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Jefferson College's Class of 1848

By James T. Herron, Jr.

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Originally published in The Jefferson College Times, Volume 31, Number 3, September 1998. Reprinted with the author's permission. The Jefferson College Times is a publication of the Jefferson College Historical Society. Society membership is open to all: Individual $10; student $5; contributing $15; business or institutional $25; sustaining $50; life $150. Send membership requests and fees to Joseph A. Solobay, 514 Craighead Street, Canonsburg, PA 15317. 

In 1888, at his class's forty-year reunion, William Y, Brown, Jefferson College Class of 1848, told of his arrival in Canonsburg. He was 19 years old, had grown up on a farm in Columbiana County, Ohio, and had prepared for college at Beaver Academy in Beaver, Pennsylvania.

As the writer of these sketches entered college at the beginning of the junior year, in the fall of 1846, he has no knowledge of "the antics" of the freshman and sophomore years. This is doubtless a case in which ignorance is bliss.

The first word which he heard in Canonsburg was—"Irons!" It was the shout of the driver, as the coach stopped in front of the Irons House. It was on Saturday before the opening of the fall term, 1846. It was a damp, chilly day, with occasional rain. About 20 of the students were on a "vacation lark," everyone begging to "treat" each new-comer, and make friends for "his society." Some were "Franklins," others were "Philos." Everyone who then refused a drink, was at once classed among the "long-ears" (a nick-name for serious students) and was seldom, if ever, asked to drink, during the remainder of his college life. Those who accepted the proffered "cap" [sic] were reckoned among the "short-ears"— and were constantly exposed to temptation to this, and other forms of evil. That was 42 years ago.1

Certainly, the students of the late 1840s were different than those who had attended in the early years, when the college was training ministers and civil servants for the country, which was expanding just over the western horizon. Those early students had tended to be older; life was hard, money scarce, and a preparatory education not easily attained.

It is likely that, to most early students, college was a very serious endeavor, particularly to those who felt the call to the ministry. Jefferson College students of later generations would have grown up under far different circumstances, and the college experience would have been much different.

The Reverend Mister Brown, chronicler of the Class of 1848, was a throwback to the old model student. He had grown up doing farm work in the summer and attending public school for a few months in the winter.

He began teaching at age 16 and left college a month before commencement to join the faculty of Beaver Academy where he taught 2 years and was principal the following 2 years. During this time he studied under the pastor of a Presbyterian church and entered the Senior Class in Princeton Theological Seminary in September, 1852. As he had done at Jefferson, he left Princeton early, having received a call to a church in Ohio.2

It is unfortunate that the good Mr. Brown almost certainly was a long-ears (also known as a "lop"). In his mature years he was a member of the Permanent Committee of Temperance of the Presbyterian Church. A short-ears would have had better stories to tell.

Brown was rather humorous, though. In his biographical essays on his classmates he mentioned the moon light rangers and "foul play among the students" (stealing chickens). The students of that time certainly were not always gentlemanly and deferential to the faculty. Brown told of "Professor Pickle," (the mathematics professor, Henry Snyder) who "took a kind of mathematical delight in teasing those who were easily thrown off their guard." On one occasion, a student managed a riposte, which "set the feet of the class into a tremendous commotion, greatly to the confusion of Professor Pickle."

Historians of other classes sometimes acknowledge the old saw, "Boys will be boys." Francis Collier, Class of 1858, recalled "the pushing and crowding in entry and on stairway as class encountered class; the senior parties, and the disappointments sometimes caused by undergraduates stealing the refreshments; the terrible threats made by the President against offenders; the boisterous gatherings at Fort Job, Fort Soup, Fort Death, Fort Hunt, Fort Black, and in Brick Row."

The list of Forts requires an explanation. This was the term Jefferson students traditionally used in referring to the lodging and boarding houses. Forts Job and Soup were college facilities. A new dormitory, built in 1849, was named Brown Hall in honor of Matthew Brown, the distinguished former president of the college, but the students called it Fort Job. In the 1850s, the college offered meals in what was officially known as the Refectory, in the basement of Providence Hall. The students called it Fort Soup, and it may have been fairly thin soup at that.

