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Half-Century Annalist Letters

Class of 1864 Letter

T. F. Jessup

Delivered: 1914 Commencement

1864’s Class Motto: Work Wins the Prizes

It is hard to realize that it is time for the Class of 1864’s turn to make a contribution to the volume of what the late Dr. North  —  “Old Greek”  —  in the annalist’s letter of 1891, called the “autochthonous” literature of the College. We have, however, been warned by the executive committee that it is really up to us. For the Class of 1864 it is now or never.

Although it is indeed half a century since we graduated, those of the class who survive, and  — for all we know  — those who are already with the majority, remember as if it were only yesterday how tenderly our “Mother on the Hill” gave us her farewell. She seemed loath to have us go from her. Tears were in her eyes notwithstanding the sweet smile that graced her lips. She held our hand in hers long after she had spoken the last word. She came some distance down the walk — even to the old poplar trees — and when she retraced her steps, we look back after her: and there, at the edge of the campus, stood the dear good soul looking after us still.

Her lips were parted, her hand extended. We could not hear what she said, but someone close by heard and told us that this is what Mother was saying: “Members of the Class of 1864: Do not forget your Mother. She has high hopes and great expectation for you. She has other sons whom she dearly loves; but somehow, in her dreams of you there is that which seems to make the “coat of many colors” peculiarly appropriate to you. I pray you therefore do not forget your Mother.”

The men of 1864 have not forgotten either their mother or her blessing. Her benediction has through all these years written itself benefaction. We have had good reason for being filial. No one ever had so good a mother as we have. So far as attractiveness, real beauty and the qualities in general of worthy motherhood are concerned, they are all in, about and of the “Queen of our hearts,” the inspiration of our best resolves and our noblest ambitions.

Every thing associated with the “sweet Mother of our youth” was dear to our hearts in the long ago and it is doubly dear now. In the happy years of our life together on the Hill, the campus had all the charms of the primitive grant. Beauty was a charter element of College Hill’s original dowry. Amid such surroundings of nature’s generous provision, we who were a part of the student body 50 years ago, were contented. We were even satisfied with our plain accommodations.

Old North College and Middle and South with their “old gray walls” were good enough for us. We did not mind the stagecoach connection between Clinton and Utica. In fact this primitive system, involving the capable ministry of Jack Axtel as holder of the “ribbons” for the Butterfield Company, was a part of the glory of our day. A walk to Utica to see John B. Gough throw up his coattails, poise a tumbler full of water on the tips of his long slender fingers and listen to his thrilling apostrophe to the same, getting back to Clinton by early dawn, footing it to Clark’s Mills and back to College Hill by the same system of transportation, to hear George William Curtis  —  such things as these were worth as much to students 50 years ago as a trolley trip to the city to witness an up-to-date performance at the Majestic is to the kids of today. Boarding at the “Slam Bang” does not sound very tony; but at that club, we had good board for 12 shillings a week and the discussion of Dr. Fisher’s 11 o’clock lecture on mental philosophy by Dodd, Schofield and other deep-thinking upperclassmen, furnished “optimum condimentum.”

While we have no lament for any real or fancied limitations of former times, we are profoundly grateful for the wisdom of the present administration and the generosity of the alumni — some of it so princely — which have made possible and actual these magnificent buildings and all this varied, ample and even luxurious equipment with which the “Hill Beautiful” is crowned. The Class of 1864 has no desire to even seem to invite the charge that she “takes herself too seriously;” but she cannot help believing that she has had something directly and indirectly to do with the advance of the College in prosperity during recent years.

The opinion is quite prevalent that college presidents are both born and made. The Class of 1864 disavows all responsibility in the matter of the borning of our present distinguished president, but we claim to have had a hand in the making of him. President Stryker was a member of the Class of 1872. The commencement exercises of the year 1864 were the first-ever witnessed by Dr. Stryker. That these exercises were unusually good is shown by the following extract from The Utica Herald of June 21, 1864, the day after commencement. “We have good authority,” remarks the Herald, “for saying that the class which graduated yesterday combines more of varied and brilliant talent and high promise than any class that Hamilton College has graduated for many years! We have never been and we never expect to be so well entertained and so little bored by the rhetorical efforts of any class of any college.”

