Emily Gilmore Alden.

Harriet Newell Haskell : January 14th, 1835, Waldoboro, Me. May 6th, 1907, Godfrey, Ill. ; A span of sunshine gold online

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Online LibraryEmily Gilmore AldenHarriet Newell Haskell : January 14th, 1835, Waldoboro, Me. May 6th, 1907, Godfrey, Ill. ; A span of sunshine gold → online text (page 2 of 5)
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primitive feature of institutional management, there be-
ing "departments" of service, such as, "silver circle",
"glass circle", "bread circle", "pudding circle", each
name denoting specific duties to be performed. When-
ever any such circle was observed in a state of spon-
taneous combustion (laughter), at the very centre of
the group was our game-y culprit, pushing the button
and setting the machinery in motion which seemed
.y^//-propelling. Caught in each fresh iniquity, she
was promptly "degraded" and placed in some lower
and more limited sphere. If on the "pudding circle"
she would whisper under her breath on the way to
dinner: "Girls, don't eat any pudding to-day! It's
full of strings, buttons, etc." Whereupon to carry out
the joke the repetitious, "No, I thank you," at the din-
ner table challenged the presiding teacher's startled
surprise and indignation. If on the "mopping circle",
for to that ignominious occupation had she fallen at
last by swift and sure degrees of sin, she would lift her
mop high in air and deluge the floor, thus making


navigation a science of transit by water, not suggested
in the curriculum ! She was then placed in solitary
confinement on the "bread circle", where being the
sole perfcirmer during her particular hour of service,
she experienced much difficulty in distinguishing her-
self to her satisfaction.

But her golden opportunities were found in the
night dormitory, where third room-mates took turns in
leaving their own apartments for the public ''sleeping-
place". Here she displayed her ripest energies, and
there was no class of high comedy which she failed to
introduce. "Pillow-fights'' were mild beside the im-
provised gymnastics she ''personally conducted".
When upon the sudden approach of the "night officer''
her acrobats rolled into bed, they as precipitously
rolled out again, for chestnut burrs and thistles were
not couch-companions calculated to invite slumber.
As the manager of this embryo vaudeville could be
no other than the redoubtable H. H., she was again
summarily removed from this environment and com-
pelled to sleep on a lounge in the room of the sternest
of teachers, whose rest she so disturbed by a skilfully
feigned snoring "habit", that it was concluded the
punishment outwitted the crime, and the clever convict
was remanded to her legitimate quarters.

Sundays, as before, taxed her energies to the ut-
most because she must devise plausible excuses for
non-attendance at church, as, her "rubbers had holes"
(where she put her feet in) ; she had removed the
trimming from her bonnet (remember this was a half-
century ago when girls wore demure bonnets), with


malice prepense, of course, and could not go bare-
headed ! But the unsympathetic judge ordered her
to r^-trim or go w;itrimmed, which the girl audaciously
did, to the dismay of her ''chief" and the amusement
of everybody seated in her rear — her bonnet denuded
of all save strings. As her section of the school oc-
cupied the galleries she was enabled from this vantage
point to caricature, in a manner worthy of John Leech
or Thomas Nast, not only the minister, but various
members of the congregation who appealed to her
sense of the comic either in feature or attire. One of
her seat-mates not only smiling but actually laugh-
ing so much out loud as to arrest general attention,
was summoned to the Principal's room and threatened
with the loss of her diploma if she would not tell what
she was laughing at, which she positively refused to
do, whereupon counsel for the defendant appeared, ac-
knowledging herself responsible for this unspeakable
outrage upon the sacred proprieties of the occasion,
and producing for governmental inspection the offend-
ing cartoons ; suffice it to say a ''change of venue" was
apparently ordered, for the impending charges were
never more heard from.

But there remains to be told "another story", for
though the despair, this recalcitrant pupil was also the
glory of her teachers. The recitation hours sparkled
with the surprises of her original questions as well as
answers, also her naive suggestions regarding the fea-
sibility of altering the text books to suit the limited
capacities of the victims thereof. But she was teach-
able, though not with humility abounding. She kept


the class as well as the school in a ferment of expecta-
tion as to her achievements scholastic, and rarely fell
below anticipation, while often going beyond it. She
scorned a "sneak", and though herself sometimes an
"artful dodger", it was not in a cowardly manner nor
at the expense of another.

