Monthly Archives: February 2009

Do Not Spit Here!

Like many small colleges Wheaton College wasn’t much to speak of in its early decades. Small colleges didn’t attempt to offer what the big land-grant universities did and that was why so many continued to survive, despite economic ups and downs. The life of the campus wasn’t in state of the art facilities.

Margaret Landon well remembered her first visit to Wheaton’s campus in the early 1920s. She recalled her “sentimental journey” in the January-February 1938 Wheaton Alumni News that event.

It was sixteen years since I first visited Wheaton. That first day is very clearly printed on my memory. It was raining. One ancient hack stood at the station, black, astonishingly high, and astonishingly short–a museum piece really. The campus was a hayfield. Am I right in remembering a cow grazing? It was vacation and the buildings without students were incredibly dingy. A red-headed janitor swept and sang. Footsteps re-echoed uncompromisingly. On a blackboard near the bookstore was an elaborate chalk whirl ending in a dot, which bore the legend, “Do Not Spit Here.”

The dorm smelled of kerosene. The reception rooms were drab, and the dining room unrelievedly ugly. There was one pinpoint of light. Two students, who had not gone home for vacation consented to show us their rooms. Their suite was cheerful and home like after the rest of the building, and the two students themselves were charming and friendly.

Then, as now, it was the students who made Wheaton…. I was in Wheaton many times last fall before I ventured up onto the campus, for the campus was peopled with many ghosts and I was disinclined to stir the dead leaves of memory…. I saw the old Chapel, which is now a part of the library. And went up to the dorm to the room where the two students had been kind sixteen years before–I roomed with one of them my freshman and sophomore years–and thought of my first night in college when my new roommate and I breathlessly hauled up a pint of ice cream on a string past the Dean’s window. Trum Howard, who furnished the ice cream, could just as well have rung the bell and handed the ice cream to us, but it was much more exciting the other way. Suppose we had plopped the whole carton against Mrs. Garlough’s window! Delicious thought!

“Then, as now, it was the students who made Wheaton.”

First Fruits — Adeline Eliza Collins

Addie Collins, later in lifeBorn September 19, 1841 in a log cabin in Homer Township near the present Lockport, in Will County, Illinois, Adeline Eliza Collins was the only child of Fredrick and Nancy Mason White Collins. Addie attended Oberlin College in 1858 but transferred to Wheaton because it was nearer home and when she learned that it was open and that women might study there. From materials in the Archives and alumni records it has been established that Addle Collins was Wheaton’s first woman graduate in 1862. Known as “Addie” to her friends and associates she was later to become Principal of the Ladies’ Collegiate Course. When Addie left the principalship in 1865 the young women of the college gave her a set of Browning poems and a letter of appreciation was signed by O.F. Lumry, secretary of the faculty and president, Jonathan Blanchard. Two years later Addie married Henry D. Hatch and lived on a farm near her childhood home. They gave a portion of their land for the building of a Congregational church in which Addie later played the organ and taught a Sunday school class. Henry and Addie had one daughter, Emily Ellen, two grandchildren and two great-grandsons.

Down This Road Before

Recently a series of emails from the president’s office have explained the budgetary struggles the College will be facing in the coming year. Though these will be trying days for staff and faculty, this is not the first occasion in which Wheaton has seen tough times. For example, the following is quoted from Getting Things from God (1915) by Charles Blanchard, the second president of Wheaton College:

I began work in Wheaton College in September of 1872. Since that time, in the midst of many imperfections and failures, I have given myself to the service of the kingdom of God among the young people of my country and time. Almost all the graduates of the college during these years have, before completing their courses, confessed themselves believers in Jesus Christ. A large number, something like forty per cent of the men graduates, have given themselves to the ministry, to service as Christian teachers in home and foreign lands, to work in the Young Men’s Christian Association, or some other form of Christian service. We began with almost nothing in the way of money, and have never had, from the beginning until now, a wealthy patron who made the college his first care. Our helpers have been broad-minded, large-hearted men and women, who gave what they gave to the college not for personal glory, but for the sake of the work it was seeking to do. They were givers in many directions, and did not feel that they wished to make one institution their chief care. One of them said to me, when I asked him if he would not consider making the college his chief work, I am giving now to one hundred different charities, and I do not dare or wish to cut off one. The result has been that oftentimes we have been in sore need of money. A friend once said to me that he thought it unwise to tell such things as are related above, on the line that such narratives produced the impression that I thought my own prayers better than the prayers of other people…I do not see the slightest reason for such an impression. Ought not a man to give his own testimony? If God has answered his prayers, ought he not to say so?

