|Project Home||List of Names||Rollins Archives||Olin Library||Rollins College|
Eva Josephine Root (1853-1913):
Early Faculty, First Professor of Latin at Rollins
Article as it originally appeared in The Rollins Alumni Record,
(June, September, and December 1931)
"An Appreciation of Miss Eva Root"
THE NAME ROOT In its origin Norman French, spelled Rootes, found in England in the time of William the Conqueror. The progenitors of the Root family in America, came to this country before the middle of the seventeenth century and settled in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Timothy Root and his wife, Jemima Wood of Somers, Connecticut, were most excellent, pious, devoted persons worthy to be among the numbers of those called of God's providence to lay the foundations of a town. Before building the first meeting-house, the people used often to meet for public worship on the Sabbath, at Mr. Root's home.
"The wide-awake energy developed in the members of the Root family, the possession of a good degree of intelligence, common sense, decision, foresight and perseverance with a geniality of disposition, a frank, courteous manner, a generous humor, rendered them severally desirable for responsible positions. Many were called to military service, others to the ministry, some to various offices in the Church in general. Many entered professional callings, as medicine, law, teaching. Characteristically, the members of this family have usually found making money easier than keeping it, at least despising parsimony. They were as a rule lovers of good music being readily moved `with the concord of sweet sounds.'
The foregoing is taken from histories written many years ago.
The pioneer spirit was strong in these ambitious people, they were ever seeking new and better places to build new and better homes, to build fortunes, but primarily to found communities, as religious, civil, educational and business centers. Having lived through the terrors and distresses of the Revolutionary War, some of them began looking "for new worlds to conquer." With the opening of the new country to the west there was an exodus from the New England states to New York, especially the western part. About the year 1834, among these homeseekers were members of the families of Root, Day and Cleaveland. The immigrant ancestor of the Cleaveland family, Moses by name, an aspiring youth, came to the wilderness with a neighbor, in 1635; when old enough he married the neighbor's daughter, Ann Winn, and they became the ancestors of a numerous progeny. Robert Day came to the new world in 1834, settled in Connecticut and married Editha Stebbins, through the centuries, many descendants have proudly claimed the name Day. Pliny Root and his wife, Ruth Cleaveland, migrated from Massachusetts to New York, they were joined by descendants of these other families and settled in and about Canandaigua, New York, where they met and formed what proved to be a lasting friendship with the family of Haynes, pioneers from Pennsylvania, David Haynes and wife, Margaret Ewart.
The stories of the opportunities to be found in Michigan lured them further, so leaving the comforts, the educational and religious advantages, the refinements of the East, these brave, venturesome souls went fearlessly, hopefully, heroically into the great unknown wilderness. The trials of this group are beyond our comprehension; going overland by covered wagon, weary, weary miles. After weeks of travel, they finally reached the land of their future homes in Jackson and Hillsdale counties. This was in 1836.
The heads of these families of Root, Haynes, Day and Cleaveland are the grandparents and great-grandparents of the subject of this sketch, Eva Josephine Root. Because he was a builder of houses and a mill-wright, the father Root settled near the town of Jackson, then nick-named "The Tameracks." The father Haynes, being a farmer purchased what proved to be one of the most productive farms in Hillsdale county.
Through the forest, the magnificent "Oak Openings," roamed wolves, bears, panthers, wild-cats and other animals not so fearful, notably the deer. The children living at that time were taught the dangers, to be brave, not timid, but cautious, for them nerves had not been invented, they never heard of such troublesome things. They were taught to be happy in their surroundings, for even in those sparse days, there was much for them to enjoy.
In the family of Haynes there was a beautiful girl of five years of age, in the family of Root a sturdy lad of ten years, when their parents came to Michigan. When the boy was twelve, a school for boys was started in Jackson, this he attended, paying his own way. Fortunately for the little maid a school was begun in her neighborhood, this she attended. It was soon discovered she had a keen mental grasp and a remarkable memory; at fifteen she became a teacher, never did she cease to be a student.
In the spring of 1852, the girl and boy, Susan Haynes and Pliny Root, having shared many childlike and youthful pleasures and privations, decided this mutual experience and understanding was fine preparation for a future together. They were married before the confident young man had finished his medical course, begun at Ohio Medical College. This mattered not at all for in those days, medical aid was so needed and doctors so few that they practiced almost as soon as they began studying. So, having an excellent practice, having saved a tiny fortune, having taken unto himself a wife, this young doctor established his newly acquired family at the hotel "Sherman" in the thriving city of Chicago and matriculated at the very promising Rush Medical College. Doctor Root was graduated, from this institution in 1853.
August 6th, 1853, Eva Josephine, graced this family with her presence and never until she said her last good bye did she cease to grace it. She was "wise in her choice of parents," she had become an important member of a family with the highest ideals of civil, cultural and religious life.
When Eva was about three years old, her father purchased a pleasant home over "on the road," as the Chicago Turnpike was then known, at a tiny but rather important village, Gambleville, now Somerset. One day when she was just beginning to walk, Eva began teasing to go to grandmother's a very short distance, the mother busy with her sewing, paid scant heed to the importunities of the little one, the child persisted. Thinking to divert her attention, the mother drew one of the pillow-cases upon which she was sewing, over the child's head, it reached quite to her feet, undaunted she began her journey, soon stumbled and fell, thinking she showed courage and persistence the mother removed the casing and helped her finish the journey. A simple story but it illustrates one of Eva's splendid and unfailing characteristics, the acceptance of obstacles with the spirit to overcome.
