Delivered: June 1913
On a pleasant summer afternoon in July 1859, I climbed with others to the top of one of Brownell’s strap-hung stages at the corner of Bagg’s Hotel in Utica bound for the classic shades of Hamilton College at Commencement. Our arrival at Budlong’s Hotel in Clinton was welcomed by an interesting and interested crowd of students.
Going up the Hill I sought out Prof. Root, to whom I bore a letter from my father who had been his friend for many years and his pastor while the professor was principal of the academy in Seneca Falls. I do not think he remembered me very distinctly, and I am sure that I did not recognize him; though I remember very well attending a school exhibition by him in the Seneca Falls Academy when I was less than six-and-a-half years old. It was a wonderful entertainment to me, but it is hard to realize that the staid and reticent professor who dwelt in the lofty regions of pure mathematics could ever have been engaged in such trivial matters as school exhibitions.
Professor Root took me into his home where Mrs. Root gave me a most cordial and motherly welcome. Her pleasure just flowed through eye, voice and hand. She certainly excelled any person I ever knew in making one feel that in her estimation, at least, he was one of the most important individuals. It was here I met Elihu Root, whom we all delight to honor, then a sub-freshman in a roundabout.
My entrance examination took place in Professor North’s parlor, and as far as I remember was limited to Latin and Greek. Will Page and Parse Bissell were examined at the same time. The examiner and two of the examinees have already passed into heaven where Latin and Greek are not required. Before I was really aware of it, I was matriculated a student in Hamilton College.
When the term opened in the fall, our class numbered 39. At a class meeting held at the close of a recitation on the first day, it was deemed necessary to choose a watchword, which in the hour of danger might be shouted to summon the assistance of the class. Our hearts were duly inspired with fear of the terrible sophs. No one could tell what that lot of thoughtless, funny fellows would do. The watchword settled upon was “Ohio.” Needless to say that late in the evening, “Ohio” rang out in the halls on the campus, and our hearts beat quicker as we rushed to the rescue. Two or three freshmen passed the night roaming the fields. There were Chapel rushes after the rhetoricals on Wednesdays and Saturdays. If only the Chapel steps had a tongue — what wonderful tales they could tell of bruised bodies, battered heads and torn clothing.
Recitation room doors were sometimes locked. We had to maintain the traditions. One cold winter morning as we entered our recitation room, we found the windows broken and a pail of paint tipped over in the tutor’s chair. At his order we went to the Chapel. But as we gathered about the big woodstove to warm ourselves, someone had the temerity to throw red pepper upon it, and the sudden instant scattering that took place and the irresistible mighty sneezing that followed made the translation of Horace that morning impossible.
Dr. Fisher was still new in the presidency. Coming from his pastorate in Cincinnati, he had been inaugurated the year before amid great rejoicing, with splendid addresses and grand illuminations. A new day had dawned upon Hamilton College. The future was big with promise. To fulfill eager expectations it was necessary for him to do something out of the ordinary — something original; something in the way of innovation. He chose to show his hand in attempting to make discipline more strict. The order was promulgated that the students must be in their rooms by 10 p.m. every night. It was a paper order, however — a boarding school arrangement which the students laughed at.
Sometimes when there was rowing in the halls on the campus, he used to appear in a slouched hat to investigate. And it was said that more than once he met with rough handling. But the truth of this I cannot confirm. Perhaps the order that we should be in our rooms by 10 at night arose from his anxiety that nothing should interfere with our college work. He probably felt that being out late at night might rob us of so much sleep as to put us out of physical condition and interfere with our morning recitation. For it must be remembered that most of us boarded in the village a mile or a mile-and-a-half away and hence were obliged to rise by 6 a.m. in order to get back from breakfast for 8 a.m. Chapel.
Those were strenuous days when we had to go to the village for breakfast and a night dinner, bringing up our noon lunch of bread and pie and cake; two or three miles walk in the morning and three miles at evening. But the involuntary exercise helped to keep us in good spirits and health. We climbed many hills of difficulty in our College work because we climbed College Hill every day. College Hill was a blessing to us physically. How the pure bracing air expanded our lungs and fed our brains with blood!
