My Student Days in Beloit. 1876-1881.
By George L. Collie.
A graduate of the Delavan High School in 1875, the writer came to Beloit in the fall of 1876 expecting to enter college. At that time no recognition was given to high school graduates, as such, lacking the required preparation in Greek, Latin and higher mathematics, it was necessary, as was learned on arrival, to enter the Preparatory Department and spend a year upon these subjects. Thus the writer became a Prep, as such he was required to attend certain college exercises, more especially prayers, at the same time he was under the tutelage of professors in mathematics and science so that he felt that he was half way in college even if he was called a Prep. The teaching staff of the Prepatory Department was limited to two men and at the time there were over one hundred preps and only seventy students in college, this will explain why college teachers were called upon to help train us.
1876 was a presidential election year, the campaign was a hotly contested one here and throughout the nation. There were but few Democrats in our midst but what they lacked in numbers they made up in vociferousness and table thumping. That fall the faculty did the unprecedented thing of allowing the whole student body to attend a Republican rally at Janesville, which was addressed by James G. Blaine. It has never been my lot to be in a more enthusiastic audience than that which greeted the distinguished speaker that far away October afternoon. The students all sat in the center of the crowded auditorium and attracted much attention by their singing before the address as well as by their seismic applause at intervals during the speech, it fairly rocked the building. Beloit was on the political map that day.
After the election, which was a very close one there was a long period of suspense before it was finally decided that the Republican candidate, Hon. R. B. Hayes was elected. Thereupon the Republicans held a great celebration which included a torch light procession of great length. All over the town stores and homes were illuminated, the college out did itself by having a row of lighted candles in each window of Middle College.
In those pre-electric light days that effort was described by the press as a brilliant illumination. The students brought up the rear of that procession, 150 strong. They carried a picture of Hayes, a fancy political banner and sang campaign songs, one of which consigned the Democratic candidate, Mr. Tilden, to hang on a sour apple tree. When the procession arrived on the west side of the town the students were attacked by a mob of town boys who taunted us and hurled whatever missiles they could lay hold of. We pulled the broom handles out of our torches and went after them and there was a running fight for several blocks in which fists were freely used as well as the broom sticks. The mob was no match for us and it was soon dispersed and we went on our way unmolested and victorious. Such affairs and the animated and even angry debates everywhere on the campus made one feel that the college as a whole was more interested in matters political than in those academical. Evidence of this of this political mindedness as well as the cockiness of students is well shown in the following extracts taken from an editorial which appeared in the Round Table of October 1876 viz– "Whenever we speak of the relation of college students to politics we mean the relation of the energy of cultivated and enlightened youth to the vital interests of the nation. The subject is pregnant with meaning.
Youthful energy! How plethoric are these words with infinite possibilities, with grand results achieved, with a magnetic force which can electrify the world. Youthful energy not only can, it has, and with its thrilling touch has inspired hope for the human race. More than this when mighty events are darkening the souls of man with fear and uncertainty for the outcome, the wonderful light of youthful enthusiasm alone can illumine the gloom and guide the hopes of a nation to a solid reality." Not much of practical polities appears in this quotation, but there is no lack of self assurance.
The student body of that day was very homogeneous, the students all had much the same background, for the most part they came from middle class families who originally had settled in New England and from thence had by degrees migrated westward. Students thus had much the same home training and much the same outlook on life. They came from families who believed thoroughly in the necessity of a college education and who stinted themselves beyond measure that their sons might win that coveted learning.
The boys of that time had ambition, for the spirit of the frontier days still lingered in our midst and urged us on. They were also lively, full of energy and activity, which, repressed by the rather strict college discipline and by the refusal of the faculty to allow intercollegiate athletics, bore fruit in the form of hazing and more or less of horse play. There was some attempt on the part of students to regulate their common life together. The following instances will illustrate this tendency. In the fall of 1876 four students were caught stealing apples from an orchard near town and they were handed over to the students for discipline. This took the form of a jury trial in which some of the budding lawyers of the upper classes had an opportunity to show their legal acumen. The trial was held in the Mathematical Room in Middle college A. F. Butts presided as judge. C. S. Bacon, clerk of the court read the indictment. The case was opened by R. F. Pettibone, prosecuting attorney, who waxed eloquent over the seriousness of the offense and the utter unworthiness of the accused. The attorney for the defense, Booth Malone examined and cross examined a number of witnesses and he did so with such effectiveness that most of then acknowledged that they were guilty of the same offense as that laid at the door of the accused, the result was that their testimony was thrown out of court. The amount of this type of crime uncovered in the student body was startling. The judge in charging the jury said that he well knew that seven of the jurors were guilty of the crime that they were to act upon but he hoped that they would be high minded enough, in spite of their past record, to render a just decision. The jury retired and was out for some time, they returned finally and announced that they were unable to agree on a verdict, seven being for acquittal and five for conviction. Thus was justice cheated but a good time was had by all concerned.
