Section 3: Jefferson College
I stayed at home till about Christmas, and then packed up bag and baggage and started for Jefferson College at Canonsburg in Washington County. I was two days and all of one night and part of another in the stage getting to Pittsburgh. The stage office was in Wood Street, kept by old Sheriff Weaver. Next day, through muddy roads, we waggoned along in the stage and reached Canonsburg in the evening. I went directly to Dr. Brown's house and presented my letters of introduction. He had been acquainted with my grandfather, Judge Oliver, and gave me a cordial reception, assigned me a room in the old College building with Samuel McCune as my roommate.
At this time the College under Dr. Mathew Brown was in flourishing condition. Professor Kennedy, Professor of Mathematics, William Smith of Languages with Parks and Marshall as tutors. I think the rolls showed in the preparatory and College departments two hundred and forty or fifty students -- a good many from Virginia, South Carolina and Kentucky, but the most were from Pennsylvania and Ohio. I went into the preparatory department. Samuel Hamill and William Osborne had gone from Germantown to Canonsburg the spring before, and the night I got there they gave me a most cordial welcome. This was in the last days of 1832 between Christmas and New Years -- I entered the preparatory department.
At that time our vacations were in April and October, and I remained at the College till the fall of 1837, going home but twice -- in October 1833 and 1835. The other vacations I spent walking around the country. I mind of going out one time to Mount Pleasant in Westmoreland County with Ed Doty and Hugh Hamilton to see an old friend, Reverend Wm. Annan and wife. We traveled on foot, stayed all night, and next day got on a boat loaded with whiskey and came down the Youghiogheny to McKeesport. Next day, started on foot down to Pittsburgh. Doty and Hamilton stopped there, but my money being about exhausted, I went right on to Canonsburg where I arrived in the afternoon. Two or three vacations I walked out to Greene County and stayed at Reverend Cornelius Laughrans. He was married to my Aunt Margaret and they used me well and I traveled around and over the hills of that county a good deal.
Once I went to Waynesburg. The country was then new and a great deal of it covered with heavy timber. Sometimes I spent the vacation at Canonsburg, taking long walks around the hills, and became very well acquainted with the topography of the country. The first winter I was at College, some of the younger students got to throwing snowballs at people passing and got up a fight between the students and the town people. One day there was quite a riot -- as many as a dozen fights going on at the same time. The first time I ever saw H. N. McAllister, he was fighting. Nobody was much hurt, but dire threats were made that the College would be gutted and for several nights after, great preparations were made for a sanguinary battle, but it ended in a war of words in which the students generally had the advantage.
Our tutor, Mr. Parks, was a good linguist and we studied Latin and Greek under him till the fall of 1833 and then entered the Freshman class under Professor William Smith. I found that it took more work for me to learn the dead languages than some others, but by industry and care I could master the lessons and I made out to occupy a respectable position in the class, and the longer I worked at it the easier it got. In mathematics I was not so successful. It was always labor for me in the higher branches. Although I worked pretty hard, I was not as good as others whom I could easily beat in other branches. In natural philosophy and chemistry, I found no trouble, and in metaphysics I thought myself equal to any in the class.
Samuel McCune and I occupied a room on the third story of the old College building till the fall of 1834. At that time I descended to the second story and took a room with Elijah Creswell, a first rate young man from our own valley. With him I remained till he graduated in the fall of 1835. He was older than I and a man of principle and ability. I was sorry when he left. He went south and taught an academy in Jamestown, Alabama, on the Tombigbee River. He married and raised a family there and died many years ago. We corresponded for a number of years after I left College.
In the fall of 1835, I went out about half a mile north of town and boarded at "Fort Camonargo". Old man Cummings was a farmer and also a good mechanic. He had a wife and four daughters -- young ladies. They were an excellent family -- kept about ten boarders; had a large brick house and pleasant surroundings. The most pleasant part of my college life was spent there. I retain vivid recollections of many happy evenings; I ran wild along the banks of the little stream in front of the house, or sat on a bench under the Locust trees on the brow of the hill. The girls were bright and good talkers and I spent many social evenings in their company. He was a Scotchman of mind and character. He invented a machine for making cards that was a model of skill and ingenuity, but he was old and not much of a farmer. I mind one year he could not get hands to cut his wheat field. On the 4th of July we had a few days' vacation, and the boarders proposed if he would get us the tools we would cut his crop. Although he had not much confidence in our efficiency, he got a couple of cradles and some rakes. Samuel Cooper and I being farmers' sons, swung the cradles and the rest tied the sheaves and put them in shock. In two days we cut 8 or 10 acres of very good wheat. The last evening the girls brought us out the "evening piece" and although we had just finished, they spread a splendid supper for us in the edge of the woods and such a picnic and fun as we had would have caused chronic dyspepsia. Well, these were happy days and we marched home helping the girls to carry the dishes as proud as veterans returning victorious from the army. The good old man wanted to pay us, but we overwhelmed him with scorn at the idea that we were working for money; and Doctor Beer, from the number of spring chickens we had demolished at "evening piece", undertook to convince him that he was a clean balance out of pocket. The laughter and sport of that jovial party comes back to me over a chasm of fifty years, but with the exception of 4 or 5, the voices of all the family and party that participated in that evening meal are silent forever.
