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William Watts Folwell

William Watts Folwell: The Autobiography and Letters of a Pioneer of Culture

William Watts Folwell
Edited by Solon J. Buck
Copyright Date: 1933
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 314
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  • Book Info
    William Watts Folwell
    Book Description:

    William Watts Folwell: The Autobiography and Letters of a Pioneer Culture was first published in 1933. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original In a three-room farmhouse in Romulus, New York, where a spinning wheel stood by the fireplace and home-dipped candles lighted the long evenings, William Watts Folwell was born on February 14, 1833. His life of ninety-six years spanned the Century of Progress. It was on February 14, 1933, exactly one hundred years from the day of his birth, that the University of Minnesota Press brought out this volume containing Dr. Folwell’s own story of his long life. He traveled in early Victorian Europe, met Browning in Italy and Jakob Grimm in Germany, corresponded with Matthew Arnold, served as an officer in the Civil War, and in 1869 became the first president of the University of Minnesota. From that time until his death in September 1929, he maintained an unflagging interest in the affairs of the university and the state, finishing the four-volume History of Minnesota only a few months before his death.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-3778-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[viii])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [ix]-[xiv])
  3. CHAPTER ONE The Homestead
    (pp. 1-11)

    I was born on February 14, 1833, in the town of Romulus, Seneca County, New York. The persons responsible for my appearance on this planet were Thomas Jefferson Folwell, born in Southampton, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, on December 25, 1799, and Joanna Bainbridge, born in Romulus on May 4, 1809. They were married on January 31, 1828. In an appendix I will add an account of my proximate ancestry and tell how and when my forbears came to Romulus.¹

    The house in which I was born contained one large living room with a big open fireplace and two smaller rooms in...

  4. Birthplace at Romulus, New York
    (pp. None)
  5. CHAPTER TWO School, Farm, and Meeting-House
    (pp. 12-34)

    My school life began in the summer district schools, probably when I was five years old. I say “district schools” because the term “public schools” was not in use in my time. The country was divided into districts, probably by the county board of supervisors, for the purpose of distributing the money accruing from the sale of the hundred acres of school land in every town. Otherwise the districts were wholly independent. The trustees, chosen by the electors, assessed the taxpayers for building the schoolhouse. They employed the teachers, examined them as to their qualifications, and inspected their work. It...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Preparation for College
    (pp. 35-51)

    As my family had steadily planned to have me go to college, the time came when they saw that I must go to a preparatory school. On account of some business considerations it was decided to have me go to Nunda, in Livingston County, New York, to live with an uncle and aunt residing there and attend the academy, which had the ambitious title “The Nunda Literary Institute.” Like other academies it was a preparatory school, but it undertook much more in the way of fitting young people for business life.

    The principal was a Professor Buck, and I think...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Life at Hobart
    (pp. 52-68)

    At the Geneva Union School in 1851 I had made the acquaintance of a young fellow, a delightful and amiable Irishman named John C. O’Brien. It was late in August or early in September of 1854 that I was in Geneva on some errand and fell in, by accident, with Johnnie O’Brien; I must have told him of my disappointment at not being able to go to college. He said to me, “Why don’t you come down here to college?” I had never even thought of the matter, but when he suggested that I take a walk of one hundred...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Student and Teacher
    (pp. 69-87)

    It was fortunate that at the end of my college course I had paid off my two hundred dollar debt out of my salary at Ovid and did not have to seek employment. I was recalled to the academy at Ovid, which was continuing under new management. I don’t remember distinctly what my salary was, but I think that with my board and lodging included it was about six hundred dollars. I spent the school year 1857–58 principally teaching Latin and Greek, but I also had some German classes. One of them, reduced to a single member, Miss Lodiska...

  9. William Watts Folwell at Twenty-six, Shortly after Graduation from Hobart College
    (pp. None)
  10. CHAPTER SIX A Student in Germany
    (pp. 88-102)

    When I decided to turn to general philology, I took it for granted that it would be necessary for me to go to Germany to find the proper teachers. Before midsummer this expectation ripened into a resolution to go abroad as soon as I could make financial arrangements. I found no difficulty in obtaining a loan of needed money, secured by life insurance and in other ways.

