Chapter 6

 

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chapter 6 dire calamities strike the institution 1859-1873 thomas curtis died on january 29 1859 william curtis opened the ensuing session of the school as he and his deceased father had planned on february 10 the spartan announced that the limestone springs female high school as will be seen by the card of rev wm curtis will open on the 16th instant notwithstanding the sad deprivation it has suffered the card of rev dr wm curtis appearing in the same issue ran as follows the rev dr wm curtis while endeavoring to submit with mournful resignation to the mysterious act of an all-wise providence that has so suddenly deprived this institution its friends and himself of their most valuable instructor counsellor friend and parent would respectfully inform the public that be will continue the exercises of the school as advertised and endeavor to make those arrangements which shall entitle its friends still to regard its advantages so favorably as they have hitherto been kindly pleased to do the school will therefore re-open on the 16th dr wm curtis will leave charleston on monday the 14th and colum bia on tuesday for union c[ourt h[ousel i 117 -

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limestone college the school resumed work in february as scheduled and by july the thirteen seniors were ready for graduation the principal announced the approaching event in the spartan july 14 1859 rev wm curtis ll.d principal the public examination and commencement of this institution will take place on tuesday and wednesday the 19th and 20th july the rev r furman of greenville will deliver the commencement address will deliver the address before the society the school having no vacation in the summer it is desirable that all new pupils join the classes at the commencement the board of visitors included his excellency gov w h gist union mr e calhoun abbeville mr j keith darlington s w melton esq york j garlington esq laurens mr w j cureton lancaster t j hughes esq mississippi col b h brown barnwell mr j h walker chester mr jos dawkins union rev r furman greenville mr g t priester barnwell d goudelock esq union jeff choice esq spartanburg col jas jefferies union col j h evins spartanburg capt a j daniel spartanburg mr e parker union mr r s stewart newberry the catalogue gives the account of the proceedings at the commencement and examination as follows the exercises of the thirteenth examination and commencement of the school took place on the 19th and 20th july before an unusually large audience from all parts of the state and many visitors from neighboring states the report of the annual board of visitors aided by an especial committee of ladies on the embroidery and fancy work will show the high estimate with which they regarded these exercises 118 -

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dire calamities strike the institution rev w curtis ll.d principal of limestone springs female high school dear sir the board of visitors appointed to attend the examination of this institution respectfully report that they have attended with much pleasure upon the exercises of the examination in the prescribed course of english studies the french latin and greek languages english composition and instrumental and vocal music and have been strongly impressed with a sense of the ability and faithfulness of the instructors as indicated in the training and proficiency of the pupils the specimens of drawing and penmanship submitted to their inspection are highly creditable the committee of ladies who were requested to examine the various specimens of fancy work have conveyed to the board of visitors the expression of their peculiar gratification at the taste and ingenuity with which those articles have been prepared while the board of visitors cannot refrain from expressing their sense of the loss sustained in the death of the senior principal your venerable father they take great pleasure in adding the assurance which they feel that the institution still merits and will continue to receive an equally large share of public patronage in behalf of the board r furman on tuesday evening the honors of the institution were awarded i.e a gold medal as the first honor of the graduating class to miss mallie s black of columbia subject of composition an able biography of humboldt and an analysis of his works and character and a silver medal as the first honor of the second class to miss laura e nance of newberry subject of composition an interesting essay on seed flower and fruit and the analogy of this development in all life physical intellectual moral and spiritual on wednesday the examination of the classes was concluded at noon an able and deeply interesting address especially devoted to an analysis of the literary life and character of the late learned and beloved senior principal of this 119 -

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limestone college institution was delivered by the rev r furman of greenville in the afternoon the graduating class received their diplomas with a short address on the peculiar circumstances of the occasion from the principal it consisted of the following young ladies the first three of whom are entitled to graduate with distinction in the order in which they stand it is just however to other members of the class to put on record that the circumstances in which the school reassembled and unavoidable absence prevented them from competing successfully for the honors of the class miss mallie s black columbia miss mary a wilkes chester miss ida calhoun abbeville miss margaret m anderson chester miss julia f brown barnwell miss eugenia m coleman chester miss emily e earle greenville miss caroline c gist union miss sallie c jefferies union miss lavina e miller barnwell miss marion l patterson barnwell miss mary g ramsey sumter miss julia g ray spartanburg the gold medal won by mallie s black is now in the archives of the college fittingly framed to display both sides of the medal and presented to limestone along with her diploma by the daughters of the winner mrs elizabeth w mcmaster and mrs amy w blackburn this limestone graduate achieved distinction of an unusual kind soon after her graduation she was married to major gist son of governor gist she was in the service of the treasury department of the confederate government at the time of her marriage having become connected with this department when it was located in columbia with its removal to richmond virginia shortly before william tecumseh sherman the commander of the union forces occupied the capital of the state of south carolina she also was transferred during the closing year of the war mrs gist in her official capacity signed a number of confederate bills chiefly $50 and $10 notes issued under date of march 17 1864 she was officially known as m gist to numerous holders of paper money certificates issued by the confederacy that were signed by her her daughter mrs charles s blackburn of greenville has made a valuable collection of the notes bearing her mother s signature major gist was killed in the battle of chicamauga in 1863 after the war mrs gist married mr clark waring and resided 120 -