One of the first liberties granted Eva was to go "butter-cupping" with the first warm days of spring. The hillsides near her home glistened with the golden buttercups; of the flowers, these were her first loves, then violets laid claim to her affection, then trillium and dogtooth violets, then lady-slippers, those beautiful orchids, white, yellow, varigated white and yellow, pink and white, so common near her home then, the gentians too were among her favorites, especially the fringed ones, the abode of the fairies, equally loved and admired was the dainty harebell, whose faint note, heard only by the devoted, favored few struck a vibrant note on Eva's heart-strings. It was on one of the butter-cupping excursions that with her little friend Julia, somewhat older, she had her first great adventure; it was well understood by the two they were not permitted to go beyond call, but this morning the flowers were too alluring and urged them on and on until they reached a tiny creek a half mile from home. The clear shallow stream trickling over sand and stones with shining minnows darting all about, proved too fascinating. Lying flat on their stomachs on the bridge watching the water, the tiny fish and their own reflections, Eva always eager to "see it all," leaning too far over, lost her balance and was instantly on her back in the water. She was rescued by a passing neighbor and the girls, a sorry pair, were taken home. Eva was sent to bed without her supper. In her imagination she pictured her mother coming in the morning and finding her daughter starved to death; this picture gave her such satisfaction, such a feeling of triumph over her cruel mother, that she forgot her hunger and being tired soon fell asleep. After what seemed a long, long night, she wakened to see at her bedside, her mother with a porringer of bread and milk and two molasses cookies, a mother's compromise.
Eva was a very little girl when the country was distraught by the War of the Rebellion. Doctor Root, of noble, patriotic ancestry, could pursue but one course, his wife of equal heritage, urged him to enlist. Leaving his wife, three little girls, father and mother, he went out with the Eighteenth Michigan, a surgeon Major on General Gilmore's staff.
Into the heart and mind of this girl, so young, came stories thrilling and sad and with intense interest and closest attention she listened to the discussions of her elder's, profound conversations. It was most fortunate that those to whom she listened were thoughtful persons of no mean attainments. She heard much talk of justice and injustice, humanitarism and prejudice, matters of government, of the characters of great men and women, the causes of the war and the probable results; asking much but understanding comparatively little, she listened and pondered while her small fingers helped in picking lint and rolling bandages for wounded soldiers. Is it any wonder she became prematurely grave and thoughtful?
Almost from her first conscious moments Eva was earnestly instructed in
biblical lore and the orthodox religion of her forefathers. This was
faithfully looked after by her grandmother, Ruth Cleaveland Root. With not a
little of the spirit of her ancestors among whom with justifiable pride, she
counted, Jonathan Edwards, Deacon Samuel Chapin and Elder William Brewster
of Mayflower fame.
At eleven years, she was devoted to Josephus and Pilgrim's Progress, could repeat and sing many Psalms, this to the extreme satisfaction of her grandmother; had learned the names of the English kings, in rhyme, could name the presidents of the United States; could repeat nearly all of "Lady of the Lake," this she learned from her mother who often recited it to her, especially after prayers at night, as she did poems from Moore, Byron, and Felicia Hemans,. Indeed, for a child, her accomplishments were considerable, all of these she retained throughout her life, having great joy thereof. Soon she carne under the spell of the charming Caret' sisters, Alice and Phoebe, the interesting, ladylike Jane Austen, the exciting, soul-stirring, Uncle Tom's Cabin, of course, she loved Uncle Tom, laughed at Topsy and cried over little Eva, just as children do.
The literature in her home was the best, however, it was not long until she discovered there was another sort, being of an inquisitive turn of mind she wanted to know what this other was like; through some agency, more than one volume of the "other sort," surreptitiously, found its way into Eva's room, for example, "The Lost Heiress" and "Jane Eyre," carefully hidden from condemning eyes; fortunately for one of tender years, her literary taste was fairly well established and her conscience quite active, she found that "stolen sweets" were not the sweetest, the deception practiced on her mother worried her, she then learned through experience that "open confession is good for the soul."
One of her cherished recollections was of family prayers. Every morning, so
long as there was a home, the family adjourned from the breakfast table to
the sitting-room, the father read the scripture lesson, all joined in
singing the hymn, then knelt while the father prayed; his children are glad
to remember that the prayers were not long nor conventional, just a petition
for the day uttered in sincerity.
Sometime before this the melodeon had given way to a square grand piano.
"Over the Somerset hills to school, dotted in summer with buttercups and violets; playing in the same little clear creek which rippled and gurgled at the foot of the hill on whose crest stood the school-house. "How well I remember that school-house, painted white, gable toward the road, one door in the middle where we all entered, boisterously or otherwise depending largely on the authority exerted by the teacher. The boys were seated on one side of the room, the girls on the other, there was a platform across the end opposite the door, back of this a blackboard, not slate but boards painted black, the exact center of the room was occupied by a huge stove, long and square, standing high on four legs, back of the stove a box for wood, the only fuel used.
"Over these same hills in winter, snow covered and icy; sliding and skating on the ponds, joining in the snow fight, riding down the long hills, happy and grateful when the `big boys' gave us a ride on their wellshod sleds.
"To return to the school-house on the hill, one of the privileges accorded only worthy pupils was to go for water, this meant that two scholars were to take the pail and tin dippers, (no individual cups) go over the hill nearly to the foot, where a spring of clear, cold water flowed from the hillside. One day as Eva and I went for water, sitting by the spring to rest, preparatory to our long climb back, we saw a great commotion in the grass below, cautiously we moved nearer and were fascinated watching a fight between a blue racer and a black watersnake, it was a battle to the death, we forgot all about school and for punishment, missed our recess. When we explained what kept us we were forgiven.
"Our summer pleasures were the richest, there were so many things to do, as we grew older there were picnics, the merry excursions to Clark's Lake, Sand Lake, Devil's Lake, all within driving distance; these trips had thrills, principally, when coming upon a level strip of road, the young men would insist upon `running the horses.' There were fishing parties, camping, horseback riding. There are few lovelier places in which to live than we had, the years passed in simple, natural pleasures, that to the children of today would seem so tame, but we were happy, none happier.
"After our district-school-days, Eva and I were room-mates in old East Hall
at Hillsdale. The old love was ever the same, until after many years we
parted in the full hope of an eternal reunion."
The expression, "the three RS" passed into the vernacular as denoting the sum total of the subjects taught in the district school. If Eva Root's early development as a scholar, be taken as one demonstration of the training, it covered more than the three Rs and certainly could not be considered altogether lacking. Perhaps the most salient feature of this training was the lack of rigid system, offering free scope for the development of originality and personality conducive to independence of thought and action. The district school did not "turn out" educational "mill-work." The learning by rote and reciting in concert was a simple process of storing mental pabulum, splendid memory exercises; as to the reviewing and re-reviewing, this was not such a drawback as the subject matter of the books had decided merit and became so thoroughly fixed in the mind it was not easily forgotten.
