The Baraboo Collegiate Institute under Edward and Marion Hobart
By Eldridge D. Jackson, Minneapolis
1905 first entry
Under Professor and Mrs. Hobard the Collegiate Institute reached the very summit of its influence and usefulness; it was the golden era of its existence, after which it faded before the growing presence of the modern high school as the morning stars before the rising sun. If Josiah Pillsbury, its first principal, had given it what Guizot is pleased to call, legitimacy or the right to be, his successors of whom I write, carried it into the hearts of the people. For many years it seemed as though a silver cord extended from almost every home in Sauk county to the doorway of this early academy. The names of these two faithful teachers became, as it were, household words; he, thought of as the genial and learned professor, and she, the matchless lady by his side helping along the good work. In this respect we are reminded of Longfellow’s ode to Burns: He sits in every inglenook, His voice is in each rushing brook, each leafy bough.
During all that time, to have the friendship and good opinion of these teachers was a working capital for any young man or woman starting out on the uncertain sea of life. No couple were ever better equipped for their, work, either by native endowment, or by personal acquirements. He had pursued both classical and scientific studies with equal success and received the seal of approval from Beloit college. She was a born teacher without a suggestion in her appearance of the spinster. It is safe to say that they took up their work at Baraboo with a zeal born of a disinterested spirit, for they were in all respects capable of filling far more conspicuous and lucrative positions in their chosen field of instruction. To say the most this little academy could hardly have attracted one who valued money for its own sake, for the revenues must necessarily have been almost exclusively derived from tuition paid by the pupils who in those days were simply struggling. Above all else, the professor by instinct and training was a refined gentleman. No coarseness ever sullied his lips or manners. He never fumed or blustered, but took things quietly and unobtrusively, not that he could not show displeasure, his Rufus colored hair and beard proclaimed that, but he could do it in a way to leave no soreness and also not compromise his personal and dignified bearing. Of medium stature and fine proportions, he was very pleasing in appearance. His long beard, which he was accustomed to stroke with the hand, gave him a rather marked appearance to be known at a distance. His complexion was florid; his eyes of a bluish gray set in an open countenance gave the best evidence of the whole character which combined all the ideal traits of excellence. From his presence there seemed to radiate what Mathew Arnold calls sweetness and light. His voice was musical, but he laid no claim to elocution, though he was familiar with the best models, ancient and modern and could instruct by precept if not by example. He always claimed to be a plain man and no doubt in this he was sincere, yet during all those years he was regarded and looked up to by all as far more than such. On one Fourth of July after dinner occasion at the front steps of the court house, he was rather unexpectedly called out to speak after most others of the orators had finished. He introduced himself as only a plain man, but immediately brought to our attention the deathless example in patriotism set by the people of the sunny isle of Greece which was very apt and soon won the most attentive interest in what he had to say. It exemplified how a true scholar is never at a loss for material that may interest and instruct.
Unlike Mr. Pillsbury, he eschewed tobacco and all other forms of dissipation which I am sure had no temptation for him. Moreover, he was a truly pious man and opened the school day with appropriate reading and prayer. He was accustomed to attend the stated services of the church with his wife and take part by prayer or remarks at the weekly prayer meetings. Likewise on the anniversary of prayer for schools and colleges, he attended with the school in a body and quite always took part, commending the Christian life to the young men and women, which no doubt had a weighty influence in their religious thought and feelings. Whatever might be said, we were impressed with his sincerity, of which the boys and girls of today are not always so sure. Altogether, he was a manly man who commanded respect from all classes by force of his appearance and known character.
But to describe the personal characteristics of Marion, as the professor was wont to address her, would require the pen of a Howells; not because of paucity in materials, but because of their abundance requiring due classification and proper discrimination to give the real personality. In appearance, she was of a medium figure and quite the ideal of grace and symmetry; not that she was beautiful to any except the professor perhaps, and yet there was a bewitching something in her ensemble that made her extremely attractive and interesting. At this time he must have been thirty-five and she a few years younger or in the very bloom of young womanhood, the picture of abounding life and sprightliness. She was no sleeping beauty; admired the industrious; even the poor young man who had to pay his tuition by chopping cord wood from the log to feed the school fires, and that during noon time on the school grounds. Within her sphere, which was about everything the professor left out, she was the more proficient teacher of the two.