Another instance was that of a student who regarded himself as a poet and who wore his hair down to his shoulders as an evidence of that fact.
He was taken in hand one night by a band of students, who clipped his hair here and there leaving a few long locks with bare spaces between. He was then taken to the North College pump and his head given a thorough sousing. The student went to a barber the next morning and appeared thereafter with a regulation hair cut. How this treatment affected the further flow of poetry is unknown.
Still another case was that of a student who held himself aloof from other students, he was contentious in argument and he had a pet phrase to hurl at any one who tried to reason with him, namely "Your statement is more of a sarcasm than an argument." A small group of students secured some of his wearing apparel, out of which they fashioned a dummy to resemble him as far as possible and hung it from the eaves of North College. Attached to the image was a large placard, upon which was printed in large letters "This is more of a sarcasm than an argument."
The outcome of this attempted discipline was unfortunate for the student took it so much to heart that he packed his trunk, went home not to return. Student discipline was not always of the wisest type.
The students had an eating club in the basement of North College, it was first organized in the early fifties. The members elected their own officers and determined in a general way the bill of fare and the cost per week of board. In 1876 the cost of board was 2.26 per week and if coffee was taken 22 cents additional. The catalogue statement relating to the club was as follows– "The college provides accommodations for a boarding club, a voluntary association of students, controlled by its own members subject to approval by the faculty and engaging the services of an efficient matron. The price of board is fixed at actual cost and is to be kept within $2.00 per week." The students considered this statement as far from the truth in that board was always more than $2.00, the matron, Ms. Dewey, was far from efficient and the faculty would not permit her removal although it had been requested by the club. The feeling thus arose that the organization had no real control over its affairs and this feeling ultimately led to much disorder. For example the apple pie served for dessert the noon was inedible, the students to express their disgust began throwing their piece of pie at the kitchen door until finally there was a windrow of pie piled up at the kitchen entrance. That night disorder started again over the poor quality of the biscuits served for supper. Members began throwing them at each other and when the president of the club tried to quell the storm he was pelted from all sides by the doughy bullets. When he began fining members an uproar began, in the midst of it in walked President Chapin. In a very courteous way he asked the members to cease such childish and unseemly conduct and said that if there were complaints about the club they should be referred to him. The students listened quietly while he spoke but when he left the room the melee began again and lasted during the remainder of the meal. These disorders caused the faculty to take action which finally resulted in the college taking the management into its own hands. Even while the club was under student control the faculty endeavored to force the club to cheapen the price of board. This effort led one student to propose that we live on bread and milk and that we think of bread in the abstract and drive John Pfeffer's cow through the kitchen once a day to leave an aroma of milk. This proposition met with much merriment, but the reality it held out was too flimsy for acceptance.
The college students had two literary societies, the Alethean and the Delian, the Preps had one called Junta. The two college societies although rivals, united in maintaining a joint or holding society known as the Archaean Union. This Union was a notable organization in its day and did much to promote public lectures, public debates and speaking contests.
It maintained a modern and up to date library of a thousand volumes, also a reading room in which current periodicals were on file. It published the college paper for much of its existence and it was responsible for the upkeep of the paper, for its board of editors and its general management. It held public meetings occasionally through the year, generally in the form of a debate between the two societies, an original poem written by a student was a feature of these entertainments and the music for these occasions was rendered in whole or in part by students.
The Union also managed an annual lecture course and at commencement it held a public meeting addressed by some well known speaker. Public lectures were a prominent feature of entertainment, in those days, they were looked upon as a real form of adult education and people freely spent their money to attend them. The writer recalls that in the college year of 76-77 the Union arranged for the following lecturers, viz, David Swing, Edward Everett Hale, Jas. T. Fields, G. P. Randall and Julia Ward Howe. The latter spoke on the subject "Men's Women and Women's Women." She praised the latter for they are the true women who labor for the welfare of their sex, while she scorned the former for wasting their time trying to attract men and for using their charms and talents to please the other sex. Generally these courses made money for the Archaean, the surplus being used to build up its library.
Members of the faculty were frequently called upon to lecture here or in the surrounding country. President Chapin and Professors Emmerson, Hendrickson, and Chamberlin were most frequently called out for this service. It was the custom of the Archaean Union, when its treasury was empty to call on members of the faculty to give leactures to help out their finances. A notable array of lecturers have spoken in Beloit all through the earlier decades of its history, would that the college had preserved a list of these noted speakers.
