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Out & About: Morrill Homestead Welcomes Land-Grant College Graduates

  • The Justin Morrill Homestead in Strafford is hosting an open house and homecoming for Land-Grant College graduates this Sunday. (Courtesy Justin Morrill Homestead)



Valley News Calendar Editor
Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Strafford — Justin Smith Morrill came from humble beginnings: At age 15, he left school. He wanted to go to college, but his family was unable to afford it.

Later, in the U.S. House of Representatives, he was the primary force behind the 1862 Land-Grant College Act, which used money from the sale of federal lands to establish public universities across the country to teach agriculture, engineering and mechanics. Land-grant colleges in New England include the University of Vermont, the University of New Hampshire, MIT, UMass, UConn, the University of Maine and the University of Rhode Island.

The Land-Grant College Act is perhaps the lawmaker’s greatest legacy, and this Sunday, the Justin Morrill Homestead will celebrate it from 2-3 p.m. at a free open house and homecoming for land-grant college graduates. Morrill will “make an appearance” in the form of re-enactor David McWilliams.

Tours of the homestead will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m., refreshments will be served.

Growing up, student Agnes Guillo spent summers in South Strafford with her grandparents. Those summers included frequent visits to the Morrill Homestead.

“I hadn’t known about the Land-Grant Act until I was on that tour at Justin Smith Morrill Homestead,” she said. As she started looking at colleges, it was something she kept in mind. She now is an animal science major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, which was established as a land-grant college in 1865.

“I really loved the idea of going to a land-grant institution because of the value that education is for every single person and no one should be denied that right,” said Guillo, who is from Brooklyn, N.Y. “I feel so very honored to be part of it.”

Guillo is also happy to learn from classmates who have grown up on farms.

“Land-grant institutions allow for a very diverse student body,” she said. “I realized there was so much I could learn from my peers.”

State Rep. Tim Briglin, who represents Norwich, Thetford, Sharon and Strafford, also went to Cornell, which has a building named after Morrill.

“It’s funny, (I’m) coming full circle here: I am representing a town where Justin Morrill grew up and came to prominence,” he said. “I consider him a ‘ghost constituent’ now.”

Briglin, a frequent visitor to the Morrill Homestead, where his favorite room is the library, continues to see the value of the Land-Grant College Act, which he says is “more relevant than ever.”

“There’s such a movement today for students to be directed toward career-oriented education, which is important,” Briglin said.

Prior to the Land-Grant College Act, colleges were geared more toward a classical education.

“When land-grant colleges came to be in the 19th century, it was a time when I think there was a movement for college to bring more practical knowledge to students,” Briglin said, adding that the growth of the U.S. increased the demand for engineers and agriculturalists, among other occupations. “That practical learning was something that was added to classical education through land-grant colleges. I think that was a really important step forward in education in America.”

Editor’s note: For more information about the open house and homecoming, visit https://www.morrillhomestead.org/ or call 802-765-4288. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.