In 1850, Frederick William Gunn, educator, prominent abolitionist, and outdoorsman, along with his wife, Abigail Brinsmade Gunn, founded The Gunnery in Washington, Connecticut. A man and woman of courage and vision, they opened their home to educate a handful of young people. In doing so, they established a school which has flourished by standing squarely on the ideals of its founders – intellectual strength, moral courage, physical rigor and character.
Founded in the “home school” rather than the Anglican tradition, Frederick Gunn's educational system provided a modified classical education, athletic opportunities, environmental awareness and moral values. A champion of humanity and freedom, he designed his school as a community based on mutual respect. In a much less inclusive era (1850-1882), The Gunnery welcomed girls, international students and students of color.
Frederick Gunn is recognized as the originator of leisure camping in the United States. He walked with his students 40 miles to a Milford, Connecticut beach where they practiced camping skills in the 1860s. The custom continued into the 1870s at nearby Lake Waramaug, where academic subjects were added to the outdoor curriculum during a semester of camping. Gunn’s accomplishment is commemorated every year when the whole school takes a fall holiday to hike in the nearby Steep Rock Reservation.
The founder was known to be a disciplinarian with an imaginative flair for reinforcing his points: When students engaged in fisticuffs, they were forced to sit in each other's laps for 30 minutes; a child using foul language was asked to lecture to a herd of cows without using the same word twice; a restless interrupter of the class was told to run around the church blowing a horn at each corner until he was fatigued enough to sit still; and a liar walked 10 miles and brought back a wood chip to prove he did it.