Old Castle Hall symbolizes journey
By Brenda Day
Special to the World Co.
Their names adorn athletic fields, buildings, hallways, dorms and classrooms. Their faces peer out at us from sepia-toned photographs taken from the Archives. Their dusty diaries with precise and tiny writings mesmerize us. Their stories are many.
Time makes it hard for most to remember the founders of Baker University, let alone to remember that they were flesh and blood men and women with all the foibles of human beings today. They were men and women with hopes, dreams and ambitions tempered by tragedy whose fears were overcome by education.
In that way, the founders of Baker who helped build the University up through her 150-year history are very much like those of us who walk her hallowed campus today.
My favorite destination on a Baker campus tour is Old Castle Hall. Our original building, constructed of local limestone and three stories tall, pull the eyes and your thoughts upward toward the blue Kansas sky and the heavens. Lofty thoughts come naturally as breathing.
Old Castle Hall is symbolic of the university's and every students' journey. They begin rough and hand-hewn, but evolve, as their education continues, their purpose in life begins to unfold before them until they eventually graduate just a few feet away from where it all started, the soul of the university, Old Castle.
This is also how the preachers, teachers, leaders and explorers throughout Baker University's history have been. They arrived at Baker with uncertain futures. At Baker, founders, presidents, professors, students and administrators have found their purpose, their passion -- their castles in the sky-and helped the university find her own.
The Still Family, A Founding Family of Baker University
There are a number of people who can be credited with founding Baker University. The Stills are but one of many families. The Still family gave the land on which the university resides and considerable early support. Many of his children went on to greatness and wrote memoirs in which they describe their father's open, honest countenance, powerful preaching, hatred of slavery, dedication to the people of this area including the Shawnee people, and of his deep love for Baker University.
The Still family gift of more than a section of land to establish the new university secured its location in Palmyra, now Baldwin City. Lots were established and sold to raise money for the fledgling college. Everyone gave what they could. Some local farmers bought these lots and built small houses called "Sunday Houses" that were used when a farm family came to town on Saturday to buy supplies, and stayed overnight to attend church. Other lots were purchased by people who moved here to enable their children to attend Baker.
Abolitionists, many members of the Still family preached, taught and lived out their lives in this area.Their early home on Blue Mound was a refuge and hospital where they doctored more than one victim of the border ruffians of the time. Abraham's daughter, Mary, one of the earliest female preachers in this area, was the first female teacher at Baker. She and her friends published one of the early newspapers, The Kansas Messager. Son Andrew also gave the gift of land, but in addition founded osteopathy through his experiences and studies gleaned here. Today, Andrew Still's purpose in life, his School of Osteopathy, is the pride of Kirksville, Mo.
The Stills and other founders of Baker University worked tirelessly to ensure Baker's success often through trying financial times, natural disasters and constant social change. Their hard work, passion, courage and innovation provided an example to follow for the early settlers of this area and for Baker University.
Werter Davis, First President of Baker University
The first president of Baker University looked very much like what he was -- a soldier preacher. His son-in-law, William Alfred Quayle, described Werter Davis in his eulogy as a man of erect, military bearing with snapping blue eyes. In most of his later pictures he sports a wiry white beard and snow-white hair. We have only one photo of him as a younger man, as he was when he became the first president of Baker University at the age of 43.
He was many things to Baker and Kansas. Born in Circleville, Ohio, on April 1, 1815, he served as the university's first president from 1858-1862, and returned as a trustee to guide the university through the rough waters of the early days. One day a man stopped at the college building and asked Davis what kinds of grains were ground here, insinuating the lovely college building was a grist mill. Davis told him, "why man we grow up men here not grind grain."
Raised in Ohio, as were nine other Baker presidents, Davis enlisted as a lieutenant colonel in Company S, Sixteenth Kansas Cavalry at Ft. Leavenworth, on March 10, 1864 and became Colonel with the Sixteenth on Nov. 28, 1865. The men in the Sixteenth and Fifteenth Cavalry enlisted as a result of Quantrill's murderous raid on Lawrence the summer before. The Sixteenth participated in the Battle of the Big Blue that chased General Sterling Price from Kansas City and tangled with one of the most notorious area guerillas, "Coon" Thornton, formally named John C. Calhoun Thornton when he raided Parkville, Missouri in July of 1864. General Price, or "Old Pap," entered Missouri in September of 1864 hoping to deliver Missouri from "Yankee thralldom." Certainly serving as president of an infant university taught Dr. Davis lessons that he used as colonel in the Sixteenth Kansas to protect the infant state of Kansas.