But first of all she was a lady with all the regard such appellation implies and commands. No one ever presumed to trespass beyond the proprieties in her presence. Even the wags of the school well knew the limits of the deadline and observed it implicitly. This was however, not always so with some the lady teachers employed to assist when the attendance was unusually large. A notable instance was that of a new arrival from Oberlin who lacked tact and the bad boys would persist in putting crayon characters on the pendant part of her suit jacket as she passed along the aisle, much to the mortification. Mrs. Hobart who did not confine her instruction simply to the prescribed studies; she looked after the deportment of the young people as well. She would tell the girls not to appear on the street ungloved and the boys not to yawn without placing the hand over the mouth. She would inform them how to conduct themselves in a drawing room which must have proved very valuable to many who in after life were called into stations above their early surroundings. For all these things they could only thank the good and thoughtful mistress of the academy who unselfishly had their interest as her sole motive in warning and chiding and commending.
In her teaching she was devoid of pride, and would often call upon a pupil who had completed the given study with especial success as she considered, to come into the class and take her place for the recitation during which she would retire. Her inspiration was the welfare of the pupils. She had thus early discovered what many teachers and school officers have not yet learned, the schools are first and foremost for the pupils and not to afford any particular teacher or study a right to the boards. While every independent herself, she was always cognizant of the fact that Mr. Hobart, as she called the professor, was her husband and had her unfeigned esteem. If these were not ideal people, we must search for such in some other sphere than this work-a-day world.
From the beginning, the profession was intensely interested in the success of the institution into which he and his wife had cast their lot. He was not satisfied with mere routine instruction; he would have it not only a preparatory school for the college and university, but arranged a course of instruction extending over several years giving what he was accustomed to call a liberal education in itself. It was during the early sixties when the war of the rebellion with all its changing fortunes of elation and depression for the community was upon us. Into this state of the public mind, he entered with full sympathy. He organized a military drill among the students and for drill weapons devised a Greek spear several feet in length, turned from maple and finished with cherry red shaft and a bronzed point, quite pleasing to look upon in the ranks. Lieut. Thomas recently returned from company A of blessed memory used to find time after his day’s attendance at his brother’s bank to put the young men through the manual of arms, and he was an excellent drill master. Possibly this military instruction, led the professor farther on when the call for three months men to the front was made, to himself enlist and take with him many of his former students who had their first knowledge of military in the school drill of the Institute. Besides the drill, the professor favored out of door exercises generally, such as baseball, pitch quoits and hop, skip and jump in all of which he used to engage with __________________ and greatly to the delight of the boys in having the professor with them. But there was one to whom no one presumed to equal in anything requiring athletic power like jumping and throwing the sledge; he was also returned from Co. A and on account of his enormous muscular development, called the Baby. He could jump some twelve feet on one foot and throw the sledge almost out of sight. The military spirit was kept up by the attendance of such members of Co. A including John Stark, son of the State Senator who came to complete some studies neglected when he went to the front to receive the wound that finally carried him off.
The professor realized his purpose in regard to the success of the institution. A class composed mostly of young ladies was organized in the regular course and went through to graduation. The class was not large, perhaps a dozen, but had in its ranks some very talented members like Mary Dartt, the gifted poet of Sauk county scenery and legends, and others entitled to mention. The pride the professor took in guiding this class through the years of study was akin to that of Dr. Samuel Johnson who claimed to be a successful teacher. It transpired however that his school was composed of but three members, but one of them was Garrick the actor whose later greatness was enough to stamp with success any teacher.
