John Newton Waddel.

Memorials of academic life: being an historical sketch of the Waddel family, identified through three generations with the history of the higher education in the South and Southwest online

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which I had from time to time been giving my services dur-
ing my residence there. It is to me a gratifying fact that
the churches I had been supplying have never been entirely
vacant since I left them, although they were, in regard to
this world's goods, not by any means rich. I knew
that there were people of God there, "rich in faith, and
heirs of the kingdom." I preached farewell sermons to the
white members of Montrose church, and a separate one to
the colored people. I also took leave in the same way of
Mount Moriah church on the last Sabbaths of my abode in
Jasper county. Previous to my departure I executed to the
elders of the Montrose church, as trustees, a title-deed to
the eighty acres of land on which the church and Academy
buildings had been erected, conditioned upon its being pre-
served for the benefit and use of the Presbyterian church
forever, in connection with the Old School General Assembly..


General Educational History of Mississippi.

I PROPOSE to pause at this i^oint, and suspend the on-
ward course of the narrative in order to introduce an
account of the earher movements of the State of Mississippi
in the great work of education. This is appropriate to my
relation to the subject at the time now undergoing review,
as I was a citizen of the State, and not only so, but a prac-
tical educator also, and, in addition to these two particulars,
I was for eighteen years afterwards connected with the
State University.

^ The general remark may be made, by way of introduce
tion, that among the matters entitled to the serious consid-
eration of a new State, the education of her people stands
in the front rank of importance. It is not more true of
Mississippi, however, than of other States at their organiza-
tion, that comparatively little is accomi^lished in this grand
department of human progress, compared with what is done
in those interests that are purely material. It may proba-
bly be attributable in some measure to the character of our
people, always energetic and enterxmsing in the direction of
that which is practically progressive, and which addresses
itself to their more palpable interests. We are not a staid,
not strictly a conservative people. 'While older nations look
well to the foundations upon which to erect their national
enterprises, and are unwilling to move until every point in
their future progress is outlined and thoroughly matured
and fixed, based upon solid and substantial supports, the
American rushes to conclusions and grasps after results,
little recking what is behind him, and as little caring for in-


258 John N. Waddel, D. D., LL. D.

tervening opposition. The subduing of the forests and re-
ducing of the soil to cultivation, so as to render the country
habitable, and to prepare the way for human civilization,
are the objects first contemplated by the American settler
of new regions. The pioneers of Mississippi formed no ex-
ception to this rule. Yet there remain on record abundant
evidences of the fact that, at a very early period after the
country came into possession of the United States, a disposi-
tion to encourage education was developed among the peo-
ple of the territory. In the year 1802 Jefferson College,
near Natchez, located at Washington, was founded, and in
1803 an entire township of land was granted by Congress
for its support. In 1812 Congress passed an act for the
location of those lands. In 1820, three years after the ad-
mission of the State into the Union, the Legislature of Mis-
sissippi granted to the College a loan of $4,000. It has
been a useful institution, but has never attained very high
position as a College. The record of the State, however, is
honorable, since in the early period of her organized exist-
ence, from 1798 to 1848, there had been established one
hundred and ten institutions of learning, under the various
names of Universities, Colleges, Academies, and Schools, ex-
clusive of schools founded upon the sixteenth sections of
public lands, proving that an entire neglect of the educa-
tional w^ants of the people has not been prevalent in her past
Hstory. Still, our gratification in the statement of this fact
is subject to some abatement by the consideration that the
history of these various institutions, in the majority of cases,
has shown them to have been inefiicient. Of course, we ex-
cept from this last remark that noble old monument of the
Christian zeal and generosity of the Louisiana and Missis-
sippi Presbyterians, *' Oakland College," which, until de-
spoiled by the ruthless hands of savage soldiery, had
wrought so grandly in the service of the church and of the
State during thirty years or more, in fiUing the pulpit, the

