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Who Became a Bishop

in Burmah; Charles Mead, the finest speaker in our school, who was shot in battle. There were several girls who led their classes and all became noble women. First among them in beauty and accomplishments was my Cousin Lucy. In a letter home at that time she is described in the following couplet:

"Whose eyes I never meet without a smile,
"Whose heart is full of kindness all the while."

     She exerted the greatest influence on my life to refine and ennoble it; a debt I never paid except in admiration and love. Many years afterwards, I had the satisfaction of having her on my arm when I was honored as bishop in the White House at Washington.
     In October, 1861, six weeks after school opened, under the advice of the principal, Mr. Moore, and Cousin Charles, I gave up for the time the difficult undertaking of fitting for college by the next autumn. Mr. Moore thought I then might teach for the winter and earn some money which I very much needed. At that time I wrote home that I had not had a cent of money for six weeks. My Uncle objected strongly to my teaching, as he needed me to do the chores, so I eventually gave that up and stayed in school. The chores at that time were to cut wood for three stoves, take care of a horse, drive a mile to the pasture and milk a cow and take care of the school building. One Saturday I gathered fourteen bushels of carrots, nine bushels of turnips, three bushels of beets, one bushel of

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parsnips, half a bushel of salsify and put them all in the cellar. Having settled down to the regular school course, things went on smoothly to the end of the school year. In the spring vacation I was unable to get work to earn money, so I went into my Uncle's boot factory and made myself a pair of shoes which lasted me a year.
     The following letter to my mother gives a picture of my life as it then was:

"RUTLAND, VT., May 18th, 1862.

"My dear Mother:
     "I think yesterday was one of the happiest days of my life. There was nothing in particular to make it so, but it was one of those days when there seems to be a smile on everybody's face and all nature seemed to twinkle with gladness. I worked in the garden all day, leisurely and perhaps lazily, but my mind ever busy with its own happy thoughts. I thought of you all and in my mind voluntarily went back over the happier events of my life.
     "I quit work at six o'clock, washed and changed my clothes for Sunday. After tea I went two miles south of the village after a trunk. It was at the house of Mr. Horace Dyer, a rich bachelor farmer, where lives my classmate, George Ellis. He invited me into the library where we had a splendid chat, recounting the past events of our lives and our future hopes.
     "In the evening a son of Rev. Dr. Hicks, of Burlington, came to stay over night with me. He told of the exploits, trials and sports of the college boys until my mind, always overflowing with boyish hope, sped on to the time when I, too, should be a college student.

Who Became a Bishop

     "Friday evening our debating society met as usual, but as there was not a quorum that night, some one proposed to hear a stump speech from Graves on the war. I happened to have General Hunter's proclamation in my pocket which none of them had read, so I consented. They stepped out and got a couple of girls to help make a respectable audience, when I 'went in extempore' and fairly surprised myself.
     "I wrote a piece on Chivalry to speak last Wednesday and gave it to Mr. Moore to correct. When he returned it, the passages I thought the most eloquent were struck out. I concluded not to speak it thus mutilated, so I learned and rehearsed, to his great surprise, a selected piece, which, by the way, is the first one not original I have spoken since I have been here.
     "I have been to church twice to-day, read 188 pages in the life of Alexander the Great and walked two miles for exercise. I received my report Wednesday and found my standing lower than ever, but I am conscious that I have done as well as possible under the circumstances. I enjoy the best of health and am strong and hearty. I hope to hear from you all before another week rolls around and in the meantime I remain,

Your affectionate son,

     At the close of the school year, I passed the examinations without difficulty and spoke an original piece on swearing. I was honored by being placed last on the programme. I had been looking in every direction for work during the summer, but could find none. In desperation I wrote to President Jackson of Hobart

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College, told him what preparation I had, that I could read two and perhaps four books of Vergil during the summer, and asked him if he thought I could enter Hobart and keep a good standing in my class. His answer was favorable. Three days after school closed I began Vergil, studying nine hours a day. The first day I learned the rules of prosody, scanned and translated thirteen lines and recited to Cousin Emily. The next day I got forty lines and soon settled down to one hundred lines a day. By the end of July I was well into the third book, but became utterly tired out. I could not sleep at night for thinking of my lessons and realized that I must stop studying. As I had only nineteen dollars in money, I also realized that I must earn something before going to college. I almost compelled my Uncle to give me work in his boot factory, though he could offer me only eight cents an hour. By rising at four o'clock, doing the chores and eating a bread and milk breakfast, I was able to get to the shop at six o'clock. In this way I worked eleven hours a day and earned eighty-eight cents.
     At this time war meetings were frequently held to incite men to volunteer in the army. Three hundred men were required from the town of Rutland and only one hundred could be induced to enlist. My patriotic soul was stirred with indignation at such a condition. Again I asked my parents' permission to enlist and urged it with the best arguments I could. They positively refused. As they and my brother Daniel had

