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Cony Female Academy

Retrace the path on Arsenal Street back to Cony Street, turn right and walk up to the major intersection of roadways called Cony Circle.  Cony Female Academy was built at the corner of Bangor and Cony streets (across the circle) in 1815.  The building was still standing in the 1930, but it no longer exists.  On the site today there is an unoccupied, one-story, modern building.

Cony Female Academy was established, without doubt, with Susan (b. 1781), Sarah (b. 1784), Paulina (b. 1787), and Abigail (b. 1791) Cony in mind (a sister Nancy (b. 1777) died in infancy).  They were the daughters of Daniel and Susanna (Curtis) Cony, prominent 19th century Augusta citizens.  (They had no sons.)  The Cony family lived at various locations on Cony Street and their last house, a large brick double at 71 - 73 Cony Street, still stands.  The façade has “1834” marked on the front.  Daniel Cony was a prominent citizen in the early settlement and served as a physician, senator, town officer, judge, and helped found the Unitarian church.  In 1815, Cony quietly began constructing a large brick building at the corner of Bangor and Cony streets.  The intended use was a mystery until it was announced to be a school for girls.  The school, dedicated in 1816, was endowed by Cony so that “instruction gratis to such number . . [as worthy] . . . of orphans and other females, under the age of sixteen” might take place, as well as education for those who could afford the tuition.  (North, 423)  The Academy owned a building on Bangor Street (corner of Willow, now demolished) which served as a dormitory.  Hallowell Academy for boys (in present day Hallowell) opened in 1795.  The Cony daughters had already completed their own studies by the time the girls’ academy was built (Abigail, the youngest, was 25), but the school is a statement about the importance the Cony family placed on education for girls.  The Academy was known to have had an extensive library, considered by some historians to be the best in the area at the time.

The Academy opened the summer of 1816 with Miss Hannah B. Aldrich as preceptress.  Hannah married Pitt Dillingham in 1820, but remained associated with the school for many years, serving as head of the school a number of times, her marital status notwithstanding.  A photograph of her at age 92 is in the collection of the Kennebec Historical Society, where she is noted as Mrs. Hannah Dillingham. 

 
Between 1844 and 1845 the Academy moved and the original building renovated into a residence.  This building survived into the twentieth century.  A filling station once stood on this site, and now a vacant building is there.  The girls’ Academy moved across the street to the Bethlehem Church (Unitarian, built in 1827) that stood on the site where Cony High School now stands.  Cony Female Academy closed in 1857 and later the building was moved down Cony Street to a site near present-day City Center.  It was destroyed by fire in 1902.

Other women who taught at Cony Female Academy included:  Miss Bancroft (1821); Miss S. A. Farnham (1824); Miss Harriet Green (1825); Mrs. Dillingham came back in 1826 with her sister Miss Mary A. Aldrich; Miss Susan Brown (1833); Miss Franham (1838/39); Miss Townsend (1840); Mrs. Dillingham and Miss Aldrich returned in 1843; Miss Aldrich and Miss Irish were there in 1844 (with a Mr. J. Edwards); Miss Hall (1847); Miss Bailey (1850); and Mrs. Arthur Berry (1856/57).

The Cony sisters married and settled near their parents:  Sarah married Reuel Williams and lived across the street in an elegant house, said to be finest in Augusta (the mansion, originally built in 1799 for Arthur Lithgow, first sheriff of Kennebec County, no longer stands); Abigail married the Reverend John Ingraham and moved around the corner to 20 Bangor Street (the building still stands); Susan married General Samuel Cony and lived behind her sister on Myrtle Street; and Paulina married the Honorable Nathan Weston and moved across the river to the west side of town.

 Site # 8.1 Sources:

 

Augusta, Maine Sesquicentennial. Special reprint of the Daily Kennebec Journal, Augusta, Maine, Sesquicentennial Edition, Wednesday, July 30, 1947.

 

 

Douin, Anthony. Interviews by and conversations with Phyllis vonHerrlich, 17 March 2001, 31 August 2001, 18 September 2001, 28 September 2001, Augusta, Maine.

 

 

Faith Communities of Augusta, Maine Past and Present. A City Bicentennial Project under the auspices of the Augusta Clergy Association, 1997.

 

 

Nash, Charles Elventon. The History of Augusta: First Settlements and Early Days as A Town. Augusta, ME: Charles E. Nash & Son, 1904.

 

 

North, James W. The History of Augusta Maine. Somesworth, NH: New England History Press, 1981. New forward by Edwin A. Churchill. Originally published in 1870 by Clapp and North of Augusta, ME.

 

 

Sleeper, Frank H. Images of America: Augusta. Dover, NH: Arcadia Publishing, c1995.

 

The University of Maine