This class received the professor’s unremitting attention. He would get the choicest new books on the subjects in hand and read to them extracts during recitation. Dickens bewitching child’s history of England was one, and he never tired of reading to the class from this. In this he had more listeners than they, for many outside of the class would listen and carry away some knowledge of the mother country never before known or afterwards gathered. He would also take them afield and study botany from the living plants. With hammers in hand they would scale the rocky bluffs of Devil’s Lake leaving their marks on the weather beaten stone the Elizabethan era, going over Spencer’s Fairie Queen and many other choice productions of that for an insight into geology. Not unfrequently would he meet them at evening to study the literature of time until a very lively interest was aroused in all to know more, as the professor used to say, of the mines of almost forgotten literature of that far off time. But it must not be inferred that his attention to this class detracted from his interest in the school generally.
He called in proficient help as the demand grew on account of increasing attendance. Notably among such was Professor Hutchins, an authority in the classics; he came from the college at Beaver Dam and was an elderly man. So familiar was he with his chosen departments that he could off hand give the relative location of historic places in the environs of ancient Athens and Rome. With a few gestures of his hand he would point out the location of the seven hills of the latter and what was upon each: Here ran the Tiber, there was the Forum, this the Coliseum, and so on as familiar to him as the streets of Baraboo. It was the custom to devote Friday afternoon sessions of the school to general exercise comprising declamation by different pupils, readings from standard literature, and sometimes an elaborate production of some of Shakespeare’s plays, such as the Merchant of Venice in the preparation of which Mrs. Hobart assumed the role of drilling the boys and girls most thoroughly. In this Lyman Crossman made a fine Shylock and Sarah Burtt, a lovely Portia. Also two flourishing literary societies one of which was called the Hesperian, engaged much of the interest of the members. The latter once gave a sort of theatrical exhibition in the old courthouse by home talent. The preparation was very elaborate and the decorations wonderfully beautiful. There was a grotto in Greece with running water among trees and rocks with mossy sides; little girls in dainty costume were wandering about as Professor Hutchins stepped forward and explained something of Greek mythology and how every spot in Greece had a presiding deity, and how even such little wanderers were not alone; that when a Greek entered such places as represented, these airy beings were real to him in a way that we in our matter of fact time could not hope to realize. Greek statuary was reproduced by deft posing of the amateur artists to the delight of the beholders. There were other scenes or plays, and some learned from the displeasure of the audience that nature had not fitted them to stand behind the foot lights. On the side of the great courthouse wall was emblazoned in silver foil letters on an evergreen field this legend: “Of all the train that led the starry host, Hesperus rode brightest.” This was singularly in keeping with the auspices of the occasion.
During the Friday afternoon exercises Professor Hobart would not unfrequently give interesting talks to all on some branch of science and for purpose of explanation would have specimens of rock, minerals or some botanical objects before him. These talks were of much interest and value to the pupils, and in many instances, no doubt, awakened an interest in such pursuits as well as a general knowledge so rarely obtained without close study and in set courses. It was the professor’s favorite maxim of life, which he often repeated to those under his tutelage, that one should strive to be fully prepared to fill at least one station above the one now occupied, realizing that opportunity unfailingly comes sooner or later to those who are prepared. This was in line with John Milton’s view who when rallied for having taken so long a time to perfect his education past thirty, replied that he cared not how late he came into life, provided he came prepared.
There was a high literary atmosphere surrounding the teaching at the institute. During this time Thackeray died, and so real did the professor make Dickens and Thackeray seem to the students that we mourned with Dickens as his tribute to the departed brother novelist was read in plaintive tones by the sympathetic professor. For a considerable time Mr. and Mrs. Hobart occupied the Mosely home where the Methodist brick church now stands northwest of the public square. This had ample grounds well grown to shrubbery and trees and was a very home-like appearing house of varied exterior. Sometimes a lady teacher of the Institute would make her home with them. Often they would give a worthy lady pupil a chance to pay her way by helping in the domestic part of the household.
