|Chapter 21 Preparation for Reopening 1833-1834|
ALMOST the first act of the new Board was one of courtesy to a local church. "A communication was received ... from the Trustees of the Presbyterian Church ... requesting the Board to extend (the use) of the chapel of the college edifice on the Sabbath Day for public worship until the church now building ... shall have been completed." This request was unanimously granted. Under like conditions this chapel had been used a few years before by the Protestant Episcopal Church. Other actions of this first Board meeting on June 6-8, 1833, were to place insurance for $10,000 on the building [there had been none for six months]; to see that the grounds were properly protected by the repair of the old fence erected in 1803; to see that the books and apparatus were gathered and preserved, some said to be in private hands; to circularize the old alumni to secure the continuance of their interest; to take necessary steps to secure a revision of the charter and statutes of the College; and to reopen the Grammar School. When the Grammar School closed, three months before, there had been an attendance of twenty-five, and it was resolved that the community had good reason to expect the school to open as soon as possible. The teacher was to have $600 per year if the fees amounted to that much, and half of anything over that sum.
Their financial problems were, of course, fundamental. They laid plans to raise money throughout the two interested Conferences. A treasurer was elected and empowered to take over from the treasurer of the old Board anything in his possession. A later report shows that this new treasurer received $69.53 in cash, and a claim to the old Coleman bank stock of $1,000, which was then held by the bank as security for a note of $800. In addition to this note there were other
obligations to the bank which made the entire debt about $2,500 in excess of the cash and stock. This apparent excess of obligation, however, was somewhat more than covered by the unexpected payment of the final $3,000 annuity granted the College by the state in 1826. The final payment was due in January, 1833, and the old Board had asked payment, but this had been refused because of the dying condition of the College.
A committee of the new Board appointed to apply for the overdue annuity received a letter from Governor George Wolfe giving his first reaction to their application:
The statement of the expenditure of the annuity of $3,000 for which a warrant was drawn in January, 1832, in favor of the trustees of Dickinson College presented in the month of January last exhibited a balance in the treasury of that institution on the 28th of December, 1832 of $158.25. Believing that the bounty of the Legislature was intended to aid the College only whilst it should continue to be operative, as such, a warrant for the annuity of $3,000, which, but for the abandonment of the institution by both faculty and students, would have been demandable on the1st of January, was refused upon the ground mentioned. There is nothing before me, at present, to shew the indebtedness of the College, or that it is in a condition requiring repairs, or that it is likely at any time hereafter to go into operation; there ought to be some evidence furnished of these facts, especially the nature and amount of its debts, the time when contracted, and the objects for which they were contracted. Upon a proper exhibit of the affairs of the institution, I presume there will be no difficulty in coming to a correct decision to the drawing of the warrant and payment of the money upon it.
I have the honor to be, Gentlemen, Your obedt. servt.
The committee evidently satisfied Governor Wolfe, as they were later able to report that they had received the state treasury check "after laying before the Governor a statement of the accounts of the institution agreeably to his accompanying note to the Committee."
On the last day of the first meeting of the new Board, in June, 1833, a Law School was authorized. A letter from John Reed, of the Class of 1806, and President Judge of the
Ninth Judicial District of Pennsylvania, residing in Carlisle, was presented to the Board on June 8. He wrote:
I have contemplated for some time past the opening of a law school in Carlisle; there is nothing of the kind, I believe, in Pennsylvania, and I can't help thinking it might be made extensively serviceable to the profession. It has occurred to me, within a day or two past, that some nominal connection with the College would be auxilliary to my views, and that perhaps it might not altogether be without advantage to the institution. My residence from next spring will be in the immediate vicinage of the College; I will be provided with a spacious office, and will have abundant leizure, from my official duties, to conduct the operations of a school of the kind I have referred to. I would not contemplate more than a nominal connection with the College. I have taken the liberty of suggesting the subject to you; if it is of sufficient importance, or can in any way be brought to bear in favor of the College or myself, I would invite your attention to it.
With sentiments of respect,
Your obedt. servt. JOHN REED.
