MY FIRST recitation as a Freshman at Hanover College was on August 29, 1864. I was fifteen years of age. I had been prepared for the Freshman class for two years, but the Catalogue said that students must be fifteen years of age, in order to enter the Freshman class. So I had waited. As I could get no further help from the Grade school, I studied at home, alone, made up half of the Mathematics and about half the Latin and Greek for the Freshman and Sophomore classes. I might very well have entered the Sophomore year, but I modestly took a place in the Freshman class. With this start I had an easy and delightful time all through College, making an average of 99 5/12 for the four years. I had time for reading and for the Literary Society work. I determined that I would not read a work of fiction during term time, and so I read history, essays, the whole round of Classic and English poetry, and many strictly religious and theological books. I do not know now how I could have improved my curriculum. Let me say that since then I have gone the rounds, up and down, in and out, of, all classic English fiction and have had great joy in my journeys.
The day before I reached Hanover I spent five [Page 267] hours in traveling, at the regulation eighteen miles an hour, the ninety miles from Indianapolis to Madison, the old cog-wheel engine bringing us down the hill from North Madison, arriving at eight o'clock. I spent the night at a hotel, and waited until three o'clock the next afternoon for the Hanover hack, or the Lexington hack driven by Felix Monroe. In some way I was put off at the home of Dr. J. W. Scott, who later had me taken, after supper and prayer-meeting, to the home of Mrs. Eastman, in the house formerly occupied by Dr. John Matthews when he was President of the Theological Seminary, now McCormick. Here Professor W. H. Holliday boarded also, and, as he was a member of the same Presbytery as my father, he was very kind and paternal to me.
At Dr. Scott's supper table, at a sort of College family gathering, I met the Rev. Dr. James Wood, President of the College, to whom I presented a letter of introduction from my father, and I was very cordially welcomed by him. Dr. Wood was Moderator of the General Assembly that year, having been elected the preceding May, but very little, if anything, was said about it during the year among the students, who, perhaps, did not understand about the distinguished honor. But on the following May Dr. Wood attended the Assembly at Pittsburgh, and preached the opening sermon.
Dr. Scott emphasized the fact, at the supper table, that he was the father-in-law of Benjamin Harrison, but even he did not then dream of the great presidential honor that was in store for this worthy young attorney. Dr. Scott had been the preceptor of my father at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, where my father graduated in l835, coming from there to Hanover to graduate at the Theological Seminary in 1838, and as Dr. Scott had remained in Oxford for an ex- [Page 268] tended period, founding Oxford Female College and being its first president, Benjimin Harrison, who graduated at Miami University, met Miss Scott and won her for his wife.
Thus I was started, the President and professors being my good friends from the beginning, and here in Hanover College I lived and labored, in my boyish way, for four very busy and very happy years.
Just at the time of my entrance into college there was a great deal of excitement over the return of the students who had gone, near the close of the preceding year, into the "Hundred Day Service" of the Union Army. Almost the entire student body had so enlisted. Commencement exercises had been almost entirely abandoned. They had not been called for battle-front service, but for the guarding of hospitals, camps, forts and other points so that the more seasoned soldiers could go to the front and end the war. Although the war had not ended, that summer of 18641 it did end the following winter and spring, and Hanover, along with other institutions contributed to it, sending its student body into the service. A number of these men were in our Freshman class, and in all the classes, and a good many men were in college who had served through the war, so far. A patriotic spirit pervaded the college during all those trying years, including and following the close of the terrible war.
Prices were very high. A financial crisis was on the homes of the people. Flour was fifteen dollars a barrel. Coal oil was eighty cents a gallon. At the same time incomes were graded low. For instance, the salary of the President of the College was $1,200.00 and house. The salary of each of the other four professors was $900.00. The janitor had $300.00 and house. The students were economical. Board and room rent could be had at the best homes that were [Page 269] open, at $4.50 and $4.00 a week, but this was too much for many of the students, and many of them formed themselves into clubs to cut down expenses, while many more kept "bachelor" quarters and did their own cooking. In this way many went through college who otherwise could not possibly have done so. At one time this became so general that there were probably not more than twenty boarders in the whole student body. There was very little foolishness or disorder among the students. They were a serious-minded body of boys and young men.