The hateful word, ‘servant’ had scarcely been applied to such helpers, at least not in the Hobart home where to perform necessary and useful tasks was considered ennobling rather than as now, degrading. While in this home a little son visited our hero and heroine to tarry but a few years before the fateful hand snatched him from their presence, after which, life, the world, seemed not as before and they seemed to show the change in so many ways past describing. Following that experience, it seemed as though her former interest in teaching had departed never to return with its accustomed enthusiasm. But the professor kept on seemingly making up increased endeavor what his faithful helper had lost by the way; he anticipated the present non resident lecturing professors in our colleges in a way by calling in local physicians to lecture to the classes in anatomy and physiology, thus giving them the information at first hand. He also urged the young people to practice original composition both for reading and declamation on Friday’s as well as the annual commencements.
The latter were usually notable occasions when the main room holding several hundred was always filled with intelligent people. On such occasions Mrs. Hobart was the master of ceremonies; she seemed to realize that success was in attention to details and her eye was alert. If a presumptuous young man would venture on the platform to de calaim without a prompter near, and distress the audience by a slip of memory causing a halt until the automatic working of the inner man should resume and pick up the lost chord, she would fly to the holy of holies behind the scenes and give orders that none should thereafter appear without the monitor with paper in hand in hidden reach. With his eye on the past, the professor was not unmindful of the present; he recognized the coming man, especially Matt Carpenter, then just looming into publicity as an orator and publicist. It was almost an epoch in the history of the school when on a day never to be forgotten, one of the P.A. Bassett ox team giant wagons halted on its return from Kilbourn and left a new bell to be hung in the tower of the Institute building, and thereafter in the hands of some student pulling the rope for his tuition, mark the going and coming of the school family.
It must be said with all candor that these teachers were quite fifty years in advance of their time. They seemed ever to realize that a teacher should be what he would have his pupils become, or in other words, be living examples of the ideal life. Again, they did not wear shabby and ill fitting garments in their professional work, but those of the latest cut and in every way pleasing. Refinement was indicated in their every act and expression. The most singular feature of all those years of labor at the institute was the entire absence of enforced discipline or what is called, punishment. It was not because of no mischievous ones in the body, for I could mention a score of both sexes, but the supreme power of personal bearing and tact did it all. If either saw the need of individual training or admonishing, no public example was made of the one concerned, but a private meeting that had the desired effect. To show the amplitude of the instruction there was no slavish adherence to text books, but workers were put at the study of topics of their own research. To aid this, a very good library in literature and some science was provided and a choice little room was set apart for its consultation without interference from the multitudinous doings in larger rooms without. The professor was on good and familiar terms with the intelligent and learned people of the town. Clergymen would frequently drop in at recitations; among these Rev. Mr. Drown, brother of the merchant, also Mr. Seward of the Baptist church near by. At such times the professor if the study was Greek or Latin would pass the book to the Rev. gentleman, and at the close ask him for any suggestions.
Occasionally, a former student of the Institute who had gone up higher, perhaps to some college or like that gifted gentleman, W.I. Wallace, brother of the landlord of the Western Hotel, from our own university, would return to us for a brief visit and tell of the great things that were going on higher up; this would awaken our imagination and longing to some day do like wise and have a draft from the flowing fountains of sweet water. But the ceaseless flow of time brought the devoted class in the regular course to the time for graduation and the annual commencement.
This was of course an unusual event and represented in a very marked degree the consummation of the professor’s plans and anticipations. The long voyage over educational seas was at last to end in joy and congratulations. No effort was omitted befitting the occasion. The president of Beloit college honored it by his presence and a scholarly address. The poet of the class, Mary Dartt had prepared an appropriate token in verse. Gussie Maxwell, blooming with beauty incarnate, sang like an angel from heaven. The president’s address was upon the spirit of all noble effort. At the close, he told Gussie that in her singing, he felt her to be a most conspicuous example of the truth of his theme, which of course was very graceful and brought color to her maidenly cheek. Altogether the commencement was a most gratifying success. Many of that graduating class are still extant and no doubt bless the days of their tutelage under such pleasant auspices. I think this commencement was held in the old Methodist church building in the block next east of the Institute.
