Friends for a lifetime…

This painting is by a very talented artist who is famous worldwide, but not for painting. This portrait of our first president Elihu Baldwin was painted by Samuel Finley Breese Morse, better known for his work on the telegraph and the creation of Morse Code to send messages. I was prompted to think about Morse when my children told me that the “Google” doodle of yesterday was in Morse Code as a tribute to this inventor. Here is a great story about the man behind the code…

Samuel Morse was the brother of Sidney Morse, owner and publisher of The Observer. Sidney’s dearest friend was Elihu Baldwin, pastor of a thriving church in New York City. When Edmund O. Hovey visited Baldwin in New York and asked him to serve as Wabash’s first president this area of Indiana was known simply as “the West” and was considered extremely dangerous. Sidney Morse supposed that if his friend Baldwin took the post, he might die in the effort. With this in mind, Sidney asked his brother Samuel F.B. Morse, a well-known portraitist of the time, to do a painting of Baldwin for Sidney to keep close. When Baldwin died just five years after taking the post, Morse sent the painting to Mrs. Baldwin. A copy was made and given to the college, this copy hangs in the Chapel yet today. The original was gifted to the college upon the death of President Baldwin’s children.

Samuel Morse lives on in our history because of the huge changes his science work had…the telegraph changed the face of the world. Samuel’s destiny was, he was sure, to be an artist. He studied abroad and while he had done a number of portraits on commission, it was clear that this alone would not support a family. Morse was also of a very inquisitive and analytical mindset and always interested in mechanical things. It was while returning to America in 1832 and chatting with some other fellows shipboard that he really started thinking hard about the telegraph and what would become the Morse Code.

When Morse succeeded in securing from Congress the money to hold a demonstration of the telegraph to send and receive a message from Washington, DC to Baltimore and back, the message that was chosen “What hath God wrought?” was picked from the Bible by the daughter of Henry Ellsworth, a Yale classmate of Morse’s. Morse had promised that Miss Ellsworth could choose the item to be broadcast. Ellsworth was teaching at Wabash College prior to accepting the government position. Ellsworth left Wabash to become the U.S. Commissioner of Patents.

It was to be through his science that the world best remembers Samuel F. B. Morse but in an interesting twist of fate it is through his art that he is most closely tied to Wabash College.

Beth Swift
Wabash College

Lilly at 50

After working here in the Lilly Library for several years, I have come to take it a bit for granted. I walk in the door, greet whomever is about and head to the Central Office for my mail and the news of the day. I walk to the stairway near the elevator and head to the Archives. As I fish out my keys and go to unlock the door, I am reminded of the history of this building. In the 1990’s the Lilly Library was substantially remodeled and expanded. The front doors were removed to create a better entry. These lovely brass doors were then reused by the architect as the doors to the Ramsay Archives. The transom that sat above the doors is now a window in my office.


I have been thinking a lot about the Lilly as it was when built 50 years ago. This month marks the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Lilly Library. There is a display on the main floor with lots of images of the “new” Lilly. This exhibit includes a nod to the Library’s biggest donor, Eli Lilly, and the groundbreaking for the Library.

As the photos above show, the furnishings in the Lilly were bright and cheerful. Near the exhibit on the main floor, we gathered what is left of these original pieces and put together a lounging area. Thanks to the eagle eyes of a member of the college community we were able to retrieve one of the bright gold chairs pictured in the display from across campus.

Of course, the really dramatic news surrounding the new Lilly was the move from the old library in Yandes Hall. The Lilly was finished in early January and ready for business. However, arrangements were needed to move the 100,000+ books across the mall. This was done by the students  in extremely cold weather.

The memory of the move has stayed with them for all of these years. In fact the Class of 1959 were seniors that year and are returning for their 50th reunion at the Big Bash this June. Among the images they requested was something connected to that great move.

