THE SOCIETY

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the charter of Centenary University! To celebrate, the blog will be highlighting past posts about Centenary’s history.

Literary societies are one of the oldest student organizations in America, and the forerunners of modern-day fraternities and sororities. Traditional literary societies were founded to promote scholarship through literary exercises and debate. Centenary Collegiate Institute had five literary societies in its early years; the first society was formed within the school’s first week! Centenary’s first president, Dr. Whitney, fostered ideas of social training that were quickly adopted by all four societies. Utmost in importance to all societies was the inclusion of earnest, purposeful young men and women.

Whitney Lyceum was the first literary society to be formed at Centenary in September 1874, a chapter of the Alpha Omega fraternity. The ‘Whits’, as they were called, disbanded in 1910, when the school became an all girls school.

The Philomathean society was the second fraternity to be founded in the school’s first year. After a decade, the ‘Philos’ resigned from their fraternity, and joined the Alpha Phi Fraternity, Zeta chapter. This literary society also ceased to exist after the men left in 1910.

The Diokosophian Society was founded in 1875, and was Centenary’s first female literary society. The ‘Dioks’ were members of the Sigma Epsilon Phi sorority.

The members of Diok were so many that students decided to form a second sorority in 1880. This society was called The Evergreens, but was soon renamed the Peithosophian Society. It was a chapter of the Theta Epsilon Nu sorority.

Callilogian Society was a latecomer to Centenary, having been brought over by students and teachers from a school that had become an all boys school in 1910. Its Greek letters were Delta Sigma Sigma.

These societies have all disappeared over the years, with new ones taking their places. Currently, the university has one fraternity, Alpha Phi Delta, and one sorority, Alpha Theta Psi.

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THE GREAT FIRE – repost

The original Centenary Collegiate Institute main building.

The original Centenary Collegiate Institute main building.

The twenty-fifth anniversary of the Centenary Collegiate Institute would prove to be a critical year for the school, testing the dedication and determination of every member of Centenary’s community. Shortly after midnight on the morning of October 31st, 1899, a fire started that demolished the main building, leaving students and staff without dormitories, classrooms, or possessions.

THE FIRE

The origin of the fire is unknown, but was attributed to the spontaneous combustion of painters’ supplies stored too close to a boiler room in the basement. A night watchman discovered the fire but was unable to fight the flames by himself. He alerted Mr. Terrill, the College’s bookkeeper, and brother-in-law to current president, Dr. Wilbert P. Ferguson. The two men rushed from Mr. Terrill’s room on the fourth floor back down to the basement, accompanied by three professors who had detected the faint smell of smoke. The men, seeing the basement engulfed in flames, abandoned their idea of putting the fire out themselves, and quickly created a plan for rousing the building’s sleeping occupants. One went to notify the president’s family, another to the teachers in the ladies’ halls, the third to the teachers in the men’s halls, the fourth to the servant’s hall, and the last ran to summon the fire department.

Within minutes all were awake and exiting the building. The ladies were assembled and organized by their heroic preceptress, Mrs. Hoag, and Mrs. Ferguson, the President’s wife. At some point the ladies were sent across campus to the gentlemen’s gymnasium, where Mrs. Hoag called attendance from memory. The professors visited the gentlemen’s halls until they were certain that every young man had escaped. There were no casualties and no serious injuries, save for one young man with weak lungs who suffered minor smoke inhalation.

THE BUILDING, ENGULFED

At 2 a.m. the bell in the clock tower tolled for the last time, falling to the ground after the final chime. By 4 a.m. the destruction was complete. Nothing remained of the building but sections of brick wall. Two gymnasiums, the chemical laboratory, the barn, and the icehouse survived, as they were located across campus. The fire department, town citizens, and C.C.I. students and staff tried valiantly to put out the fire, but the flames traveled through a pipe organ shaft and empty stairwells, consuming the chapel and library. Soon after the whole building was ablaze. Every student, professor, and employee lost some of their possessions, and many lost everything but their bedclothes. That morning the building lay in ruins. Students and staff assembled in the Methodist Church, where they were given permission to go home.

