Delivered: June 1916
These annals are not a history of Hamilton but are material for a history. My work is to present a pen-and-ink sketch of our Alma Mater as she was 50 years ago.
The picture must be something like the composite photographs of many faces combined, which were a popular curiosity 20 years since. They are, perhaps, like the old-fashioned family photo album that used to lie on the parlor table in our homes, for the amusement of visitors, with the curious old-fashioned pictures of the family. I have some small card and pictures which I prize, of members of the faculty and of the buildings and of my classmates and other college friends. They are not great works of art, but they are precious. They were good likenesses then. But now! Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis.
Our College 50 years ago! Alma Mater was then not youthful nor was she aged. She had just passed her half-century jubilee, which had been enthusiastically celebrated on a grand scale. There was a large gathering of her sons. There were discourses, speeches and poems of rare eloquence and felicity. The historical discourse was by President Fisher. There was also a sermon by Dr. Henry Kendall, our great secretary of Home Missions, a discourse by Dr. Joel Parker, and a splendid poem by Dr. A.C. Kendrick of Rochester University; also two fine poems by Dr. A.J. Pierson and one by the Hon. William Wirt Howe, in addition to speeches by Herrick Johnson, Dr. W.E. Knox and others. All these were published in a goodly volume. They marked the high tide of a half-century of progress.
In the background of our picture we would emphasize the significance of the time of national trial. When the Class of 1866 entered Hamilton College our nation was passing through a flood of deep waters in the Civil War. The atmosphere, even of our retreats of learning, was surcharged with sulfurous fumes. All the speeches and poems of that jubilee celebration echoed of battle and war, and expressed the patriotic devotion of Hamilton College. This spirit of patriotic devotion did not effervesce in words, poetic and rhetorical; but many of the choicest and noblest of our Alma Mater’s sons offered themselves — both graduates and students — left to serve their country. Some were spared to return and finish their course in later classes, but some gave their lives. I doubt if any college did more in proportion to its numbers.
In the foreground of my picture is our campus, its buildings and scenic surroundings — a noble and inspiring scene. The hand of time and art have made changes in the buildings, but time cannot greatly alter the grand outlook of our Alma Mater from the brow of College Hill, facing the rising sun, over the lovely valley of the Oriskany and the farther, wider Mohawk Valley, and the hills of Deerfield and Paris and the distant haze of Utica. The campus itself has been somewhat changed by the growth of its trees and the removal of the old rugged and ragged poplars that lined the sidewalk down College Hill. The campus was enlarged by the Tompkins addition. But even in those days it was a most charming park, planted with rare and beautiful trees and shrubs. There were three men, lovers of gardening and tress, laying out and planting the College grounds. They were John C. Hastings, Rev. A. Delos Gridley and Professor Oren Root. A debt of gratitude is due them.
Some of the professors’ residences near the College still look quite unchanged. The fine new presidential mansion stands on the site of the old Powell homestead. Professor North’s home “half-way up” is not much altered, but the Grand Old Greek is no longer its presiding genius!
Freshman and Sophomore Hills are greatly modified. The orchard and the vineyard and home of Alfred Lucas no longer tempt hungry sophomores, but are replaced by a series of fraternity chapter houses. The old square white house, which was Dr. Fisher’s residence, still stands. New, substantial and elegant buildings for the library and dormitories, the YMCA and Commons Hall, and other structures have arisen to testify to the love and the loyalty and liberality of the sons and the friends of Hamilton.
The Chapel still lifts its spire of elegant proportions, but the interior has been beautified and enriched with splendid memorial windows. Thus the outward dress of our Alma Mater has been enriched and modernized. The old recitation rooms were hard and bare and unattractive. There was no athletic field and the old gymnasium was falling into decay.
The faculty of Hamilton was then not a large body. The curriculum was not so broad and perhaps not so adequate as it is now. Elective studies had not been introduced. Yet the corps of instructors was for the most part not only adequate, but in some studies very superior. The personality of the teacher in the small college is an important factor in education. This was eminently true of Hamilton. Our College has a broader curriculum now in history and sociology, in modern languages and biology and other studies. This is necessary to meet the conditions of our times. But the faculty was then worthy of high honor. They were earnest kindly men seeking our advancement.
The President, Rev. Dr. Samuel Ware Fisher, was a good and kindly man, a most eloquent preacher, but not especially adapted to work of administration.