A good proportion of the students were preparing for the ministry. The religious spirit was evident. Chapel exercises opened each day, with the calling of the roll of the entire body. Bible Class was conducted in the Chapel every Sabbath morning, by the President of the College, closing in time for every one to go to the village church for morning service, at which Dr. Scott preached, as pastor of the church, and the church was always full. There was no choir or organ, the hymns being "started" by Professor Garritt who sat with his family near the front of the church. The people stood for the prayers, and I remember, the "long prayer" at one time was thirty-two minutes long. Attendance at this morning service was not required of the students, but they were generally there, and they were expected to attend preaching in this same village church at three o'clock on Sabbath afternoon when the President of the College always preached. Once a month there was a missionary prayer-meeting in the church, a "concert of prayer for missions." The regular Wednesday evening church prayer meeting was a great occasion. The church was full to the doors. The students were usually out in a body, in the back part of the church, and they were often called on to lead in prayer. I [Page 270] remember being called on thus, in my Freshman year, by Dr. Scott, to lead in prayer one evening. I had never done such a thing, and I was thunderstruck, and sat still in my seat. After a little time, although it seemed half an hour, Dr. Scott called on some one else. During the week several of the students condoled with me and some chided me, but Dr. Scott said nothing to me. But oil the next Wednesday evening he called on me very promptly and I responded this time without delay. He was a wise and experienced man. The students kept up a prayer-meeting of their own, on Tuesday evening of each week, and this was usually a very earnest, and good meeting. Most of the students were Christians and members of the church, and, as a general rule, religion was cheerful and natural and mainly in life and expression.
It is a far cry back to the simple days of the late sixties and early seventies of the last century.
The College still held firmly to its original purpose, its original methods of instruction, and practically, to its original curriculum. There was no question of electives. Every student took every course offered - "theirs not to reason why." A limited income meant few professors, and few professors in turn meant no electives.
I very much doubt, however, even had there been a large Faculty and abundant resources, if any options would have been offered. President Elliott had not yet demonstrated the possibilities of the elective system and the mediaeval curriculum was still regarded as sacrosanct. The slightest deviation from it would have been regarded as an inevitable lowering of standards. So much for the background.
[Page 271] What did the student do? Let us begin with Sunday, since it is the first day of the week. At eight o'clock he reported at the College for Bible Class, carrying his Bible or Greek Testament, or both, if 'he was something of a "bounder." We had an hour of this, in my day, under the reverential and kindly direction of Dr. Garritt of blessed memory.
At ten-thirty A. M. the student was due at the village church for morning service and at three P. M. was again due in the church to hear the weekly sermon of the President. At this latter service he had an assigned seat and Faculty eyes spotted vacant places. Indeed, absence from any of the Sunday services was regarded as sufficiently serious to merit immediate Faculty consideration.
Reverence for the Sabbath and loyalty to the foundations of the College doubtless, in the main, inspired this program, although perhaps back of it lay the thought that by filling its hours, the temptation to violate its sanctity by the preparation of Monday's assignment in Mathematics or Latin, would be minimized. As our Greek recitation on Monday was always in Greek Testament we speedily inferred it was so placed because the study of its sacred text was not considered sinful.
We sometimes felt rebellious, but in the main we faithfully attended these services, for we did not quite dare do otherwise, since in the most careless of us there existed a religion that still grounded largely in fear.
The week days were very much alike for all students, from Freshmen to Seniors, compulsory chapel at 7:50 A. M., followed by continuous recitations from 8:00 Until 12:OO, was the rule. The backbone of the course was Latin and Greek. Four years of each, five times a week, was the allotment to these subjects. Had [Page 272] the student matriculated as a Junior Preparatory, he would have been required to take six years of each.
There were no laboratories, but few demonstrations, and many of these did not demonstrate-an occasional lecture, but in the main, assigned lessons from a text upon which we were catechised.
Memory was still the most potent weapon in the intellectual armory of the student, while the Professors had not advanced beyond the catechetical stage in pedagogy. Indeed, pedagogy had not been invented at that time, or if it had, knowledge of the fact had not reached the Hanover Faculty.
