A History of Beloit College
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HISTORY OF BELOIT COLLEGE
AND A SKETCH OF
AARON L. CHAPIN, D. D., LL. D.,
ONE OF ITS FOUNDERS AND PRESIDENT FROM 1850 TO 1886
H. M. WHITNEY.
Happy is the college with whose beginnings are associated things of a picturesque, impressive, emblematic, or elevating sort. At Yale there was the little group of clergymen laying down a few precious books and saying: "I give these books for the founding of a college in this colony;" in Massachusetts, the frail but scholarly young clergymen, John Harvard, dying too soon for much usefulness, and yet having a wonderful usefulness in beginning the endowment of the college that bears his name; at Dartmouth, Wheelock's Indian school, and, later, the scene where Daniel Webster defended the college charter before the Supreme Court of the United States; at Williams, the heroic soldier of the old French war, whose name the college bears, and, sixty years after, the group of students at the haystack, consecrating themselves as the beginners of the foreign missionary work of the American churches; at Oberlin, the wild beast, a symbol of barbarism, descending from a tree upon the selected site, and fleeing westward when the founders appeared. By such beginnings the work of the college is at once prophesied and helped to take a distinctive and noble shape.
At Beloit the student of the beginnings finds much upon which he loves to dwell and in which lie sees the promise and the definition and the moulding of the things to come.
THE ORDINANCE OF 1787.
There was, far back and first of all, the "Ordinance of 1787," dedicating the great Interior to freedom. In that law and compact, which has come to be awarded a foremost place among the great state-papers of the world, the most famous sentence, after the prohibition of slavery, was this: "Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." Of the tract covered by the original ordinance, Wisconsin was the farthest away and the last to be occupied by civilized men. Manasseh Cutler and the "Ohio company," in demanding the passage of the Ordinance of 1787 as the condition of their purchase of so many million acres in the Northwest, performed the first great act in deciding what the future Beloit should be. The statesmanship and greatness of Dr. Cutler are coming into recognition at last. His statue should some day adorn the college grounds.
THE BLACKHAWK WAR.
Turn the glass, and you bring up another scene. It is the summer of 1832. The Sacs and the Foxes, under Blackhawk, are at "war" with the United States. They are in full retreat from central Illinois up the valley of the Rock. Abraham Lincoln, a young Springfield lawyer, is captain of a militia company that shares in the pursuit. The Indians pass through what is now Beloit, going to Fort Atkinson and beyond, and finally westward, till Blackhawk is taken and the war is closed. So the valley is cleared of Indians, and the white settler comes in. He has hardly arrived before he begins to think and talk of a college.
Turn the glass again. It is the summer of 1844. The steamer Chesapeake is plowing westward through Lake Erie. There has been at Cleveland a great gathering of Christian people from the region covered by the Ordinance of 1787 and its extensions; they came together to consider the general interests of the kingdom of Christ in the Mississippi valley; their session is over, and many of them are journeying homeward together on this boat. Dr. Chapin's own account of it is this: "You may see seven of us crowded together in that narrow room; Stephen Peet, to whom belongs the honor of being foremost and chief of the founders of Beloit College, is lying on the berth, ill in body, but his fertile mind, as active as ever, is planning for the spiritual interests of this region. By his side sits Theron Baldwin, then just entering on his life-work. Miter, Gaston, Hicks, Bulkley, and myself are standing by, listening to their talk. The Western College Society was fairly organized, and Baldwin, its secretary and soul, unfolds its purpose and plans. There is light and hope in what he says. A hand from the East will be stretched out to help on the establishment of genuine Christian colleges, judiciously located here and there in the West. Peet seizes on the gleam of encouragement; his uttered thoughts kindle enthusiasm and hope in the rest. There is an earnest consultation – there is a fervent prayer – there is a settled purpose, and Beloit College is a living conception.......... The steamer Chesapeake has long since gone to pieces, but of that conference on her deck came the framing of this good ship whose ribs and hull are wrought of eternal truths that know no decay." The Chesapeake might well have been cut on the college seal.
THE FOUR CONVENTIONS.
