History of Saint Lawrence University in Canton, NY




Local Histories

Arms, Gules. cross bottony Argent; quartered with Sanguine, open book Argent; edges, covers, and clasps Or.

The seal contains a shield with the arms on a circular field Or, on which is the motto fides et verüas Gules, and on the rim the words VNIVERSITAS SANCTI LAVRENTH IN NOV. EBOR. MDCCCLVI.

The college colors are scarlet and brown.

The St. Lawrence University was chartered April 3, 1856, for the purpose, as stated in the act of incorporation, “or establishing, maintaining, and conducting a college in the town of Canton, St. Lawrence County, for the promotion of general education, and to cultivate and advance literature, science, and the arts; and also to establish and maintain a theological school and department, in Canton aforesaid.” As at present organized, it consists of two schools, the College of Letters and Science and the Theological School, independent of each other in their faculties and funds, and in the instruction and government of their students. A law school was established in 1869 and graduated two classes, but was discontinued in the fall of 1871. A field of twenty-six acres, on which a four-story brick building had been erected by the Universalist Educational Society as the foundation for a Universalist theological school, was transferred by the representatives of that society to the university in 1857; and during the same year the State appropriated for the new college $25,000, of which $10,000 were to be expended for “books and apparatus,” and $15,000 were to be kept as a permanent fund, on condition that an additional sum of $25,000 should be raised for the endowment of the school by its friends. With this modest equipment the college began. It has struggled with poverty throughout its career, but has grown slowly and sturdily to a respectable rank among the colleges of the State. Designing to furnish an educated ministry to the Universalist Church, its founders cherished the true spirit of education by providing in its by-laws that the College of Letters and Science should remain unsectarian in its teachings and influence. This provision has been faithfully observed.

The charter trustees’ were Rev. Thomas J. Sawyer, D. D. Jacob Harsen, M. D., Rev. William Stevens Baich, Frederick C. Havemeyer, and Thomas Wallace, of New York; United States Senator Preston King, of Ogdensburg; Sidney Lawrence, of Moira; George C. Sherman and Rev. Pitt Morse, of Watertown Francis Seger, of Utica; James Sterling, of Sterlingville; Caleb Barstow and Norman Van Nostrand, of Brooklyn; Josiah Barber, H. W. Barton, and Rev. John M. Austin, of Auburn; Rev. Lewis C. Browne, of Honeoye Falls; George E. Baker, of Albany; Peter H. Bitley, of Branchport; Rev. George W. Montgomery, of Rochester; and Hon. John L. Russell, Martin Thatcher, Barzillai Hodskin, Levi B. Storrs, and Theodore Caldwell, of Canton. Though not trustees, Rev, Dr. Edwin H. Ohapin and HGrace G-reeley were among the founders of the university. A by-law of the corporation, enacted pursuant to Mr. Greeley’s request, requiring that “the principal, professors and students in the Theological School shall each be engaged in manual labor at least two hours in each day,” fell speedily into innocuous desuetude; but his liberal gift for the purchase of spades and hoes may still be seen on the treasurer's books. The presidents of the corporation have been:

Thomas Jefterson Sawyer, D. D 1856—67
Martin Thatcher, Esq 1867—68
Richmond Fisk, D. D 1868—71
Jonas Sheldon Conkey, M. D 1871—83
Arthur Guinness Rogers, D. D 1883—87
Edwin Atkins Merritt, LL.D 1887

The corporation consists of twenty-four members.

The Theological School was opened in April, 1858, by Rev. Ebenezer Fisher, D.D., who remained at its head until he died in his lecture room February 21, 1879. Its first class, of five members, was graduated in 1861. During Dr. Fisher’s administration the school. was permanently endowed, and achieved a wide reputation as the first and leadiug Universalist theological school in America. More than 150 men passed from his training into the Christian ministry, lie was succeeded, as President and Dookstader Professor of Theology and Ethics, by Rev. Isaac Morgan Atwood, D. D., its present head, under whose care its endowment has been doubled while its standard of education has steadily improved. Other professors have been Massena Goodrich, M.A., Biblical Languages and Literature, 1861-63; Orello Cone, D. D., now President of Buchtel College, Craig Professor of Biblical Languages and Literature, 1865—80; John Stebbins Lee, D.D., Ecclesiastical History and Archaeology, 1869—; Henry Prentiss Forbes, D.D., Craig Professor of Biblical Languages, 1881—.