Education in Mississippi. 259

bar, and the honored circles of social and professional life
vdth. its alumni. It must not be forgotten, in this connec-
tion, that allhcugh Oakland, as a college, after winding up
her great work, passed away, she made a bequest of the
remnant of her estate to a worthy daughter, " Chamberlain-
Hunt Academy," which bears the hereditary honors, and
promises already to reflect permanent credit upon her emi-
nent ancestry, and to be one of the ornaments of the church
and of the State. The College also of the Baptist Church,
located at Clinton, is doing a noble work for that enter-
prising denomination of Christians, which was begun early
in the educational history of the State. The full history of
these institutions is relegated as a task to others of more in-
timate association with them, and who have enjoyed access
to wider and more accurate sources of information in regard
to them. As to other efforts in the line of building up the
educational interests of the State, they were mainly confined
to private and local enterprise, and although, in many cases,
unsuccessful, yet they were commendable ; they pointed in
the right direction. Even if they did fail to achieve all that
was desirable and enduring, it must be attributed, in part
at least, to the state of the country. The first settlers of
any country must always secure, as a primaiy necessity, the
means of Uving. In addition to this, a new country is gen-
erally crowded with adventurers, who come with golden
visions of vast fortunes speedily to be amassed, and thus
that attention which is indispensable to the success of edu-
cation is directed to other objects not so worthy.


The Peepabatoey Steps for the Opening of the Univeesity. —
Erection of Buildings and Inaugueation Ceeemonies.

THE initiatory steps in founding the University -^ere
taken in 1819, two years after Mississippi had been ad-
mitted into the Union. By the hberahty of the Congress
of that year an entire township of the pubhc domain within
the State, amounting to 23,040 acres, was granted to the
State for the purpose of establishing a seminary of learn-
ing. The title to this land was, by act of Congress, vested
in the State Legislature, in trust, for the support of the in-
stitution. We learn also, by further investigation, that the
trust w^as accepted by the Legislature, and that, in pursu-
ance of the spirit and intent of the act, " lands of great
value" were selected by the State, and in due time thirty-
five and one-half of the thirty-six sections were sold. Notes
were taken of the purchasers with approved security, and
deposited in the Planter's Bank in 1833 for collection.
Several years thereafter, the first action was taken toward
the application of the fund thus accruing to the purposes
for which the grant was designed.

Commissioners had been appointed by the Legislature
with authority to visit various sections of the State, and re-
ceive j)i*oposals inviting the location of the University in
their midst. In 1841, after some discussion of all the
propositions, Oxford, in La Fayette county, was selected, hy
a majority of one vote, as the seat of the institution. The
citizens of the town and county had purchased a section of
land, and had donated it to the authorities of the Univer-
sity as a site whereon to build.


Erection of Buildings for the UNrv'EESiTY. 261

In 1844 the Legislature chartered the institution, under
the following Board of Trustees : J. Alexander Ventress,
Woodville, Miss. ; John Anthony Quitman, Natchez, Miss. ;
William L. Sharkey-, Jackson, Miss. ; Edward C. Wilkinson,
Yazoo City, Miss. ; Francis L. Hawks, Holly Springs, Miss. ;
Alexander H. Pegues, Oxford, Miss. ; Wm. Y. Gholson,

; Alexander M. Clayton, Marshall county. Miss. ,

Jacob Thompson, Oxford, Miss. ; PiTor Lee, Jackson, Miss. ;
James M. Howry, Oxford, Miss. ; John J. McCaughan, Mis-
sissippi City, Miss. ; John N. Waddel, Montrose, IMiss.

Shortly after the act of incorporation, the Board pro-
ceeded to organize themselves, as already recorded on a pre-
ceding page, into a regular body, and commenced at once to
discharge their important duties. The erection of the
necessary buildings for the purposes of the institution was
the first object to be accomplished by the Board. Accord-
ingly, contracts w^ere entered into wdth an architect, w^ho
was engaged to superintend the work, after the ordinary
advertisements published in the public journals, and me-
chanics were employed. In the meantime, other matters
demanding the close attention of the Board were in pro-
gress, and other points were in need of settlement, so that
the University should be prepared to begin its operations in
all its functions simultaneously. While, then, the material
for the buildings was being collected and put together upon
such a scale as was deemed consistent with the important
nature of the great enterprise, and the means at their dis-
posal, the Board of Trustees found themselves pressed
with other equally important subjects, viz. : The character
and number of those who should be by them charged with
the conduct, discipline and instruction of the institution,
together with the outline and curiiculum of the studies to
be pursued in the University by those who should seek ad-
mission into the University.

