The Bethel Journals

Bethel Maine History

January 9, 2016








Frank Edward Hanscom

Frank E. Hanscom was principal of Gould Academy from the fall of 1897 until 1936. He retired after the class of 1936 graduated.  In 1931 Bates College honored him with a Doctorate in Education. The citation read:

“Since 1897 principal of Gould Academy, builder of enduring values in successive generations of boys and girls, whose sagacious and constructive leadership has given to an historic academy new life and worth.”

Frank Edward Hanscom was born March 24, 1863 in West Poland, Maine. His mother and father, Emeline McCann and Edward Harold Hanscom, were both born in the town and lived on one of the early-settled farms in that part of Androscoggin County.  A  vision of a good life on sure foundations must have been fostered by ambitious and understanding parents. There were many children in the family and no great income, but the parents made sure that their oldest son was able to go beyond the common schools of the day.

Frank Hanscom was valedictorian of his class in Hebron Academy in 1885. He was obliged to teach winters in order to have enough cash for board and tuition at Hebron.  He was twenty-two years old when he graduated but was well known as an exceptionally fine teacher in towns of Raymond, Casco and Gorham besides in own home town.


From 1886 to 1892 he was superintendent of schools in Mechanic Falls and Poland. At the same time, he also held teaching positions. In 1892, he was accepted as principal of Oxford High School, a position he saw as less hectic and a better position for his career.  That same year he became proprietor and manager of the Maine Teachers Agency.  Even after he came to Gould he continued to serve the agency until 1905.

Prof. Hanscom was familiar with Gould Academy from attending Oxford County teacher conventions. At the convention of November 1893 which was held at the academy, he presented a paper on school government.  Going a step further, it is quite likely that he was well versed in the county teacher gossip about the conditions and reputation of the academy. 

Gould Academy had been struggling to keep up its enrollment.  The teaching staff and curriculum during the years just prior to Mr. Hanscom’s arrival  seemed to be barely adequate considering the standing which the academy trustees must have hoped to maintain.  The year Frank Hanscom arrived to take over as principal only two students graduated from the class of 1897.


When Mr. Hanscom left Oxford for Bethel in the fall of 1897 he was 34 years old, experienced in school administration and teaching. Several of his former pupils followed him to Gould.  Eva Bean noted in writing about the new principal’s coming to the academy that a principal’s salary amounted to the balance remaining from student tuitions received after all salaries and operating expenses were paid.  More students and their tuitions also permitted the principal to hire more qualified teachers which in turn supported a wider, more advanced curriculums. 

At the time Mr. Hanscom arrived in Bethel for the fall term at Gould Academy, he was unmarried.  On August 22, 1899, Frank E. Hanscom married Rose Ella Davis (Note 1) in time to settle into a new home before Gould’s fall term began.  The Academy did not own a home for the principal. Whoever filled the position each year had to make his own arrangements. However, it is almost certain that the trustees helped in getting a new principal into satisfactory accommodations. 

This is the Gould Academy building that welcomed Frank Hanscom when he arrived in 1897.  Note the new Bethel Brick School in the right background.

Faculty and programs of instruction:  The Academy Herald for 1896 listed the faculty as Principal: Fred O. Flood;  Assistants: Harry L. Small and Alice E. Purington.   When the winter term of 1897 opened  the faculty consisted of Frank Hanscom, Principal: Latin, Geometry, History, Psychology and Physical Culture.  Ernest H. Pratt, A.B., Associate Principal:  Greek, Modern Languages, Algebra and English.  W. Stanwood Field: Literature, Natural Sciences, Drawing and Vocal Music.  Miss Maud Mayo, Elocution and Voice Culture.  Miss Alice L. Billings, Instrumental Music. 

The Academy program of instruction covered college preparation and a “substantial academic education”.

During the second week of February 1898, only weeks after the winter term had begun, Prof. Hanscom had to deal with a major disaster when the school building caught fire . It was discovered about 10.15, on a Thursday night. At that time the fire had broken out on the south side wall up near the eaves, also was coming through the roof in several places.  Both hose companies were soon on the ground, one taking the inside and the other working outside. The fire was all in the upper, unfinished story recently used as a gymnasium. 


The fire put the school building out of commission until May 1898 while repairs were being made—new roof, floors were re-laid and walls were repaired and plastered.  Prof. Hanscom at first made arrangements to continue classes in the Brick School across the street but ended up closing the winter term early.  The town’s Brick School was used to start the academy’s spring term.

In 1904, the academy received a gift of a home for the principal from Liberty E. Holden (1833-1913) who had graduated from Gould in 1853.  The  Hanscom family moved into their new home on Church Street, known at the time as the  Abner Davis home (see 1880 map of  Bethel village) it is located next to the Chapman Inn .  On a 1911 map of Bethel village, it is shown as the F.E. Hanscom property.  (see Note 2)

Academy principals, later called Headmasters, who stayed on the job for any length of time such as Dr. True, Hanscom, Elwood Ireland and Edmund Vachon also held many public service positions in the town and its associations.  According to Eva Bean, Mr. Hanscom  was president of the Bethel Library Association, vice president of the Bethel Savings Bank, clerk of the village corporation as well as a deacon of the Congregational Church where he at times was the preacher when the minister was unable to appear.

Prof. Frank Hanscom died in 1940.  He and his wife Rose Ella who died in 1947 are buried in the  Hanscom lot at Riverside Cemetery.  Along with their parents:  Frank E. Hanscom, Jr., (1902-1980); Robert D. Hanscom, (1901-1985) and his wife Maude Humphrey Hanscom (1902-1990) and Margaret Hanscom Humphrey, (1904-1991) are all buried in the family lot.  (see Note 3)



1. Eva Bean wrote a paragraph about Mrs. Hanscom’s family.  Rose Ella Davis was born in San Francisco October 19, 1865.  Her father was Solon Hastings Davis born in  Bethel in 1833, son a Methodist Circuit minister Moses Davis.  Solon Davis became a “49’er”; later he met his wife in San Francisco.  The Davis family moved back to Maine.  It turned out that the Hanscom farm in Mechanic Falls was originally the Solon Davis home.

2. In 2004 Harry and Elaine Dresser purchased the property from Gould Academy.  The Dressers had lived in the house while Harry (Dutch) Dresser was Assistant Headmaster.

3. Frank E. Hansom, Jr., and my father, Harold G. Bennett (1903-1961), graduated from Gould in the class of 1922.


Sources for this account of Frank Hanscom’s career in Bethel and at Gould Academy are found in Eva Bean’s book East Bethel Road, 1959, the  Bethel News, the Oxford County Advertiser and Gould Academy Herald publications.  These sources are the property of the Bethel Historical Society. 

Gould Academy faculty in 1898. Mr. Hanscom stands on the right.

The Bethel Journals

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Bethel, Maine 04217