Previous to October, 1868, The Bluemont Literary Society was the only institution of the kind existing at this College. Division arose among the members, and on the night of October 10, 1868, the society was dissolved by vote. Two new societies were organized within the following week, by the factions. One of these was finally called the Webster and the other the Alpha Beta Literary Society. The Alpha Betas were C. K. Humphrey, A. H. Tanford, L. B. Tolin, T. E. Campbell, Arthur Stewart, H. F. Miller, C. W. Allen, H. F. Huffsmith, C. Kimball, M. Bilander, C. W. Points and G. W. Hannum. They were soon joined by others, and from that time to the present the society has had a goodly degree of success; not that it has had no dark days, for on more than one occasion in the early years of its existence when the students of the College were few in numbers it failed to continue its meetings till the end of the year for lack of attendance. But the members who felt the society to be a part of their college life were strengthened in their devotion by these adversities. The new year always found the society in better working condition, the society ties stronger, and all benefiting themselves by making the society a good one. In latter years the membership has been too large rather than otherwise.
In December, 1870, the society obtained a charter for ten years, and thus became the first chartered society of the College. After the expiration of this charter, a new one was obtained for a period of ninety-nine years.
The original society was composed wholly of gentlemen, but various attempts were made in the early days to admit ladies to membership. With this in view, the time of meeting was changed, December, 1874, from Saturday evening to Friday afternoon. This action met with determined opposition, and was under consideration for several sessions before the necessary three-fourths vote could be obtained. Finally, with every member of the society present, twenty-four in all, the vote was taken, and eighteen voting aye the amendment was declared adopted. Two weeks thereafter the following five ladies joined: Mrs. W. K. Kedzie, A. B., nee Gale; Mrs. R. Kedzie, M. Sc., nee Sawyer; Miss Lottie Burroughs; Miss Marian Failyer and Mrs. Wm. Ulrich, nee Failyer. Other ladies soon followed the example of joining a literary society.
At this time the Websters were the only competitors, and some of these felt called upon to organize a new society admitting ladies. Many leading Websters joined this new organization, called the Diagnothian Society, but after a little more than a year it was discontinued.
The Alpha Beta paper, called The Literary Ensign, first appeared in December, 1868. It was not a regular feature, but was presented only on the occasion of public exercises. The latter consisted of public debates, plays and joint debates. In 1875, two years from the last appearance of the Ensign, the Gleaner, the present society paper, was started. It appeared each alternate meeting until September, 1882, when it was changed to a weekly paper. At present it is edited by one of the four divisions of the society, who elect their chief at the beginning of each term, and its preparation is the most profitable of society work. In 1884 selections were made from these papers and published in a book entitled the "Gleaner Gleaned," which contained work of high literary merit.
In 1877 a series of entertainments were given down town for the purpose of securing a library fund. In these plays, staid, sober, and matter-of-fact students acted the part of tragedians, comedians, millionaires, fops! and love-lorn maidens, to their own satisfaction at least. From the proceeds of these entertainments, increased by liberal donations from members of the faculty, and appropriations from the society treasury, a valuable collection of books was secured. As the growth of the college library rendered the society library unnecessary, these books were sold in 1884, and the proceeds used to assist the Websters in purchasing furniture for the new society hall. It was then found necessary to institute dues, which were at first fixed at ten cents per term, but afterwards raised to twenty-five.
On the whole, the work of this society has been very harmonious, and fines, suspensions and expulsions, things so common in most college societies, have been but infrequently resorted to, there being little or no occasion for such work.
By consent of the faculty, the society appeared with its first, Annual Exhibition, in 1882. It has appeared each year since, and these entertainments have proved one of the most enjoyable features of the society.
Meetings are now held in the neatly furnished hall set apart for college societies, in the south wing of the main building, with a high average attendance of its fifty-six active members. It continues to play its part in the training obtained in this institution.
1868-69 - L. B. Tolan, C. N. Points, J. C. Soupene, H. F. Miller.
1869-70 - J. C. Soupene, D. R. Sandchiff, C. O. Benton, A. F. Stewart.
1870-71 - A. F. Stewart, W. D. Gilbert, J. H. Baker, W. B. Davis.
