Henry Elias Fries (1878) 13 December 1874 Letter

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Davidson College[1]


Dear Mother.[3]

I simply write according to my promise, & have only to say I am enjoying my usual good health, the semiannual judgement day[4] as Col. Martin [5] < calls it, is now at hand, & we look upon it with dread. I am reconciled to my fate; many of us are about on a par, & we feel rather feeble in the knees, but hope will be able to stand all night. I made a resolution when I came here that I would not study on Sunday, & have held to this resolution a little better than my promise about sleeping, for during the past week or so I have gone beyond my bounds. I expect this week I will have to study harder than ever,[6] (this week) but will take good care of my health and rest sufficiently after I get home. In place of another letter I hope to come myself, [7]  & often imagine to myself the pleasures of home. Although I have not been at all homesick & the time has passed rapidly & pleasantly, still I have a desire natural to every one to return home, & be with you all again.

Our [6] week Examination comes off on Tuesday to give Prof. Thornton[8] time to get married. He is to be married about the close of this week, & I pity his wife for the boys are already speaking of serenading him with tin pans, horns, &c. everything in fact that can make a horrid sound. The Prof. has been very kind to me & while ridiculing several of the lower members of the class, he always skipped me over. Prof. Hepburn[9] has also been very kind to us, & I believe I like them both better than our Math. Prof[[10] who does not understand how to instruct as well as the others.

There is nothing I have to say except the same old thins which I have repeated so often. I hope you have fully recovered from your sickness after baking cousin Bertha’s cakes. I hope the wedding passed off well. Much love to all.

Your affec. son

H. E. Fries[11]

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[1] Davidson College in the 1874-1875 academic year had 121 students (Davidson College Catalog, 10)(hereafter DCC) and 7 faculty (6). It was located on the “Atlantic, Tennessee and Ohio Railroad” approximately halfway between Charlotte and Statesville, North Carolina. The area was praised in the College Catalogue for being healthy and free from temptations to “vicious and extravagant habits” (DCC, 12). The college offered a “Classical Course” (4-year) a “Scientific Course” (3-year) and an “Eclectic Course” (variable—for students wishing to get instruction in specific areas) (DCC, 14, 16, 17). The tuition was $70 a year. Overall expenses (excluding clothing, traveling-expenses and pocket money) were estimated to be between $225 and $250 a year. (DCC, 19). Terms of admission to the college included proof of good moral character, “honorable dismission” from the last school attended, and examination in English, Latin, Greek, and Mathematics (DCC, 13).

[2] This would have been near the end of the first term of his freshman year (DCC, 9). The term ended Dec. 21 (DCC, 3).

[3] Lisetta Maria Vogler Fries, mother of Henry Fries, was born March 3, 1820. At the age of 18, she married Francis Levin Fries (Geni), an involved participant in the community and a member of the General Assembly (Powell). Lisetta had 7 children. She died October 23, 1903 in Salem, North Carolina, where she lived all her life (Geni). She has an archived diary chronicling her travels as an 11 year old girl in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Vogler).

[4]i.e. exams. According to the College catalog: “Every Student is examined publicly at the close of the first term on the studies of that term, and at the close of the second term on all the studies of the year. These Examinations are in writing, and determine to a great extent the rank in scholarship assigned to each student in the term reports, which are sent to parents and guardians” (DCC, 18).

[5]”William J. Martin, A.M., Chambers Professor of Chemistry, Geology, and Natural History.” (DCC, 6). He had served in the Civil War and achieved the rank of Colonel. He was born in Richmond VA in 1830. He graduated in 1854 from University of Virginia. He taught Natural Science at Washington College in Pennsylvania (1854-57) and Chemistry, Mineralogy, and Geology at University of North Carolina (1857-67). Beginning in 1869, he was a professor at Davidson College; beginning in 1884 he was the Vice President, and acting President 1887-88. He died in 1896. (Alumni catalogue, 25).19-0095cfaculty1873

Faculty of Davidson College 1873, including John Rennie Blake, James Fair Latimer, Charles Martin Phillips, William Joseph Martin, Wilson Gaines Richardson, John Monroe Anderson. Photograph 19-0095 courtesy of Davidson College Archives

[6] As a freshman in the “Classical Course,” Fries would have taken in his first term “Bible—Old Testament History; English—Grammar and Composition; Latin—Gildersleeve’s Grammar throughout course. Curtius.; Greek—Hadley’s Grammar throughout. Xenophon’s Helleniea. lib. ii.; Mathematics—Towne’s Algebra” (DCC, 14).

[7] Fries lived in what was then Salem (DCC, 9) (now Winston-Salem) which is between 55 and 65 miles from Davidson. Because the train returned to Davidson in 1874, he probably would have travelled there by train (Blodgett).

[8] “William Mynn Thornton, Professor of the Greek and German languages” (DCC, 6) Born 1851 in Cumberland County VA. He studied at the University of Virginia and then taught there from 1868 to 1873, then at Bellevue High school until in Virginia until 1874. He taught at Davidson College 1874-1875 (Alumni Catalogue, 26). The next year, he joined the Engineering faculty at UVA, where he remained for 50 years, and became Chairman of Faculty in 1888 and the first Dean of Engineering in 1904 (UVA). He married Eleanor Rosalie Harrison on Dec. 22 1874. (Sorley, 195).


