Lucy P. Russell 1920 Letter

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From: DC0157s, Russell, Lucy Phillips, 1862- Reminiscences, Undated (View Finding Aid)


Russell, Lucy Phillips Daughter of Prof. Charles Phillips, D D. [1]

We arrived in Davidson during the bitter cold of Feb. 1869 [2], driving from Charlotte in a carriage hired from “John Wadsworth”[3], and household goods following in wagons over the inexpressible roads. We were cordially received at the entrance of the village by Prof. and Mrs. Blake [4] and were entertained several days by Dr. M’Phail [5], President of the college who lived then where Dr. Shearer [6] now lives. The faculty then was composed of Dr. M’P., Mr. Blake, Mr. Anderson [7], Mr. Richardson [8] (and Dr. Phillips). Nothing would exceed the cordiality of our reception and I may say that during the seven years of our stay, our life at Davidson was like that of the early Christians, we “had all things in common,” and “shared our mutual woes, and mutual burdens bore.” Life was singularly monotonous and centered around the church. All services were conducted by the ministers in the faculty, Dr. M’Phail, Mr. Anderson and my father, in rotation and never held in the college chapel [9] (now Shearer Hall) there being no college church building. The S.S. superintendents [10] were selected from the seniors who were candidates for the ministry, (page 1) and most the teachers were students. Every Saturday afternoon the children met to recite the Shorter Catechism [11], to a member of the faculty and on occasions of delirious festivity we had “The Larger Catechism [12], with proofs”. Sometimes those scenes of joy and gladness never varied by a “Singing”, also in the chapel, led by the students.

There were not many young ladies, Mary [13] and Lily M’Phail [14], Mary [15] and Sue Anderson [16] and Mary Phillips [17] were all, but they were such belles as the wildest tango dancers of today never dreams of being, why they even had “dates” to go to prayer meeting, and stalwart youths fought for the privilege of escorting them to choir practice. The young ladies formed a Secret Society with the mysterious little of “I.S.H.H” and scoffers translated it as: “I shall have a husband,” but it really meant: “Independent seekers of Health and Happiness” and they took long walks together every afternoon.

There was no hotel in the village and travellers were entertained by private homes, most of them in my father’s! On commencement occasions, every house was full to the bursting point, and as there was no R.R. and no regular schedule for arriving and departing, quests were apt to appear at any hour of day or (page 2) night and children were accustomed to being routed out and stowed away in out of the way earners to give place to guests. I remember my brother, “Dr. S. L. Phillips” being hustled out of his warm, warm cot and told to “go somewhere,” he was afterwards discovered without even a “nightie” on, his head under the bureau in the guest room, fast asleep!

The grand feature of Commencement, for the young folks, was the “Promenade Concert” [18] when the society halls [19] were brilliantly illuminated and decorated and the prettiest girl who had received the “Chief Marshall’s regaliaqueened it in the President’s chair. There was no dancing, of course.”

(A tragedy occurred when Dr. M’Phail died suddenly on Commencement day, and there were no exercises beyond the formal giving of diplomas. The first marriage even held in the chapel was that of my sister, Mary G. Phillips to John S. Verner [20], on January 14th 1873, an elaborate wedding for those quiet times with brides maids and groom’s men and wonderful cakes iced like the Taj Mahal by Mrs. Anderson. A shocker to the community was the death of one of the students, Douglas[21], who fell dead in his room while dressing for church). Dr. William Holt [22] was the beloved physician of the village and whole country-side, driving over the rough roads in a high-wheeled gig drawn by a big bay horse. (page 3)

Soon after our arrival the faculty was enlarged by the addition of Colonel W. J. Martin [23]. Reverend P. P. Winn [24] married Miss. Sue Anderson [25] and became an assistant Professor.” Mr. Latimer [26] came and soon brought his pretty, brown-eyed bride. One of the things we laughed at was the interruption of morning prayers by a supposed “mad-dog” who ran down the aisle into the pulpit, occupied by Dr. Latimer, he promptly moved the desk and called imperiously for some body to “throw the beast out of the window.”

