Dr. Henry R. & Sarah W. Vaille

Dr. Henry R. Vaille, courtesy of the Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History

Several of the Chinese students were placed in the home of Dr. Henry R. & Sarah W. Vaille in Springfield, Massachusetts.  These hosts were among the most pious and education-minded people in Springfield.

Sarah Wilkinson Lewis was a native of Walpole, Mass. and received an early education at Bradford Academy.  She accompanied her sister, Mrs. John R. Hixon, to Springfield in 1841 and opened a small, private school for children under 12 years of age.

Sarah Lewis married Henry R. Vaille in 1849. Henry Vaille, a Williams graduate, had been the principal of Springfield’s old high school until an illness had sidelined him in 1836.  It is said that Vaille brought a supply of switches to school on his first day and used them frequently throughout the year.  He was also remembered for his dark green eyeglasses which hindered the students’ efforts to determine in which direction he was looking.  Vaille returned to his pedagogical duties, but relinquished them in 1838 in order to study medicine.  As a physician, he practiced in Springfield for many years. He died in 1885.

The Vailles were members of the First Congregational Church and Sarah was involved in many charitable causes of the church and community. She was an originator of the Chinese mission in Springfield and played host to several of the Chinese students who came to Springfield. Of her, the Springfield Republican wrote:

She was interested in anything which concerned the welfare of Springfield, and occasionally contributed to The Republican some reminiscence from her knowledge of the past and her wide personal experience. The breadth of her interests may be shown by her study of painting, in which, although she began it late in life, showed remarkable aptitude. She was tall and impressive in personal appearance and for many years had been an interesting and attractive figure in [her daughter’s] household, whom the many visitors there enjoyed meeting.

Mrs. Vaille was a charter member of the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and would travel to Washington, DC, for their meetings.  On her father’s side, she claimed seven Revolutionary War ancestors and was a descendant of Isaac Allerton of the Mayflower.

When she died the day after Christmas in 1913, Sarah Vaille, left a daughter, Mrs. Andrew B. Wallace, and four sons: Frederick, Frank, Howard, and Thomas Vaille.


“Mrs. Sarah Vaille’s Death”, Springfield Republican, 27 December 1913

“Springfield’s High School House Opens in 1828: Boys Only”, Springfield Journal, 1 September 1994.



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