In 1978, a 1933 alum recollected similar circumstances under the administrative leadership of J. Oliver Buswell, Wheaton’s third president:

My $125 had been promptly put in the local bank on arrival, awaiting the next Tuesday deadline for tuition payments. Not one of us were prepared for the morning headlines: ROOSEVELT CLOSES BANKS! The campus was stunned. Students clustered in bewilderment seeking each other’s comfort in the common disaster. The President had chosen the worst moment of the year to cripple college matriculations here and across the land. Evan the Colleges bank accounts were frozen. There was no money available for us to return home if the College were closed! We needed a miracle and God gave it. Unknown to us the faculty and President Buswell were already praying in an emergency session in his conference room below the Tower. The college was broke. The students were broke. What was God’s advice this morning? God’s answer rang clearly in that hushed room: “My promises are from everlasting to everlasting! I will never fail you. Trust Me to reopen the Banks in my own time. Run Wheaton on faith this is your chance to witness for Me!” I am sure that the faculty grew a foot taller in the next 30 minutes. President Buswell must have turned to Comptroller Dyrness and given an unbelievable order: “God says we stay open! Post notices that we will accept IOUs for tomorrow for tuition and other dues. Notify the faculty that anyone who agrees to stay on will receive vouchers from the College. Put all the students to work on campus projects at 11 cents an hour, payable toward tuition when the banks reopen. Keep the chapel open until midnight all month. We have let God take over this campus!” And so it was that no one went home; no professor left his podium; nor did any campus job go begging! Never were things more spick and span whether lawns, woodwork, windows or bookracks.

In a time when salaries are frozen and an economy is contracting God reveals himself as faithful. God’s faithfulness spurs the faithfulness of women and men. For many of the early decades of the college faculty accepted reduced salaries to enable the college to continue operations. Many faculty had large gardens, chickens and livestock, as well as accepting borders to make ends meet. By 1879 the college had incurred a significant debt finishing Blanchard Hall. Charles Blanchard raised a considerable part of it through faculty giving up their claims for the unpaid salaries. Afterward an arrangement was then entered into with the faculty whereby there would be no further deficits. When possible their modest salaries were paid in full, if not they received a partial salary to allow the college to run debt-free. In more than twenty-five years the faculty contributed over $22,000 (Alumni Quarterly, July 1931, p. 12).

Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg (1878-1967), Illinois poet laureate, collector of songs and Pulitzer Prize-winning Lincoln biographer, resided in Elmhurst, Illinois, from 1919-30, writing for several Windy City newspapers, notably the legendary Chicago Daily News. After three productive, happy decades living in Illinois and Michigan, he moved in 1945 with his family to North Carolina where his wife, Paula, raised award-winning goats on their farm, “Connemara.” There he continued writing poetry and his one novel, Remembrance Rock, in addition to traveling the country, playing his guitar and singing American ballads. Renowned as both felicitious wordsmith and exhaustive researcher, he was hired by 20th Century Fox in 1961 to work on the script for director George Stevens’s biblical epic, The Greatest Story Ever Told. (Stevens also directed The Diary of Ann Frank.) The film, released in 1965, features Max von Sydow, Angela Lansbury, Shelly Winters, John Wayne, Roddy McDowell, Charlton Heston, Donald Pleasence, Sidney Poitier and Telly Savalas – truly an “all star cast.”

Sandburg letterWhile in Hollywood, Sandburg received an inquiry from a Mr. Wood, who evidently asked about the author’s relationship to Wheaton College. Typing on a sheet of “George Stevens Productions” letterhead, Sandburg responds on May 10, 1962: “Dear Mr. Wood: Along late in the coming autumn my schedule for 1962 will be in the making. When residing in Elmhurst I rode all around Wheaton on a bicycle and have an old neighborly feeling about Wheaton College. Sincerely, Carl Sandburg.”

Though Sandburg receives screen credit for “creative association,” his exact contribution to the project is not fully known. He received the job on the recommendation of Ray Bradbury, who declined the studio’s request that he write the script. Sandburg, born in Galesburg, Illinois, where Wheaton’s first president, Jonathan Blanchard, also served as president of Knox College, wrote in his autobiography, Always the Young Stranger, a rather unflattering portrait of the ever-crusading Blanchard, describing him as “…not one bigot but several.” He felt that Blanchard’s influence, which wasn’t cast in any positive sense, was present for decades after his departure, so much so that one could almost “catch the ghost of him.” To Sandburg Blanchard was the amalgam of a lion, bear and buffalo, and possibly half horse and half alligator!