An education still was regarded as a well-defined, universally recognized body of knowledge, which it was the high privilege of the student to acquire, and the duty of the Faculty to determine whether or not he had done so. The thought that the end product of education was an attitude of mind, rather than the acquirement of a given body of knowledge, had not yet become widely prevalent.
We had Mental Philosophy, in which I was fortunate enough to come under Dr. E. J. Hamilton, who was a most inspiring personality, in spite of the fact that he apparently could not or would not teach by the catechetical method. I remember to this day the shock I received when, in one of the early meetings of the class, he said to me: "Coulter, tell us what you think of the validity of Porter's contention in the first paragraph of today's assignment." No wonder I was shocked. I could have told him glibly enough what the paragraph contained, but that I should pass upon its validity by thinking, was more than novel-it was revolutionary. For the only time in my college years, I think, I responded "unprepared." Some way Dr. Hamilton imagined students were to think, not merely memorize. It was a revelation to me, and out of it grew [Page 273] all my later interest in the subject. We all thought him a great man, who did not know how to teach, when as a matter of fact he was, all unconsciously perhaps, but none the less surely, a really great teacher.
All the English training I secured was the result of browsing in the little library of five or six thousand volumes. I read Ossian, and Chaucer, and Spenser, and Shakespeare, and Milton, and The Noctes Ambroseanae casually and intermittently, mainly indeed for the story or to kill time, but praise be, some of it stuck. The love of reading that has been one of the high pleasures of my life, was born in that little, apparently totally inadequate library. Lighter books were in the libraries of the literary societies, since merged, I believe, in the College Library. But of those lighter books I remember nothing, not even a little lingers in my memory.
The recitations were very much alike, whatever the subject or whoever the teacher. Let it be Greek. The assignment of 150 to 250 lines of the Iliad has been worked over by the students by the collaborative methods known of old to all students. "A" reads the first ten lines in Greek to test pronunciation and quantity; he then translates them into more or less intelligible English; he then scans the lines, after which he is temporarily at ease. "B" and "C" follow the same routine until the assignment is completed. If time was left, and there usually was, we conjugated the verbs and inflected the nouns and pronouns and adjectives and parsed for the remainder of the allotted time. Even vet I recall the dark shadow a sentence rich in subjunctives cast over the exercise. We all floundered hopelessly in such a case.
In Latin the technique was the same-reading in the original, translating, scanning, parsing, reciting rules. This was for four years, five days a week, fifty [Page 274] minutes a day, and the classes were so small that each man (there were no co-eds in those days) was put upon the rack at each exercise.
I presume that today such teaching would be considered unspeakably bad-and yet I wonder-for in some strange way I find, as the years have passed, that no subjects of my college course added so greatly to my appreciation of the best in life, none others so enriched my own life as these so-called "dead" languages.
I admit frankly that I committed Mathematics. "Quoderat demonstrandum" was for me an act of memory, and not of logical reasoning. We had as Freshmen, Davies' Legendre, and as in those days my memory was a disease rather than a faculty, I galloped through the subject without especial difficulty, and without the absolute barrenness of my mathematical mentality being discovered, although at times it seemed to me to be suspected by Professor Thomson. Here again an assignment of a certain number of theorems was given. Collaborative work was not so effective as in Latin and Greek, and in consequence there was a greater amount of "fumbling" in the recitations. When the class was assembled, and the roll of the twelve or fifteen members had been solemnly called, a selected number of victims were sent to the blackboard, each being given one of the assigned theorems to demonstrate. The figure was drawn and lettered and the proof indicated in the text was given in student paraphrase and that was all. I imagine if any student had devised a proof differing from that in the text, he would have been disciplined.
I said I felt that at times Professor Thomson seemed to have a suspicion of the actuality of my mathematical knowledge. At times, when I had drawn the figure and lettered it in accord with the usage in [Page 275] the text, before directing me to demonstrate it, he would walk to the board and erase my carefully placed lettering and substitute a new series of his own devising. As he never performed this stunt in the case of any other member of the class, I perhaps had reason for believing he was suspicious of my mathematical insight. Fortunately for my record, my memory was equal to the strain and my grades did not suffer because of this weird divagination on the part of the professor from the beaten paths.