Though she never carried any studential aspect of
worry or fret, never "poring" over her books as did so
many of her classmates, she always passed her pub-
lic examinations triumphantly over and above every
other student, attracting attention not only by her un-
usual personnel, but by her quick replies, and her "at
home" manner with the subject in hand. As she
crossed the large and always crowded hall to the
blackboard, for the moment apparent queen of all she
surveyed, there was a hush in the audience and a smile
of satisfaction when in her turn she was called upon
for her "demonstration". Then she made her title
clear as a "leader" in thought, either mathematical or

She was also head and front of the debating so-
ciety, which, however, became so vociferous in its on-
goings that it was allowed "to be" only on condition
that the teacher of Logic should preside at its too
lively sessions. That killed it ; not immediately, but by
slow strangulation of the "salad" ideas of brainy but
immature girls, "free lances" to a somewhat perilous

Being denied permission to formally celebrate the
Fourth of July in the Seminary Hall, a petty revolu-
tion was not only planned but successfully carried out


by the "minute" woman of the occasion. Having pre-
viously tied black silk aprons, which were then worn,
to every door knob on the corridors, in lieu of the flag
so despised and rejected by the Faculty "ancients and
honorables", she marshalled her numerous followers
after school hours and led them into the woods at the
back of the house, then proceeded with a program as
patriotic as unusual. The singing of America, Star
Spangled Banner, etc., was supported by an orchestra
of jewsharps and combs, accordions, etc., after which
the spreadeagle orator, none other than the grand rebel
herself, delivered a soul-stirring harangue on Govern-
ment for Girls, hy Girls, of Girls, themselves! (She
was breaking no rules, you see, only giving them a
more modern interpretation, after the manner of or
rather foreshadowing the "new thought" in educa-
tion.) The teacher of Logic afore-mentioned, getting
wind of what was going on, wandered roundabout-ly
to the grove, becoming an unseen listener to the
eloquent peroration, which so amused her that she
made a minority report in behalf of this new "con-
tinental congress", declaring that the end justified the
means, and that so innocent but ingenious an ebulli-
tion of jocund spirit had best be let judiciously alone.
The grand morale of that chief of sinners convinced
everybody that wherever she moved in after life she
would become a person of distinction.

Permit here another account of this same incident,
also written from memory many years after by
another classmate. Miss Anna C. Edwards, of North-
ampton, later Associate Principal at Holyoke. It


diflPcrs in no important particular from the foregoing,
and is endorsed by this writer, who was a modest
member of — 'The Band" !

"A surprise was perpetrated in the form of a mock
celebration in the grove near Miss Lyon's monument.
There busy hands had arranged reserved seats for the
teachers and a platform for various speakers, with a
'band' provided with various Castanet and tin pan
accessories, which certainly added much to the gayety
of the occasion, while the large audience contentedly
disposed itself on the green grass under the trees.

One of the most dignified seniors — I have never
seen her equal — called the meeting to order, and pre-
sided over the whole program :

1. Music by the band.

2. Letters from distinguished personages, express-
ing their regret for their unavoidable absence. Presi-
dent Pierce could not come because his dog and cat
were sick; Mrs. Partington was detained by Ike's ill-
ness, and Hon. Edward Everett, United States Sen-
ator, had suffered from spinal complaint ever since
he entered the protest of the New England clergy
against the Nebraska bill. Some of the alumnae do
not remember, and may not appreciate, the feeling
aroused all over the North by that Nebraska bill, and
the storm of vituperation that fell upon Mr. Everett
from the Southern Senators when he presented a re-
monstrance against it signed by three thousand min-
isters of New England. He was quite overcome by it,
so much so, that he apologized for offering such an
insult to his colleagues, and was himself stigmatized


thereafter at the North, as wanting courage and back-

3. Singing of an original hymn by the whole as-
sembly accompanied by the *'band". If I had antici-
pated writing this account, more than half a century
later, I would have preserved the name of the author.
Who knows what fame as a poet she may have since
achieved !

i. Speeches, three of which I recall : Em.
Wight, a little flyaway body, said she hoped we would
all appreciate the great sacrifice she had made in leav-
ing her husband and six small children in the distant
state of Illinois, in order to attend this meeting — "I've
forgot the rest" — then sprang off the platform as
quickly as she had mounted it, and I have never been
able to decide whether she really had forgotten the
rest, or meant to end in just that way.