The students for many years carried on a religious organization known as the Missionary Society. It aimed not only to create an interest in missions but also to keep alive religious interest among the students. For years it maintained a daily prayer meeting which met in the Mathematical room immediately after supper. This meeting was attended both by members of the faculty and by students. There were occasional revivals in the college. In the winter of 79-80 one occurred which aroused much interest in the school. An editorial in that Round Table at the time commented as follows– "We are glad to turn from subjects of ordinary importance to note a matter of great importance to us all, we mean the increased and increasing religious interest in the college. Mr. Lewis (At that time State Secretary of the Y.M.C.A.) has been working earnestly for two weeks and is about to leave. The students must now say 'Halt' or 'Go Forward'. Already the hopes of every friend of the college are raised high by the results now appearing. They are glad not only for the immediate effect of the movement but hall it as the precursor of a more united feeling among the students, a heartier performance of work, a more earnest tone in the college life.
For at bottom each one knows that religion is the only source of this expectation."
There were three fraternities in the institution during the years under discussion. They were sub rosa in each case and under the ban of the faculty. There was a standing rule in the Beta fraternity, of which the writer was a member, that fifteen minutes before any member was called before the faculty to answer questions regarding his membership in a secret society the fraternity had been automatically dissolved and was no longer in existence, so that we were supposedly justified in saying that we were not members. Of course this attitude was a more subterfuge, for no sooner had the faculty quiz ended than the fraternity arose phoenix like from the ashes and lived again until fifteen minutes before the next quiz. Under such circumstances these groups had little or no influence on the college life and membership in them was so hazardous that joining them did not appeal to students in general and few entered the Greek letter ranks.
In 1876 the campus contained 24 acres, it was bounded on the north by Third Street, on the East by College Street, on the South by First Street and on the West by Pleasant Street. The campus was surrounded by a board fence, there were stiles surmounting the main entrances at Second Street, now Chapin Street, and at the South end at the head of Prospect Street. Paths were laid out across the campus to join the several buildings to each other and to the entrances, they were composed of clay overlaid by a thin coating of gravel. After a hard rain or in the spring when the frost was coming out of the ground to walk on them meant going over the shoe tops in mud. The campus was more fully wooded than at present and there was a good deal of under brush, especially on the Pleasant Street side. Students were wont to complain about the scrubby appearance of the campus and disliked to bring friends here on that account. In the open spaces the grass grow quite tall and it was only cut once a year and that just before commencement time. By fall the grounds presented quite an unkempt appearance, resembling a hay field in a grove of trees.
Nineteen Indian mounds were scattered about on the campus, four linears, one effigy and fourteen conical mounds, students used them a good deal as resting places, using their sloping sides upon which to lie and gaze at the blue sky over head or to watch the countless numbers of passenger pigeons, ducks, and geese as they passed over head in their migrations.
The buildings on the grounds numbered six, two were framed buildings, South College and the Gymnasium, three were of brick, the Chapel, Middle College and North College, one of stone, Memorial Hall. South and North College, and the fourth floor of Middle College were used as dormitories. Three floors of Middle College contained the college office, a chemical laboratory and nine recitation rooms. The first floor of the Chapel contained the office and the recitation room for the Preparatory Department, the second floor was used for the chapel. Memorial Hall had the library on the second floor and the museum or cabinet as it was then called on the first floor. There were 8000 volumes in the college library, 1000 volumes in the Archaean library housed in Middle College, the Missionary Society also had a small collection of books. The cabinet contained about 1000 specimens of minerals and crystals, the study of mineralogy and crystallography was considered very important at that time. There were 500 specimens of rocks, a small number of sea shells and a group of mounted birds, which included a fine specimen of the ill-fated passenger pigeon. There were numerous fossils chiefly obtained through the efforts of Professor Chamberlin as head of the Wisconsin Geological Survey, finally a herbarium of 3000 specimens. To students and visitors alike there was little of interest in this assortment.
The college year of 39 weeks was divided into three terms, of unequal length. The beginning and ending of each term was definitely fixed, as follows– The first term began on the first Wednesday of September and closed on the Wednesday before Christmas, the second term began on the first Wednesday in January and continued to the last Wednesday in March, the third term opened on the second Wednesday in April and it closed the Wednesday before the fourth of July. Not only were the terms fixed in this definite fashion but each study was given a definite hour in the schedule never varied from year to year, a Freshman if he cared to look ahead could easily learn in what hour he would recite in mental and moral philosophy in his Senior year. There was no need of a schedule committee, nor of one to arrange for conflicts. Electives were practically unknown, courses of study were proscribed and like the laws of the Medes and Persians they could not be changed. The recitations were rather cut and dried, they consisted of questions asked by the instructor and answers were given as nearly as possible in the language of the text-book. There was little discussion of the authors views or of any mooted point and there were few if any assigned readings. In order to keep students on the 'qui vive' some instructors would call on student to recite and while he was in the midst of his reply the instructor would suddenly call on another student telling him to continue the recitation from that point. This method was distasteful to students inclined to air castle building or to thought wandering but it did make careless students more or less attentive. This method was used in languages and one must needs keep his eyes glued on the text in order to be prepared to go on at exactly the right point.