Young Stryker seems to have been profoundly impressed; and it is said, that even now, he looks back to the Class of 1864’s graduating exercises as almost equal in value to a liberal education.

Besides this, Kendrick S. Putnam and Elihu Root — both Hamilton College Class of 1864 men — were instructors of M. Woolsey Stryker in his preparation for College. It is said that Root once almost lost patience with his pupil and said to him, “Melancthon, you do make me tired. It is not that way at all. It is this way. Now do be careful. Try your best to do as I tell you.” When you think of the eminence of Dr. Stryker and his efficiency as president, can you blame the Class of 1864 for feeling a little puffed up on account of the part she had in fitting the president for his high position? For my part, when I observe the easy grace and the generally unerring precision with which — on Commencement days — Dr. Stryker casts the insignia of merit over the heads and about the shoulders of the candidates for degrees, and when I hear him do the Nunc pro Tunc act in such correct Latin cum tanta dignitate, I have to confess that I am proud that the Class of 1864 is in part responsible for it.

Returning to the Hill and pleased with many changes for the better, we are glad that some things continue as they were. We are not sorry that some of the moss that gathered on “the old oaken bucket that hung in the well” has been removed. We are glad the old bucket has had worthy successors that as we quaff the cool sparkling we may sing again as of yore “drink her down, drink her down.”

We are glad the Chapel’s exterior has not been tampered with. Many times we have feared that some rude hand might mar its beautiful symmetry. How grandly noble and how chastely dignified it is as it stands four square to the world symbolic in its façade and in all else, of the principles in whose honor Kirkland established the foundations. Let it remain as it is.

Some of the stunts performed with great enthusiasm 50 years ago, now rest in well-earned sepulchers. They passed away without “benefit of clergy.” They closed their eyes without hope of resurrection. “Unwept” they are, and some of them are “unhonored and unsung.” Their spirits however live in some other fashion.

“Ring Rust,” for so long a time considered as essential to a decent and proper passing from the chrysalis freshman condition to the higher stage of being known as the sophomoric, is no longer practiced. The “bear box,” spell it bear or bare (whichever way you prefer), a phrase significant at one time, is now obsolete. Certain other adjuncts of college life in former days are now in a state of “desuetude,” which nearly all people of good judgment agree in pronouncing “innocuous.”

Athletics 50 years ago had not the prominence it has today. The Class of 1864 however was never worsted in Chapel row or “rush” anywhere or at anytime. Football had not dreamed of her prowess in the future. Baseball had not attained the standing that made it very noticeable; and the gridiron gave no promise of ever becoming a utensil necessary to a complete equipment of College grounds.

Sawing wood was considerably in vogue in the days a long distance gone by. It was not uncommon to carry, or to have one’s freshman carry, two or three cords of wood up to the second or third story and saw it by degrees or by any other convenient means in one’s wood room. In the good old wintertime of the 1860’s, a cord of wood was eight feet long, four feet high and at least four feet wide. A cord of wood 18 inches wide was not in the curriculum when life was simple.

Speaking of athletics reminds us of a very forceful sermon which Dr. Wm. S. Curtis once preached in the Chapel on the subject “The Importance of Physical Culture.” “Heenan and Sayres” were at that time in the limelight as champions in the arena of pugilism. Every schoolboy knew who Heenan and Sayres were. Dr. Curtis also knew, and in the midst of his enthusiasm, in order to shame us for our apparent neglect to develop muscle, the good doctor exclaimed: “Feel of Heenan’s arm and then feel of your own.” When it came to our “Junior Exhibition” a long since laid by institution, but at that time, the event of junior year, if not indeed the event of the entire course, one of the interludes (between a certain two quartettes of orations) in the scurrilous and forbidden burlesque scheme gotten out by the sophomores, introduced the following: “Billy Curtis will now proceed to feel of Heenan’s arm and then, after resting a bit, he will feel of his own.”

When Dr. Samuel Ware Fisher became president, it was announced in some quarters that the New School branch of the Presbyterian Church was to have ecclesiastical control of the College. In recent years and especially during the present administration, it has come to be understood that while the College distinctly and emphatically recognizes and teaches the claims of the Christian religion, it is entirely independent of any particular denominational supervision. It goes without being mentioned that this is as it should be.