It was noticeable that after this class had gone out into the world of activity, the institution was not the same to Edward and Marion Hobart. They too had glimpses of a different world than before as comes to us all from experience as the scroll unwinds. Something too had gone out of their lives which they could not restore, even the enthusiasm that was theirs at the beginning of their career. They were too old fashioned to forget the attachments that had entwined their tendrils about the heart strings those fleeting years just past. They could not welcome the coming and speed the parting guests as is the custom in our places of learning today as the classes come and go. Not long after they gave up their work at Baraboo and the Institute passed into other hands, but never to reach the high level it had known.
The hidden malady that had stricken the hearts of these two faithful teachers seemed like the palsy to have attacked the institution itself which soon went out of existence among the blessed memories of the past. The writer esteems it to be the greatest honor and privilege of life to be permitted to recount even in a very imperfect way the labors of love performed by two of the best souls who ever blessed Baraboo by their presence.
October 4, 1905
Charles Wing recalls some interesting events in connection with Baraboo Institute as narrated by E.D. Jackson in The News last week. When Mr. Wing came to Baraboo with his people fifty years ago this summer the family resided for a time on Third street about where Charles Wild’s music house is located. He remembers how the frogs sang in a pool of water in front of the residence and among the experiences of his youthful days was his attending the Institute as conducted by Prof. and Mrs. Hobart. One day the weather was very warm and one of the pupils insisted on placing his feet in the large stove located in the room where Mrs. Hobart was presiding. Two or three times she made him remove his extremities from the fire box but as soon as her attention was diverted he would place them back again. Finally she started for Prof. Hobart and when he went into the room the young man had jumped from an open window to the great amusement of the other pupils. When Mr. Hobart returned to his class Mr. Wing remembers that professor’s face was wreathed in very broad smiles which hardly came off. Mr. Wing does not remember what reminder was administered to the one who darkened the window.
MRS. MARION F. HOBART
Passed Away at Home in Santa Fe, New Mexico
A Teacher in Baraboo Collegiate Institute
August 6, 1908
Mrs. J. G. Train has received word that Mrs. Marion F. Hobart of Santa, New Mexico, formerly of the Collegiate Institute, Baraboo, died at her home Monday, July 20. She is survived by her husband, Gen. E.F. Hobart. Both were favorite teachers in the Collegiate Institute and will be remembered by many now residing in Baraboo. A sister in the east also survives. Her husband is a cousin of the late Vice-president Hobart.
Deceased was born in Richfield Springs, New York. As a result of her love for knowledge and her persistence in securing an education she became better equipped along intellectual lines than the average person even in this present age of common educational advantages.
As a teacher only words of the highest praise have been offered wherever she was called to labor. First at New Haven, Conn., and then at the Female seminary at Beloit she did excellent service, after which she and her husband whom she married in Beloit came to Baraboo, where they left such a favorable impression upon their pupils that all who remember them speak enthusiastically of their supreme abilities as teachers.
Mr. Hobart marched to the civil war at the head of his pupils, while Mrs. Hobart remained at home to send comfort and cheer in many ways. They lived at Springfield, Ill., after which they moved to St. Louis, where General Hobart was at the head of a Sunday school publishing house. Later they moved to Santa Fe, where General Hobart has held offices of trust and honor, and where both have been highly respected citizens and much beloved.
Benham—At her home Escondids, California, March 13, 1902, Mrs. Almira B. Benham, aged 82 years, 9 months.
The subject of this notice will be better remembered by her friends here as Miss Almira Savage. She came to Baraboo in the early years of its history, as a teacher, and for many years taught a private school in a building where now stands the Episcopal church. Many of her pupils now living are gray-haired men and women but they still love and cherish the memory of their happy school days when Miss Savage was more than simply a teacher. She was a friend who loved and took interest in both their spiritual and mental growth.
She has of late years been a great sufferer from heart trouble and a more severe attack combined with the weakness of old age was the immediate cause of her death.