AFTERMATH, INTERIOR

THE RUINS OF C.C.I.

All seemed lost, but the Board of Trustees and President were not willing to give up on Centenary easily. As early as November 7th, announcements were sent out that the school would continue its Fall Term. Classes reopened on November 20th. Local hotels and resorts offered their facilities to the Institute, and C.C.I. gratefully accepted the hospitality of the citizens of Hackettstown. Private homes were turned into dormitories and classrooms. Each home was dubbed a hall, and to tell them apart, each hall was given a professor’s name. The chapels on Main Street offered space for meals and recitation. Life continued at C.C.I. in unfamiliar settings, but it continued nonetheless. A class of forty-three graduated that year.

After the year concluded, the Board of Trustees and Dr. Whitney again began the daunting task of fundraising to rebuild Centenary. A new president, Dr. Charles W. McCormick, was inaugurated, and plans were set in motion to reformat the Institute as a day school until construction could be completed. All other departments were shut down in order to focus on the College Preparatory program. A hall was rented in town for recitations, and students boarded with private families. The day school only had two teachers, Miss Hannah Voorhees and Professor Hammond, who each taught eight classes a day.

Funds were raised to begin the construction of a new Institute, and the cornerstone for the new building was laid on December 1, 1900. The college reopened on September 23, 1901, although the chapel and recitation rooms were still under construction. The new structure was completed before the end of 1901, and Centenary was off and running once again.

CENTENARY COLLEGIATE INSTITUTE NEW MAIN BUILDING

The new Centenary Collegiate Institute main building, with dormitories in separate buildings on either side of the school.

 

 

THE ATHLETICS

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the charter of Centenary University! To celebrate, the blog will be highlighting past posts about Centenary’s history.

Original gymA very important aspect of student life at Centenary has always been athletics, but when Centenary Collegiate Institute opened in 1874, there was no gymnasium. To keep active, students created sporting clubs until gyms could be built. Men and women had ‘physical advancement’ classes in separate gymnasiums. In the 1890s athletics became a notable feature of C.C.I. life. The school laid out several athletic fields and hired an athletic director.

DenmanIn 1903, George E. Denman became C.C.I.’s Director of Athletics. Denman was also a Latin professor and the House Master of the Boys’ Dormitory. He revolutionized the athletics program – every sport excelled under his instruction. Professor Denman was also instrumental in the creation of a school annual called The Hack, Centenary’s first yearbook. Denman was the head of Athletics from 1903 to 1910.

WAAAfter 1910, the school became a women’s college and formed a new Athletic Association, eventually called the Women’s Athletic Association (W.A.A.). C.C.I. became Centenary Junior College, with Senior and Freshmen classes competing in intramural games. The W.A.A., whose goal was to promote an interest in all recreational activities, sponsored clubs and events to encourage physical education.

CycloneIn 1989, the school became coed again and men’s sports were welcomed back. Another addition to athletics was a mascot! Centenary’s athletics currently offers eight sports for men and seven for women.

KAY & ME

This year for Centenary University’s Alumni and Family Weekend, the library will have a presentation on Katharine Brush, a student from Centenary who graduated in 1917!

Katharine Ingham Brush was born Katharine Ingham in Connecticut in 1902 and attended Centenary Collegiate Institute between 1913 and 1917. Casey, as she was known at Centenary, was very active in student activities.

katharine brush 6She was on several athletic teams and held positions in literary clubs and organizations. As an editor for the Hack Yearbook, she contributed jokes, articles, and essays to the 1917 yearbook.

katharine brush 1

Excerpt, Prophecy of the Class of 1917, 1917 Yearbook:

I know that I am soon to depart this earthly life, slain in an arduous battle with the Natural Enemy, college entrance exams, and I feel that this will be my last appearance on this terrestrial ball. So, on this thirteenth day of June, nineteen seventeen, I inscribe these facts for publication, that the consciousness of the greatness of my prophetic talents may not bloom alone within my own self but that, like the genius of the Cassandra that I once was, it may live on after my decease, to all eternity.