However, under President Fisher’s administration, the study of the Bible became in a more pronounced fashion, a part of the prescribed curriculum. The Westminster Shorter Catechism was introduced and used as a textbook. Of course all those students who at home had been subjected to the discipline of learning the Catechism, found it easy to make a ten-strike at every recitation in the Catechism. It is easy to imagine what a tussle those who had never before seen the Catechism, would have with justification, adoption, sanctification, foreordination and much else that they would naturally come in contact with. It is related of Wallace Budlong Childs the Class of 1864 that having been asked by Dr. Fisher how far he had progressed in the review of the Catechism in his preparation for the final examination, replied that he was “far beyond redemption.”

The Class of 1864 was loyal to the faculty. There were pranks of course, and occasionally tricks; but a decent regard for the traditions of the College justified nearly everything done or undertaken by the class. Probably no class ever had more real fun, no class ever had a better time in college than we had; but we were guilty of no meanness to embitter our hearts in our old age.

In the judgment of some of the wise heads of the Class of 1863, President Fisher was far from being the profoundest metaphysician of his generation. He knew enough however about the laws of the mind for all practical needs. He seemed to take great pleasure in listening to the dissertations of the psychologists of our class on some intricate subject under review. Once in particular we recall that Dr. Fisher acknowledged that some members of the class were able to state certain things pertaining to The Tertium Quid Theory, Hypothetical Dualism and Cosmothetical Idealism, which he himself had quite forgotten! Steve Terry’s dried illustration of The Tertium Quid Theory will be recalled with relish by my classmates; but it is hardly dignified enough to be detailed here.

The reference to the faculty already made suggests the propriety of further mention in that direction. Our Professor Root was preeminently worthy of being designated “Cube.” A rare man for sure was he. No trifling was there ever in his classroom. He enjoyed the admiration, respect and love of all. Professor Edward North: 1864 knew him well. Would we might parasang it again with him or “trip the light fantastic” in spirited dactyl and trochee or mark the steadier pace in slow iambic and measured spondee. Professor Upson: he of the Mandevillian slides “and all the appurtenances thereof”  — how great he was. Whom the moderns remember as “Dr.” or “Square,” we knew as Tutor Root; and we clearly saw him in the promise fulfilled in riper years.

Dr. Charles Avery: No faculty silhouette would be complete without him. Dr. Avery was proud of 1864. There’s a reason. He was heard to say it. When speaking of our final examination in physics, to the rest of the examining committee, he claimed in an ecstasy of delight: “Was not that a remarkable performance? Did you ever witness anything to compare with it? It was a severe test which I gave the class. It was a hard examination; but there wasn’t a single failure.” How it was done, may come out just before the last member of the class “shuffles off this mortal coil” but until then no one can divulge the secret without violating his solemn covenant.

Tutor Hall: He that afterwards became the very eminent Dr. Hall. He was our tutor in German. Hardly anyone in the class was better qualified for the position than he was. The tutor was a good man; but he was not without his faults, and 1864 was not able to eradicate them all. He was excessive in his demands in the classroom. After remarkable patience, and wonderful forbearance, the class sent a carefully selected and minutely instructed committee to the tutor with a mild protest against his manifest disregard of propriety. It was no avail. Committee after committee essayed the task; but the tutor was obdurate. The faculty did not see things as the class viewed them. They were blind to the injustice and the unbearableness of the situation. The class dreaded war. To a man it shrank from the shedding of blood. A principle however was at stake, righteousness was in jeopardy, mild measures had failed, justice had been outraged, arbitration was out of the question and the faculty having rejected their ultimatum, the class rebelled!

This affair is chronicled in College annals as “The German Rebellion.” When Elihu Root became secretary of war, many wondered where he got his training for the position. It seems that President McKinley, having read history, knew about the unpleasantness in Hamilton College that culminated in the German Rebellion. He knew about the bravery, the strategy and perseverance displayed by Elihu Root in connection with the rebellion and he naturally concluded that Root was just the man to be in his cabinet. The consensus of opinion is to the effect that this is a reliable accounting for 1864’s influence in the Department of War under President McKinley.

