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October 28, 2011

WRC in the Civil War - “Sojering” - part 1

In concert with the theme of Archives Month in Ohio, “Buckeyes in the Civil War,” we have continued our research concerning Western Reserve College’s involvement in the war. Over the next 2 weeks we will share the student’s account of their service, taken from the student newspaper, Western Reserve Souvenir, December 1862. The captain’s point of view was shared in earlier postings in July and August.

“On the 27th of May last, when it was represented that the National Capital was in danger, and that there was immediate need of troops, the students in a body, acting on their own responsibility, resolved to offer their services for three months. A telegram was sent to the Governor to see if we were needed. He replied that we were, and that our services would be gladly accepted. That we might not be considered rash in making the move, our President himself went to Columbus and had an interview with the Governor, to see whether the exigency of the case was such as to justify our leaving our studies. He sent back word for us to get ready. Books were immediately laid aside; a company was organized; we took leave of our friends; and in a few days, not without regret, we exchanged our ‘Sanctums’ for the Camp. Two of the Faculty, Professors Young and Cutler, accompanied us, to share in common with us, the labors and privations of camp life. As soon as we were mustered in, we were assigned the position of Co. B., 85th Regiment, O. V. I., Capt. C.A. Young, 1st Lieut. C. Cutler, 2d Lieut. E.L. Webber.

"The first three months of our service we performed that, generally called disgraceful, but by no means easy, labor of guarding the rebel prisoners at Camp Chase, considering that by so doing we were serving our country quite as well as we would have done by lying idly in some camp out of the State. By the care and experience of our officers, and the perseverance of the men, we soon attained the enviable position of the best drilled company in Camp, which reputation we succeeded in maintaining as long as we were there. It is no boast when we say that no company presented as fine an appearance on dress parade, no company could be so implicitly relied upon as Co. B. in doing guard duty faithfully. Notwithstanding all this success, we could not help looking back with longings after our Alma Mater, and wishing the time to speed along more quickly which would restore us once more to her embrace. We were wont to meet together in front of our quarters, after the day’s work was over, and sing the songs which called up the pleasant reminiscences of College life. Never, ‘til then, when we were deprived of the advantages and enjoyments of College, did we fully realize their value. Still we were not disposed to complain of our lot, for we were all together as before, and were constantly receiving good things from our friends at home. The fields and orchards around the camp furnished us with an abundant supply of the luxuries of life. High hedges, big dogs, mad men, or screaming women, did not deter us from obtaining what we had set our eyes upon and deemed necessary for our comfort. Sad was the fate of all the fowls which were so careless as to let us know their whereabouts. In this manner, much sooner than we expected, passed the first three months of our service.”

Part 2 continues next week with a prisoner exchange.

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October 21, 2011

WRC in the Civil War - Camp Chase

In the summer of 1862, many Western Reserve College students and a few faculty served in Company B of the 85th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. They served as prisoner of war guards at Camp Chase in Columbus. By all reports, conditions at Camp Chase were harsh. Overcrowding, poor food, and worse sanitation led to the deaths of over 2,000 Confederate prisoners. Their guards were not immune to the harsh conditions, either.

In an undated letter to the Adelbert College librarian, George Thomas LeBoutillier, Class of 1864, reported that he accompanied his classmate, Nicholas David Gilbert, to Camp Chase as a volunteer.

“There, the Commandent begged us to remain outside, within call, or so, until he could get the camp into a sa[n]itary condition, which it was not at all, at the time. Gilbert insisted on going in at once. He was taken out dead from Typhus, in a few weeks time. The rest of us, lodged and boarded outside, as best we could, some of us went to Cleveland, leaving addresses with Commandant. There we drilled quite extensively.”

Accompanying the letter was a “Document regarding N. D. Gilbert of the Class of 1864, who died September 27, 1862. Submitted by Rev. Geo. Thos. LeBoutillier, Class of 1864.” Extracts from the four-page document are transcribed below.

“About the 15th of May 1862, when the Call was made by Gov. Tod for volunteers, the students of W. R. College offered their services, which were immediately accepted. No one of the students seemed more ready to lay aside books and seize arms than N. D. Gilbert, and evidently acting from a sense of duty and the promptings of patriotism and not by impulse or wild enthusiasm. A few days previous to leaving for Camp Gilbert remarked to me ‘We are going down to Camp Chase, perhaps some of us to die’, unconsciously pronouncing his own sad fate.

About the first of June, the Company arrived at Camp Chase. While there previous to his sickness, although surrounded by so many evil and unpleasant influences, G. maintained his Christian standing with strict integrity, sometimes going out upon the parade ground after dark to walk alone engaged in meditation and prayer, as he afterwards told me. About the 15th of July he became indisposed and for several days was unfit for duty and was at the hospital a part of the time. During this time an incident occured worthy of mention, showing G.’s readiness and willingness to alleviate the wants of the needy whenever circumstances would permit, and even when circumstances were quite unfavorable. A poor widow lady whose son had died at the hospital, was desirous of taking the corpse home, but had not the means to defray the necessary expense. G.’s sympathies were immediately excited, but as his own purse was reduced to one dime his own means for rendering assistance were of course entirely inadequate. his last dime, however, was immediately bestowed and then by circulating a subscription paper, he soon raised a sufficient amount to meet the lady’s wants. This was his last act of charity of this nature.

N.D. Gilbert was confined to his bed about eleven weeks.”