Another funny thing happened in that same pulpit when Sally Stirewalt’s [27] (now Mrs. Paisly) pet deer took offense at my father’s red bandanna handkerchief and boldly attacked him in the rear, smiting him upon that portion of his form mercifully provided by a kind Providence for the purpose. Still mother comer of merriment was the joke on John Verner when he escorted Mary Phillips to the cupola on top of the “Chamber’s Building” [28] to witness the total eclipse. He wore a pair of very tight new boots and while she was coquetting with other admirers he sat down to ease his angry toes and pulled his feet up in the legs of the boots. Just when the sun re-appeared, the crowd began to disperse and Miss Mary called her escort who was obliged to ask her to (page 4) “walk on a while longer.” So round and round she went around the painted glass dome while he urged his protesting feet back into misery, then limped back home at her side.

One feature of winter was the passing of immense droves of horses, cattle, sheep, hogs and turkeys from the Mountains to Charlotte and “all points east.” Also “tip-tilled” wagons came down, full of apples and chestnuts, which were more of a treat and rarity then than grape fruit and pineapples are now. As I have said the church was the shining element of the college and village life, special attention was paid to church music, and a fine choir led by Dr. John Connor of St. Louis[29] added much to the services, the book was “The Psalmodist” with the music all written on four separate lines, and for each “part”, imagine the toils of the organist who had to combine the four lines into one chord. (Of course church attendance was compulsory, the students marching in single file after the rest of the congregation was seated.)

As to the personnel of the men who wrought well for the college in the “late 60s and early 70s” I remember Dr. M’Phail as a small, pale man with brilliant, dark eyes, wavy hair touched with grey and square cut beard. Mr. Blake was nick-named “Felis” by the boys from his way of pouncing down upon them at unexpected moments. (page 5) Professor Richardson was tall and bald with a long black beard like a patriarch of the Russian church. His college name was “Old Dick.” Mr. Anderson was gentle and tender in manner, with an appearance of frail health; he always reminded me of St. John. Mr. Barnett who came to be tutor (Math I think) was tall and slender with a red nose. Of Colonel Martin’s swift, soldierly ways and how he built up the Chemistry Department[30] from nothing at all his son and his pupils may tell.

There were only two stores in the place, Mr. Helper’s [31] and that smaller one kept by “Fran-pap Allison,” [32] and later Mr. S. L. Scofield [33] opened another. A simple, pious community it was, full of looming-kindness and hospitality. Every body was poor, because the whole South was, no body had a carriage, no fine clothes, no fine houses. Every body lived in charity with every body else, nurse each other in sickness, wept with each other in times of sorrow and death, enjoyed with each other when fortune smiled. I am glad I spent part of my childhood there and cried all the way to Charlotte when I left.

I might mention that my mother and I were the first passengers on the R. R. from D. to Char. and we ride at night in the cab of the engine! (page 6) The village school was taught in the old “Masonic Hall” [34] by primary students who were working and going to college on alternate years, and if ever I meet a Mr. Julius Anderson [35], or a Mr. Colin Munroe [36] (brother of Dr. J. P. M.) they will think the Huns have landed.

Not for print,

There was a woman who lived in the center of town with her brother and had three children and who supported them all by “taking in sewing.” She had one name, her brother another and her children still another, which was a hidden mystery to us children.” Also she has the saddest face I ever saw, rarely smiled and never came to church. Only within very recent years have I learned that hers was the story of “Enoch Arden.” [37] A modern woman would fly to a divorce court and make a joke of the whole situation, in those medieval times it broke a woman’s heart. Her children are living, honored and influential.

