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Kansas State Normal School 1890

 

The first Eighteen! — what memories those words bring up. How quickly the mind goes back to the old times, twenty-five years ago. How many pictures hang on the wall! I see in them a country new, uncultivated, the people poor, our homes a shelter only, some of them hardly that, from storm and cold, nearly every one of them in mourning for the brave ones that had gone out at their country's call never to return. There were no signs of the wealth, culture, and refinement of today. We had no time for that here.

If the wish for the old life that we had known came up, it was quickly crowded out by the necessities of our surroundings, for many of us had learned to be thankful for barely enough to keep us from freezing and starving. No railway trains are in these pictures but instead are covered wagons carrying merchandise from distant railway and river towns, with a covered spring wagon carrying mail and passengers. It came once a week if the streams were not too high. We did not know for twenty-four hours after, that President Lincoln was assassinated. How well I remember the morning after the news arrived. How we students gathered awe-stricken at the school-house, and by common consent, it seemed, took our seats quietly, and soberly, as though we were in the actual presence of death; and how Professor Kellogg took out the register and called the roll without ringing the tardy bell.

The trains that ran to Santa Fe were huge wagons drawn by six, eight or ten teams, and it took months to make the trip. No running down to Old Mexico for a vacation trip then. It only took us two weeks to attend a four-days session of the State Teachers' Association at Atchi son in '65, and we only used what time we actually needed.

No streetcars or carriages for students who could not, or were not inclined to walk, but instead, Indian ponies, some saddled, some not, are ridden by both boys and girls; and in that picture I see them mount their ponies at evening, and with merry words and ringing laughter, go galloping away as easily and gracefully as the native red man. I see no tall churches with vaulted roof, with nave and organ, but in stead were small, plain, white buildings, very plainly furnished; one of them boasting a melodeon, and I think one had a parlor organ. But the picture is that of the upper room of the old Constitution street school-house, at that time the pride and boast of Emporia, seated with the settees borrowed from the First Congregational church, a desk borrowed from the county clerk's office, and a chair borrowed from somewhere else; windows, through which the Kansas sunshine poured in blinding quantities, so that even the strongest eyes quailed before it, forcing us to adjourn until we could make, and hang some curtains. Blue Holland they were, made by the girls, hung by the boys, and super intended by the principal himself.

No gas jets illumined our society halls, only a few No. 1 kerosene lamps — Nos. 2 and 3 not having arrived in Kansas yet. No electric lights aided us in getting home from the social in the evening of our first commencement day when the rain poured in torrents, and the darkness could almost be felt. That first social, we played blind man's buff, snap-and-catch-'em, cross-questions, and several other games; somehow we felt as though we scarcely knew just what was expected of us.

I see that bright February morning of a quarter of a century ago. The Old Eighteen gathering in from town and country, some coming three miles. A few of us only had met the new principal, and somehow we felt that he was not equal to the situation. How deceiving appearances are sometimes ! How lonely we must have looked scattered around that room in groups of twos and threes, and how oddly both we and our surroundings must have seemed to the young man in front of us, just fresh from cultured Bloomington. I wonder now that he did not get disgusted and leave, but we thought then that he should feel highly honored; and today as he sits here and with us sees to what that school has grown, and we remember that to him as well as others it owes its beginning, I go back to the old opinion.

But for our first eighteen. There were fifteen girls and three boys, all but two from Lyon county, and mostly farmers' sons and daughters. The most of us were of that age when we really thought that the world would hardly move along without us, and really thought we could get on the blind side of the new teacher. But somehow we never found it. Our free western life had given us the idea that we were to be hampered with rules, and in some, to us unaccountable way, robbed of our freedom. We wanted the education, but we did not want too much red tape with it, and one thing we learned was, that we could be ladies and gentlemen, and still be free.

First on the roll was Zeruiah P. Allen, of Lawrence. She only tarried with us a short three months, for soon after Lee's surrender a white-winged messenger came telling her that "Johnny was marching home," and as she knew that meant bridal robes and orange blossoms, she left us, and in the golden October of '65 the soldier boy claimed his bride. She taught at the Rinker school-house, two and a half miles north of the city, and with that school closed her public labors; and to day, as Mrs. John M. Hyde, she lives in this city, surrounded by four grown-up sons and daughters. To her, I believe, belongs the honor of first sending her own children to her Alma Mater.

Maby Bay, of Emporia, attended school one year when she removed with her parents to Baxter Springs, where she married Mr. B. Ward, of Hillsdale. She never taught, bat in her quiet way made home pleasant for her husband and children (of which there were five) for eleven years, and then, in the bright spring-time, came the summons, "Thy earth-work is done — come up higher," and the second one of our number passed to the eternal spring-time.

Laura Burns, of this county, who went altogether one year, never has taught. She was married in the spring of '67 to Mr. Joseph Rickabaugh, and lives two miles northeast of the city, where they are engaged in farming and small-fruit raising.

Ellen M. Cowles attended school fourteen months, and then finished a term of teaching for Miss Abbie G. Homer, ( our principal having decided that she was the one to make his life happy, and with the eagerness of youth claimed his bride before her work was done.) This, with one other term, closed her life as a teacher. She was married to Mr. George Plumb, in August, '67. Her husband is a noted wool-grower of this State. Her only other work has been in Sabbath school, in which she has worked almost constantly for the last eighteen years, either as superintendent or teacher, sometimes filling two places at once.

