The Eclectic Institute

Application to Trustees—Colloquy—Engages to Ring the Bell and Sweep Floors—Hiram Described—Hinsdale’s View of the School —Interview with the Principal—Roomed with Four Others— Promptness—Doing Things Well—Talk with his Room-mate— Testimony of Another Bell-ringer—A Woman’s Description of Him—Most “Popular” Student—Why—The Library and Reading— His Plan Explained—Importance of Reading Systematically —Letter of James Six or Eight Years After—The Spirit Stirring within Him—Planting Trees on the Campus, and their Names— A Female Student Rebuked—The Joke of it—His Keen Sense of Justice—A Case

Several weeks would intervene before the commencement of the term at Hiram; and James looked about for work, that he might add to his funds for an education. He was planning now to lay up money to assist himself through college. He found jobs to occupy his time fully until he would leave to enter the Eclectic Institute.

It was the last of August, 1851, when James reached Hiram. The board of trustees was in session. Proceeding directly to the institution, he accosted the janitor.

“I want to see the principal of the Institute,” he said.

“He is engaged with the board of trustees, who are in session now,” replied the janitor.

“Can I see him, or them?”

“Probably; I will see.” And the janitor went directly to the room of the trustees, and announced:

“A young man at the door, who is desirous to see the board at once.”

“Let him come in,” answered the chairman.

James presented himself politely, though, perhaps, awkwardly.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “I am anxious to get an education, and have come here to see what I can do.”

“Well, this is a good place to obtain an education,” answered the chairman, without waiting for James to proceed further. “Where are you from?”

“From Orange. My name is James Abram Garfield. I have no father; he died when I was an infant. My mother is widow Eliza Garfield.”

“And you want what education this institution can furnish?”

“Yes, sir, provided I can work my way.”

“Then you are poor?”

“Yes, sir; but I can work my way. I thought, perhaps, that I could have the chance to ring the bell, and sweep the floors, to pay part of my bills.”

“How much have you been to school?”

“I have attended Geauga Seminary three years, teaching school in the winter.”

“Ah! then you are quite advanced?”

“No, not very far advanced. I have commenced Latin and Greek.”

“Then you think of going to college?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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