Maria Bissell Hotchkiss

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Maria Bissell Hotchkiss
Maria Bissell Hotchkiss.jpg
Born (1827-08-14)August 14, 1827
Salisbury, Connecticut
Died November 10, 1901(1901-11-10) (aged 74)
New York City
Resting place Town Hill Cemetery, Lakeville, Connecticut
Education Amenia Academy
Occupation Educator
Spouse(s) Benjamin B. Hotchkiss
Parent(s) William Bissell
Eliza Ann Loveland

Maria (Harrison) Bissell Hotchkiss (August 14, 1827 – November 10, 1901) was an American heiress, philanthropist, and educator. In 1891 she founded The Hotchkiss School, a private boarding school in Lakeville, Connecticut.


Early life[edit]

Maria Harrison Bissell was born on August 14, 1827 in Salisbury, Connecticut.[1][2] Her father was William Bissell (1794-1869), and her mother was Eliza Ann Loveland (1800-1841). She grew up on a farm in Salisbury named "Tory Hill" with her two brothers, William Loveland Bissell (1833-1922) and Charles H. Bissell (1829-1928). She was a member of the famed Bissell family and related to Presidents William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison.[1] She was educated at Amenia Academy.[1]


She worked as a teacher at her alma mater, Amenia Academy.[1]

Upon receiving her husband's inheritance, she considered macadamizing the streets of Salisbury and Sharon, Connecticut for use by automobiles.[1] However, the idea was rejected by both towns, who thought the upkeep would be too expensive.[1] Instead, she was convinced by Timothy Dwight V, the President of Yale University, to start a preparatory school.[1] As a result, she founded The Hotchkiss School, a private boarding school in Lakeville, in 1891.[3][4] A philanthropist, she donated the land, the buildings and the endowment for the school.[4] The Hotchkiss School purchased "Tory Hill," the farm where Mrs. Hotchkiss was born and spent her childhood, in 2010.[5]

In 1893, she founded the Hotchkiss Library in Sharon, Connecticut.[6][7] She helped choose the architectural design.[7]

Personal life[edit]

She married Benjamin B. Hotchkiss on 27 May 1850.[8] However, he permanently moved to Paris in 1867 and became a bigamist, marrying a Miss Cunningham from New York.[1] Later, she resided at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.[4]


She died on November 10, 1901 in New York City.[9] She was buried in Lakeville with her Bissell relatives in the Town Hill Cemetery, which lies within the campus of The Hotchkiss School.[4][1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Birmingham, Stephen (1992). "What Made Maria Do It?". In Kolowrat, Ernest. Hotchkiss: A Chronicle of an American School. New York: New Amsterdam Books. pp. 1–12. ISBN 1-56131-058-1. 
  2. ^ "Maria Bissell Hotchkiss: The First Lady of Town Hill". Hotchkiss Magazine (Fall 2016). Lakeville, CT: The Hotchkiss School. 15 December 2016. p. 15. Retrieved 24 February 2017. 
  3. ^ Lael Tucker Wertenbaker, Maude Hill Basserman, The Hotchkiss School: A Portrait, Hotchkiss School, 1966, p. 1 [1]
  4. ^ a b c d The New Encyclopaedia Britannica: Macropaedia : Knowledge in depth, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1975, p. 93 [2]
  5. ^ "Hotchkiss Buys Property". The Litchfield County Times. Digital First Media. 8 July 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2017. 
  6. ^ Hotchkiss Library website
  7. ^ a b Sharon Historical Society, Sharon, Arcadia Publishing, 2014, p. 47
  8. ^ "Maria Bissell-Hotchkiss". Musee de Chevau. Retrieved 23 February 2017. 
  9. ^ The American and English Annotated Cases: Containing the Important Cases Selected from the Current American, Canadian, and English Reports. 13. Edward Thompson Co. 1909. p. 861. Retrieved 24 February 2017.