The Early History of Manchester New Hampshire’s Hesser Business College (now Mount Washington College) and the Hesser Family

Hesser updated 2 watermarked

Likeness from Granite State Magazine, July 1906

The small business school started in Manchester, New Hampshire by Joel Harter Hesser on 1 June 1900 (for the first few years called simply “Hesser School”) still exists, though it no longer bears its founder’s name. [Editor’s note: At the time of this article’s publishing, the school DID exist, but it has since closed. See details below].

In 2013 Hesser College was “relaunched” (a term borrowed directly from the college’s web site history) as  Mount Washington College, and their web site states: “today …. students are …. studying for degrees in allied health, business, communications, criminal justice, graphic design, legal, liberal studies, and psychology and for diplomas in the field of medical assistants.” It is important not to forget how the college came to be what it is today. Much credit is due to one man with a vision, who spend 45 years of his life building this school.

How synchronous this story is.  The day after I finish writing it, the Manchester Union Leader newspaper has a story: “College to Close in City–Mount Washington Officials says 500 enrolled at former Hesser College,” that it has stopped accepting students, and that it will close its Manchester Campus in 2016  [which it did]. That completely ended the history of this 100 year old school’s presence in the city of Manchester.

Updated 2017:  For those attendees and graduates looking to obtain your records and transcripts, please contact the New Hampshire Department of Education.

1904 Manchester City DIrectory showing advertisement for "Hesser Business College" and also some of the school's competition.

1904 Manchester City Directory showing advertisement for “Hesser Business College” and also some of the school’s competition.

The beginnings of Hesser College
The first location of Hesser Business College was at 913 Elm Street, Manchester, New Hampshire, the former location of the Daniels and Downs Private School, which was acquired soon after the formation of Hesser Business College by Joel H. Hesser. Between 1893-1896 the Manchester NH City Directory shows: “Daniels & Downs (Hattie E. Daniels, Clara L. Downs) shorthand and bookkeeping, typewriting and copying, and private school, 913 Elm, rooms 19 to 22.”

Reportedly Joel Hesser had seven students in his first class. Courses in general bookkeeping, and shorthand were stressed. Joel’s personal expertise was penmanship, so no doubt classes on that topic were also presented.

The 1901 Manchester Board of Trade Report shows: “Hesser School. Office, room 36, Pickering Building, 913 Elm Street. Established June 4, 1900. Formerly Daniels & Downs, Private School. Complete courses in bookkeeping, shorthand, and collateral subjects. Principal, J.H. Hesser. Assistants, Harriette B. Whittemore, Edith M. Pierce.”  His 1904 ad in the Manchester City Directory promoted “Budget Bookkeeping,  Gregg Shorthand, Day and night sessions, Typewriting for the trade.”

The Oddfellows Building at 83 Hanover Street, Manchester NH. Hesser College was located here from 1905-1910.

The Oddfellows Building at 83 Hanover Street, Manchester NH (the taller building on the right side). Hesser College was located here from 1905-1910.

Hesser Business College was not the only business school in Manchester at that time, as you can see from the 1904 advertisement presented above. His greatest competitor was probably the Bryant & Stratton Business College which had a presence in Manchester since 1865 (begun as Bryant, Stratton & Hoyt’s Manchester Business College) an international chain that touted itself as the largest business college in New Hampshire. Joel Hesser would later buy this school.  And of course, The Tuck School of Business, one of three professional schools of Dartmouth College in Hanover NH, had been founded in 1900 as the first graduate school of management.  But Joel Hesser persevered.

In 1904, for one year, the school was kept at 1017 Elm Street. In that same year the Odd Fellows remodeled their building, and in 1905 Hesser Business College had moved to 83 Hanover Street (the Odd Fellows Building). This building was then plagued by two fires, one partially destroying the building on October 20, 1908, and a second more destructive one, when all but walls destroyed by fire on April 28, 1910.