As we have said, there had been already much thinking and talking of a college. It was discussed in 1843, in Beloit, in the old stone church on Broad street, in the "General Convention" of the Congregational and Presbyterian churches. But from that crowded cabin on the steamer sprang a definite purpose and definite plans. A conference was called, to meet on the 6th of August, 1844. Enthusiasm had been sufficient so far; now they were face-to-face with work. Small as Beloit then was, with less than a thousand inhabitants, it was a large part of Wisconsin, for the census of 1840 had shown that there were in the territory little more than thirty thousand souls. Money was scarce; transportation was by horse, or ox, or on foot, over roads that were often desperately bad. It took devotion to come even a little distance to talk of a college. Yet all the four conventions were notably large.
In the first conference there were four from Iowa, twenty-seven from Illinois, twenty-five from Wisconsin; fifty-six in all. Aratus Kent, afterward known as the "father of Rockford Seminary," was called to preside. They spent two days in earliest talk. They planned for a college for Iowa – afterward established, as Iowa College, at Davenport, and later moved to Grinnell – and a college and a female seminary for this border-region connecting the state of the prairies and the state of the lakes. Only so much did they dare to do. They therefore published their results, and called another convention for October, to review their action and advance upon it if that should seem to be best. So cautious did they think it necessary to be.
The October convention was composed of fifty members, all from Wisconsin and Illinois. Still another convention, of sixty-eight members, was held, before they dared to take any irrevocable steps; that came in May, 1845, and decided on Beloit as the site. In October, 1845, a fourth convention adopted a form of charter and elected a board of trustees. So Beloit College became a name and a splendid hope.
THE OLD STONE CHURCH.
These four conventions and the first meeting of the trustees were held in "the old stone church." That church is too closely connected with the beginnings of Beloit college to be left with only casual mention. It had the curious fortune of being mentioned in two editions of the American Cyclopedia. It stood on the northwest corner of Broad and Prospect streets, where the house of C. C. Keeler now stands; it faced South, and had four tall brick pillars in front; the basement was entered by a door on the east. Had that church not existed, and had it not been the best in the region outside of Milwaukee, the college might have gone elsewhere for a home.
The first settlers had very little money, and it took a bushel of wheat to get a letter out of the post-office or a yard of calico from the store; pork was only two or three cents a pound. Yet those beginners were willing to work. They got stone and lime from their quarries; they sawed the native trees into lumber; brick was made in the neighborhood. Only the shingles must be got from abroad, and for those one of them went without money to Kenosha, driving an ox. wagon, sleeping under it, and asking in Kenosha for a Christian lumberman who would let them have the shingles on credit and wait till spring for his pay. The trip took a week, but the shingles were got; the church was used through the winter, and the promise to pay was kept.
In the basement of that church the Beloit Seminary found a home; as we seek to estimate the influences that brought the college to Beloit, we must give a leading place to the impression made by an edifice then thought so fine, by the seminary the flourished under the shelter of those immortal shingles, and, back of both, by the temper of a community that, while still poorly aroused, gave such proof of devotion to the church and the school.
The first meeting of the trustees was held October 23d, 1845, eight of the fifteen being present. That they felt their responsibility is shown by the silence with which they looked at each other, until one said: "Well, brethren, what are we to do?" and Father Kent answered: "Let us pray." Of those eight and fifteen A. L. Chapin and Wait Talcott lingered longest with us, the latter passing away in November, 1890, and the former in July, 1892.
The year 1846 passed in consultation and preparation, including the effort to find outside friends. It had been felt all along that Beloit was the place; Beloit had offered ten acres, being the central half of the present site, and a building to cost not less than three thousand dollars. As Father Kent said, Beloit was "eighty miles from everywhere," that is, from the lake-shore, with the chain of cities expected to grow up there; from the lead-region, then supposed to be of inexhaustible wealth and likely to build up another group of cities; and from the Mississippi, then a great avenue of commerce, the development and superiority of the railroad not being then foreseen. The wealth to be drawn from the fertility of the Rock river valley was as little realized then.
A charter was granted by the territorial legislature; it was approved by the governor February 2d, 1846. The "College Society " took up the new institution and gave it a powerful moral support, as well as sums of money amounting to eight thousand dollars in the first ten years. Some little formality attended the laying of the first stone by the citizens at the northwest corner of Middle College in the autumn of 1846.
The corner-stone of Middle College was laid June 24th, 1847. Let us try to imagine the scene.