Mrs. Hunt provided good food at reasonable cost, three meals a day for $2 a week, at her home on Pitt Street. The college could beat the price by charging $1.50, but not the quality. The location of Fort Death is not known. Reportedly it received its name because a student had died there. Brick Row was, as the name suggests, brick row houses on the South side of East Pike Street, just beyond Greenside Avenue. 3

The college provided lodging for many of its students. The construction of Providence Hall in 1833 had made rooms available in the 1817 college building. Even more students were housed on the college farm. The farm had been purchased in the 1830s, a time when manual labor colleges were fashionable. In addition to being healthful, the farm gave a student the opportunity to work his way through school. The fad soon died out (few students were willing to spend their afternoons as farmers), but the farm house, apparently quite commodious, remained.

For two years, 1846 and 1847, the annual college catalogs gave the students' residences. They show that the college itself was the greatest single provider of beds (and bedbugs). Figure 1 lists the students who lived in the 1817 college building and in the farmhouse.

Many residences had one or two students, but some Canonsburg citizens clearly were operating boarding houses. Mrs. Vaneman had 16 boarders in 1846, 19 in 1847. Mrs. Herriott had 19 and 22, respectively, in the two years. William McDaniel, a college trustee, augmented his income as a merchant by renting rooms to students. He had 16 in 1846 (not counting his son) and 14 the following year. Short and stout, with a dark complexion and twinkling eyes, McDaniel was said to have been instantly recognizable. Among the students his nickname was "Pud." McDaniel's partner in the mercantile trade, slender and dignified John Black (also a trustee), was a small-time operator as he had only 3 boarders in 1816 and 6 in 1847. However, he was the father of eight children.*

By far the largest boarding house in town that was not controlled by the college was run by Henry Armstrong. It was on the southwestern comer of what is now the intersection of College Street and Greenside Avenue, just half a block from the college. He had 27 boarders in 1846, though just 17 in 1847.

Most of the students lived in private homes scattered around the town and environs. In 1846, there were 32 homes that housed three or fewer students. An additional 12 lodged with families that shared their name, probably parents.

By the late 1840s, Jefferson College had long since ceased to be anywhere near the frontier. There were dozens of colleges west of the Appalachian Mountains, though many of them had never offered a curriculum more advanced than a secondary school. The Ohio legislature bestowed college charters with abandon. It was said there was a college at every doorstep, but many of them - Ohio U. (Athens), Miami, Franklin (New Athens), Western Reserve, Kenyon, Denison (Granville), Marietta, and Oberlin - were successful, or at least filled a niche.*

In spite of the competition, Jefferson was able to attract more students than ever. The increase in number of colleges seems to have been more than matched by the number of young men desiring higher education. In the 1830s the student body had averaged 150.  In the 1840s and 1850s, it was nearly 200. The largest graduating class in the 1830s was 46, while 63 graduated in the Class of 1847 and 56 in 1848.

In its early years, nearly all Jefferson College students had lived within a hundred miles of the school, in Southwestern Pennsylvania and what is now West Virginia. The second decade brought more students from a distance, and about ten percent of the graduates came from the deep South. In the 1820s more than one-fourth of the graduates came from outside the region, and the proportion from the South remained about a tenth.

The 1830s brought more students from Eastern Pennsylvania and the other Middle Atlantic states. The college began publishing annual catalogs that listed the students' homes, which provides a more accurate picture of the student body than is available from graduates' biographies.

 

West College 1846

 

West College 1847

 

3 Krester

Westmoreland Co., Pa

fr

1 Cochran

Mississippi

fr

5 Straine

Wellsburgh, Va

so

1  Stewart

Westmoreland Co., Pa

fr

9 Castleman Kentucky

jr

2 FrVey

Westmoreland Co., Pa

sr

9 McCurtey

Milton, Pa

sr

3 Harrison.

Bedington. Va

jr

Q0crrrshy

Kentucky

jr

3 Robertson

Oho

jr

11 Patterson

Mifflintown, Pa

so

5 Young

North Carolina

so

11 Campbell

Mifflin Co., Pa

jr

5 Putnam

North Carolina

prep

12 Brandon

Mississippi

jr

6 Wolf

Shippensburg, Pa

so

)2 Pettibone

Miss.

