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Nathaniel Aldrich Balch (January 22, 1808-February 1, 1894) was born in Athens, Vermont to Nathaniel and Sally (Bennett) Balch. Several sources describe Nathaniel as having an exceptional memory. At ten years old he is said to have competed in a spelling bee and come out on top amongst one hundred and twenty competitors. In 1825, at the age of seventeen, Nathaniel began working as a teacher and is said to have been very successful.
In 1829, wishing to enter college, Nathaniel began attending the Chester Academy. After a year at the Academy he took an exam and was able to move on to Middlebury College. After four years of study he graduated from Middlebury with high honors.