There was a village, then of about seventeen hundred people, very few of them living on the west side or on the college bluff. No railroad had yet arrived. The campus of ten acres stretched from College street to the river. Prospect street stretched across the campus and through to Clary, then Fourth, street. Chapin, then Second, street stretched to where Middle College now stands, there crossing Prospect street, and turning to wind down the ravine and connect with what was then the head of Pleasant street. All these streets were hardly more than map-names, for people drove almost at will wherever the undergrowth had been broken down.
L. G. Fisher, A. L. Field, and James Lusk, having owned the bluff-line for some distance north and south of where the Gymnasium now stands, and having expected to build homes in that choice location, had given up their claims. Horace Hobart had owned the site of the present Art-Hall (the old chapel); Hazen Cheney had owned four lots opposite Professor Blaisdell's present home. There had been some eight owners in all. All the streets had been vacated, so far as they lay upon the site proposed; all the land had been given or sold to the trustees to secure the location of the college in Beloit. The principal deed to this land is dated September 12th, 1846; two lots were conveyed November 21st, 1849. The north and south ends of the present campus, and the Keep place, are much later additions, having been bought in large or small pieces from time to time.* The campus is now about twenty-two acres along the edge of the bluff, and includes twenty specimens, in three patterns, of the mound-builders' work.
There was then no newspaper in the village, nor even a press. The Rock River House, now a combination of tenement, storehouse, and shop, was then a pleasant hotel, where the Goodwin House now stands. The present generation of elderly men were then young men or boys; many of them and of the girls were pupils in the "Beloit Seminary," meeting, as we have said, in the basement of the old stone church.
Seven thousand dollars had been subscribed for the erection of the promised building, and the foundations had been laid.
The day for laying the corner-stone was auspicious in every respect. The whole neighborhood flocked in to see, as afterward it made a practice of doing as long as Commencement was held outdoors. A procession was formed and marched to the southeast corner of the foundations, where now, on the corner-stone, the date may be read. Two thousand people are said to have been present; indeed, it is a common experience for the friends of the college to hear in distant places the boast: "I saw the cornerstone laid."
John M. Keep presided. There was prayer and song. Rev. A. L. Chapin, then only a trustee, read a sketch of the slender history thus far made out; Rev. Stephen Peet gave an account of the still more slender resources. Professor Stowe was to have made an elaborate address, but was prevented by illness; his place was taken, by several others, who spoke, with a fire that is still remembered, as to the need of a college and the good that it could do. A lead box, filled with articles of current interest and sealed, was put in place, and then, upon it Father Kent, the president of the board, set the cornerstone. The honest old building stands there yet, somewhat modernized and beautified, but substantially the same, having never yet shown so much as a crack in its walls. May the omen prove abundantly true.
*See an article entitled "How the Campus was Got," in the Round Table for November 5th, 1880. In this the name Farrar should now be changed to Vale, and Second street to Chapin street. The Keep place has since been bought; the date of the deed is March 22d, 1883.
THE FIRST TEACHERS AND LEARNERS.
November 4th of that year, "five young gentlemen," as an old history politely calls them, became the first freshman class; S. T. Merrill, the principal of the Beloit Seminary, had charge of them through most of that year. They were taught at first in the same old basement; afterward in the house on Pleasant street, now called the King place; and finally, with the boys and girls of the Seminary, in Middle College. The names of four of that first class may be found at the head of the roll of the alumni; the fifth was Strong Wadsworth; it was counted a sign of the future that Mr. Wadsworth, after taking most of his course at Beloit, was admitted at Yale to the class corresponding to the one that he had left. There never failed to be a graduation after 1850, although in 1852 there was only the pastor of the Methodist church to take a degree.
April 27th, 1848, J. J. Bushnell arrived, descending from Frink and Walker's stage at the door of the Rock River House, and hastening to find Rev. Dexter Clary, the secretary of the trustees. Joseph Emerson arrived on the 24th of May. These two young men, college classmates and somewhat experienced as college tutors elsewhere, had been called and were now elected to divide the work of instruction, Mr. Bushnell taking mathematics and Mr. Emerson the ancient languages. As a matter of fact, they divided the work on another line, Mr. Bushnell taking the business, and Mr. Emerson the teaching.