Sandburg died in 1967. His ashes are interred beneath a boulder called “Remembrance Rock” in the backyard of his childhood home in Galesburg.

Baby Born in Blanchard Hall!!

In 1895, Oliver Decker brought his new bride to live in an apartment in the west wing of the College Building, as it was known then. He operated a bicycle shop on the premises, which was advertised in The College Echo, the yearbook. While his family lived there, his wife, assisted by a female physician (possibly Frances Carothers Blanchard), gave birth to a baby girl named Hazel.

Decker\'s Bicycle Shop - Blanchard Hall

Plans for a new Blanchard Memorial Building were made soon after the death of Charles Blanchard. It was later decided that funds raised for the project should be applied toward constructing the final (east) wing of the Main Building. Once completed it was named Blanchard Hall to honor both Jonathan and Charles Blanchard. The development of this building spanned nearly 75 years (1853-1927) and the administrations of three presidents.

Additions to Blanchard Hall







Senior Bench

The Senior Bench at Wheaton College is one of the oldest and most legendary rivalries in the school’s 150 year history. According to dusty archives files and whispers of oral tradition, the graduating class of 1912 is believed to have bequeathed a hefty concrete monument to solidify its place in the annals of her alma mater.

Senior BenchAnchored in front of Blanchard Hall and first photographed for the 1934 Tower yearbook, it was intended for seniors only, but through the decades envious undergraduates soon coveted it’s prized status. A great rivalry began in 1949 when juniors from the class of 1950 stole the top two foot by seven foot section while the seniors where away on their annual retreat.

Many ingenious, inventive, and sometimes illegal methods have been employed by rival classes in their passionate pursuit of securing this nearly 800-pound stone slab. During the 1950s an exact replica was cast by the class of 1957 in a fool hearty attempt to trick the other classes, yet to no avail. The class of 1959 is heralded for one of the most amazing bench showings as it suspended the bench from a helicopter and flew it over the Homecoming football game.

Another infamous bench caper was hatched when seniors from the class of 1963 traveled by train to Colorado for their yearly retreat. As the train stopped at Mendota, Illinois the bench was shown by the juniors who had arrived by car to taunt the seniors. A melee ensued and a scheduled thirty second stop erupted into a two hour delay as railroad agents, local police and the Interstate Commerce Commission were all summoned to sort out this violation of federal law.

The current rules surrounding possession of the bench were enacted after seniors from the class of 1966 showed the bench in chapel and were greeted by slashed tires and cut ignition wires in the parking lot. The bench was confiscated by the Dean of Students and mysteriously destroyed while under lock and key. A replica soon surfaced and the tradition was resurrected. Henceforth all bench activity has been limited to the junior and senior classes, the bench must remain within a fifteen-mile radius of Blanchard Hall, half of the bench must be visible at all times, and the bench must be shown twice a year and never in chapel.

In subsequent decades the passionate rivalry has ebbed and flowed as soil analysis kits, airplanes, wiretaps, high-speed car chases, Billy Graham, wishing wells, and even eBay, have all been employed in pursuit of this elusive prize for all Wheaton students.

William T. Osborne — from slave to bishop

In 1865 the 117th Illinois Infantry Regiment fought in the final battle for Mobile. During the campaign, young William T. Osborne (born in slavery near Monroeville, Alabama, the setting for To Kill a Mockingbird) attached himself to the soldiers, who turned him over to Colonel Jonathan Merriam. Later, William took charge of Merriam’s horse, Frank. Part of the larger Mobile Campaign, this encounter was the one of the last official battles of the Civil War. As the battle commenced, a Union force with 16,000-strong marched against a much smaller Confederate army composed of just 4,000 soldiers. The battle lasted only a few hours, and the Union army won by sheer size alone. When all was said and done, only 200 Confederate soldiers escaped; nearly 3,400 were taken as prisoners of war to Ship Island and another 250 lost.

William Tate Osborne was born in Alabama, according his death certificate, on February 12, 1855*.

In the summer of 1865, Merriam brought Osborne to his home in Atlanta, Illinois. Merriam and his wife, Lucy, provided for him until he enrolled in the college preparatory course at Wheaton in 1869. Encountering racism and barriers to William’s education, W.F. Wright of Atlanta, IL inquired on behalf of Col. Merriam of Jonathan Blanchard as to the possibility of Wheaton College admitting Osborne for studies. Wright describes Osborne’s character as “unblemished,” and his desire for an education “intense.”