Who Became a Bishop

sacrificed a great deal in letting me go off to school before I was of age, I felt I must yield to their wishes. My parents were aged, and for the first time in their life had secured a home of their own. My brother Daniel was working very hard to meet the payments. Had I enlisted, the one hundred dollar bounty was to go toward paying for their home, and twenty dollars a month, which Vermont soldiers received, was to be saved up to help me through college. The forbidding prospects of my being able to work my way through college with so little money in sight may have had something to do with my desire to enlist. After paying my fare to the college at Geneva, New Yorks and buying a few necessaries, I had only twenty-eight dollars with no one in the world to help me to the value of a cent. Nevertheless, I bravely bid farewell to my second home, not without many tears, and took the train for my college town.



N arriving in Geneva, New York, I was greatly impressed with the beauty of the place. The college buildings overlooked Seneca Lake, and there were many beautiful homes with terraced gardens on

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the lake shore between the college and the business part of the town. The view stretched away across the lake to the hills, open fields and verdant groves beyond.
     Rev. Dr. Metcalf, professor of Latin, examined me in Latin and Greek, and very kindly let me through with my many deficiencies. I also passed in mathematics. I later found that I had the poorest preparation of any in our class except one boy, and he was conditioned and left college at the end of the first term. It took the very hardest study for me to keep up with my class, but I passed all my examinations at the end of the term and was duly matriculated.
     Dr. Metcalf helped me to find a cheap boarding-house where I could get a room for seventy-five cents a week and meals for two dollars a week. This, he said, was the best I could do. After buying the necessary books, I had then left only $19. I boarded with a Mrs. Reed, whose husband had gone to the war. I soon arranged with her to get dinners only at twelve cents a meal. Breakfast and supper consisted of crackers and sweet apples at a cost of three cents a meal. Not long after that she let me work for my board. After a few weeks she moved away. In the meantime, a Mr. H. C. Schell heard that I was trying to work my way and kindly invited me to live in his family until I found a place to work for my board. He did not have much for me to do, but I taught his little girl and helped his son with his Latin and copied insurance reports in

Who Became a Bishop

his office. Thus matters went on until after the Christmas vacation.
     I had been looking everywhere to find a place where I could work for my board, but could find none. I could not reasonably stay longer with Mr. Schell, as he was not wealthy and had a large family to support. I had written out to my school friends, the Kelly boys, who were getting on finely in the University of Michigan. They thought I would have no trouble in working my way out there, and their parents kindly offered to let me live with them until I found a place to work. Accordingly I made arrangements to leave Hobart and pay my way to Ann Arbor with the few dollars I had remaining. I secured an honorable letter of transfer from President Jackson, who seemed to regret my leaving.
     These preparations for a change hastened a crisis in my religious life. When I went to live at my Uncle George's, two years before, I was a downright disbeliever in the Christian religion. While there, I had attended regularly the Episcopal Church with his family. The quiet devotion of the congregation, the solemn beauty of the service, the earnest preaching of Dr. Roger Howard, and the genuine Christian life in my Uncle's family, silently and unconsciously softened my heart and began to make me wish I could believe and be a Christian. Still I would not say the Creed in the Service and was still skeptical. When I came to college, I found that all our learned professors were

