic crisis, for in 1973-74 it had regained strength in numbers by achieving an enrollment of 115 students, an all-time high. The ratio of boys to girls in just two short years of full coeducation had reached parity with a 50-50 balance. With a talented faculty and strong leadership, a physical plant that is totally modern and an inspiring location in Bethlehem, The White Mountain School looks forward to growth.