The Senior Professor in age and length of service was Dr. Charles Avery, L.L.D. Dr. Avery devoted a long life to the service of the College; he toiled for it in honor and gratitude of Hamilton. He was kind and humorous, and quite easy with his pupils. He taught chemistry and physics. Many students managed to pass his examinations without much knowledge of the subjects. But those who took special chemistry profited quite well.
The second professor in age and term of service was Professor Oren Root, called “Cube Root” by the students in appreciation of the length, breadth and solidity of his character and attainments. This appellation indicated both respect and confidence. He was most highly regarded by all, and was somewhat feared! No one ever ventured to play off any deception on him, or if he did he was certain to be exposed to the derision of his classmates. He could be very severe in the most quiet way. Yet no student who was really trying to do the best he could received anything but most considerate treatment from him. He taught mathematics, geology, mineralogy, conchology and had supervision of the very fine College Cabinet, which was well worth visiting even then.
Next to Professor Root in term of service was Edward North, professor of Greek — “Old Greek” as he was affectionately called by the students. This is the title of his biography written by his son Dexter North, a most beautiful tribute, which I wish every son of Hamilton possesses. No name is dearer or more honored! No face with its indescribable physiognomy is so indelibly inscribed on our memory. His humor, kindness, originality, his gentle refined voice in delicate emphasis, impressed us daily. His wonderful smile that could be seen gradually stealing over his countenance! It began in an attempt to suppress it by a resolute tightening of his lips, and it then spread from ear to ear, as some student made a peculiarly absurd blunder. That smile will never be forgotten. His delightful classical lectures on the Greek plays or other topics were our greatest treat. Yet it was the largeness of his heart, his sympathy for the helpless student floundering among Greek paradigms, his kindly interest in the personal welfare of every one of his students before and after graduation — all these combined to make Old Greek a supreme factor in the student life of our College. Someone has said that the personal influence of Edward North for 60 years did more for the students of Hamilton College than anything else.
Next to Professor North in term of service was Professor Anson Judd Upson. The great and lasting benefit derived from his training and criticism in elocution, oratory and composition has been a great element of success to Hamilton graduates. It gave Hamilton College a primacy in training in speaking and debate, which I trust it still seeks to maintain. He magnified his office. He was genial, witty, companionable and pleasant in his relations to the students. In addition to his influence in his special department, I would gladly pay a tribute to his earnest Christian influence. Again and again in earnest affectionate terms he urged the claims of his Lord Jesus Christ on our love and faith and service.
In addition to these great professors we had others fairly good in their departments. Dr. William S. Curtis in moral philosophy was succeeded by Dr. Nicholas W. Goertner, nominally College pastor. Dr. Goertner was “commissioner” to gather funds for the College. He was very deaf, and I do not think he was a great success as a money-getter. He was fearfully dry as a preacher in Chapel services.
Dr. Ellicott Evans was professor of law and political economy. Dr. Christian Henry Frederick Peters, director of astronomical observatory, did little class work. He was an exile from Germany on account of his participation in the revolution of 1848. His arm had been shattered by a bullet. He was an eminent man of science and wonderfully versed in many oriental languages. He was famous in this country but was much more so among the scientific men of Europe. He carried on his own work of investigation in the observatory night after night. He did take special students in astronomy, but most of them soon dropped out on account of the arduous mathematical nature of the studies.
Professor William N. McHarg, professor of Latin, was a competent, amiable and worthy teacher. His mild disposition made him an easy victim of turbulent students. He was not well treated. I am glad that Dr. Bates paid him such a fine tribute in his annals last year. I am glad to say our class was not so troublesome to him as the Class of 1865.
We also had a German as instructor in French and German. We did not become deeply versed in these languages. There were also tutors, James A. Skinner, Samuel DeWitt Westfall and John McLean. This completes the roll of the faculty. All, with the exception of tutors Westfall and Skinner, rest from their labors.
The Class of 1866
Under the care of these teachers our class spent four happy and profitable years, in work or play. Sometimes it was more work; sometimes more play!
As to the class history for the first two years of trial, trouble, conflict, defeats and victories I cannot tell, for I became a member of the Class of 1866 at the beginning of their junior year. College customs have changed, I hope for the better — the smoking out of freshmen, the cutting off of their luxuriant hair or beards, have passed. The custom was revived by the Class of 1860. Our class, on graduating, planted an oak that has grown and expanded as the 50 years have passed. Beneath its shade our class has gathered at its reunions. The class has diminished in numbers, but the noble tree will live for 100 years or more.