I had dismissed my school in May or in June, on account

262 John N. Waddel, D. D., LL. T>.

of protracted illness, and had become convalescent about the
time of my election. After this I made all the preparations
above mentioned, and took my leave of the country about
the last of October. The exercises of the University were
to commence on the 6th of November, and we arrived in
good time to become settled for the work upon which we
were so soon to enter. The inaugural exercises of the Univer-
sity consisted of an address by Hon. Jacob Thompson, on
behalf of the Board of Trustees, delivered in the Lyceum, in
the Chemical lecture-room, which, at that time, was the only
j)ublic hall on the campus capacious enough to accommodate
an audience of any considerable size. This was responded
to by the President, George F. Holmes, in an elaborate ora-
tion, a large and interested assembly being present. Thus
organized, the Faculty and students were prepared to begin
the practical discharge of their res23ective duties, but under
many difficulties and inconveniences. In an interior town,
remote from the great thoroughfares, and long before lines
of railroads were established to any great extent, no text-
books at all were to be obtained, and great delay ensued
before this want and that of other essentials could be sup-
plied. In due time, however, the new machinery was fairly
put into operation. The Board of Trustees seemed gratified
with the promising prospects before the institution, the
citizens welcomed the Faculty to their new residence among
them, and quite a concourse of newly-arrived students made
their appearance upon the Camj)us, prepared to matriculate.
Such was the scene presented on the 6th day of November,
1848, by the various parties interested in the opening of the
University. We found, on our opening, that the necessary ar-
rangements and buildings which had been contracted for were
now in readiness for partial occupation, and consisted of the fol-
lowing ; The campus, which was of very great natural beauty,
was located in the centre of the section of land donated by the.
citizens of the town of Oxford and the county of Lafayette^

Aekangement of Buildings. 26S

It began from a level sjoot facing east, and slo^^ing gently
and regularly for several hundred yards in that direction,
and extending on the north and on the south to a sufficient
space for a large and capacious circle, the circumference of
which was occupied by dormitories, residences for the mem-
bers of the Faculty, chapel, and Lyceum. This last-men-
tioned building being the most prominent, occupied the
central point of the circle at its highest elevation, and the
others on the right and left at successive points of the cam-
pus until the circle was complete. The Lyceum was an im-
posing structure of the height of three stories, and with a
front portico supported by six large and handsome columns.
It contained, on the first floor, two rooms and a large chem-
ical theatre for lectures, and a laboratory running back, of
large dimensions. In the second story was, in front, a fine
room devoted to a collection of shells and geological and
mineral specimens of great value and beauty ; and besides
this room, were four rooms for lecture and recitation pur-
poses. The third floor was occupied at that time by the
Library and similar rooms, corresponding to those of the
second story. On the right and left spaces of the campus'
were dormitories for the use of the students, as study and
sleeping apartments. These were of a uniform height
with the Lyceum (three stories), and each consisting of
thirty-six rooms. At first they presented a bare front, with
only ordinary entrances by a small door opening into each of
the three halls; but at a later period handsome three-story
verandas were added to each dormitory, which presented a.
fine, ornamental front. The capacity of these three build-
ings was estimated for the accommodation of over two hun-
dred students. On opposite sides of the campus, and adja-
jacent to the dormitories, were erected two double-tenement
buildings for Professors, also of three stories in height, each
tenement consisting of six rooms, or with twelve rooms un-
der the same roof, to each of which buildings, at a subse-