Lucy R. Russell

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[1] Charles Phillips, D.D., LL.D was born in 1822 in Harlem, New York. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1841 and earned his D.D. here in 1868, as well as earning his LL.D from Davidson College in 1876. He was Professor of Engineering at UNC from 1853 to 1860 and Professor of Mathematics from 1860 to 1868. He taught Mathematics, Astronomy, and Engineering at Davidson College from 1868 to 1875 (Alumni Catalog 25).

[2] In February 1869, the trustees of Davidson College elected Charles Phillips from Chapel Hill to teach mathematics after the resignation of Mr. McIver. By this time, Davidson’s faculty was the largest it had ever been in hopes of improving its academic program. In 1869, Davidson College had a full curriculum. (Beaty History 110) Davidson College taught a classical education including Greek, Latin, and Natural Science studies. As a teacher in Mathematics, Charles Phillips would teach freshmen Algebra and Geometry, sophomore Trigonometry and Spherical Trigonometry, juniors Analytical Geometry, Differential Calculus, and Integral Calculus, and seniors Astronomy. (D.C.C. 1868-1869, 13-14)

[3] John Wadsworth was born in 1863 in Charlotte, NC. He came to Davidson as a student in 1880 and graduated in 1883. He worked as a Merchant in Concord, NC since 1881. (Alumni Catalog 121)

[4] The Blake’s were an important family at Davidson College. (b. 1825 d. 1900) John Rennie Blake directed the affairs of Davidson College as faculty chairman from 1871 to 1877. Davidson College had no official president during this period. Blake was born in Greenwood, South Carolina and went to the University of Georgia and Harvard’s Lawrence Scientific School. Blake was elected as professor of Natural Philosophy at Davidson in 1861. (Davidson Encyclopedia) For more information visit:

John Rennie Blake (7-010c)
John Rennie Blake (7-010c)









[5] George Wilson McPhail was born in 1815 in Norfolk, VA. He graduated from Yale College in 1835. (Alumni Catalog 24) Reverend McPhail, D.D., LL.D. was elected as Davidson’s fifth president in 1866. He was previously the president of Lafayette College and was then pastor of a church in Fredrickson, Virginia for ten years before coming to Davidson. Dr. McPhail was the President of the Davidson College Board of Trustees from 1868 to 1870. He also taught Mental and Moral Philosophy at Davidson. Dr. McPhail died right before the Commencement Ceremony for the class of 1871, and he was the first president of the college to be buried in the college cemetery. (Davidson Encyclopedia) For more information visit:

The Presidential Portrait of George W. McPhail

The Presidential Portrait of George W. McPhail
The Presidential Portrait of George W. McPhail









[6] (b. 1832 d. 1918) John Bunyan Shearer gained his education at the Hampden-Sydney College, the University of Virginia and the Union Theological Seminary. Shearer was elected president of Davidson in 1888. In 1901, the last year of his presidency, Shearer instituted required Bible classes for all students at Davidson. That same year, he remodeled the old Chapel and renamed it Shearer Hall in honor of his wife. (Davidson Encyclopedia) For more information visit:

[7] John Monroe Anderson, A.M. was born in1821 in York County, SC. He graduated in 1841 from South Carolina College (now University of South Carolina). He became a licensed preacher in 1846 and worked as a preacher until 1854. Reverend Anderson was the President of Yorkville Female College from 1854 to 1861 in South Carolina. He was a Chaplain C. S. A. Professor in Davidson College from 1866 until 1874, teaching English, Logis, Evidence of Christianity, and Political Philosophy. After leaving Davidson College, Reverend Anderson acted as a pastor in Mebaneville and Bethlehem churches until his death in 1879. (Alumni Catalog 25)

