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Chapter 3
from A History of Amherst College by William S. Tyler 1830

The First Presidency --- First Catalogue and Course of Study --- The Literary Societies --- Early Amherst --- Death of President Moore.

[Zephaniah Swift Moore.]First things, whether they are the first in the history of the world, or only the first in a country, or a town, or an institution, besides their intrinsic value, have a relative interest and importance which justify and perhaps require the historian to dwell upon them at greater length.

The first edifice of the Charity Institution, as we have seen in the foregoing chapter, was the present South College.  Although it was erected so rapidly and finished and furnished to so great an extent by voluntary contributions of labor and material, it was one of the best built, and is to this day one of the best preserved and most substantial of all the buildings on the grounds.  The rooms were originally large, square, single rooms, without any bedrooms, and served the double purpose of a dormitory and a study.  A full quarter of a century elapsed before bed-rooms were placed in South College.  Some of the rooms, besides serving as sleeping-rooms and studies for their occupants, were also of necessity used for a time as recitation-rooms for the classes.  Thus the room of Pindar Field and Ebenezer S. Snell, the two seniors who for some time constituted the senior class---it was the room in the southwest corner of the fourth story---was the senior recitation-room, and there President Moore daily met and instructed his first senior class.  Four chairs constituted the whole furniture and apparatus of this first recitation room.  The library, which at this time was all contained in a single case scarcely six feet wide, was at first placed in the north entry of the same building, the old South College.

Morning and evening prayers were at first attended in the old village "meeting-house," which then occupied the site of the observatory, and was considered one of the best church edifices in Hampshire County.  The relations between the students and the families in the village were in the highest degree confidential and affectionate, and the letters which the author has received from the alumni of those halcyon days, although the writers have already reached their threescore years and ten, still read very much like loveletters.

The bell of the old parish meeting-house continued to summon the students to all their exercises till, ere long, one was presented to the college.  A coarse, clumsy, wooden tower or frame was erected between the college and the meeting-house to receive this first college bell.  This tower, then one of the most remarkable objects on College Hill, became the butt of ridicule and was at length capsized by the students, and the bell was finally transferred to the new chapel.

The growing popularity and prosperity of the institution soon made it manifest that it would require more ample accommodations.  In the summer of 1822, the president's house, now owned and occupied by the Psi Upsilon Society, was completed.  About the same time a second edifice was commenced, and a subscription of thirty thousand dollars was opened to pay debts already contracted, to finish the new building, and to defray other necessary expenses.  At the opening of the second term of the second collegiate year in the winter of 1822-23, this edifice, the present North College, was already completed and occupied for the first time.  The rooms were not all filled, however, and, for some time, unoccupied rooms were rented to students of the academy.  Still "no room was furnished with a carpet, only one with blinds, and not half a dozen were painted."

The two corner rooms in the south entry and fourth story of this new building, being left without any partition between themselves or between them and the adjoining entry, were now converted into a hall which served at once for a chapel and a lecture-room, where lectures on the physical sciences followed the morning and evening devotions, thus uniting learning and religion according to the original design of the institution, but where the worship was sometimes disturbed by too free a mixture of acids and gases.  The two middle rooms adjoining this hall were also appropriated to public uses, one of them becoming the place where the library was now deposited, and the other the first cabinet for chemical and philosophical apparatus.

A semi-official notice in "The Boston Recorder," dated October 1, 1821, announces that "a college library is begun, and now contains nearly seven hundred volumes.  A philosophical apparatus is provided for, and it is expected will be procured the coming winter."

The first lectures in chemistry were given by Colonel Graves, who had been a lecturer in the same department previously, at Dartmouth College.  These lectures were delivered in a private room used as a lecture-room in South College.  It was quite an enlargement and sign of progress when Professor Eaton began to lecture to all the classes together in the new hall in the new North College.