1871-72 - C. D. Walker, Edgar Rose.
1874-75 - G. H. Failyer, G. A. Gale, S. C. Scheumaker.
1875-76 - Nellie Sawyer Kedzie, A. A. Stewart, G. A. Gale.
1876-77 - Wm. Ulrich, W. P. Burnham, J. S. Griffing.
1877-78 - W. H. Sikes, A. E. Wilson, A. A. Stewart, G. L. Platt.
1878-79 - A. T. Blain, C. J. Reed, W. H. Sikes, G. H. Perry, jr.
1879-80 - G. E. Rose, G. H. Platt, E. P. Coleman, M. E. Sickels, W. N. Rose.
1880-81 - W. J. Lightfoot, W. J. Jeffrey, F. M. Jeffrey.
1881-82 - Geo. Hopper, J. T. Willard, I. D. Gardiner.
1882-83 - F. W. Dunn, Jacob Lund, M. M. Lewis.
1883-84 - Henry M. Cottrell, Geo. C. Peck, Effie E. Woods Shartel.
1884-85 - F. J. Rogers, A. Dike, F. Henrietta Willard Calvin.
1885-86 - W. E. Whaley, A. M. Green, Ida H. Quinby Gardiner.
1886-87 - D. W. Working, Nellie Cottrell Stiles, C. A. Murphy.
1887-88 - C. G. Clarke, Bertha M. Bacheller, O. L. Utter.
1888-89 - Hattle Gale Sanders, Emma A. Allen, H. W. Stone.
1889-90 - Emma Secrest, Marie B. Senn, E. P. Smith.
1890-91 - Nellie McDonald, E. C. Thayer, W. W. Hutto.
|Christine M. Corlett,||W. W. Hutto,||E. C. Thayer,|
|Mary E. Cottrell,||Nellie E. McDonald,||Effie J. Zimmerman.|
|Delpha M. Hoop,||Lillian A. St. John,|
|G. A. Browning,||J. N. Harrier,||May Secrest,|
|Grace M. Clark,||R. A. McIlvain,||J. E. Thackrey,|
|G. L. Clothier,||Kate Oldham,||Winifred Westgate.|
|Elizabeth Edwards,||Birdie E. Secrest,|
|Maggie Campbell,||E. A. Gardiner,||J. F. Odle,|
|Martha D. Campbell,||Maude Gardiner.||Maude H. Parker,|
|R. A. Clark,||E. W. Gilkerson,||J. E. Taylor,|
|Martha A. Cottrell,||Pamelia Hoyt,||Joseph Thoburn,|
|Louise Daly,||Fred Hulse,||C. H. Thompson.|
|A. L. Brooks,||S. O. Huff man,||Joseph Salverson,|
|Grace Dille,||W. O. Lyon,||Erna Schroll,|
|G. W. Fryhofer,||Onie Hulett,||Emma Skow,|
|Nora Fryhofer,||L. McGrath,||Fairy Strong,|
|David Gamble,||R. B. Meade,||Fanny Thackrey,|
|Carrie Hall,||W. C. Meade,||Maine D. Thompson.|
|Hugo Halstead,||A. B. Newell,||D. Timbers,|
|Martha Hoyt,||W. H. Phipps,|
[Oration delivered at the U. G. Exhibition, 1890, by Nellie McDonald.]
The human actions of the present seem never to have been fully appreciated. 'Tis the fact that a thing is past that lends to it enchantment. How often do we hear the sigh for days gone by! How much does time magnify and brighten a good deed! As seen in the distant past, the age of chivalry seems to have been the most brilliant period of the world's history. But much of this pretty illusion is destroyed when we inquire into the condition of society at that time. We find that there never was a period when human society was more degraded, than during the feudal ages. Out of this dark mass of ignorance and superstition, there arose a spirit of gallantry toward the weak and defenseless, and especially toward woman. Is it not to this half imaginary superiority that we owe our fanciful and romantic idea of the knights of chivalry? Like Don Quixote, we see in imagination the gallant knight in glittering armor, mounted on his noble steed. He is ever on the alert, appearing, as if by magic, at the most critical moments to frustrate the designs of some villainous conspiracy. Such is the picture we draw of the knights of chivalry. And truly, there is much in that gallantry to which feudalism gave rise, that at once excites our admiration and enthusiasm. But, tear from chivalry the glossy drapery with which the poets have veiled it, and you will behold it in all its deformities.