Then Harriet Haskell, afterward the renowned
principal of Monticello Seminary, Godfrey, 111., came
forward trembling with age, leaning on two crutches
and supported by two attendants, the very impersona-
tion of an old revolutionary soldier. "My young
friends", she began in a thin, quavering voice, "this
celebration reminds me of the first glorious Fourth ;
Washington lived then; Adams lived then, Franklin
lived then, and so did I. I was in all the important
battles of the war; I saw Burgoyne back out of that
Saratoga Spring, and if it hadn't been for a mosquito
that flew between me and the cannon's mouth, in an-
other engagement, I shouldn't be here today. Now
what do I see? Three millions of slaves in the land


of the free !" Then she proceeded to give, no doubt,
excellent advice to her hearers as to their part in
present emergencies.

We had refreshments as became the day, and
toasts, only one of which I recall : "Our Band ; may
their hearts be better tuned than their instruments !"

I know it all ended with our marching in long pro-
cession after the band with its lugubrious strains, out
into the street, around to the front door, which you
remember, we did not enter on ordinary occasions,
and hanging a black flag out of the parlor window
while the townspeople, accustomed as they were to
our ways, looked on and wondered what could be go-
ing on at the Seminary!''

Thus were passed the four years of the happiest
of school courses, after which the senior of seniors
was graduated (1855), with the high honors which
she richly deserved, leaving an impression on those
sands of school-life that has never even to this day
worn dim, and which long after led to her appoint-
ment as Principal of Castleton Seminary, and the con-
ferring upon her by I\It. Holyoke College later of the
Degree of ''Doctor of Letters"; indirectly also to her
election as Principal of Monticello (18GT).



The year after graduation was spent at home,
where she taught at soHcitation, a select and private
class of pupils. An incident of a brief visit to Boston
later was the determinator of her future career. Cas-
ually seeing a notice appointing date for examination
of teachers to supply vacancies in the public schools,
without saying a word to anybody or making the
slightest preparation for such an ordeal, she presented
herself as a candidate therefor, though she had not
the slightest desire or intention of becoming a ''pro-
fessional". Again the mere suggestion was a ''dare",
and she only wished to test her resources educational.
She "passed", not brilliantly, according to her own ac-
count, but was much surprised by a request from the
august examiners for a private interview after other
novices were dismissed. Her "personal equation" car-
ried conviction to the minds of her interlocutors that
here was a "rara avis" not to be lightly treated, and she
was doubly astonished when, soon after, she was ap-
pointed to fill a vacancy in the Franklin school caused
by the resignation of the lady assistant to the Head

Here was a most unexpected issue, but with juve-
nile impetuosity she accepted at once. There was
consternation in the home circle at her rash decision.
Whv and wherefore should she undertake the "hum-


drum" drudgery of the teacher-habit, but as "Home
Rule" in her special case had never been a marked
success, after some spirited expostulation she was al-
lowed her own sweet will, gained her season of ap-
prenticeship by filling the position satisfactorily, but
resigned it at the close of the year, returning home
for the wedding of her sister, who was married in the
autumn of 1857 to Rev. Samuel Boardman, D. D., a
native of Castleton, Vt., pastor of the Congregational
Church in Norwich, Vt., afterward President of Mary-
ville College, Tenn., and now residing in Bloomfield,
N. J. She had won her "spurs", and "dubbed" her-
self Knightess-Errant of the noblest "order" the world
has ever seen — second only (if that) to canonized
saints of the church militiant.

She was seized during that autumn with a violent
illness (due perhaps to more nervous strain than she
realized at the time), and convalesced slowly through
the early winter. Having, however, entirely recovered,
she was afterward urged to take charge of the High
School in her home-town. As the circumstances of
the case were rather pressing and peculiar on the side
of the conservators of public instruction, she con-
sented, and again made for herself a name long to be
remembered. She taught "big boys" navigation,
which she had to study ahead o'nights ; she won them
from profane language and coarse habits ; created at-
mospheres to which they were heretofore total
strangers ; and became a sort of Queen Goddess in
their "daily walk and conversation".