The first "Catalogue of the Faculty and Students of the Collegiate Institution, Amherst, Mass.," was issued in March, 1822, that is, about six months after the opening.  It was a single sheet, about twelve by fourteen inches in size, and printed only on one side, like a hand-bill.  In this, as in many other things, Amherst followed the example of Williams College, whose catalogue, issued in 1795, according to Dr. Robbins, the antiquarian, was the first catalogue of the members of a college published in this country.  The faculty, as their names and titles were printed on this catalogue, consisted of Rev. Zephaniah Swift Moore, D. D., president and professor of divinity; Rev. Gamaliel S. Olds, A. M., professor of mathematics and natural philosophy; Joseph Estabrook, A. M., professor of languages and librarian; Rev. Jonas King, A. M., professor of oriental literature; and Lucius Field, A. B., tutor.  But the professor of oriental languages was never installed, and the instruction was all given by the president with two professors and one tutor.  The president was not only the sole teacher of the senior class, but gave instruction also to the sophomores.  The number of students had now increased from forty-seven to fifty-nine, viz.:  three seniors, six juniors, nineteen sophomores, and thirty-one freshmen.  But dissatisfied with this hand-bill, they issued in the same month of the same year (March, 1822), the same catalogue of names, in the form of a pamphlet of eight pages, which contained, besides the names of the faculty and students, the requirements for admission to the freshman class, an outline of the course of study, and a statement of the number of volumes in the libraries of the institution and of the literary societies.

The requisites for admission into the freshman class were the ability to construe and parse Virgil, Cicero's Select Orations, Sallust, the Greek Testament, Dalzel's Collectanea Græca Minora, a knowledge of the Latin and Greek Grammars, and Vulgar Arithmetic.

Course of Study.---First Year.---Livy, five books, Adam's Roman Antiquities, Arithmetic, Webster's Philosophical and Practical Grammar, Græca Majora, the historical parts, Day's Algebra, Morse's Geography, large abridgment, and Erving on Composition.

Second Year.---Playfair's Euclid, Horace, expurgated edition, Day's Mathematics, Parts II., III. and IV., Conic Sections and Spheric Geometry, Cicero de Officiis, de Senectute and de Amicitia, Græca Majora, Jamieson's Rhetoric, and Hedge's Logic.

Third Year.---Spheric Trigonometry, Græca Majora finished, Enfield's Philosophy, Cicero de Oratore, Tacitus, five books, Tytler's History, Paley's Evidences, Fluxions and Chemistry.

Fourth Year.---Stewart's Philosophy of Mind, Blair's Rhetoric, Locke abridged, Paley's Natural Theology, Anatomy, Butler's Analogy, Paley's Moral Philosophy, Edwards on the Will, Vattel's Law of Nations, and Vincent on the Catechism.

Each of the classes had once a week, for a part of the year, a critical recitation in the Greek Testament.  All the classes had weekly exercises in speaking and composition.  The library belonging to the institution contained nine hundred volumes, and society libraries about four hundred volumes.  This catalogue was printed by Thomas W. Shepard & Co., Northampton.

The annual catalogue for the second year, printed by Denio & Phelps, at Greenfield, in October, 1822, was a pamphlet of twelve pages, and in addition to the matter contained in that of the previous year, comprised the names of the overseers of the fund, a brief calendar, and a statement of the term bills and other necessary expenses.  The overseers of the fund, whose names appear on the catalogue, are Henry Gray, Esq., of Boston, Hon. Salem Towne, Jr., of Charleton, H. Wright Strong, Esq., of Amherst, Rev. Samuel Osgood of Springfield, Rev. Theophilus Packard of Shelburne, Rev. Thomas Snell of Brookfield, and Rev. Luther Sheldon of Easton.  The faculty is the same as in the previous catalogue, except that the names of William S. Burt, A. B., and Elijah L. Coe, A. B., appear as tutors.  They were both graduates of Union College.  The number of students had now increased to ninety-eight, viz:  "senior sophisters," five; "junior sophisters," twenty-one; sophomores, thirty-two, and freshmen, forty.  The students' rooms are also registered, N. standing for North College, and S. for South College, on the catalogue.

The term bills, comprising tuition, and room-rent, were from ten to eleven dollars a term.  Beneficiaries did not pay any term bills.  Board was from one dollar to one dollar twenty-five cents a week, wood from one dollar fifty cents to two dollars a cord, and washing from twelve to twenty cents a week.  "Motives of economy and of convenience," writes Dr. Chapin of the class of '26, "influenced the first class of students very largely in coming to Amherst.  We all made our own fires and took the entire care of our rooms; most of us sawed our own wood.  My college course cost me eight hundred dollars, which was a medium average, I should think.  The college grounds were rough and unadorned, and during all of my course had little done to improve them.  Each spring we had our 'chip day,' when the students in mass turned out to scrape and clear up the grounds near the buildings."