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October 14, 2011

Alumni Reunions

Alumni reunions are a time for former classmates to meet again and reminisce. In today’s world with Facebook, e-mail, Twitter, and cell phones it is easy to stay in touch with fellow students and alumni. In the past, once alumni dispersed after commencement, it was not so easy. Alumni would make extra efforts to be at a major reunion such as their 25th or 50th and send “greetings” if they could not attend. As alumni reunion is upon us this weekend, let us take a look back at a few past reunions.

On April 14, 1869 the Western Reserve College alumni reunion was held at the Weddell House in Cleveland. This was significant as Western Reserve College was still located in Hudson and would not move to Cleveland until 1882. There was a fine dinner followed by a program. After the Alma Mater was sung, President Hitchcock spoke. This was followed by a series of toasts for the different groups of alumni: the benefactors, the clergy, the alumni in the Army, the attorneys, physicians, college faculty, sister institutions, old alumni, and young alumni.

1869 Reunion program

In 1912 alumni reunion for Adelbert College (the successor of Western Reserve College) was held June 12-13. Class reunions and dinners of Western Reserve College (WRC) and Adelbert College (ADL) alumni were held the first day. The second day of reunion featured Commencement; the annual meeting and luncheon of the Alumni Association of WRC and ADL; Alumni-Senior baseball game; Canoe Tilting Contest; Alumni Parade; and University Reception. For a few details...

The Canoe Tilting Contest was open to any alumnus or undergraduate. In general undergraduates competed by classes. Preliminaries began at 3 p.m. “The finals will start at 7:00 p.m. sharp. The canoe tilting contest will conclude with a mock war in which all contestants in the contest will compete.”

Alumni gathered for the Alumni Parade in Adelbert Main 7-7:30 p.m., where they donned costumes. All classes were expected to appear in various costumes. The parade formed at Wade Park Lagoon at 7:30 p.m. Each alumnus carried a Japanese lantern and Class Standards were provided by the reunion committee. “The line of march will be around the Pond, through the Campus of the College for Women and thence to the Main Building of Adelbert College. The oldest class represented will form at the head of the Parade, followed by other classes in order of graduation. A band, already arranged for will lead the march.

“At the close of the Parade, President Thwing and prominent alumni will speak briefly from the College Steps. Immediately thereafter the Annual University Reception will be held in the Main Building. An orchestra will furnish music for dancing in the Assembly Hall on the second floor. All Western Reserve people and their friends are invited.”[1]

In 1954 the 50th reunion was held for the Case School of Applied Science Class of 1904. On May 21 they gathered at Tomlinson Hall for fellowship and tours of the buildings. They then traveled to the Oakwood Country Club where they had their class reunion dinner. President Glennan dined with the class and spoke about the new Case. As part of this evening’s festivities 4 members of the class (Stant Charlesworth, Ralph Brown, Paul Schmidt, George Protheroe) regaled the group with a selection of old Case songs. (Listen to the introduction by George Protheroe and the first song by downloading the MP3 file below.) May 22 followed with more activities on campus and the Great Alumni Dinner (for all Case reunion classes).

Download MP3 file (4.3 MB)

Welcome back alumni! Enjoy the weekend!

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October 07, 2011

Ruth W. Helmuth, University Archivist, 1964-1985


As October begins another Archives Month in Ohio, it seems fitting to celebrate the CWRU Archives’ Founding Mother, Ruth W. Helmuth. Practitioner, educator, advocate. It is difficult to identify an aspect of the archival profession’s development in the 1970s and 1980s to which Ruth Helmuth did not contribute.

As a practitioner she merged classical archival theory with innovative use of technology and practices from related fields. The functional classification system she developed to describe the hierarchical arrangement of archival series was adapted by dozens of college and university archives. Even though she wasn’t certain how they would be used, she knew, in 1983, that the new desktop computers would be an important tool for archivists and provided funds and encouragement for her staff to experiment.

In the 1970s there were few opportunities for formal archival education in the United States. In 1970, Ruth Helmuth began a ten-year summer workshop that trained hundreds of archivists. In 1975, under her leadership, Case Western Reserve University established a double-degree program in archives administration which offered an MSLS from the School of Library Science and an MA in History. This was one of the earliest such programs in the United States. She worked within the Society of American Archivists (SAA) to develop educational opportunities and raise standards as a member of the Education and Training Committee, the Basic Workshop Committee, and the Professional Standards Committee.

Ruth’s service to the broader profession included chairing the Society of American Archivists’ College and University Archives Section and the Nominating Committee. She served on SAA Council and as Vice President and President. She was one of the founding members of the Society of Ohio Archivists (SOA), one of the earliest statewide archival associations. She also served a seven-year term on the Ohio Historical Records Advisory Board. She served on panels to review qualifications for the Archivist of the United States and director of the Gerald Ford Library.

In recognition of her accomplishments, SAA made her a Fellow, SOA issued a Special Citation, and CWRU named its archival endowment fund for her. A tribute by former MIT Archivist, Helen Samuels, at Ruth’s death summarizes the esteem in which Ruth Helmuth is held by the hundreds of archivists she influenced:

“Ruth taught us the basics and grounded us in our profession. Even more, she instilled in us the excitement and commitment to be first rate academic archivists. She trained a generation of college and university archivists, and I believe, contributed greatly to the strength and leadership that college and university archivists have played in our profession.” (Helen Samuels, posting to the Archives and Archivists list, July 22, 1997)

In 2011, in celebration of its 75th anniversary, the Society of American Archivists published a set of 75 trading cards featuring, among other notable achievements, people who made significant contributions to SAA or the archival profession. Ruth’s selection gave us one more opportunity to bask in her reflected glory and be grateful for her legacy.

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