Dr. Peters thought well of 1864. Our class treated the astronomer with the respect due to his position and to his eminence in the sphere where he was authority, and in return Dr. Peters showed us much courtesy and “no little kinds.” We would deserve to be classed with the barbarians if we did not pay our respects to the occupant in our time of the professor’s chair in the department of “dust and ashes.” Peter Blake  —  the original Peter Blake  —  was a unique character. Every attempt to define or describe or depict or anatomize this man has failed. He has been thrown upon the screen, prose biographers and poets have done their best to set him forth, and all other resources have been exhausted in vain. No replica has appeared that is worthy of even “honorable mention.” To know the Simon pure Peter Blake, one must have seen him with his yoke and the dangling buckets, with his brass keys and his peculiar garb. To know the man who knew and could describe every Hamilton man of his term of service, one must have heard his voice, one must have become familiar with his vocabulary  —  a vocabulary so full, so varied and sometimes apparently so venomous. To know Peter of old, one must have marked the path he daily trod, must have taken note of the cloud-like mist or vapor that, rising above him, looked like malice and smelled like sulfur; but was neither. It was Peter Blake  —  nothing more and nothing less. Just Peter Blake.

Statistics show that during the first century of her noble career, Hamilton College graduated no class with so large a membership as that which joined the ranks of the alumni in 1864. 1864 had an enrollment of 69. It was well- known that of the thousands of young men who responded to the country’s call in the hour of her great peril in the early 1860s, none was more prompt and willing than the youth that made up the student body of the land. Hamilton’s contribution to the price of an honorable peace, the perpetuity of our free institutions and a republic united as it had never been before was generous to a degree far beyond what could have been reasonably expected of her.

The men of the class who “tarried by the stuff” were not lacking in patriotism; but those who went to the field expecting to test the correctness of General Sherman’s characterization of war, were among the best. They were men of noble character. Of the 227 names of Hamilton College men on the roster of the Civil War, 28 were members of the Class of 1864! How noble all the 28 were from Private Thomas Williams Barton to Sergeant Ezra Barton Wood. Those who sealed their Sacramentum with their blood  —  “the dead in prison pen or on the field of glory, we enshrine with palm and crown.”

Hear the roll call. The roster of the dead  —

Lieutenant George Henry West: Known to have been in Libby prison in June 1864. Reported “missing” after the battle of the Wilderness. Brave West. Brave in life and conqueror in a true soldier’s death.

Sergeant George Abel Watson: Killed at the battle of the Blackwater in 1863. A costly sacrifice.

Lieutenant Edward Payson Johnson: Killed at Spottsylvania, May 1864. A true-hearted nobleman. “A lover of peace” — but heroic in the “strife that had to be.”

Corporal Mason Colburn Smith: Died at Andersonville, May 1864. “Where o where shall dust to dust be consigned so well, as where heaven its dews shall shed on the martyred patriot’s bed.”

Private Alfred Ayres Morse: Not for pay or fair renown, but for duty’s discharge died our beloved classmate Morse.

Captain Morris Brown, Jr.: A manly man. A faithful soldier. Loyal in life. Doubly so in death. “Killed in battle June 22, 1864,” just two days after his surviving classmates received their College diplomas. Captain Brown amid the tumult of war and the frenzy of the awful strife received his honorable discharge.

Concerning the rest of our classmates who entered the service but “escaped the edge of the sword,” the cruel horror of the prison and the malice of fever and pestilence, we think tenderly and speak reverently; for they too were truly devoted and “counted not their lives dear.”

Taking the Class of 1864 as a whole, looking over the catalogue and reviewing the records, the charge that we are “degenerate offspring of a worthy ancestry” cannot be sustained. Some members of the class have become very eminent in the various pursuits and callings of an age of unprecedented activity and hitherto unknown possibilities and responsibilities. That 1864’s love for Hamilton College is more than mere sentiment has been proven by the gifts (many of them munificent, all of them worthy) which have been laid at our good mother’s feet.

