The Class of 1898 monument and plaque in pristine condition. The clear photo of the plaque is from the “Class of ‘98″ 1932 Class Letter, page 36. Photos and information from the Oberlin College Archives, Oberlin, Ohio. The shovel, pick ax, and lantern are recognizable on the plaque. What is in the lower right corner?
Class of 1898 reunion photo. Found at the Oberlin College Archives, Oberlin, Ohio.
Excerpted from the 1899 Hi-O-Hi. One co-ed’s account of the night of December 3, 1897.
“How They Did It”
Oh weren’t they just too perfectly lovely for anything! Our boys, I mean. I think they were regular heroes to stay up all night like that and work so hard down in that nasty hole. I asked Professor Jewett if there was ever another such a class of boys as ours. He said no, and there likely wouldn’t be. I wonder what made him look so funny when he said it. The mean thing! But then he couldn’t have meant that, I know he couldn’t. And it was down so deep in the mud, too, and they had to dig so hard to get it up. Oh, dear! How I wish I could have been there. But I’m only a girl, you know, and couldn’t. All the girls wished they could have been there. One of them kept her head out of the window nearly half the night, listening while the boys were digging. She said that she stopped wishing that she had a man long enough to wish she were a man. But she must have wanted to go awfully, though. But there! I haven’t told a bit about how they did it. Now I’m going to begin right from the beginning and tell all about it. continued
“The Class of ’98 Boulder” By A.C. Norris, ’98
THE TIMES were troublous in 1897 and 1898. We were in trouble with Spain! The class of 1898 were seniors! In the fall term of 1897, nearly all the class elected general geology under Prof. A. A. Wright, acting president, and Lynds Jones, ’92, as assistant professor. Prof. George Frederick Wright was world famous on account of his proof of the Glacial Period and the great Arctic ice cap. So we all wanted to take geology under Prof. G. F. Wright, but we had to have general geology as an introductory course. One of the first laboratory tasks for each member was to gather and name a collection of over fifty different rocks.
It was fascinating. Madam Johnston, dean of the women’s department, allowed the men and women to go in small groups together when properly chaperoned. Some of the places visited were Chance Creek, the caves near Elyria, the sandstone quarries at Amherst, the fossiliferous limestone at Bellevue, and the gypsum beds over by Port Clinton. We found many glacial pebbles in the clay banks of Plum Creek near Kipton and surrounding townships. We had to help the young women up the hill and across the creeks and brooks. It was all very interesting.
One evening at chapel in early November, Bill Hemenway, ’98, invited six of us to his room for a boiled wienie feast. Said he in part:
“This afternoon ‘Double A’ Wright told ‘Cork’ Mosher and me that as a small boy he used to slide off a very interesting boulder down at the corner of Morgan and South Professor Streets. It was lying on its side at the edge of Plum Creek. This boulder was pointed out to him by Prof. James Dascomb as being very peculiar. It has in it three distinct kinds of rock. ‘I know,’ said Prof. Dascomb, ‘of no other boulder around here with three such distinguishable rock formations.’ ”
We were all ears as Bill continued:
PROF. WRIGHT wants the class of 1898 to place this rock on the campus near the chapel and facing the new Second Congregational Church. We can do it, but it must be done without ’99 suspecting anything.”
“How large is it?” we asked.
“Prof. Wright says it weighs between seven and eight tons and is hard to roll, as it is an oblong spheroid-small at both ends.”
A class meeting was called after Chapel in the old French Hall on the southwest corner of the campus. The undertaking was divulged and a secret meeting announced for the next afternoon. When it was brought to a vote, the plan was adopted unanimously, as were all ’98 proceedings – no fuss, no friction.
Now, we had several very difficult problems to solve. We had to get permission to be out all night and still not get an “unexcused failure.” (’98 men already had over their quota of them. We were not naughty, but alive, and in those days live people got unexcused failures.)
