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and John (1812-1895) Waddel
Log Cabin Schools
They were schoolmasters, and their
name was a schoolboy's dream. It was "waddle" as the duck does. When some in the
family wished to change the pronunciation to a frenchified Wa-DELL, Dr. John
said, "No, I have waddled thus far, and I'll waddle on to the end."
Moses Waddel, the father, was born in North Carolina in 1770. He graduated from Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, studied theology, and was preaching in the South Carolina and Georgia area in 1792.
It was common at the time for ministers to keep an academy. Very often, the best work was done in the academy rather than in the rounds of church visitation and preaching.
In the larger towns of the South there were a few "free" schools, but they were severely limited to a few. The Presbyterians were especially active in establishing academies to serve the middle class. (Usually the rich Southern planters had private tutors for their children before sending them to England to" finish.")
Talmage in The Story of the Synod of Georgia, remarked: "In fact nearly every Presbyterian minister of the time conducted a school in his parish: (because) first . . . competent teachers were few; second . . . the income was (necessary) . . . to maintain . . . the ministry."
In order to serve small congregations, the ministers had to labor at other jobs, as, for that matter, had the Apostle Paul in tentmaking. These jobs were usually teaching or planting.
The most famous of these academies was that of Dr. Moses Waddel. Dr. "Waddle" was known throughout the South. He was its most famous ante-bellum teacher. It was felt his teaching had brought out those traits which make for prominence.
Because of his roster of success, the school of Dr. Moses Waddel was called the "American Eton." The alumni included Vice President and Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, Sen. William Harris of Georgia, Sen. Howell Cobb of Georgia, Sen. George McDuffie of South Carolina; Hugh Legare, founder of the Southern Review, William Crawford, Secretary of the Treasury; A. B. Longstreet, author; then five governors, nine members of Congress, six judges, and a number of teachers, clergymen and lawyers of Southern society.
The most effective academy in the Georgia-South Carolina area before Dr. Waddel's was run by another Presbyterian minister. The Rev. William McWhir, a native of Ireland and a graduate of Belfast College, came to America in 1783. Dr. McWhir became headmaster of an academy in Alexandria, Virginia. George Washington was a trustee of the school, and the two of them became friends.
The story is that one evening at dinner at Mount Vernon, instead of asking Dr. McWhir to say grace before dinner, George Washington said it himself. When Martha Washington remonstrated with her husband that he had not asked the clergyman present, replied Washington, "I desire clergymen as well as others to know I am not a graceless man."
Dr. McWhir left for Sunbury, Georgia, to become head of the Sunbury Academy in 1793. There the school under Dr. McWhir produced four governors, six congressmen, and fifty preachers of different denominations. He was strict disciplinarian who used the rod.
Dr. McWhir went as a minister to Florida for a time because no one else would. He was for some years the only minister in the territory. He organized the first Presbyterian congregation of Florida in 1824 at St. Augustine. Later he went home to Georgia where he lived to be ninety-three. His favorite beverage was buttermilk with rum.
Dr. Waddel began his ministry in the rich coastal area of South Carolina. He is recorded as having served the John's Island Church in 1793 and 1796. This congregation was composed of wealthy rice planters. The church owned slaves and rented them for income in ante-bellum days. Dr. Waddel felt the moral poisoning of "the rich, the rice and the slaves." Consequently he left for the pioneer upcountry of the southeast, as then undeveloped, to found a school away from these corrupting tidewater influences.
Dr. Waddel set up his "Presbyterian Academy" in upcountry South Carolina at Willington in 1804. He married into the leading Scotch-Irish Presbyterian family of the area, the Calhouns. Catherine, his first wife, the older sister of John C. Calhoun, was to live only one year. It was enough time for the young John to become attached to Dr. Waddel as a teacher.
His first academy was a two-room log cabin in a clearing in the woods, but if the buildings were unsophisticated, the education was not. Students read and translated authors in the original tongues of Latin, Greek and Hebrew. They were exposed to the great and humane minds of those who established Western culture.
The school of Dr. Waddel was also a Biblical one. A Hebrew ram's horn, which in the Bible called the Israelites to repentance, was sounded to wake the scholars, to call them to recitations, and for evening prayers beneath the trees at night.