264 John N. Waddel, D. D., LL. D.

quent period, two other rooms were added on the ground
floor, A three-story building was erected on the north
lower curve of the campus as a chapel for daily w^orship.
The first and second stories consisted of a ground floor, and
a gallery, which extended on three sides of the house, to ac-
commodate audiences on occasions of Commencement exer-
cises. The third story was appropriated to the two Literary
Societies of the University. These buildings were added to
afterwards by others, not on the campus, but adjacent to it.
The most important of these was a large building for the
use of the Observatory, lecture-room, and apparatus for
Analytical Physics and Astronomy, together with rooms for
the family of the Professor. Then also, as the original hall
for commons in the rear of the Lyceum was found to be in-
sufficient for the accommodation of the increased number of
the boarding students, a new and more capacious hall was
Touilt outside of the campus, and at some distance from it.
With the exception of this last structure, and a Professor's
Tesidence, which was purchased by the Board, all the build-
ings were enclosed in the campus. One more building was
erected in 1889, within the inclosure, for library jDurposes, on
the lower section of the circle.

The cost of all these buildings amounted to the round
sum of two hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars.
The various needed classes of apparatus for illustration of
the sciences, chemistry, geology, mineralogy, physics and
astronomy, cost originally the sum of sixty thousand dollars.

Ample apioroxoriation is annually made for the library,
which consists ^of 9,000 volumes, besides 3,000 Government
Reports, worth $20,000. To this adding lands and resi-
dences, leased, amounting to $30,000, and the whole sums up

The acknowledged debt of the State to the University
is $540,000, and $15,000 will be added to the further equip-
ment of the observatory. The University campus j)ossesses

The University Grounds. 265

as great attractions of natural beauty as any location of a
similar natui'e and for similar purposes. The beautiful in-
<;linatiou of the grounds, and the grand old oaks which
tower above and overshadow the campus, make the sj)ot one
to endear the University to those who have been privileged
to enjoy its priceless advantages.




Genebaij View of Matteks Connected with the Fiest Session of


THE corner-stone of the Lyceum had been laid with Ma-
sonic honors, some time previous to the period under
consideration ; an oration had been pronounced by (if I mis-
idke not) John J. McCaughan, Esq., and the inauguration
exercises, as described on a previous page, having passed to
the satisfaction of all concerned, we felt now that the work-
ing time had arrived, when, all these preliminaries having
been completed, they were to be realized in the actual
grand results which had been anticipated, and which had
been predicted by the friends and directors of the institu-
tion. Hopes and visions of splendid success must now be
brought to the test of every-day application, and the small
corps of instructors began to realize now that the heavy re-
sponsibility of putting into successful operation all the ex-
ternal and internal machinery of this great enterprise, was
resting upon them. The progress of the session just open-
ing — the first of the University — proved to the Faculty that
the office of Professor — always arduous in the most favor-
able circumstances — was, in this case, by no means a sine-
cure, no mere child's play.

The institution, as the reader of this history may have
anticipated, was made to pass through a season of expe-
rience that severely tested its capacity of successful endur-
ance. This is traceable to two separate originating causes :

1. The confidence of the citizens of the State had re-
ceived a shock so violent, in consequence of the public dis-
cussion which was held by the Board of Trustees at the


The First Students. 267

time of the election of the Faculty, that it was not j^ossible
io repress some lingering apprehensions, awakened at that
period, in regard to the infidel tendencies of the University.
The prejudices thus aroused were with difficulty removed.

2. Fidelity to my office as historian of this noble institu-
tion impels me to record its "lights and shadows," its dark
as well as its bright days. Hence it must be stated that,
in all probability, very rarely, if ever, was an institu-
tion of learning attended by a body of students so disor-
derly and turbulent as those of the first session proved to
be, taken as a mass. True it is that, among those early
students were numbered some of the first young men of the
country ; but in point of morals and habits of application
to duty, and intellectual advancement, the large body of the
students were idle, uncultivated, viciously disposed, and un-
governable. The difficulties that were connected with the
management and control of the students were attributable,
more than to any other cause, to the assemblage i.t one spot
of so many untrained young men and boys, many of whom had
never before attended such an institution, and whose imag-
inations had been allured by the traditional conception that
a college life was only a scene of fun and frolic. This sub-
ject may be dismissed wdth the remark that, in my ojDinion,
nothing saved the University from utter and speedy ruin,,
under God's blessing, but the sternest and most rigid exer-
cise of discipline.