Nor was Mr. Bushnell's the less important task. The walls of Middle College had gone up as high as four thousand dollars would pay for, and then had stopped, floorless, roofless, windowless, bleak. The subscription had been reduced, as subscriptions generally are, and things looked dark. It was the low tide that always tends to follow the flood of enthusiasm with which a great work of devotion is begun. Only the teaching went on.
The student of our beginnings must read for himself the history of the financial campaign that ensued. Professor Bushnell wrote it out for the twenty-fifth anniversary; it was printed in the quarter-century pamphlet, and it cannot well be abridged.
No more help could be got from abroad till Middle College was finished by the people of Beloit. That promise must be redeemed. An active canvass to "talk college" was begun. The prejudice against an "abolition college" began to soften; faith, at that time drooping or almost dead, began to revive. Soon it was deemed best to call a public meeting, though few thought that it could succeed. The meeting rose to the best hopes of its promoters, and the needed amount was raised. Says Professor Bushnell: "It has always seemed to me that, if there has ever been a crisis in the history of this college, it was at the time when Beloit raised her second subscription of four thousand dollars; and the success with which that effort was carried through inspired courage and hope through all the time thereafter." Thus the citizens of Beloit gave at the start a site valued at three thousand dollars, and twelve thousand dollars in money or labor. From time to time since, they have aided nobly in efforts to erect other buildings or to broaden the work. Middle College was occupied in the autumn of 1848, and for six years was the only college building, all public exercises, except Commencement, being held in the south half of the ground-floor. Many a man dates from that room his newness of both intellectual and spiritual life.
In the fall of 1848, a preparatory school was opened, but in the expectation that high-schools and academies would soon be multiplied and built up throughout the region; it was then little thought that the preparatory school would last till now, be enlarged into an academy, and be to-day the principal feeder of the college course. Yet so the people of this region have willed. Circumstances have devolved upon Beloit the duty and the privilege of showing what a Christian academy can be. The Academy is now in itself one of the great schools of the West.
Until the state of Wisconsin had a normal school of its own, it contributed to the support of a normal department at Beloit. The word "normal" disappears from the catalogue with the cessation of the payments by the state.
The time from 1848 to 1850 was the first great harvest of funds, most noticeable being the gift, by Mrs. Hale, of land that was sold for thirty-five thousand dollars.
Rev. A. L. Chapin, then the pastor of a Presbyterian church in Milwaukee, was elected president November 20th, 1849, began work February 1st, 1850, and was inaugurated in the grove July 24th of that year. For many years before his death he had been the one living man who had seen and helped the whole life of the college from its inception on the Chesapeake. But now he also has passed away; except for Professor Emerson, whose work goes back almost to the beginning, and Mr. Merrill, who is still an honorary member of the board of trustees, the college is now wholly in the hands of men of a later day.
For the first three years there were, of course, no graduates; in 1850 the juniors made a substitute for Commencement by holding rhetorical exercises out in the grove. Those out-door gatherings must have had a peculiar charm. The place was the natural amphitheater just north of the present chapel. Near the boundary-line, and facing north, two stages were erected, one like that now used in the church, the other for the band. A canopy, tied from tree to tree, kept off the sun, but, unhappily, not the dust. The whole country came in and picnicked under the trees. It was really, but not wholly, a gain when the exercises were moved, in 1862, to the newly completed First Congregational church. The country lost interest and came in no more. The exercises in the grove were never rained upon; the first Commencement in the church was wet, and there have been many wet ones since.
The history of the college buildings is concisely this:
Middle College, of red brick, was erected in 1847-48, at a cost of about $10,000. It was given a new roof-story, belfry, porch, etc., in 1879, at a cost of about $4,000. It was, until 1893, the principal building for instruction in the college proper; the literary societies have their halls and reading-room there. North College, of red brick, was built in 1854 for $8,000; it was long the only or principal dormitory, and it was, until the completion of Chapin Hall, the place of the college boarding-club. The old chapel, now called the Art-Hall, of Milwaukee brick, was built in 1858 for $6,000; it was a chapel up stairs, and the headquarters of the rhetorical work; down stairs it was the crowded home of the academy until the erection of Scoville Hall, and then a temporary refuge of the department of physics, until the completion of Pearsons Hall; it is now to be devoted to the work in art. South College, of wood, was erected in 1868 at the war-price of $5,000; it met, for a time, the great need of more dormitory-room; later it was made over to meet the still more imperative demands of the departments of chemistry and mineralogy, and thereafter was known as the laboratory. Memorial Hall, of limestone, was erected in 1869 at a cost of $26,000; the library was brought to the upper story from Middle College, and the cabinets to the lower story; now the cabinets go to Pearsons Hall, and the library, which has been pinched for room of late, finds its quarters doubled. The Gymnasium, of wood, was the product of a movement among the students; it was erected in 1874 for $4,000, and has done good service, but needs to be replaced soon by something greatly better. All the buildings thus far named were paid for by general subscription.