There is, however, no stage of existence through which society has passed, that has not had some advantages. These heroes with their gallantry and consideration for woman, merit our everlasting esteem and gratitude; for it was during the feudal ages that woman received an influence she never before possessed.
But as the artificial is to the real, the false to the true, so stands the knights of chivalry to our own hero of every day life.
There is a class of men, whom it is perhaps not proper to call heroes of every day life, yet who deserve our especial attention. I refer to the heroes of science. Those self-sacrificing spirits devote their whole lives and energies to the acquisition of that knowledge for which the world has ever stood so much in need. To them we are under lasting obligations. To them we owe the marvelous results of our own civilization. Words cannot express the esteem and gratitude they deserve.
But where shall we find our hero of every day life? Do we find his name in the pages of history? No! Still less does the world resound with his praises. If we would find our ideal we must search the humble abode of those unpretentious men whose highest ambition is the practice of truth and virtue. What care they for glory? Such was the motive that led to the protest against the English Church. From the very depths of our hearts we can say, all honor to our Pilgrim fathers, to that vast host of working men who subdued the wilderness and the wild beast, and to whom we owe the marvelous results of our own civilization. But shall we give due praise to dead heroes and turn a deaf ear to the humble laboring heroes of our own time? Are not many of them doing as much to make the rough places smooth, both for the present and future generation as did our Pilgrim fathers! Then let us honor them while they live, let us encourage them while we may. Let us lend a helping hand and lighten their burdens, so that they too may have time for mental improvement. And now as we speak the hollow reverberating praises of past ages let us raise our voices in commendation of the laborers of to-day.
Who is more worthy of praise than those self-denying fathers and mothers who toil early and late that their children may have greater advantages than they had themselves? There stands the mother at the wash tub in her homely garb, toiling beyond her strength that her loved ones may have those privileges she so longed for, but which were denied her. And who does not know of a father who works from morn till night, through summer suns and winter storms, denying himself everything that his sons and daughters may be well educated? Do not sneer at their want of culture, or their slavish occupation, for if they had no conception of a higher life they would not labor thus for such a cause.
To my mind one of the most heroic actions ever witnessed is the youth battling against an inherited tendency toward intemperance. How unjustly be is blamed for giving way to his appetite! He only knows how great and how almost hopeless is the struggle.
No, my friends, the world has not yet recognized its truest, bravest and noblest heroes; those who are laboring for the advancement of mankind, for the common brotherhood of man. They are fighting ignorance in all its hydra-headed forms. They are banishing physical suffering and bloodshed, whereas the former hero's glory was measured by the extent of his destroying powers. If we would see that which is worthy of the name of heroism, we must look for it among those whose ambitions have never been influenced by selfish motives - among those who have striven to be good, rather than to be great - to bless others rather than aggrandize themselves. Their names have found no place in the world's history; the beauty of their daily lives has passed all unseen, save by the angels; yet it has blessed the world. In this high heroism all can take part. It lives in the heart of the nation, and the body of this great republic bears the noblest blood of nearly three centuries of American heroes. The field is as broad as the world, its aim as high as the heavens.
[An oration delivered at the Alpha Beta Exhibition in 1891, by Delpha Hosp.]
Have you ever watched the growth of the rosebud to the flower? Have you seen the bit of green swell and grow until it burst the bonds that hid its beauty and gave you a glimpse of the treasure within those green walls? And then, in pleased wonder, did you see the flower unfolding its delicate petals to the sunlight, breathing its fragrance on the delighted air, opening more and more, until a beautiful, perfect rose had taken the place of the simple bud? Have you seen this - yes, and loved it, too, for you could not help loving if you saw?