sr

8 Graff

Pittsburgh, Pa

Fr

15 Spate

Huntingdon, Pa

jr

9 Zahpser

Mercer. Pa

so

16 Brown

Maryland

jr

11 C ampbell

Mifflin Co., Pa

sr

17 Orbison

Huntingdon, Pa

sr

11 Graham

Fayette Co., Pa

sr

19 Myers

Cumberland Co., Pa

fr

12 Brandon

Mississippi

sr

19 Duncan

Ohio

so

12 Stewart

Huntingdon Co., Pa

fr

19 Smith

Blairsville, Pa

so

12 Melon

Mississippi

fr

20 Sterrett

Juniata Co. Pa

jr

13 Mobin

Ohio

so

22 Handy

Maryland

so

13 Martin

Chataugue Co., NY

fr

23 Robeson

New Alexandria Pa

sr

14  Gildersleeve

Richmond, Va

so

23 Sharpe

Cumberland Co. Pa

sr

14  Drake

Louisiana

fr

24 Edgar

Tennessee

so

15 Sturgeon

Uniontown, Pa

sr

 

 

 

15 Wilson

Westmoreland Co., Pa

sr

 

 

 

16  Seate

Huntington, Pa

sr

 

College Farm 1846

 

College Farm 1847

 

Shannon

Ohio

sr

Cochran

Wash Co., Pa

sr

VanBuskirk

Ohio

sr

Hallowell

Wisconsin

sr

Cochran

Wash Co., Pa

jr

Hays

Washington Co., Pa

sr

McKee

Mercer Co., Pa

jr

McKee

Mercer Co., Pa

sr

Myers

Lancaster Co., Pa

jr

Myers

Lancaster Co., Pa

sr

Porter

Fayette Co., Pa

jr

Pershing, C

Johnstown. Pa

sr

Shaffler

Beaver Co., Pa

jr

Sharffer

Beaver Co., Pa

sr

Taylor

Pittsburgh, Pa

jr

Taylor

Pittsburgh, Pa

sr

Wallace

A__g Co., Pa

jr

Wallace

Alleg Co., Pa

sr

Buchanan

Ohio Co., Va

jr

Amerine

Ohio

jr

Feike

Somerset Co., Pa

jr

Barton

Juniata Co., Pa

jr

Machesney

Westmoreland Co., Pa

jr

Barnett

Westmoreland Co., Pa

jr

Ross

_______

jr

Hazlett

Mifflin Co., Pa

jr

Barton

Juniata Co., Pa

s0

Lyons

Ohio

jr

Barnett

Westmoreland Co., Pa

so

Robinson

Ohio

jr

Burt

Ohio

So

Virtue

Indiana Co., Pa

jr

Lyons.

Ohio

So

Burt

Ohio

so

Newell

Clarion Co., Pa

So

Carson

Ohio

s0

Pershing

Johnstown, Pa

So

Edmunds

New Jersey

so

Perkins

Ohio

So

Pershing, J

Johnstown. Pa

so

Robinson

Ohio

So

Vincent

Washington Co., Pa

so

Virtue

Indiana Co., Pa

so

Macchesney

Westmoreland Co., Pa

fr

Carson

Ohio

fr

Maxwell

Clarion Co., Pa

fr

Edmonds

New Jersey

fr

Mortimer

Mercer Co., Pa

fr

Green

Pittsburgh, Pa

fr

McClure

Lancaster Co., Pa

fr

Kerr

Alabama

fr

Finley

Fayette Co., Pa

fr

McClaskey

Mt. Pleasant, Pa

ft

Gilmore

Allegheny Co., Pa

fr

McDonald

____ Co., Pa

ft

Wilson

Armstrong Co., Pa

fr

Pershing

Johnstown, Pa

fr

Stoneroad

Mifflin Co., Pa

fr

Fite

Washington Co., Pa

fr

Wilson

Mifflin Co., Pa

fr

Redick

Uniontown

fr

 

 

 

Bryner

Mifflintown, Pa

prep

 

 

 

Hall

Armstrong Co., Pa

prep

 

 

 

Irons

Allegheny Co., Pa

prep

 

 

 

Wilson

Mifflin Co., Pa

prep

 

 

 


As might be expected, the attrition rate was greater for students who lived closer to the school. So, the percentages of graduates are not necessarily representative of the student body. In the 1830s, nearly half of the student body was from Western Pennsylvania, but little more than a third of the graduates were from this area. Ohio and West Virginia students constituted only 14% of the matriculates, but 21 % of the graduates. The disparity for Southern students is even greater; they made up 17% of the graduating classes sampled, but just 7% of the student body as a whole.7

Nearly a third of the graduates of the 1840s became lawyers, and about an eighth studied medicine. Many (30%) were teachers, at least for a while.Many taughtfor a year or so after graduation, often in the South, a custom that had been going on for years.