GENERAL HOBART DIES IN SOUTH
October 3, 1912
John C. Rood has received a letter from Horace R. Hobart of Chicago, announcing the death of his brother, General Edward F. Hobart, at Santa Fe, N.M. says the Beloit Daily News.
General Hobart was the oldest son of Deacon Horace Hobart and came west with his parents, who settled in Beloit in an early day. He was city surveyor of Beloit for several years.
In 1859 he was married to Miss Marian Cunningham, a teacher in the old Beloit seminary. They came in Baraboo and conducted the Baraboo Collegiate Institute for a number of years. They had one son Edward Brinsmead Hobart who died at the age of three years. Mrs. Hobart passed away at Santa Fe about four years ago. The following notice was taken from the Santa Fe New Mexican and will be of interest to old residents.
“General Edward F. Hobart died Saturday night at St. Vincent’s sanitarium, Santa Fe, N.M., at the age of 79 years. He had been in ill health for several weeks at his home and was moved to the sanitarium ten days ago. He leaves one brother, Horace R. Hobart, of Evanston, Ill., who was with the general when he died.
“General Hobart was born in Colebrook, N.H., and was educated at Beloit college, Wisconsin. He graduated in 1854 and was principal of two academies for some years. He was later a surveyor and civil engineer and at the outbreak of the civil war served in the 40th Wisconsin infantry as first lieutenant. Subsequently he was engaged in the school furniture and publishing business in St. Louis. He purchased a ranch in Las Vegas, N.M., over 80 years ago and was engaged in the ice business. Later he came to Santa Fe and was appointed surveyor general of New Mexico by President Harrison. He was reappointed to that office by President McKinley.
“General Hobart had a large ranch on the Rio Grande at Hobart, and he was postmaster there, although he retained his residence in Santa Fe.
“He was adjutant of the Grand Army post here and took a great interest in the G.A.R. At his request he was buried in the national cemetery.
“The funeral services were conducted at the chapel of Mulligan & Rising by the Rev. B.Z. McCullough of the First Presbyterian church. The pall bears were all Grand Army men.
“At the grave the G.A.R. conducted services, Judge John R. McFie, commander of the post, presiding.
“General Hobart was for years a familiar figure in Santa Fe. He took delight in calling on his friends and presenting them with choice apples or other fruits grown in his own orchard. Almost an octogenarian, he led an active, wholesome life and his deep reverence for religion as well as his patriotism and his many manly qualities endeared him to all.
August 27, 1908
Mrs. Mary Warner Swain returned to her home in Winona today after a visit with the Misses Dennison. A number of picnics and friendly gatherings were given in her honor during the week by members of the Baraboo Collegiate Institute. The members of this old educational institution of Baraboo who enjoyed the gatherings and visits this week were Mrs. Rose Morley, Mrs. Swain, Mrs. Nellie Ferris, Mrs. Charles Cook, Mrs. Fannie Kimball, Mrs. J.G. Train and Miss Gertrude Dennison.
Has Ticket for Baraboo
With apologies to Ruth Southard and others I accept the correction of Mrs. Paul Herfort in regard to our old teacher. Since reading the article by Mrs. Herfort I feel sure that she is rights as to the Mrs. And that the brother’s name was Harrison. I remember him and his team. I suppose us youngsters got to saying Miss White. If Sir Oliver Lodge can be depended on, I trust that Mrs. White will not be troubled by any remarks and will be pleased to see that I have thought of her great esteem and affection. As my ticket for Baraboo has been paid for, I can say that I am to arrive at that beautiful city on April 6th at 7:00 p.m.
New Haven, Conn.
June 18, 1914
Mrs. Emma Williams, Mrs. Eliza White Mather of LaGrange, Indiana, Mrs. Helen Kieth, Reedsburg, Mrs. __A. Clark and Mrs. Rose Morley spent today at Devils Lake. Mrs. Clark and Mrs. Kieth are graduates with the same class of the Baraboo Female Seminary and the other members of the party attended school here at the same time.