The Faculty, let it be remembered, consisted of but four
members at this time, viz : President George Frederick
Holmes, A. M. ; Albert Taylor Eledsoe, LL. D., Professor of
Mathematics and Astronomy ; John Millington, M. D., Pro-
fessor of Chemistry, Natural Philosophy, etc. ; John New-
ton Waddel, D. D., Professor of Greek and Latin Lan-
guages. The first class, regularly organized, and the high-
est then known in the University, was the So^Dhomore, and
as this class had before it the Junior and Senior classes

268 John N. Waddel, D. D., LL. D.

tlirougli which its members were to pass, of course our
first graduating class with the degree of B. A. was sent
forth in 1851. I have alluded, in a foregoing page, to the
fact that no text-books on any subject of instruction could
be procured in the town of Oxford. In this emergency, I
made a special visit to the town of Holly Springs, where a
<}lassical school had been in operation under the superin-
tendence of the Kev. Francis L. Hawks, long before his ap-
pointment to the Bishopric in the Episcopal Church. I
correctly supposed that text-books, especially in my depart-
ment, might be found on sale in that place, and, perhaps, a
supply for other departments. I procured such as would
provide for the pressing needs of our classes until better
arrangements could be made. But the supply was meagre,
and to the credit of those of our Faculty who were without
text-books, they assembled the classes at the hours assigned
to them, and delivered instructive lectures on their several
subjects. President Holmes lectured regularly on History,
and of this subject he was a proficient ; and Professor Mil-
lington delivered lectures on the sciences of Chemistry and
Natural Philosophy. Professor Bledsoe took charge of
Mathematics, and engaged his students in temporary exer-
cises, such as to him seemed best and most profitable for the
time being. As for myself, I had full employment in giving
text-book instruction to a number of students, who, for
lack of advancement, were, most of them, only beginners.
Among those, however, who were fitted for the highest class
then organized, viz., the Sophomore, were two students who
had been my pupils at Montrose Academy, and who were
among the leading students of the class. I had students of
all grades of advancement, from the elements of the Latin
and Greek to the reading of Latin and Greek authors.
AVhere a young man wished to master these languages, and
had no knowledge of either, or of only Latin, in all such
cases I bestowed so much of my private leisure hours as I


could redeem from other matters upon them, giving them
all possible aid, even in the grammars. It cannot be
denied, then, that ^ve were engaged to the full extent of our
time and opportunities in the discharge of our respective
duties as professors in our several chairs of instruction;
but after all that could be accomplished under circum-
stances so adverse, the time of our students wa-s far from
being fully occupied in profitable study, and being left, par-
ticularly at night, to themselves, abundant opportunities for
concocting mischief, and temptations were pressing upon
them to indulge in all manner of sinful propensities. The
Legislature of Mississippi had passed an act, previous to
the opening of the Universit}^ that no intoxicating liquors
should be sold in the town of Oxford, or within less than
five miles thereof. Ob\dously this legislation was designed
for the protection of the students against saloons. But the
history of this prohibition, like that of all similar efforts,
shows that the appetite for strong drink is one that, in most
instances, is so imperious as to bid defiance to law or pub-
lic sentiment, and it is found that a way to gratify it vn]\ be
discovered by its victims in desx^ite of all measures to the
contrary. For although, at that time, and for nine years
after, there was no such method of transportation as rail-
roads between Oxford and Memphis, those who desired ta
have the poison availed themselves of the less expeditious
mode of commercial intercourse offered by the wagons
bearing cotton to market, and, in return, bringing all goods
ordered, and this among other articles. Nor was this the only
mode of evasion of the law which was practiced by parties
interested. Druggists, keeping it by permission, would sell
intoxicants on prescription by a physician, who would be in-
duced too easily to furnish such a paper. In this way
much of the evils of disorder and dissipation among the
students prevailed, and the result was that the first ses-
sion of the University was characterized by great trouble

Online LibraryJohn Newton WaddelMemorials of academic life: being an historical sketch of the Waddel family, identified through three generations with the history of the higher education in the South and Southwest → online text (page 19 of 43)