This migration of Jefferson graduates may explain a geographical skew of Jefferson College students. From the 1820s through the 1840s, about a tenth of the graduates came from states that would make up the Confederacy. Since Jefferson College is considered to be an offspring of Princeton, the attraction of Southern students possibly could be hereditary. In the 1820s, 25% of Princeton students were from the South; the percentage rose to 35% in the 1830s, and to 46% in the 1840s. In contrast, the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, also had 25% in the 1820s, but dropped to 9% in the 1830s.8

Some of the Jefferson graduates remained in the South through the Civil War, either through their own volition or because they had no choice. William Copley Smith left the Georgia church where he was a minister and the female seminary of which he was principal to return to Pennsylvania when "Georgia became too hot for him" in 1862. Smith, a farm boy from Indiana County, Pa. who was 28 years old when he graduated from Jefferson, was appointed a hospital chaplain and served in that capacity throughout the war. He subsequently returned to the ministry in Minnesota far from his former fields of labor, Alabama and Georgia.9

 In the 1840s, 70% of the Jefferson College students came from the local area, Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and the (West) Virginia panhandle.  An eighth of these came from within the county. Enrollment from the East had increased over the years; in the 1840s the homes of 14% of the graduates were east of the mountains.

More than two-thirds (136) of the 197 college students in attendance during the 1848 school year were from Pennsylvania, and 33 of them were from Washington County. The part of Virginia that would become West Virginia contributed nine. 45 were from Ohio, and 11 from other Midwestern states. Sixteen were from the South.

Of the 62 seniors listed in the 1848 catalog, 54 graduated. The geography of the graduates was somewhat different from that of the student body as a whole. More than half the class, 30, were from Pennsylvania, but 12 of them were from the center of the slate.

J. Wilson Paxton of Gettysburg and William P. Ruthrauff of Franklin County transferred from Pennsylvania College, Gettysburg, and entered Jefferson as juniors. Edward Young grew up on a farm but left it at the age of twelve for the preparatory

department of Pennsylvania College.  He was at Delaware College before he came to Jefferson, where he graduated at age 19. 10

The exodus from Gettysburg was not because the college was closed, though the number in the graduating classes did decrease in the late 1840s. The Alumni Record of Gettysburg College lists ten of the Class of 1848 who did not graduate. Paxton and Ruthrauff are among this number. Young is not. Only three went to other colleges and earned A B. degrees, the two to Jefferson and one to Washington (Pa.). Another bypassed his bachelor's degree, but received an M.D. from Penn. 11

Why these three left what was then known as Pennsylvania College is not known, but there were two Jefferson graduates on the faculty. Michael Jacobs, born in Franklin County, was valedictorian of Jefferson College's Class of 1828. After graduation he studied theology and became a Lutheran minister. He was the original Professor of Mathematics and Science when Gettysburg College was organized in 1832 and actively taught until his health forced his resignation in 1860. The principal of the preparatory department, who also was the Latin professor, was William Reynolds - historian of the Lutheran church, abolitionist, and 1832 graduate of Jefferson College. 12

J. McDowell Sharpe, valedictorian of Jefferson's Class of 1848, was from the Central part of the state. He was just 17 years old when he graduated and had transferred from Marshall College, Mercersburg, Pa. However, Marshall, which merged with Franklin in the 1850s to form Franklin and Marshall, may not have been providing courses at the college level. The American Almanac for 1847 credits Marshall College, founded in 1836, with just six alumni. 13

The students from central Pennsylvania could have gone to Dickinson College, as well. Though supported by the Methodists at that time, Dickinson was not sectarian. It was smaller than Jefferson; its annual catalogs show the college student body to have been 97 in 1845, 101 in 1846, 121 in 1847, 142 in 1848, and 149 in 1849.14

The Class of 1848 had more graduates from central Pennsylvania than from the southwestern comer of the state. Four members of the class were from Allegheny County, one from Greene, and only five were from Washington County, which includes two from Canonsburg.