[8] Reverend Wilson Gaines Richardson, M.A., Ph.D. was born in 1825 in Maysville, KY. He graduated as valedictorian in 1844 from the University of Alabama. He received his Ph.D. from Hiram College. Richardson worked in the department of Ancient Language and of English in the University of Alabama for four and a half years, and then traveled Europe for three years. From 1854 to 1861, Reverend Richardson was a Professor of Lain and French at the University of Mississippi. He was then the paymaster C. S. A. from 1861 to 1865. For a year, he was the Principal of Female Institute in Oxford, MI. Rev. Richardson was then a professor of Ancient and Modern Languages at Davidson College from 1866 to 1874. He was then a Professor of Languages at Austin College in Texas for three years. In 1882, Rev. Richardson prosecuted his theological thoughts at the Princeton Seminary. He died in 1886. Rev. Richardson was the author of the catalogue of the Library of the University of Alabama, “Latin Pronunciation of the American Colleges,” and was the Revising Editor of the Encyclopedia of the New West. (Alumni Catalog 25)

[9] The College Chapel, later known as Shearer Hall was built in 1837 to 1838. The chapel was remodeled and named Shearer Hall in 1901, named after Lizzie Gessner Shearer Hall. The Hall was Demolished in 1960. (Davidson Encyclopedia) For more information visit:

A picture of the Shearer Biblical Hall (9-1020a)
A picture of the Shearer Biblical Hall (9-1020a)





[10] “S.S. superintendents” stands for Sunday school leaders

[11] In the Presbyterian Church, the Westminster Confession of faith and the larger and shorter catechisms are an integral part of its practices. The shorter catechism is 107 questions outlining the aims of Christianity (Orthodox Presbyterian Church).

[12] A list of 196 questions that outline what a man should believe in regards to his faith and God. These answers are much more in depth than those of the shorter catechism (Orthodox Presbyterian Church).

[13] Mary McPhail was the daughter of George Wilson McPhail, who was president of Davidson College from 1866 to 1871. There were not many girls on campus during the time, and usually the only girls would be daughters of the President of the College or daughters of professors or town merchants. (Alumni Catalog 24)

[14] Lily McPhail was the daughter of George Wilson McPhail, who was president of Davidson College from 1866 to 1871. (Alumni Catalog 24)

[15] Mary Anderson was the daughter of Professor John Monroe Anderson, who was a professor at Davidson College from 1866 to 1874. (Alumni Catalog 25)

[16] Sue Anderson was the daughter of Professor John Monroe Anderson, who was a professor at Davidson College from 1866 to 1874. (Alumni Catalog 25)

[17] Mary Phillips was the sister of Lucy Phillips and the daughter of Charles Phillips, who was a professor at Davidson College from 1868 to 1875. Married John S. Verner. (Alumni Catalog 25)

[18] The Promenade Concert was a concert held outside around the time of commencement. It was the social event of the week where the marshals had a chance to enjoy themselves and dance with girls. (Davidson Encyclopedia) For more information visit:

[19] There were two main society halls on Campus called the Eumenean Literary Society and the Philanthropic Literary Society. These societies held their meetings in the Eumenean and Philanthropic Halls on Campus. (Davidson Encyclopedia) For more information visit: and

[20] John S. Verner was born 1842 in Bachelors’ Retreat, SC. He was the husband of Mary Phillips. He came to Davidson in 1865 and graduated from Davidson in the class of 1869. John Verner was a teacher in Davidson River, NC, the year after he graduated from Davidson. He was then a farmer in South Carolina for three years, and then became a lawyer in Wallhalla, SC in 1873. H. R. of South Carolina from 1876 to 1880. He then became the Col. And Staff of Gov. of South Carolina, and since 1887 he was the Comptroller General of South Carolina. He died in 1912. (Alumni Catalog 90)

[21] Charles Mobley Douglass was born in 1869 in Winnsboro, SC. Came to Davidson as a student in 1869 and was part of the class of 1872. Charles Douglass died before he had a chance to graduate in 1872 and was buried in the Student’s Cemetery in Davidson. (Alumni Catalog 95)

[22] Dr. William Edwin Holt was the Davidson town doctor from the end of the Civil War until his death twenty years later. (Beaty Town 40).