From 1911-1916 Hesser Business School was located at 146 Concord St. This building was demolished to make way for the NH Institute of Arts and Sciences.

From 1911-1916 Hesser Business College was located at 146 Concord St. This building was demolished to make way for the NH Institute of Arts and Sciences building. This photograph was used as a business card by a graduate, Myrtle I. Kelley in 1911 who inscribed her name and the date on the reserve side.

In 1911, Joel Hesser purchased and extensively renovated a house at 146 Concord Street, which was used by the College until 1916 when the house and land were sold for the construction of the Manchester Institute of Arts and Sciences. At the same time, Joel Hesser purchased the land diagonally across the street at 155 Concord Street to develop a new facility for the College.

In 1917 the Manchester City Directory shows the move occurred, and places Hesser Business College at 153-155 Concord Street, where the school remained for many years.  Its location was convenient to other educational facilities, being directly east of the

From 1917 to 19xx Hesser Business College was located at -- Concord Street, behind the Manchester City Library.

From 1917 to 1979 Hesser Business College was located at 155  Concord Street, behind the Manchester City Library. (The white building mostly hidden o the right is the library facility).

Manchester City Library, and near to the newly built Institute.  The main school would remain here until 1979 when additional Manchester facilities were obtained at 25 and 27 Lowell Street, and where many of the classes were then held.

In January 1990, Hesser College moved its Manchester location to its final location situated on Sundial Avenue, the Hesser Center of Commerce and Education (into a greatly renovated former tannery).  Of course during these years there were other locations to which the college expanded, such as Nashua and Concord, however for this story I am only mentioning the school’s presence in Manchester, New Hampshire. Additional history of Mt. Washington College, its administration and other facilities can be found here, on the college’s current web site.

 Joel H. Hesser and his family
In the March 13, 1945 issue of the Manchester (N.H.) daily paper printed his obituary, expressing many of the basic facts of his life.

One of Hesser's earliest graduating classes.

One of Hesser College’s earliest graduating classes.

“Joel H. Hesser dies at age 77
Prominent Educator Established Business College Here”
“A former cowboy on the Western plains before coming to Manchester, where he founded the Hesser Business college 45 years ago, Joel H. Hesser, 77, died today at his home, 245 Sagamore Street, this city, after a long career that directed many young people in their preparation for a business vocation. The New Hampshire educator was proud of his early boyhood and took great delight in telling stories of the days when he rode the western plains as a cowboy. Hundreds of his students have listened with interest to his first-hand stories of the West in the late 1800’s. The Manchester college head was well known in the northeastern states as organizer of the New England Business College Association and as first president of the organization. He was also a member of the National Council of Business Schools.”

Upon Joel Hesser’s death, his daughter Gladys, as his only child and heir, became owner of the school. According to the Mt. Washington College web site history: “Between 1945 and 1967, Gladys Lord and her husband, Captain George Lord, maintained ownership and direction of the College, with Mildred Goff serving as Director of Operations. In 1967, Mildred Goff began serving as President of the institution.” At this point the influence of the Hesser family with the college ends, as the Lords had no children. More detail of Joel’s life and that of his daughter is presented below in the Hesser genealogy.


– Hippo Press: How Hesser Failed [December 2015]



Joel Hesser in later years.

Joel Hesser in later years.

Some of this information is taken from the book, “History of the Hesser Family, (1708-1945) Descendants of Johann Friedrich Hesser,” written and compiled by George Ernest Hesser, and also from Granite State Magazine, Vol II, July to December 1906.