William T. OsborneWhile at Wheaton, Osborne resided in local homes and in Blanchard Hall for his final year. Osborne became the first Black president of the Beltonian Society and was remembered for his good oration skills and singing voice. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1876. William Osborne was a member of College Church from 1869-1878.

Upon leaving Wheaton College, Osborne moved to Quincy, Illinois. In 1878 he crossed the Mississippi River and lived in Monroe City, Missouri, the same year marrying Miss Parthena Buckner. In 1885 he lived in Shelbina, Missouri. Mr. Osborne became Reverend Osborne in 1886 when he was ordained as a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Along with these residences Osborne lived and pastored churches in Seattle, Washington, Helena, Montana, Louisiana, Missouri, and Omaha, Nebraska. During his 1912-1917 Omaha pastorate, Osborne would be married to Earline (also known as Pinky). It is not known if he remarried or was widowed. The 1920 Kansas City census informs us that he rented his home, lived in a black neighborhood, and he and both his parents were born in Alabama. He pastored the Ebeneezer African Methodist Episcopal Church and became bishop of the denomination. Osborne died January 15, 1932 of chronic nephritis at his home (2811 Vine, Kansas City, MO).

In 1987 students formed The William Osborne Society and exists to promote self-identity and self-awareness among Black American students.

[*editor’s note (2/9/09): Many thanks to Wayne Weber of the Billy Graham Center Archives for uncovering, online, Osborne’s Missouri death certificate, which included his, heretofore, unknown middle name and birthdate — which coincided with Abraham Lincoln’s. Weber also provided copies of various census pages.]

Of Buildings And Books

In January 1952, just after the opening of the Nicholas Library at Wheaton, Record report Hal Malehorn gave a short and informative history of books and the building that housed them. Below is Malehorn’s account:

Reporter Tells How a Library Outgrew a Building
By Hal Malehorn

With the exodus of the library from Blanchard hall comes a historic narrative–the story of a building and of books.

Back in 1860… the library as such was non-existent. The only texts were the private collections of the instructors.

Blanchard Hall began to grow in 1868. …Then old third floor Fischer library became the chapel, replete with green-upholstered pews. The classrooms clustered around the center section, now used by the business offices.

Right after this came the building of the Tower in 1871, Blanchard’s roof was raised to form the chapel room. In those days there were stairways on either side of the building, outside, And Pres. Jonathan Blanchard had letterheads printed even then with the drawing of Blanchard hall, exactly as it is now.

Third floor west end housed the girls. The boys’ “dorm” was on the floor above. There was even an elaborate elevator to haul coal, ashes and occasional enterprising individuals up and down. Winters were cold, and coal stoves were in vogue, and atomic solar heat was still some decades away.

The present physics lab was originally a large, well-kept parlor, while the chem. lab directly beneath it served as dining hail and kitchen until 1927, when another general shifting took place.

Loyal Celts and Belts held forth in what are now the first floor finance offices. Aels scheduled their society for the present biology lab.

Meanwhile, the library was growing. As books accumulated, a small room was reserved for them in the first floor center section; the music teacher was dismayed to find himself in charge of the room.
Several years later, the shelves transferred one floor up, and the books were moved en masse into what is now the registrar’s office.

1890 was an epic date for Wheaton. That was the year a great pipe organ was installed in capacious Fischer chapel. It was the first pipe organ in town, and Wheaton folks were rightly proud. As a result of this, the chapel had to be rearranged.

Opera chairs were installed, $1.25 apiece, the old green-upholstered pews migrated to various back yards and front porches, and some even lined the walls of the new library room. In 1890, too, central heating was installed in the basement, creating an audible hazard for the chapel worshipers up on third floor.

In addition to books, the new library room housed the book store, which was operated: by students until 1908, when the college took over.

By 1913 the college owned an amazing 10,000 volumes, all of which were arranged according to shelves A, B, C, section 1, 2, 3. Professor Rice had heard of a new-fangled Dewey decimal system, and so one summer he and three daughters, with a $600 stipend, catalogued the entire library. This was the beginning of the modern Wheaton college library.

1927 was another great year in the history of books and buildings. That was the year the final east addition was made. Included in the wing was the Frost reference library, into which many of the books were moved. It was not long, however, before the library was again bulging at the seams.

