Col Thomas Williams Bicknell


Col Thomas Williams Bicknell

Barrington, Bristol County, Rhode Island, USA
Death 1925 (aged 90–91)
Burial Barrington, Bristol County, Rhode Island, USA
Plot Section A Map 0041
Memorial ID 22408171 View Source

American educator, historian, author, and publisher.

He was the son of a farmer, minister, state legislator, and Colonel in the Bristol County, Rhode Island Militia, Thomas would become a wealthy eastern historian and educator from Providence, Rhode Island, he was the State of Rhode Island's Education Commissioner.

Founder of the National Society of the Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims. Order of the Founders and Patriots of America (1898). Re-establish, and be its president, of the American Institute of Instruction. President of the New England Publishing Company. President of the Rhode Island Institute of Instruction and the National Educational Association.

Author, editor, publisher of the "New England Journal of Education", Boston, 1875-1880. Author, of a five-volume "History of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations", "The Governors of Rhode Island", "The Dorr War", "The Story of the Rhode Island Normal School", "Story of Dr. John Clarke", and the "History and Genealogy of the Bicknell Family and Collateral Lines". Contributing author to "The Bay State Monthly" magazine.

Attended Thetford Academy and Amherst College, taught school and became principal in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, then principal in Elgin, Illinois.

Signed on to help settle the State of "Free Kansas". On the way to Kansas he was taken hostage by bandits on the Missouri River, but after two weeks as a prisoner, sharpshooters set him adrift.

Returned to Rehoboth, serving as principal once again, earned a masters degree from Brown University. While a senior at Brown he was elected State Representative in the Rhode Island General Assembly. After graduating from Brown, he became principal of Bristol High School and then Arnold Street Grammar School, then back to Bristol H.S.

Rhode Island Governor Seth Padelford (Republican 1869-1873) selected Bicknell to be the new Commissioner of Public Schools in 1869. As commissioner he focused on re-establishing the Normal School, now Rhode Island College. He was a gifted speaker and fundraiser, who would triple the amount of money spent on public education, he also would establish a Rhode Island State Board of Education, oversee the selection of school superintendents in every town and city in the state, dedicate over 50 new schoolhouses, and increase the school year from 27-weeks to 35-weeks.

Bicknell was an equaligist, a racial and sexual reformer, an early advocate to end Black segregation in schools; he also helped elect the United States' first all-female school board for the town of Tiverton, Rhode Island.

In 1914, wanting to have a town named for him, offered a 1000-volume library to any town in Utah that would adopt his name. Two towns vied for the prize, Grayson and Thurber, the two towns compromised and in 1916 Thurber changed its name to Bicknell, and Grayson took the name of Blanding, Mr. Bicknell's wife's maiden name, and the two towns split the library with 500 books to each.

He and his wife, Amelia D. Bicknell, donated $500 dollars to the Rehoboth Antiquarian Society, in Rehoboth, to establish the Blanding Public Library in the memory of Amelia's parents, Christopher and Chloe Blanding.

In addition to education he was also very active in civic activates and the church. He severed as the Commissioner from Rhode Island to the Universal Exposition at Vienna, Austria. He helped establish the U.S. Postal Code system as a member of the 1878 Postal Congress. He served as President in more than thirty associations and organizations, and member in over one hundred. He was president of the International Sunday School Union, the Massachusetts Congregational Sunday School Union, the Chautauqua Teachers' Reading Union, and the New England Sunday School Association.

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