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Landmarks of Tompkins County, New York

by John H. Selkreg, 1894; D. Mason & Co., Publisher

John McGraw, Smith, Wilson, Shackford


Mr. John MCGRAW, to whose generosity the university owes the noble building which bears his name, was born in Dryden, May 5, 1815, where he resided until 1848. He became interested in the manufacture and sale of lumber, and later in the purchase of large forests in Michigan. He resided in various parts of the State, his longest residence, until his removal to Ithaca, being in the vicinity of New York, where his large business centered. He was chosen a trustee of the university at its opening. His interest in it soon led him to erect a building for the library and the scientific collections, which was completed in 1871. His purposes to contribute to the development of the university were not confined to this single gift, magnificent as it was. He left to his only daughter the execution of his beneficence. Mr. MCGRAW's residence here brought him into close connection with the business interests of the university, and his services in the first years of its history were of great value. He died in Ithaca, May 4, 1877. Hon. Henry W. SAGE, a former business associate, thus wrote of Mr. MCGRAW: "Among the most active and useful forces of a nation's life is a large class of the higher ranges of business men-those who originate the enterprises of the period, and direct and control the industries pertaining to them. From these, result a nation's prosperity and the foundation of its growth in wealth, commerce, and the elevation and refinement which accompany them. Eminent among this class of men was Mr. MCGRAW. He dealt with principles and ideas, boldly grasping the outlines of important projects which commanded his attention, and he followed up with all the force of his character any enterprise once entered upon, when his judgment was once convinced of its soundness and utility. His clear, practical head was always a power in the management of the interests of the university. He was upright, prompt, true, sensitive to the nicest shade of honor. His active, practical life, was a living exponent of that within, which abounded with faith, hope, courage, fidelity-the qualities which make up and stamp the noble man."


Professor Goldwin SMITH, whose interest in the university and numerous gifts have been a contribution to its reputation and its wealth, was born in Reading, England, August 13, 1823. He was educated at Eton, and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he took his bachelor's degree in 1845. He was an elegant classical scholar, winning scholarships and prizes for English and Latin essays, and for Latin verse. He was elected a Fellow and tutor of University College, where he taught for several years, and also a Fellow of Oriel College. He was called to the bar in Lincoln's Inn in 1847, but never practiced. He was secretary of two commissions to examine into the government, property and studies of the University of Oxford. His efforts in behalf of university reform exerted great influence in infusing new methods and life into wealthy, antiquated foundations. He was also a member of the Royal Comission of Education of England, and, from 1858 to 1866, Regius Professor of History in the university. Mr. SMITH was always a pronounced Liberal in politics. No possible favor could induce him to sacrifice his opposition to aristocratic and irresponsible government, for popularity or temporary advantage. He can as little brook empty ritualism in religion as an exclusive privileged class in authority. His interest in America and its struggle for freedom, caused him to visit this country in 1864. As a steadfast friend of the Union and of republican institutions, his services to our government in dark days were at once recognized. He was welcomed by President LINCOLN and our most prominent statesmen in Washington, and by scholars everywhere. Even in his enthusiastic reception, he was ready to peril the favor of his new-found friends rather than abandon this strong sense of justice as was shown by his public opposition to current political discussion at that time. At the opening of the university in 1868, Mr. SMITH became professor English history. Numerous students were attracted by his name, and his classes were thronged. Recognizing the inadequate equipment of the library for historical study, he sent for his own valuable library, containing the rare accumulations of a lifetime, and presented it to the university. There were numerous hardships to the Oxford scholar in an inland village of a new country, in the crude condition of the young university. He wrote often for the college papers, gave receptions to his classes, and sought, in every way, to incite a cordial feeling among his students. Privately he ascertained the wants of those who were self-supporting, and often ministered to them by gifts of books. It is doubtful whether any university in England or America offered at that time a course of lectures on English history equal to those delivered here. The residence of Mr. SMITH's family friends in Toronto took him, after a few years, to that city, where he married and now resides. Nearly every year he returns here upon a visit, and the students have an opportunity to hear one or more of his graphic and philosophical lectures upon some theme of current political interest. His attachment to the university is shown by constant gifts of work in history and literature to the library. It would be a boon to the students if he could be induced to spend half of each year here, resuming those lectures which were such an inspiration to former classes. Professor SMITH's writings cover a vast variety of subjects besides history. He has defended religion against the deceptive views of MANSEL in his Bampton lectures, and discussed in reviews nearly all the prominent questions which have agitated English and colonial politics in the last thirty years. Literature has been indebted to him in many ways, most recently by a life of COWPER. No living English writer surpasses him in clear, incisive style, joined with graphic description and brilliant generalizations.