Ours was a fairly representative class. It numbered 37 at its graduation. There was no great genius — not one who has amazed the world; but as a class they have fought a good fight and have honored the College that trained them. We have made no large gifts of funds or buildings to the College, but have given three of our members to fill professorships at Hamilton.
S. Darwin Wilcox, our valedictorian, a genial, diligent and rapid worker, was chosen soon after graduation to fill the place made vacant by the resignation of Professor Upson. It was indeed a most important chair. Who could take Professor Upson’s place? We have reason to think, if the life of this bright young student had been spared, he would have honored the College and maintained Hamilton’s superiority in his department. But it was not thus to be. He was called away by death ere he had fairly entered on his work.
Another, Chester Huntington, after three years study at Columbia University, was made tutor for one year, and was then elected professor of natural philosophy, and served acceptably from 1870 to 1880, when he resigned to enter into business, in which he has been very successful.
Our greatest and best gift to the College was Abel Grosvenor Hopkins, called in 1869 to fill the chair of Latin. “Grov” Hopkins, as we loved to call him, was one of several brothers, sons of Professor Samuel Mills Hopkins of Auburn, who graduated here. He was the most popular and beloved member of our class and the salutatorian. After three years of study at Auburn Theological Seminary he was called to be professor of Latin at Hamilton, and entered on a work into which he put all his soul and strength. He was the most perfect type of the “sound mind in the sound body” — robust, manly, athletic, enthusiastic. He was a noble man, a princely man by nature and by grace. For 30 years he filled his office and gave all his strength and energy to serve the College. During all these years he grew in the love and honor of students, faculty and citizens of Clinton. He was interested and active in local issues. Living in the old village homestead of Hon. O.S. Williams, whose younger daughter he married, he maintained a large hospitality. He seemed to be in robust and perfect health and strength when he was cut down suddenly. It seemed to his friends incredible! None could believe it!
Dr. Territt in his memorial address only stated that to which others testified when he said, “An hour’s companionship with Dr. Hopkins made this seem a bright world.” Dr. Territt says, “He was an ideal Christian.” His was a finely balanced character, without eccentricities or exaggerations. It showed itself in kindliness and courage, in a large and generous charity, toleration of judgment, a total incapacity for littleness or rivalry, or ostentation, or vagaries, in quiet tranquil devotion to duty and acquiescence in the will of God. “Men who have served well their country and their generation will come and stand by this grace, and say, ‘Here lies the man to whom I owe my soul. He taught me what it is to be a scholar, what it is to be a Christian, what it is to be a man.’”
Mention of others in our class must be brief and comprehensive. Several taught for a while as a preparation for law, but only one or two continued in teaching as a profession. Professor Ezra J. Beard was one who was steadfast and successful in that calling. Two of our class followed journalism — Haines D. Cunningham and John H. Cunningham. The latter is still in active editorial work and has sent his sons to Hamilton. Quite a number devoted themselves to successful business pursuits: Coman C. Ames, W.E. Burton, Augustus Campbell, George A. Porter, Burdette A. Blair. Three — Joseph M. Halley, Charles P. Skinner and Ch. J. Knapp were successful bankers. Charles Sterling, Millard and Morris F. Shepherd were manufacturers.
Nearly one-third of our class pursued the devious path of the legal profession, with fair honor and profit to themselves and to their clients — it is hoped! These were Morris P. Brewer, Joseph Chapin, Charles Lyon Corbin, Frank B. Hart, William J. Townsend and J.N. Tilden. Hannibal Smith closes the list of lawyers — Hannibal captured the “silver cup” offered by our class to the first-born son. He named him “Edward North Smith,” and he is, I believe, after graduating here, wearing the honored name worthily of a son of Hamilton.
A good number entered the Christian ministry. Besides Hopkins and Wilcox who studied theology but became professors, there were eight others who became ministers of the Gospel. These were J. Fisher Crossett, George M. Jones, John D. Jones, Hiram H. Kellogg, Henry Loomis, Wallace B. Lucas, George Norton and Charles Simpson. George Norton, a genial promising man, passed away ere he entered into his work. George M. Jones had long and useful pastorates and still survives. John D. Jones, the jovial and eloquent Welshman, was early called from his ministry and died on a Home Mission field. Wallace B. Lucas, D.D., had long and successful pastorates. Charles Simpson was also blessed with long and useful pastorate. Your annalist has spent 45 years of pastoral work in this state.
Henry Loomis, D.D., has been a missionary agent of the American Bible Society in Japan, and has had an interesting and useful career.