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devout Christians and I began to think that possibly Tom Paine had made a mistake, and that there might be, after all, some reasonable ground for accepting Christianity. Finally I went to our ablest professor, Dr. W. D. Wilson, and told him my difficulties. He talked to me in a kindly way and advised me to read Pearson on the Creed. As that proved everything from the Bible and I rejected the inspiration of the Scripture, it did not help me much. Still, as I read and pondered, it finally came to me that the Christian religion was not intended to be founded on reason in such a way as to compel one to accept it, but that in the final issue the will was the arbiter. That faith and an honest purpose to do God's will, without positive knowledge, was sufficient ground to act on. Accordingly I went to the college chaplain, Rev. Henry A. Neely, afterward bishop of Maine, and told him that I had not very much faith, but that I was willing to make an honest trial of the Christian religion; that I was not at all happy or contented with my infidelity, and that I was willing to try and see if the full Christian life would make me any happier; that I was going off to a strange college and if he thought me a proper subject for baptism I should like to be baptized the next day, Sunday. He said if I had faith as a grain of mustard seed, I ought not to crush it out, but let it grow, and that he would baptize me the next day. Mr. and Mrs. Schell stood as my witnesses and on January 11, 1863, in Trinity Church, Geneva, I was baptized into

Who Became a Bishop

Christ. The first Sunday of the next month the Chaplain preached a very earnest sermon on the duty and benefit of receiving the Lord's Supper. I thought if any one needed it, I did, and without waiting for Confirmation or even permission, I went forward and received. I continued to do so until the next autumn, when Bishop De Lancey came and I was confirmed. I might say here that I have never since turned my back on the Lord's Supper whenever I was present at its celebration. I cannot say that my skeptical nature was obliterated, but I set my face against it and tried all the harder to live a holy life. From the moment I determined what to do and was baptized the uneasiness of a skeptic's life left me and a quiet, holy joy reigned in my heart.
     A few days after my baptism I was passing a large Sanitarium, where I had been refused work a short time before. I was moved to try again. I was told that the young man who had been doing their odd jobs was going to leave and if I would sweep the Doctor's office, mix such medicines as he required and assist in giving the patients their physical exercises, I could have a room and my board. The same day Dr. Jackson said I could have the John Watts scholarship, which brought in seventy dollars a year. These unexpected promises settled the matter of my leaving Hobart. They made it possible for me to remain, which I greatly desired. They gave me time for my studies and a wholesome life free from anxiety. Putting the stronger patients

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through the required movements gave me the best of exercise, while the plain, wholesome food was best suited for a student's life. All things went smoothly and well for the four months I remained there, and in many ways were the pleasantest and most profitable days of my college life.
     As I did not seem to be needed for teaching in the Sunday school of Trinity Church, I took work in the so-called Bethel Sunday school, a union school in what might be called the slums of Geneva. The boys in my class were very rough, and I sometimes had to chase them in from the outside, or "round them up," as we would say in the west.
     Things went on smoothly the rest of the college year and I was steadily making my way up in my studies from the foot of the class. In May my kind friend, Mr. Schell, moved from the town a mile into the country where he had several acres of land, a horse, a cow and a garden. He was very anxious to have me come and live with him. I was most comfortably fixed in the Sanitarium and did not wish to leave, but as Mr. Schell was badly crippled with rheumatism and had befriended me in the day of my most urgent need, I went to live with him again and work for my board. Our friendship continued many years until his death. He lived long enough to see me a bishop and was very proud of my promotion. His letters always began with "My dear God-son" and ended with "Your affectionate God-father."

Who Became a Bishop

     During the first summer vacation I worked on a farm, harvesting and stacking grain, and when that work was over, I dug and piled stone on another farm at one dollar and twenty-five cents a day. Later I secured work of Mr. James O. Sheldon, a retired merchant, cutting the dead limbs out of the trees on his beautiful estate. While there, a Mrs. J. B. Varnum of New York City was visiting at Mr. Sheldon's home. One day he pointed me out to her in the top of a high elm tree sawing off limbs at the risk of my life. He told her that I was doing that to work my way through college. She immediately became interested, made many inquiries of him, of Mr. Schell, and of the college president in regard to me. She returned to New York without my seeing her. When Mr. Sheldon paid me off, he handed me five dollars extra which he said was left me by Mrs. Varnum. I wrote her a letter of thanks. From that time till her death she remained my steadfast friend, occasionally sending me small sums of money as she heard indirectly or surmised that I needed it.
     Near the end of this vacation a regiment of cavalry was mustered in at Camp Swift, a short distance from where I lived. I used to go over and talk to the boys till my former war fever returned upon me. This was inflamed by patriotic letters from my friend, Charles B. Mead, who was then at the front in almost daily battles. I again wrote home most earnestly for permission to enlist. My parents and my brother, who had sacrificed

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much that I might get an education, wrote me very strongly against it and I realized the justice of the plea. It was well for me that I did, for soon after the regiment reached Virginia it was cut to pieces in an ambuscade and half of them killed or wounded.