Edwin Cortland Bolles, Ph. D.. D.D., Aipheus Baker Hervev. Ph. D., William Augustine Poste, M.A., Oscar Fitzalan Safford, D.D., Adoniram Judson Patterson, D D., William Henry Ryder, D.D., George Lander Perin D.D., John Coleman Adams, D.D., and Alonzo Ames Miner, D. D., LLD., have been lecturers in the Theological School. Rev. Dr. Ryder died in 1888, and made the school one of the five residuary legatees of his estate. Thus far $32,808.40 have been received from his bequest. The corporation has voted to establish a Ryder Professorship of Pastoral Theology on this foundation; and Rev. Lewis Beals Fisher, T. S. 1881, of Bridgeport. Conn., a nephew of President Fisher, has been elected to the chair. The course of study leading to the degree of Bachelor of Divinity requires four years, hut most of tile students pursue a three years’ course, for which a diploma is given. In April, 1859, an academic department was opened by Rev. John Stebbins Lee, D. D. a graduate of Amherst College, as Principal and Professor of the Latin and Greek Languages. Dr. Lee continued at its head until 1868, and in 1869, after a year abroad, was called to the chair of Church History in the School. He was assisted in his work in the College by John White Clapp. M.A., an honorary graduate of Amherst, who was Professor of Mathematics until 1865. Professor Clapp was succeeded by Nahemiah White, Ph. D., D.D., now President of Lombard University. Dr. White had charge of the mathematical department until 1871. At the beginning of Dr. Lee’s administration tile work in the academic department was wholly preparatory, but subsequently classical and scientific courses of study, similar to tile ordinary courses in the New England colleges of that period and leading to the degrees of B.A. and B.S., were laid out and were entered upon by a number of tile students. In 1865 was graduated the first college class, consisting of Hon. Hiram Henry Ryel, now District Attorney of Lewis County, and Hon. Delos MeCurdy, formerly District Attorney of St. Lawrence County, now a leading lawyer in New York City. Hon. Pardon C. Williams, of Watertown, Justice of the Supreme Court, and Mr. Leffert L. Buck, of New York, a civil engineer of distinction, left college before graduation, Mr. Buck to serve the Union in the Civil War, and have since received their degrees nunc pro tunc as of the year 1863.

Rev. Richmond Fisk, D.D., a graduate of Union, was elected President of the College in 1868, and served for three years. On his accession the preparatory school was discontinued, and only college work has since been done in this department.

Dr. Fisk was succeeded in 1872 by Rev. Absalom Graves Gaines, D.D., LL.D., a native of Kentucky, educated at the University of Virginia. To him are largely due the character and influence of St. Lawrence University. His strong intellect, profound scholarship, uprightness and purity of character, and persevering, unselfish devotion, have built up the College. All but about thirty-five of its graduates has been educated under him. A man of earnest convictions and marked individuality, his influence in moulding, both intellectually and morally, the minds of his pupils has been notable. Under his administration were fully developed the true college feeling, an esprit de corps shown in many college songs and local usages,and a hearty loyalty to St. Lawrence, which has been proved in many ways. No college can boast a more patriotic body of alumni. Resigning on acount of illness in 1888, Dr. Gaines was succeeded as President in 1889 by Rev. Alpheus Baker Hervey, Ph.D., the present head of the College; but retains his chair as Craig Professor of Psychology and Ethics, and Political Economy, and is now fully restored to health. President Hervey is a graduate of the university, and holds the Cummings Professorship of Natural Science.