KATHARINE INGHAM, 1917

katharine brush 4She also performed in the Glee Club and in plays put on by her literary society, The Diokosophians.

VICTIM OF AMERICAN HISTORY

What time it was, I do not know, what place I do not care
But in American History class sat Casey, sad and fair.
Her turn was fast approaching, she was consumed with fright
Her one thought was, “Oh! how I hope I won’t have to recite.”
At last the one beside her had stood and had her say,
And then for poor dear Casey ’twas night instead of day.
A name was called, she, trembling rose, and started to”expound”-
But why this mighty laughter that shakes the whole room round ?
The class was in an uproar! Casey began to fumble
For instead of Katharine Ingham, the name was Kathryn Rumble.

E.B. (Edna Bigelow, associate editor of the Hack Board)

After graduating, Katharine Ingham began working as a columnist for the Boston Traveler. She published multiple short stories and novels under her married name, Brush. Later in life, she went by the nickname Kay.

katharine brush 5

Among her many published works are Glitter, Little Sins, Night Club, The Boy from Maine, and When She Was Bad. Several of her novels have been made into movies. Red Headed Woman was made into a film in 1932. It is considered a pre-code classic due to its racy comedy.

katharine brush 2

She passed away in New York City in 1952, just shy of her 50th birthday.

The Library is excited to host Kay & Me, a chance encounter in a lecture hall that lead to a decade-long love affair between a middle-aged scholar and the host of a long forgotten Jazz Age novelist, presented by Jonathan Matthews on October 7th at 1 pm. Come hear how the wise-cracking daughter of a prim New England headmaster became a leading luminary in the literary and motion picture worlds, one whose dazzling light burned alongside that of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jean Harlow, and, like theirs, was extinguished too soon.

THE AMUSEMENT

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the charter of Centenary University! To celebrate, the blog will be highlighting past posts about Centenary’s history.

Academics are an incredibly important aspect of a college education (hopefully the most important!), but many students found that their most memorable moments were spent outside the classroom.

150.08 The RecreationAside from classes and educational pursuits, students spent their free time enjoying outdoor activities. In Centenary’s early years, students went hiking, skiing, horseback riding, etc. Horseback riding was very popular, and there was a Riding Club for students taking riding classes, and an Outing Club that regularly scheduled excursions to local stables for all students. Swimming was also a popular pastime. In the 1930s, Centenary started hosting a yearly interclass swim meet. Each class competed in events including the egg and spoon race and ‘swimming with arms alone’. The 1940s marked the beginning of the Aquatic Club, which promoted interest in swimming, life-saving, and water fun.

One of the earliest and most accessible sources of extracurricular entertainment for students was academic. Students joined societies to strengthen their elocution, performed music or sang in recitals, and joined clubs that furthered their educational interests. The music department was the institute’s largest in its earlier years, and there were many musical clubs for students – The Mandolin and Banjo Club, The String Glee Club, the C.C.I. Concert Band, and the C.C.I. Orchestra, which thrived for many years. Students in Chorus gave town concerts and even produced records. Many students enjoyed activities that would help develop professional skills: Students in the school’s radio program spent their time planning radio shows. The radio station was directed by a member of the faculty and staffed by students in radio and television programs.

Let’s not forget social activities! Students had many yearly events for students as a chance to get to know each other better and to unwind. The school held several dances a year, each hosted by a different class. They also created the Winter Carnival with a winter themed dance, skiing, snow sculpture making, sleigh rides, and concerts. The Ice Breaker at the start of the school year welcomed new students to Centenary, and the Songs on the Steps at the end of the school year bid farewell to graduating Seniors. Students found many activities to entertain themselves while they were at Centenary.

