By Scott Sanders, Antioch College Archivist.
Sarah Hawley to Adelaide Hardy 21 May 1872
Sarah Hawley (class of 1874), known to her classmates as “Sadie,” enrolled at Antioch College in 1869. She came from Milan, Ohio, known as the hometown of Thomas Edison and as one of the state’s more enjoyably mispronounced place names (as in MY-lən), as did her brother Kent (1869-1872) and her sister Ruth (1872-1874). After graduation, she married a man named Somers and moved to California. Antiochiana has several letters Sadie wrote to Pauline Adelaide Hardy (class of 1877), known as “Addie,” one of which is reprinted below.
Sadie greets Addie as her “dearest ‘Micawber,’” a character from Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. In the novel, Wilkins Micawber is a kindhearted, incurable optimist who despite crushing indebtedness lives by the maxim: “something will turn up.” It’s also the name of one of Keith Richards’ guitars, but that isn’t very relevant to this story. Micawber was played memorably on screen first by the inimitable WC Fields, but also by the great Ralph Richardson, the great Bob Hoskins, and most recently by Peter Capaldi, best known as the twelfth Doctor Who. This is not, however, a story about Wilkins Micawber except to say that Hardy’s friends seem to have known her for her incurable optimism.
Sadie says she has her “tongue hung in the middle,” a rather old saying to describe someone who talks too much. She does just that in this rather newsy letter, which includes a barrage of Antiochians’ names that took no small effort to identify. In paragraph three, she recounts a visit to the nearby village of Clifton, calling the trip “going Maying,” possibly a reference to the May Day Walks once led by first president of the College Horace Mann. The paper mill where she and “Minnie” get on a boat, likely the old Nixon-Hagar Mill at the bottom of Clifton Gorge, was already a ruin by the 1870s, a relic of Clifton’s bygone era as a center of water-powered industry.
Identifying the many people Sadie mentions required multiple sources, including the College Catalog and early directories of alumni and faculty. “Miss Reid,” likely Zella Reid, Oberlin College class of 1867, taught in the Antioch Preparatory Department and later became principal of San Diego Public Schools; Irene most certainly refers to Adelaide Hardy’s sister, a student in the 1860s who became a teacher in California; “Minnie,” most commonly a diminutive for Mary, might have been Mary Beals, class of 1874; Sadie’s “gallant,” Edmund Van Tuyl, attended 1871-1872; “Dudie” Mills might have been Julia Mills, 1864-1871; Francis McGarry was class of 1872; Fanny Tucker Beal was also class of 1872; The identity of “Mrs. L” remains a mystery; Hannah Schenck attended 1870-1871 and married S. Augustus Forbush, 1867-1871; Jeanette “Jennie” Jones, 1866-1871, married Everett Bailey, 1866-1871; “Nettie” was likely Jeanette M. Marsh, 1867-1869; Mr. Samuel Derby taught Literature and would go on to be president of Antioch College and later president of The Ohio State University; Eunice Ransom was a student 1870-72; Of the many Chamberlains who went to Antioch, Sadie probably refers to Morton or William, 1869-78 and1867-78, respectively; Augustus Studybaker attended 1866-71; Without the Faculty Meeting minutes of the 1870s, which did not survive, the reasons for the expulsions of Ai J. Clemons (1869-1872), James Speed, (1867-72), and the unidentifiable “Budd” cannot be determined; William H. Scudder attended 1866-70; Holden was possibly George Holden, 1869-72; Mr. Murphy, who “sports a plug hat,” was John P. Murphy, 1867-71, who became a judge in Cincinnati; Anna “Annie” Bickford was enrolled 1869-75.
Antioch May 21st 1872
My dearest “Micawber”,
Here I am settled in my rocking chair for a lengthy talk with you by pen, pity a woman has to resort to anything else when her tongue is “hung in the middle” for the special purpose of talking, isn’t it? Perhaps you’ll think my pen goes at both ends before I get through however. You are a bad girl to say what you did about Miss Reid – she wrote two letters to Irene and got no answer so concluded she had not the right address. I did not tell her what you said to find this out, so don’t mind.
Minnie said the other day that she meant to write to you but she did not get time. You don’t know Addie how worn out she is. The first of last week she could not go into school at all and she isn’t well at all. She is thin and has lost a good deal of her old love for fun. Don’t let her know that I wrote this, but I do feel so sorry to see her so. She is going East and her sewing alone is enough to worry her let alone her studies. I hope she will get finely recruited up this summer. She spoke about your piece for her paper last night and I hope you’ll surely write it, my dear. How I wish that you could be here next Commencement! Wouldn’t we have some good talks though, but I’ll try to be patient till next Fall when the “good time is coming.”
You and Minnie and I will be together just as we used to be – and my sister Ruth is coming too, you will like her I know. I shall have to go way back to find any news. The great event of the term was the 3rd as a holiday to go Maying in. We went to Clifton, did just as we always do. While we were eating dinner a shower came up and after that we went home stopping at the paper mill on our way and getting the boat for a sail up the river; we arrived safe and sound at six oclock. My gallant on this gay and festive transfer was no less a personage than “Frosty” , (Mr. Van Tuyl).
I didn’t know him much so to start a conversation asked him if he knew you:
He replied – not very well but——-that he liked you!!!!! How is that? He was right sensible and smart and of course I enjoyed the walk. The next day Minnie and I went to Springfield. I got a white dress – Victoria lawn, a green tie and garters to boot. Minnie got shoes, hat and had her teeth filled. We got some cream cakes for our dinner, walked out into the country and sat down in a ditch to eat them. Wasn’t that dreadful? Dudie Mills was up here not long ago – she looks real well and expects a place in the Xenia high school next year. Mr. McGarry was down also, he is in a bookstore in Springfield, had made up all his senior year except the fall term in vacation so of course graduates.
Fannie Tucker grows prettier every day. She has a lovely white organdie being made for Commencement. Mrs. L- takes the same Interest in us interesting lambs that she always did. Did you know that Hannah Schenck and Mr. Forbush are engaged? He has left me! Yea Verily!!!
They say too that Jennie Jones is engaged to Mr. Bailey. Nettie Marsh is married. Mr. Derby and Ransome seem to like single blessedness pretty well; at least they aren’t married yet. Mr. Chamberlin has dropped out of the course, is devoting his talents to science I believe. Mr. Studybaker is at home, was here the last term but has greatly changed. He has been sick and almost crazy so that he seemed so much weaker than he used to. Mr. Clemons, Mr. Speed and “Budd” were the boys expelled. Holden was very devoted to Fannie. Mr. Scudder was here Sunday – I guess Jennie does not go out much. Mr. Murphy has been around too, sports a plug hat and makes quite a dash, is studying law in Cincinnati. I haven’t heard from Mattie for a long time. Annie Bickford writes often and is having a pleasant time at home. We have been having some nice experiments in Physics this week. Only four weeks more and won’t I rejoice! How does your school prosper and when is it out? Tell me all about your sisters. My essay for the Crescent anniversary weighs on my mind and I suppose I’ll have to let it weigh. I forgot to tell you, we had such a good debate last Friday on a reform in Woman’s dress. The boys were not admitted and it was thorough & earnest. I wish you had been here. Next week for variety, we are to read “As you like it.” The Adelphs have adjourned till Fall and the stars ad infinitum. I guess. Lazy creature! Addie my Darling Ich muss zum Bette gehen.
Good night. With oceans of love – Sadie