Many of the students who came from a distance stayed with nearby farmers and walked or rode horses to school every day. Finally, log cabins were built as houses for the boys, and the students could stay on campus.
The final plan of the school was a central building of logs with four large teaching rooms, a log church in which Dr. Waddel preached and log cabins for the boys around these two main buildings. The school rested in a clearing in the woods where the boys hunted and trapped after hours.
This frontier life of closeness to nature, pioneer living, the exploration of classical books, devotional life, and a clear and realistic eye (a morality this close to nature had to be realistic) represented a unique view as well as a high point of the Southern educational experience. (This forest school idea was based on William Tennent's "log cabin college," twenty miles north of Philadelphia, which was the parent of Princeton College in the 18th century.)
The enrollment in Dr. Waddel's academy was 180 a year, including day and board students. The longest lesson ever done was by George McDuffie, later Senator from South Carolina, who translated 1212 lines in Latin from the poet, Horace, in one recitation.
There was a form of student government. Monitors who were students made reports of any rules broken to the Doctor, who held court on Mondays for possible infractions.
The Presbyterian preaching that was heard by boys as well as adults was not light. Typical of the time was Dr, George Baxter who preached beneath the trees to a large congregation of pioneers near Goshen Pass in 1822. He supported his text, "The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest," translated from the Biblical tongue, by arguments from Voltaire, Rosseau, Hume, and several others of intellectual consequence.*
Ordinarily these sermons were given in churches from high pulpits placed dramatically above the congregation. The low pulpits or "sacred desks" were changes of the Victorian era (1837-1901). However, the high point of the Christian life was not preaching but the Lord's Table.
On Holy Communion Sundays a long table was placed down the center aisle. a shorter table was placed cross-wise at the top. On these was communion silver. Pieces of silver for the Lord's Tables, dated 1789, are still at First (Scots) Church in Charleston, South Carolina. These are a large tankard for the wine, two chalices with their covers, and a plate for bread. At the beginning of the service, the silver laden tables were covered with white linen.
Those partaking of the Lord's Table were expected to seat themselves around the tables. But in order to have a seat at the table, the member had to give an elder of the church a token. These were "communion tokens."
It was the case in Dr. Waddel's church, but definitely not in all churches, to give communion tokens. These tokens were given by the Session to those members, in their opinion, living righteous lives. An elder of the church took tokens as the members went to be seated at the aisle tables.
When an officer of the American Revolution, Colonel Thomas Taylor, upon whose plantation Columbia, the capital of South Carolina was built, was converted at a Communion service, he stumbled towards the Lord's Table in a daze of emotion. Having been an Anglican, he was unfamiliar with Presbyterian customs, and when an elder held forth his hand for a token, Col. Taylor gave him a piece of money.
Taylor was later founder of the First Presbyterian Church of Columbia where, after a controversy over a downtown building lot, the Presbyterians and Anglicans rolled dice to see who would get the location. The Presbyterians said to cast lots was approved in the Bible, rolled the bones and won.
The most elegant tokens in America were those of the Presbyterian Church, Charleston, marked 1800. The tokens were made of silver in London probably after the fashion of the Crown Chapel, London, which is also known to have used silver tokens.
One side of the tokens had on it the cup and plate of the Lord's Table. The other side had the Seal of the Church of Scotland, and beneath it the Latin motto: Nec tamen consumebatur, meaning "nevertheless, it was not consumed." A part of the Seal of the Church of Scotland, the burning bush that was not consumed by its flames was when a voice out of the flaming bush told Moses to go to Egypt to rescue the Israelites in captivity.
Those members who traveled took Communion passes from their home Sessions. One for John Black, an elder, of Providence Church, Matthews, one of the seven historic churches of Mecklenberg County, North Carolina reads: "We do certify that John Black hath resided in Providence Congregation...and hath been a Member of Session seven years past and...in full communion and no misconduct known to us and may be admitted to privileges of any church communion where God in His providence may order his lot." Sept. 23, 1793.
Although this scared passport is dated after the Revolution, John Black had probably been carrying one earlier. As befitted a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian from Mecklenberg County he was a patriot. He was given a commission in the American Revolution, dated May 16, 1783 by Governor John Rutledge of South Carolina, "To John Black, Gentleman," making of him a "first lieutenant of a troop of horses." Lt. Black was captured two days later, May 18, by the British and placed in Forbay's Prison Ship, Charleston Harbor.