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dire calamities strike the institution at 1428 laurel street columbia until her death at the age of 86 she was the author of several novels the college has two that sandlapper and one old reb at the request of dr sanders mrs waring wrote her recollections of her college days dr thomas curtis was one of the admirations of my youth a man whose strong personality has remained undimmed through all the changes of time i remember how grief-stricken all the -girls were when news came of the tragic end of our beloved preceptor being the first class to graduate after his death my class wore black ribbons on our white dresses as a mark of respect to his memory limestone springs female high school with a thorough academic standard and a curriculum of study strictly up-todate stood on the top round of the ladder of reputation a reputation not confined to the state nor to the south i had a cuban girl for a classmate a typical spanish beauty she was with her blueblack hair and midnight eyes her island home has been liberated from the yoke of spain but what matters that to her low lies elemita where the tropical foliage stirs and sways in the breath of the soft sea wind two commanding figures dr thomas curtis and dr william curtis each in his own way possessed of a tremendous personality the one an expert organizer and able tactician fitted to cope with almost any circumstance but to whom belonged those secondary charms and graces that go to make up a picturesque figure the other was a man of granite composure a profound thinker a whole-hearted seeker after truth in fact he was halfhearted in nothing it was he the old doctor who furnished my youthful mind with its ideal of classical scholarship noble eccentric in some respects unique in every respect the dear old doctor had a tender heart for girls he had for me playing upon my name he used to tell the visitors who flocked to limestone in those days that he had a little black girl among his pupils and she wasn t any fool either the old doctor was ever fond of a joke the sort we designate as dry he had standard jokes for instance he was fond of saying that he did not like any kind of tea but english tea and so be got his fresh from london every day london being the name of his negro factotum this same daddy london as we 121 -

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limestone college affectionately called him used to make the rounds every night and pick up the little metal lamps which at nine-thirty we were required to place outside of our doors no midnight oil burned at old limestone mrs waring visited her alma mater from time to time a gay witty charming woman she delivered the alumnae address during the june commencement 1904 the college had the address printed in pamphlet form for distribution to alumnae and friends she was honored by limestone with a master of arts degree in 1914 the editor of the spartanburg express was present in july 1859 for the public examinations in history mathematics latin greek and french and expressed himself as being much pleased and commented particularly on the musical program by the pupils of mr erfurth and misses howe and cannon and concludes mr johnson s m who was but recently arrived and commenced his duties with the beginning of this session delighted the audience with several sweet songs and convulsed them by a most humorous recitation of a musical comedy the total enrollment for the session through july was 151 with the following states represented south carolina north carolina georgia florida louisiana tennessee alabama and mississippi and one student from cuba .6 the 1859 catalogue listing the july graduates must have been printed before the december commencement assuming that all those listed in the collegiate class i corresponding to a present-day senior class met the requirements the number was nineteen harriet d choice spartanburg carolina c cleveland georgia charlotte a cureton lancaster bettie p dargan darlington fannie e fountain darlington mary e garrett edgefield mary a goforth spartanburg nancy d goudelock union nancy g hughes mississippi fannie s keith darlington eliza l kirkland barnwell laura e nance newberry sallie e napier marion harriet v norton beaufort virginia s sweat barnwell mary p wallace york alice g walthour georgia [sister of mrs william curtis cecelia e westmore new orleans la mary e wofford spartanburg 122 -