I have just now drawn the figure and written out the demonstration of the theorem that, "The square described upon the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares described upon the other two sides," which goes to prove that some of it stuck.
Professor Thomson was one of the most learned, and certainly the most widely read, of the Faculty. Dignified, kindly, yet stern in the presence of carelessness or wrongdoing, familiarly and affectionately known as "Old Pete," though his baptismal names were Samuel Harrison, he lived his life serenely, worthily, effectively in such a wav that be is still a precious memory to the few of us still remaining who came under his teaching.
It is to be regretted that as yet the College authorities have not given this really great man the recognition his eminent service to the institution merits. From his home on the beautiful bluff, just across from College Point, each day he rode around the head of Crowe's ravine to his tasks. Never five minutes too early, never, in my memory, five seconds late. So he lived, doing his assigned work without haste, without waste.
During my days in college he rode a cream-colored horse which some irreverent undergraduate at one [Page 276] time converted into a zebra by a judicious distribution of green stripes-but that is another story. It may be said, however, that neither Professor Thomson nor the horse seemed conscious of the metamorphosis, nor were the regular trips intermitted even for a day.
We had history also, three kinds of it, Roman, Greek and Modern, one term of each with texts written in a style perhaps more fascinating than accurate. But what a delight to a student with a memory! I do not remember who taught history; I only recall the delights of those three terms, during which in some mysterious way, our isolated little college cosmos seemed to be connected with the great men and great achievements of the past. Even since, I have read history avidly, and in these later years I admit an almost positive mania for biography. Biography is to me the most stimulating and inspiring literature, for, as Emerson says, its moral is that "what man has done, man can do."
There is no need to give classroom methods in other subjects. In all, assigned tasks were to be memorized and recited under catechetical proddings. The Science work, since there were neither laboratories nor laboratory equipment, fell under the same category, although in later years, from Bradley and Nelson, came prophetic flashes of what the future had in store in these new and doubtfully moral subjects.
But after fifty years and more, it is not classroom subjects nor classroom methods that stand out clearly and compellingly. It is the personality of the men under whom it was our high privilege to work with increasing reverence and respect. I think back on Presidents Wood and Archibald and Heckman and acting President Scott and realize now, as I did not then, their real worth, their consecration to study. I think back on Professor Garritt, the beloved, the St. [Page 277] John of Hanover for over three score years, of Thomson and Sturgis and Morse and McComb and Young, the latter my classmate and comrade of college years, and there rises before me the picture of a succession of men who highly held to high ideals; men of deep convictions; men to whom duty carried a divine imperative; men who for long years rendered a self-sacrificing service, which in the chaos of today seems almost incredible. I realize today how greatly their lives molded mine; how as a student I walked in the presence of greatness and failed to realize it.
I presume if there is one unchanging thing in this changing world, it is the undergraduate student body. "As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be," is probably its most satisfactory characterization. Eager, daring, knowing everything with the absolute certitude of youth-or ignorance, quickly evaluating professors, courses of study and world movements, careless, thoughtless, yet, in their high courage, through their eagerness to break new paths, the hope of the world. No higher calling ever came to a man than that as a teacher of undergraduates, to be in constant and intimate touch with young and ardent and pulsing life.
As times have changed, undergraduate forms of self or group expression have changed, but the urges back of it are the same.
We who were Freshmen in the late sixties, were a heterogeneous lot as to age. Men who had fought in the Civil War were returning to complete interrupted college courses, while other veterans were entering for the first time to lay belated foundations. In our Freshman class there was an "infant" of thirteen years and a "seasoned veteran" of thirty-one. Apart from this fact, which had its replica on a far greater scale at the close of the World War, the Freshman classes of [Page 278] those days were in nowise different intellectually or spiritually from those of today. Their ideals were just as hazy, their visions just as imperfectly limned, their assurance of ultimate success and fame just as absolute.
But those days were days of financial stress; the effects of the war, the resumption of specie payment, the difficulty of adjustment to new conditions, all combined to make it a time of economy. But the necessity for economy was so universal that perhaps we were not especially conscious of it. It showed itself in our dress, in our living and in our amusements.