 

 

THE CUMMINS FAMILY

 

The Archives holds a wealth of information about Centenary University, and any trip into the Archives storage produces fascinating pieces of historical value. Several of these pieces were donated by prominent New Jersey family, the Cummins.

cummins030Dr. George Wyckoff Cummins was born in Vienna, New Jersey and graduated from Centenary Collegiate Institute’s college prep course in 1881. From there he attended the Yale School of Medicine and later, the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. He practiced medicine in Belvidere and specialized in the treatment of hay fever, asthma, and allergic diseases. A physician, surgeon, inventor, and research scientist, he authored many books on history, chemistry, and archaeology. Some of his works are in the library’s Special Collections Room.

cummins028Mrs. Annie Blair Titman Cummins attended Centenary Collegiate Institute in the academic program between 1881 – 1882, and in a special studies program for music from 1888 – 1891. She studied pipe organ, piano, and harmony. She was a member of several organist associations and served as organist for many years in local churches. She was also very devoted to the study of history and genealogy, compiling 423 volumes of 41,000 tombstone records from local cemeteries. She was the Organizing Regent of the General William Maxwell Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and was one of the greatest authorities of local history.

cummins029

Mrs. Cummins at the organ

Dr. and Mrs. Cummins were married in 1890, and lived in Belvidere, New Jersey. After the death of her husband in 1942, Mrs Cummins donated an organ to Centenary in his memory.  Mrs. Cummins donated several items to Centenary during the last decade of her life, and in her will left many possessions, buildings, and plots of land to the school. Some of the items were displayed in The Cummins Museum Room in the newly built Taylor Memorial Library. The collection was dissolved in 1980 and some of the items sold, but many still remain in the library’s archives.

A list of titles by and about the Cummins Family:

Cummins, George Wyckoff. History of Warren County New Jersey. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911. Print.

– – -. History of Warren County New Jersey. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911. Print.

Records of the Cummins, Addis, and Carhart Families of Warren County, NJ. N.p.: n.p., 1942. Print.

* Titman Cummins, Annie Blair. Bible Records, Warren County, N.J. Vol. 1 N.p.: n.p., 1941. Print. 2 copies.

– – -. Cummins-Titman and Allied Families: Genealogical and Biographical. Hartford: States Historical Company, Inc., 1946. Print.

– – -. Diary of a trip to Europe in 1909 by Margaret E. Roseberry Titman and Annie Blair Titman Cummins.

* Wycoff Cummins, G. Churches of Warren County, N.J. Vol. 3. N.p.: n.p., 1944. Print. 3 copies.

* – – -. Historical Articles of Warren County N.J. Vol. 2. N.p.: n.p., 1943. Print. 2 copies.

* – – -. Organization of General William Maxwell Chapter D.A.R and Markers Placed. Vol. 31. N.p.: n.p., 1945. Print. 3 copies.

* – – -. Post Offices in the United States in 1819. Comp. Annie Blair Titman Cummins. N.p.: n.p., 1945.  Print. 2 copies.

 

THE REPORTING

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the charter of Centenary University! To celebrate, the blog will be highlighting past posts about Centenary’s history.

the scrollCentenary has had several student newspapers since the school’s inception, starting with The Scroll in 1874. The first issue was published in December, 1874, and included articles about school activities, literary pieces, and the President’s Inaugural Address. The Scroll lasted less than a year but was swiftly followed by a series of student writings. spilled ink

In the 1930s, the Spilled Ink began running. Most issues covered upcoming school activities and events, student and faculty achievements, and local advertising. There were also creative writing contributions.

prismIn 1968, a group of students created The Prism, a yearly magazine dedicated to creative writing and poetry. Now the school had two student publications: The Prism, (the literary magazine) and Spilled Ink (the newspaper).

the quillSpilled Ink was disbanded in the 1980s and a new student newspaper, The Quill, took its place. The Quill continues to deliver the news on and around campus, and The Prism is still printed annually. Both are written and illustrated by students.