The Readers used in the Somerset school were of the Saunders Series, beginning with the Primer, a tiny book with a shiny, green cover and back binding of red morocco, so very attractive in the eyes of the children and closing with the Sixth Reader, thick and almost too heavy when as a little girl Eva first opened its covers to learn of its mysteries. It was, from the abridged "Hamlet" which she found in the Fourth; Reader, that she had her introduction to and conceived her love for the writings of Shakespeare.
Her mathematical training began with "Mental Arithmetic" which included tables and simple sums, the latter to be solved without use of slate and pencil. From this she passed to "Intellectual Arithmetic," a rather dignified book, presenting problems which could be solved only by real concentration, this too with no written work. When she became a teacher her pupils expressed astonishment at the rapidity with which she could solve problems, "in her head."
Copy books have been ridiculed by those who neither understand nor appreciate their value Their use bred excellent penman in the days when to write legibly was an essential accomplishment. Eva's writing was like etching.
Situated so near `Hillsdale, more often than not, the Somerset school was taught by a college student, many were the pedagogical experiments practiced on the unsuspecting pupils, be that as it may, much credit is due these teachers in that the majority of their pupils attended college. Not a few winning scholastic honors. When the weather permitted the school frequently convened out of doors under the grand old oak trees.
This having school in the open is a custom in practice today in at least one of our most progressive colleges.
The evening after her first day at school, Eva's father, taking her on his lap said: "Well, what kind of a time did you have in school today?" she replied, "The teacher didn't have any time, she had to send over to Mr. Houghteling's for the time." The father interested in her reaction to his quizzing said, "No, no, not that, what sort of a time did you have," quite indignantly she replied, "an hour's nooning and fifteen minutes recessing, I don't know what you mean."
IN 1853 THERE Was established in Southern Michigan, on one of her proudest hills, a Free-Will Baptist school, named Hillsdale college, for the town in which it was located, an institution founded and carried on by ambitious men and women of superior attainments and ability. Although Doctor, Mrs.. Root and Eva were members of the Congregational Church, this had no weight in the choice of a college as some friends thought it should have. When Eva reached the age of fourteen, the family council decided she should attend Hillsdale. There were several reaŽsons why, namely, it was situated in their own county, within easy riding distance; all courses were open alike to men and women, the latter admitted on a parity with the former, but chiefly because Doctor Root had been, in a measure, influential in bringing the College to the county.
The first week of September following Eva's birthday in August, early on a
bright Monday morning, the horses and carriage were driven to the door. Soon
mother, father and daughter, with the Tatter's limited baggage, were on
their way to college. There was no question as to her first room-mate, it
could be none other than her dearest girl friend, sharer of her many joys
since infancy, Julia Smith.
The rooms in East hall, the ladies' dormitory, were furnished by the College with bedstead, stove, table, two chairs, all plain as could be, designed for use, not ugly, however. The bedstead was a four-poster, the foot and head held together by round, smooth poles, about two and one-half inches in diameter. Into these poles about nine inches apart were screwed wooden knobs. A rope drawn criss-cross over these knobs furnished the spring(?). A tick filled with clean, sweetsmelling straw, the latter furnished by the College, was placed upon the rope springs and capped by a splendid, fluffy goose-feather-bed brought from home. Julia brought this last. The stove was about two and onehalf feet long, a foot and one-half wide, nearly that high, standing on four legs eight inches long, a door and hearth at one end, and at the other a long pipe, which occasionally slipped its moorings with direful consequences. These were wood stoves, for Hillsdale boasted no other kind. The girls furnished their own wood, indeed they became quite expert in selecting good, dry, hard wood. Sometimes there would be an uprising when it was discovered that someone was persistently borrowing wood and as persistently neglecting to pay it back.
There was one bad thing about these stoves. That was starting the fire in the morning. Winter mornings in Michigan are cold and it was a shivering task at which the girls took turns. After leaving College, they remembered with gratitude, the man who invented the "fire-starter", cakes of compressed sawdust and pitch. It never failed to start. No pieces of furniture were ever more appreciated than these stoves for they made possible many toothsome "treats". Imagine the culinary possibilities! With door and transom tightly closed, all cracks talked, (for reasons) such candypulling, corn-popping, bread-toasting, even on rare occasions, meat broiling, to say nothing of frying eggs on a sheet of paper, an accomplishment peculiarly Eva's.
College Hill boasted no water-works. Water for the dormitory must be carried to the rooms from well or cistern. There was no gas, and electric lighting was not invented, candles and kerosene lamps furnished the only artificial light. No one seemed to worry about fire until the tragic night in 1874, when Centre Building and West Hall burned.
There were many restrictive rules governing or supposed to control the behavior of the young ladies. Sad to relate, these furnished incentive to many a prank. Eva and Julia were too well trained, too conscientious to "break rules", but were keen to indulge in pranks. That part of the campus where the college building was located was surrounded by a fence. As it was not permitted to walk with young men of a Sabbath Day, this plan was often resorted to, namely, a young lady would walk very demurely inside the fence, farthest from the Lady-Principal's window, while a young man would walk sedately, just the other side of the fence. However, the thrilling pleasure of such meetings was no more when the restriction and the fence were removed.
Supposedly, there was no card-playing or dancing. To indulge in those condemned, so-called pleasures would have been considered most unseemly in a Christian College. Frequent parties were permitted with the understanding that the young ladies attending be in their rooms promptly at ten-thirty o'clock. The most enjoyable occasions of social freedom were the picnics at "Old Bawbese", a chain of eight lakes a mile from the College. Possibly one exception should be made to the above, that is the week-end house party. Eva's home in Somerset witnessed many such gatherings, for Doctor and Mrs. Root always extended to the students a generous hospitality.
In the winter, the master sports were coasting and skating.