Time does not permit an extended obituary of the dead or more than a brief notice of the living. Among our dead, one who has quite recently died is Dr. William Hutton of Philadelphia, Pa. On finishing his course at the Theological Seminary, Dr. Hutton organized and became pastor of the Greenwich Street Presbyterian Church in his home city. He was pastor of this church until he died: a period of 46 years! He made a tour of Ireland on foot and published a book. He never married.

On the 8th of July 1913, the Reverend Henry Leutzinger  —  also a Presbyterian minister  —  died at Moddersville, Mich., aged 82 years, 3 months and 6 days. He was the “husband of one wife” who was the mother of 15 children, all of whom bore the name Leutzinger. Mrs. Leutzinger and 11 of the 15 children are living at the present time!

The last of our class to fall by the way was Frank William Plant, of Joliet, Ill., who died January 21, 1914, of heart disease. Mr. Plant was a successful manufacturer. He leaves an interesting family. In college he was one of the most popular men of the entire student body, and deservedly so. No better exponent of proper class enthusiasm and enterprise could be named than Frank Plant. Mr. Plant had been the faithful and indeed the model secretary of the class for all these years. It had fallen to him to prepare and read the half-century letter. Our secretary was anticipating much pleasure in being here today and was in the midst of collecting material for the letter, for writing which he had superior qualifications, when his name having been reached in the roll call, he was suddenly and unexpectedly summoned.

Professor Willard B. Rising’s name is on the list of 1864’s dead. Professor Rising had attained distinction as an instructor, and at the time of his death was connected with the University of California. Rising was interested in reforms. Together with the class valedictorian, he organized the Strong Arm Squad, and one day the squad proceeded to mow the tall grass of the campus, which had already been neglected too long. Doctor Fisher did not think the job was any too well done, and Professor Root found that his best lawn scythe had not been improved any. The squad did not send in any bill for its services, and “Cube” Root is understood to have acknowledged the co-efficiency of the volunteer reformers.

We all remember  —  who could forget him  —  Rev. Amos Hammond Dean. Popular and social and withal forceful in the pulpit. “Here’s my hand and here’s my heart” was an old friend “Hammy” Dean’s kindly and sincere greeting. There was R.A. Elmer: whom the United States government, already aware of the superiority of Hamilton graduates, called to its aid in its endeavor to set things right in the Post Office Department. “Dick” Elmer’s was also an early and a lamented death.

William Hubbel Fisher. As lawyer and churchman, interested in civil and ecclesiastical affairs, “Will” Fisher maintained the good repute of his father, Hamilton’s 6th president. Captain Henry Loomis: soldier, missionary, Bible agent in Japan, made himself a necessity wherever he served. Willard A. Cobb: successful journalist, capable regent of the University of the State of New York and Civil Service commissioner. Cobb lived over again and again with delight and profit the life on the Hill. His “quoad hoc” had perpetual and lively suggestion for him and for all who belonged to the charmed circle of his close friends. He never married.

“Phil” Curran’s gentlemanly bearing and the sincerity of his rare fellowship will perpetuate his memory.

Bayless and Ball  —  with sweet toned voice  —  and Wood; Boynton and Worthington; Dering and Dayton,; Eastman and Pope and Hunt; Lewis  —  Professor John J.  —  Colgate’s man of logic and letters, loaned a while to us for his own benefit and ours; McIntosh and Marble, Roe, Miner and Parkhurst (John D.); Child’s and Sackett  —  he that horoscoped it for us on class-day  —  he that was called “Darius;” Henry Martyn Simmons  —  the polished writer, the attractive preacher; and George Truair of varied activity and effectiveness.

The two Terry’s  —  Solon and “Dim”; The three B’s  —  Barton, Butter and Bostwick; Howell, King, McMath,; McVey and Millard; Pardee, Sheppard and Justin Smith; Southworth, Walton and Winslow.

This with those martyred in freedom’s name is the roster of 1864’s dead. Not one of them all forgot his mother. Had she died before they died, every one of them would have “risen up and called her blessed.” Fifty-four of our noble band of 69 are dead! We’ve paid tribute to the dead already, and “here’s to the next one that dies.” Don’t know who it will be? Then here’s to every one that’s got to die. Here’s to all that of 1864 who are left.

Charles Patrick Arnold. Alive after 74 ½ years of unmarried life.

