This is George Purington, long-time principal of the Farmington State Normal School. Here he is dressed in his Knights Templar uniform. This photo was probably taken in the very early 1900s when men seemed to be in love with wearing uniforms. The Knights Templar are better known as the Masons, and at one time Purington was Grand Commander of the state of Maine. And that wasn’t his only civic involvement. Purington came to Farmington to take charge of the Normal School in 1883 at the age of 35, and he quickly became on integral part of the community. He joined the Grange, became chief of the fire department, served as Sunday school superintendent at Old South Church, led the choir and the community choral group, and presided over the public library. And that was just in Farmington. Statewide, along with his Mason duties, he founded and presided over the Maine Civic League and was an overseer of his alma mater, Bowdoin College. The Mantor Library on the UMF campus has a collection of Purington’s old notebooks full of handwritten notes (on display now) on a variety of subjects, indicating that Purington not only served as administrator but taught classes at FSNS at the same time. And I’m personally indebted to him for writing the first history of FSNS, a resource that has been invaluable to me in my research lately.
The man packed a lot of activity into a relatively short life. He died suddenly at the age of 61 while still serving as principal at FSNS. I’m not sure the cause of death, but perhaps it was a sudden heart attack. In his book The Last One Hundred Years, Richard Mallett (another local historian to whom I am indebted) writes that Purington’s death “shocked the Farmington community,” that emblems of mourning hung from the public library; the flag at Meeting House Park flew at half-mast, and Old South was over flowing at his funeral as students, faculty and community members all flocked to pay their respects to such a dedicated man.