Consequently, in 1936 the stacks were removed from E201 and placed in the former Fischer chapel. This necessitated an entire reinforcement of the center section of Blanchard from the basement up. Two years later the final segment of stacks was added in Fischer.

Since 1938 Wheaton has experienced more growing pains. Enrollment doubled, the library grew and grew.

And then in 1950 came Pres. V. Raymond Edman’s announcement in chapel of the gift of the new library building. That library is now a reality.

This is the newest chapter in the story of buildings and books.


The Liberry

[this image showed a “rendering” of the new Nicholas Library that appeared in the Tower]

Constant Rediscovery

A common experience in my work as a curator of rare books and manuscripts is that of rediscovery. Once such example of this rediscovery is this volume.

Bronte inscriptionIt is Charlotte Bronte‘s autograph presentation copy to her future husband, Arthur Nicholls (inscribed on the fly-leaf and title page) and contains Nicholls’ marginalia written after Bronte‘s death.

Nicholls was a curate in Bronte‘s father’s parish and his marriage proposal in December 1852, came as a complete surprise to Charlotte and her father. Mr. Bronte withheld his consent, partly because he thought Charlotte was too frail to survive a pregnancy, and Charlotte declined the offer. Mr. Bronte was angered by his curate’s presumption, and made life so uncomfortable for him, that Mr. Nicholls resigned and left the village. He took a curacy at Kirk Smeaton, forty mile south of Haworth, and corresponded with Charlotte. By late 1853 they were meeting secretly near Haworth, and by Christmas, Charlotte had accepted him and persuaded her father to agree. They were married on the 29th of June 1854 and honeymooned for a month in Ireland. Their marriage was very happy and tragically short. SanchoAt the turn of the year, Charlotte developed chronic sickness, became weak and emaciated, and, on the 31st of March 1855, she died in the early stages of pregnancy.

Nicholls stayed on to look after Mr. Bronte until his death in 1861. He had hoped to take over the parish after his father-in-law’s death, but he was overlooked. He returned to Ireland and took up farming and never worked as a priest again. In 1864 he married his cousin and never had children. Nicholls, as the last remaining member of the Bronte family, spent the next forty years defending the Bronte name against an endless series of biographers and curio-hunters.

The Best Laid Plans

From 1927 until 1937 Kenneth and Margaret Landon were Presbyterian missionaries in Siam, present-day Thailand. While there Margaret became interested in missionary history. After her arrival she realized that she was part of a much larger community and a continuity of ministry that went back many years.

Edna ColeMargaret became interested in three missionary women that traveled to Siam on the S.S. Peking in the fall of 1878. Interestingly all of their surnames began with “C.” These women were Belle Caldwell of Wheeling, West Virginia, Mary Margaretta Campbell of Lexington, Indiana, and, Edna Sarah Cole of St. Joseph, Missouri. Campbell and Cole, former schoolmates, were assigned to work in Chiengmai in northern Siam and Caldwell to a girls school in Bangkok. In 1880 Caldwell married fellow Presbyterian missionary John Newton Culbertson. They left the field in 1881. That same year, in February, Edna Cole’s partner, Mary Campbell, drowned while a brief vacation. This left Cole as the last of the three to remain in ministry in Siam.

Edna Cole graduated from the Female Seminary in Oxford, Ohio (later absorbed into Miami University of Ohio) and remained on the field until 1923. She later moved from Chiengmai to the Wang Lang School for Girls–where Caldwell had served. The Wang Lang School was succeeded by Wattana Wittay Academy. Landon saw Cole as the true founder of women’s education in Siam. This is what prompted Landon to write her first book on Cole after her own return from Siam in 1937. Landon had access to all of Cole’s correspondence to her sister while in Siam, but only if she would use them in St. Joseph, Missouri. With a family that included three small children and a husband seeking permanent employment after resigning from missionary service staying in St. Joseph to conduct research was not feasible.

Margaret had to give up her project on Cole (who died at 95 in 1950), however, several years later, once settled in Washington, D.C. Landon was able to complete another book project. Anna and the King of Siam was not the story that Landon wished to write. It was not her best laid plan, but it was the one could be completed. Landon’s interest in Siam missions history had been aroused and continued throughout her writing career. She found the missionaries in Siam to be some of the most interesting and unusual people. Landon’s second book, Never Dies the Dream, a semi-autobiographical story of a female missionary running a girl’s school in Siam, was a way for her to sustain that interest.