There was much discussion among students in the classics regarding the use of ponies, this discussion was aired even in the college press.
Students tried to salve their consciences by trying to find excuses for the use of such helps on the ground that their preliminary training had been faulty and inadequate and if they were to keep pace with the class they had need to use these translations, their stay in college would be endangered unless they did use them. One writer in the Round Table blamed the marking system for the existence of the practice, his contention was that students worked for marks and marks became their chief ambition and if there were short cuts to gain these marks students and especially slow ones were justified in these usages. Specious as were these pleas they were urged none the less and pony riding was widely indulged in. One true story of such use lingered long in the earlier anals of the college. It concerned a student who had the audacity to bring an interlinear translation of the Aeneid to the class and to use in his recitation by reading directly from it. In order to allay the suspicions of Professor Porter over this suddenly acquired fluency in translation the student stopped in the course of his reading and said "Professor here is a grammatical construction that I do not understand will you please explain it to me." In as stern a voice as the mild mannered professor could command he replied "Ride right over it Mr. Blank ride right over it."
Even in the sciences there was little else than recitations from a text book. There was one term of laboratory work in chemistry during which students were required to determine a dozen or more substances by qualitative analysis and an equal number by blow pipe analysis. In biology there was some attempt made to carry on laboratory work in the dissection of invertebrates and in the study of microscopic forms using a rather decrepit microscope. Plant analysis was required including the preparation of a herbarium. Physics was almost entirely text book work, there was some apparatus but it was handled entirely by the professor in charge and not by students. Geology also was largely a matter of texts, the use of reference books was required to some extent also field work in collecting fossils in neighboring quarries, we were required to determine the genus and species of the fossils collected. The reference books used were in Professor Chamberlin's library and studied in his home. As for the college library there was no required use of it, reference work was practically unknown and the writer visited the library but once during his college course and then only as a matter of curiosity. At that time there was a rule which permitted a class to disband if a Professor was five minutes late for his assignment. In our senior year we had geology with Professor Chamberlin. One morning he was late and as the time limit was elapsing we all broke out in singing the doxology in long metre and that in hilarious fashion. Just as we were finishing in walked the professor, the singing came to an abrupt pause and there was a sudden hush. He took his seat and after a moment began giving us a severe tongue lashing. The substance of his remarks were to the effect that we were celebrating the escape from an assigned duty by singing in a jocose way the Doxology, which is regarded as sacred by untold numbers of people. He was disappointed to realize that we who were about to graduate had no better understanding of the properties than to perform as we did. Each recitation in the college course should be regarded as an opportunity to advance our understanding and to help round out our education. We had reached the completion of our college course without perceiving this truth, in fact we were so utterly blind to it that we thought it just the thing to celebrate our escape from duty in an utterly unseemly performance.
How far short we were of being worthy to graduate from Beloit was all too plain to him, the efforts of the faculty through four years of instruction and training seemed in vain. The class was thunder struck and as meek as a flock of sheep that day.
The classical course had been the only one offered from the beginning of the college until 1873, that year a Philosophical course was instituted. It was intended in the language of the catalogue "To meet the wants of those who may not contemplate professional life ---- The course to equivalent in extent with the Classical combining such an amount of Latin and Greek as would be considered in any liberal education or to the best proficiency in any art or science and also giving larger opportunities in science and a wider range of general studies." Prior to its establishment there had been a good deal of criticism of the college because it was not meeting in any adequate way the educational needs of its constituency. There is little doubt that the college tried to meet these recurrent criticisms by means of this new course. The writer took this course because it gave wider opportunities in science in which he was particularly interested. Relatively few students took the course, however, and it was finally merged with the newly formed science course in the middle nineties. The course was a good example of those half hearted compromises which do not go far enough to be effective, it was neither classical nor scientific but a hodge podge which satisfied no one.
Between the years 1875 and 1880 the college began to pay more attention to the ends sought in taking a college education. There was much fault finding among students and friends of the institution because it did not have more students and was showing little growth in numbers. Apparently the college sought to stimulate interest by outlining in great detail the different subjects taught in college and their general application to the future activities of life. In the catalogue of 79-80, there is an extended treatment of the branches of study pursued in the college, which filled seven pages of the catalogue. It pointed out the purpose of the subjects taught, the amount of time given to each study together with reasons for the order in which subjects were presented. As an illustration of this treatment the statement under the head of Philosophy is appended– "The first topic in Philosophy is psychology, the science of the human mind. By the powers of rational insight of which psychology gives an account three grand spheres of fact are disclosed, the subjects respectively of Aesthetics, Logic and Ethics. The data which constitutes the content of these sciences in combination with other facts in the realm of mind and material nature furnish means of verifying the claims made by religion and especially by Christianity to the acceptance of mankind. If by the study of the evidences the Christian scriptures are found to be authentic, we have in possession of answers to ultimate inquiries, as, when scientifically formulated, we may fairly call it philosophy and which if taken up into the test of experience will besides being accredited to intelligence, be alike grateful and satisfactory to the heart and be productive in the life. The exposition of these answers will be met in their philosophical aspect in Bishop Butler's 'Analogy of Religion with the Constitution and Course of Nature' and in their practical aspect in the Bible. When this point is reached the student has a basis of belief which will enable him to pass in review in an intelligent way the various systems of philosophy conceived in different ages, to discover in them, perhaps, the errors and truth and to verify the conclusions he has himself been able to form, thereby becoming strong in belief for himself and so qualified to be a leader of men. This will be accomplished in the History of Philosophy.