JOHANN FRIEDRICH HESSER, of unknown parentage, arrived in Philadelphia PA on the ship Loyal Judith 5 Sep 1732 at the age of 25 years. He built a home on Germantown Avenue across the street from St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Philadelphia. He married abt 1734 to Anna Maria Catharina Hofman. Johann was a baker and had a bakery shop in his home. This later became famous as the Buck Tavern or “The Sign of the Buck.” He lived here and raised his family.
Quaint Old Germantown in Pennsylvania
Children of Johann F. & Anna M. C. (Hofman) Hesser:
1. John Hesser, b 1734/1735; d. 13 Sep 1892; Innkeeper, of his father’s property; never married
2. Frederick Hesser, b. 1736; saddler; m 12 Oct 1760 to Catharine Doll
3. Catharine Hesser, b. 1737; m. Joh. George Sommer on 25 Apr 1757
4. Leonard Hesser, b. 29 Jan 1739, d. 29 Aug 1807; m. Magdalena Mayer
5. Mary Hesser, b. 17 Feb 1743; d. 1 May 1815; m. 1763 Christopher Green
6. Rachel Hesser, b. 1774; m. John Gorgas as his 2nd wife; issue.
7. +George Nicholas Hesser, b. 7 May 1747
8 Christiana Hesser, b. 14 May 1750; m. Wigand Miller 6 June 1773


GEORGE NICHOLAS HESSER, b. 7, May 1747, d. 14 Nov 1804. He m. 11 Aug 1775 to Catharine Boyer. She was b. 3 May 1756 and d. 3 May 183. They resided in Germantown PA, both are buried in St. Michael’s Lutheran Cemetery. All children born in Germantown PA
Children of George N. & Catharine (Boyer) Hesser:
1. Henry Hesser, b. 1776
2. Magdelene Hesser, b. 24 Sep 1777, d. 13 Oct 1777
3. Catharine Hesser, b. 10 July 1778, d. 2 Sep 1782
4. George Hesser, b 7 May 1780, d. 2 Nov 1789
5. Elizabeth Hesser, b. 6 April 1782, d. 3 Sep 1852 never married
6. Sara Hesser, b. 14 Nov 1783, d. 24 Feb 1860 never married
7. Daniel Hesser, b. 22 Dec 1785, d. 27 Aug 1786
8. John G. Hesser, b. 11 Aug 1787, d. 18 Aug 1828; never married
9. Joseph Hesser, b. 4 Dec 1789, d. 19 Aug 1792
10. +Henry Gottleib Hesser, b. 23 May 1792
11. Maria Hesser, b. 26 Nov 1793, d. 10 Apr 1835; m. — Riter
12. George Frederick Hesser, b. 19 Jan 1800; d. 24 Aug 1803


HENRY GOTTLIEB HESSER, b. 4 May 1792 Germantown PA, died 15 Jan 1871; m. 14 March 1816 to Hannah Negley, dau of George & Hannah (Snyder) Neagley. [Hannah was a cousin of Governor Snyder of PA]. Buried Muscatine, Iowa. He attended school at Mount Airy Seminary, Germantown PA, and this school was taught by Joseph Buckins. After his father died, Henry carried on the hat business established by his father. Later, he located on a farm in Fermanagh township, Mifflin Co. PA where he raised his family. Between 1817-1827 his name appears on the Fermanagh township tax lists, where he and sisters Elizabeth and Sarah owned a farm. He was appointed justice of the peace in Jan 1820. 25 April 1854 Henry sold his farm and the family moved to Muscatine County, Iowa.
Children of Henry G. & Hannah (Negley) Hesser:
1. Elizabeth Catharine Hesser, b. 22 May 1818, d. 1902; m. 1839 to Joseph G. McKeehan
2. Lydia Hesser, b. 7 Sep 1820, d. 10 Feb 1892; m. 13 Aug 1839 to Dr. Charles G. Reinhold; resided Lewistown, Baalsburg, Milton, Williamsport PA
3. William Hesser, b. 11 Aug 1822, d. 17 Oct 1822
4. Mary Jane Hesser, b 18 March 1824, d. 11 June 1825
5. Sarah Ann Hesser, b. 12 Apr 1826, d. 1910; m. John B. Porter; resided Iowa
6. George Washington Hesser, b. 14 Dec 1828; d. 4 April 1834
7. Martha Jane Hesser b 25 July 1831, d. 24 Sep 1881; m1) william Hess; m2) william H. Stewart
8. Hannah Caroline Hesser, b. 15 Aug 1834; She m1) Isaac Harless ; m2) — Cowdery
9. +Joseph Henry Hesser, b. 28 Feb 1838, d. 12 Dec 1892
10. Charles Wesley Hesser, b. 17 Dec 1841 Juniata Co PA; m. Adelaide Amelia Carpenter 11 Oct 1868, d. 18 Feb 1915, Colorado Springs Colorado; res. Louisa County Iowa.