The Smith Observatory, a small but fine building of stone, dates from 1881, costing, with the equipment, $22,000. Scoville Hall, the gift of J. W. Scoville, was erected in 1889-90, and cost, equipped, $27,000; it was the first of the four thoroughly modern and notably perfect buildings erected in the past few years for the college. Chapin Hall, given by Dr. D. K. Pearsons, was erected in 1890-91, costing with equipment, $27,000; it has rooms, furnished, for sixty-eight students, and on the ground-floor quarters and equipment for a boarding-club of one hundred and twenty-five. The new Chapel, built chiefly by Mrs. A. E. H. Doyon in memory of her mother, Mrs. Herrick – herself the builder of the Smith Observatory – and costing, with the organ, about $34,000, was going up at the same time with Chapin Hall. Pearsons Hall, dedicated in January, 1893, cost $75,000, besides the equipment. It is the largest and most elaborate of all the buildings of the college. The walls are of a dark-brown brick, rough-faced. The departments of physics, geology, botany, and chemistry have suites of rooms in the wings, each occupying two floors. The offices of the President and the trustees, and of the scientific association, with the museum above them, make the front. At the center is an auditorium, seating 300 people. It was a great day for the college when its scientific work emerged from the cramped quarters in Middle College and entered the large, well-lighted, and well-equipped rooms in Pearsons Hall. It will be seen that with the excavation for Scoville Hall the college entered upon a "building-period," completely changing the aspect of the campus, and crowning it with four noble and beautiful buildings.
The Battell clock and the chime were given in 1881; the chapel-bell was added by Mr. Battell in 1892.
The Athletic Field, a meadow of over sixteen acres, half a mile east of the campus, was given by William B. Keep in 1891; admirably adapted by nature to its uses, it is being gradually developed into one of the best fields that our colleges can boast.
The library, from its humble beginnings in Middle College and an exceedingly small amount of use, has grown to 18,000 volumes, which are accessible and much used for a large part of every working-day.
Mrs. Emerson's gift of a valuable art-collection opens the hope that the college may soon enter largely into the important field of art. With the opening of 1893 the college began to give instruction in this department, Professor Lawton S. G. Parker coming from Chicago for the purpose. To this class both sexes are admitted. The friends of the college confidently expect that by the benefactions of those who appreciate the importance of art this small beginning will be rapidly developed to an important place in the work of Beloit. The beginning of an endowment for art, $10,000, has recently been given by Mrs. Ellen B. Eldridge, of Yarmouthport, Mass.
Within the past year music has taken a distinctive place in the college work. The noble organ, the gift of Mrs. Story, began to be used with the present chapel, and Mr. Sleeper, with 1892, entered upon his service as choirmaster and instructor in music.
With all these gains have come additions to the endowments, but not so many as the college imperatively needs. The endowments have been more than doubled in the last four years, the most notable gains in this line being by Dr. Pearsons's gift of $100,000 in 1889, and William E. Hale's gift of $50,000 for the endowment of the scientific instruction in 1892.
Of the professors who have closed their work we may make this record: J. J. Bushnell, 1848-73; S. P. Lathrop, 1849-54; A. L. Chapin, 1850-92; M. P. Squier, 1850-66; F. W. Fisk, 1854-59; J. P. Fisk, 1856-71; H. B. Nason, 1858-66; H. L. Kelsey, 1860-63; E. P. Harris, 1866-68; J. H. Eaton, 1868-77; L. S. Rowland, 1868-71; Peter Hendrickson, 1870-84; I. W. Pettibone, 1871-81; T. C. Chamberlin, 1872-86; W. W. Rowlands, 1881-84; R. D. Salisbury, 1882-91. It would require a volume to trace the work of these men and to estimate its worth.