In accordance with this conception of the department in question one term is devoted to psychology, one to logic, a few weeks to aesthetics, one to ethics, one to Evidences of Christianity, one half term to Butler's Analogy together with one recitation per week in the Greek Testament for the four collegiate years and three terms in the history of philosophy, two terms of which, as mentioned under the department of languages, are devoted to Cicero's De Natura Decorum and Plato's Immortality of the Soul in the original Latin and Greek and the other term to the mastery of a formal treatise. The design of all these courses is, in addition to securing profitable knowledge of the several specific sciences in their own separate interest, to organize the whole into such an acquaintance as the supreme truth as is conducive and becoming to a complete manhood." If one understand this somewhat involved and yet naÃ¯ve, but forthright statement the chief end of philosophy was to make the student not only desirous of accepting Christianity in a whole hearted way but to make him skilled in defending its truths. This purpose which lay behind the teaching of philosophy also lay behind the teaching of every other course in the college of that day. Perhaps nothing shows the great change in our thinking and beliefs in the past sixty years than the fact that no college of today would be willing to print in its catalogue the fore-going statement relating to philosophy.
On entering College each student gave a pledge to obey its rules and regulations and after six months probation he was admitted to full standing at a formal ceremony, at whose close we signed our names in a book which contained the names of all the students who had matriculated in the college, up to that date.
Recitations were held on each week day and they were so arranged that the students had three each day. Two half holidays were granted each week on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Students were much disgruntled because they were compelled to attend rhetoricals for an hour on Wednesday afternoon. It was felt that this requirement robbed them of a full half holidays, they felt that the faculty was short-changing them.
Rhetorical were considered a bore at best and to put them on a half holidays was adding insult to injury. One student made a public plea that if rhetoricals must be, that the faculty ought to furnish either newpapers or peanuts so that the students might pass that tiresome hour in a more profitable way. The feelings of the students made no impression on the faculty and there was no modification of the Wednesday afternoon requirement in my day in college. The first recitation on Monday morning was always given over to Bible study, this was chiefly given to a translating of a passage in the Greek Testament. Philosophical students who were not usually well trained in Greek were permitted to use French or German testaments. A weekly class rhetorical exercise was held at which each student was required to present an original essay once each term and also to give a declamation once a term. Each student, also, appeared once a term and gave an oration of his own composition at public rhetoricals. Such occasions were trying experiences, the speaker had to face an indifferent if not hostile audience. He needed to have a worth while address and deliver it forcefully or else he was discomfited by facial grimaces, shaking of fists, shuffling of feet and other expressions of dissatisfaction. Much as he dreaded these occasions the writer has often been grateful, in subsequent years, that he was obliged to face the ordeal of trying to conquer an inattentive audience.
The duties of each week day were opened and except on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons closed by a religious exercise called in student parlance "Prayers." If the President was in town he conducted evening prayers, as a rule; morning prayers were commonly led by members of the faculty in rotation. Students were interested in the struggles of the younger and more inexperienced members of the faculty in their efforts to conduct the service properly. One young member of the faculty made his petitions variations on the one theme "O Lord teach us how to work." Students were required to attend the Sunday forenoon service at the church of their choice. Once chosen they were obliged to go to that one church during the year, migrating from one church to another was not permissible. We were obliged to attend Sunday afternoon prayers at which a sermon was delivered by the President or an appointee.
Singing was a feature of all religious exercises, it was led by a choir which sat on a platform in the northwest corner of the chapel. In his first year the writer sat in the pew just behind the large reed organ which then led the chapel music. Together with three of his classmates who shared this pew he had to take his turn in pumping the said organ. The pumpers were none too careful about keeping a steady and uniform air pressure in the bellows, the pressure went from high to low, which caused the volume of music to vary and sometimes to threaten to expire with a doleful wail. The organ had several sets of reeds and was sadly out of tune. Two hundred or so students were gathered together at evening prayers, when college and preparatory students met jointly. Students enjoyed singing together the familiar hymns of those days and their singing was impressive in spite of the organ. It was a source of disappointment that the organ was so impaired. Its condition was criticized on the campus and occasionally in the Round Table.