Then there was the fun and danger of coasting down the Hill in winter. It was against the law to slide on the walk, but we slid nevertheless; and when we saw Doc Avery coming up the Hill we slipped off the sled and threw it aside and continued to run on foot. The doctor was blind to things he should not see. I doubt if he ever reported anybody for anything.
The students then as now were quick to size one up and to take advantage of one’s weakness. One young fellow came from some interior town where he was considered an oratorical prodigy. So readily and credibly had he absorbed the unstinted praise bestowed upon him that he could not help mentioning his achievements to some of his College friends. As the result he was invited by a committee of students to deliver his famous oration in the Chapel. The Chapel was brilliantly lighted; the students assembled. The committee and speaker sat upon the platform, and the speaker was introduced in good form. As he proceeded with his oration, he was interrupted again and again with applause by which he was visibly encouraged. And when he had finished his glowing peroration amid shouts, cat-calls and poundings of rollicking students, he was mockingly honored with the degree of Ph.D. — Ph.D. fool.d-d.
In the fall of 1860, the College was saturated with the enthusiasm of Lincoln’s first campaign for the presidency. One evening in a drizzling rain, carrying oil torches and wearing wide-awake caps and capes, the boys tramped through the mud in the village with hearty good will; unconsciously preparing, some of them, to tramp down South in the serious business of supporting the president, whom they had helped to elect. The spirit of patriotism ran high. An afternoon was given one day to the running of the Stars and Stripes up the Chapel steeple with appropriate ceremonies and inspiring speeches.
As Washington’s birthday approached, that same patriotic spirit asked the faculty for a holiday to celebrate it. But as a holiday had been enjoyed only a few days before, the faculty thought it unwise to accede to the request. Whereupon an indignant country-loving body of students came together with one accord and vowed unanimously that the dangers threatening the country demanded an expression of our confidence and loyalty and that we would take a holiday to give vent to our patriotism in spite of the refusal of an unpatriotic faculty; and it was further resolved that if anyone should be dismissed from College because of the action, we would all go home. We defied the powers that were and dared them to touch us.
The day came for the celebration. The exercises were going on in the Chapel. In the midst of them the Chapel bell rang for the afternoon recitation. Simultaneously, without any previous arrangement, six of us — two Alpha Delts, two Chi Psi’s and two Sigs — left the Chapel and ran to South College to close the doors and prevent two of our classmates, who had not joined the bold, from attending recitation. We discovered that they were already in the recitation room and the doors were not shut. Unfortunately a member of the faculty saw us running to South College. And when the faculty met to discuss the rebellion, not knowing what to do and yet feeling that something must be done, they cut the Gordian knot by voting to rusticate the six students who were seen going to South College. They were rusticated for something they had not done but for an intention, which somebody said, was in their minds. I have wondered sometimes what the faculty would have done if they had not had the six scapegoats. However, some good came from it. The six proved to be a living sacrifice laid upon the alter of an annual holiday on Washington’s birthday. It is a common thing to laud martyrs and erect memorials in their honor. But I have yet to learn of any word of praise bestowed upon these six martyrs of the Class of 1863. I suppose that after we are all gone, someone will wake up to the shameful ingratitude and erect a suitable monument. I shall be on the watch for it.
The Civil War made sad inroads upon our class. At the time of our graduation seven were on the field, and four had been killed. In all we lost seven in the service: Bacon, Butterworth, Butts, Cook, Hinkley, Sheldon, Turner. Willie Bacon, son of Judge W.J. Bacon of Utica, who was a Hamilton graduate and trustee, was the first one slain. A very tender memorial of him was published by his father and presented to each member of the class.
Changes in the faculty were not infrequent. While others came and went, Professors Avery, North, Root and Upson remained the unwavering standbys. The classics, mathematics, rhetoric and oratory were pursued diligently and effectively. For years Professor North taught both Latin and Greek. Then Latin was committed to tutors; and finally Rev. W.H. McHarg was elected professor in Latin. He was a good preacher but not a born teacher. The boys abused him. He used to get down on his marrow bones and beg them to be good. But who ever heard of college boys who had bowels of mercies? They would throw shot at him, and when they felt like it would move to adjourn and go out.