JOSEPH HENRY HESSER, b. 28 Feb 1838, d. 12 Dec 1892; m1) 25 Dec 1861 to Lydia Margaret Harter. He m2) Mary Frances Watt. He resided in Muscatine, Iowa. Occupation Farmer:
Children of Joseph H. & Lydia M. (Harter) Hesser:
1. Charles William Hesser, b. 6 May 1863, d. 21 Jan 1945; unmarried, farmer, resided Somers Iowa
2. Henry Grant Hesser, b. 25 Oct 1864; m. Susan Mingles, res. Somers Iowa
3. +Joel Harter Hesser, b. 27 July 1867 in Muscatine, Iowa
Children of Joseph H. & Mary F. (Watt) Hesser
4. Horace Clark Hesser, b. 4 April 1884; d. 23 Jan 1925; m. Ida Knutson; insurance salesman
5. Sarah Elizabeth Hesser, b. 9 Jan 1869, d. –; unmarried.


Photograph of Anna C. Fry and Laura Jane Fry, sisters, both daughters of Reuben & Sarah (Miller) Fry. Laura Jane married Joel H. Hesser.

Photograph of Anne C. Fry and Laura Jane Fry, sisters, both daughters of Reuben & Sarah (Miller) Fry. Laura Jane married Joel H. Hesser.

 JOEL HARTER HESSER, [This story is about him, see likeness at top of page, and other details] born 27 July 1867 in Muscatine, Muscatine County, Iowa, and died 13 March 1945 at 245 Sagamore St., in Manchester NH. He married 17 May 1897 in Perry and Snyder PA in a Lutheran Church to Laura Jane Fry, dau of Reuben U. & Sarah Ann (Miller) Fry.  She was born 3 March 1862 in Millerstown PA, and died 1 February 1930 in Manchester, NH. Funeral services for both Laura Jane and Joel Hesser were held in Manchester, NH followed by a burial from St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Millarstown PA, and interred in Saint Michael’s Churchyard in Pfoutz Valley, Perry Co., PA, along side many generations of their families.  In the school’s 46th year, his daughter Gladys Hesser Lord become principal of “the most progressive Business College in New England.”
BIOGRAPHY of Joel H. Hesser, from “Descendants of Johann Friedrich Hesser,” on page 203-204
–“Joel Harter Hesser, Principal and Proprietor of the Hesser Business College of Manchester, New Hampshire, was born July 27, 1867 in a log cabin in the “forks of the rivers’ in Louisa County Iowa, the son of Joseph Henry Hesser and Lydia Harter, formerly of Pennsylvania, who had moved to the West in a covered wagon, there to settle and rear their family.
— He attended country schools until thirteen, then spent the next ten years, long weary years in the saddle as a cowpuncher, enduring all the exposure, hardship and abuse that go with that romantic life. Filled with the ambition to better himself, he left home with twenty dollars borrowed from an in-law, and entered Cedar Rapids Business College. Opportunity presented to him the chance to study penmanship under Louis Madarasz, one of the greatest penman known. Through years of struggle, he earned his way through Upper Iowa University, Fayette, Iowa, by teaching penmanship, an art at which he was a master. Because of his ability as a penman, he secured a position as teacher of penmanship in the Nelson Business College, Cincinnati, Ohio.