Pat Arnold. The head of the class  — here’s to him who wears still the smile that in college never would “down and out.” Pat Arnold, here old boy  — here’s to you.

Here’s to Wm .D. Farlin. So long so useful in varied capacities in public service. Glens Falls has benefit now of his ripe experience.

Gardner, Professor Theodore F. So long of France, now of England. “Do” Gardner  —  here’s to you and thank you in 1864’s name for holding Hamilton’s banner aloft on other than Columbia’s shore.

Hermon Dutilh Jenkins, D.D. Here’s to you Dutihl. You wear the “semi-lunar fardels” with classic otium and “cum dig.” Non esoteric.

“Boon,” you were in College, the merriest of the nine. Nor Es-sene, nor Sadducee; Could Doodle be, nor Pharisee; But surely a Boon was he. Boon, you were in College, a boon in worthier sense you have been to a multitude since, by your varied genius, your facile pen and your wide, deep and generous overflow of soul. Here’s to you in the enjoyment of the best that is possible.

Franklin Day Locke. Here’s to the president of the Alumni Association — fit to be president of anything that calls for brains, muscle, independence, resolution and scholarship. No matter Franklin, if you did throw the stove out of the recitation room window, no matter now. Any alienist would find a storm center in your brain or prove that you were too young to know the value of old iron. You ought to have paid the bill the trustees have sent you so many times for the cost of the stove with accrued interest. No matter now. Your contention that the obligation is outlawed will stand. Don’t worry any more.

Sherman W. Canfield. Your letters have all borne the marks of loyalty to the College and the class. Toledo knows the value of your citizenship.

James M. Craig. Massachusetts had need of just such as you, and we know now why you made Hamilton College your mother.

Willard Peck. To you also with the rest. You honored Hamilton when you entered her classic halls. You placed 1864 under tribute when you joined her ranks, and your classmates with many more uncover in the presence of your life, your work and yourself.

Col. Frank Place. Once an inmate of Libby prison, now a citizen of Cortland, N.Y. You made a noble record in the Army and out of it. You made a record worthy of you in war and peace. Thank God the end is not yet. Here’s to you in comradeship worthy of the mother whose fellowship is with us still.

Kendrick Solomon Putman. Here’s to you “Old Put.” Expert in “Ring Rust” science, the best accountant the Eternal City ever had  —  as good as any city ought to desire to have. We roomed with you a whole year and survived. We forgive you for playing “Home Sweet Home” on that miserable old melodeon when it had an attack of acute indigestion and we had the “blues.”

Lynott Bloodgood Root. Here we name you, too, as joint partner with us in the bonds of old Hamilton’s fellowship.

Edward Taggart. Lawyer, citizen, friend — true to Hamilton — loyal to 1864’s ideals. We reciprocate your cordial salutation and good wishes.

Henry Tompkins. We’ve never forgotten your address so full of enthusiasm and good fellowship at a former reunion. This is what you said: “When I inquire after you in the years to come, may the cry ever come back to me: “All’s well. All’s well.” This is our return today to your call: “All’s well. All’s well.”

And now, with right good will, with no reservation, we say: Here’s to the one whom before all others we “delight to honor.” Here’s to him who never asked for place in state of nation or world outside, but whom the state, the nation, the world counts it an honor to be permitted to show its regard for. Here’s to him who has been loyal in the highest degree not only to his and our alma mater, but to an ancestry of an earlier and a holier claim. Here’s to one who in private and in public life, at home and abroad, as secretary of war, as secretary of state, as member of the Empire State Constitutional Convention, as representative of the U.S. in the matter of the Alaskan boundary, as the apostle of fair play and an honest deal in the Hay Pauncefort Treaty matter as well as in all other national and international questions has won the respect, the admiration; the love of all.

Here’s to him who among all the honors conferred on him, counts it an honor to be an alumnus of Hamilton College, and confesses that he is not ashamed to be known as a member of the Class of 1864. Here’s to the friend and benefactor of Hamilton College: the friend of all that makes for righteousness, the comrade of every lover of the best things of the kingdom.

Here’s to the honorable U.S. Senator Elihu Root, the valedictorian of the Class of 1864.