E. A. (Edward Austin) Sheldon.

Autobiography of Edward Austin Sheldon online

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Serita Stewart, then a pupil of the school.

190



EDWARD AUSTIN SHELDON 191

For several years, plans were under discussion among the
Alumni, for providing a suitable memorial to their beloved Principal.
The first determined on, was a marble bust, to be placed in the
school assembly hall. This bust was executed by Mr. Herbert Adams
of Pratt Institute, the sculptor who fashioned the bronze doors of
the Congressional Library in Washington. It was unveiled May 19,
1899. Addresses were made by Hon. Geo. B. Sloan and Rev. Henry
W. Sherwood of Kingston, N. Y. (an Alumnus). Prof. Krusi, who
had been absent from the school for twelve years, was present and
added fitting remarks on the life and work of the friend with whom
he had co-labored for twenty-five years.

The Alumni further planned raising a fund -to establish a Sheldon
scholarship in pedagogy at Cornell University, which through the
generosity of an Alumna has been completed.

The most prominent memorial that has been erected to the
memory of Dr. Sheldon, consists in the bronze statue that stands in
the Capitol at Albany, which was unveiled on January nth, 1900.

This statue was the contribution of the school-children and
educators of New York State, "as a fitting tribute to his life-work,
and also to emphasize the importance of public education as a force
in the up-building of a great State." The origin of the movement to
consummate such a great tribute was narrated as follows in the
circular announcing the project:

"A representative gathering of New York teachers met in Syra-
cuse, December 26, 1897, and organized by adopting the title of the
Sheldon Memorial Association, and by choosing the following offi-
cers : Hon. Charles R. Skinner, president; Hon. George B. Sloan,
treasurer; Henry R. Sanford, secretary."

The date set for presenting the matter to the schools was Arbor
Day, May 6, 1898. 3,007 schools, numbering about 200,000 children,
responded to the appeal. From their penny contributions, and the
larger ones of educators, about $3,500 was raised, of which $3,000
was paid to the sculptor, the remainder being disbursed for incidental
expenses.

The statue was executed by John Francis Brines, and at the
unveiling were present U. S. Commissioner of Education W. T.
Harris, Governor Theodore Roosevelt, Hon. Geo. B. Sloan, Hon.
Chas. R. Skinner, Dr. I. B. Poucher, and President Milne of the
Albany Norman College all of whom made addresses. Governor
Roosevelt unveiled the statute.



CHAPTER XXXII

FAMILY LIFE

[Notes by a Daughter of Dr. Sheldon.]

THE home relations in the Sheldon household were beautiful and
had their influence on all who came in contact with them. A letter
written to Mary Sheldon, in 1889, by Dr. Henry R. Stiles, an ardent
historian of New England families, has this reference to them :

It seems as if God's blessing rested upon every member of your
family, from the dear pater et mater down to the youngest duckling
of the brood. I often think of you all with surprise at the per-
fection of your family life its serenity, joyfulness, usefulness. Do
you really appreciate all your inheritance? ..."

All who have ever attended the Oswego school, will remember
the periodical gatherings of the students at Mr. Sheldon's home in
the Spring for a grand sugaring-off, and in the autumn for a harvest
party, i. e., a fruit feast. Of all who enjoyed them, none enjoyed
these more than Mr. Sheldon himself. They were the expression of
his over-flowing love to his pupils. The first sugar party is described
by a participant as follows :

Mr. Sheldon had invited all the students of the school to his
home to join in an old-fashioned "sugaring off" party. The entire
school accepted the invitation and a large number of friends turned
out to share in the fun. Mrs. Sheldon presided over the "sugaring"
process and made every one feel at home and happy. The "menu" in-
cluded "warm maple sugar," "maple sugar candied in snow, and
maple sugar served up in every other form." The Sheldon home
was thrown open to the visitors, and the grove and grounds over-
looking Lake Ontario were thronged with a joyous crowd, promen-
ading, chatting, rollicking and romping.

The orchard contained many pear-trees, bearing the finest
Bartletts. When these were ripe, Mr. Sheldon always devoted the
fairest of them to the entertainment of his harvest party; adding to

192




THE FAMILY GROUP.



EDWARD AUSTIN SHELDON 193

the feast other fruits bought from neighboring orchards, which were
for many years prolific of very choice fruit.