William Thornton. from www.seas.virginia.edu

[9] “Rev. A.D. [Andrew Doz] Hepburn, A.M., Professor of the Latin and French Languages” (DCC, 6; Semi-centennial catalogue, 13). He was born in 1830 in Carlisle, PA. He attended Washington College in PA for undergraduate, University of Virginia for grad school, and the Princeton University Seminary. He was a pastor in New Providence VA 1858-59, a professor of Rhetoric and Logic at University of North Carolina 1860-67, and a professor and president of the University of Miami in Oxford, Ohio. He was a professor at Davidson College 1874-85, and president 1877-85. From 1885 to his death in 1919 he was a professor and vice-president of the University of Miami in Ohio. He was the author of Hepburn’s Rhetoric. (Alumni Catalogue, 26). For more information on Hepburn: http://libraries.davidson.edu/archives/encyclopedia/andrew-dousa-hepburn)

[10] The College catalog lists two professors of Mathematics. Fries could be referring to either “Charles Phillips D.D., Professor of Mathematics and Engineering” or “S. Barnett, Jr., A.B., Adjunct Professor of Mathematics.” (DCC, 6) However, he is probably referring to Dr. Phillips, because in another letter to his mother (3 January 1875), he mentions a “Dr. P.”

[11] Henry Elias Fries was born September 22, 1857 in Salem, North Carolina (Geni). He was a student of Davidson College from 1874-1876. Unfortunately, he left Davidson one year early because of failing eyesight (Fries Auditorium). He instead moved back home to take charge of East Salem Sunday School, which eventually changed its name to Fries Memorial Moravian Church. His future wife, Rosa Mickey, led the worship music and taught Sunday school (Fries Memorial). At the same time, he was also manager of Wachovia Mills, a subsidiary of his father’s company. Fries additionally revolutionized the generation of hydroelectricity, founding the Fries Manufacturing and Power Company and ultimately operating an electric streetcar system (Fries Auditorium). From 1889-1892, he served as the mayor of Winston-Salem and made many improvements to the city during his time as mayor (City of WS). In later years, Fries acted as president of the Winston-Salem Southbound Railroad (Powell). He died March 3, 1949 of a heart attack, survived by his daughter Anna Fries (Geni).


Henry Fries in his college years. Photograph 5.8.1Fries1878. Courtesy of Davidson College Archives.

Works Cited

Alumni Catalogue of Davidson College, 1837-1924. Charlotte: Presbyterian Standard. 1924.

Blodgett, Jan. Personal interview. 27 Feb. 2013.

Davidson College Catalog, 1874-1875. Davidson. Davidson College Office of Communications. [1875]. <http://archive.org/details/davidsoncollegec18741875

“Fries Auditorium.” Winston-Salem State University. Last modified 2010. Accessed 23 Feb. 2013. http://www.wssu.edu/cg-okelly-library/services/archives/core/buildings/fries-auditorium.aspx

Fries Memorial Moravian Church.” Moravian Archives Winston Salem. Accessed 22 Feb. 2013. http://moravianarchives.org/history/congregations/fries-memorial-moravian-church/.

Lisetta Maria Vogler. Photograph. Geni. Accessed 22 Feb.2013. <http://www.geni.com/people/Lisetta-Vogler/6000000004990807170.

Photograph 5.8.1Fries1878. Henry. E. Fries Alumni File. RG5/8.1 Alumni Relations. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Photograph 19-0095. Davidson College Photograph Collection. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Powell, William S., ed. Dictionary of North Carolina Biography. N.p.: n.p., 1996. Accessed 22 Feb. 2013. http://docsouth.unc.edu/browse/bios/pn0000547_bio.html

Schaffner, Faith. “Lisetta Maria Vogler.”Geni. Last modified 28 Dec. 2010. Accessed 22 Feb. 2013. http://www.geni.com/people/Lisetta-Vogler/6000000004990807170.

Semi-Centennial Catalogue of Davidson College, 1837-1887. Raleigh: R.L. Uzzel. 1891.

Sorley, Merrow E. Lewis of Warner Hall: The History of a Family. Baltimore: Genealogical, 1935. 195. Accessed online Feb. 2013. http://books.google.com/books?id=yeWgvfDpwbwC&pg=PA196&lpg=PA196&dq=william+mynn+thornton&source=bl&ots=4YNVLQPck-&sig=7CAPmNfXN1JOYt1fYhu0AdHIm7s&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Dg0pUbn0FoGO8wTk_YHYCQ&ved=0CGIQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=william%20mynn%20thornton&f=false

“Town of Salem Mayors.” City of Winston-Salem, NC. City of Winston-Salem, n.d. Web. Feb. 2013. >http://www.cityofws.org/Home/DiscoverWinston-Salem/History/Articles/SalemMayorsBiographies

“University of Virginia Library Online Exhibits: All the Hoos in Hooville.” University of Virginia Library. University of Virginia, n.d. Web. Accessed Feb. 2013. http://explore.lib.virginia.edu/exhibits/show/hoos/fabled-faculty/william-m–thornton

Vogler, Lisetta Maria. Lisetta Maria Vogler Diary. 1831. 1172-z. The Southern Historical Collection. Wilson Library at the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Accessed 22 Feb. 2013 . http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/v/Vogler,Lisetta_Maria.html.

Transcription and annotation author: Jessica Albano
Date:  March 2013
Cite as: Albano, Jessica, annotator. 13 December 1874 Henry Fries Letter. DC0029s. <http://libraries.davidson.edu/archives/digital-collections/henry-elias-fries-letter-13-december-1874>.

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