William Arba Ellis.

Norwich University, 1819-1911; her history, her graduates, her roll of honor (Volume 1) online

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which I r..^member wading, not from choice, but from necessity. All was quiet
in the rooms when the drum suddenly beat the assembly, and the entire
corps were lined up quickly in the second passage. Tutor Kent was in com-
mand. His first remark was: 'There is a fire in the fourth passage; bring out
your pails.' The pail brigade began active work, the larger and stronger men
being put to the fore, but the flames steadily gained, and very soon the fourth
passage was abandoned in an attempt to .save the furniture in the three lower
stories; and as the notice at the time implies, the libraries, paintings and fur-
niture were mostly saved. The building itself was completely destroyed.
The walls fell, and the chimneys one by one later. Guards of cadets were
placed to keep back the crowd of citizens and Dartmouth men from too danger-
ous approach of the falling pieces. We were outnumbered greatly by this
crowd and, to the disgrace of certain Dartmouth young men, were hindered


more than helped by their proximity. Articles which we worked so hard to
save, were, when opportunity offered, pillaged, and the smaller things pilfered.
The conduct of the cadets as a corps should be commended for the manner in
which they performed their duty on this very trying occasion. Confusion
there was, of course, but very little conflict or disobedience of orders. There
was not a single shirk or coward, and the experience of individuals, if it could
now be had, would be a record of the hardest effort to save everything that
could be saved. And this statement is sustained by the fact that the portable
articles were mostly saved. By ten o'clock p. m. the fire was practically over
and the tired cadets found sleeping places where they could. Mine was on the
floor of my society lodge room in the North Barracks. There were others
with me that night who slept on the floor and chairs of that room. I was then
eighteen years old, and strong for my size. I had on my wet clothing, for the
want of any other, but happily no ill consequence resulted. The lesson of this
fire was two-fold: the want of an appropriate fire apparatus was evident;
secondly, however much outsiders might have helped us in our misfortune,
we found that in this emergency we had to depend entirely on ourselves; the
light of the fire and the ringing of the Norwich church bell only called together
a helpless and unfriendly and unsympathetic mob. Whatever one may say,
welcome or unwelcome, the truth of history must be told. It was demon-
strated to us that the surrounding country was filled with our enemies, who
took this occasion to show their particular dislike to us. It was fortunate at
that time that the offer of another place was made, and the Institution removed

The loss of tiie Old South Barracks was a terrible blow
to the University and it soon became apparent that it would be
an impossibility to rebuild in Norwich. Steps Avere at once taken
to secure a new location. On April 16, 1866, the trustees held a
meeting in White River Jmiction, which was well attended.
Several gentlemen from Northfield appeared at this meeting and
urged the location of the University in their town. Unfortunately,
the names of these men have not been preserved, but in all prob-
ability Dr. George Nichols, later Vice-President of the University,
headed the delegation. A committee, consisting of Horace Web-
ster, Dr. Julius Y. Dewey and Henry Blood, was appointed by
the board to consider this proposition. The residents of North-
field offered the site for the University and a suitable barracks.
Northfield at this time was one of the most prosperous towns
in the State, being the headquarters of the Central Vermont
R. R., and the center of an extensive slate industry. Then, too,
the town was especially well located, being in the geographical
center of the state and easy of access to the students of the various
sections of the state. After some discussion it was voted to locate
in Northfield. Every graduate of the University and past cadet
should feel grateful to the citizens of Northfield for coming to


the rescue of their Ahna Mater. The people of Norwich were
indififerent and in many cases hostile to the Universit}^ and if it
had not been for the enterprise of the people of Northfield, the
University, with her honorable record of many j^ears, would have
ceased to exist.

*• During 1862-66, the matter of changing the work at the
University to conform to the requirements of the U. S. Government
and State law for Agricultural education, was seriously discussed.
In the later part of the sixties and especially after the Old South
Barracks was burned, the meetings of the board were scenes
of much excitement and even hard feelings, over this matter.
One faction was for surrendering the charter and merging with
the State University or for changing to an agricultural college;
and the other portion held to continuing the Institution along the
lines laid down by Captain Partridge and General Ransom.
Happily the trustees who stood for the integrity of the Univer-
sity prevailed.