In the midst of these Oswego home and school attachments,
Mr. Sheldon was ever turning back with undiminished affection to
his old home, his parents, his sister and brother. Many letters I have
found containing plans for gathering them together to be perma-
nently with him. He always insisted, at least, on seeing them once a
year, either in Perry or at Shady Shore. Summer after summer, the
family of eight packed up and tripped to Perry to live on the old
farm for a month or more. And the old home contained all com-
fortably, without any one having to camp out so hospitably had the
grandfather built. Then Mr. Sheldon was seen in his very element,
returned to his favorite farm pursuits, into which he entered with
his whole soul, the happiest man on the face of the earth and the
best hand in the field. His work was surely worth the board and
lodging of eight people. Would that all his pupils might have had
the treat sometime, of seeing the picture made by their Principal,
mounted on a big load of hay, togged out in his blue overalls and
big straw hat his aureole of white hair curling out beneath, all
tossed and blown, and his smiling face beaming with fun and energy.

A daughter of Mr. Sheldon writes this of the farming-out time,
and incidentally of the family relationships :

We children were having just as good a time, with plenty of
cousins to help us. Yet we were always glad to get back to our
"dear old Lake" Ontario, with its murmurs and its thunders last
sound at night and first sound in the morning with its world of
changing color and its glorious sunsets. That lake and sky have
often seemed to bear us up, away from the common world, into
realms of purest aspiration. Some of us, when away from home,
have been stricken with actual, serious homesickness for them. In
fact, I believe those surroundings did have a tendency to make In-
dians of us, in more ways than one. And such a retreat was what
our father especially needed, to save him from being hopelessly
immersed in school cares. On the other hand, there is no doubt
that his constitution was to some extent undermined by his severe
struggles with snow and cold, getting back and forth during the
long tedious winters ; and by his daily anxiety about reaching school
in time, from such a distance.

Especially after our grandfather died (in 1878) and our uncle
(in 1883), I find his letters constantly urging his mother and sisters
to come to him. But the three bereaved women the widowed sister
being an invalid clung to the old home, until grandmother died
(in 1884), soon after which the change was made.



194 AUTOBIOGRAPHY

These affectionate letters were numerous through many years,
in spite of his multitudinous cares. I will present only a few, and
you will know them all.

Oswego, N. Y., January 31, 1877.
Dear Folks at Home:

I should like to drop in upon you to-night and shake
you all by the hand and exchange the kiss of affection,
but as that cannot be, I will do the next best thing, write
a letter and let you know that I am thinking of you and
loving you. My heart goes out to you very often, and I
live over with you all your joys and sorrows, hopes and
fears. I do not know of a time when my childhood has
been so often up for review as during this winter. I some-
times think, as I grow older, that my old home grows dearer
to me; I am sure the companions of that home do.

Oswego, April 5, 1882.
My Dear Mother:

I send you by this mail a birthday token which you will
accept from a son who loves you more and more as the
years roll by. I have not many things of which to be proud,
but I am proud of my mother. I am proud that she has
been so good a mother ; that she has done so much for her
children ; that she has lived so long, and has ever been and
still is so cheery and happy; that she has triumphed over
death and the grave, and can say to them. "O Death, where
is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?" Such an
old age is indeed beautiful, and I hope you may yet live
many years to enjoy it, and that your 'friends may enjoy
it too. My last visit was a delightful one. I enjoyed it
all intensely. I took no harm from the free indulgence in
warm maple sugar, and the renewal of old time scenes and
occupations did me all sorts of good. . . .

With much love to you all, I am your loving and ad-
miring son,

EDWARD.



EDWARD AUSTIN SHELDON 195

At the time of his mother's death, Mr. Sheldon went to Perry
to attend the funeral, and intended then to assist in closing the home.
But the emotions aroused were too much for him, and he was
obliged to postpone it until fall. He then went to Perry, in the
midst of a busy school-term, and gave what time he could to pre-
paring for removal ; permitting his sister to bring away many things
that one less sympathetic would have insisted on leaving behind.

His sister Dorliska made her home with him from this time; as
did also the invalid sister until her death in 1885.

The same intensity of family affection that went out toward the
older generation, extended itself to the younger. So, all through
his life, although perfectly willing to see his children go forth to
work in the world, no matter how far away, he still longed for the
yearly reunion, the great vacation home-gathering of the whole com-
pany of dear ones. He felt that this consummation was really
worth a heavy outlay of money and time. It was one of the few
things in which he indulged extravagance.

