From: DC0154s, Smith, William Alexander, 1843-1934 (1865). Reminiscences, 1920 (View Finding Aid)
The following bring my recollection of Davidson College days when a student there in 1859 1860 and 1861 are more or less personal, and the personal pronoun may occur frequently: “however-anyhow” as Old Uncle Tommie Little used to say more than a hundred years ago; “however-anyhow,” this frequent use of that pronoun “I” can not will be avoided and trust will be considerately pardoned.
My father Col. William G. Smith selected Davidson for my collegiate days and accompanied me, driving through the country (no other mode of reaching the college than). We anticipated spending the night in Concord . We had a good team—animated and buoyant with the reflection of leaving the village school and going to college. I naturally made good speed. Father looked at his watch and knew the distance traveled in the hour was six miles. He then related the following: An old gentleman driving along the public highway was overtaken by a young man. As he drove around, he inquired the distance to W. The old gentleman said it was “thirty-five miles.” “Can I get there today?” “Yes, if you will drive slow enough.” Later in the afternoon, the old gentleman caught up with the young man, his horse; jaded, worn and tired by the rapid speed, in the morning, the old gentleman knew the young man, but the young man did not recognize him. As the old gentleman drove by he again inquired the distance to W. “ten miles.” “Can I get there today?” “Yes, if you drive fast enough! I’m facing.” This was a life lesson never to be forgotten. It is applicable even today when gasoline and not horse flesh is the motive power.
In Sept. 1859, I, a callow youth, without a boy friend without even an acquaintance, made my appearance on the College campus—a total stranger in a strange place. The new College Building  was not completed, lacking the stair rails and other finishing necessaries. The rooms were large and clean and swept. Unfurnished, nothing there—only the white walls and bare floors. Situated in a field, ridges made by cultivation existing—not a tree. The College Building was a fair mark to the booming summer sun and miserable old beast of winter winds front-facing N., N.W. was the coldest.
I selected a front room in the South wing of the second floor. No. 44. From that day to this in 1920, the number 44 has had an attraction for me and called up pleasant memories of youthful days.
Each student furnished his room, usually two boys, friends, occupied a room. I, having no friend, alone and lonely, had a room all by myself. From the village store, bought six split-bottom chains, bed stand, and mattress—no sheets, pillow cases or pillows. Did not keep them in store. No 10-4 sheeting in those days,Only yard wide bleaching—a lady made those articles. It was very humiliating to be seen on the street carrying bundles to the seamstress and hear the boys hollering, “Fresh! Fresh!! Fresh!!!” Had I a boy I would send him to the college even if I could only keep him there five months; one session that he might have the “big head” eradicated and learn the amenities.
Examination for admittance came on—passed in Mathematics and Latin but I halted and stumbled in Greek. Said, “I do not want to remember the meaning of that word.” Prof. Fishburn  in a curl, contemplated voice replied, “Call it something and go on.” To my surprise and pleasure I was admitted. Most any boy was given a trial. Christmas examinations would soon by on, a student must grade above a 75, out of a possible 100 or he need not return. At Christmas my grade in Greek was 76 with an average of 80. Summer examination average was 88. Christmas examination Soph. year averaged 92 and a fraction. Steadily climbing. Students coming from Bingham, Dr. Wilson’s, and other good schools during the freshman year did not have to study and generally acquired idle habits. Those of us who were admitted on trial or probation were forced to study and acquired the habit of close application to our books and hard study. Which as the monster rolled around caused us steadily to forge ahead to around the coveted 100.
The faculty gave a vacation  of one day—set it apart for the planting of trees. Every student was expected to take from the wood a small tree and set it in the campus. Have often wanted to know if the tree I set lived. Fifty-nine years of growth should make it large. Well-limbed, handsome. As a member of the Philanthropic Society I participated in the debate, composition, declamation, etc., etc. Elected Secretary and served in that capacity title but left in May 1861 to join the Army of the Confederacy.
Rumors of war filled with hot air of orators on the campus prevailed. Just a few ordered guns from Colts Manufacturer and they were shipped in and received. Practice beyond College bounds on Saturdays was the order of the day. How do I remember proudly bringing a trophy of marksmanship—a red-headed wood knocker. Shot in the head, with a Colts pistol. The bird was on a limb of a tree forty yards or steps away. Two by two, one by one, the boys left the college halls for army camps.