In the spring of 1866, the trustees voted to drop the matter
of a change either in name or form of academic work. The alumni
and past cadets of the present time should hold in great respect
the trustees who bravely and loyally stood for continuing the
University. It took moral courage of the highest order for these
men to oppose the agricultural school faction. A change meant
a great increase of revenues to the Institution, as it has been au-
thoritatively stated that the agricultural college could have been
secured by the University trustees.


Norwich University, 1866-80.

The Removal to Northfield — Location of Site — Land Deeded —
The Erection of Jackman Hall — Paine Block Used for a Barracks —
Cadets from Norwich — Laying of the Corner Stone — Opening of
the University on the Hill — Administrations of Presidents Walker,
Howard, Douglass, and Curtis — "Uncle Jim" Secured as Armorer —
Perley Belknap Litigation — Death of Professor Bourns and General
Jackman — Faculty — Attendance — Entrance Requirements — Courses
of Study — Text Books — Library* — Preparatory' Department — Vaca-
tions — Military Organization — Service Calls — Uniforms — Expenses —
The Commons— Athletics — Fraternities — Clubs — The Reveille —
Church Attendance.

On August 1, 1866, the trustees of the University voted to
remove to Northfield. At this meeting the committee of citizens
from Northfield, consisting of Dr. George Nichols, Dr. P. D.
Bradford, Rev. John 1^. Pitman and Perley Belknap, appeared
and placed in writing their proposition for securing the location
of the University. They agreed to furnish suitable grounds
and a commodious barracks.

On August 6, 1866, a committee, consisting of Prof. Edward
Bourns, Capt. S. W. Shattuck, and Henry Blood, was appointed
to dispose of the University property in Norwich, and later in
this month the propert}^ was sold. In August, acting President
Shattuck and General Jackman came to Northfield and consulted
with the committee as to the selection of a location for the Uni-
versity. Two sites were considered; one at the west end of Vine
Street containing about ten acres of land, then owned by J. C.
Cady and at the present time by J. C. Rice; and the other site,
comprising eleven acres of land, was located at the south end of
Central Street and owned by Josiah Lane, Oliver Averill and
Joseph Bayer.

The first meeting of the board of trustees in Northfield, was
held at 3 p. m., October 18, 1866, at the president's rooms in the
depot. At this meeting a locating committee , consisting of
J. Y. Dewey, William Hebard, Victor Atwood, Edmund Weston,


and Capt. S. W. Shattuck, was appointed to choose the site for
the University. After much deliberation the property at the
south end of Central Street was decided upon. A building com-
mittee, consisting of Perley Belknap, Capt. S. W. Shattuck,
and J. H. Orcutt, was appointed at this meeting to purchase and
prepare the grounds and to contract for material and labor
for the erection of the new building.

On November 1, 1866, Josiah Lane deeded the land now known
as the Parade, comprising seven and one-half acres, to the Univer-
sity. On November 7, 1866, Joseph Bayer and Oliver Averill
also deeded to the University the land south of the Parade on the
hill, comprising respectively one and six-tenths and one and
eight-tenths acres. The grounds were surveyed in October
1866, by General Jackman, assisted by W. H. Wentworth, '68.

General Jackman made the plans for the new barracks
now known as Jackman Hall. The first building was only a
part of the plan as outlined by General Jackman. The original
plan was to have a second barracks east of the first building and
a recitation hall connecting them. The work of grading the
grounds was contributed by the farmers of Northfield and vicinity
and was supervised by John P. Davis, later a trustee of the Univer-

Mr. Perley Belknap, acting for the committee, supervised
the construction of the barracks, furnishing the material and
labor. Mr. Washington Ford of Northfield had charge of the mason
work on the l^uilding. The work on the barracks progressed
very slowly and at the first of September. 1868, only the two
first floors were ready for occupancy.

As previously stated, the committee had agreed to furnish
the land and a barracks. The grounds were provided as agreed
upon, but only twenty thousand dollars of the twenty-three
thousand spent by Mr. Belknap up to September, 1868, had been
collected by the committee and turned over to him. Yet, such
was the necessity of the University, that the trustees concluded
to take the property though not completed, and assume the debt
of three thousand dollars owed to Mr. Belknap. This was the
beginning of the unfortunate litigation with Mr. Belknap which
was not settled for several years.