Clarissa Fawcett went the first year, and three months of the second when sickness took her away. She never taught. She was married to W. S. Hunt in November of 1868. In about a year they removed to his farm near Arkansas City. But soon consumption, the dread of her family, had marked her for his own, and one winter morn, as she lay awaiting the summons that all knew was coming, a look of more than earthly brightness spread over her features, and the weary spirit passed to that land where sorrow never comes. Thus, in December of '72, the first one of our number left us.

Frank E. Gillett writes that all the education he ever acquired in school was during the two and a half years he attended the Normal. He left to accept a commission from the Government to raise a company to fight Indians. The company was raised here, but alas for the dreams of those youthful soldiers, instead of covering themselves with glory, fighting Indians, they went to Fort Wallace and there blistered faces and hands putting up hay for the Government. After that he engaged in mercantile business at Cottonwood Falls, subsequently moving to Hutchinson. While at the Falls he read law, and after quitting business at Hutchinson, he again took up the study of law from books borrowed from the library of Judge W. R. Brown, practically educating himself in law. He was married in 1870; has practiced law since '76; was first elected to the Kansas Legislature from Kingman county in '82, and has been elected to each succeeding session, his last election being to the State Senate in '88, for four years. He has five children and is living at Kingman. Heloise Hunt went to school about two years; then married Capt. Jack Armstrong, and moved to Chase county. Afterwards moved to Raton, New Mexico, where I think she still lives.

Emma Hunt, her sister, must have attended about the same length of time — possibly a little longer; then removed with her parents to New Mexico, where she was afterwards married to a Dr. Ludlum. Her present address is Springer, N. M.

Albert T. MoIntibe attended the Normal two years but did not graduate. Has never taught. Was married to Miss Sarah E. Noe, of Hartford, in April 1870. Is now a market gardener. Present address, Arkansas City.

John F. MoLain is the missing link, all efforts to find him having proved unavailing. All we know is that he was from Illinois, and at tended school about two years. But whither he went, whether he has won or failed in life's battle, your historian knoweth not. Sabah Master was with us about two years. She clerked in Miss Plumb's book-store awhile, then went to Arkansas City, where she mar ried Mr. Reuben Houghton, after a number of years going to Purcell, I. T., where she still resides, dividing her time between her three chil dren and social duties.

Bettie Maddook was the sweet singer not only of the eighteen but of the old forty-two, not one of whom has forgotten the sweet, gentle girl who charmed us with her music and won all hearts by her quiet modest ways. Many of those present remember her as she sang " Passing Under the Rod," and all the old students will remember how she came to the open meeting of our Society in March 1866, in her bridal robes, and gave the song for the last time in public; and as she passed out from among us that night to place her hand in that of her betrothed, how little did we dream that upon her the rod would soon be laid so heavily that the gentle life would break beneath the blow. But a few years later her first-born darling was snatched from her loving hands by the cruel flames, and though with her sweet patience she bowed her head in submission, it was only a few years until the gentle mother followed her loved one home. She married M. H. Bates, a druggist of this city, and died in Lagrange, Missouri, in 1875. She was the mother of four children, two of whom and her husband are with her in Summerland.

Mattie J. Nichols, after teaching six years, as shown in the Alumni record, married Dr. C. Humble, a man full of good works. They are at present engaged in missionary and church work in Wichita, she being a ready helper and a wise counselor.

Adaline Soule was with us eight months, after which she taught 21 months at Workman, Waterloo, and Duck Creek districts, and at Elmendaro. She became the wife of Mr. M. C. Stark, one of the principal business men in Prescott, this State.

Josie Slocum, of Emporia, was a graduate of the class of '68. Her record is given with that of her class. In her early death, another is added to the dear ones that await us beyond.

Ella Spencer went long enough to fit herself for a first-class teacher as her record shows, she having taught two years in the city schools here, besides several district schools. She was married to J. N. D. Brown, also a Normal student, being the only one of the eigh teen that chose a partner from the School. Six or eight years ago she was left with six young children to care for, and bravely has she taken up her task. She went to Seward county a few years since, where she taught the first school in Fargo Springs. She was asked to run for County Superintendent and was elected, still holding the position. Her address is Springfield, Kansas.

Maggie Spencer went two and a half years, then taught one term in the district just north of town, and married B. F. Hollingsworth in February 1868. Since that time, besides her duties as wife and mother, she has found time to superintend Sabbath schools or teach in them, also to work in the cause of temperance, using both voice and pen. At present, she is President of the W. C. T. U. for Seward county, in which she now resides. Scant is her portion of this world's goods, yet bravely has she struggled to implant in the minds of her children true ideas of life. Today we crown her the first and only grandmother of the old Eighteen.

We come at last to the one ungathered rose, the last though not the least, the baby of the flock, Mattie P. Spencer. Still, we do not feel like condoling her because ungathered, as we look at her today standing proudly forth, a self-made woman, an honored member of the faculty of our old Alma Mater; we do not feel like saying with the poet:

"It pains me much to see

One ungathered rose

On my ancestral tree,"

But rather, in lieu of orange blossoms, hasten to crown her with the laurel wreath as queen of our Eighteen. She entered the School when only fourteen years old, graduating in '69. Her record is also given with her class.

Thus ends my history. And as I see the School of today, grown from that small beginning, I feel that justly proud as you are of your numbers, your faculty, and your surroundings, you can still be proud of your old Eighteen. For, though few of us have become famous, the most of us have tried to live so that the world shall be the better for our having lived in it. Mayhap some one may one day say this of some of us:

"Within this lowly grave, a conqueror lies,

And yet the monument proclaims it not."