The material for a secession flag was purchased, made and fastened to a staff about fifteen feet long. This flag was there by use of a ladder placed on the pinnacle of the cupola of the College Building and proudly gave its folds to the breeze. It was very dangerous as the cupola was covered with stay-light glass, and I was always glad to descend and find myself in the rotunda. It was still flying when I left for the army. No objection was made by Faculty to the flag that came to our knowledge. I was joined Co. C. #14 Reg. N.C. Volunteers. Known as the Anson Guard. The first Company in the state to offer its services to Governor Ellis in defense of state’s rights. It should have been incorporated in the trial; known as the Bethel Regiment, but the young, high strung, headstrong boys would not submit to discipline, nor obey orders. I boarded with M. Pink Helper.His most excellent wife kept a good table, supplied with abundance, well cooked. Palatable food to some twenty active students.
Seniors and Sophomores were congenial spirits. Likewise discussion of French ran together. To my lasting appreciation, a Senior, John McKinnon, elder brother to the Rev. Luke McKinnon, noticed me leaning against a post of the Helper House, lonely in the crowd. Came up—introduced himself—invited me for a walk—the acquaintance thus began developed into a lasting friendship. Hazing of the “freshs” was great sport to the sophs. Remember well the right ten or twelve sophs came to my room. Met them with a smile—they took pity on my loneliness and did not haze me, but dubbed me Smiley by which cognomen I was known and nearly thought it my name—namesake of Representation Smiley in the Congress of the United States. By invitation I accompanied the hazing to get points for the next years. Representation of Court Trials was often resorted to—A friend was accused of some heinous crime – Judge, jury, attorneys, sheriff, witnesses, etc., etc. Court was opened in form. The criminal arraigned, Prosecuting and Defense Attorneys examined the witness—speeches made. The Jury invariably found the culprit guilty. Sentence solemnly pronounced and punishment inflicted.
Another form of hazing was to induce a forward Freshmen to join a party in robbing a hen roost. The “Fresh” to climb the tree as he reached for a chicken, some student would shoot, the party incontinently fleeing, leaving the fresh to shift for himself. This he did by falling out of the tree, pick[ing] himself up, and run[ning] with the flight of the wind over shrubbery, through briars, knock down two parcels of a worn fence etc.—his clothing torn, hands and face lacerated. To find out it was all a put up job. Sometimes the chagrin was so great, he would pack his trunk and seek another clime, fleeing from the jibes of his persecutors.
Another form was to “smoke the rabbit out of the hollow.” On the back of the Pee Dee River where I was born freshet washed out a deep hole in the loamy land—bringing to light a large Indian pipe—the bowl of which would hold nearly half a pint. = By means of a bellows used to kindle up fire and some rubber tube inserted in the key hole, the freshman room was filled with tobacco smoke—stifling, noxious, and suffocating vapors. One might by use of a master key (are) had to take two boys out into the open space to revive them.
We often enjoyed the dance –the student string band making music with fiddle and guitar. Ladies would be distinguished by a hand or shift around the left arm. Cotillion and Virginian Reel are favorites. Politeness, Courtship, and all the amenities of the ballroom were observed, to the great amusement of the observing horses and wallflowers.
The huge college bell announced the house of the various classes and other daily duties. The day began with early morning prayer and roll call in the chapel, First the rising bell—second the assembly bell—half hour between bells. Would turn over for another snooze. “A little more sleep, a little more slumber.” At second bell—out of bed to jump, throw on a wrapper—run the fingers through the hair-head unkempt—face washed—stumble into the chapel, half asleep in time to answer role call. How we hated that bell! It was located in the belfry on the north wing, the rope coming down through the ceiling. The faculty chose the bell ringer. He was alway[s] a model student—faithful in all his studies. One might [hear] the bell ringing out clear and strong—causing great excitement among the students. Several members of the faculty came to investigate. A flock of crows always put out a watchman to signal danger. Likewise students—warning duly given of the approach of the faculty. Next day attempt was made to find the offender, (nothing doing) in vain—strenuous law was made announcing dire punishment. A master key unlocked the room. The tuneful bell again disturbed the faculty with its sonorous bell on the resonant night air. The provoked faculty changed the lock—”the contest was on, the hearts of the contestants were in it.” A student got onto the South wing—walked to the main building—by a plank climbed up—in like manner descended to the north wing. Tied a wire to the bell—passed it out over the roof and into the woods. Fastened to a limb by release that bell rung all night. The wire could not bee seen. It was uncanny, surely the devil spirit was in that bell. The faculty declared a truce. By mild, submissive words forgave the unknown offenders—Peace and amity were restored.
