It is sometimes hard to describe the artifacts that we hold in our collections in a few brief words. In the case of this earthy treasure it couldn’t be easier. This is a jar of dirt.

Of course this is not just any old dirt – but dirt from the groundbreaking for the Pioneer Chapel. Held on Founder’s Day December 3, 1927 (a nod to the opening of classes in 1833) the groundbreaking was a tremendous affair on campus. The trustees were gathered along with donors, faculty, alumni and students. The man chosen to wield the shovel was  Theodore Harmon Ristine [W1865].

One of the many Ristines who helped to build and grow this small school, Theodore was a trustee of the college for nearly half a century. For 23 years he was the secretary of the board and served for 20 years as the treasurer of the college. He was also the grandfather of Dick Ristine [W1941]. Dick often told stories about being a little boy playing under his grandfather’s table while the business of the college was conducted.  From the listing of the posts Theodore held it is clear that there would, indeed, have been a great deal of college business discussed in the Ristine household.

Just a few weeks ago, I read something that Dick had written about this very event, “This reporter well remembers being there and watching his grandfather, T.H. Ristine, turn the first spadeful, while wondering why they quit after that one spadeful.”

To close I will say that this is an easily described artifact. It is straight forward – this bottle is full – a simple bottle full of common Indiana dirt. But when thinking about it for just a moment I see that this old bottle is full of stories. They are the stories of a small college and the generations who have loved it so well that to some it really is dear old Wabash.

Beth Swift
Wabash College