The two literary societies, the Alexandrian and the Athenian, were organized soon after the opening of the institution.  The members of the college were all allotted to the two societies in alphabetical order, the two seniors, Pindar Field and Ebenezer S. Snell, placing themselves or being placed at the head, the former of the Athenian and the latter of the Alexandrian Society, and then reading off the names of the members of the lower classes alternately to the one or the other in the order of the catalogue.  Mr. Field was chosen the first president of the Athenian Society, and Mr. Snell the first president of the Alexandrian.  The first meetings of the societies were held in No. 3 and No. 6 in the north entry of South College.  In April, 1822, the students in their poverty raised a small contribution, less than $100, and sent Mr. Field to Hartford to purchase a few books which were the beginning of a library for the two societies, for they were then not rival but affiliated societies and had their library in common.

Prof. Charles U. Shepard of the class of '25 has contributed the following graphic sketch of men and things at Amherst in those early days:

[Amherst College in 1824.]"Amherst as it was then would be a strange place to the residents in Amherst of nowadays.  The good clergymen who petitioned for its prosperity in 'college prayers' delighted to call it 'a city set upon a hill;' but they would have described its fashion with quite as much exactness had they put forward its claims to celestial notice as 'a village in the woods.' Something more than a score of houses, widely separated from each other by prosperous farms, constituted Amherst centre.  Along two roads, running north and south, were scattered small farmhouses, with here and there a cross-road, blacksmith's shop, or school-bouse by way of suburb.  The East Street, however, formed even then a pretty cluster of houses, and had its meeting-house with a far comelier tower than it boasts at the present day.

"But the fine dwellings, public or private, of that early time had their features, whether tasteful or the reverse, greatly concealed by the wide prevalence of trees.  Primal forests touched the rear of the college buildings; they filled up with a sea of waving branches the great interval between the village and Hadley; toward the south they prevailed gloriously, sending their green waves around the base and up the sides of Mt. Holyoke; to the east, they overspread the Pelham slope; and they fairly inundated vast tracts northward clear away to the lofty hills of Sunderland and Deerfield.  It was a sublime deluge, which, alas! has only too much subsided in our day."

After some appreciative notice of the instructions, character, and influence of Presidents Moore and Humphrey, and the chemical and botanical lectures of Prof. Amos Eaton, Professor Shepard concludes:  "Such were our chief advantages as I now recollect them.  At the time we rated them highly; few left Amherst for other colleges.  Nor do I know that any have since regretted connecting themselves with the infant institution.  There were doubtless deficiencies to be regretted.  In the larger and older universities we might have found better teachers and richer stores of libraries and collections, but in some unknown way, perhaps in the enthusiasm of comparatively solitary effort, compensation was made; and, on the whole, we may doubt whether higher life success would have attended us had we launched from other ports."

The students of Amherst, in those early days, were comparatively free from exciting and distracting circumstances.  There were then here no cattle-shows or horse-races, no menageries, circuses, or even concerts of music.  They had no "Greek Letter" societies, no class day, and no class elections and class politics to divide and distract them.  They came here to study, and they had nothing else to do.  They felt that their advantages were inferior to those of older and richer institutions, but for that very reason they felt that they must "make themselves."

The "Exercises at the First Anniversary of the Collegiate Charity Institution at Amherst" were held in the old "meeting-house" on the 28th of August, 1822.  After sacred music, and prayer by the president, a salutatory in Latin was pronounced by Ebenezer S. Snell.  His classmate, Pindar Field, delivered the concluding oration in English.  There was no valedictory.  The members of the junior class, then six in number, helped them to fill up the program with a colloquy, two dialogues, and several orations.  A poem was also delivered by Gerard H. Hallock, who was then principal of Amherst Academy.  As the institution had no charter, and no authority to confer degrees, testimonials in Latin that they had honorably completed the usual college course were given to the two members of the senior class.  The exercises were then closed with sacred music and prayer.  The subjects of the two dialogues were "Turkish Oppression," and "The Gospel Carried to India."  The last, which was written by Pindar Field and acted by the two seniors with the help of one of the juniors, was an intentional argument and appeal in favor of foreign and domestic missions.