Here are a few of those images…

As you can see it was really cold. The students, faculty and staff who were moving the books were treated to hot coffee, hot chocolate and doughnuts.

While the students were hauling the books across the mall, faculty and staff members were ready for them in the new library. Pictures show them directing the students where to place the books.

In this picture we see the line of students on the way over with books and students and faculty toting empty boxes back. You may note the the boxes are for beer bottles, this was because they were very sturdy and had good handles.  It is noted in every article that these were provided EMPTY by a local distributor.

The new Lilly Library was a big change from old Yandes with its dark stacks and crowded quarters. Byron Trippet notes that the third floor archives room became his quiet place and favorite haunt. I would like to think that he would find the new archives space a comfortable place as well. At least he would recognize the doors!

Beth Swift

Pan-Hel Week

It is finally warm and sunny here on campus and it feels like spring. Along with spring comes Pan-Hel week. Wabash Pan-Hel has taken a variety of forms. For most of its history Pan-Hel meant a weekend of dances. In earlier times these dances and parties were heavily chaperoned.

This is a picture of a fraternity dance and I love this photo because it captures the zest for life and the youthful exuberance of Wabash men and their dates. Clearly the fellow at the front of the line is having a big time. He is high-stepping and looks like he is leading the group. The couple in the middle of the line seem to be so clearly taken with one another. And then there is the last young lady in the line. She is like the exclamation point of the photograph and part of what makes this image so compelling,

This picture is of the Kappa Sigma fraternity in 1900. At that time the fraternities were not residential, merely social. Each fraternity had a “hall” which occupied the top floor of a downtown building. They held their meetings there and all of them were large enough for dances. In Wabash College the First Hundred Years we learn that the pride of the fraternities was the smoothness of their dance floors. From that same source we also know the location of this photo. The Kappa Sigma fraternity occupied the top floor of the Music Hall which was known to later generations of Wabash men as the Strand Theater.

As the weather warms, the students gear up for the bed races of Pan-Hel and a block party on the mall this weekend. A different time and yet it is fun to look back at other eras.

Beth Swift

Three Years is a mighty long time…

After the initial rush of optimism at the beginning of the Civil War, it became clear that soldiers would be needed for longer than 90 days. The term of service became three years and, when facing death every day, three years was a mighty long time.

This Confederate money is from the scrapbook of Henry Campbell [W1871], a prep student here in the early 1860’s. His father, John Paxton Campbell, was a trustee of Wabash College for 18 years. The Campbell’s were a local merchant family and John was well known in town for his musical abilities. He played the trumpet with a group of young men who provided the music for many local festivities.

When Eli Lilly of Greencastle began recruiting for an artillery unit he was building he sent a man to Crawfordsville. Full of war fever, Campbell and a number of his friends enlisted. From the beginning of the diary, “Enrolled my name in the U.S. Volunteer Service, on the 12 day of July 1862. – Aged 16 – Samuel Hartman recruiting Officer. Enlisted as a private in the 18th Indiana Battery, Eli Lilly Captain. – Headquarters at Greencastle Indiana.”

It was during the physical that Henry’s youth was flagged as a limiting factor. He would have to go home while his friends went to war. In Campbell’s own words, “Battery organized and drilling. – Appointed 2d Bugler – a fellow named Anderson 1st. – Crawfordsville boys all tent together – 18 in one tent, weather hot, – Medical examination Aug 6 – all passed but myself – refused on account of my age, – too young. Thought I was gone sure – but Captain Lilly told the Dr. that I was intended for his bugler and that it was ‘essential to the interests of the service’  &c – that I should be retained – which was finally done.” A bugler was a non-combat position and that eliminated the age barrier. Campbell was in.