Many other incidents of fun, frolic, tricks and trouble might be detailed but these reminiscences are now too lengthy. The editor shears will be necessary and in order.
Fast and furious speed the days—fast and furious the term of war sounded—fast and furious sentiment crystalized—fast and furious the students fled the college halls to stem the invaders march into our sacred southland.
W. A. Smith
 Smith wrote the letter in 1920, recalling his time at Davidson and the interruption of the War Between the States. He entitled it, “Reminiscences of Davidson.” When Cornelius Shaw complied information for her History of Davidson College, she wrote alumni, asking for a recollection of their college days.
 Old Chambers – Completed in 1860, Chambers was named after Maxwell Chambers, who left his inheritance to Davidson: $260,000.00—a considerable sum for the time and the largest to ever be bestowed upon an antebellum southern college. Maxwell’s fortune has ambiguous origin, but most believe he made his fortune in the slave trade in Charleston, SC. When it was finished, the funds required for Chambers amounted to $81,000.00. The large building that dwarfed its neighbors included seventy-two sleeping rooms, five classrooms, dormitories for 1,000 students, three laboratories, a commencement hall, and a chapel. The building exhibited distinctive southern architecture, included brick from local clay, and was considered one of the finest academic buildings in the South. The fire began at four in the morning on November 21 for unknown reasons, and the building was down in three hours. A brick from Old Chambers with the engraving “1858” (the date of Old Chambers’s groundbreaking) was used in the construction of New Chambers (Fernandez).
For more information on Old Chambers and New Chambers: https://davidsonarchivesandspecialcollections.org/archives/encyclopedia/chambers-old
For more pictures of Old Chambers and the fire: https://davidsonarchivesandspecialcollections.org/archives/encyclopedia/fire-old-chambers-photographs
Requisites for admission: candidates were expected to have an “accurate knowledge of the English, Latin and Greek Grammars (Bullions preferred), including Prosody: – a thorough knowledge of arithmetic; Geography – Ancient and Modern; Bullions’ Latin Reader; Caesar’s Commentaries (five books); Virgil, (Bucolic’s and six books of the Aeneid); Sallust; Cicero’s Select Orations; Bullions’ Greek Reader throughout, and the Greek Testament (John’s Gospel and Acts of the Apostles)” (DCC 12).
 Professor Fishburn – Clement Daniel Fishburne, A.M. – He was a Greek and Ancient History Professor at Davidson from 1855 to 1860. He served in the Civil War as Sergeant, Rockbridge Artillery and was also a clerk in the Military court from 1863-1865. Fishburne left Davidson to go to Law school in 1860-1861 and 1865-1866 at UVA (Lingle 22).
 Grading System – The following are quotes from Davidson’s College Catalog in the late 1800s: “A record shall be kept of all recitations, by a system of notation, such that 100 shall mark a perfect, and 0 an entirely deficient recitation.”
“The sum of these marks, divided by the number of recitations in a term shall be the average standing of a student before examination, and this multiplied by 4 and added to the mark for examination, and divided by 5, shall determine the final standing of any student in a term of that department.”
The students at Davidson in the late-nineteenth century did not choose majors and had no electives. All students followed the same curriculum, which was strongly focused on Classics: the ancient languages, the plays of the Greeks, the Roman orators, and the history of both civilizations. Toward the end of their four years, students were introduced to the natural sciences and Literature, including Biblical scholarship. The curriculum for 1860-1890 was as follows:
Freshman Year – Latin, Greek, Mathematics
Sophomore Year – Latin, Greek, Mathematics (in more depth)
Junior Year – Latin, Greek, Mathematics, Mental Science (Philosophy)
Senior Year – Latin and Greek continues, Mental Science, Religion, Constitutional and International Law, Political Economy, Philosophy, Astronomy, Chemistry, Geology, and Mineralogy (DCC 10-11).