It fell to my lot to see the dean of men, F. F. Jewett. I was a favorite with Prof. Jewett because I elected all his courses in chemistry and used to have my lessons and ask numerous questions, in answering which he could use much sarcasm. So one day after all had left his office I went into his sanctum.
“Well, what can I do for you, Norris?” was his gruff query.
“Prof. Jewett,” I began, “Prof. A. A. Wright has asked the class of ’98 to dig up and place a six-ton boulder on the campus near the chapel. It is a rare specimen.”
“Well, all rocks are interesting to him, but why did you come to me?”
“Because we shall have to do it at night or ’99 will obstruct us in our work.”
“Yes, yes,” said the man who had told Charles Martin Hall he could never get enough electricity to electrolyze bauxite into aluminum. “You will get more unexcused failures, and what will the faculty say to me!”
Then he gently smoothed his hair over his head where there was no hair and thought. At last he said, “Go to your rooms at ten o’clock as required. I can think of no rule or regulation which tells the students when they are to get up.”
Bill Hemenway almost embraced me when I told him of my interview with Prof. Jewett. The rest was quite easy. I was delegated to engage Ferd Durham and his equipment. Village Marshal Ezra Burge was cajoled into letting us into the village tool house.
EXACTLY at 11 p.m., December 3, the street lights went out, and forty of us started from a point where Hall Auditorium now stands with shovels, picks, spades, crow bars, lanterns, and chains over our shoulders or in wheelbarrows, and proceeded to the corner of Morgan and South Professor.
Not daring to risk going by Talcott, Baldwin, and Lord, we very quietly went down South Main to Morgan. The organization was perfect. The girls of the class managed some way to provide a clothes basket of sandwiches. “William Whitney of Honolulu” (There were two Whitneys) was there with a wash boiler full of hot drink made from one pound of Arbuckle’s Coffee at 10 cents per pound. Wayland Keyes, a cripple, was time keeper. He divided us into fiteen-minute shifts, thirteen men to a shift.
We pried up the sidewalk and with a crow bar struck the top of the boulder six feet under the ground. We then dug a narrow trench the length of the boulder and down into the creek’s edge. At 2 a.m. we were ready to turn it over. So three of us were sent to the home of Ferd Durham and loaded blocks and tackle, rope, and chains into a wheelbarrow and proceeded in the rain to our gang of men. The had filled the cut with dirt and placed the sidewalk on the dirt and mud so that the boulder would not mire into the sticky mass. Yes, it was work, but what did ’98 care for work! We had men who later became doctors, dentists, lawyers, teachers, surveyors, missionaries, ministers, editors, YMCA directors, and entered many other professions.
It is surprising how easily a boulder will roll over when thirty-nine men pull on a rope attached to a block and tackle. We pulled. And over rolled the boulder.
Time, 5 a.m. Raining! Thirty-nine mud-plastered men.
Time, 6:30 a.m. Thirty-nine clean, freshly shaven seniors appeared at breakfast tables of various boarding halls.
But our troubles had just begun. All day Saturday Ferd and three other men with two teams and wagons toiled to load the rock on heavy timbers and drop it where it now is.
NINETY-NINE was up in arms because they knew nothing of it until it was deposited and ’98 began to scrub off the mud. Yes, sir, they were going to blow it up with nitroglycerine, or dig a hole and roll it in and bury it out of sight and put a monument over it!
So ’98 hired three men to guard it with shot guns, rifles, and revolvers. The ’98 women had enough sandwiches left to feed our guards. Two stayed on duty, while one slept. Sunday came and went; Monday came and at Chapel L. T. Warner in a neat speech presented the Boulder to the College after having an explanation of how valuable the boulder is to the study of geology, made by Acting President and Professor of Geology A. A. Wright.
Margaret Goodwin, ’98, wrote a song and Prof. George W. Andrews put it to music. Thus for fifty-six years the ’98 boulder has been an object of study by glacial geologists, and the project was inspired by Prof. George Frederick Wright.
From The Oberlin Alumni Magazine, March 1954, pages 13 and 14, found at the Oberlin College Archives, Oberlin, Ohio.