N the 29th of the next October, 1863, Bishop Delancey, then very old and feeble, visited the college chapel for confirmation. I stood at the chancel rail between two classmates, Asa C. Wells and Charles S. Knapp. They both were preparing for the ministry and I was to be a lawyer and politician. During the following winter both were sick with diphtheria and I helped to nurse them. Knapp recovered, though he was never very strong afterwards and died after being about twelve or fifteen years in the ministry. Wells, whom I loved dearly, became apparently some better so I was able to take him to the home of a cousin in Cazenovia, New York. Two or three days later the news of his death came to us and cast a gloom over all in college. Knapp was my room-mate in college for a year or more.
     During the autumn of 1863 there came to the class

Who Became a Bishop

below ours a boy by the name of Philip Potter. From some cause he and I formed a most eager and romantic friendship. He, too, was to study for the ministry, but his eyes failed him, so he had to leave college and give up his life hopes. The friendship, however, has lasted through fifty years, and we are bosom friends to-day.
     Potter had brought with him a little photograph of a girl in his aunt's school at Brattleboro, Vermont, by the name of Bessie Thornton. I conceived a wonderful liking for the girlish face and begged the photograph from him. I carried it in my pocketbook for years and cherished it as embodying the ideal of all that is lovely in woman. Some of my earliest verses were inscribed to her. The following is a sample:


Some bring the painful love to light
     That buried long has been,
Some sing fresh love, but I will write
     Of her I have not seen.

They tell me that her eyes are gray.
     Her locks of silken brown,
Her movement graceful, light and gay,
     As nymphs of old renown.

As ruby's tints illume the gold
     That holds the gem in place,
E'en so, they say, her beaming soul
     Lights up her radiant face.

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E'en if she should in trifles fail,
     It does not dim her sheen,
Since fancy throws its silken veil
     O'er her I have not seen.

Though, maiden, we may never meet
     Except by Fancy's art,
In love-lit day dreams, pure and sweet,
     The Eden of the heart;

Yet in those dear, enchanted isles,
     Those bowers of shining green,
May I not share the looks and smiles
     Of her I have not seen?

And may I add this little prayer
     To her, my fancy's queen,
Of thought she'll grant a tiny share
     To him she has not seen?

      Eight years later, when in Vevey, Switzerland, I wrote the following of Bessie:


VEVEY, SWITZERLAND, Oct. 10, 1871.

The sun is bright on Alpine peaks,
     Geneva's waves are glancing fair,
While vintage songs of Switzer maids
     Come trembling through the autumn air.

Their songs fall dull upon mine ear,
     Nor wins my sight this charming place,

Who Became a Bishop

My eyes instead are bending o'er
     The portrait of a girlish face.

Although those lips ne'er spoke my name.
     That little hand was ne'er in mine,
Though never in those eyes I've glanced,
     I hold her yet as half divine.

And years have passed since it was so,
     Long years of toil and change and care,
Yet oft my lips this picture press,
     Oft lisp her name in secret prayer.

But why it is I cannot tell,
     Yet something whispers to my heart
That kindred spirits were not made
     To be forever thus apart.

'Tis true we may not meet on earth,
     But in the world which is to be,
Methinks I'll know those wondrous eyes,
     And she, perhaps, will smile on me.

'Tis strangely sweet to think and dream
     Of that bright home and those we love,
That lives here sundered yet may flow
     In one commingled stream above.

Then fare-thee-well, my spirit's love
     Till then remain fair, sweet and free,
And angels keep my wayward heart
     From loving one less pure than thee.

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     A year later, when toiling alone on the plains of Nebraska, I wrote the following of her:


CRETE, NEBRASKA, Aug. 14, 1872.

Night comes, and resting on my lonely couch,
     I think of what I've been and ought to be,
Then think of Heaven, of mansions, angels there,
     Then vanish into dreams with thoughts of thee.

When daylight, stealing on the realms of sleep,
     Unclasps its bars and sets my senses free,
The chain that lets me down to earth again
     Are linked, lingering dreams I've had of thee.