Permit me to give a brief sketch of the remarkable life and work of J. Fisher Crossett, a devoted missionary in China. Physically never strong, only moderate as a scholar, Crossett was inspired with a spirit of devotion and self-sacrifice that made his life a marvel. He gave himself in the utmost utter self-abnegation to the poor people of China. So remarkable was his life that Hon. Charles Denny, consul general of the United States in China, sent to the State Department at Washington a full report of his life and work, and he links his name with that of Father Damien, the martyr in leper work at Molokai. He says, “Mr. Crossett adopted the dress of the poor classes of Chinese and lived as the poorest of those he sought to rescue. He had a ‘refuge’ for the destitute and would go out in the coldest nights to find and bring in sufferers. He provided them with food and buried them at his own charge. He visited the prison and removed the sick to his refuge. The officials trusted him and called him the ‘Christian Buddha.’ He was connected with no missionary society. He travelled over all China. He took no money or food. Food and lodging were freely offered him. He ate only rice and drank only water. He found friends who provided for his ‘refuge.’ He taught the pure love of God and goodness. In his last illness, on deck of the steamer Eldorado, he refused to be taken to the cabin, but the kind captain had him carried to a berth where he passed away speaking of Heaven and entreating the bystanders to love God.
Death has wrought havoc in our class. Scarcely one-third remains. The first to be called almost immediately was our popular classmate Byron W. Baker, who had been chosen class secretary. Norton, Wilcox and others soon answered the call from above. May we all be ready to answer, “Here am I!”
Permit me, in closing this sketch of our class, to reproduce two short letters from honored professors testifying to their kind remembrance of the boys of 1866. In March 1899, Professor Edward North wrote as follows to W.E. Burton, our class secretary:
My dear Burton,
It is true of the Class of 1866 that its students individualized themselves in one way or another, so that they still live in a gallery of portraits, which the moist sponge of 30 years cannot efface.
The Kodak of memory brings back each face in that long Junior Recitation Room where the long blackboard made its daily record of work well done or otherwise. One thing most honorable to the Class of 1866 is proof of its loyalty by sending back six of its sons to the Mother College, and it is currently reported that more are coming. It is doubtful if any other class has beaten this record.
Yours most heartily,
In 1899 Professor Upson wrote to our Class Secretary as follows:
My dear Burton,
Let me address you as I did in College, with no handle to your name!
It comforts your old schoolmaster to know that the Class of 1866 would be pleased to hear from me. You may be sure that I shall be glad to hear the report that your classmates give of themselves.
I have just read and re-read the names of your class; and I can recall more or less distinctly every face as it appeared to me in the old Chapel.
It is nearly 31 years since you graduated. Most of the living must be 50 years of age or over; and probably the hair of most of you is powdered according to the fashion of men of your age, yet if I should meet you all I feel sure that if you would give me time I could call you every one by name! I should be proud to do it, too.
As I read the names of the 37 who graduated, I can say that none of them, whether living or dead, has made a failure of life. All have led useful lives, and some have been highly honored. Some years ago I counted over the names of Hamilton graduates whom I had formerly known, and I found that they number 999, and out of that whole number only 15 had made what a severe critic would call a failure in life! There has not been one such failure in the Class of 1866.
No argument against collegiate training can be drawn from your class.
Anson Judd Upson
The Class of 1866 has an honorable patriotic record on the roll of honor in the roster of Hamilton’s contingent in the grand army of Union volunteers, who from 1861 to 1865 fought for the preservation of our national unity. There were nine who served for a longer or shorter period in the Union army. They were Morris P. Brewer, John H. Caston, Fred B. Hart, Hiram H. Kellogg, Henry Loomis, Charles Sterling Millard, Morris F. Sheppard, and John and Newell J. Tilden.
We note some contrasts of college life between 1866 and 1916. There are some traits of college life today that were unknown to us. College banners, colors, caps and gowns, college yells and various other matters were not introduced in our day. The present devotion to athletics did not prevail. Intercollegiate contests did not exist. “Organized baseball” we knew not. Football was an unknown quantity. We had baseball, and some good players — Hopkins, Breed, B.W. Baker and others.
Junior Ex. was in those days a great institution. I doubt if Junior Prom is equally valuable today. College Commons was not a center of our daily experiences. Most of the students boarded in clubs, at Mrs. Waters and Mrs. Fells, and other places. There were few chapter houses of the fraternities.