Among the professors and instructors inthe College of Letters and Science have been Moses Marston, Ph. P., late Professor of English Literature in the University of Min
nesota, Latin and Greek, 1868—73; William Alexander Rich, LL.B.. D.D., Latin and
Greek ad interim 1871—72; James Henry Chapin, Ph.D., Geology and Mineralogy,
1871—92; John Stocker Miller, M.A, LL.B., Laten and Greek, 1871—74; Almeron
Zenas Squires, M.A., LL.B., Mathematics, 1872—80 ; Walter Balfour Gunnison, Ph.D.,
Latin Language and Literature, 1875—85; Bernhard Jaques Pink, M.A., LL.B., Modern
Languages, 1875—82; Charles Kelsey Gaines, Ph.D., Greek Language and Literature,
and English Literature, 1876—; Henri Hermann Liotard, M.A., Modern Languages,
1882—; Henry Priest, M.A., Hayward Professor of Mathematics and Physics, 1883—;
Clement Morelle Baker, M.A., Latin Language and Literature, 1885—92; Frederic
Schiller Lee, Ph.D., Physiology and Biology, 1886—87; Robert Dale Ford, M.S.,
Mathematics, 1887—90; George Robert Hardie, M A.. Latin Language and Literature,
1892—; Ceylon Samuel Kingston, B.A., Mathematics, 1892—93. The professors in the
Law School were Leslie Wead Russell, LL.D., lately Attorney-General of New York,
Property, 1869—71; William Christopher Cooke, Practice, 1869—70; Stillman Foote,
MA., Contracts, 1869—71.

The requirements for admission to the College and the courses of study leading to the degrees of B.A., B.S. and Ph.B. are of essentially the same grade as in the best colleges of the State. Instruction is offered at present in:

Greek (Language and Literature).
Analytical Geometry.
General Chemisty.
Differential Calculus.
Analytical (Qualitative),
Integral Calculus.
Analytical (Quantitative).
Ancient and Modern History,
with more detailed courses in Greek, Roman, English, Mineralogy.
and American History.
Civil Government.
Parliamentary Law.
International Law. Metaphysics.
Political Science. Psychology.
Political Economy. Rhetoric.
Evidences of Religion.

No pains are spared to develop in the student right methods of study, pdwer of attention, close observation, and independent judgment. He is encouraged to original thought and assisted by judicious criticism. Especially in the sociological and kindred studies of the junior and senior years, propositions are not dictated but denionstrated, and opportunity is given him to maintain his own opinions; oral drill in the lecture room is supplemented by a system of written reviews. Throughout his course he is required to write themes and essays, subject to detailed criticism. Successful classes for parliamentary practice and debate are conducted on a system which originated at St. Lawrence. In the treatment of English literature, especial attention is given to the study of literature itself by means of an extended course of critical reading; thoroughness is enforced by weekly examinations. In the languages, proper appreciation of the classics as literature and the historical bearings of what is read, are particularly insisted on. Full courses are given in both pure and applied mathematics. The courses in physics, chemistry and biology include a large amount of practical work in the laboratories. Students designing to do advanced work in any department are encouraged and assisted. A course of four years is required for the Bachelor’s degree. The studies of the freshman and sophomore years are prescribed, while in the junior and senior years a considerable number of electives is offered. Since 1886 the Master’s degree has been conferred only on examination after the completion of regular courses of work. The degree of Doctor of Philosophy for independent research has been given upon thesis and examination in one instance. It is intended that this degree shall be conferred only when warranted by the standard of the best American universities.

As yet the means of the College of Letters and Science are too limited to provide for special scientific research. Its policy has been to furnish a thorough liberal education as a sound basis for further development in lines of culture or professional study. The beneficial effect of its discipline is seen in the earnestness with which large numbers of the graduates continue their studies in professional schools, and at leading American and foreign universities. It is, however, greatly to be desired that adequate provision may be made for the erection and endowment of special chemical, physical and biological laboratories and for instruction in the fine arts.