In 1895 the desire to see the East moved him to go to Pennsylvania, the home of his ancestors. There he continued teaching, first in a country school, then Mifflin Academy, Pennsylvania Business College in Lancaster, and Banks Business College, Philadelphia, where he was the first teacher in its commercial department. While there he conceived the idea that he would conduct a business of his own.
June 1, 1900 saw the realization of a dream, when he went to Manchester, New Hampshire, and founded the school which to this day bears his name. After conducting his school in various locations, he built and in September 1915, started classes in his own building, the first business school in New England to be in its own building, planned and constructed exclusively for the training of young people for business life.
— At the time of his death, March 13, 1845, his school was the leading business school in Northern New England, managed along the most efficient lines and according to the most improved business methods in training of commercial students.
He was never active in politics, but a staunch Republican, and the last five years cast his ballot from a sick bed. He was an active member of the New England Business College Association, of which he was the founder and the first president.
He was a member of the First Congregational Church of Manchester. Joel Hesser was a self-made man, and an excellent example of what a man can accomplish when he has the will to work, and the determination to succeed.
1870 US Census > Iowa > Louisa, Oakland
J.H. Hesser 33 PA
Lydia Hesser 32 PA
Chas W. Hesser 7 Iowa
Henry G Hesser 5 Iowa
Joel H. Hesser 3 Iowa
Sarah E Hesser 1 Iowa
–living next door–
Hesser, Harry G. 79 M W Farmer 4650 PA
Hesser, Hannah 78 F Keeping House PA
–living nearby–
Hesser, C.W. 28 M W Farmer 2400/890 PA
Hesser, Adelaide A. 20 F Keeping House Ind
Hesser, Grace, 7/12 F Iowa Oct.
1800 US Census > Iowa > Calhoun > Greenfield [1885 same place]
Joseph H. Hesser 42 PA PA PA
Mary Hesser 32 Ind M? Virginia
Charles W. Hesser 17 Iowa PA PA
Henry G. Hesser 15 Iowa PA PA
Ida M. Hesser 13 Iowa PA PA
Joel H. Hesser 11 Iowa PA PA
Sarah E. Hesser 9 Iowa PA PA
Child of Joel H. & Laura J. (Fry) Hesser:

Gladys H. Hesser, daughter of Joel and Laura J. (Fry) Hesser, at one of her school graduations.

Gladys H. Hesser, daughter of Joel and Laura J. (Fry) Hesser, at one of her school graduations.

1. Gladys Harter Hesser, born April 1899 in Pfoutz’s Valley, Millerstown, Pennsylvania. She died 1961 and is buried in Saint Michaels Churchyard, Pfoutz Valley, Perry Co., Pennsylvania, with her parents and ancestors.  When an infant the family moved to Manchester, New Hampshire where her father founded the Hesser Business College. She was educated in the public schools of Manchester, graduating from Manchester High school in the Class of 1918. She turned her endeavors to a business career, and graduated from Hesser Business College, and Gregg College of Chicago, Illinois, where she specialized in secretarial training. Teachers courses at Boston University and Columbia University followed, each an additional training for a career to lead others along business and secretarial fields. This business career was interrupted in October 5, 1929, when she married Captain George P. Lord of Salem, Massachusetts, and she took up the duties of a home-maker in Medford, Massachusetts. They had no children. However, the home did not receive her undivided attention as she was called upon to assist in the management of the school during her father’s long illness. At the death of Joel H. Hesser, March 13, 1945, the business passed to her, and she will carry on in the footsteps of her father. Gladys Hesser Lord was active in many organizations, and held membership in the following: New England Business College Association, National Council of Business Schools, Eastern Commercial Teachers Association, Business and Professional Women’s Club of Manchester, Sarah Bradlee Fulton Chapter D.A.R., Ex-regent’s Club of Massachusetts, Army and Navy Women’s Club of Boston, Women’s Republican Club of Massachusetts. Her church membership is in the First Congregational Church of Manchester, New Hampshire.
2. Arlington Hesser, born and died 1902, buried with his family.



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