Dr. Waddel organized the Presbyterian Church at Willington, South Carolina, in 1813. In addition to his school, he held services on Sundays for the congregation. Mary Moragne Davis reported that his sermons emphasized Christian doctrines, particularly the duty of "secret prayer," and he usually finished on this theme.
He was fortunate in his congregation, having Scotch-Irish who valued schooling in their sermons, as well as French Huguenots of the colony of near-by New Bordeaux who had a tradition of intellectuality. His sermons inclined more to instruction than evangelism.
Dr. Waddel was a man of medium
height. He had an unusually large head, an intense gaze and bushy eyebrows. His
gaze stopped boys' cold. He was to enforce, according to an alumni, A. B.
Longstreet, who prepared for Yale, and wrote a novel about it, Master William
Mitten, "plain dressing, plain eating, hard working, close studying, close
watching," and if need be a "good whipping."
The boys called him "Old Moses," and while he believed in corporal punishment, he never spanked in a passion, and it finally evolved that he did this only upon a verdict of a peer jury of students. He never spanked for a deficient lesson but chiefly for defects in morals or actions that had to be punished.
He was a cheerful man even playful in his disposition. He maintained a personal interest in each boy. He had a wry sense of humor. When boys on second floor dumped water on him as he went in a door, he said nothing, but later raised an umbrella as he went in the door to the delight of the boys.
His strength seems to have been to analyze the boys accurately, then demanded accordingly. He was not a man who used sentiment to escape facing the laziness of adolescence. He demanded. They groaned, they gave, they griped, they worshiped him later. There was a chestnut tree outside the Doctor's study window that the boys remembered watching as they waited to see the Doctor if they had done anything wrong. Others would climb it to see if anyone was punished by him.
Dr. Smith, the president of Princeton College, was quoted as saying that he received no students from any school in the United States who stood better examinations than those of Dr. Waddel.
After the early death of Catherine Calhoun Waddel, Dr. Waddel remained close to the Calhoun family, but after a time he went to Virginia where he married Elizabeth Pleasants. The couple returned to South Carolina where they maintained the school and cultivated a farm.
Dr. Waddel and his wife were, like most well-to-do people of the day and area, slave holders. Most of his slaves were the result of family inheritance, and he bought the husbands and wives that his "people" made outside his own farm, so that families could stay together. No cruel treatment was permitted. A large slave holder in the neighborhood criticized Dr. Waddel's humane treatment of his slaves by remarking that "Dr. Waddel's treatment of his slaves was calculated to ruin all the Negroes in the neighborhood."
Moses and Elizabeth Waddel had six children. One of these sons, John Newton Waddel, was to be a very noted educator-minister in the tradition of his father. John Newton Waddel was named for the Englishman, John Newton, who wrote the words for the hymn, "Amazing Grace." Dr. Waddel named another son, Issac Watts, after the theologian who wrote the words for "Oh, God, Our Help In Ages Past."
A teacher and colleague of Dr. Waddel was another John Newton, an early Presbyterian minister in Georgia. The American John Newton preached as a missionary on the Georgia frontier, founded churches, had a log cabin church at Lexington, Georgia, burned by Indians, and, dying young, his body was buried beneath the pulpit there.
The American Newton was one of five ministers who formed the first Presbytery in Georgia in 1797. He died the same year. Tales were told in Lexington for many years that his ghost could be seen preaching in the pulpit behind the minister, and that war cries could be heard. (The first minister ordained in Georgia, John Springer, his congregation of pioneers having no church, was ordained in1790 by the laying on of hands as he knelt "beneath the shade of a popular tree.")
As Dr. Moses was in his time the most famous schoolmaster in the South, he was asked to become President of the young University of Georgia. He began this job in 1819. Naturally, he took the Presbyterianism with him. On Christmas day, 1820, he organized the First Presbyterian Church of Athens, Georgia.
Dr. Waddel stayed at the University of Georgia for ten years. He saw it grow from seven students to over one hundred. He then retired to the Willington Academy, which he gradually turned over to his son, John, but the father continued to preach and teach until he died in 1840.