The library contains about 11,000 volumes, catalogued according to improved methods, several thousand pamphlets, and a few valuable paintings and other works of art. It is open daily and is used constantly by the students and the public. Although it comprises many rare and costly books, includiag the Loveland collection and the library of the late Prof. Dr. C. A. Credner of the University of Giessen, rich in theological works, especially of the early decades of the sixteenth century, it has of late been dependent for accessions upon the gifts of friends, and its wants are manifold. Private libraries containing from 15,000 to 20,000 volumes are open to the students. Since the loss of the income formerly supplied by the generosity of Mr. S. C. Herring, the library has had for the purchase of books only the income of a fund of one thousand dollars, the gift of a friend who prefers to remain unknown. A fund of twenty-five thousand dollars is greatly needed. There are also several class-room reference libraries.

The university is admirably situated in a region at once attractive and remarkable for healthfulness, with spacious grounds on a hill overlooking the village of Canton, the shire town of St. Lawrence County. With abundant facilities for recreation, the students are peculiarly free from undue distraction in their work, and are prompted to industry by every legitimate incentive. The unavoidable temptations to vice and dissipation are here at a minimum, and are utterly discountenanced, not merely by the discipline of the college, but also by the general sentiment of the students and the neighborhood. The university buildings are University Hall, of brick, 45 x 100 feet,
four stories high, erected in 1856; Herring Library, a fireproof structure of Potsdam sandstone, with a capacity for 60,000 volumes, built by the late Silas C. Herring, of New York, in 1870; Fisher Hall, a substantial edifice of Canton marble, erected in memory of President Fisher by the alumni in 1882, for the use of the Theological School; and a president’s house, of brick, erected by President Atwood in 1887. They stand in the middle of the college field, which is adorned with native trees and is ample for the future growth of the university.

The students maintain two public debating societies, one in each school, holding weekly meetings; an athletic association which holds an annual field day, and various boating, baseball, football and tennis clubs. There are three Greek letter societies and two brotherhoods which occupy comfortable club houses. The Laurentian Publishing Company issues The Laurentain, a monthly undergraduate journal, devoted to the interests of the university. About forty free scholarships in the College of Letters and Science have been established in the various schools of St. Lawrence County and Northern New York, in the Clinton Liberal Institute at Fort Plain, and by private donors. The total necessary expenses of each student average from $175 to $300 per year. Many without means work their way through college by teaching and in other ways, and graduate free from debt. From the first, women have been admitted to all the privileges of the university, and number about one-fifth of its graduates.

The university has received no aid from the State since the first grant of $26,000. Its benefactors have been many. Among them may be mentioned Charles A. Ropes, of Salem, Mass., whose gift of $5,000 in 1865 saved the Theological School from suspension: Augustus 0. Moore, of Buffalo, a. charter trustee, who gave $30,000 to the Theological School; John Craig, of Rochester, from whose bequest each school received $25,000 in 1873 for the endowment of a Craig Professorship; Alvinza Hayward, of California, a native of Canton, who endowed the Hayward Professorship of Mathematics and Physics in the College with $30,000 in 1874; George A. Dockstader, of New York, who gave $10,000 to endow the Dockstader Professorship in the Theological School; Mrs. Lorena Bicknell, of Stockholm, who left $10,000 to the college in 1873; Thomas A. Goddard, of Boston, who left $3,000 to the Theological School; Miss Sarah A. Gage, of Hudson, who left $37,456 to the Theological School; Lester Taylor and Wife, of Fly Creek, who left $4,000 to the Theological School; Rev. William H. Ryder, D.D., of Chicago, whose bequest of $32,808.40, has already been mentioned; Mrs. Abby M. Simmons, of Victor. who bequeathed $5,000 to the College in memory of her husband, the late Richmond Simmons, Esquire; Dr. Joseph W. Clowes, of New York, who gave $5,000 to the College in a time of serious need; the Hoyt and Watson families of Sennett, from whom it has received four different legacies; the late P. T. Barnum, who gave it $5,000, besides a bequest not yet received; George C. Thomas, of Philadelphia, a generous friend, who gave the College $5,000; and the late David I. Stagg, of New York, under whose will the Theological School is to receive one-sixth of his residuary estate.