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dire calamities strike the institution the faculty numbered thirteen rev w curtis ll.d rev n w edmunds mrs e a curtis professor j b erfurth professor s m johnson miss l c tenney [who had been with the school since 18491 miss c r talcott miss s e howe miss catherine crittenden miss a blatchley miss m m luther miss j cannon and mrs e s king courses of lectures on the experimental natural sciences history and the belles lettres were still being delivered throughout the year there was an appropriate sabbath school library for the use of the young ladies and there was divine service in the chapel of the institution twice every sabbath there was only one literary society now it seems a literary society with a library and a constant supply of newspapers and periodicals the surviving principal records the irreparable loss the school had suffered the rev dr wm curtis now in the providence of god left the sole principal and proprietor of this institution desires to put on record his especial thankfulness to the friends of the school for the increased confidence and encouragement they have accorded him while afflicted with the mournful providence that has bereaved us all of the late senior principal our most able affectionate and valued instructor counsellor friend and parent his favorite motto nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri encourages his son to advance alone though humbly yet earnestly desiring that a double portion of the spirit which animated the old seer may be his richest and abiding inheritance the chariot of fire has taken the faithful minister to his eternal repose and satisfaction to behold jehovah s face in righteousness and to awake with his likeness his mantle with his power may still be permitted to remain with us as the alse is green and well-liking till the last best summer of its age and then hangeth out its golden bells to mingle glory with corruption 123 -

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limestone college as a meteor travelleth in splendor but bursteth in dazzling light such was the end of the righteous his death was the sun at its setting the record of the progress of this school for fourteen years can still be reverted to with grateful satisfaction a steady increase of patronage has been afforded it during this whole period the facts of its progress will belong to the history of southern female education to that of a goodly number of wives and mothers of some respectable teachers and to that of hundreds of families in south carolina and the neighboring states the present year has been in the numbers of its students the most successful of its course in spite of the fact that the summer and fall of 1859 had found political problems becoming more acute and the tide of secession rising the south carolinians continued to send their daughters to limestone and the newspapers to praise the school and the commencements to be great social gatherings the 1860 session opened with no changes in the faculty the july commencement attracted so large a crowd that the capacity for accommodations was taxed according to the newspaper report dr curtis graciously threw open the doors and gave every nook and comer for sleeping purposes private homes were opened to guests also many left after the concert rather than sleep three in a bed or in carriages or buggies the examinations were thorough and printed questions were seen for the first time by the pupils in the recitation room the student was required to sign a pledge that no assistance had been received from book note memorandum or other source the newspaper reported that the young ladies satisfied the most skeptical that commensurate development was attained the gold medal was won that july by miss caroline c cleveland of georgia and the silver went to miss margaret a walker daughter of the reverend n p walker of cedar springs a feature article on the old limestone of the curtis days was run in the spartanburg journal of august 17 1912 the unidentified author describes the commencements in glowing terms the crowds were remarkable and for a few days the usually quiet neighborhood was a scene of gaiety a splendid display of fine 124 -

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dire calamities strike the institution horses beautiful women and dashing swains two-horse buggies were the popular vehicles for the young men the mothers of the girls came in elegant carriages with folding steps beside the driver sat the maid who came to look after her mistress the first two days were given over to the public examinations the spectators sat in the rear seats books were passed to the visitors to enable them to follow the examinations it was told of one citizen who bad accumulated property and a few bright girls that he always held the french book bottom end up for it was all greek to him the original essays were read and listened to with interest and the medals were duly awarded the gold to the senior and the silver to the junior contestant there was music both instrumental and vocal and there were two guest speakers who gave public addresses on successive days one on tuesday evening and another at high noon on wednesday lasting friendships were formed on these gala occasions and many a young man found his life-companion at the famous old limestone spa the july commencement over the school resumed work immediately august heat gave way to september s shorter days and october s bright blue weather to november s harvesting december came and with it another commencement and the closing for the long winter holiday before christmas had dawned dr curtis a firm believer in state sovereignty traveled to columbia in answer to the call of the south carolina general assembly for the people to convene on december 17 1860 the day the gubernatorial term of governor gist expired to consider matters of grave import dr curtis was duly elected an official delegate from the spartanburg district and he and ex-governor gist and dr james h carlisle and dr james c furman and other distinguished educators and leading men of south carolina 169 in all impelled by an ethical imperative journeyed on to charleston because of smallpox in columbia to sign on december 20 1860 the ordinance of the secession of the sovereign state of south carolina from the union of the united states dr curtis was called upon for the opening prayer at the december 19th session the author of this ordinance of secession was francis hugh wardlaw the maternal great grandfather of the former interim president of limestone college dr john andrew hamilton 125 -