We had no musical clubs to tour the land and thrill the hearts of Hamilton men in various cities and bleed their pockets. We did possess, however, a Hamilton College Glee Club of most superior merit, that did much to enliven the campus, and Houghton Sem with its tuneful ways. It was a notable quintet of 1866, composed by George A. Porter, Gus Campbell, Grove Hopkins, W.E. Burton and William H. Spencer. It was a perfect combination! The echo of their favorite songs sounds most sweetly on our memories yet. W.E. Burton is the only survivor of that famous club.
College songs there were; but not many composed by Hamilton men for Hamilton. There was Cheer, Boys, Cheer by George H. Star of the Class of 1860 and possibly some others. Many fine songs have been composed in later years, and the new Hamilton College Song Book is an honor to the institution.
Concerning the Christian life of the College, I will say religion was honored and respected. A large number of students were Christians. Our class prayer meetings were well attended and interesting. Sunday Chapel Services were enjoyed when we heard Dr. Fisher or Professor Upson as preacher. Morning Chapel was obligatory. The Sunday evening prayer meeting in the Senior Recitation Room was well attended, and often of deep interest.
There was no College Y.M.C.A. in our days at Hamilton. There were no student publications. The Ham. Lit. had not made its beginning as a valuable channel for ambitious literary youth. It was founded the year after we graduated by Bradford Breed and others of the Classes of 1867 and 1868.
This concludes my sketch of our Alma Mater as we knew her 53 to 50 years ago, when we came as a band of apprehensive freshmen to these halls. Here we received culture and discipline. Here we formed friendships and associations of lasting influence and value.
Permit me to transcribe a few stanzas from a poem of Hon. William Wirt Howe at the half-century jubilee, for its peculiar felicity of his description of college life.
Live o’er the past! What recollections rise
When Memory waves her curious rod of magic!
A strange procession files before our eyes,
Some scenes are sportive; some a little tragic.
That early freshman time – innocuous age.
When Seniors seemed a sort of race titanic;
And declamation on the Chapel stage,
It filled our hearts with mangled hope and panic.
The sophomore days, when we in turn grew wise,
Assumed a mild cigar, and stylish beaver!
Rolled down our collars and roll up our eyes,
And waxed in social life, the gay deceiver.
The winter moonlit night serene and still;
The jingling sleigh bells and the laughing riders;
The sleds that shot so swift down College Hill;
The sober men transformed to real backsliders!
The queer convivium in Parker’s room,
A room with clouds nicotian, close, and murky!
Where Austin’s cider shed a faint perfume
Around a sweet and surreptitious turkey!
And so the days rolled on in work and glee;
Some hours praised us, others some admonished:
And we were graduates, and came to see
The world received us, not a bit astonished.
And other years are fled, and now we meet
To tell them o’er, their sunshine and their showers.
And lo! We hear the sound of other feet,
And words that fall from other lips than ours.
As when an army from a long campaign
Comes home, its ranks all thinned and yet victorious,
And marches past with many a martial strain.
Some banners tattered; others gay and glorious
We gaze and cheer, and yet can ne’er forget.
Nay, rather think the more with tears and praises
Of heroes left behind and lying yet
All cold and silent, ’neath the distant daisies.
Blest be the dead! They too are here today!
Their happy presence floats serene before us;
With viewless lips, they chant their solemn lay,
To swell the music of our earthly chorus!
And nearer home, I pledge a double health
To this fair seat of beauty and of knowledge;
A larger share of children and of wealth,
And every other blessing for our College.
Vale, vale! We come today, all that remains of the Class of 1866, from the graves of the dead and the homes of the living, a broken band!
We bring the tribute of our grateful love and the prayer of our hope and faith. To Alma Mater we say, as the gladiators of old, Morituri salutamus!
Alma Mater, we bless thee! The rich may build thy academic porches; the poor may give their prayers. All thy children crown thee with laurel. We are passing; but thou remainest. We shall join the innumerable caravan to take our places in the silent halls; but thou, sitting on thy radiant seat, looking toward the sunrise, will still welcome coming sons of Hamilton.
Comrades of the Class of 1866, hail and farewell! We meet for the last time, a little fragment of a company — few in numbers, but with hearts stout and brave; we will follow our comrades with the muffled drumbeats of our hearts, to the Great Reunion, the Grand Review! Vale! Vale!
"[ Edward North's] delightful classical lectures on the Greek plays or other topics were our greatest treat. Yet it was the largeness of his heart, his sympathy for the helpless student floundering among Greek paradigms, his kindly interest in the personal welfare of every one of his students before and after graduation — all these combined to make Old Greek a supreme factor in the student life of our College.