The section presents of real miscellany of odd occurrences, including a few involving animals, connected to Antioch.
AMONG THE EARLY STUDENT we had a great variety of background. One girl confided to me that she had never been on a train until she started to Antioch. Another girl from the hills had heard of doorbells, but never heard one. She went to call at a faculty house on the Lawn and put her finger on the button. It happened that the bell was out of order, but the hostess was watching and opened the door anyway. Pretty soon the girl heard a repetition of the sound that she had happened to hear as she touched the button, and she said, “Your doorbell is ringing.” The noise she heard was our Griscom’s donkey—Cleo—“hee-hawing”!
Some amusing memories about faculty are closely associated with these early days. We have had many a chuckle over the time Bruce Hanchett and Mary Magruder decided to “play postman” after finding all the Swinnertons’ love letters of past years which were carefully put away in their storeroom (a back shed). Those of us who found the letters in our mail boxes were forced for a time to suppress our smiles in public because the parents of the children took it so hard, but now we can all laugh about it. One great excitement was when Ann Putnam and Day Lesierson, about four-year-olds, were found “sliding” on the mansard roof of the Mills House, three stories up.
The story of how Albert Liddle drove off from a filling station without knowing that his wife, who had been asleep on the back seat, had gotten out of the car, how she and the local police had the police at the next town notified to stop him, how he found out before reaching there and went back for her, and the troubles they had to convince the police in both towns that the lady was not a gay deceiver but really his legitimate wife—can never be quite appreciated without hearing her tell it.
There are some very old Antioch stories that I have never seen in print that should not be lost. One is of a one-time candidate for President of the College who was making a trial address in Kelly Hall. He put his hat on the floor of the stage in the place where the college cat was used to sit during assemblies. The cat spent the whole time circling around the hat, which made the candidate so nervous he could not talk well, and he did not become president. Another was that the Crown Prince of dismembered Poland applied for a position on the faculty, but Horace Mann would not appoint him because he used tobacco! He was looking for a refuge from secret agents who were trying to extinguish the Polish royal line—and certainly needed one, for soon afterward he was stabbed to death in Covington, Kentucky.
While the Mills family still lived in the big house, there an English “remittance man” who had his home nearby on the Dayton pike, on what is now the Will Husted farm. His generous-sized checks came in envelopes with a most impressive coat-of-arms on them. He fell in love with a niece in the Mills family, and gave her expensive presents, the climax being a piano that had to be brought by wagon all the way from the East. Soon after she got it she eloped with another man, leaving a note for him saying she had never cared for him, but only tried to get all the gifts from him that she could. He—poor man—retired into almost complete seclusion. When he died he was buried in the cemetery here with this inscription:
CLEMENT WESTBROOK MICHAEL
Died near Yellow Springs, October 15, 1858
“A Native of England”
Herbert Ellis tells me that Michael had a hall built where Antioch students were invited to come and dance—that in the 1850’s.
Admirers of Emerson may be interested to know that when he visited the Horace Manns he liked to sit in their house at the window overlooking the campus, which corresponded to the one in the library to the east of the front door, the library having been built on the foundation of the Horace Mann House after it burned down.
Those who enjoy The Marble Faun should know that Adeline Shepard, the Antioch girl who went with the Hawthornes to Europe and was portrayed as Hilda, had as her room the northeast one of the third floor of North Hall. Bessie Totten supplied me with this information.
I also like the story of how Edward Everett Hale brought the $100,000 all in gold, to fulfill the conditions of the agreement between the Christian denomination and the American Unitarian Association, whereby the American Unitarian Association would take control of Antioch. I told this to one of his daughters-in-law, and she said, “Oh how father must have enjoyed doing that!” (The A.U.A. never did take complete control.)
Most of these pictures of the remote past of Antioch I had from Miss Eleanor Lewis, one of the most delightful persons possible. Her family came our from New York State in Horace Mann’s time. She knew Mrs. Mann and all her circle of friends well. She knew first-hand stories of such matters as Hawthorne’s love affairs. One of her tales concerns Antioch only as it took place in the old house, formerly a faculty residence, that became the first home of the Fels Fund. The housewife there kept telling Mrs. Lewis that a very queer thing was happening. Every day there would be just one of several crocks of her milk in which the cream would be partly gone. She had them all covered with wooden covers, and the one that had been disturbed might be at any place on the shelf in the cellar. Finally she sat down where she could watch, and when all was quiet, along came a rat—who ran over the covers till he found a small knothole, which she had never noticed, in one of the covers. Through it he put his tail, then pulled it up covered in cream, licked it off, and repeated till he had got all the cream within reach.