Among his children, he counted the school alumni, and in the
same way he looked for their home-coming, on the occasion of the
biennial meetings; when, indeed, a remarkable number of them,
reciprocating the feeling, did and still do return for social enjoy-
ment, interchange of wisdom, and fresh inspiration.



CHAPTER XXXIII

DEVOTION TO THE OSWEGO WORK

NEARLY allied to this strong family affection, was the devotion
Mr. Sheldon showed to his Oswego work. Mrs. Barnes has men-
tioned three very attractive offers that came to him, of positions
elsewhere, during the early years of the Oswego Training School.
But he felt intuitively that this work belonged peculiarly to him,
as a child to a father.

His motives for refusing these offers have been made sufficiently
clear; but a few extracts from letters relating to them, will bring
into clearer view some other interesting features presented by these
episodes.

The first is given partly to call attention to a precept always
earnestly upheld and followed by Mr. Sheldon, as of prime import-
ance to success with a school or any organization. This letter was
his first reply to the offer of the principalship of the Normal
School at Albany.

Oswego, January n, 1867.
Dr. Woolworth,

Dear Sir:

Your favor of the 8th inst. is before me. The proposi-
tion it contains involves too many and too great responsibili-
ties to allow of a hasty decision. I therefore ask a day or
two in which to consider the matter and consult with friends.
In the meantime I should like to know whether, in your
opinion, this appointment would be favorably received by
the teachers. Without their cordial support and co-operation

196



EDWARD AUSTIN SHELDON 197

no one can hope to sustain the reputation of the school,
and make it a power for good.

Again, is there unanimity on the part of the committee?
Would Mr. Rice favor the appointment? The answers to
these questions may affect my decision. With the cordial
sympathy and support of the committee and faculty of the
school, the inducement to break away from a work to which
I have been for four years wedded, and in which I still feel
the deepest interest, will be very tempting. Should I de-
cide to consider favorably such an appointment, I shall then
desire, before the final acceptance of it, to visit Albany and
lay before the committee and the faculty my plans for the
reorganization and management of the school, and if our
views should harmonize all round, then the path of duty
would appear plain ; but without such harmony I could not
think of assuming so great a responsibility. After receiving
your reply to this I hope to be able to give you my decision.

With grateful acknowledgment for the honor you have
conferred upon me in suggesting my name as a candidate
'for this position, I remain,

Yours with the highest esteem,

E. A. SHELDON.

The succeeding correspondence indicates that the position was
not refused on account of conditions in Albany:

Oswego, January 17, 1867.
S. B. Woodworth, LL.D.,

Sec'y Ed. Com., N. Y. S. N. Sch'l.
Dear Sir,

Your favor of the I5th inst. is received, 'for which please
accept my thanks. It answers satisfactorily the questions
put, and I cannot doubt that I should receive the hearty co-



198 AUTOBIOGRAPHY

operation of both teachers and school-officers in my work,
should I decide to accept the position of Principal of the
Normal School ; but such is the state of feeling among the
teachers in this school, in the Board and among the friends
of education here, as to the effect upon the school of my
leaving at this time, that I am led to regard it a duty to
decline the flattering proposition contained in your favor
of the 8th inst. There is so much that is inviting in the
position you offer me, that it has not been without careful
and serious consideration that I have come to this conclu-
sion, and a sense of duty alone satisfied me that I have made
a right decision.

Again thanking you for the high compliment you have
paid me in presenting my name as a candidate for the Prin-
cipalship of the N. Y. State Normal School, and with the
hope that you may find one more worthy of the position, I
remain, Yours very truly,

E. A. SHELDON.

The following letter inviting Mr. Sheldon to Missouri, is ex-
tremely interesting as reflecting the advancement of educational
ideas in that State at the time. Without investigating the history
of the matter, one can venture to affirm that this offer represents
one of the first attempts to introduce pedagogics as a university
branch. It certainly antedates by many years the recognition of its
importance by Northern universities :

Columbia, Mo., May 10, 1867.
Prof. E. A. Sheldon,
Dear Sir :

Mr. Phelps, of Minnesota, in a letter just received, mentioned
your name in connection with the place of principal of the Normal
College to form a part of this University. The University here is
to consist of College of Science and Letters which has been in ope-
ration since 1843, and is now to be enlarged by the addition of pro-
fessional colleges. At the last meeting of the Board of Curators, it
was resolved to establish a college for the instruction of teachers.
The idea is still further to be carried out by the establishment of
a College of Agriculture; and to this end I think the Legislature
will confer on the University an agricultural grant of 330,000 acres
of land.