Previously to 1885 it was the practice of the trustees to pay the current expenses of the College of Letters and Science out of the funds, as the school had never been adequately endowed. It was the opinion of the then lately elected treasurer, Mr. George Robinson, that this policy was unsound, and that an endowment should be obtained. Accordingly, in June, 1885, the corporation voted to expend no more of the funds for any purpose, and thereafter to confine the expenditure of the university to its income. At that time the funds of the College amnounted to barely $50,000. The wisdom of this action is shown by the fact that they now (December, 1893) amount to over $165,000. A. plan, suggested by the Treasurer, for raising a fund of $50,000 by means of interest bearing subscriptions, payable in five annual payments, was adopted. A vigorous canvass was conducted by the officers and friends of the university, assisted by the county press, with such success that the sum of $50,508 was raised before November 30, 1887, without expense to the institution. About one-fourth of the whole sum was contributed by alumni and considerably more than one-half by citizens of St. Lawrence County. The undergraduate students, many of whom were working their own way through college, gave upwards of $1,000. The names of the subscribers to this fund, over four hundred in number, are engrossed upon parchment and hang in Herring Library. Immediately thereafter the raising of another $50,000 was begun under the supervision of President Hervey, and was completed in 1889 by the gift of $25,000 by Columbus R. Cummings, Esquire, a native of Canton, now of Chicago, to establish the Cummings Professorship of Natural Science.

The property of the university may be summarized as follows:

College of Letters and Science;
Alviriza Hayward Professorship -- $$30,000.00
John Craig Professorship -- $25,000.00
Joseph W. Olowes -- $5,000.00
Lorena Bicknell -- $10,000.00
Alumni -- $50,000.00
Richmond Simmons -- $5,376.16
George C. Thomas -- $2,500.00
Columbus R. Cummings Professorship -- $25,000.00
Joseph Boardman Noble -- $250.00
Harriet Watson -- $660.65
Phineas Taylor Barnum -- $1,000.00
Jeremiah Davis -- $1,000.00
Eliza M. Wight -- $1,000.00
Edward S. Hoyt -- $3,382.14
Rachel Hoyt -- $2,000.00
Other funds -- $3,030.05
Total funds -- $165,198.00

Theological School:
Charles A. Ropes -- $5,000.00
Augustus O. Moore -- $30,000.00
John Craig Professorship -- $25,000.00
George A. Dockstader Professorship -- $10,000.00
Thomas A. Goddard -- $3,000.00
Sarah A. Gage -- $37,456.00
Lester Taylor -- $4,000.00
William H. Ryder Professorship -- $32,808.40
David I. Stagg -- $5,018.61
Nancy Burton -- $1,000.00
Laura A. Davis -- $666.69
Other funds -- $91.91
Total funds -- $154,041.61

The Library:
Rich -- $900.00
Other funds --97.00
Total -- $997.00

Total Endowment Fund -- $320.236.61
Buildings and grounds -- $100,000.00
Collections etc. -- $20,000.00
Total property of university -- $440,236.61

The foregoing estimate does not include legacies and gifts announced but not yet

The funds are nearly all invested in bonds and mortgages on real estate. About $31,000 are held in corporate bonds. The policy of the university is to keep entirely free from debt, to incur no expense until the means are provided for paying it. The endowment of the College of Letters and Science ought to be three or four times its present amount in order to provide for the present needs of the college. St. Lawrence is the only college in the State north of the line of the Erie Ca’nal, and is situated at about the middle of a fertile belt with a population of over 350,000, to whose youth it offers the only means of obtaining a liberal education, without going a considerable distance from home. Probably nine-tenths of its graduates would never have gone to college had not. St. Lawrence been at their doors. Upon the welfare and growth of the university the interests of higher education in this part of the State are largely dependent

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