As did so many men, Henry decided that he would keep a diary of his experiences and was faithful in his entries. He titled the results Three Years in the Saddle. The reader follows this boy as he learns about life in the army and death on the battlefield. As a part of an artillery unit serving in the hills and mountains of east Tennessee, Campbell and his fellow soldiers struggle to haul the cannons up hills and down. The deprivations of an army on the march leave him oftentimes hungry and frequently cold. The reader learns a lot about these men in the 18th Indiana Artillery. The men included Captain Eli Lilly. We now know that Lilly returned from the Civil War and started a pharmaceutical company which is one of the largest in the world. We learn that Lilly was a man of clear vision and high principles who took young Campbell under his wing.

This artillery company becomes a part of Wilder’s Lightning Brigade, among the first units to mount their infantry and arm them with repeating rifles. The accounts of the first battles where the repeaters were used is just incredible. The battle maps that Campbell drew are also amazing.

This diary has been digitized and posted to a website. The project includes images of all of the pages, plus a searchable typescript. Here is the link:

I hope you find this reading as interesting as I did…

Beth Swift
Wabash College

Washington State and Wabash College

As Wabash Magazine debuts its Great Northwest issue, this blog will look at three other Wabash men and their substantial contributions to the history and culture of that area.

Charles Stewart Vorhees, born in nearby Covington, Indiana in 1853 attended Wabash from 1870-72 before heading out to the Washington Territory. He attained some prominence there and was elected as the Territorial Representative to the 49th and 50th Congresses of the United States. Vorhees served from 1885-1889 when he was defeated by another Wabash man…

John Beard Allen [W1865] was the son of a Crawfordsville doctor who had also attended Wabash. He attended for two years as a prep student and two years in the collegiate course before mustering into the Indiana Volunteer Infantry. After the war, he moved with his parents to Rochester, MN where he worked for a time and then read law. He studied the law briefly at Michigan State and was admitted to the bar in 1869. He moved to Olympia, Washington in 1870 where he began his practice in a “public reading room”. He must have been a talented fellow because it was reported in the papers that despite his youth and no real connections, his practice grew quickly. He was soon considered one of the “ablest lawyers in the Territory.”

In 1875, at the age of 30, Allen was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Territory by President Grant and served for ten years. He was also the Reporter for the Supreme Court of the Territory from 1878-1885. He was a Republican and served a brief stint as Representative to the 51st congress before being selected to serve as the new state’s Senator from 1889 to 1893. When the state legislature failed to appoint a new senator, the governor appointed Allen. After a lengthy fight, the senate refused to seat Allen and Washington was without one of its senators until 1895. When the Washington state legislature appointed Allen’s successor, oddly enough, it was another Wabash man and Crawfordsville native, John Lockwood Wilson.

John L. Wilson (pictured), born in 1850 and graduated from Wabash in 1874, was the son of James Wilson [W1842]. The father was a Mexican War veteran and a Republican who served two terms as a congressman from Indiana. After serving in the Civil War, James was appointed Minister to Venezuela, but died in Caracas in 1867.

Following his graduation in 1874 John Wilson went to Washington D.C. to study law and was admitted to the bar in 1878. He practiced in Lafayette, Indiana for two years, then returned to Crawfordsville. In 1880 he was elected as a representative to the Indiana legislature where he made a lasting friend in Benjamin Harrison. Through Harrison, young Wilson was appointed the Receiver of Public Money for parts of the Washington Territory.

Wilson settled in Colfax but later moved to Spokane Falls. When his term as Receiver expired in 1887, he stayed to practice law in Spokane. In 1889 he was elected the new state’s first Representative to the U.S. Congress. He resigned his house seat in 1895 to serve as Washington’s Senator, which post he held until 1899. When Wilson returned to Washington state, he became the owner and publisher of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1899-1912. Wilson died in 1913 and is buried in Crawfordsville near his father.

As so many Wabash men have done since that time, these three alums sought and made their fortunes in the Great Northwest. The stories of Wabash men never cease to amaze me and I delight in sharing them with the world, or as the song says, “to spread the fame of her honored name…”

Beth Swift
Wabash College