Dr. W.S. Curtis was College pastor and teacher of Moral Science and Mental Philosophy. When he was asked to resign (I never knew the reason but I suppose it was financial), the students sent a hearty protest to the trustees. Dr. Curtis was a strong thinker but a dull preacher. He did not take his audience into his confidence but seemed rather to talk to himself. Sometimes during the general prayer Sunday morning, some of the students would relieve him of their valued presence by jumping out of the Chapel window. When he was deep in argument, he had the habit of contracting his forehead above his nose into very heavy perpendicular wrinkles, but when he had made his point, his brow suddenly smoothed out and his mouth widened into a broad satisfied smile and his face just beamed. This is about the way he looked when he told our class in Bible that when Adam ate the apple, we were all in his vest pocket stretching up our fingers in consent. He seemed really to enjoy the thought of having a hand in that business.
Prof. Evans was elected to the chair of law during our junior year. He was a man of culture and of wide reading but not adapted to teaching. He had great difficulty in finding words to express himself; at least in asking questions in the class or offering remarks on the subject matter. And when, after some hesitancy, he had finally uttered his words, his relief was manifested in a little smile. He was a good boxer and gave a few lessons in the manly art.
Dr. Peters was our night watchman — i.e., he watched the stars by night to see if he could find some tramp asteroid that had escaped the notice of other stargazers. He discovered quite a large number of them and gave them names to suit his fancy, which they never knew anything about, and reported them to the astronomical world. Much glory came to Hamilton through Dr. Peters. We were all proud of him. His rank was high in astronomical circles. He was a very worthy man. He talked little, thought much, was very observing and critical. But the students failed to derive much benefit from his knowledge or his telescope. I remember looking through the telescope at the moon once. My impression is that Houghton Seminary girls looked through the instrument more than the Hamilton students.
Our president, Dr. Fisher, was a very popular preacher, earnest, emotional and oratorical. Besides preaching almost every Sunday in some prominent church, he was much sought after for special occasions. And once he delivered a sermon by appointment before the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church. In these ways it was his privilege to extend the reputation of Hamilton College and bring it to the favorable knowledge of a largely increased circle of people. I have no doubt that the upward turn in the fortunes of the College took place under Dr. Fisher.
Dr. Brown who was the successor of Dr. Fisher was quite a contrast. Somewhat stately and reserved, he was a reader rather then a preacher of sermons. His style was polished and elegant. He belonged to the Cloister, not the market place. It was during my service as tutor that Dr. Brown was elected president. He came from Dartmouth to Clinton to see and be seen. The faculty was invited to meet him one Wednesday at the home of Judge Williams. We sat very nearly in a circle, but the meeting was very Quakerish. The silence was broken now and then by some simple question that was answered in the briefest way. There was no sustained conversation. Wholesome fear of each other seemed to rest upon the meeting. It was a relief to separate.
It may not be improper to mention that since I was tutor at that time, I am not with the single exception of Rev. S.D. Westfall of Minnesota the only living member of that faculty whose reign lasted 40 years and ended with the death of Dr. Oren Root Jr.
During our senior year a revival took place which resulted in the conversation of every student in College with the exception of one; that one was Charles Davenport of our class. Being urged to give his heart to Christ, he refused because of an engagement he had in Utica. It is gratifying, however, to know that later in life he became a Christian.
In looking back over my College days I cannot help feeling deeply gratified that I was thrown into contest with such men as filled the professors chairs. Personal touch and sympathy are the distinctive and priceless feature of the small college. In the multitude of the university, one is shut up as a rule to a small circle of daily companions. Professor and student have little in common. The ties that bind teachers and scholars in a small college, in lifelong friendships, are the mighty influences which draw men back to their college halls.
Nor can I refrain from giving a tribute of praise to those professors who, for many years, proved themselves genuine heroes. We celebrate Memorial Day in honor of the brave men who laid down their lives for their country. But why should we not honor the men who on other battlefields endured hardships and made sacrifices and held not their own lives dear to themselves, if they might only preserve and perpetuate Hamilton College. All honor to North and Root and Upson and Avery who, with meager salaries, with great self-denial, through many depressing experiences, often cast down but not destroyed stood firmly together, whomever came or went, and maintained the name and fortunes of Hamilton College. It is wonderful how providence raises up and endows with needed qualities just such men to keep alive struggling institutions of learning until at last as in the case of Hamilton College after a long time the sun of prosperity rises and shines upon them in dazzling splendor.
Of the Class of 1863, 10 are now living. I have not been able to gather many statistics but such as I have will be given briefly:
Myron Adams was lieutenant in the 126th N.Y.S.V.; graduated from Auburn Theological Seminary; married a daughter of Professor S.M. Hopkins Auburn. Pastor at Union Springs, Dunkirk, Rochester, where he died. Was the father of Sam Hopkins Adams, wrote two books, The Continuous Creation and The Creation of the Bible, published by Houghton Mifflin. Received D.D.
S. Hawley Adams – Principal of academy at Mexico N.Y. 1863 and 1865. Graduated from theological seminary 1867 a Methodist minister. Served several prominent churches in Chicago. Received D.D. from his theological alma mater. For the past 15 years, chaplain in Clifton Springs N.Y. Sanitarium. Twice married. Five children, one son attorney for elevated railroads in Chicago, died May 1911. Another teacher of psychology in University of Michigan, Ph.B.K.
William K. Bacon — Adjutant 26th N.Y.S.V. killed at Fredericksburg, 1862.
Frank Bissell — In the Army.
Linus Parsons Bissell — Born in Clinton Aug. 1842. Died in Litchfield, Conn., November 1912. He was my alternate as annalist. Took LL.B in the Albany Law School but never practiced law.
Taught school in Buffalo N.Y., Durham Conn., Hartford, Conn. Ordained priest in the Episcopal Church in 1884. Served churches in Litchfield, Conn., and Philadelphia. Received D.D. from Hamilton College. Ph.B.K. One son a graduate of Yale. Civil engineer in connection with the Pennsylvania Railroad.
H.P.V. Bogue — Born in Clinton, N.Y., Dec. 18, 1842. Graduated from Union Theological Seminary, NY 1866. 1866-67 tutor in Hamilton College.1867-69 minister in Potsdam, N.Y., 1869-72 pastor of Congegational Church, Vergennes, Vt. 1872-74 in Buffalo, N.Y. 1874-76 pastor in East Avon, N.Y. 1876-97 pastor in Avon, N.Y. 1900-01 pastor in Alliance, Neb. 1910 – president of Mary Allen Seminary, Crockett, Texas. Built two churches, received D.D. from Hamilton College. Ph.B.K. Five children; all of whom are living. One son, Hamilton graduate.
Chas. A. Butts — Capt. 121st N.Y.S.V. Died 1864.
Harvey H. Butterworth — Died in 1864.
Henry P. Cook — Sergeant Major 26th N.Y.S.V. Killed at Gettysburg 1863.
Rees Davis — A physician in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Deceased.
Chas. E. Davenport — Was a successful businessman in Troy, N.Y. He was twice a school commissioner and for years secretary and treasurer of the Troy Gas Co.
H.M. Dodd — Born in 1839. Taught in Cortland Academy 1863-67. Graduated from Auburn Theological Seminary 1870. Served churches in Canastota, Manlius, Dexter, Augusta and Ashland. Retired from active ministry in 1909 and since then has compiled the Read Genealogy, a book entailing enormous labor. Every Read should own and read it. Ph.B.K. Has one daughter.
Chas. K. Dutoon – 1st Lieutenant 146th N.Y.S.V.
Peter Quick Eckerson — Entered College from Seneca Falls. A practicing lawyer in New York City where he died.
Chas. M. Everett — A traveling man. Deceased.
Chas. M. Foster — No records.
Abram H. Hamblin — Born in Jefferson Co., N.Y. 1837. Private 3rd N.Y. Artillery. Prisoner in Libby, exchanged and served at Fort Hatteras until close of war as provost marshall, commissary of substance, and quartermaster of the port, with rank of Lt. Teacher in New Jersey and in North Carolina for 20 years.
Nathanial B. Hinckley — Entered College from Clinton. Sergeant of 117th N.Y.S.V. Killed in the Army.
Chas. M. Holton — Deceased. Was a lawyer.
Steven G. Hopkins – Graduated from Auburn Theological Seminary in 1868. Pastor at Corry, Penn., Deposit, N.Y., Columbus, Ohio, and Palmyra, N.Y. From 1904 to the present in government customs service. Six children, four living. Ph.B.K.
Justin K. Hoyt — For many years a funeral director in Syracuse, N.Y.
Dwight Morgan Lee — Born Jan. 25, 1843. Assistant surgeon 22nd N.Y.V. Cavalry. Graduated from Albany Medical College. Practiced medicine in Oxford from 1870 for a quarter of a century. He had three children: two sons and a daughter. Held important local offices and was highly regarded.
Geo. Milton Loomis — Was a practicing physician and died in 1889.
W.N. Page — Entered College from East Bloomfield, N.Y. Was not with his class at graduation. 1st Lieutenant 11th Cavalry. Graduated from Auburn Theological Seminary. Served churches at Trumansburg and Armenia, N.Y., and for many years pastor of 1st Presbyterian Church,
Leavenworth, Kansas. Vice moderator of the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. Received D.D., Ph.B.K. One of his sons was graduated from Hamilton College.
Geo. Washington Roseman — Born in 1841. Graduated at Albany Medical College in 1866. Has practiced medicine 46 years in Anoram, N.Y. Has a son who is also a physician.
Geo. Wright Sheldon — Died in the war. Sergeant 126th N.Y.S.V.
Jonathan Seymour Slie — Says his life has been a sort of dead level. He has been engaged in making musical instruments harmonize with the Music of Spheres. Of seven children, he buried the sixth one aged 45 last November in Jersey City.
A.B. Southwich — Was a practicing physician of the Homeopathic School in Rome, N.Y., for many years until his death.
William Henry Teel — Graduated from Union Theological Seminary, N.Y. Ordained congressional minister 1868. Settled at Wethersfield, Conn., near Hartford and Belmont near Boston. Has now retired from active ministry to pursue literary work. A son graduated at Yale; a daughter at Mt. Holyoke.
John Jas. Tunnicliff — Was a lawyer in Galesburg, Ill., and became judge in the circuit court.
Robert Turner — Was killed at Goldsboro, N.C., in 1862.
Chas. Van Norden — Died while this paper was being prepared. Born in New York in Oct. 1843, graduating from College as valedictorian in ’63, from Union Theological Seminary, N.Y., in 1866, he was pastor of a church in Beverly, Mass., St. Albans, Vt., Springfield, Mass. President of Elmira College. After that he retired from the ministry, and for the last 20 years was engaged in water works and electrical business. He was twice married. Three sons and two daughters and a wife survive. Received D.D. from New York University; LL.D. from Hamilton College, Ph.B.K. Published several books.
Theron L. Waldo — Graduated from Union Theological Seminary. Preached 30 years or more in Western New York. Had four children.
Edward H. Wardwell — Did not graduate. He was 2nd Lieutenant in 24th N.Y.S. Artillery. Was in business in New York until his death a few years ago.
Edward Woodbridge Avery — Assistant surgeon in the Navy 1864-65. Graduated from College of Physicians and Surgeons, N.Y. 1866. Attached to U.S. Infantry 1866-67 at Fort Hallock, Rocky Mountains. Graduated from Homeopathic College, N.Y. 1868. Practiced medicine in Poughkeepsie 1868-70. Surgeon in German Army thru Franco-German War. Received medal from Bismarck. Mankato, Minn. 1871-74. Married in 1873 and settled in Brooklyn, N.Y. Has had two children, both living.
"Those were strenuous days when we had to go to the village for breakfast and a night dinner, bringing up our noon lunch of bread and pie and cake; two or three miles walk in the morning and three miles at evening. But the involuntary exercise helped to keep us in good spirits and health. We climbed many hills of difficulty in our College work because we climbed College Hill every day. College Hill was a blessing to us physically. How the pure bracing air expanded our lungs and fed our brains with blood!"