In August, 1866, the Governor Paine block, then located on
the east side of Main Street near the town bridge, was secured
for a barracks and for recitation purposes. The second floor
was used for rooms for the cadets and for recitations, and the hall



on the third floor for a chapel. The building was an historic one.
It was built by Governor Paine in 1850, and was for many years
the largest , building in Northfield. In 1894, the building was
purchased by Dr. W. B. Mayo and turned around to face East
Street. On May 13, 1899, this historic building was burned.

Fourteen of the cadets in Norwich, met on Norwich Plain,
September 12, 1866, and at the opening of the term, September 13,
came to Northfield in a body; they were: S. H. Benson, F. M.
Gowdy, W. K. Walton, N. W. Ellis, Robert Grosvenor, G. K.
Sabine, E. W. Sawyer, Charles R. Wallingford, W. H. Went-
worth, Frank M. Whiting, L. O. Chamberlin, E. S. Richards,
and Ernest S. Wellman.

Old Paine Block.

At the commencement, on August 1, 1868, occurred the laying
of the corner stone with Masonic ceremonies. The regular com-
mencement exercises were held in the forenoon. An 2 o'clock
p. M., a procession was formed on the common in the following
order: S. G. Paterson, Grand Marshal; Brown's Brigade Band;
Tyler, with drawn sword; Stewards, with white rods; Master Mason
Corporation; Faculty of the University; Cadets in full uniform;


Grand Lodge escorted by Burlington Commandery of K, T.;
Grand Tyler; Grand Steward; Grand Deacons; Grand Chaplains;
Grand Secretary and Treasurer; Grand Senior and Junior Wardens;
Deputy Grand Master; Bearer of the Holy Writings; Sword
Bearer, followed by a large number of citizens. The procession
numbered from four hundred to five hundred persons and was
fully one-half mile in length. It proceeded to the University
grounds, where over three thousand people were assembled to
witness the exercises. Grand Master L. B. Englesby laid the
corner stone with due Masonic honor, and delivered an able

Tiie Masons then proceeded to the Northfield House, where,
at 4 p. M., DeWitt Clinton Lodge No. 15, of Northfield, gave a
dinner to the Fraternity, Brown's Band, and the invited guests.
Dr. George Nichols presided at the banquet; Rev. John Gregory
acted as toastmaster. The following toasts were given : " Ver-
mont," Gen. Stephen Thomas; ''Norwich University," Henry
Clark, Esq., a trustee of the University; "Our Government,"
President Thomas W. Walker; ''Norwich in Northfield," Gen.
Alonzo Jackman; "The Musicians," response by Brown's Band;
"The true University," Hon. S. B. Colby; " Washington Masonic
Fraternit}^" by Grand Master Englesby; "The Deceased Alumni
of N. U./' George F. Houghton, Esq., of St. Albans; "Rhode
Island,' ' Hon. Charles C. Vanzandt.

In the evening, President Walker and lady received the friends
of the Universit}^ A ball was given by the cadets, music being
furnished by Brown's Band.

On September .3, 1868, the term opened for the first time on
the Hill. The topography of the grounds was far different than
it is today. At that time there was a knoll just east of the barracks
where Dodge Hall is now located, and near enough for the venture-
some cadet to jump to from the third floor^ when desirous of
making a midnight visit to the village or surrounding countr}-.
In fact, the proximity of this knoll is said to have tempted many
a cadet to test the vigilance of the adjutant and the officer of
the day.

Vice-president Samuel W. Shattuck served as acting presi-
dent of the University until March 4, 1867, when Bvt. Maj.
Thomas W. Walker, U. S. A., was elected president. Major
Walker was a graduate of West Point, class of 1856, and had
served with distinction in the Civil War. He had attained the
rank of captain and had been brevetted a major for gallantry


at the battle of Gaines' Mills. He was retired from active service
on September 11, 1863. He was allowed to accept the presi-
dency of the University in conformity with the provisions of
the act of Congress, approved July 28, 1866, which allowed the
detailing of retired officers to twenty colleges in the United States.
The University was fortunate in securing this detail. President
Walker visited Boston, New York, and other cities in the interest
of the University and did much to advance the interests of the
Institution. His term of office was brief as he resigned in April,

Jackman Hall in 1870. View from the South.