 Bingham School – A series of classical academies overseen for 135 years by the Bingham family, the Bingham school prepared students for College education. It operated from 1845 to 1865 as a preparatory school specifically for students seeking entrance to Chapel Hill. The school no longer stands but the headmaster’s home, listed in the National Historic Registry, has been restored (Anderson).
For an extended history of the Bingham Family and of the School: http://ncpedia.org/bingham-school
 Vacations – In the late 19th century, Davidson College academic school years, semesters, and vacations were quite different than they are today. The 1857 academic school year ended on July 16th. There were two sessions, the first began “ten weeks after the second Monday in July and closed on the third Friday in February. The second began on the Monday after the third Friday in February and ended the first Thursday after the second Monday in July. There was a Christmas break of two weeks and each session ended with final exams. In 1858 the academic school year ended on July 15th. In 1859 the academic school year ended July 14th. In 1861 the academic school year ended on July 11th. Commencement was the first Thursday after the second Monday in July. The first term opened ten weeks after commencement. The second term began the Monday after the third Friday in February. There was a two-week recess including Christmas and New Year. The senior class exams were five weeks before commencement. The Davidson College Archives have no catalogs for the year 1860 as well as the years 1863-1865. (Refer to Davidson College Catalogs in archives or online for detailed calendars of college events as well as date of academic school year and semesters.)
 Philanthropic and Eumenean Societies – Created in 1837, these literary societies were the first student organizations on campus. The Eumenean Society’s motto is “Pulchrum est colere mentem,” or “The cultivation of intellect is beautiful.” The Philanthropic Society had similar goals, it’s motto being “Verite sans peur,” or “Truth without fear.” Both Societies valued literary discussion, debate of controversial and/or contemporary topics, and the cultivation of knowledge outside the classroom. They had bi-weekly meetings to share compositions and to debate. W.A. Smith talks about the debate, composition, and declamation that he participated in as a member of Phi. Both groups were the center of social life at the time. They provided the camaraderie of the fraternity, the structure of student government, and an extra layer of education outside the set curriculum. In the 1840s buildings were constructed to house the societies’ meetings and books. The libraries of the two societies were once larger than those of the College itself (Sanchez).
For more detailed information on the literary societies: https://davidsonarchivesandspecialcollections.org/archives/encyclopedia/literary-societies
 The War Between the States and its Effects on Davidson – From the Philanthropic Society minutes in 1860: “Has a state a right to secede from the Union under any circumstances that may exist in the present government?” The members answered, No. In 1861 they decided North Carolina should not secede, arguing there was not sufficient duress to justify the expense and tragedy of war. Many, absorbed in schoolwork, were simply apathetic. Eighty-seven students were enrolled in 1861’s first semester but only eleven remained in the spring of that year once NC had officially seceded from the Union. Many faculty, staff, and most all of the students left for war. Only one student graduated Davidson during the Civil War. In 1862 the C.S.A. passed legislation, including a Conscription Bill, requiring 18-35 year-old males to join the army. Most of the students still at Davidson left for the war at this point.
For more information on the Civil War’s Effects on Davidson: http://library.davidson.edu/archives/acs/civil_war/civil_war/civil_war_home.htm
 Colts Gun Manufacturer – Samuel Colt was the inventor of the first firearm equipped with a revolving cylinder. It was the first gun that did not have to be reloaded between each shot. The patent was issued in 1836, and by the latter half of the nineteenth century, it was the best-known firearm in America, Canada, Mexico, and many European countries. Until the official declaration of the War, Colt Manufacturer sold guns to the southern customers, but after 1861 it was Union customers only (“Company: History”).
For more on the history of Colt Manufacturing Company: http://www.colt.com/Company/History.aspx
 Secession Flag – In 1861 the NC flag shown in Figure 1 was issued with the dates May 20th 1776 and May 20 1861 surrounding a star. The star with red backdrop was reminiscent of the SC secession flag, which itself had been adopted from the Charleston Custom House Flag (Halsall). The bottom date indicates the state’s secession from the Union. When the new flag was proposed, the left section with the star was made blue to recall the “bonnie blue” flag that flew over many southern states during secession (NETSATE).