Of living and present instructors, Joseph Emerson, after forty years of service, went to Europe for several years, and is now taking up a moderate amount of work; William Porter began work in September, 1852, and has therefore completed his fortieth year; J. J. Blaisdell began work in 1859; Edward D. Eaton, having served five years as trustee, became president in 1886; it was a peculiar gratification to the alumni that one of their own number should be thought worthy to succeed the founder. H. M. Whitney began in 1871, T. A. Smith in 1877, E. G. Smith in 1881, A. W. Burr in 1884, C. A. Bacon in 1885. Of those who have been professors, six, including the three founders, took their first degree at Yale, six at Amherst, nine at Beloit, two at Middlebury, two at Dartmouth, and nine others at nine institutions scattered from Boston to western Iowa.
There has been a noble body of men in service as trustees. Their number has been gradually increased from seventeen to thirty; they are now elected for three-year terms; the alumni, with the Commencement of 1893, enter upon the privilege of nominating three members of the board. None of the original board survive.
Rev. Dexter Clary served as secretary of the trustees till his death in 1874, and was then succeeded by Rev. H. P. Higley, C. A. Emerson following in 1891.
In other but not less truly important spheres, and in not less faithfulness and friendship to a great multitude of students, have been the labors of Miss Anah T. Dewey, the matron of the college club for all but about two of the twenty-five years between 1857 and 1882, and of John B. Pfeffer, the man-of-all-work for the last twenty-seven years and over; their names open the springs of gratitude in many an old student's heart.
The part taken by the college in the war of the rebellion has been often stated, but must not be omitted here. More than 400, out of perhaps 750 who could bear arms, were in the Union army; the names of forty-six who died in the service are on a marble tablet in Memorial Hall. One Commencement was omitted because both the professor of rhetoric and the senior class were in camp at Memphis; the daily prayer-meeting began soon after their return.
The first catalogue is dated "1849-1850," and is of great interest to those who care for the way in which good things have come to be. The names of the trustees are largely strange to those not familiar with the past. The faculty of the college consists of five; the instructors in the seminary are given; they are three of the five, and Miss Adaline Merrill and Miss Cornelia Bradley, "instructors in ladies' department." There are no seniors, four juniors, no sophomores, four freshman, nine sub-freshman. The future prominence of Beloit in editorship is suggested by the fact that this role of seventeen contains the names of S.D. Peet, J.M. Bundy, Horace White, and Harlan Page. The rest of the preparatory school number forty-one. The Beloit Seminary is credited with eighty-five "gentlemen" and fifty-nine "ladies." The requirements for admission and the course of study, though not so high as now, are high and worthy of great respect. The library is said to contain over a thousand volumes. The pages in this catalogue are sixteen.
In the catalogue of 1850 the girls have disappeared, to return no more until the catalogue of next autumn, as some will appear as students of art. There is a normal and English department of sixty-four students. The total is one hundred and twenty-five. The pages are fifteen; in the catalogue of 1892 the pages are seventy-two, besides four cuts.
In the catalogue of 1853 the students are one hundred and seven, the smallest number recorded. The attendance increased yearly from one hundred and eighty-eight in 1885 to three hundred and seventy-four in 1891. The alumni are now four hundred and forty-three, with twenty-three in the present senior class. The students taught in the forty-six years are about thirty-five hundred. Their sons began coming to the college about 1876.
Up to 1874 the course was wholly classical; the class of 1878 was the first to have a "classical" and a "philosophical" wing. The catalogue of 1886 shows a liberal range of elective studies; before that the college had felt able to offer very little opportunity of choice outside the two main courses. The first graduate student was received in 1889. In 1892 the college defined what it could offer in advantages for graduate work.