We wish to avoid failure, if possible, in any part of the design.



EDWARD AUSTIN SHELDON 199

We can give salary of $2,000 to the Principal of this College. But
he must be a man of tact and talent and able to influence the public
mind.

There is no separate Normal building at present. We can give
one large room, with easy access to gallery of chapel, if desired that
normal pupils should form part of the worshipping assembly of
students at morning prayers. We could also give one recitation
room. We desire to have a model school to consist of three grades.
We have a building 30 x 60, one story, high ceiling, in which we
might commence the school, which should serve as a graded school
for the town, and be an exemplar for such school. This is some
rods (say 30) from the University in corner of campus. I have been
thus particular to show you the disadvantages of the beginning enter-
prise.

The rooms of any of the professors would be open to normal
pupils under direction of the principal. The College is, however, to
be a separate organization, except so far as it may be benefitted by
community of instruction. Just as the law class will receive instruc-
tion from president in constitutional and international law.

But I cannot go into detail. Can you aid as to the man? The
Board meet on the 26th of June, Commencement day; we ought
really to have a man with us at that time, who could at once give
direction as to altering and repairing rooms and procuring furni-
ture. The Board would require testimonials. The Normal School
will open third Monday of September.

I need not say a word of Missouri or of the importance of the
object.

Columbia is a town of 2,000 inhabitants, has two female col-
leges in good condition. Railroad to reach it from North Missouri
road in July next. The society is good.

I have until recently been connected with State University of

Wisconsin, at Madison, where my family still is. Would you be

inclined t o an enterprise of this kind? Can you name a good man?

Some papers would be required. Please send me any documents

in regard to your school.

What is the pay of your teachers, male and female?
Yours truly,

DANIEL READ.

It seems appropriate here to refer to an offer made to Horace
Mann in 1839, of the Presidency of a university in Missouri, at a
salary of $3,000, plus elegant house, gardens, etc. His emphatic
rejection of this offer, on account of his devotion to the great task
upon which he had just entered, altho' with the pitiful salary of
only $1,500, is exactly on a par with Mr. Sheldon's decision. I
mention this also to indicate the progressiveness of the educational
authorities of Missouri, in seeking to attract to its schools the
most advanced of Eastern educators.



CHAPTER XXXIV

RELATIONS WITH COLLEAGUES

THE harmonious relations on which Mr. Sheldon insisted, really
existed between him and his colleagues, in the school, and in the
State. This fact cannot be better realized than by reference to a
few documents that owed their origin to the period of his nervous
prostation, to which M. S. B. has referred :

"It would not be in accordance with Father's disposition to
dwell on this period in detail. He was heartily ashamed of it, and
of all smaller attacks of illness to which he ever had to suc-
cumb. The latter were few indeed, owing largely to his temperate,
prudent way of living. On this occasion, he felt that he had rashly
dissipated in u'ork, that he himself was to blame, and he severely
disapproved of this type of foolishness. Although abundant ma-
terial is at hand for reproducing a detailed history of his desperate
struggle with a disheartening form of nervous exhaustion, it seems
best to pass it by, and to present only one phase of the period a
a phase that gave him and his friends great comfort at the time,
and also in retrospect."

Signs of this break-down first became serious in the summer
of 1879. Before the end of the next school term, Mr. Sheldon
was obliged to leave school and home, in order to try medical
treatment where it seemed that he might soonest obtain relief with
Dr. Brooks, in Providence, R. I. He had hoped to resume his duties
at the opening of the following term. Events proved that he must
remain longer in Providence. The following letter and resolutions
bring out my point.

Oswego Normal School Faculty to E. A. S.

Oswego, Jan. 21, 1880.
Prof. E. A. Sheldon,
Dear Friend :

We, your assistants and co-workers, desire to report to you that
the school is moving on in an orderly and satisfactory manner. Each

200



EDWARD AUSTIN SHELDON 201

of us is endeavoring to develop and to use a third eye by means of
which we can observe any departure from your standard of good
discipline. Thus far we have been successful.