[23] Colonel W. J. Martin was born in Richmond, VA in 1830. He graduated from University of Virginia with his B. A. in 1854. He became a professor of Natural Sciences at Washington College in Pennsylvania until 1857. Afterwards, he was a professor of Chemistry, Mineralogy and Geology at University of North Carolina until 1867. He was then a teacher in Columbia, TN for three years. Since 1869 Col. Martin was a professor of Chemistry, Geology and Natural History at Davidson College since 1869, he became the Vice President of the college in 1884 and was the President of the college from 1887 to 1888. Col. Martin served as a Colonel in the Confederate South Army. He earned his M.A. at Colombia University, and LL.D. in 1887 from Hampton Sidney College in 1887 and from University of North Carolina in 1889. He died in Davidson, NC in 1896. (Alumni Catalog 25)

[24] Reverend Paul Patterson Winn, M.A. was born in Decatur, GA in 1845. He graduated from Davidson College in 1869. After graduating he was a tutor at Davidson College until 1871 when he became an adjunct professor until 1874. In 1875 he was an assistant instructor of Greek and Latin at Finely High School in North Carolina. He was then a pastor from 1876 until 1881. Reverend Winn was then an assistant instructor of Greek, English and Latin at Statesville Male Academy in North Carolina until 1885. He was a pastor at Clayton and Palmyra Churches. He was the Principal of Clayton High School for a year in 1885. Reverend Winn received his M.A. from Davidson College in 1872. He resided in Ashville, NC until his death. (Alumni Catalog 34)

[25] Miss Sue Anderson was the wife of Reverend P.P. Winn, who was a tutor and adjunct professor in Davidson College from 1969 to 1874. (Alumni Catalog 34)

[26] A University of Virginia graduate, Rev. James Fair Latimer originally taught mental and moral philosophy before he was replaced by Dr. Hepburn in 1875. Latimer was a confederate veteran from South Carolina and a graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary. Latimer taught at Davidson for 11 years (Beaty Davidson 118).

[27] Sally Paisley Stirewalt was the wife of Walter Hampton Stirewalt, who was a member of the class of 1874 at Davidson College. She later ran the boarding house at Davidson (Alumni Catalog 25)

[28] A cupola is a structure that resembles a dome and sits atop a building (Webster). The cupola on the Old Chambers building, along with its pillars, commanded attention from those who saw it (Fire in Old Chambers).

Two men standing in the Cupola on top of Chambers
Two men standing in the Cupola on top of Chambers









For more information visit:

[29] Lucy Phillips mentions a Dr. John Connor of St. Louis, but there is no mention of him by Mary Beaty or other Davidson documents.

[30] Davidson College has had Chemistry as part of the curriculum since 1837. Colonel Martin strengthened the Chemistry Department, which was later taken over by his son who then created a second laboratory on campus. (Davidson Encyclopedia) For more information visit:

[31] Hanson Pinckney Helper, known to the students as Mr. Pink, owned the store where students would buy books and other school supplies. He also became the Davidson College postmaster in 1856. The building later became known as the Carolina Inn (Beaty Davidson 81) For more on the Carolina Inn, visit:

[32] James Allison, known as “Grand-Pap” or “Mr. Jimmie”, ran a store for items such as groceries, tobacco, cigars, and other items on Main Street in the town of Davidson. (Beaty History 41)

[33] Mr. Stephen C. Scofield, known as Mr. Skit, ran a store on the corner of Depot Street in the town of Davidson. The Scofield family was a part of the Davidson community for a long time. (Beaty Davidson 67n)

[34] The Masonic Hall, known as the earliest school building, was a men’s fraternal organization and was used to be a group for freemasonry. William P. Williams, the first mayor of Davidson, founded the Masonic Lodge. (Hunter) In the 1870s seminary students taught elementary school classes in the Masonic Hall. (Beaty History 63)