The faculty, as it is now constituted, is is follows: Edward D. Eaton, D. D., LL. D., President, and Professor of History; Joseph Emerson, D. D., Williams Professor of Greek, and Librarian; William Porter, D. D., Brinsmade Professor of Latin, and Secretary; James J. Blaisdell, D. D., Squier Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy, and Instructor in Hebrew; Rev. Henry M. Whitney, M. A., Root Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature; Thomas A. Smith, Ph. D., Hale Professor of Mathematics and Physics; Erastus G. Smith, Ph. D., Professor of Chemistry and Mineralogy; Rev. Almon W. Burr, M. A., Principal of the Academy, and Professor of Pedagogics; Charles A. Bacon, M. A., Edward Ely Professor of Astronomy, and Director of the Observatory; Calvin W. Pearson, Ph. D., Harwood Professor of Modern Languages; Theodore L. Wright, M. A., Professor of Greek Literature and Art; Hiram D. Densmore, M. A., Professor of Botany, and Curator of the Museum; George E. Hale, B. S., Professor of Astronomical Physics; Rev. Louis E. Holden, M. A., Knapp Professor of Oratory; Rev. Henry D. Sleeper, Choirmaster and Instructor in Music; Robert C. Chapin, M. A., B. D., Professor of Political Economy; George L. Collie, M. A., Professor of Geology, on the Alumni foundation; George P. Bacon, M. A., Assistant Principal of the Academy; Lawton S. G. Parker, Instructor in Art; Henry A. Cushing, B. A., Elliot R. Downing, B. S., William K. Hay, Ernest L. Benson, B. A., Albert W. Whitney, B. A., Instructors in the Academy.
As the history of any human institution works down from its beginnings and draws nearer to the time of the observer, it seems to have less of both the heroic and the picturesque. Yet both those elements may be there, and the one be often the other. This generation can hardly appreciate the sacrifices that the measure of success thus far attained by Beloit College has cost. But sacrifices are still being made for Beloit, and there is need for much sacrifice yet. Scattered all along the history are things, little and great, on which the eye delights to rest. Who remembers that "young ladies' literary society," organized in 1838, and helping to found the college library with a few historical works, and again to buy the first college bell and provide cases for the first collections for the cabinet? Who knows of that benevolent sewing-society that, in September, 1849, decoyed Professor Bushnell away from his bachelor den in Middle College, that they might lay a carpet, hang curtains, and upholster a lounge, afterward putting an occasional study-gown, coat, or shirt upon each of the two professors who were too busy to marry? It was in preparation for a second raid of this kind upon Professor Bushnell that two of the good ladies drove to Milwaukee in all open conveyance in cold weather. Who would not like to see one of the old Commencements under the trees? Who does not see something picturesque in the story of the "Coronation of Alma Mater" by the class of 1862? Who started the ingenious device by which JUNIOR X blazes through the windows of the church in December of each year? Tradition gives the credit of it to the class of 1870. Whose faith and foresight gave the name "College street" to the eastern boundary of the campus before ever the Chesapeake made that historic trip? There is uplift in the very thought of that act, as though it were a part of a great revelation that the college must come to this place. Was it not a beautiful sight, that torch-bearing escort, when President Eaton was inducted into office? Who can forget the scene in the old chapel when the students made their great voluntary subscription that Doctor Pearsons's first offer might be met? And who shall paint for us the genial Doctor, cracking his whip over his hundred student-horses, as he took in a borrowed buggy that famous extemporized free ride to which he was fairly compelled after he gave his promise to build a science-hall?
Such things are impressive, and elevating; they rouse us to realize the mission and the worth of tile college.
And again we say, happy is that college which has associations of an ennobling sort connected with its very site. About us is an unusual wealth of the handiwork of God in the kingdom of the flowers. Here are three great geological formations, full of extinct creatures of the primal world, to incite us to reverent study. Far north and south extends our beautiful valley, teeming with fertility, the certain future abode of millions that will need and use and support the college. Far northward stretches that noble view which has thrilled many a heart with delight. Here is our beautiful river, the Rock, dividing the landscape like a silver band. About us are the three great types of prairie, spreading or rolling till they break into the billowy hills. Here is an antiquity dating far back of history, far back of the colonial times in which were the beginnings of the colleges of the Atlantic coast; for here, dotted upon our very campus, are many memorials of a mighty but mysterious race: as among the trees and the mounds is poured, as seemingly nowhere else, the liquid gold of the sunset or the silver sheen of the moonlight, the spirits of their chiefs seem to come forth from these, their places of interment, and to bid us use well the inheritance that is ours.
February, 1893. H. M. WHITNEY.
"Dr. Cutler and the Ordinance of 1787;" an article by Dr. W. F. Poole in the North American Review, April, 1876.
First Annual Report of the Trustees of Beloit College, January, 1849.
