East Maine Conference Seminary
Four Ariel yearbooks and three early catalogs are available through Ancestry.com. Internet Archive has the 1883 catalog. The Maine Memory Network has a number of online photographs from the school. The National Register application is also available online. The pennant is from Cardcow.
East Maine Conference Seminary was a product of the East Maine Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Plans for a preparatory school began at the initial conference meeting in Bangor in 1848. The school was chartered in 1850, and classes began in August 1851 with 27 students. The 1883 catalog lists seven programs of study: In addition to four-year academic, college prep, and advanced course for ladies programs, EMCS offered three-year belles lettres (for ladies), commercial, scientific, and industrial programs. The catalog lists nearly 40% of students as “unclassified,” meaning that they were attending music, art, or penmanship courses without pursuing a diploma.
The 1861 catalog names 322 students, of whom 40 were in the normal program. The 1883 catalog shows an enrollment of 170 in various programs, but only 102 actual students. The 1925 Ariel shows 130 students; that of 1930 shows 156, and that of 1932 shows 126. The last two include post graduates.
E.M.C.S. advertised itself as Christian but not sectarian. Students were required to attend daily prayer services in the chapel and two church services in the village each Sunday. Some yearbooks show chapters of the YMCA and YWCA.
The catalogs show two literary societies. The 1925 Ariel pictures a debate team. The last two yearbooks show student activities typical of those in any small high school—a seminary orchestra, boys’ and girls’ glee clubs, and quartets giving regular performances; junior and senior plays, a midwinter prom, and a Junior-Senior banquet. Activities included a student council, a yearbook staff, and a student senate.
In 1933 Bucksport opened its first public high school. So students who had previously paid tuition to attend EMCS could now receive a free high school education, bringing EMCS to a close.
(Left)Three members of the 1916 graduating class. Image from the Ariel.
Bricks and Mortar
The first building, Wilson Hall, was erected in 1850-51. It was a two-story Greek Revivial building with a gable roof. Built of red brick, it featured a two-stage belfry. During the first years it served all school activities. Three years later the four-story Chase Hall--another Greek Revivial structure—was added as a dormitory. In 1912 Oak Hall with chapel, gymnasium and classrooms was built. After a fire in 1923 destroyed Oak Hall, it was replaced by Morris Hall. Wilson Hall became the girls’ dormitory, while Chase Hall housed boys.
After the seminary closed in 1933, buildings were unoccupied until 1941 when they housed St. Joseph’s Seminary, a Roman Catholic oblate. Standing idle since 1971, Wilson Hall was placed on the National Register in 1983. The City of Bucksport has recently sold it to a private developer to be restored and converted to an apartment complex.
Wilson Hall (right) and Chase Hall in 1860. Image courtesy of Southwest Harbor Public Library, accessed January 18, 2020, 6696
Team Name: Purple
School Colors: Purple and White
In 1902 the Ellsworth American reported that EMCS had formed a seven-member athletic association to organize school sports, with sub-committees for football, basketball, baseball, track, and lawn tennis.
Available yearbooks show boys’ programs in football, basketball, baseball, and track. The 1932 Ariel shows a hockey team. Girls’ sports included field hockey and basketball. Opponents in all sports tended to be private prep schools like themselves—Higgins Classical Institute, Coburn Classical Institute, Maine Central Institute, Hebron Academy, Bridgton Academy and Hampton (NH) Academy. But some opponents were at collegiate level—Farmington, Castine, and Washington normal schools, and Beal College, as well as freshmen teams from Colby College and the University of Maine.
Yearbooks show that E.M.C.S. teams were only moderately successful.