[35] It is very likely that Lucy was referring to John Julius Anderson. He was born in Summerfield, AL in 1850. Anderson graduated from Davidson in the class of 1871. He was a teacher at Davidson College for a year after he graduated. He earned his M.A. at Davidson College in 1887. He was student at Columbia Theological Seminary from 1872 to 1875. He was a Pastor in Bryan Neck, GA, Samuel Davies’ Church in Virginia, and then in Greensboro, AL. Anderson was a professor at Mississippi Military Institute Pass Christian in MI in 1880, a professor at the Tuscaloosa Institute in 1880, a professor at Hope College in Michigan in 1885, and finally a professor at Westminster College in Fulton, Michigan. (Alumni Catalog 25)

[36] Mr. Colin Munroe was born in Fayetteville, NC in 1844. He graduated from Davidson College in the class of 1872. He was a teacher from 1872 to 1873. He was a student at the Union Theological Seminary in Virginia from 1873 to 1876. He earned his D.D. at Davidson College. Munroe was then a minister in Crystal Springs, MI, Old Fort, NC, Huntiongton, W. VA, and finally Lenoir and Hickory, NC. He died in Davidson, NC in 1919. (Alumni Catalog 96)

[37] “Enoch Arden” is a narrative poem written by Lord Alfred Tennyson in 1864. In this poem a married fisherman is shipwrecked and is missing for ten years. When the fisherman finally returns home he finds that his wife has remarried and has a child. (Encyclopedia Britannica)



Mrs. Lucy Phillips Russell was the daughter of Dr. Charles Phillips. The Phillips family came to Davidson in February of 1869 so that Dr. Phillips could become a Professor at the college. The family lived in Davidson until 1875. Lucy Phillips wrote a contemporary account of Davidson titled A Rare Pattern and is known as one of the best historical sources for Davidson during the time period. (Beaty History 36)

Works cited
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Alumni Catalogue of Davidson College, 1837-1924. Charlotte: Presbyterian Standard. 1924.

Beaty, Mary D. A History of Davidson College. Davidson: Briarpatch Press, 1988. Print

Beaty, Mary D. Davidson, A History of the Town From 1835 Until 1937. Davidson: Briarpatch Press, 1979. Print.

Blake, John. Portrait. Photograph number 7-010c. Davidson College Archives.

Blodgett, Jan. “The Town Hall is Hot Stuff: The story of Town Hall and the Fire Department.” Around the D. N.p., 29 Apr. 2009. Web. 1 May 2014. <>.

“Confession and Catechisms.” Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. <>.

“Cupola.” Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2014. <>.

Davidson College Catalog, 1868-1869. Davidson: Davidson College Office of Communications. [1869]

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Enoch Arden (poem by Tennyson).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2014. <>.

“Eumenean Hall” Davidson Encyclopedia
1998 <>.

“Events at Davidson College.” Events at Davidson College. Oak Row Report, n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2014 <>.

Gillespie, Molly, “Chemistry Department ” Davidson
Encyclopedia 1998 <>

Gillespie, Molly P. “George Wilson McPhail ” Davidson Encyclopedia
1998 <>

Gillespie, Molly P. “John Rennie Blake” Davidson Encyclopedia
1998 <>

Gillespie, Molly P, “John Bunyan Shearer ” Davidson Encyclopedia
1998 <>

Hunter, Margaret. “Rev. W. P. Williams, Davidson’s First Mayor.” The Mecklenburg Gazette 21 August 1980.

Ivins, Tammy. “Commencement at Davidson.” Davidson Encyclopedia July 2007 <>

Lahre, Jessica. “Carolina Inn” Davidson Encyclopedia October
2003 <>

“McPhail, George W. – Presidential Portrait” Davidson Encyclopedia
1998 <>

“Philanthropic Hall” Davidson Encyclopedia
1998 <>.

“Shearer Hall” Davidson Encyclopedia
1998 <>.

Shearer Hall. Photograph number 9-1020a. Davidson College Archives.

Transcription and annotation author: Christine Vaile.
Date: May 2014.
Cite as: Vaile, Christine, annotator. 1920 Lucy P. Russell letter. DC0157s.

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