Inaugural Address of President Chapin, 1850.
Inaugural Address of Professor Squier, July, 1851.
The Chicago Magazine, March, 1857.
Proceedings of the Tenth Anniversary, July 8, 1857.
Memorial of Rev. Stephen Peet, July, 1870.
"Beloit College – Its Origin and Aims;" an article by President Chapin in the New Englander, April, 1872.
Proceedings of the Twenty-fifth Anniversary, July, 1872.
"Historical Sketch of Beloit College;" a pamphlet prepared by request of the United States Commissioner of Education for the Centennial of the Declaration of Independence, 1876.
The Beloit College Monthly, and the Round Table, 1853-92.
The Beloit College Register, 1862-70.
The University Quarterly, 1860-61.
The Beloit Journal, Free Press, and other local newspapers.
Proceedings at the Fiftieth Anniversary of the First Congregational Church of Beloit, December 28-30, 1888.
The Beloit College Codex, 1889 and 1891.
AARON LUCIUS CHAPIN, D. D., LL. D.
The life of Doctor Chapin in Wisconsin covered nearly forty-nine years, and it was, almost from its beginning, connected vitally and powerfully with our educational work.
Born February 6th, 1817, in Hartford, Connecticut, educated at Yale College and Union Theological Seminary, teaching one year in Baltimore and five in the New York Institution for the Deaf, he came in 1843 to a pastorate in Milwaukee with large mental and spiritual equipment for the great part that he afterward took in Wisconsin affairs. That the trend of his mind was toward education is shown by the fact that in the summer of 1844 he was in Cleveland, Ohio, at a large conference, gathered from all over the Northwest, studying the religious and educational needs of the Mississippi Valley, and that he was in the little group of people who, returning westward from that conference on the historic steamer Chesapeake, first struck out the idea of a college at Beloit. He never lost sight of that idea; it rapidly became his central purpose. He was active, with increasing prominence, in the series of conventions that led to the establishment of Beloit. He was put upon its first board of trustees (1845). In 1849 he was called to the presidency, laying down his pastorate in December, and being inaugurated July 24th, 1850. The history of Beloit College, told elsewhere in this volume, is very largely his biography, as it is his noblest memorial. He resigned the presidency in June, 1886, but retained his connection with the college as President Emeritus and professor of Civil Polity, till his death, which occurred July 22d, 1892, his only son succeeding him in his department of instruction. Doctor Chapin's presidency of over thirty-six years is one of the longest and most notable in the annals of American colleges. Through his long service in Wisconsin, he was felt as a power in many lines of activity outside of Beloit College and outside of the state. He frequently attended the meetings of the State Teachers' Association, and made addresses on important themes. He was one of the original members of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences (1870), and was elected a life-member in 1891; valuable papers by him may be found in the publications of that body. He was one of the founders of the National Council of Education in 1881, and served on the committee on higher education. He became a trustee of the Wisconsin Institution for the Deaf in 1865, and was president of the board from 1873 till 1881, when the control of all the schools for the defective classes was committed to one general board. He was a trustee of Rockford Seminary (now College) from 1845 to 1892, and of the Chicago Theological Seminary from 1858 to 1891. He was sent as an examiner to the Naval School in Annapolis in 1872, and to the Military School at West Point in 1873. In more distinctively missionary activity he was profoundly interested and actively helpful. A corporate member of the "American Board" from 1851 to 1889, and its special commissioner to the Turkish missions in 1883; a director of the Home Missionary Society (1850-83); sometime Vice-President of the American Missionary Association; chairman of the committee of the Congregational body to nominate the "creed-commission" in 1881; a member of the International Sunday-school lesson committee (1872-9); in all these offices he rendered faithful, laborious, and highly valued service. In a life so busy and so creative, he stilt found some time for work in authorship, for which lie was especially fitted. His best-known works are a recast of Wayland's "Political Economy" (1878, pp. xvi., 403), his own "First Principles of Political Economy" (1879, pp. xvi., 213), and his contributions to Johnson's Cyclopedia. He was married in 1843 to Miss Martha Colton, of Lenox, Massachusetts; in 1861 to Miss Fanny L. Coit, of New London, Connecticut. The latter and four children survive him, his oldest daughter being in China – his most self-sacrificing gift to the educational work.
H. M. WHITNEY.