Thus as an example the following appeared in an issue of October 1876. "I would like to say a word about that organ----To replace it I am willing to give my mite and my might to help on the cause if it is once started.
It is an undisputed fact that the organ is sadly in need of repair, if indeed it be possible to repair one so broken down. Each set of reeds is out of tune in itself and out of harmony with all of the other sets, many notes are missing so that sometimes it is quite a puzzle to determine in which key a tune had best be played to be most fully represented on the key board. It will cost at least $450.00 to procure an organ of equal power to the old one. We certainly do not want a smaller one, it would be better to get a larger and more powerful one as this organ is not heard any too plainly when students rise in a body to swell the sound of praise in a favorite tune such as Martyn or Ware.
In such cases the organist tells me he draws out all of the stops from the highest squealer to the lowest growler and even then he has to listen closely to be sure that the blower is doing his duty. This load of $450 would be too heavy for our shoulders, especially in those times of little to earn and much to buy. The amount could not even be cleared by a successful lecture course and it seems madness to attempt it by subscription. Is it after all our business to get this organ? The class of '72 contributed the larger share of the money to purchase the old one.
Is it not now the turn of the college authorities to obtain an instrument so necessary to our college singing? If the President winces as much as I do every time the organ begins to play---he would have ere this used his influence the trustees to induce them to purchase a more suitable instrument."
At that time the gymnasium drill was required of all students three times a week for one half hour for each exercise. The drill consisted of vocal exercises to strengthen the voice and give it volume and flexibility. This was accomplished by repeating lines from Byron's Apostrophe to the Ocean, beginning with the lines
"Roll on thou deep and dark blue ocean roll
Ten thousand fleets sweep o'er thee in vain."
this was supposed to give an orotund quality to the voice which was desired in those days when public speech was so emphasized. For securing flexibility and deftness in lip and tongue movements this concoction, among others was utilized "Peter Piper picked a Peck of prickly peppers."
There were numerous selections in our repertoire, each supposed to accomplish some definite end in voice culture, which we yelled or roared forth for the space of ten minutes. Then followed a succession of body movements, bending, twisting, running and jumping. These activities raised a tremendous dust out of the old gymnasium floor. It was a good thing the vocal exercises came first else our throats would have been veritable dust bowls. The rest of the time was used in going through the manual of Indian club and dumb bell exercises. At the request of the students the trustees secured a stand of old army muskets and military drill was substituted for the gymnasium exercises during the spring term.
This drill was carried on out on the campus and we were happy to escape the dusty confines of indoors. Those old muskets were heavy and hard to handle, it took much force and dexterity to bring those clumsy weapons promptly into position at the word of command.
College expenses were kept at as low a cost as possible, the catalogue estimate for the college year of 1876-77 is as follows–
|Tuition and incidentals||42.00-42.00|
|Fuel and lights||20.00-50.00|
The college dormitories were bare, cheerless rooms containing a stove, table, two wooden chairs, a bedstead and husk mattress, a wash stand and pitcher. If we had livable quarters it was necessary to bring draperies, pictures, rugs, easy chairs, bedding, soap and towels, bed linen and blankets from our homes. For fuel we went down to the Haymarket on West Bridge St., (Now West Grand Ave.) where farmers were accustomed to bringing in loads of cord wood for sale. Choosing a load the purchaser climbed up beside the driver and rode with him to show him where to unload, in the writer's case this was at the rear of North College. It was necessary to own a saw buck and saw and to use them in cutting the wood into stove lengths. Kindlings were also of importance in securing as quick a fire as possible on those cold winter mornings when ice often formed on the water pails and pitchers.
Each student must make his own bed, his room mate and he shared in such care as the study room received, for the most part we were sadly deficient in house keeping qualifications.
Discipline in college was administered by class officers, who were always older members of the faculty. Each class had its own officer and it was his duty to visit students in the college dormitories to see that each carried on his household duties as well as those of the class room and to advise with him regarding his academic work and not infrequently ask him about his religious life. These visits were not welcomed by students but they were necessary doubtless from the college standpoint. Discipline was maintained by a system of marks, fines, reprimands, and as a last resort by suspension, better known as rustication among students, and finally by expulsion. Each student was given a credit of 20 marks at the outset of each term, they were not cumulative, the account was settled at the close of each term. For each absence from recitation or from prayers two marks were deducted from the account. In case one exceeded the allowed number he had to appear before his class officer to explain his remissness and to receive a reprimand and warning if the explanation proved unsatisfactory. Fines were assessed only in case of damage to property.