Matters of convention and propriety were considered most important and were strictly adhered to. Modesty and virtue were not obsolete terms; the word "lady" was in common use and meant much. Every right-minded girl aspired to be a lady.
Under Eva's tutoring, the East Hall girls became quite versed in phrenology. In rummaging through her father's library she found some old books and charts. It seems that when Doctor Root was young this subject was prominently before the people and that he earned considerable money toward his expenses both at Ann Arbor and Ohio Medical, by lecturing, examining heads and making charts. Such sport as the girls had with "bumps and charts", mesmerism, and mind-reading. Wonderful secrets were revealed to them through the mysterious writings of "Planchette." There was one trick they practiced, worthy of note for it is traditional and probably in vogue in East Hall today, "Mesmeric Lifting". One girl would lie prone on the floor, four or six others, depending on the size of the subject, would surround her. At a given signal, each would draw a deep breath and with just the tip of the first finger placed under the one reclining she would be lifted to the level of the faces of the others standing erect. When the result was not satisfactory as sometimes occurred, it was declared that the circle was not mesmeric, that there was a doubter.
The dining-room of the College was in East Hall. Here the tables were
classed as bachelor tables, bachelor-maid tables and opposition tables. The
latter were the most interesting as here the bachelors and maids sat
together. Each bachelor would ask a maid to be his opposite for the term;
the young men were seated on one side of the table, the young ladies
opposite. In time the rules of propriety permitted the "opposites" to sit
side by side. Whether she was an opposite quite fixed the social standing.
Eva always sat at an opposition table, with all that might imply of college
Upon entering College, Eva gladly accepted an invitation to join the "Ladies Literary Union" whose motto was "Beauty of Mind Endures Forever", serving throughout her entire time in Hillsdale, an active and valuable member. A friend tells this story, "Eva had just read such a fine paper in Union meeting, I said to a friend, `why can't I have a gift? Eva Root has so many,' he replied, you have one, the splendid gift of common sense. Cultivate it as Eva is doing'." Throughout the years of her teaching, Eva was extremely grateful for the discipline received, and when complimented on her presence when appearing before an audience, would reply, "I owe it to my training in literary society."
After two years at college, Eva decided to stay at home and teach music. It came in this wise. As Doctor Root drove about visiting patients, he was frequently asked if his daughter was studying music in college and, if she would give music lessons in vacation. So, with pony and phaeton, she went around through the farming community and to the adjoining villages, and with comparative ease secured a large music class. As may be noted, when she began "Music-Teaching" she was just sixteen years of age.
Eva was very happy in her work. An out-of-door girl, she enjoyed riding over the marshes and through the glorious woods, past many lovely lakes; but she claimed the richest experience of all was the privilege of entering the home life of these fine families. She enjoyed telling of the day a pupil played the "first piece" with both hands. It might have been the simplest arrangement of "Home Sweet Home", "Sack Waltz", "Blue Bells of Scotland" or the like, but no matter what the selection or who the pupil the thrill was the same. If this pleasure-giving performance took place at a farm-house about the noon hour, the "hands" were invited in. They would stand ranged against the wall, in rapt attention, while the son or daughter played the piece, never forgetting to show their appreciation by hearty applause. It was a question who experienced the greatest thrill, the "hands", the parents, the pupil or the young teacher.
Eva Root was graduated from Hillsdale College, June 1874. Just what did this comprehend? For sometime the College maintained a preparatory department requiring three years study. This was for the benefit of boys and girls who had not had advantages beyond those afforded by the country school and for those who preferred that training to that of the High School. Although she was from a district school, Eva was required to spend but one year in this department. She matriculated in 1867 under the presidency of Doctor Edmund B. Fairfield, a well known educator. Upon entering college she chose the "Ladies Course", a course in so-called Belle Lettres, but before her graduation this was changed to the "Academic" course.
She had but one year of Latin, her major subjects were English and French. The requirements for the senior in any course were: Fall-Mental Philosophy, Evidences of Christianity, Aesthetics. Winter-Butler's Analogy, Zoology, English Literature. Spring Moral Philosophy, Geology, Political Economy. By post-graduate study Eva soon earned the degree of Master of Arts.
Commencement Day was a great event attended by "Town and Gown", the
countryside and near-by towns. The exercises began at ten o'clock and lasted
nearly the entire day, depending on the number of graduates and the length
of the speeches, for it was required that every aspirant to academic honors
should appear on the stage and present an original production. Each man to
deliver an oration, each woman an essay, for even so late in history as
that, young ladies were not
to appear before a public audience without notes, she might sing without
notes but she must read her original paper.
In this connection a friend wrote, "Dear Eva Root, always fair, trim and pleasing in appearance; calm, self-poised and dignified; always conscientious in her work and her dealings with others; with a friendship so warm and abiding that it blessed the recipient as long as that recipient lived."
The September following her graduation, Miss Root was called to the chair of Assistant-Lady-Principal at Hillsdale College. Very unfortunately before the close of her second year of service there, because of a severe illness from which she recovered slowly, she resigned her position. Some months later having regained her normal health, she became principal of the High School at Kendalville, Indiana. Here she remained about four years when she resigned and accepted a similar position at Lexington, Illinois. After several years there, she was the victim of a serious throat trouble which temporarily robbed her of her voice and after a protracted rest at home, she went to New York City for a year's study, specializing in critical English and French.
In the autumn of 1883 she accepted the position of Principal of the Academy in the Sherman Institute, later named Mary Nash College, Sherman, Texas. At this time Sherman was little more than a frontier town where dwelt many fine folk who after the War had moved there from Virginia, Kentucky and the Carolinas. To one who had lived only in the older communities of the North, life in Sherman presented much that was novel and interesting. It was not at all unusual for cow boys from the adjoining ranches to come dashing into town on their spirited horses and in western parlance, "shoot up the place".
Mary Nash was a college for young ladies, the patronage being drawn largely from the wealthy families of northern Texas. The buildings were unpretentious but answered well the purpose to which they were allotted. To Miss Root, at first it all seemed primitive, but this feeling was short-lived. Soon she was very happy in her school and social relations and became a more or less vital factor in the community. During those years the work at Mary Nash might be termed pioneering along the way leading to higher education. The so-called "professors" were treated with much consideration, their society was quite sought, and many favors were shown them. Horseback-riding was a sport made possible because of the splendid mounts offered by their rancher friends.