 Cupola on Old Chambers – The Davidson Archives has pictures of the “rotunda” of Old Chambers. The rotunda is what New Chambers has (the closed-dome ceiling), but a cupola looks more like the Old Chambers feature, which is a rounded or square vault, often with wooden slits to let in light and air. The Old Chambers top really doesn’t look exclusively like a rotunda or a cupola, but a fusion of the two. It is like a cupola within a larger cupola, but circular and very open.
For more information on Old Chambers Architecture: https://davidsonarchivesandspecialcollections.org/archives/encyclopedia/chambers-old
For more pictures of Old Chambers: https://davidsonarchivesandspecialcollections.org/archives/encyclopedia/fire-old-chambers-photographs
 The Anson Guard – Company C 14th Regiment of North Carolina, the Anson Guards, included many students from Davidson County, and William A. Smith actually wrote a whole book about the guard, which was published in 1914. In the preface he wrote, “There have been many histories written of the great War Between the States, but they have dwelt in large part on the chief actors participating. It seems good to us also, who were eyewitnesses, to draw up a narrative of a Company. The Unit of an Army” (Smith 1).
For more information on the Anson Guard, see Smith’s book: History of Company “C” 14th Regiment. N.C.V. Army of Northern Virginia by Maj. W.A. Smith.
 The Bethel Regiment – The Bethel Regiment was the popular name of the first regiment of volunteers raised in North Carolina at the beginning of the Civil War. The Regiment played a significant role in winning the first land battle of the conflict at Bethel, Va., on 10 June 1861 (Powell).
 Mr. Helper and the Helper Hotel – The building that is now the Carolina Inn was built by Lewis Dinkens circa 1848 across what was then called not Main Street, but Statesville Highway. It was a store, and Hanson Pinkney Helper bought and renovated it in 1855 to be an inn. Pinkney was known by the College students as “Mr. Pink,” and many bought things from his store. He was made postmaster in 1856 (Lahre).
For More information on the Carolina Inn and Mr. Pink Helper: https://davidsonarchivesandspecialcollections.org/archives/encyclopedia/carolina-inn-history
 John McKinnon – John was born in Floral College in 1838. While at Davidson, he was a member of the Philanthropic Society, and he left to join the Confederate army from 1861-1865 as a Lieutenant. He was captured at Fort Fisher but survived the war and later sbecame a farmer and turpentine manufacturer. He eventually settled in Maxton, N.C. and died there in 1897(Lingle 78).
For more information on military trials during the Civil War: http://blogs.loc.gov/law/2012/11/civil-war-military-trials/
 Enmity Between Classes – Hostility between classes was personified in the Freshmen and Juniors’ Mirror, a detailed ridicule of the two classes published by the Sophomore class on July 13, 1859. The document condescends and slights individual members of the freshman and junior classes, and also expresses disdain for teachers and particular subjects. One section reads:
It shall be the duty of Professors generally, and of the professor of Chemistry in particular, to attend prayers twice during each year—at the February examinations and at Commencement, and also to attend at other times when any of the Trustees are about the College (Sophomore Class 18).
The publication almost led to a riot and the trustees met in extraordinary session—instigated by President Lacy—in order to obtain apologies from the Sophomores.
Looking through it, the fonts and structure were obviously intended to resemble the College Catalogue.
 Pee Dee River – Also known as the Great Pee Dee River, it runs through NC and SC. Originates in NC Appalachian Mountains and comes out into the Atlantic near Georgetown at Winyah Bay (http://ncpedia.org/rivers/yadkin-pee-dee).
 The Cotillion and The Virginia Reel – The Cotillion was a patterned social dance that originated in France. It was originally made up of four couples in square formation. The United States “square dance” is a form of rural contredanse, which descended from the urban cotillion (“Cotillion”). The Virginian Reel a folk dance originating in 17th century Ireland or Scotland. It was most popular in American from 1830 to 1890 (“Virginia Reel”).
