The annalist of the present year occupies ground that has been harvested by his predecessors, it must be attributed to his long-continued absence from these anniversary exercises. Our semi-centenary reminds us that neither the fathers nor their sons live forever.
Of all the trustees of our alma mater, up to the day we graduated, none are now living but the Hon. Gerrit Smith; of all its faculty, none but the Rev. Salmon Strong. Both of these are dear names. Noble and beloved men, may their bow long abide in strength. The treasurer, Erastus Clark, Esq., whose visits we always expected as confidently as our vacations, has long since ceased his earthly labors, as have three others who succeeded him. Our examiners, too, who always, on behalf of the corporation, attended our examinations, and whose presence often sent a chill to the guilty delinquent, (and no wonder, for they were always Frost-y,) have gone to their reward. Well do I remember how much I dreaded them, yet how much afterward I loved them.
And what more shall I say? Thus much of the fathers; what of the sons? Our own little company of 15, the Class of 1822, has now but an earthly representation of six, and soon we, too, will go the way of the earth. Of college life I need say but little, as doubtless our reverend instructors have received at the hands of preceding annalists full tribute. Nor need I dwell upon the material attractions of the Hamilton College of our day— its college halls, scientific apparatus, and libraries. All of that day remember well the old wooden building, Oneida Hall — its Chapel, its bell and bell ringer, the early prayers of the cold winter morning, the chemical laboratory, and the ladies attending our chemical lectures; for even then, woman's right to the pursuit of knowledge was recognized. We also remember our good Professor Noyes, and how pleased he always was when his experiments failed, as he said these "failures illustrated some new principle." I must not forget to chronicle our experience of philosophical illumination, as we sometimes stealthily, sometimes ex gratia, caught a glimpse of the contents of our philosophical room, No. 16 Hamilton Hall, where were safely kept a spyglass, and some half dozen other articles which this deponent will not name.
Let your annalist claim for the social influence of our alma mater during his experience of her care, equality with those of any other period. Our faculty members were not as numerous then as in later days; consequently, our field for social life was more restricted. I do not know how the faculty members of later days, or of this present time, bear themselves socially toward their students; but I rejoice to record that our faculty members were models of kindness, and their families contributed their full share in making our years pass pleasantly, and by their social influence compensating so far as in their power for our deprivation of home and family influences. If any of our number failed to receive these benefits, it surely was their own fault. As for one, your annalist, then the youngest of his class and perhaps the youngest in college, always found at the dwellings of our faculty members a more than kindly welcome. Those dwellings at that day were but three — those of President Davis, Professor Strong, and Dr. Noyes. The wives of these gentlemen, having with their husbands passed away, shall receive our grateful tribute.
Mrs. Davis always manifested a kind feeling for the boys, both in health and sickness, and some of us can well remember her ministrations in our illnesses. Her "pitcher of boneset" was a sovereign remedy for a cold, and was often found on the shelves of our closets. Moreover, she was ever ready to welcome us at her fireside, and, in her parlor. She was a woman of ability, worthy of her husband. Only those who knew her intimately, knew her worth, and those who knew her best respected her most. Two illustrations of her modesty are ever present to me. She never spoke of her husband as "Dr. Davis"; it was always plain "Mr. Davis." She was not a member of any church; but those who supposed she was indifferent to the claims of Christ, greatly erred in their estimate of her character. She was ever interested in the subject of religion; conversed freely when properly addressed by others, when her profuse weeping attested the tenderness of her feelings. Yet she was so impressed with a sense of her unworthiness, she dared not claim to be a Christian. Your annalist often conversed with Mrs. Davis for a long series of years, and is confident in what he affirms.
Professor Strong's family was an interesting circle to visit. Mrs. Strong was good company, possessed of good conversational powers, and was ever ready to receive us. She, with her sister (now Mrs. Mahan), her husband's sister (now Mrs. Avery), and other young ladies whom she often had in her household, made the hours we spent there pass quickly, pleasantly, and profitably.
Mrs. Professor Noyes, the dear little woman of many trials, of warm heart, of ingenuous disposition, and of open manners, how glad she always seemed to be to see us. She and the doctor ever showed themselves the students' friends. Your annalist is ready to confess that if he was not as assiduous in his study and the classroom, he never failed to appreciate these privileges of society; and among his pleasant recollections of his college life, these privileges occupy a conspicuous place.
One of the most interesting events in the history of Hamilton College, occurred during our connection with it. The revival of religion in 1820, exerted a powerful influence upon every class in College, and upon the community by which we were surrounded. It deserves a place in these annals, not only on account of its religious bearings but also because of its influence in begetting a warmer regard for the College, in the prominent citizens of Clinton, than had ever before been cherished. In the early days of the institution, previous to our connection with it, there had been a jealous and wicked variance between the College and the town. Whatever of this remained was broken down and removed by this revival of religion. This work of grace commenced soon after the opening of the winter term. Several of our students had spent the previous vacation in places blest with the presence of the Divine Spirit, and returned to College with their hearts glowing with love to Christ, and to the souls of their impenitent associates.
It was the first general revival that had been experienced in this community since i800. An entire revolution was affected in the spiritual condition and prospects of Clinton, while the generous sympathies of these revival laborers from College enkindled an undying love in the hearts of the people not only for these faithful students but also for the College with which they were identified. As the fruits of this revival, 98 persons that year united with the Congregational Church of Clinton, of which Dr. A. S. Norton was pastor. Among these, as well known in the history of Clinton, may be named, Russell Clark, Gould Benedict, Mead Benedict, and Orrin Gridley and their wives, several of the Gleason family, several of the Kellogg families, Samuel H. Gridley (now Dr. Gridley), of Waterloo, and many others whose names I would love here to record. Let 1820 ever be held in grateful remembrance as one important era in Clinton and Hamilton College, when the spirit of God sealed their love by His sanctifying grace.
Let it not be deemed invidious, or a departure from the strict, line of duty of the annalist, when I name among the citizens of Clinton of that day, some who are distinguished as the past, hard-working friends of Hamilton College, and to whom the College was in those early days largely indebted for its prosperity; Isaac Williams, Seth Hastings, Gould Benedict, Orrin Gridley, and Othniel Williams — the latter for several years its treasurer.
These men I knew as intimately as I could have known them had I been a son or a brother, and I place their names upon these annals as worthy of grateful remembrance by all the friends of our alma mater. They, with their wives who were like-minded, have gone from earth, but their works do follow them.
Allow me, in conclusion, to thank those who invited me to this service for the honor they conferred upon me; and to express my profound regret that my pastoral work and the want of pecuniary means have deprived me of the pleasure of meeting with you on this occasion, and with you rejoicing in the prosperity of our alma mater.
May continued usefulness be our portion as we pass the "three score and ten," and, when our earthly labors are ended, may we have a place in those many mansions where our Savior has gone.
"Our faculty members were not as numerous then as in later days; consequently, our field for social life was more restricted. I do not know how the faculty members of later days, or of this present time, bear themselves socially toward their students; but I rejoice to record that our faculty members were models of kindness, and their families contributed their full share in making our years pass pleasantly, and by their social influence compensating so far as in their power for our deprivation of home and family influences. If any of our number failed to receive these benefits, it surely was their own fault."