Ohio contributed fifteen men to the Class of 1848, and western Virginia, five. Two were from Indiana, and one each from Maryland and Delaware. The most southern graduates were two from Kentucky. This is below the usual number of Southerners, though George Shipp, of Natchez, Mississippi left after his freshman year. David Armstrong, from the Choctaw Agency, Arkansas dropped out after his sophomore year, and William Irbv of Alabama and Charles West of South Carolina left after the junior year.15

Jefferson College was founded to mold the leaders of the western frontier. Men who undertook the two learned professions of the time, the ministry and education, predominated. Lawyers and statesmen were needed, and were supplied, but for them, learning was ornamental, not a necessity. So, too with medicine. Medical schools were few, and prospective physicians would usually "read medicine" with a practicing physician and possibly take a lew lecture courses, but a knowledge of Greek and Latin was not required.

Fifty men graduated in Jefferson College's Classes of 1802 through 1810. Forty of them (80%) became ministers, eight studied law, and two were physicians. Of the eastern schools, Yale, Columbia, and Penn had about a third of their graduates enter the ministry, but fewer than one-fifth of Princeton's graduates of the period did: 44% studied law.

In the next decade, Jefferson's output of ministers remained unusually high, 8l%, with the remainder nearly evenly split between lawyers and physicians. Neighboring Washington College, whose principal, Matthew Brown, was forced out and came to Jefferson College in 1817, was much closer to the median for the older colleges, with 32% ministers, 38% lawyers, and 2l% physicians.

The skew began to decrease as Jefferson College matured and the frontier receded. Thee minister:lawyer:physician ratio in the 1820s was 64:24:12. In the 1830s, 47:36:11. There were newer schools, with higher percentages; Pennsylvania College in Gettysburg sent 61% of its graduates to the pulpit in the 1830s; Oberlin in Ohio sent a whopping 77%.

In the 1840s, the Jefferson graduates were still over-represented in the ministry, more than 40%, and would remain so for the remainder of the college's history. Of the 56 men who graduated in 1848, 24 studied for the ministry, 20 law, and 5 medicine. Two, James Paxton and George Strain, are in both the ministry and law columns.

Paxton, of Gettysburg, spent a year and a half studying law and "flirting with the girls," then a year at Princeton Seminary and a while at Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh.

He explained that he gave up his license after "four sermons and a half," and said of his college roommate who stuck to the ministry, "He was called, I suppose, and I was not." This skewer of statistics, with one foot in the law and the other in the ministry, spent his life in a variety of business enterprises, including farming and a newly valuable commodity, oil.16

The other double-gaited 1848 graduate, George Strain, was from Brooke County, (West) Virginia. He taught for a while after graduation, then returned to Canonsburg to study for the ministry at the Associate Reformed Ideological Seminary on West Pike Street (Fort Jerusalem). A doctrinal problem regarding "perseverance of the saints" sent him back to the school room for five years. He then read law for two years in an Ohio practice and was admitted to the bar in 1857.

Multiple careers were typical for Jefferson graduates of the time.  Fully half the class made their living as teachers at some time in their lives.  For many, money earned through teaching paid for college. Matthew Clark was one such teacher. He enrolled in an academy at Indiana at age 18, and the following year, 1842, he began teaching in a log schoolhouse "at a salary of $11 per month." He entered Jefferson College as a freshman in 1844 "and alternated between teaching and studying in college." His course of study from academy through college was exactly seven years.

Clark had a higher pay scale than his classmate, James W. Robinson, who at age 16 taught school tor eight dollars a month while "boarding around." Born in 1826 in Ohio, a farmer’s son, after graduation he was principal of the academy where he had prepared for college. He held the position for two years while studying law, which took him out of the school room to the Ohio legislature and a term in Congress.

Cyrus L. Pershing, born in Westmoreland County in 1825, divided his time between his mother's store and public school after his father's death in 1836. He, too, worked his way through college by teaching and other employment in the summer.  He taught for a white after graduating, but then studied law with Jeremiah Black and was admitted to the bar in 1850. He was elected to five one-year terms in the slate legislature through the Civil War years.

Robert Curry saw pedagogy not just as a stepping-stone, but also as a career. The class historian wrote for the 1888 reunion that Curry's "own unaided efforts and a few months' instruction in the public schools of his neighborhood [Washington County], enabled him to secure a position as a teacher." He entered the freshman class in 1845, at 24 years of age and graduated in 1848, "having taught more or less in the meantime."

Like many others, he taught after graduation, but for Robert Curry, teaching became his career. He was principal of the Canonsburg schools in 1852 and 1853 and founded Curry Institute, Pittsburgh, in 1860. He became the Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction in Pennsylvania in 1873 and was awarded an honorary Ph.D. by W&J the same year. He moved west, and was the principal of the Nebraska Normal School from 1876 to 1883.