In 1876 the writer roomed at the house of John Pfeffer, other students in the house were Jones, Surley, R. Leavitt, H. H. Leavitt and Anthony. One night we had a feed of doughnuts and hard cider, the two Leavitts refused to join us saying they preferred to call on some young ladies. After they left we called in two outsiders and by this time we were well fortified by the effects of the hard cider, we decided to give the Leavitts a lesson for their indifference toward our society. We went to their room, dismantled their bed, dragged the mattress out into the hall, ripped it open and scattered the husks up and down the narrow hallway, the accumulation was knee deep in places.
Then we took the mattress and filled it with stove wood, put it on the bed, replaced the sheets and blankets, then retired to our rooms.
When the Leavitt boys returned and found what had happened they created an uproar which aroused the Pfeffer household. Old John came upstairs and when he saw the wreckage his anger knew no bounds.
He called to us to come out and explain our actions but no one appeared, then he said "You boys vill suffer for dis I vill tell der president to come here inder morning." True to that threat President Chapin appeared, waded through the husks up and down the hall. We culprits stood around while the inspection was going on but the president left without saying a word to us, that looked ominous and we began to see rustication or expulsion in the offing. Surley and Collie screwed up their courage, went over to interview Dr. Chapin. We explained that no harm was intended we simply let our exuberant spirits carry us too far.
After some consideration he said "Your apologies will be accepted but I must appeal to your pocket books. Each of you is fined five dollars."
The writer well remembers with what trepidation he approached his father to ask for that money. Father was born in Scotland and brought up there as a boy. One can well imagine what that meant when it came to financial expenditure for a foolish escapade. However on a promise to avoid such pranks in the future the required five dollars was forthcoming and paid into the College treasury, this closed the incident.
John wanted me to leave at the end of the term, which I did.
Apparently he never quite forgave me for the damage done to his brand new house and furniture as the following incident indicates. John was fond of gathering a group of students about him and discuss College affairs. One day out on the Campus he had a group of students about him when he spied me in the distance and he burst out "Poys do you know what vas a miracle?" No one ventured a reply then he said "Vell I vill tell you vat it is. Is to see that man Collie in a professor's chair."
College rules were strict and students were held closely to their several duties, because of this strict regimen there was likely to be minor infractions of the rules, yet taken as a whole there was good order even though students were wont to grumble about the faculty autocrats.
In the fall of '76 the students were interested in having the college fence removed, believing that its removal would greatly improve the appearance of the campus. Students were really concerned about the appearance of the buildings and grounds, they wanted them to be attractive, something they could be proud to show their relatives and friends when they came to town, the old fence was an eyesore and ought to go. In October '76 the Round Table seconded the efforts of the students as follows– "Since the city fathers (and by the way we thank them for it) passed an ordinance some time ago which is designed to keep cattle out of the streets, the only objection to this proposed plan is removed and perhaps the sale of the fencing would furnish money enough to paint the cupula of Middle College. It is very evident that no fence is greatly to be preferred to the present one." In the following year the college officials announced that they would be glad to be spared the expense of repairing and renewing the fence if citizens would keep their cows off the street. Finally in the winter of '78 the fence on the Pleasant street side was being removed and by degrees the whole fence disappeared.
At the same time the college announced that the campus was thrown open to the public and a pleasure drive was laid out across it, the college requesting that it not be used as a public highway not as a short cut to town but simply for pleasure driving. In addition to these improvements plans were formulated to landscape the campus and to remodel Middle College by adding a new Mansard roof and cupula.
In '77, when the writer entered college there were 69 students in the college 106 in the Preparatory Department. There were nine professors on the faculty and two on the Preparatory Department faculty. There were nine departments of study viz, History and Civil Polity. Greek. Latin. Mental and Moral Philosophy. Rhetoric and English Literature. Modern Languages. Geology, Zoology, and Botony. Minerology and Natural History. Mathematics and Chemistry.
Because the number of students were small and because of our back ground and previous training had been so similar we soon became well acquainted not only with our classmates but with most of our school mates. The friendships then formed have remained true through the years and have proved to be among the choicest of our life experience. As an example of the loyalty of classmates the following impromptu resolution adopted by the class of '77 at their reunion in '81, may be taken as characteristic. It was an expression of regard for two classmates C. F. Gates and J. A. Ainslie who were about to leave for mission fields in Turkey. Resolved:– "The class of '77 in an informal yet permanent manner to express its interest in the two brothers who are about to go to their chosen work in the near east, and to put on record some words which shall voice the genuine respect and sincere love of the class for them. We regret that the duties which summon them put oceans and continents between these brothers and ourselves and yet we rejoice that neither land nor sea can sever the ties many and tender which unite them to us. We assure them of our heart felt interest in all that concerns them. Our thoughts shall cross to them, we esteem them as high minded, noble men, fit not only to represent Beloit College and the class but to show the light to them which sit in darkness and to reveal to those who are without God the unsearchable richness of His grace. We love them as classmates, as brothers, as friends and we trust in their loyalty and fidelity as they may rely upon ours."