1868. Prof. Edward Bourns served as acting president, 1868
until August, 1869.

On January 8, 1869, the Rev. Roger Strong Howard, D. D.,
a graduate of Dartmouth College, class of 1829, and a prominent
Episcopal clergyman, then rector of the church in Woodstock,
Vt., was elected president. He began the duties of his office
at the beginning of the fall term in 1869. On July 13, 1870, the
trustees appointed Henry Clark, Dr. George Nichols and Hon.
Dudley C. Dennison, a committee to make application to the


state legislature for assistance. They failed to obtain aid owing
chiefly to the University being under the control of the Episcopal
church. President Howard was an excellent instructor, but as
he was "not in sympathy with straightlaced military methods,"
he resigned November 2S, 1871 .

Rev. Malcolm Douglass, D. D., a graduate of Trinity College,
Hartford, Conn., class of 1846, and of the General Theological
Seminary, New York, class of 1849, was elected president on
November 27, 1871, and soon assumed the duties of his office.
He was the son of a West Point professor, and had passed his
boyhood on the grounds of the National Academy. While never
taking the military drill, yet he had been a careful observer of
the methods of discipline as carried out at West Point. He was
in full sympathy with military methods and was a good command-
ing officer. He proved an efficient head of the University,
and did much to strengthen the courses of study. The salary
paid the presidents was very small, and finding there was a poor
prospect for an advancement, he was forced to resign the presi-
dency, April 12, 1875. It is to be regretted that the University
was unable to retain the services of this capable officer. During
his administration the custom of the cadets going into annual
camp was begun by Captain Curtis. An attempt was again made
to secure state aid, but without success, owing to the denomina-
tional control.

In 1870, the grading of the grounds around the Hill was
continued and many trees were set out around the parade. On
July 8, 1872, an effort was made to secure a memorial hall and
Captain Curtis was appointed agent to take the matter in charge.
In December, 1872, the by-laws for the reorganization of the
University trustees were compiled. On January 28, 1873, the
trustees voted to allow Prof. Charles Dole to take full charge
of the financial management of the University for a term ending
at the commencement of 1875. In the summer of 1875, Mr.
Belknap pressed the University for the settlement of his claim
against the Institution. On June 30, 1875, Mr. Charles Dewej^
was appointed agent to settle with Mr. Belknap; but with no
success. On August 12, the same year. Dr. P. D. Bradford was
given the matter in charge and on September 1st, settled with
him by giving two mortgage notes. During this period Professor
Dole hired the members of the facult}' and paid all bills, at a
financial loss of several thousand dollars.


In the fall of 1868, Capt. Charles A. Curtis, U. S. A., of the
class of 1861, was appointed professor of Military Science and
Tactics at the University. He was then in command of Fort
Reynolds, Col., and the order from the War Department detail-
ing him was conditioned that he should not be relieved until
the arrival of another officer to take his place. On April 1, he
was relieved and on the 8th of the same month reported to
Professor Bourns. He was soon appointed executive officer
and had full charge of the University until the arrival of Presi-
dent Howard.

One of the commandant's first acts, and one which every
cadet from 1869 to 1904 appreciated, was the securing of the
services of James Evans as janitor of the University. Captain

JaCivUJaU ilau ill ii./o View iiuUl the EaSt.

Curtis had known him as a recruit in a march across the plains
in 1866 and as a member of the company which he commanded
from September 3, 1866, to April 1, 1869. When Evans' enlist-
ment expired in May, 1869, he was offered the janitorship, and
promptly reported. His services proved invaluable. A con-
fidant of the cadets and faculty, he invariably used his influence
for the preservation of good order. He was never a bearer of
tales between them, and many a foolish prank was abandoned by
"Uncle Jim's" advice.

On June 17, 1869, Captain Curtis was elected agent to secure
funds for the University. He raised the money by personal


ind unaided exertion for excavating the basement of the principal
building, for finishing the upper story, for painting the whole
exterior, and putting closets and furniture in each room. When
a tornado took off all the slate on the roof, May 30, 1870, and other-
wise damaged the building, he again raised funds for repairs.
The diploma plate now in use and the one for commissions,
he procured; also a transit and level. He used personal exertion
to procure cadets, with fair results.