Forty years after graduation, his classmate wrote of him. "He has been eminently successful both in teaching and making money, and in the enjoyment of life." It was an unfortunate sentence to write about someone who had spent a lifetime correcting such awkward writing.

Robert Curry was unusual in that he entered Jefferson College as a freshman.  His classmate, Milton Brown, worked on the family farm in Ohio for 21 years before beginning his studies at an academy. He entered Jefferson College in 1846 as a sophomore, but the following year he presented himself for examination on the Junior subjects, passed, and was placed in the Senior class.

Quite a few of the Jefferson students of the 1840s left the farm to go to college, but at least eleven of the Class of 1848 farmed after college. J. Wilson Paxton, the man of many careers, owned 16,000 acres in Minnesota for a while after he bad dabbled in other pursuits, but three brothers from West Virginia returned to their home farm immediately after graduation. They were the three Jenkins brothers: Thomas Jefferson Jenkins, William Alexander Jenkins, and Albert Gallatin Jenkins of Green Bottom, Cabell County. (West) Virginia. At graduation, the youngest was 18, the oldest, 22.

Albert, "the most circumspect and studious of the three," went on to Harvard and earned a law degree. He never practiced, but he served two terms in Congress, 1857-61. The highly educated farm boy volunteered for service in the Confederate Army at the beginning of war, was promoted to Brigadier General in August 1862, and was killed in action at Dublin, Virginia, May 4, 1864.

His brother, Thomas J., had remained on the farm and joined the Army of the Confederacy as a private. He was elevated to Major in his brother's command and survived the war to return to his farm, where he died in 1872 of heart disease exacerbated by his military experience.  The third brother, William A., left the farm after a year or two (possibly when Albert returned from Harvard) to attend Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia. On achieving his M.D. in 1854, he practiced in St. Louis until his death in 1877.

J. Fry Lawrence, called "Fry," returned to his home in Louisville, Kentucky.  He would hardly be considered a farmer as he managed his plantation from town. He served four years in the Kentucky legislature after the Civil War.

The foregoing classmates chose agricultural pursuits. Most who farmed after graduation did so because they were in poor health.  Respiratory disease was prevalent, particularly tuberculosis. Richard Woods' biography describes his career as teacher and principal of various academies and twenty years in the fruit and nursery business. "Apart from teaching, he never studied a profession, his health not being sufficient to bear the strain and confinement of either of the learned professions." Agriculture must have been agreeable to him, as he was still at it when his class held its 40-year reunion.

Another who was cured by the farm was John B. Penington. He had been principal of academies in Indiana after graduation, but he returned to his home state, Delaware, and farmed because of poor health. Apparently it worked, as he then studied taw and was admitted to the bar in 1857. He practiced in Dover, was elected to state house, and, in 1886, to Congress, where he served two terms.  He died in 1902 at the age of 77.

Henry Cowan Meharland entered the freshman class at age 22 and began his career as an Associate Reformed minister in 1852. He was serving two churches in Pittsburgh when his voice failed him and physicians advised him to retire from preaching. After spending several years on a farm, he returned to Pittsburgh in 1870 and worked his way up to the position of cashier in a bank.

Some, like Edward Young, were not so fortunate. Young had grown up on a farm, but left it at the age of twelve for the preparatory department of Pennsylvania College, Gettysburg. After a while at Delaware College, he came to Jefferson College, where he graduated at age 14.

Young taught in Alabama for a year, but returned to Pennsylvania to his father's farm. He was an officer of the Hanover Branch Railroad Company for a year or more, then in the hardware business. He died of tuberculosis the month before his thirtieth birthday.

College life was not conducive to good health. John Lyons was the first of the class to die, in February, 1849, five months after entering Western Theological Seminary.  His classmate, Ellis Gregg, "remained at home a short time to recruit his then shattered health." He studied law, practiced tor a while in Illinois, but had to move hack home to Carmichaels, Greene County, where he died of consumption December 18, 1854, in the 27th year of his age.17

According to the class historian, Isaac Newton McKinney. born in October 1828, had "indulged too much in the habit of study, to the neglect of proper exercise, which resulted in an enfeebled body." His health failed at the close of junior year, but the faculty allowed him to return toward the end of the senior year and he graduated with his class.  He taught in Alabama, then he entered Princeton Theological Seminary, but his health would not allow him to finish the course. He kept going, though, and studied theology privately and was licensed in 1856. He had a church for three years, but returned to Jefferson College as Professor of Latin in 1860. As should have been expected, his health failed again, and he resigned before completing a year. It was the last course for this glutton for learning. His classmate said, "He had rare gifts as a teacher, so far as his menial endowments were concerned, but his physical constitution would not bear the strain." He died suddenly in November 1864.