The loyalty and regard which class mates had for each other was also extended, in those early years, to fellow members of the alumni. It is revealing to go back to the founding of the Alumni Association, July 9th, 1856, and to note the reasons which led to its formation. "The objects of this association are to preserve a record of the residence, profession or occupation, health, general well being and the domestic relations of the graduates of this institution." The following April the first president, Jos. Collie '51, and the secretary, Horace White '53, sent word to each of the seventeen alumni requesting the following information:– 1. Will it be possible or convienient to attend commencement on the second Wednesday of July next? 2. What will be your residence during the succeeding year? 3. What profession are you know studying or following? 4. Are you married or single, if the former do you have any children, if so please state the age and sex? 5. Has your health been usually good since graduation and are you know in enjoyment of the same?
Your statements will be placed on the records of the Association. It is hoped that we shall not entirely lose sight of each other while we live and we shall meet as often as our circumstances will allow."
It is evident from the record that the above request was not freely answered by mail, but instead the custom arose of reporting about themselves at the annual meeting of the Association. Thus, according to the minutes the annual meeting at the Mansion House in Beloit July 15th, 1858. "Speeches were given by several of the members which were replete with beauty, eloquence and the grace of oratory. Among the speakers was Jos. Collie, who with becoming pride and glory announced to the assembled alumni that an heir had been born to the house of Collie, whereupon three rousing cheers were given by the members for George, son of Joseph, to testify their appreciation of the prosperity of Beloit College graduates in their noble efforts for coming generations."
This scene recalled to George the son of Joseph a later one, when at the Alumni banquet held at the Goodwin House, in July '81, he was called out and greeted with loud cheers as the first grandson of Beloit.
The ties of those earlier years have been gradually and inevitably loosened as the alumni body has increased in number and have become so widely scttered over the face of the earth.
The students in my time here were wont to make much of such occasions as Thanksgiving, a turkey dinner was always served at the North College club. On that day in 1878 the usual celebration was held, the toasts offered were 1. To our college, 2. To the kitchen faculty, 3. To our bird, 4. Temperance. "The response to the latter was given by a noted town character, Johnnie Williams, who always appeared at the club once a week for dinner. He was illiterate and could not read, but pretended to read the Washingtonian pledge, then he crossed the long room to fill a glass with water, which he spilled at every step he took and after many flourishes and gestures he sounded the praises of water in his quaint and original way and solemnly admonished the boys to practice total abstinence.---- A male quartet furnished music and at the close there was a jollification based on what was called 'pie poetry'. Each member had to write an impromptu couplet on the subject of pie and have it read aloud under forfeiture of his piece of mince pie.
The pie after being blessed in this fashion was then eaten and the exercises closed with the singing of the Doxology."
There was very little social life, an occasional picnic or party and an occasional visit to Rockford Seminary. In our senior year the class of '81 at Rockford invited our class down for a dinner and we all accepted the invitation. We had a very pleasant, yes jolly evening singing college songs and relating our college experiences together with some bragging as to what high station in life we expected to reach in later years. One of the young ladies that evening seemed to be a wall flower, she shared but little in our fun and held herself aloof as if she cared little for our type of pleasure. She attracted our attention because of her reserve and indifference. In after years she was destined to be the only one in that gay group who was to achieve an international reputation for her great services to humanity of the underprivileged type and to be called by the President of the United States the most useful woman in America, she was Jane Addams.
In the foregoing pages the writer has endeavored to give a plain statement of the life in Beloit, sixty and more years ago, as seen from the student standpoint. The college was then small, poorly equipped and in financial straits in spite of the heroic efforts of President Chapin and others to win for it friends and money. The faculty members were few, they were graduates of Yale and other eastern colleges. For the most part they were clergymen, well trained but not specialists in the subjects they taught, they had no Ph.D's attached to their names. They had to teach with little equipment in barren unattractive class rooms, the outlook must have been most discouraging and yet these men held their ground and the college lived on. Too much cannot be said in their praise of that undaunted band of men, of their high ideals, their vision, their noble purposes. Wisconsin was the last state to formed from the old North West Territory, when the first faculty members came they found a prairie and forest wilderness, when they finished their labors here this North West was a great empire. In a single generation this remarkable transformation had taken place. The states carved out of the Old North West Territory form in many respects the very heart and soul of this country. They have ever been foremost in religious, social, economic and political progress. That this is true is due in no small degree to the vision and determination of small groups of men here and there like the Beloit faculty, who labored ceaselessly to create a great, Christian commonwealth here in the heart of the nation. Faithfully they taught the routine college subjects yet their great aim was to imbue their students with the same high mission that animated them. They builded better than they knew. All honor to their memory.