While at Sherman, Miss Root's greatest pleasure and satisfaction was derived from the companionship of a one-time college mate, now a co-worker, Miss Eva Fowler, teacher of art, who in later years became prominent in art circles in Texas. Of this friend she took lessons in sketching and painting, doing some creditable work, but primarily learning the better to judge art. Years later, Miss Fowler, writing of Mary Nash College, said "There is much I might tell you of the influence of this College, of the standing and character of the graduates, who through the years have been accomplishing such splendid things socially and educationally. Mrs. Nash, for whom the school was named, felt this was due largely to the influence of some of the teachers. Among them I would first name Eva J. Root. The girls were somewhat in awe of her, but looked upon her as an authority, followed her advice, profited by her example."
October of 1890 marked the beginning of Miss Root's connection with Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida. This institution, with Reverend E. P. Hooker, president, supported by a well chosen, devoted and efficient faculty of fifteen members, was carrying on extremely interesting and profitable work, even in the embryonic stage of its development in which it then was. In one respect, the work there was similar to that at Mary Nash College, namely, a pioneer development leading to higher education. The College embraced three departments, a sub-preparatory, a preparatory and a college. The school was very small numbering not more than one hundred students.
Miss Root was assigned to the principalship of the preparatory school, a disappointment to her and, had it not been that for reasons of health she was obliged to live in the south, she might have refused to remain. Notwithstanding this, she assumed the teaching with apparent enthusiasm, which soon became real. It was not long until her superior ability was recognized and she was elected a member of the College Faculty. Even though the college family was small as to numbers it was large in ambition, standards and ideals. Each instructor must handle at least two subjects, more when occasion demanded, and each one's program was periodically undergoing change. In order to keep up with the demands and in advance of the requirements, and teach progressively, Miss Root spent a part of every summer vacation in close study of the latest findings on the subjects she was to present to her classes the following year. She was as earnest, as thorough, as capable as though connected with one of the old, large schools of the country.
A part of the time she roomed in the girl's dormitory, Cloverleaf Cottage. Perhaps the longest period was spent at Pinehurst Cottage as housemother in the home of the boys. She enjoyed, especially, being head of the "track table", by most of the instructors considered rather a trying place. While in a measure this was true, to her it had decided advantages which she thoroughly enjoyed and considered a splendid opportunity to study the psychology of the mind of the athletic young male of the human species. However, she failed to avail herself of the opportunity of increasing her vocabulary by adding to it some of the expressions used by the progressive athlete.
Miss Root's work at Rollins College proved most absorbing. To its welfare and the interests of her students she gave herself unreservedly, counting no cost too great for their advancement: The appeal was like that of a family, it was so very personal. While her influence reached comparatively few persons, doubtless it was more lasting and of greater weight than if exerted in behalf of a larger number of persons. Facts are inert, it is only when facts as seeds are planted in the soil of the active mind that they come alive. Miss Root's great value as a teacher lay in her power to cultivate and fertilize mental soil into productive activity. Her students at Rollins felt this power and responded to it to a remarkably gratifying degree.
Miss Root was very happy in her associations with the faculty. Here the spirit of mutual helpfulness was paramount, an uplifting inspiring give and take. In tact, the members of the faculty were so vitally a part of her life, that by her vivid word pictures, she brought them, severally, home and introduced them to her family, whose members accepted them in the spirit of friendship in which they were presented. If these characterizations could have been preserved, they would form a most interesting and valuable sketch. So vividly impressed were her sisters that after many years certain of these pictures are recalled.
Perhaps the first to present itself is the beloved, honored name, Louise Abbott. She must have been a beautifully impressive character. She was known to Miss Root's family as "Auntie Lou". Their friendship was ideal. In Grace Livingston (Mrs, Hill) she found a kindred spirit, a versatility of talent that was a delight, a purposefulness and sincerity, winsome and appealing. In later years she kept in sympathy with this friend through her attractive publications. In a letter received, recently, Mrs. Hill speaks as follows : "My memories of Eva Root are sweet and precious. We grew to be very close friends, though at first I felt her reserved and felt that I should never get really close to her. "But one night something went wrong with some boy in our flock. I was the gymnasium teacher and she the mother in the boy's dormitory as well as teacher. One boy had been doing something wrong. I have forgotten completely how it was that we came to let each other know how anxious we were about that particular young sinner, but something flashed from soul to soul, and we each knew the other cared for the ne'erdo-well and was trying to save him. "She drew me into her room and we talked it over, his back-ground of a pretty, silly, child-mother who spoiled him and a step-father who ignored him. And then, strangely sweet the memory comes, we found ourselves on our knees beside her bed, with our arms about one another, praying for him, asking the Lord to do for him what we could not do. "When we rose from our knees she stooped and kissed me, for she was much taller and some older, I think, than I. I had great respect for her. But when she kissed me I knew that she loved me and that I loved her, from that moment we were sworn friends. From that night she became a new interest in my life. We had a secret bond between us. "That first miscreant came to each of us the next day and talked the matter over with us, confessed and then with a firmly set jaw went to the President of the College, confessed and took his punishment with new light in his eyes. He thanked us that we were praying for him. Later we had the joy of knowing that he had surrendered to the Lord Jesus.
"About that time I was trying to write a story of Princess Elizabeth of
France and could find very little about her in English history. Finally I
got trace of the story of her life written in French and sent to France for
it. I shall never forget the day it arrived and I discovered it was very
unlike the French I knew. I stumbled through a chapter or two by myself but
the next day, confided my disappointment to my dear friend Eva. Instantly
she offered to help me; she was a fine French scholar while I only played
with the study briefly.
"The book proved to be written in old French and difficult for even a fine
French scholar but my beloved friend spent time over it even in the midst of
her busy life. When our evening hour would come she would be ready to help
me in translating page after page, thus the story was read with charmed and
"Those were happy evenings that I look back upon. She had charge of the
study halls. Sometimes we sat and read French for two hours. Oh, how I did
enjoy the time and how it helped me. I look back upon those hours with deep
delight and realize more and more what a beautiful thing she did for me and
what a bright spot in my life was her friendship.