This letter reached the Board during its final session, and was promptly referred to a committee with instructions to report within an hour. Their report approved the proposal of Judge Reed, and recommended that a Law School be established in connection with the College, but without expense to it; and that the College grant degrees to such students as might be presented by Judge Reed. The report was adopted, and Judge John Reed was elected "Professor of Law" in Dickinson College. Judge Reed thus became the first Professor of the reorganized College, and continued, his connection with the College until his death in 1850. Some of the law graduates were among the most distinguished sons of the College. Andrew Gregg Curtin, of the Class of 1837, was the "War Governor" of Pennsylvania, 1861-1867, and was later Minister to Russia and a member of Congress. Alexander Ramsey, of the Class of 1840, was Governor of Minnesota as both territory and state, United States Senator, and Secretary of War. Nathaniel B. Smithers, of the Class of 1840, was Secretary of State of Delaware and a member of Congress. Carroll Spense, of the Class of 1842, was Minister to Turkey.
As an early action of this first meeting of the Board had been one of courtesy to a local church, so its final action respectfully requested the local papers to print resolutions of thanks to the people of Carlisle for their generous and hospitable treatment. In those early days hospitable welcome was open and general. Trustees from a distance were usually entertained in the Carlisle homes. There were many reasons for a hearty Carlisle welcome to the new movement in the College. The stage was well set. In March, 1833, the Carlisle Republican announced the possibility of a change in college control, and the business interests of the town were anxious for the change. Following the June meeting the same paper gives account of a public meeting in the court-house. The transfer was approved, and congratulations extended to all concerned on the happy issues of the negotiations. It expresses the hope that the local "feuds" which had caused trouble in the past might be no more, and that all might heartily support the College in its new venture. "Feuds" seem to have been ever present in the earlier days, and well known to the community, but just what they were will probably never be fully known.
Pursuant to adjournment, the Board held a second meeting on September 25, 1833, President-elect Durbin being present and sharing in their counsels. Durbin had been elected, and the salary promised him was a very modest one but $1,200, the same as that promised but never promptly paid to Nisbet fifty years before. More important to a man concerned to do some worthy work for the College was the fact that from the very first the trustees showed that they looked to him largely to direct the affairs of the College. Not only his position as President but his six years of experience at Augusta College made him their natural leader. He was their accepted leader for a dozen years; the Chief had come to his own.
The trustees at this meeting made the head of the Grammar School a member of the college Faculty, and arranged for seven college chairs more, indeed, than the
College was able to support for many years. They appointed a committee to secure at least two changes in the charter, which were granted by the Legislature in April, 1834. By one of them the President of the College became ex-officio President of the Board of Trustees, so that he might take part in all their doings. By the other change, the Faculty of the College was made responsible for all college discipline, with appeal to the Board by any aggrieved subject of discipline in case of expulsion only. Discipline and a proper relation between the trustees and the Faculty had thus been established at the very outset of the reorganized, revivified College.
At this second Board meeting $1,000 was appropriated to put the college property in better shape. This statement might suffice, but for some interesting facts about the property as revealed in a later report of the committee. Contract for building a stone wall on two sides of the campus, south and east, was made on October 13, 1833, and was to cost "seven dollars & fifty cents per rod." The rocky and ungraded condition of the campus is shown by the grant to Samuel Neidich, the contractor for the wall, "the privilege of quarrying stone from the campus, if he can do so without injury to the same." Walks were laid out and the fine old trees which now adorn the campus seem to have been planted by this committee, at a cost of $184.75. B. F. Brooke, of the Class of 1841, leaves record in his diary of a visit to the College ten years after graduation, thus: "I left Dickinson ten years ago. What changes! The trees of the campus are grown. Then they were young like myself." And George R. Crooks in his Centennial oration speaks of "the budding green of the newly planted trees of the campus" in 1834 [A recently fallen maple had about one hundred growthrings.] The old double swinging iron gates at the southeast corner of the campus for sixty years were put in place, at a cost of $83.97.