In 1859 she met her first, but by no means her


last overwhelming grief, in the loss of her only sis-
ter, ever in previous years her guide, counselor and
friend. For though so different temperamentally,
the two were beautifully complementary and devot-
edly attached — each admiring in the other what she
herself thought she lacked — the one, tall, slender,
graceful, with large melting blue eyes and hair
which exactly matched a gold coin — the other sturdy
and strong; the one, a "model child" — the other, a
"harum-scarum" (so called)); the one a woman ex-
quisite in every particular both of body and mind, as
gentle as a zephyr from the south, and loved accord-
ingly — the other virile, impulsive, and as stimulating
as ocean brine, also beloved accordingly, and both in
Scripture measure, ''pressed down, shaken together
and running over", love and admiration in each case
lasting to the present hour, and promising to endure
as long as any are alive who were privileged to know
them. This sorrow, the loss of the elder by the
younger, greatly enriched and mellowed the character
of the latter. As was universally the custom at the
time, she adopted the black garb which she wore ever
after, saying if there was reason for putting it on
she saw no reason for putting it off.

Between 1859 and 1862 and while she continued
teaching big boys and girls at home, the deeps of
remembrance were stirring in Castleton, as the right
reverend President of the institution had resigned on
account of failing health and super-abundant length
of service. Who should ''occupy"? It cannot be
recorded through exactly what agencies, but princi-


pally the recommendation of the then President of
Middlebury College, \'t., who had heard of some of
her ingenious exploits, the position was tendered to
her (1862). She was to be aided by a gentleman
classical teacher, but the executive "management"
was to be solely her own devising. It was a formid-
able bid ! A young woman of twenty-seven to suc-
ceed a masculine veteran. There were mutterings
and queries in camp. "That fly-away? To be Princi-
pal of Castleton Seminary? Were the Trustees
crazy?" But above the clamor was heard the sane
voice of the retiring master himself, declaring calmly :
"She is equal to anything she herself consents to un-
dertake." Again there was serious consultation
among the home authorities. Her mother, a buoyant
and sunny woman, was in sympathetic touch with
the mettle of the "child", as she seemed to her, while
her father, thoroughly understanding her ambition,
gloried in her "nerve" ! She herself had tasted the
"nectar and ambrosia" of the gods, viz., power to
mould and lift others to higher aims in self-better-
ment, and was not to be deterred from any task be-
cause there were lions in the way.

Therefore she girded on her armor of endeavor,
and like a young Amazon took the field, audaciously
but not recklessly, for she counted the cost of failure,
setting it against the somewhat problematic chances
of success — a delicate calculus, both integral and dif-
ferential. She was followed to Castleton by a select
contingent of Waldoboro pupils who would not con-
sent to be left behind. Once decided, there was no


"halt" in her steady ongoing. She soon captivated
the boys by her ready repartee and her perfectly fear-
less grapple with the situation. She was not afraid
of any otie of them nor of all combined. They could
not "get round" her. She "got round" them before
they comprehended she had started on the "war path".
They could not "catch her napping", for she was
Argus-eyed; a "Scotland Yard" in toto — a secret serv-
ice agent in "plain clothes" !

The following incident, one among many of like
nature, may serve as an illustration. One tempestu-
ous night, fearing leaks at top of the house, unat-
tended, for she would never delegate what she con-
sidered her responsibilities, to others, she made a tour
of observation, "up garret". Having finished her in-
spection, as she turned to leave she noticed a streak
of light through an aperture in the loosely boarded
floor. Fearing fire even more than water, she pro-
ceeded to investigate, and found said opening to be
directly over a narrow crack in the ceiling of the room
below, through which crack she discovered playing
cards being slapped down with most suspiciously
scientific precision upon a table of which the center
only was visible to her naked but sufficiently keen eye.
No hands were in evidence as human agents in what
seemed a very animate and yet inanimate game. Lo-
cating the room, she made her noiseless way thither,
to find transom carefully covered, key-hole dexter-
ously stuffed, and door securely locked against pos-
sible police intruders. At her imperative demand :
"Open here," there was a smothered shuffling of