Miss Root pictured Grace Peck and Hattie Peck with their impelling attributes. Mrs. Robinson, Annie Morton and Eva Lamson shared many of Miss Root's pleasures, perplexities and satisfactions. She spoke affectionately of Gertrude Ford and Rex Beach, rather youthful members of the faculty, both, former pupils.
In Chicago, several years ago, when "The Iron Trail" was released as a
moving picture and Rex Beach, the author, was adding to the attractiveness
of the entertainment by appearing in person and addressing the audience, one
of Miss Root's sisters in an interview back stage, asked, "Do you remember
Miss Root His reply was, "Indeed I do, she was a very remarkable woman,
having known her one could not forget." He was then told that as long as she
was able to do so she read with much interest and pleasure his publications
as they appeared. Recalling his aversion to English composition and short
story writing when under her instruction, she marvelled at his development
and came to the conclusion that he was too adventuresome, too original, to
be held strictly to conventional forms. The reading of Mr. Beach's stories
lightened the burden of many weary hours.
When her forbears came to America they found little else than nature, in its primitive form. They embraced it, they loved it, whether quiescent or rampant. They knew nature for better or for worse not as scientists but as intimates, not prying into her innermost secrets but in a large measure growing to understand "her visible forms" whether minute or majestic. This love of nature and the desire to know more of its marvels is a trait found in many members of the family in every generation.
Miss Root reveled in the study of the flora and fauna of Florida. Her nature-study classes were to her a source of great delight. Daytime or evening she was ready for a botanizing trip or a moth-netting excursion, the latter, especially enjoyed by the students were rather frequent. She had many an interesting tale to tell of these trips. She told one story which lost nothing in the telling and if she had not been a person with an established reputation for veracity, her hearers would certainly have raised a question. One day in poling through Maitland Run the boat met a' school of bass "head on", six of the fish jumped into the boat and one jumped out.
The Rollins students were quite given to serenading, they never failed to remember Miss Root who enjoyed these musical demonstrations to repletion although she did acknowledge there was one song which lost some of its charm from being oft-repeated, namely, "The Silvery Southern Mo-oo-oo-n."
She chose her never
abundant wardrobe with great care and was usually becomingly attired. She
was certain the instructor's dress and appearance had a decided effect on
the mind of the instructed.
When the first pavement was laid between Winter Park and Orlando, she purchased a bicycle and was happy in the exercise and freedom that riding the wheel afforded. At that time, roads in Florida were in such a primitive condition that riding either on horseback or in vehicle was not an unmixed pleasure but partook of the nature of hard work. To have a real road even so limited in extent was a matter for rejoicing.
The devotion of her Rollins friends is well expressed in letters from former students who were in communication with her so long as she lived. The following is from one of her "girls" written recently: "Miss Root was such an intimate friend of mine that it is a little difficult for me to see her in relation to the other students perhaps because I was so young. She was interested in everything I did, in sports, in social affairs, in studies. My special girl friend and I used to wait up at the College Hall every morning and when our friend came out of the dormitory we children used to run as fast as our legs would carry us to meet her. She was reserved and I think some of the students were astonished at the way she greeted us. Miss Root was strict without being severe, always fair for she was a fine teacher and disciplinarian. She was interested in the Literary Societies and did a great deal for them. I think it must have been rather uphill work to train us in parliamentary law as well as in more literary pursuits."
One of her "boys" writes thus: "I think it would be a fine thing to write a little memorial of Miss Root's life at Rollins. I could not tell it all if I were to write a book. I think her outstanding achievement and glory was her ability to inspire ambition in young people with whom she came in contact. By ambition I mean not only a desire to succeed in a financial way, but more especially to like the best things in life such as better reading, better music, correct English both written and spoken; study of nature, of beauty, culture attained through modern languages.
"She had a great aversion to and a strong reaction against people we might call common. She was indefatigable in doing things for persons and students she liked, but presented a very different side to students who were not in earnest or tried to shirk their work. She was a tremendous worker herself and was what Doctor Holt calls a `real teacher'. She was always enthusiastic and deeply interested in her subjects, a great teacher in every sense of the word, one who roused to the utmost the desire to conquer the subject in hand; quick to help if she thought help were really needed; quick to reprove if she saw the student had not tried. She had a keen sense of humor and was a fine conversationalist. Her religious life was one of the most admirable things about her. I know she was the greatest influence for good that ever came into my life and I know personally of many others who say the same. She was ever inclined to go beyond her means in time and money."
Still another "boy" writes: "Aside from, and even more important than Miss Root's work in the classroom, unusual as that was, her great service to the students of the college lay in her personal influence, help and guidance. In a number of cases, my own included, that influence was a decisive and permanent factor in all the years that have followed. No words can describe the value of that service to some of those concerned, nor could the debt that some of them owe to her, ever have been repaid."
Every summer vacation she would carry on a voluminous correspondence with her pupils, especially those of Rollins. Her family remonstrated with her for so taxing herself during what was supposed a rest time. She was ready with the following reply, "this boy thinks he may not return to college, this one is discouraged, another is inclined to be wild, this girl has recently been bereaved of her mother, this one is not in good health, and I fear this girl is thinking of eloping." But to many of them she wrote just for the pleasure because they were "quite all right." Their letters were so full of sport, of plans, of life, such joyful, restful letters.
Like a mother, her "children of Rollins" were ever in her mind, and their well-being on her heart for as college, she loved Rollins second only to her Alma Mater. As a field of labor it was her choice. Some of these children. wrote to her until the very last and they can never know how eagerly she looked forward to the coming of their letters, nor realize the comfort and joy they gave.
Letters from Frances Crooks came regularly, between these two there was a strong bond of sympathy for they suffered the same affliction. Katharine Lyman was a never-ending, never-diminishing source of delight, both by writing and visiting. For some years letters came from Mae Pomeroy. "Archie" Shaw was very attentive. Raymond Alden, for some years Doctor Alden, University Professor, Editor, Author, distinguished son of honored parents, one of her "boys" of whose achievements she was so proud; Walter McDuffee, of Rollins, later of Dartmouth and one of the prominent educators in that state, was a devoted adherant, and one she found most interesting.