The report of the committee on repairs showed costs considerably beyond the $1,000 granted, as "of the whole done
and now under contracts amounts to $1400.50," and were directed to complete the work. It is interesting to follow the changes then instituted. The fence built on the north and west side of the campus was possibly the one so familiar to college students until the late eighties; and the stone wall on the other two sides with its pickets above was in fairly good condition until about the same time. The pickets disappeared in the early eighties, and only the sloping wooden coping remained above the stone wall, till in yet more recent years concrete took the place of the wood. President Reed had the western half of the southern wall removed, and planned to remove the remainder of the wall. The removal of the first part, however, raised a storm of alumni protest, and the remainder was spared. The part removed was restored by one of the classes during President Morgan's term. Another class continued the stone wall along the entire western side of the campus. More recently, under President Filler, part of the northern side of the campus also secured its stone wall. The stone wall thus begun in 1833 seems now a permanent feature of the campus. "Sacred is each grey old wall, Noble Dickinsonia." In recent years the plain old walls have been embellished by well-designed gateways at the several entrances to the campus, the gifts of various classes, years after their graduation. The first gateway was the gift of the Class of 1900, followed in order by 1902, 1905, 1906, 1907, and 1895.
The third meeting of the new Board was held the first Wednesday of May, 1834. The Secretary, Charles B. Penrose [grandfather of the late Senator, Boies Penrose], himself a member of the old Board, and then serving as Secretary of the new one, reported that "every member of the Board elected prior to the 6th June, 1833, has resigned, or his office has been vacated under the rule of the Board except ... (six men) none of whom have attended any meeting of the Board for more than two years past." The seats of these six were then legally vacated; thus disappeared the last legal vestige of the regime of Rush and Nisbet.
Eleven months before this meeting of May, 1834, the Board had planned for a canvass of the two Conferences for funds; and the matter of prime importance at the meeting was the report from their financial agents. They had previously decided not to begin college work till their subscriptions amounted to $40,000. Rev. Stephen Roszell, agent for the Baltimore Conference, reported that he had received subscriptions of $28,267.32, $12,400 of which had been subscribed by the preachers of that Conference. He had been allowed $1,203.13 for his support, so that the net amount was $27,064.19. He thought they might rely on collecting at least three-fourths of this sum. Rev. E. S. Janes, agent for the Philadelphia Conference, later Bishop of the Church, reported subscriptions of $21,955, $13,6oo of it from the preachers. The expense of the agent had been $220 leaving a net amount of $21,735.
How much of the funds thus subscribed had been paid was not reported, but none of it came at any time to the College for which it had been subscribed. Each of the two Conferences involved, the Baltimore and Philadelphia, at once secured a charter for trustees to manage all funds collected within its borders for the support of the College. The interest only was to go to the College, so long as the College was under the control of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The result was that for more than thirty years the trustees of the College had absolutely no endowment funds of their own, though they received regularly the income from the funds held by the Conferences for them. In 1844, President Durbin of the College reported to the trustees that the College was "wholly dependent on the Conferences in whose hands all its funds are invested." During the campaign to raise funds for the College at the Centenary of American Methodism in 1866, a few contributions were made to the College direct, after which, for the first time, the College had direct control of a small part of its own endowment.
Reports of the two financial agents to the Board in May,
1834, then showed that they had considerably more than the requrired $40,000 on subscrition. They accordingly voted that the College should open for the reception of students on the "2nd Wednesday of September next, and that the President and Professor-elect be directed to be in attendance on same day of September to take charge and direction of said institution." The Grammar School opened the previous year was prospering, though its patronage was largely local, all but nine of its thirty-seven pupils being from Carlisle. Alexaner F. Dobb had been employed by the Committee on the Grammar School. He was now unanimously elected by the Board, which also authorized the Committee to appoint an assistant to Dobb when they deemed it wise. Looking forward to the early opening of the College, the Board reaffirmed the plan for seven professorships, but proceeded to elect only a "Professor of Belles Lettres, including rhetoric, English literature and elocution, who shall be charged with the duties of professor of exact sciences, including pure and mixed mathematics, until a professor shall be provided to fill that professorship." Merrit Caldwell, of Maine, was unanimously elected, and was thus to give instruction for a time in no small part of a college course. The Board adjourned "to meet on the first Monday before the 2nd Wednesday in September next." This was the date for opening the College, and for a new and much better organized attempt to keep the College alive.