The Mountain Laurel
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A Set Of Twins, E.J. and E.M. Cooley, Struggle for an Education Circa 1898 - Part 2 of 2

By E. J. Cooley © 1984

Issue: October, 1984

(Last month, in the first part of this story, the Cooley twins from Carroll County, Virginia, had arrived at William and Mary College and had been warned that they might be in for a "hazing." As the story picks up this month, they are in their dorm room, armed with homemade clubs, waiting for the upperclassmen who were already in the building hazing others, to get to them.)

About nine o'clock, some twenty or more strangers deliberately pushed our door open and walked into our room as though it belonged to them, and took possession. This was a novel idea to backwoodsmen who had been taught by their ancestors that a man's home is his castle. After looking the situation over for a while, one of the crowd gave me orders to get up on a table and dance a jig for their amusement. Then the scene changed. I calmly but deliberately told those rough necks that we had been assigned this room, that we had paid for it and we politely requested them to get out. At that suggestion one of the crowd yelled, "Hit him with a stick," another cried, "Use a strap on him." That was when we went after our clubs under our pillows. That crowd of bullies first thought we were getting our guns to kill them with and they broke for the door, but seeing we had clubs instead of guns, they swore that a crowd of their size would not be bluffed by two green horns from the [Blue Ridge] mountains of Southwest Virginia. We got up on a cot across one corner of the room with our clubs drawn and told that bunch of haters that had formed a semi-circle about our cot we would brain the first man that came within reach of us. This situation had grown quite tense when some fellow on guard outside yelled, "Spencer is coming." Mr. Spencer was steward of the college. With that announcement, they blew out the kerosene lamps and scampered for the door and windows to escape detection. E.M. told me to get at one window and he would get at the other and use our clubs on them as they ducked to get out. I pecked several over the head as they screamed and yelled, but hurt none of them seriously. However, E.M. handled them considerably rougher than I did. One of the ring leaders went about for weeks with his head to one side from a bruised neck. Mr. Spencer struck matches and identified several of the fellows as they ran by him. After reflecting on this occurrence awhile, we decided to go across campus to Dr. Tyler's residence and report the whole matter to him. He received us cordially and returned with us to our room without our solicitation, told us frankly he had no objection to our using clubs on them, provided we did not kill any of them. This gave us considerable relief, for we thought we might be sent home for such behavior.

Next morning, college formally opened. All the college professors and ministers of the town were seated on the stage for Chapel Exercise, with about 200 students waiting for devotion and instructions.

We had no idea that the commotion that occurred the night before had come to the ears of the student body, but the moment we appeared at the door of the Chapel and started down the aisle to our seats, the entire student body cheered, clapping their hands and stamping their feet while the professors smiled their approval, yet we were not sure in our own minds whether they were cheering or jeering us.

A young man from Grayson County by the name of Vivian Hash roomed on the third floor of the Ewell Dormitory and had classes late in the afternoon. While he was attending classes, certain students would "pack his room" as they called it by tearing his bed down and putting his trunk through a scuttle hole into the attic so he would have to call for help to get it down. He tolerated this for sometime until he finally decided to have a settlement with one of the fellows he was sure was implicated. The young man learned that Mr. Hash was looking for him, so at supper time he hid by the door leading from the dining room and as Hash came out, he slashed his neck and face with his knife severing his neck vein and leaving a terrible scar. Dr. Hankins happened to be near and saved Mr. Hash before he bled to death. The night after this affair, the student body assembled in the Chapel auditorium and after considerable deliberation, went on record as opposing hazing in any form at William and Mary, and to use influence against any move to continue this practice. After that time I have not heard of any serious violations of the rules pertaining to hazing at this famous old school of historic tradition.

We had excellent courses under President Tyler in Virginia History, American History and English Constitutional Law. Dr. Tyler, at that time, was considered one of the very best Virginia and American historians of his day. We were trained in the ideals and traditions of the South as well as in the principles of Jeffersonian Democracy.

Dr. John Leslie Hall gave a thorough course in English Grammar and American and English Literature, as well as General History, with special emphasis on Roman, French, and English History.

Dr. Van F. Garrett, a doctor of medicine, was as high type cultured gentleman as I have ever had as an instructor. He taught physiology and hygiene, chemistry and physics. The modern concept of disease was not in vogue at that time. Appendicitis was a new disease, just making its appearance.

Professor Thomas J. Stubbs drilled us in the fundamentals of mathematics, such as advanced arithmetic, algebra, plane and solid geometry and trigonometry.

We also had courses in Latin and German under Drs. Wharton and Charles Edward Bishop, who held his Ph.D. from Laipsig University, Germany.

Professor Hugh Byrd had charge of the Department of Education, School Management and Psychology, which was a comparatively new subject then.

Our main diversions were attending Y.M.C.A. on Wednesday nights to hear Dr. Bishop lecture on some theme of morals and religion, attend Sunday school at the Presbyterian church and hear Professor Stubbs expound the scriptures. We observed the Sabbath on those days. Professor Stubbs would not get his mail on Sunday.

We didn't have the money to go home at Christmas time, so we did our parallel reading, reviewed preceding term's work and were champing the bit to get started on the new year's work.

Some of the fellows I remember made good in their chosen fields of endeavor. Cary T. Grayson became private physician to President Woodrow Wilson, Walter E. Vest became one of the outstanding doctors of medicine in West Virginia, and John Loyd Newcomb became President of the University of Virginia.

The rebels of the South gave those Yankees of the North enough fighting in the Civil War to last quite awhile. This country was at peace for a half century except a minor conflict with Spain over Cuba in 1898. I well remember the sermon to the graduates in June 1900, indicating that we were just entering the millennium and that a famous president of this country said a few years later that we were fighting a World War to end all wars. Time has demonstrated how sound their judgments were.

Finally, after two years of hard work and close application, we had completed two and one half years work and received our diplomas declaring us graduates of the Normal Department of the College of William and Mary. President Tyler commended us publicly in awarding our diplomas for our devotion to duty and high rank in our classes.

(Editor's Note... E.M. Cooley went on to become the first Superintendent of Schools in Carroll County. His grandfather, Benjamin Cooley was the first Sheriff of Carroll County.)