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limestone college in spite of gathering war clouds the school opened for another session on february 21 1861 dr curtis left savannah on tuesday morning february 18 was at charleston on the 20th and columbia the 21st gathering up the students for the school the reverend e a crawley d.d was now associated with dr curtis as co-principal there are no further official records of 1861 from this point on newspaper reports and old letters furnish the information concerning the school until after the war on april 12 1861 the first shot of the war was fired at ft sumter from ft johnson by the cadets of the citadel younger brothers of the cadets on whom the limestone girls had showered their flowers in may 1854 a one-sheet-of-paper prospectus of the limestone springs female high school was found by mrs r r wilkins in an old file that had belonged to her father the late henry g gaffney and was believed by her to have been issued about 1861 the following is a copy of a copy of the prospectus limestone springs female high school rev wm curtis ll.d principal the ensuing session of this school will commence on wednesday the day of next a faculty of teachers will be engaged as heretofore the long-established character of this institution shall only be an incentive to higher attainments in every department of the literary and moral improvement of its students its unsurpassed situation for health its most abundant supply of room and every necessary advantage for physical and intellectual growth together with its complete retirement so favorable for the period of the mental and moral culture of youth and opening life but still urge the limestone school it is not now difficult of access but fourteen miles from the pacolet depot on the spartanburg and union railroad which is now running from columbia through conveyance from that place can be furnished or dr curtis will send over at any time to meet any arrival there it is requested that applications for admission be made as soon as possible to dr curtis at the school answers will be returned in each instance and parties then applied for will be met by dr curtis at the most convenient point on the line of 126 -

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dire calamities strike the institution railroad between charleston and pacolet depot at the opening of the school terms payable in advance in species or its equivalent in currency per session of five months board including washing fuel lights etc $60.00 tuition in all english branches 25.00 stationery pens ink paper etc 1.00 the above is required for each pupil the following are optional tuition on the piano 25.00 use of piano 2.50 tuition on the guitar 20.00 vocal lessons separate 20.00 vocal lessons in class 10.00 tuition in french or modem languages each .20.00 tuition in drawing or painting 20.00 no other charge will be made except for books and private stationery furnished among the few extant letters depicting the situation in the school during these war years are several written by eunice foster later mrs benjamin kennedy mother of the late judge a g kennedy of union and of the late dr a b kennedy baptist minister of columbia as well as five other children not all of the letters have the year of the writing recorded but the contents are indicative one written from the schoolroom april 16th to my dear mother says that the sun has not yet risen but that she gets up every morning as soon as she can see bow to dress and goes to the school-room to study i do not deserve much credit as hard lessons force me to pursue such a plan she refers in the next paragraph to the birth of little augusta curtis and says that mrs curtis has been very ill but is better what do you think of the news of charleston i do hope the yankees won t succeed in taking the city if they do i don t know what is to become of us her writing is interrupted by the bell for morning prayers another epistle is dated limestone springs may 29 1863 you can easily imagine what i do every friday evening i feel so relieved 127 -

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limestone college when school is out i generally write home and by that time tea is ready then i study lessons for monday go to prayer meeting and then to bed all through the week i study and i can truly say that the more i study the better i love to study it is no unpleasant task for me to prepare my recitations sometimes they are too difficult for me to master and i fail but on the whole i think i shall be sorry when my schooldays are ended but i don t mean to give up my books even then we have commenced mythology i know i shall be very partial to it for to me there is such a charm connected with the ancients i never weary of reading about their laws and fives i send you my reports please give them to father mr curtis requested me to say that they will be sent home every month now the correction on the back of the report was made by his direction i don t stand very high in my class there are so many talented girls with whom i have to contend i thank you so much for the nice things you sent me not a vestige of them remains now except the butter and i cannot get bread to eat with that else it would not be here i suspect you think me ravenous but i have so many friends to help me eat that it could not last very long but i enjoyed it all the more for having them share with me she asks that her mother send her a clothes-bag when mr curtis sends for the hams in a letter dated from the limestone springs oct 11th with the year undesignated eunice writes she expects the family will see her before long for our housekeeper says the provisions are almost out and it is very difficult for mr curtis to get any more the 1862 summer commencement was on the 15th and 16th of july only parents and guardians could be entertained as guests for lack of accommodations the tuition had risen to $100.00 per term another episode of the war years has been furnished by mrs claude thomas sanders james h of gaffney a niece of the star actress in the little drama mary thomas williams mrs williams the widow of a confederate veteran spent her last years in the old confederate home in columbia and it was there that the members of the family visited her and listened to the fascinating stories of her earlier years 128 -