 Bell – The Davidson College bells have had an interesting history. Over the course of the 19th and 20th century, the bells have evolved with respect to the changing time periods. The bells called students to meals, chapel, pointed out significant times of the day, and signaled the end of classes. The bells were placed on top of chambers, so that they could be heard all over campus. The first large bell on top of chambers was installed in 1860. The earliest Davidson college bell was recently found buried under a barn on a local Davidson property and returned to the school (Beaty).
William Alexander Smith – A businessman, farmer, and local historian born in Anson County, NC. He was born at Nelme Plantation near Ansonville, attended Davidson beginning in 1859, and was a member of the Philanthropic Society. The Civil War interrupted Smith’s academic career, and in 1861 he joined the Anson Guards (Company C 14th Regiment, NC Infantry). He served in 1861 and ’62, but was wounded as a color guard to the extent that he required the use of crutches for the rest of his life. He returned to Davidson in 1863. The family fortune decreased during the war but Smith was still able to pursue a career in business after he graduated Davidson in 1865. In 1869 he married Mary Jane Bennett of Anson County two days before Christmas. They had a son who died in infancy and two girls, Etta and Nona. He moved from mercantile to textile industry after 1886 and served as president of both Yadkin Falls Mill and Eldorado Cotton Mills. He retired from the mills in 1905 and continued his business career as an investor. By 1933, his investments were around $180,000.00. Smith also operated a farm of 1,500 acres, with tenants working the estate. Smith died at his home, the Oaks, on April 16, 1934, twenty years after his first wife had passed. His second wife and foster son who was a nephew of his first wife survived him (Erwin).
For more information on William Alexander Smith: http://ncpedia.org/biography/smith-william-alexander-0
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Anderson, Jean B. “Bingham School.” NCpedia. State Library of North Carolina. 2006. Web. 30 April 2014.
Bayley, Elizabeth. “Yadkin-Pee Dee River.” NCpedia. State Library of North Carolina. 2006. Web. 30 April 2014.
“Company: History.” Colt. Colt Manufacturing Company. 2014. Web. 30 April 2014.
“Cotillion.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 30 April 2014. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cotillion
Davidson College Catalogue: 1861. Fayetteville: Presbyterian Job-Office, 1861: 10-15. Print.
Erwin, William R., Jr. “Smith, William Alexander.” NCpedia. State Library of North Carolina. 1994. Web. 30 April 2014.
Fernandez, Jennifer. “Chambers – The Old and the New.” Davidson Encyclopedia. October 2003. Web. 30 April 2014.
Lahre, Jessica. “Carolina Inn.” Davidson Encyclopedia. October 2003. Web. 30 April 2014.
Lingle, Thomas Wilson. Alumni Catalogue of Davidson College: 1837-1924. Charlotte: Presbyterian Standard Publishing Company, 1924. Print.
NState, LLC. “North Carolina Flags.” NETSTATE. 6 February 2014. Web. 6 May 2014.
Photograph of Chapel. 9-0384.
Photograph of College Bell. https://davidsonarchivesandspecialcollections.org/archives/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2010/11/bell_journal.jpg
Photograph of Old Chambers. 9-0098.
Photograph of Old Chambers Rotunda. 9-0164
Photograph of Philanthropic Hall. 9-3348.
Powell, William S. “Bethel Regiment.” NCpedia. State Library of North Carolina. 2006. Web. 30 April 2014.
Sanchez, James. “Eumenean and Philanthropic Literary Societies.” Davidson Encyclopedia. December 2003. Web. 30 April 2014.
Smith, William Alexander. History of Company “C” 14th Regiment, N.C.V. Army of Northern Virginia. Reprint. Wendell: Broadfoot Publishing, 1978. Print.
Sophomore Class. Freshmen & Juniors’ Mirror. 13 July 1859: 18. Print.
Stuart, Melinda. Eumenean Hall. 2011. Davidson College, NC. Panoramio. Web. 6 May 2014.
“Virginia Reel.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 30 April 2014. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/630074/Virginia-reel.
Transcription and annotation author: Annie Brockett, Maxi Pragnell, and Jonathan Ferguson.
Date: May 2014.
Cite as: Brockett, Annie, Maxi Pragnell, and Jonathan Ferguson, annotators. 1920 William A. Smith letter to [Cornelia Shaw]. DC0154s.