Bishop Osmon Cleander Baker, Namesake of Baker University
The Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1858 whose name adorned the new university, sent Rev. William Goode to Kansas Territory after it was opened for settlement in May of 1854. Reverend Good arrived less than six weeks later to preach the first sermon to the settlers in Kibbee Cabin on July 9, 1854. Born in Marlow, New Hampshire, on July 30, 1812, he died in Concord, New Hampshire in 1871. He entered Wesleyan University as one of the first classes. In his third year, ill health forced him to drop out, but his proficiency led to his receiving his degree. In 1817 he was appointed presiding elder and chosen a professor in the general biblical institute in Concord that later became the Boston University School of Theology. Elected president of the school, he left in 1852 when he was elected bishop by the quadrennial general conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was by nature, and all accounts, a scholarly, unassuming man, but an excellent presiding and administrative officer who proved himself highly efficient. By most accounts he was an able, but not impassioned preacher and an earnest advocate of thorough theological training for all ministers. His gift of a bell to the university was placed in the cupola of the Old Castle where its peal alerted many an individual to hurry to an appointment and lured a person to look upward and ponder lofty thoughts.
Olivia Kezia "Dolly" Willey, Member of the First Graduating Class
Everybody loved and supported Dolly Willey, a member of the first graduating class. She was known by petnames such as Olivia, Dolly, Olive and each person in her circle used their own unique version of her name when referring to her. Classmates wrote of Dolly as being special to them, voicing their understanding of the journey she had traveled as the first woman to earn a college degree from Baker University.
Fellow classmate James Crooks Hall loved her so much he married her and ignited the "match factory," a tradition that continues today. According to the catalogs, for eight years Dolly enrolled in the classical program, a program that required mastery of Greek and Latin.
Many remarked on her skill at oratory and Dolly delivered addresses on a variety of subjects during her time as a student at Baker University. A lover of picnics at the Dell and Hole in the Rock and a crack shot, Dolly and her classmates explored their world under the watchful eyes of the faculty and administration.
Sometimes, however, the faculty could cause their own brand of trouble, such as the time they convinced Dolly and her classmates to introduce music into the a cappela pieces they had been singing. The result was that the old-timers got up and left Old Castle that was used as the Methodist Episcopal Church on Sundays. Like many young women of her time, and many yet to come, she belonged to a literary society, not unlike a sorority. Like many young women then and now, she used her education to become a good wife and mother.
Dolly began college in Kansas, in November of 1858, in a three-story building that lacked a roof. That did not stop her or the university. She graduated in the first class of three, in a long and lovely ceremony held in early June in the college park where one of the highlights was a corner-laying ceremony for what is now known as Parmenter Hall.
Richard "Percy" Ault, Explorer and Adventurer
Like the rest of the Ault children, including brother Warren, one of our Rhodes' Scholars, Richard Ault graduated from Baker University. His young professor, William Charles Bauer, taught and guided Richard and other Baker students into the Carnegie Institute through his brother Louis Bauer.
While at Baker, he served as observatory assistant in the magnetic observatory of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey. Upon his graduation in 1904, Ault joined the Carnegie Institution of Washington as a magnetic observer with the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. A year later he joined the crew of the Galilee, a sailing vessel chartered by Carnegie to undertake magnetic research around the globe. In 1907, he made magnetic observation in Northern Mexico, and in 1908, Ault made a three-month canoe trip into Canada to make magnetic observations. The following year he received his master's degree from Columbia University and joined the crew of the newly commissioned research vessel Carnegie.
A research vessel specifically designed and built for magnetic research, the Carnegie was constructed of wood and non-ferrous metals so as not to affect the magnetic observations. He was appointed Captain of the Carnegie on its third cruise. This magnificent ship took Ault and his crew around the world several times, including a circumnavigation of Antarctica in 1915-1916. In 1918, he worked for the Army on the aerial navigation of airplanes using compasses, sextants and astronomical observation. Captain Ault's life was lost because of a refueling explosion in Apia, Samoa, in 1929. Ault sailed the world seeking data on magnetism and atmospheric electricity. Some of his more important discoveries include submarine mountain ranges off the South American Coast and proof that the North Pole wobbles as the earth spins on its axis. Percy arrived at Baker a young, raw recruit. At Baker University, he found his passion and the courage to sail the seven seas.
Their names, faces and stories implore us to spend the time to get to know them. They are us. Time makes it difficult to remember, but remember we must. We have lessons to learn; they have stories to tell. This year we will celebrate the many stories that make up the 150-year history of Baker University and the many faces and names behind the stories. Some stories are sad, and all can be learned from. At Baker, founders, presidents, professors, students and administrators have found their purpose, their passion-their castles in the sky-and helped the university find her own. Enjoy the celebration. It is a magnificent accomplishment.