His reputation has received wide recognition in several volumes which he has recently published in rapid succession, especially: The United States; An Outline of Political History, 1492-1871-a brilliant outline sketch of American history; Essays of Questions of the Day, Political and Social; A Trip to England; Oxford and Her Colleges; Bay Leaves; Translation from the Latin Poets; Specimens of Greek Tragedy, etc.

Professor SMITH retains his old interest in the university, and every year his visits are anticipated with the generous enthusiasm of the student world. Many chapters in his books are recognized as more elaborate discussions of lectures, or informal talks which have been given before the students of the university. Invitations to return to England to assume the headship of University College, and offers of other high university positions have been alike declined for his home in his adopted country. Even a seat in parliament has offered no attraction to him.

Politically, he has supported with great vigor the Liberal-Union cause in England, and opposed an independent government for Ireland. He has also been active in advocating closer commercial relations with Canada, which has had great influence upon public sentiment in that country. He regards intimate political relations in the future as the manifest destiny, and equally for the interest of both countries.


Professor William Dexter WILSON, who, upon his retirement, was elected Professor Emeritus, ranks eleventh in order of appointment, of the professors first chosen at the foundation of the university. He was born in Stoddard, N. H., February 28, 1816.

A youth of great vigor and persistence of purpose, he prepared himself, largely through personal sacrifices and labor, for Harvard College. He missed the symmetrical training which would have come from systematic college study, and entered the Divinity School at Cambridge when only nineteen years of age. Here he enjoyed advantages of a high order; his ardor for knowledge and wide range of reading were unusual in one of his age, and he won marked recognition for his ability. After graduating from that school, in 1838, he entered the ministry of the Unitarian church, with which he was connected for several years. A conservative tendency in his nature, joined with an unusual reverence for authority and regard for established institutions, promoted by extensive reading of church history, led him to unite with the Episcopal church and take orders in its ministry. He began this portion of his career in the small parish of Sherburne, Chenango county, N. Y. Mr. WILSON was more of a scholar than a preacher, and his ability soon impressed his brethern in the ministry, and in the lack of theological schools, candidates for the ministry studied with the young clergyman, in accordance with former usage in this country, and to same extent in England. The native theological and philosophical bent of his mind was shown by his writings at this time, some of which attracted marked attention in the denomination to which he belonged. He was soon elected to the chair of moral and intellectual philosophy in Hobart College, where he remained for eighteen years. Although the college was small, it occupied a position of considerable importance in the Episcopal church, especially as representing its interests in the western part of the State. Dr. WILSON filled an influential place in the diocesan and national conventions of his denomination. He was in successive conventions, chairman of the committee on the state of the church, one of the most important committees in suggesting and determining legislation. In 1868 he was chosen professor of moral and intellectual philosophy in the Cornell University. While filling with fidelity this chair, it is nevertheless true that his main work in connection with the university was in the official work of the registrar's office, a position he had held since the opening of the university. Possessing a native capacity for routine work, he enjoyed the details of bureau administration which would have been distasteful to most scholars. He has been aided by a vigorous and retentive memory, which holds names, faces and facts with unusual tenacity. In this office Dr. WILSON came in contact with all the students who have been connected with the university, nearly four thousand in number. His position in advising them was one of great responsibility. While somewhat tutorial in nature, he heard and counseled with great candor all who sought his assistance, and he will be remembered with respect and affection by those with whom he came into more immediate relations. As a teacher his instruction was somewhat formal in character, and while not calculated to awaken the highest enthusiasm, it was the result of fresh and unremitting study. The needs of the college with which Dr. WILSON was first connected, and of this university in its earlier days, caused a demand to be made upon him for lectures upon a wide variety of subjects. These could not in all cases be of equal excellence, as it is not possible for one person to be an investigator and original observer in widely removed fields. We find his lectures here covering moral and intellectual philosophy, the history of philosophy, American and constitutional law, political economy, logic, physical geography and climatology, political philosophy, comparative physiology with special reference to he phenomena of psychology, the history of civilization, Hebrew, general history and the philosophy of history. While of necessity dependent upon the views of others in his treatment of many of these subjects, Dr. WILSON has been a constant reader, thinker and accumulator of facts. The study of mathematics has been a recreation to him. His work as a writer has been extended since his connection with this university. He has published works on logic, psychology, the scientific and philosophical evidences of the truth of religion, and numerous articles in theological reviews. He has made little effort to extend the circulation of these works, and they are not widely known, and yet able thinkers regard them as books of much acuteness and ability. Dr. WILSON has devoted much attention to recent scientific discoveries, especially in their bearing on revelation. In a wider sphere he has exercised an influence on education in the State. He has been active in the meetings of the university convention, and often made reports of great value upon the studies of the secondary schools. Dr. WILSON was consulted in 1872 with reference to accepting the presidency of the University of Wisconsin. He has received three degrees, that of D.D. from Hobart College, LL.D from the Redford University, an institution formerly existing in Tennessee, and L.H.D. from the regents of the University of the State of New York.