It was through Miss Root's influence that Adolph Hemple, for many years Doctor Hemple, Plant Pathologist and State Entymologist of Brazil, became a student at Hillsdale College which led him to the University of Illinois and from there to South America. She was very fond of this "boy" and considered him very promising. He became an intimate of her family in Somerset.
The son of Rollins who was
most closely associated with her, whose devotion was more than that of many
sons to mothers, was Fritz Frank, President Frank of the "United Business
Publishers," of New York City and influentially in touch with the business
centers of the world. He was in business in Chicago when she was studying at
the University of Chicago. He filially escorted her about and in many ways
added to her enjoyment. All during the period of her helplessness he was
unremitting in thoughtful attentions.
First in the list of delightful homes, we mention that of the Frederick W. Lymans, first because here Miss Root was such a frequent visitor welcomed with such unrestrained hospitality that it became to her a second home. Another home rich in the things that make life worth living, was that of the Reverend and Mrs. G. R. Alden, the latter lovingly known as "Pansy." Not less appreciated was the Livingston family and home.
She began to get acquainted
with Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (Mrs. Herbert D. Ward) through the "Gypsie
Series." "Gates Ajar" fascinated her, as did so many of Miss Phelps'
writings. It was a happy day when she came to know Miss Phelps in person,
there was something in the meeting of these two that called forth the
brightest, most interesting conversation.
As has been noted, when Miss Root became an instructor at Rollins, Reverend E. P. Hooker was the president. The Reverend George Morgan Ward beŽcame president in 1895. Doctor Hooker was pastor of the College Church, she counted the association with these gifted men and their families most gratifying.
In Doctor Thomas R. Baker, professor of Natural Science she found an inspiring, uplifting friend, at whose feet she was happy to sit and learn.
Years after, when Doctor Baker was in the
eighties, one of Miss Root's sisters visited him, in speaking of their
relation as faculty members and friends, he said, "She was a glorious
At four o'clock, the brother was at the door with carriage, horses, dog and gun. They drove into the country a few miles and on to an oat stubble. The hunter alighted, with gun in hand and dogs at heel started across the field up wind, the ladies driving behind, not too close for fear of startling the birds, should there be any on this field. The dogs began quartering, soon they came to a point, rooted to the spot like inanimate things, the hunter snapped his fingers, cautiously the dogs drew up, suddenly a rush of wings, two shots, two birds down. Each dog retrieving his bird ran to the master, then to the ladies, saying in the plainest of dog language, "we did it." What was the questioning, hesitant guest doing? Unconsciously and enthusiastically, she was standing on the carriage seat, clapping her hands and shouting "bravo, bravo." She was captivated by the skill of the hunter and the field-work of the dogs.
How she loved and admired those dogs! Both large, one a fine Irish setter with long glossy hair, just the shade that tempted Titian's brush, the other a splendidly built pointer, equally attractive. After the hunt then came the long ride home, over the magnificent prairie, at the sunset hour; this was in reality, the crowning event of the trip. A delightful experience. Sometimes it would seem they were driving into a cloud of gold, again everything would wear a purple hue, then again the world would be blue as turquoise, often a roseate glow was shed over all, occasionally there would be a most fascinating commingling of colors. If the party had strayed far from home and the return was long, the blanket of night would gently fall, often the kindly moon would light the journey's end.
After the sport of the hunt, the poetry of the evening shades and shadows, then would come the prose of the savory welcome dinner, after this the jury of three would render the verdict, "The end of a Perfect Day."
Thus it came about that every fall as long as she continued to go south, Miss Root enjoyed her prairie chicken hunt in central Illinois.
Miss Root closed her work at Rollins College, June, 1897. Worn with constant studying and teaching, she took a much needed rest, spending the year 1897-98 with a sister, supervisor of music in Jackson, Michigan, in a tiny apartment where she held sway as head of the household, for her a restful happy arrangement. At the close of the year, quite restored to health, she decided to enter the University of Chicago and resume her study of critical English and French. She was so happy and absorbed in her research and studying that the nervous weariness which had harassed her was overcome and the fall of 1899 found her again at Mary Nash College. This institution had so increased in size and risen in standard that it challenged her interest.
In the autumn of 1901, shortly after her return to Sherman, during one of her classes, Miss Root noticing one of the young ladies with a very flushed face, called her to the desk and said, "you are not well." The young lady replied, "Yes I have the measles but I was determined I would not miss this recitation." Fatal day, within a short time, Miss Root developed a severe case of measles. This attack was accompanied by what seemed to be rheumatic complications. As soon as she was able to travel, with her nurse, she went to Marlin Wells, Texas. Here she remained a month. Failing to note any improvement in her condition, the attendant physician at the Sanitarium said, frankly, "we cannot touch your case, your trouble is not rheumatism." Calamity of calamities, she was a victim of that unconquerable disease, arthritis. Twelve long, long years witnessed her sufferings. She had her Gethsemane when in anguish of soul she cried "why, oh, why." But she fought the good fight and she kept the faith, hers was the victory.
One memorable day, summoning her sisters, she said, "Girls this is inevitable, I shall never be any better, you must not allow your lives to be shadowed by my affliction, you must go about your daily tasks and pleasures forgetting, so far as in you lies the power and will to do, forgetting what I have been forced to renounce, it is the only way. There is left only one part of me which can be of comfort, pleasure or use to anyone, that is my mind. I shall exert myself to the utmost to keep that and you must help me. I must keep the atmosphere about me pleasant, I want my friends to enjoy visiting me, I must make them forget my handicap and my suffering."
As the years passed, Miss Root had a great longing to be once more in touch with college life, if only to see the young people passing to and fro, to know of their pranks, sports and studious accomplishments.
She was taken to Hillsdale, Michigan, the scene of her happy school days, a nurse was found, living on a pleasant street on College Hill, who was willing to devote her home, her time and strength to the care of her charge.