Daniel Webster Crofts also died young.  Consumption was the diagnosis, but the long-eared class biographer decided there was an underlying cause. "Dan was a great slave to tobacco whilst at college. Unless smoking, he was seldom seen without an enormous 'quid' his mouth. This, doubtless, aided in undermining his constitution, which was never very strong. He was a young man of strong feelings and prejudices. He was open-hearted, generous and kind to his friends, and had a splendid faculty of hatred to his enemies."

Crofts was a founder of Phi Gamma Delta, so his papers have been collected and published. He had been practicing law, but in February 1851 he wrote that "consumption has, with its deadly fangs, seized upon me."  He went to Louisiana tor his health, but he wrote in December 1851 that the disease had "reduced (him) to a bare skeleton." He died January 3, 1852. 18

Of the 94 who had been members of the Class of 1848, of which 54 graduated, 30 were still alive at the time of their fortieth anniversary. At least three lived into the twentieth century, and probably more, but the last W&J catalog to search out data on the class was published in 1902.

Of the 36 whose date of death is known, 6 died within ten years of graduation.  John Harbison stood out in the Class of 1848. For one thing, he was the youngest, just 16 when he graduated.  He was from Canonsburg and was among the few who did not become a preacher, a lawyer, a teacher, or a doctor. A number of his classmates edited church publications, but John Harbison became an associated editor of a big-city newspaper, the Chicago Gazette. Unfortunately. his life was not distinctive enough: he died of tuberculosis little more than seven years after he received his diploma.

 

Notes

1   William Y. Brown, "Historical Sketch of the Class of 1848 Jefferson College, Pa," Fortieth Anniversary of the Class of 1848, Jefferson College (Buffalo NY, 1889), 10.

2   Brown, 11-12.

3    Brown, 11, 30.

4     "Old Fort Job Sold," Notes, Oct. 10, 1902. Notes, Oct. 7, 1902. J.M. Smith, "The Old Citizens of 35 Years Ago," The Annual of Washington and Jefferson College for 1891, 191. According to the local newspaper some years later, Fort Job was named for its caretakers, the Job family, with the Biblical reference being fortuitous ("Additional Local," Rural Notes, Sept. 8, 1881).

5   Smith, "The Old Citizens," W&J Annual for 1891, 182, 183. Gilson, "History of the Class of 1866," W&J Annual for 1891, 215.

6    Cohn B. Burke, American Collegiate Populations (NY, 1972), 27. Many Ohio colleges were more strongly sectarian and abolitionist than Jefferson.

7    The data are derived from graduates' biographies in the Biographical and Historical Catalogue of Washington and Jefferson College, 1802-1902 (Philadelphia, 1902).

8    Burke, Collegiate Populations, 155-163.

9   Brown, Class of 1848, Jefferson College, 60-61.

10   William Y. Brown, "Historical Sketch of the Class of 1848, Jefferson College, Pa.," Fortieth Anniversary of the Class of 1848, Jefferson College (Buffalo NY, 1889), 45, 57, 70.

11   Clyde B. Stover and Beachem, Alumni Record of Gettysburg College (Gettysburg PA, 1932), 491-492. Gettysburg College graduated 17 in 1847, 13 in 1848, 10 in 1849, and 20 in 1850. 12  Samuel G. Hefelbower, The History of Gettysburg College, 1832-1932 (Gettysburg PA, 1932), 135-137, 141-143. 13   Brown, Class of 1848, Jefferson College, 59-60.

14       James H. Morgan, Dickinson College (Carlisle, 1933), 291.

15       Biog Cat W&J (1902), 590-591. Annual Catalogs, Jefferson College 1845 through 1848.

16  Biog Cat W&J (1902), 590-591. Annual Catalogs, Jefferson College, 1845 through 1848.

17   Subsequent biographical material, unless otherwise noted, is from Brown, Class of 1848, Jefferson College.

18   Brown, Class of 1848, Jefferson College, 25. William F. Chamberlin, The History of Phi Gamma Delta, Tomos Alpha (New York, 1921), 220, 244-245.

 

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