Professor Charles Chauncy SHACKFORD was born in Portsmouth, N. H., September 26, 1815. He was a descendant of those whose religious faith and education were important factors in the early history of New England. President CHAUNCY of Harvard College, whose name he bears, was one of his ancestors. It is not strange that scholarship was his birthright, and that he graduated, as so many of his kindred had done, at that venerable university. He was the first scholar in the class of 1835, of which Judge E. R. HOAR, formerly attorney-general, Judge LANDER and other eminent men were members, After graduation Mr. SHACKFORD studied theology in Union Theological Seminary, and resided also in Andover, where he continued advanced studies. After entering the congregational ministry, his views changed and he united with the Unitarian denomination. His longest period of service as a preacher was in Lynn, Mass., where his activity in all questions of reform and education left a lasting impress on the community. Like so many of the clergymen of his denomination, Mr. SHACKFORD was a scholar whose favorite pursuits were literature and theology. He studied German philosophical literature with enthusiasm, and devoted special attention to GOETHE, a work relating to whom he translated, viz.: The Conversations with Chancellor von Müller. He was also an ardent student of Faust. He translated many works from German literature, among them AUERBACH's Villa Eden and German Tales.

In 1871 Mr. SHACKFORD was elected professor of rhetoric and oratory and of general literature in this university, and from that time his entire energies were devoted to building up and strengthening his department. Few professorships were so exacting as this, and his instruction constantly opened new fields to his students. The instruction in general literature, of necessity, embraced literary periods and authors naturally treated by professors in special departments, but in the field of rhetoric and oratory, in drill, in themes and orations, and in preparation for the commencement stage and literary contests, Professor SHACKFORD spared no labor or effort, not only to train classes, but to give to individual students his personal attention. He had a heart full of sympathy with young men in their strivings and interested himself in everything that concerned their intellectual advancement. His aid in promoting the growth of the literary societies has been a part of their history. In personal association he was a delightful companion, always free of access, and always generous in promoting all university enterprises. In all questions of educational policy, he was progressive, a true disciple of the Boston school of thought to which he naturally belonged. Professor SHACKFORD contributed articles of great ability upon literature to the North American Review, when it was the leading review of the country, also to the Christian Examiner and to Harper's Magazine. His genial spirit and tact made his university career one of most pleasant memory both to his colleagues and the student world. The class of 1884 placed a portrait of Professor SHACKFORD in the library as its memorial gift. Professor SHACKFORD resigned his position in June, 1886, after fifteen years of service. He spent his remaining life in delightful literary occupation, preparing a volume of essays and lectures for publication, which was issued after his death, which occurred in 1891.

Thank you Virginia Peterson for transcribing these records into digital format.

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