    Of course I made a visit to Buffalo, where I was welcomed into the household of Mr. Russell H. Heywood of 81 Seneca Street, father of the lady who had decided to take...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN The Grand Tour
    (pp. 103-123)

    As an example of my imperfect education, I may say that late in the fall I had written some letters to friends at home asking them to get me appointed secretary to the legation in Berlin. Of course nothing came of it, and I ought to have had the sense to know at the time that all the appointive places under the executive vacated by Democrats had been filled out of the horde of applicants who made Lincoln’s life for some months a burden.

    At length Millard and I were able to agree upon a date for our departure from...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT The Engineer Officer
    (pp. 124-158)

    These reminiscences relate in great part to my independent operations and in some cases the reader may think they degenerate into brag. Those here reported, I ought to say, are not mere matters of memory, but are confirmed by war-time diaries, papers, and a series of letters. Some general statements are in order.

    Upon the call of Congress in July, 1861, for five hundred thousand troops, the war department gave its authority to recruit some volunteer engineer commands. Charles B. Stuart, an eminent engineer residing in Geneva, New York, was authorized to make up a regiment of ten companies recruited...

  13. Sarah Heywood in 1860
    (pp. None)
  14. Colonel Folwell at Thirty-two, at the Close of His Civil War Service
    (pp. None)
  15. CHAPTER NINE Life in Ohio, 1865–1869
    (pp. 159-184)

    My brother, Captain Mahlon Bainbridge Folwell, and I, coming home from the Civil War on a day early in July, 1865, hung our discarded and always useless sabers on the wall of the living room in our old home in Romulus, New York. I had a wife and girl baby to support, and my balance of cash was two hundred dollars. My beautiful wife was the daughter of Russell Hubbard Heywood of Buffalo, New York. Although he had not served a term of apprenticeship, Mr. Heywood had gained as a boy some experience in mercantile life in Worcester, Massachusetts, where...

  16. CHAPTER TEN University President
    (pp. 185-229)

    I do not purpose to recite in detail my recollections of the sixty-year period that began in 1869 with our shift to Minnesota, but will be satisfied with adding a few paragraphs in the nature of “confessions.”

    Mr. Heywood, who survived our departure from Venice fourteen years, seemed content, and on visits to our home in Minnesota expressed no regret at our removal. He was rather pleased with my position and my opportunity to exercise abilities that had not come into play in the milling business.

    The first acquaintances and friends made on our arrival in St. Anthony on September...

  17. Old Main, University of Minnesota, in 1869
    (pp. None)
  18. St. Anthony in 1857
    (pp. None)
  19. CHAPTER ELEVEN Teacher and Librarian
    (pp. 230-245)

    It was my good fortune to be succeeded as president by the wise, sagacious, magnanimous Cyrus Northrop, who remained my great friend to the end. Because of his generous tolerance my teaching and other college work were moderate during my twenty-three years under him as chief. For some years I had the aid of Hannah Sewall, a graduate student, in the reading and marking of examination papers. I think she was better at that duty than I was myself. I may have used a textbook in the seventies but thereafter I adopted the lecture or rather the parol method. I...

  20. CHAPTER TWELVE Public Affairs
    (pp. 246-265)

    Some time during the year 1871 I went into the office of Governor Austin in the old State Capitol and said to him that I should be very glad to have an appointment as one of the Minnesota commissioners to the United States Centennial Exposition then being organized to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. “You are appointed,” he said.

    In the Christmas holidays of 1875 I went to Philadelphia, met Alfred T. Goshorn, the wonderfully able general manager, was entertained by him, and was taken out in a carriage to the then distant site of the...

  21. CHAPTER THIRTEEN Historian
    (pp. 266-287)

    I had long wanted to see the battlefields of the Sioux Outbreak of 1862, the site of the deserted Sioux village and of the two agencies. In 1908 my son Russell was pleased to take me over the ground in his automobile. We met by arrangement at Winona on August 26. I spent the evening with Major Benjamin H. Randall, who was situated at Fort Ridgely at the time of Little Crow’s attack. He gave me information which may have been fruitful.¹ On August 27 Russell and I had a happy day’s ride in his open car to New Ulm....