Many of the students batched, which means that they cooked their own food brought from nearby homes or purchased in the local stores. The two Wileys, Harvey W. and Ulric Z., "batched" throughout their college course, living in a single room at an expense not exceeding $2.00 a week for all living expenses. Many others followed the same plan, none of them because they loved cooking, but because they were so eager for a college education that they were willing to endure, what today would seem to be impossible conditions.
Then there were "Boarding clubs" with a weekly rate ranging from seventy-five cents to $1.25, depending largely upon the proportion of meat to gravy. Regular table board ran from $1.50 to $2.00 a week, while furnished rooms cost from $20.00 to $30.00 for the college year. Of course, the rooms were not elaborately furnished, and the student was expected to furnish his own light. There were no furnaces, nor bath-rooms, absolutely none of the modern necessities. Primitive perhaps, but the students lived and studied some and played more in much the same way as today. They cut classes, formed futile rebellions, played pranks in very much the fashion of red-blooded youth of all ages.
[Page 279] Our dress was not a matter of much concern. Most of us had two suits of clothes-one for week days and one for Sunday or social and state occasions. The week-day suit was apt to be "jeans," a homespun, all-wool fabric which wore everlastingly and shrunk in every shower. Many of the clothes were homemade and styles were in consequence somewhat bizarre.
Most of us wore boots, made to measure by the village shoemaker, who was also village barber and ice cream vender. These boots were clumsy, shapeless affairs as compared with footwear of today. In the absence of sidewalks and the presence of mud, the tops, reaching nearly to the knee, were really a necessity. If we wanted to put on "dog," Russia leather tops replaced the ordinary calf skin.
No one connected with the College, whether of Faculty or student body, had a "dress suit" or swallowtail, as it was then called. They had never heard of Tuxedos or plus-fours, or sport togs or sweaters. We just wore clothes which gave the "desideratum" of wear but were often short on style.
Yet we were happy, some of us even so careful of our personal appearance as to be jeered at as "sissies "-and that with only two suits of clothes and calf-skin boots. It was all in the cravats, in blacking the heel of your boots as well as the toe, in carefully groomed and "bear-greased" hair and familiarity with soap and water. How did we bathe without bathrooms? We went to Butler Falls or Crowe Falls, long strings of us, almost daily, some persisting in the habit until late in November. We had natural shower baths and used them so constantly that picnics were not held near certain falls in term time.
There were some things we could not do. We could not play cards. That meant expulsion-if you were caught. Yet I remember in an unused basement room, [Page 280] Professor Young (he was "Scotchy " then) and I, with other daring ones, had frequent wild games of euchre or California jack.
We could not dance-that also was "verboten." This, however, was no very great hardship for none of us knew how to dance, and then those heavy, clumsy calfskin boots did not prompt us to try the Charleston. The extent of our daring when wildly rebellious was the Virginia Reel and Tucker, dances now considered as belonging to the age of the Pterodactyl.
Football bad not found an entrance into the colleges, basketball had not been invented, tennis was unknown, there were no autos or telephones, movies were undreamed of, the wildest imagination had not conceived of the radio, neither was there any such thing as intercollegiate athletics. A drab world you say; how did men amuse themselves? In a perfectly normal, unorganized way. Sometimes a wave of boxing swept over the College. A couple of pairs of boxing gloves was all the equipment needed; the arena was the open area near the post office; the time while we were waiting for the distribution of the evening mail, but the contests were numerous and scrappy and bloody enough for even those raw days.
Sometimes it was gymnastics, a pair of upright posts and a horizontal bar were all that was needed to introduce the new sport and perform all manner of marvelous stunts. A broken arm or collar-bone occasionally enlivened the sport and gave it the touch of danger youth demands in all of its games.
I remember one spring term in which marbles was epidemic, and every student, from Senior to Freshman, spent hours daily playing marbles for "keeps."
We had picnics, with real food-not box lunches. The students furnished the transportation, and the maidens of Hanover the food. Sometimes it was by [Page 281] skiff to Marble Hill, sometimes by spring wagon to Clifty Falls, but always these picnics meant pretty young ladies and abundant food. What better could any young man ask?