      I am sorry to have to close this delicate romance by saying that I never have seen Bessie Thornton, and I do not suppose she ever heard of my existence. However, in the long, lonely struggles of my early life, no doubt my thoughts and dreams of her helped to purify and ennoble my life. I still hope to meet her and know her in a better world. I might add as an associated fact of interest that there was then in that same town of Brattleboro another little girl who afterwards became my wife.
     Before I came to Hobart the secret, or Greek letter, societies had claimed and secured all the men of each class except two or three who were called neutrals. Some of these, though not all, were undesirable, and in consequence were, in a mild sense, ostracised. The

Who Became a Bishop

class officers, the speakers at public exhibitions and the desirable offices of the literary societies were monopolized, by the society men. When our class, the class of 1866, entered Hobart it was one of the largest and perhaps the strongest class the college ever had. The societies got hold of a few of our men, but not the strongest or the best. A large majority of our class remained neutrals and clung together. In consequence the class was not cut up into small, jarring cliques. There was more class feeling and we generally won in all athletic contests with the other classes and sometimes played against two of the other classes combined. The marks for our recitations showed an average well ahead of the other classes. When the Sophomores undertook to haze our men, we retaliated and hazed some of them. This soon brought hazing to an end for that year. The next year, when the freshmen entered, we neutrals made a successful effort to secure a fair share of the men as neutrals. This led to many an earnest meeting and discussion. In consequence two of the secret societies were reduced to two or three members apiece and the college honors, as far as they rested in the hands of the students, were more equitably divided.
     On the third day of November, I cast my first vote. It was for Abraham Lincoln, at his second election. All through my youth I had been an advocate of the Democratic party, but the splitting of that party by the Southerners, their secession from the Union and the

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conduct of many Northern Democrats during the war had changed my sympathies and interests.
     In December of each year came the Sophomore exhibition at which a selection from their number spoke declamations for prizes. After the exhibition we had a class supper at which many of the class spoke in response to toasts given out before. The toast "Par Oneri," which was our class motto, meaning "Equal to the Burden," had been given to me. When the toast-master called me up, I spoke as follows, which I give as also containing some class history:


Our noble motto! 'tis to thee
We drink and sing in highest glee,
To thee who, born amid the strife
And dangers of a freshman's life,
'Twill ever make our hearts beat high
To hear the words "Par Oneri."

When we each other scarcely knew
Some one proposed for motto you
That equal to the burden we
In peace and war would always be
And on each other we'd rely
To make ourselves "Par Oneri."

Scarce thus decided when the doors
Were fastened by three sophomores.
We burst the doors and drove them out,
Made their defeat a perfect rout,

Who Became a Bishop

So for their lives they had to fly,
They found us all "Par Oneri."

At length the Sophs grew mighty bold
And on our classmate laid their hold,
Indignant that he had to treat
We swore the bloody Sophs to meet,
And all their boasted power defy
And prove ourselves Par Oneri.

One cold, dark night a Soph we seized
And faced him to the chill lake breeze,
To treat or drown his choice to take,
(His fingers felt the icy lake),
Poor Sophy answered with a sigh,
I guess you are Par Oneri.

'Twas on the Campus at base ball
We answered to the Sophomore's call,
We fought them well till set of sun
And whipped them out just two to one,
Then loud the welkin rang and high
When victory crowned "Par Oneri."

At length we reached our Sophomore year
And in our turn made Freshmen fear,
Who walked the streets with broken pride
And hugged at night the shady side,
Then trembled at each noise or cry
Lest they should hear "Par Oneri."

One night a sorry Fresh we caught
And to the colored district brought,
Then tightly bound him to a tree

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And chuckled in our fiendish glee,
Soon down the street he heard a cry,
The devilish yell, "Par Oneri."

Another Freshman lost his beard
So much unto his heart endeared;
Just for a burlesque on the lake
We thought a bath he'd better take,
The sudzing lake sent up a sigh
Which sounded like "Par Oneri."

But now vacation comes my boys
Let ladies make up half your joys,
And if some maid you try to woo
As Sophomore's are apt to do,
Upon your gallantry rely
To show yourselves "Par Oneri."

Then when our class ship moors at last
And all her anchors safely cast,
When we all from the old ship go
Each one to paddle his canoe,
We'll nail upon each masthead high
The noble words "Par Oneri."

In life's rough storm we'll never fear,
But boldly through the dark shoals steer,
And when upon life's latest wave
Our bark seems tottering o'er the grave,
We'll shout our motto till we die
And prove ourselves "Par Oneri."

     The enthusiasm and cheers brought out by this recital of our class victories can be easily imagined.

© 2002 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller