Thaddeus Stevens Our Namesake

The Stevens School is named after Thaddeus Stevens, who, born in Danville in 1792, attended the Peacham Academy until his entrance to Dartmouth Collge.  Stevens overcame physical disability and an impoverished youth, eventually becoming a Representative in the U.S. Congress.  During reconstruction, Stevens advocated voting rights of freed slaves and equality for all; he was a primary author of the 14th Amendment, known today as the Civil Rights Amendment.  In 1867 he introduced a bill mandating compulsory education, teacher training, and a library at every school. 

Stevens School Students Visit Home of Namesake, Thaddeus Stevens (Caledonia Record, March 2009)

"Newspaper accounts tell us that it was in this window that Mr. Stevens was informed that President Lincoln had been shot," said Gail Tomlinson, director of the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County in Pennsylvania.  As part of their trip to Philadelphia recently, Stevens School students rode the train from Philadelphia to Lancaster in order to tour the home of Thaddeus Stevens, currently under construction as part of an historic preservation project that recognizes the importance of the work Stevens and his colleague Lydia Hamilton Smith. 

Students donned hardhats and explored the home of their school's namesake.

"Connecting our Vermont students to his Vermont roots and his life and work in Pennsylvania has been an idea we have talked about for quite some time," said Julie Hansen, director of the Stevens School. "When I called Tomlison, she was very excited to host our students."

"It makes you realize that a person doesn't have to have a big fancy house to make history," said Luna Guzman, an eighth grader at Stevens School.

A large cistern has been uncovered at Stevens's home that appears to have functioned as a stopover for runaway slaves.  A spitoon was discovered and a door leading out of Stevens's property into the cistern. The cistern was built as part of the water system but does not appear to have contained any water.  "I would have to say that this is the best primary document I've used so far to make history real for the students," says Hansen.

"It was cool to be in his home and know that he was from right in Vermont and did so many good things," said Andrew Hershey, a seventh-grade student.

Beginning their trip in Philadelphia, the students first explored Independence Hall and sat in the chairs of the first United States senate.  After spending a day in the urban environment, they traveled to Lancaster to visit the Stevens home and to experience the food and hospitality of the Amish community.

Sixth-grader Natalya McDonnell Parrish crystallized that idea when she said, "I can't believe I stood in the same room as he did when he found out about President Lincoln."