Shortly after her arrival, Doctor Joseph W. Mauck, president of the College, a dear friend since her freshman days, asked if it would be possible for her to assist with the English work in College, for a short period each day, the classes coming to her room and telling of the great need of such service as she was so eminently qualified to render. Eagerly she responded to his request. The thought was like meat and drink to her hungry, thirsty soul. Soon she was instructing in both French and English. This she continued to do for four years, until her blessed release.
Characteristically, she was interested, not only in the scholastic attainments of the students but entered enthusiastically into the spirit of their sports. The attitude of the students toward her was one of devotion. For example, the great event of the mid-year was the Washington Banquet. This was spread in the Assembly Hall or Chapel as the room was then known, on the third floor of the main building in which there were no elevators. A detachment of young men was detailed to see that Miss Root was present. At just the right moment she was carried on their shoulders to a seat of honor at the banquet table.
Her classes were fond of having picnics for her, in mild weather these were convened out of doors, at other times, in her parlors. She was always remembered by the serenading parties. If the "team" had been out of town, when successful, the boys would come to her window and shout the score.
During those last years in Hillsdale, altho a great sufferer confined to bed and rolling-chair, aside from her college associations, Miss Root created about herself a social atmosphere for here as everywhere she resided she had many friends. When not suffering too keenly, it was her frequent custom to call a caterer for light refreshments and telephone a few friends for an afternoon or evening at games, reading or visiting, according to the inclinations of the guests. The pathway to her door was a busy one, here smiling faces were ever seeking admittance and as smilingly leaving her presence, for she dispensed cheer.
A few years later, President Mauck wrote of her as follows: "I first met Miss Root when I matriculated at Hillsdale College in 1870. Our friendship in college and many years after is one of my most cherished blessings. Her home, a few miles from Hillsdale, was a favorite meeting place for groups of friends. She was a favorite in college and city, of engaging personality and spirit united with conscientious fidelity to student duties and to the administration, she had a high rating in academic spheres, in the religious, musical and literary activities of the campus at large. She had few peers in radiating good cheer in the faculty and student body. The Dean of Women, known in those days as the Lady-Principal, found in her an helpful coadjutor. Shortly after her graduation she was chosen as acting dean, serving with highest acceptance. At that time I was tutor and professor, associated with her in the faculty. At a later time when impaired in health she lived near the campus, she was appointed instructor and reader of student papers. Her service under her physical limitations was of the high quality of her early educational work."
One of the strongest most effective of human influences is that exerted by the person who thinks deeply and expresses thought in magnetic, convincing speech. As has been intimated, Miss Root was an insatiable reader. She possessed the rare ability of comprehending the message of the printed page almost at a glance. Reading and living spurred her mind to unceasing activity. She was primarily a thinker. She was ever saying to her pupils, "think this through for yourself." Known as a thinker, a student, a Christian worker, this disturbing question was ever recurring, "Miss Root what do you think of Darwin and his theories, especially in regard to evolution?"
Having studied "Evidences of Christianity" under one of the leading divines of the day, an older man well grounded in the faith, who deviated not one whit from the scriptural interpretations of generations of devout men, whose criticism of Darwin before his classes was, "You get just as much sense out of the book if you turn it upside down and read it backward." Having studied science under the guidance of a young man, a deep student with a forward look, who had accepted the theory of evolution; as yet strongly influenced by her grandmother's teachings, for a time Miss Root's religious convictions were shaken to the point of tottering as if about to collapse, this period was of short duration for she soon reconciled her preconceived ideas with her more modern teachings and decided that with her own interpretations, limitations and reservations the theory of evolution was not too iconoclastic for her to accept.
While entertaining a modicum of prejudices, Miss Root seemed to be singularly free from local prejudice, she believed that in any community, great or small, one could always be interested, that excellence if sought could be found. For her the large city was intriguing, she readily responded to the advantages it offered for culture and observation. For example, while studying in New York in the early "eighties", when surfeited with lectures, operas, theaters, museums and art galleries, exhausting conversations with intellectuals, figuratively speaking, when "Murray Hill" became monotonous, she would spend a day in Greenwich Village, at Coney Island or even dare to visit Five Points.
She thoroughly enjoyed meeting people. With her keen penetration, her sympathetic attitude, she would discover something interesting, something appealing which a less human observer would neither recognize nor appreciate. Wherever she went she took her charming self, her ready understanding and never failed to find some person, whom to know would be very worth her while. Perhaps an old seaman captain of a "Whaler" with his marvelous stories of the days when wind carried the vessel where it would, or a "Trader Horn" with fascinating tales of wanderings, an humble soul glorified through patient endurance of life's bitter disappointments; a youth who had "hitched his wagon to a star"; an embryo poet, artist, novelist, historian; an unambitious youth whose mind needed awakening, all these were of interest to her, enriching her life. The super-woman or man was everywhere.
No matter where her lot was cast, she received an inspiration; there was a message for her at the country cross-roads; even in the small town so recently held up to the world's ridicule, Miss Root would pick up something fine, something worthy, something uplifting on "Main Street."
It has been said of her, "she never assumed an attribute, yet there was never any mock modesty, she was genuine.
Miss Root was very fond of games. During her earlier years, the most popular out-of-doors game was croquet; she was an excellent chess player; later having overcome the prejudice instilled by the teachings of her faithful grandmother and her college training, she became quite an adept at certain games of cards, especially Cribbage and Pinochle. Had golf been the vogue in the mid-west and south as it became later there is little doubt she would have been a pleasing figure on the fairway.
She was thrifty, somehow she managed to be generous at the same time saving. With an increasing income and a fair bank account she looked forward to extensive travel, but a cruel fate intervened. This disappointment was borne cheerfully, heroically.
The following questions frequently recur:
Who was her favorite
poet, novelist, historian, philosopher, musician, painter, sculptor, and so
forth. It is not recalled that she ever expressed herself a devoted follower
of any person celebrated in one of the various fields of endeavor.
The following quotation
was Miss Root's last message:
|Project Home||List of Names||Rollins Archives||Olin Library||Rollins College|