Arrangements for our closing exercises are progressing well.
We individually and collectively wish to express the hope that you
will feel at perfect liberty to remain in Providence during Com-
mencement. You have "brought us up" so well that we can attend
to all Comencement labors without undue tax upon any of us.

We have faith in your present treatment and wish you to con-
tinue it steadily without that retardation which would necessarily
follow a journey here and attention to school matters. We feel
that we cannot too strongly urge and entreat you to avoid all
things that may hinder your perfect restoration to health and to
labor among us.

With most earnest faith, hope and prayers for your speedy re-
covery, we remain,

Yours faithfully,

I. B. POUCHER,

H. KRUSI, JULIET A. COOK,

H. H. STRAIGHT, M. W. MORLEY,

MARY DAVIS MOORE, GEORGIE A. TIMERSON,

MARY V. LEE, SARAH J. WALTER,

M. S. COOPER, ROSE WHITNEY,

ORDIE A. LESTER, ELIOT M. CHURCHILL.

State Normal School Principals to President Oswcgo Normal School
Local Board.

Normal School,
Buffalo, N. Y., Feb. 10, 1880.
Gilbert Mollison, Esq.,

President Local Board.
Sir:

At the meeting of Normal School Principals held in October,
much concern was manifested in reference to Prof. Sheldon's health.
He, at that time, expressed a determination to try what effect a
partial release from work might have, and if he received no great
benefit, to resign his Principalship altogether. We all felt, and do
still feel, that the Norman School work in the State is so much
indebted to him, and we all esteem him so highly both for what he
is and for what he had done, that we are unwilling to part with
him while there is a chance of his recovering so far as to be able
to resume his duties. In the name of the Principals, therefore, and
at their request, I write to say, that we earnestly hope that Prof.
Sheldon may have leave of absence till his health is restored, and
that in case he should need it, be prohibited from all work in school
till that end is secured.

This is not written with any thought of interfering in any way
in the affairs of the Oswego Local Board, or because we feel it



202 AUTOBIOGRAPHY

necessary to make any suggestions on a point likely otherwise to be
overlooked, but only to add our earnest testimony to this worth as a
man and teacher, and to express our hope that every effort will be
made to retain him in the Normal School.

In behalf of the Principals of the Brockport, Buffalo, Cortland,
Geneseo, Fredonia and Potsdam Normal Schools.
I am obt. servant,

HENRY B. BUCKHAM.



Resolutions of Osivcgo Normal School Faculty.

Meeting of the faculty of the Oswego Normal and Training
School, assembled at the office, Feb. 14, 1880.

The following preamble and resolutions were adopted :

Whereas, After fourteen years of superintendence of the Os-
wego Normal and Training School, preceded by twelve years of
arduous duties as Superintendent of the Schools of Oswego City,
the health of our beloved Principal, Mr. E. A. Sheldon, has become
seriously impaired, and

Whereas, by a period of rest, we believe he may be restored to
health and usefulness among us, therefore be it

Resolved, That the faculty of the Normal School, respectfully
petition the Local Board to grant Mr. Sheldon, a furlough, under
full pay, to September, i, 1880.

Resolved, That during Mr. Sheldon's absence from school, we
respectfully ask that Mr. I. B. Poucher be appointed to act as Prin-
cipal of the Normal School without additional compensation.

Resolved, That the faculty, with the assistance of Mr. Sheldon's
daughters, can, and are willing to perform all duties connected with
the school.

I. B. POUCHER,

Chairman.
Ordie A. Lester,

Sec'y pro tern.



Oswego Normal School Faculty to E. A. S.

Oswego, Feb. 16, 1880.
Our Respected Principal,

It seems meet to us, your associate teachers, to express to you
our unqualified dissent to that part of our interview on Saturday, in
which you promised to remunerate the teachers who performed
your duties. This matter was fully discussed in the faculty meeting
and the unanimous conclusion arrived at is, that not a farthing of
your salary will be recived by any one of us, in discharge of extra
duties as long as we are able to perform them.

We are all too mindful of the many extra duties you have per-
formed in former years, to consider this anything but an act of jus-
tice. If by giving rest to your overtaxed system you are again


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