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dire calamities strike the institution during her student days at the limestone springs mary thomas lived in union county in the home of her horse-and-buggy-doctor father while she was at home from school once her father vaccinated her against smallpox vaccination at the time was a relatively new procedure and the vaccine was usually taken from a suppurating vaccination and scratched into the skin of the person being inoculated when mary returned to school she decided that her fellow students should be protected against smallpox too and so she proceeded to share her vaccine with all who would accept it fever and chills follow a vaccination that takes and mary s victims after the due time-lapse took to their beds a few discreet questions turned up the culprit who dreaded to face the president that evening when so many were absent from the regular good-night line-up when her turn came dr curtis said not a word of reproach but looking her squarely in the eyes simply said goodnight doctor thomas in the june 28 1886 edition of the limestone gazette are reminiscences signed chrysalis of the war years at limestone telling of a school-girl escapade on april fools day 1863 when led by josie gary some of the students went on a wild goose chase into the woods instead of attending classes upon their return they filed into dr curtis s study singly to beg his pardon but in those days young people were not so old-fashioned that they had not yet outgrown their reverence for authority chrysalis wonders if prof m s johnson remembers how he used to drill his calisthenic class in the yard marching them in fresh and rosy to the music of the breakfast bell with one hundred pupils and in war-times it must have taxed the housekeeper s ingenuity to appease the appetite induced by our limestone spring she recalls gen lawton s daughter bright and ambitious of whose death we learned a few years ago from harper s magazine and that a memorial marble for her had been carved in italy by a celebrated sculptor she was affianced and was represented with a wreath of flowers slipping from her hand under the heading war reminiscences on the editorial page of the carolina spartan for september 27 1905 is a story that must be told a battle flag several companies of the palmetto sharpshooters were from spartanburg county about may 1863 professor w l john 129 -

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limestone college son of gaffney received a furlough to come to his home at limestone springs his father professor m s johnson was a music teacher in dr william curtis s school the son came down from the north just as hostilities were beginning or after they had begun and although quite young he joined the confederate service when he received the furlough col joseph walker turned over the battle flag of the regiment which had been torn and shot into strings and asked him to bring it to his home and place it in the care of mr alex wingo he reached limestone with the flag just as the school was having an entertainment a pupil wrote an account of the entertainment and the part the flag took in it for the spartan but it was not published so far as we know here is her account of it limestone springs june 5th 1863 mr editor last night our kind teachers gave the neighbors and ourselves a musical entertainment we had the usual number of quartettes duets and solos in vocal and instrumental music and the evening closed with the following incident which may be interesting to your readers after the last musical performance dr curtis our principal came forward bearing a flag which showed unmistakable signs of the ruthless hand of war for as its folds were unwound many a rent and bullet-bole gave evidence of the work of the bomb-shell and minnie-ball as it rested there a memento of our bloodiest battlefields its history was told it was the flag belonging to the regiment of palmetto sharpshooters the staff had been taken from the enemy at the battle of gaines mills to sustain a more glorious ensign in the fight of seven pines it bad floated above our gallant men the fields of manassas and fraser s farm saw it triumphant in the hard-contested battles of sharpsburg and fredericksburg it never yielded discolored by the smoke of battle and torn by ball and shell nothing laid it in the dust at one time eleven brave fellows volunteered to guard it nine gave their lives in its defense and but two remained to bear it triumphant from the field like some scarred veteran it was now returning from the wars having been brought on by one of our brave soldier boys who the next day delivered it to mr wingo the fatherin-law 130-

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dire calamities strike the institution of col walker of the palmetto sharpshooters such is the brief history of this battle-flag as it stood before us silent yet eloquent dr curtis called upon one of our schoolmates to supply his place in supporting it this seemed to be her peculiar right for a dear brother had lost a leg while fighting under this war-torn standard then we all gathered around it in song one of the fairest of our number crowning it with a garland of ivy and oak leaves interspersed with nine white lilies one for each of the noble hearts whose throbbings bad been forever stilled in behalf of this loved banner you may imagine with what fervor we joined in the chorus for this flag of our country in triumph shall wave o er the southerner s home and the southerner s grave a pupil editor petty continues the writer is unknown to us but mildred thomas afterwards mrs nowell was a pupil then and dr curtis called her to the platform to hold the flag while its story was given that was proper because her brother h h thomas had lost a leg a short time before horace mcswain captured the flag staff during the campaign of 1862 but nine of the soldiers who had guarded and protected the flag had fallen mrs ann 0 johnson mother of prof w l johnson cultured and gifted with the poetic spirit and endowed with a kind sympathetic heart wrote the flag with the nine white lilies miss mary l coker the third of the coker sisters from society hill to attend the school entered in july 1862 and remained through december 1863 when the war was moving relentlessly and tragically on miss mary in a letter to r w sanders writes of her affection for dr william curtis and of his extraordinary executive ability in all the details of his management of the school evidenced in his selecting and securing competent men and women as his co-workers in the faculty and in his care for the comfort and health of his pupils the table was supplied with plenty of good well-prepared and healthful 131 -

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