You who have seen this, did you ever observe the growth of another flower - the flower of human life, of human nature? Yes, you have watched the child, first struggling to comprehend the relation of selfishness to its acts, grasping the ideas of right and wrong, broadening all its thought, growing, expanding ever. You have seen the nobler nature within it, unfolding, pushing its way through temptations, rising again, ever going forward, sometimes defeated, always triumphant. And you that are old have been permitted to rejoice in the full, glorious life that has been moulded by the once weak child.
No higher joy can there be than this. Over and over again, I doubt not you have thought, "an honest man's the noblest work of God." But again you have seen the flower wither before it had ceased to be a bud. You have been disappointed many a time to find, when the rose was burst, that a worm was at the heart. So it is, too, with many a human life. It never realizes the great result for which it was designed. The "worm in the bud" has eaten away too much of the nobler life.
There is an analogy between these two flowers. In all relations can Nature and human nature be said to resemble each other. The greatest difference arises from the fact that human nature is so much the higher, and yet, the nearer to it we place Nature, the more true we become to human nature.
Everywhere the influence of Nature upon man has been for good. She teaches him of higher things. The least, the lowliest thing in nature has its own lesson to teach if we will only listen, for as Longfellow tells us,
"Nothing useless is, or low,
Each thing in its place is best,
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest."
and it but follows that a closer communion with Nature gives a better and holier knowledge of her God. The sympathy between man and Nature is instinctive. Those who understand and appreciate Nature least, are not insensible to her soothing influence.
What a relief it sometimes is to get away from the hurry and worry the world is often in, and forget it all in the contemplation of the beauties of Nature! We know that we have in her a friend that never changes. She is always ready with some manifestation of her sympathy when our human friends puzzle us too much, or are unusually trying. In loving Nature we do not take away any of the love for man, but by our love for her, are enabled to give a nobler, more unselfish and understanding love to man. One of Nature's highest missions is to help us to understand one another. We must not judge people, or misjudge them, rather, by that which appears on the surface. As has often been said, "The most precious jewel may be found in the roughest casket." Not only that, but with many people it requires a long acquaintance to reach their true selves, and we are liable to hastily conclude that they are unsympathetic, or at least unresponsive. If we could only look into the hearts of those around us, more true and enduring friendships would be formed; and hosts of people, now indifferent to each other, would be friends.
Nature shows to us only what we are able to understand. For each one of us, she is just what we make her. We may blind our sight and look upon a beautiful landscape unmoved. We may see a tree clothe itself in its green mantle for spring and feel no joy in its beauty. We may listen to the singing of the birds with no feeling of sympathy or love. The love of Nature is, in a great degree, the result of education. It grows with our growth. To the child, a leaf is simply pretty, but when the mind of the child has been developed the leaf is no longer merely beautiful, but it tells him of a law, wonderful and harmonious, that has given it being.
Very many people live all their lives without giving one real earnest thought to the nature that is around them. For them there is no delight in a moonlight night, no beauty in the form of the snowflake, no Supreme Being speaking in the voice of the waterfall. Truly, of them it may be said, "Eyes have they, but they see not; ears, but they hear not." Often they say they have no time for such things. But of such things is the purest pleasure in nature made up. It is a part of our being that we need such things to make us happy. God has given us all these beautiful surroundings for some purpose. The enjoyment of them is not alone to the rich, but to the poorest laborer as well. What less can we do than to appreciate and be grateful for them?
The power to love Nature is innate, but whether we use that power depends almost wholly upon ourselves. We may become so taken up with our daily cares, so intent upon business affairs, that we really do have no time to see or feel any of the good and beautiful things in nature. We bridle our imagination, afraid that it may make for us a pearl out of a drop of dew; afraid that as we watch the sunset, instead of the gold and crimson clouds, set in a blue sky, we may see the celestial glory streaming through the gates of heaven. There is no greater mistake than this, for, by the aid of the imagination, we see not only what is, but what may be; all the possibilities hidden in the simplest thing. We always think of heaven as having all things lovely and harmonious. If we wish to enjoy them fully there, we must love and understand, as far as we are able, the things we have with us here. This life is but the preparation for the life to come, and it is our duty to bring into it and make a part of ourselves all that is good or productive of good.
Tom & Carolyn Ward