something more substantial than cards upon a table —
slippered feet, but not on "tufted floor'' ! Some hur-
ried transformation scene was evidently in progress.
After a suitable interval a hulking youth (a minister's
son, by the way) with a face as innocent of evil as
that of a Southdown sheep, appeared tardily in response
to her repeated summons, and she was courteously
and suavely invited to "walk in", which she proceeded
to do with the stately tread of a dowager queen on
court parade. Had Jeanne d'Arc with her conse-
crated banner, or Boadicea with a shining helmet
appeared on the scene, these "ignoble scions of
worthy sires" could not have been more dismayed.
But why? The aspect of afifairs was ideally acade-
mic. No astronomic commission absorbed in calcu-
lating conditions of life on the planet Mars could
have been more seriously studential or more appro-
priately environed for literary, scientific and classi-
cal pursuits. A huge Latin lexicon was spread in-
vitingly open at one corner of the Jiozv study, not
card table. Euclid presented lines and angles both
acute and obtuse on a most rumpled and disreputable
page under the troubled eye of a very pre-occupied
young mathematician. The Anabasis (Greek) was
propped in commanding position, where the ace of
spades had lately reposed, while a fourth unhappy
youth seemed engaged, in frantic eflfort to vivisect a
Browning or some other equally labored poem. Fol-
lowing the stern demand: "I will take your cards,
young gentlemen," was a silence that could be heard,
as Miltonic darkness could be seen! Refusal was im-


possible. She knew, and they knew she knew, but
how? Surrender was meek, immediate and uncondi-
tional, and Venus Victrix departed making no sign
and speaking no further word. The next morning
before Chapel Prayer, "Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil," aforesaid hulking hero of
the opening door appeared penitentially before the
"Mistress of the Clause", humbly imploring her "not
to write to father!" "I shall do nothing of the kind,"
she replied. "We will settle the matter ourselves,
Howard," looking up at him with one of her rarest
smiles. That boy was her sworn champion ever
after. Not a word was spoken on the matter further,
but card-playing in study hours became, if not ab-
solutely "nil", a very minus quantity.

She conquered by such winning methods that she
challenged every inch of chivalry in the masculine
brain. She was ambidextrous in the management of
^'relations" between the co-eds both in the house and
on the open play-field, called campus. There were
certain unwritten laws but no revolt-provoking code.
"The girls" were persuaded to refinement of bearing,
fascinated by her own freedom of manner and sweet
reasonableness of requirement.. There was some-
times a rather harmless and sporadic attempt at an
escapade "just for the fun of the thing, you know!"
But the beauty of all was that the fun came in at the
swift and sure capture of the escapaders, a capture
so adroit and sudden that it was rather satisfying to
all concerned.

"Suspense" was more often the "policy" than


[uick retribution ; also silence more ominous than
peech in the agonized waiting for what might be,
)ut was so slow in coming. When she did speak,
lowever, there was a blaze in the blue eye and a
imbre in the tone that nobody cared to encounter
he second time. Notwithstanding her bonhommie
;he was not to be trifled with.

Her career of five years in Castleton braced her
lerves, broadened her judgment, and steadied her
uperabounding vitality. She was ivith her pupils
md for them every one ; never of them, but above,
erenely, securely, always, and her law was supreme
)ver and beyond any rules of game or etiquette. As
I botanist analyzes flowers she classified but also in-
iividualized temperaments. She knew where to
;trike, but also how to glide — her finesse being like
ace, variously patterned. The veterans who "came
;o see", or rather to query, grew soon satisfied as to
ler "grasp" of situation, while young men and
maidens all knew her as friend, counsellor and queen.
Her reputation gradually became the state property
Df Vermont, and it was to this fact that she owed her
nvitation to the larger field, then rather vaguely
<nown as the wild and woolly West.

Again Middlebury College was responsible
:hrough one of its Faculty, at the time the pioneer of
Congregationalism in St. Louis, and also President
3f the Board of Trustees of Monticello Seminary,
Godfrey, 111., Rev. Truman Post, D. D. She was.


absolutely declined to even consider the proposition
for a moment. But she had met for the first time a
match determination, and was at last prevailed upon
to "view the landscape o'er" before final decision.
She went, she saw, she was not conquered. Nothing
pleased her, neither school, climate, nor educational

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Online LibraryEmily Gilmore AldenHarriet Newell Haskell : January 14th, 1835, Waldoboro, Me. May 6th, 1907, Godfrey, Ill. ; A span of sunshine gold → online text (page 2 of 5)