One quiet night in September, I had just gone to bed and was settling myself to sleep when some pebbles were thrown against my window. I got up and looked out and saw two or three fellows standing under the window. I throwed [sic] on some clothes and went down and found Tom Lamar, Nils, Scott and Shep Patrick. They told me that an outrage had been committed. That Bob Holland had cowhided his sister for keeping company with a young shoemaker, that there was an immemorial law of the college (not written) that all such offenses were punished by ducking. I went with them over to "Tusculum". In a private room seven of us met, and blackened our faces and put on old clothes till we were pretty effectually disguised. A horse belonging to a student was pressed into the service without the knowledge of the owner. Holland was keeping the McFadden House, and about one o'clock Lamar rode up and got off and thumped at the barroom door. Instead of Holland, a big negro hostler came to the door. Tom told him to go and wake his master, that he wanted to see him. The darkey came down and said Holland would not get up. Tom sent him back and got him up, but he came down with nothing on but his shirt. Tom called him to the door and caught him in his arms, and the rest of us who had been concealed around the corner, rushed up and jerked him off his feet and ran across the street with him. Scott had a handful of rags to gag him, but he could not get them into his mouth, and he yelled murder as loud as he could. Windows went up and heads poked out, some with night caps on. It was a bright moonlight, but we ran on with him to the west side of the town. A little stream of water running under a bridge had washed a hole three or four feet deep. We doused him in -- made him put his head under the water. By the time he got out his shirt was torn to ribbons and he presented a sorry picture. He was told what it was for, but little was said.
He was glad to get away and so were we, for we saw people coming down the hill-but we cleared ourselves and were never found out or at least prosecuted. This was the greatest outrage I ever assisted to perpetrate, and I remember it with regret. The man had never done us any harm, and to this day I don't know whether the charge against him was true or not. Many of the students knew all about it, and one had to leave the college and go home -- not because he was one of the party, but because he had talked too much.
When I entered the freshman class in the fall of 1833, I became a member of the Philo Society. In the new College building over the College Hall, two large rooms had been fitted up for the two Literary societies, the Philo and Franklin, to one or other of which nearly all the students in the College classes belonged. They pretended to be secret, but they were so much alike that it did not amount to much. The initiation fee was five dollars -- this with the fines imposed, was appropriated to the purchase of books. Each Society had a library consisting of about 1,500 volumes at the time I entered. The rooms were handsomely frescoed, carpeted and seats along each side with a desk in front of each seat. There were also a platform at each end -- one for the officers and one for the regular exercises of the society. The officers consisted of two Librarians, two reviewers, Eporch and Aichon. The exercises consisted of original and selected orations, original essays and debate at the close of each class.
The members were called on for remarks and often they were criticized without mercy. The original compositions were handed to the reviewers and at the next meeting they announced their corrections and criticism. The societies met every Friday night and a session generally continued till 10 or 11 o'clock. Sometimes extra meetings were called for special business, and sometimes these meetings were extra stormy. The exercises in our society were well calculated and did improve the students in debate and public speaking as well as in composition. This was very striking with some, and the boys soon found what they were best at. During the four years I was a member of the Philo Society I served a term in every office of the society. The officers were elected every six weeks.
During the freshman and sophomore years we finished the Latin and Greek; also studied Watts' logic and I think in that time Cavallos' Natural Philosophy, and the course of studies in mathematics prescribed in the curriculum. One session we studied algebra and conic sections under Professor Haderman. He was a fine intellectual German and had been an officer in the French Army under Napoleon, but he did not stay long in Washington. Mr. Cartney was then elected Professor of Mathematics. He was a graduate of the College, and a man of learning and ability, and we finished under him. Dr. Jacob Green of Philadelphia was the Professor of Chemistry and he came out every summer and taught the class and delivered a course of lectures. He was the author of a work on chemistry which was our textbook. On that branch he was regarded as one of the most learned and successful teachers of the day. He was then a pretty old man, and I heard of his death many years ago. I recollect him as an eloquent speaker and good instructor, but exacting and sometimes severe.
Dr. Mathew Brown, the President of the College, was a tall, spare man with the bearing and manners of a finished gentleman. I have a very distinct recollection of his high toned, graceful appearance as he walked up the aisle of the hall to the pulpit. He was by his learning and ability well qualified for his position, and in addition possessed in a high degree administrative ability, and was an excellent judge of character, particularly of young men, and took a great interest in the progress of his students. He had a keen sense of the ridiculous and a witty remark always brought a smile to his face. The fact is the boys felt that he loved them and they would take a scolding from him that they would have resented from any of the other professors. In the latter part of the junior year and during the senior year, our class was taught by him, and I became impressed with the deep and friendly interest he took in us, and I felt a profound respect for the kind and genial old man. While he was stern and resolute in maintaining the rules of the College, no father could have been kinder in
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