The first revival of religion occurred in the spring term of 1823, about a year and a half after the opening of the institution.  The number of students was now over a hundred.  The president's house was completed.  Two edifices crowned the "consecrated eminence," and a subscription of thirty thousand dollars was being successfully and rapidly raised to defray the expenses.  The prosperity of the institution exceeded the most sanguine hopes of its founders.  But at this time President Moore was suffering from ill-health.  The amount of labor which he had been performing for nearly two years, together with the responsibility and anxiety that pressed upon him, was enough to break down the most vigorous constitution.  In addition to his appropriate duties as president and as chairman of the board of trustees, he heard all the recitations of the senior and in part those of the sophomore class, performed several journeys to Boston to promote the interests of the institution, and solicited in a number of places pecuniary aid in its behalf.  The revival, while it gladdened his heart beyond measure, greatly added to his labors and responsibilities.  His constitution, naturally strong, was overtaxed by such accumulated labors and anxieties, and had begun to give way perceptibly before the attack of disease which terminated his life.

On Wednesday, the 25th of June, he was seized with a bilious colic.  From the first, the attack was violent, and excited fears of a fatal termination.  "During his short sickness," we quote the language of Prof. B. B. Edwards, a loving and beloved pupil, one of the converts in the recent revival, "the college was literally a place of tears.  Prayer was offered unto God unceasingly for him.  We have never seen more heartfelt sorrow than was depicted in the countenances of nearly a hundred young men, all of whom loved him as their own father.  But while they were filled with anxiety and grief, Dr. Moore was looking with calmness and joy upon the prospects which were opening before him.  While flesh and heart were failing him, Christ was the strength of his heart and the anchor of his soul.  And when his voice failed and his eyes were closing in death, he could still whisper, 'God is my hope, my shield, and my exceeding great reward.'"

He died on Monday, the 29th of June, 1823, in the fifty-third year of his age.  The funeral solemnities were attended on the Wednesday following, in the presence of a great concourse of people from Amherst and the surrounding region.  An appropriate sermon was preached by Rev. Dr. Snell, of North Brookfield.

"By nature a great man, by grace a good man, and in the providence of God a useful man, a correct thinker and a lucid writer, a sound theologian, instructive preacher, and greatly beloved pastor, a wise counsellor and sympathizing friend, a friend and father especially to all the young men of the infant college in which he was at the same time a winning teacher and a firm presiding officer, Dr. Moore filled every station he occupied with propriety and raised the reputation of every literary institution with which he became connected."  Such, in brief, is the character of the first president of Amherst College as it was briefly sketched in the funeral sermon by Dr. Snell, who knew him intimately both in the pastorate and in the presidency, and who was incapable of exaggeration.

So profound was the sympathy of the senior class with their beloved president, that they were reluctant to take any part in commencement exercises at which he could not preside.  And so dark, in their view, was the cloud which rested on the infant seminary, that, reduced almost to despair, they were on the point of closing their connection with it and graduating at some other institution.  Accordingly, at the close of the funeral services, the class appeared before the board of trustees, and asked to be released from all participation in any commencement exercises, and from all further connection with the college; but, at the urgent solicitation of the board, they consented to stand in their lot.  They never regretted their perseverance in spite of all untoward circumstances, even to the end, in consequence of which they have not only been reckoned as alumni of Amherst College, but counted among its heroes who stood by it in the day of adversity, and constituted its second class.  David O. Allen, of this class, claimed to be the oldest graduate of Amherst, having received the degree of A. B. the first of anyone, on this wise:  While teaching school in Leominster, in the winter vacation of his senior year, he applied for the situation of principal of Groton Academy, then a flourishing institution, and got the appointment.  But after obtaining it, he found that a by-law of the academy required the principal to be a graduate of a college.  Amherst, having no charter, could at this time confer no degrees.  What was to be done?  He went to President Moore with his trouble.  After much consultation, President Moore gave him testimonials to the president of Union College.  Mr. Allen went there privately, joined the senior class, passed the senior examination, and returned with a diploma in his pocket, while as yet his classmates were scarcely aware of his absence.  After completing his course at Amherst, he taught the academy at Groton, paid up his debts, earned money in advance for his theological education at Andover, and afterward became one of the most honored of our American missionaries, and the author of the well-known work on "Ancient and Modern India."

 

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