I see students of today sitting in a close, over-decorated room sipping chocolate, nibbling nabiscoes and topping off the wild wassail with fudge or a chocolate cream, and I think joyously of my college years.
There was not a dull moment. There were always interesting and fascinating things to do, as always happens when the young are gathered together, for good times are in nowise dependent upon elaborate equipment, but are rather a, function of normal youth. Indeed, I sometimes think that the students of today are to be pitied, in that they are too sophisticated to really have good times.
We played baseball a little and organized a college team which we called the Pythian. Greek was required in those days and Pythian had a meaning even for a Junior Prep. We played against pick-up teams in neighboring towns, but as I remember, against no college team. I remember one game which the Pythians won by a score of 125 to 13. A crooked finger on my right hand has been a constant reminder that we played baseball and played it hard.
All college work closed for the day at ten minutes after twelve, so that both afternoon and evening were free. Some of us studied in the afternoon and went "calling" in the evening. Others took their amusement in the afternoon and studied at night, for college activities bad not yet submerged scholarship, and it was still fashionable to study.
The outstanding activity in those days was that centering in the two literary societies, colloquially known as the Lits and the Philals. The rivalry between them was fierce and at times bitter. No modern [Page 282] fraternity ever rushed new men more ruthlessly than did these two literary societies. Usually they broke about even, which was as it should be.
The societies met Friday afternoon for a program of essays and declamations and at seven in the evening for debate. Absence was costly because of a drastic code of fines. The debates were not perfunctory affairs, but were fiercely contested, often lasting until midnight or later. So fiercely were they contested that on one occasion one of the debaters used a revolver upon his rival, making a fairly decent shot, since the bullet cut a nice crease in the scalp of his opponent. What was the result? Well, both debaters admitted that they were excited; they further intimated that "to err was human, to forgive, divine," and as there were only fifty-six students that year, the Faculty took on the "divine" function and forgave them.
These Literary Societies were of almost inestimable value to the students and their relegation to a minor place in the college life has been a serious loss. Fraternities, Dramatic Clubs, Debating Clubs, even though under the guidance of the Department of English, are as nothing compared with the self-directed Literary Societies, with their fierce attrition of keen young minds.
The Betas and Deltas, as they were called, were the fraternities in existence at that time, although late in 1870 Sigma Chi appeared. The fraternities in that day took themselves very solemnly. Their meetings were secretly held on different nights each week and in different places, lest the barbarous horde should spy upon and perchance discover some of their sacred mysteries. It was great fun, that solemn secrecy. There was no rough work at initiation; the function was as mirth-inspiring as a final examination-and yet the friendships formed in the chapter have proved the [Page 283] most abiding friendships of life. Even yet I receive letters from some of my old chapter brothers, kindly, intimate, affectionate, as some chance brings me temporarily within their horizon.
And so, for a selected few, the fraternity, with its small, closely-knit chapter of ten or fifteen members, without a house, filled an important place in college life, more so, I am inclined to think, than in these later days of chapters of from forty to fifty members, luxuriously housed and definitely and persistently upon the social map.
During college days we were of course restless under restrictions, inclined to resent discipline, thoroughly convinced in our own minds that the "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots" of the Faculty were narrow beyond words-and yet-those of us of the earlier days who have lived on into this century, realize, as we could not then, that out of these restrictions and disciplines, out of the multitudinous "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots," was born our sense of duty, of responsibility, of service, out of these things came character.
What do I value most as today I look back upon my college days:-
1. Intimate, daily contact with noble and unselfish men, of lofty ideals and a passion for service.
2. The training of the Literary Societies.
3. The friendships of fraternity life.
4. Above all, living in those formative days in an atmosphere of the imperativeness of personal duty, personal responsibility and personal service.
Undoubtedly the undergraduate of today has man- [Page 284] ifestly greater opportunities than did those of the early severities; many more gates are open to him. The real question is, is he big enough for his opportunities? Is he making as much out of them as did his forbears out of their scantier opportunities? Only the future can give us the answer.