Upon President Douglass' resignation, Captain Curtis was
appointed executive officer and acting president, April 12, 1875,
and held the position until August 12, the same 3'ear, when,
having received an offer of a good salary in a California school,
he resigned. The trustees immediately elected him president
and urged his acceptance, but as he had made all arrangements to
go to California, he refused to cancel his engagement there. He
promised, however, to return at the end of the school 5^ear if
the trustees desired.

Rev. Josiah Swett, D. D., of the class of 1837, was elected
to the presidency August 12, 1875, and held the position until
October 19, 1876. Doctor Swett had been a professor in the
the University from 1835 to 1841, and served as a trustee and
secretary of the board for many years. He was a writer of
text books and a clergyman of ability. A strong friendship
had existed between him and General Jackman which began
when they were fellow cadets. They were afterwards associated
as editors, school teachers, and professors. President Swett
held the office merely in a nominal way, and onh' occasionally
visited the University. The actual management was in charge
of Prof. Charles Dole.

In September 1876, Captain Curtis returned to the University
and on October 19th, was elected president. In 1876, an effort
was made on the part of the University of Vermont to have the
Universit}^ become a part of that Institution. On October 19,
1876, a committee consisting of Dr. George Nichols, Mr. Hiram
Atkins, Dr. P. D. Bradford, Captain Curtis and F. E. Smith,
was appointed to meet the committee from the University of
Vermont in Xorthfield, on October 26, 1876. On this date the
two committees met as agreed upon, but owing to the absence
of some of the members no definite plan was agreed upon. They
agreed to meet in Montpelier, on November 16th. On this date
the committee met, but no business was transacted owing to the


absence of several members. So far as known this was the last
attempt to effect a consolidation of the two Institutions.

On July 1. 1880, Captain Curtis resigned, much to the regret
of the trustees. He proved an efficient officer, and did much
to advance the interests of the University.

Prof. Edward Bourns served as professor of Latin, Greek,
Intellectual Philosophy and Logic from September, 1866, until
his death, July 14, 1871. In the winter of 1870-71, Professor
Bourns began to fail physically and in the early spring of 1871
was forced to give up going to his classes on the Hill. His classes
then recited to him, as he lay on his couch, in his sitting room in
the village. He was once asked if he did not wish to be reHeved
of his class work. He replied, " If you take my classes away from





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Northfield Village in 1877.

me I shall die." When the last recitation was held at the end
of the term he rapidly failed, and died after midnight of com-
mencement day. He was one of the ablest instructors of his
time, and his death was a severe blow to the University.

Capt. Samuel W. Shattuck served as adjunct professor of
Military Science from December, 1865, until March, 1867, and
upon President Walker's resignation had full charge of the Mili-
tary work until July, 1868. He was also adjunct professor of
Mathematics and History during 1866-67. General Jackman
continued as professor of Mathematics, Natural Philosophy,
and Civil Engineering until his death, which occurred at his home


at two o'clock, p. M. Feb. 24, 1879. Up to that day he had regu-
larly attended his classes. That morning he sent word to Captain
Curtis that he would be unable to go to his class room. Stand-
ing at a window, dressed in uniform, he suddenly fell dead;
dropped like a soldier at his post. He was one of the ablest mathe-
maticians of his time and a fine instructor. His death was a
great loss to the University.

Prof. Henry L. Delescluze continued as professor of the French
and Spanish Languages and Literature, and Linear, Architectural
and Landscape Drawing until July, 1867. Dr. Philander D.
Bradford served during this period as professor of Physiology
and the Natural Sciences.

President Walker served as professor of Military Science
and Tactics from ^larch, 1867, until 1868. President Howard
was professor of Intellectual Philosophy and Christian Ethics
during 1869-71. Capt. Charles A. Curtis, U. S. A., served as com-
mandant and professor of Military Science and Tactics from
April 8, 1869, until August 12, 1875, and from September, 1876,

Online LibraryWilliam Arba EllisNorwich University, 1819-1911; her history, her graduates, her roll of honor (Volume 1) → online text (page 16 of 61)