In his old age Dr. Waddel performed a marriage ceremony, became befuddled, and made the groom promise to be an obedient wife. Dr. Waddel was not without flaws. It was felt by his physicians that one of the causes of his premature decay in age was the "excessive use of tobacco." Mary Moragne, a very refined young lady of the Victorian period, remarked that Dr. Waddel had a "low taste for profane swearing."
After his father's death, John Waddel decided, in the fashion of many of this time, to move further west, to set up a school in Mississippi, then a rich and promising frontier area.
Ordained a minister by the Presbytery of Mississippi in 1841, he established in the pine forest at Montrose, about sixty miles from Jackson, a replica of the school at Willington.
A large number from the area enrolled immediately in this school of log cabins. The curriculum was much the same: Latin, Greek, mathematics, higher English literature, while Dr. John Waddel preached every Sunday morning.
Several years later Dr. John was one of the organizers of the University of Mississippi. He was, after the War between the States, to become head of it for about ten years. He was to write a short history of the University. He was far seeing in that while Chancellor, he made a tour of American colleges to see what could be done to improve things at his home college.
The War Between the States made the Presbyterians split into two organizations. It was, perhaps, inevitable. Several other Protestant denominations were also cut in two. The Presbyterian Church in the South became a denomination in itself.
The issue at hand in the split was that the General Assembly (National) in Philadelphia in May 1861, in a burst of nationalism had passed the famous Gardiner Spring Resolutions which said all Presbyterians had to uphold the Federal government. Since the Confederacy was a fact at this time, the Presbyterians in the South had no choice. It was an invitation to leave.
A new organization of churches from thirteen Southern states met in Augusta, Georgia to set up a new structure. John Newton Waddel was duly elected the Stated
Clerk. (In the War the hope of his family, his seventeen year old son, Gray, who volunteered for the Confederate army, was killed in a battle below Atlanta.)
There was no immediate denominational reunification after the Confederate War. The members of the thirteen states took on the name "The Presbyterian Church in the United States." The Presbyterians elsewhere called theirs the same except they used "of America" at the end. So it became the confusing U.S. and U.S.A. Church- "Southern" and "Northern."
In the years of Reconstruction John Waddel headed the University he helped to organized at Oxford in Mississippi. In 1879, he became Secretary of Education for the Presbyterians at large, and in 1879 became head of Southwestern College in Tennessee. His health failed in 1888 and he died in 1895.
In his later years, he was called "conservative by age, wisdom, and experience." He carried this to a fault. It was the custom at the time not to have regular Sunday offerings but to "pass the hat" for special occasions. Otherwise the budgeted income of the church came from pews rented or sold. When the General Assembly of 1868 discussed changing to collection plates, and it was pointed out some hats were "greasy slouches," John Waddel cast the deciding vote to stick with the hats because a hat had always been used. In such a case of entrenched conservatism as Dr. Waddel's preferring a greasy slouch to a collection plate, he was aesthetically blind. (A permanent pew in First Presbyterian, Richmond, in 1816 cost $400, while in 1845 yearly pew rent was $5 in Second Church.)
The death of Dr. Waddel, fils, called to mind the great Moses Waddel, pere, and "the American Eton," fashioned from the logs in the Southern forests, and their devotion to the faith. Together they had spent one hundred years in the ministry. The refusal to pretend that had characterized the Waddels was also rehashed. How Dr. John would look down at his family and say dryly, "We have waddled this far and we will waddle through to the end."
The end came at a time when the private academies of the South were being phased out. Public education came late to the South. When it came many who had Presbyterian academies turned them into public schools. The anticipation of public education delighted them.
Presbyterians like N.W. McAulay of South Carolina, who founded McAulay's Academy in Seneca in the late 1870's transferred their interests to public schooling, and by 1888 he was Commissioner of Education for the county.
The Academy of Broadway, North Carolina, was another such example. Established by M.A. McLeod in the 1890's at the request of his brother, the Rev. Kenneth McLeod who was preaching locally, the school gave status to the small community and helped to transform the moral tone. McLeod was the first mayor and gave land for the Presbyterian Church. The ideal of public education was one he long sought, and he happily redirected his energies towards public schools. He was to become the local school superintendent.
In this fashion, many Presbyterians all over the South shifted their emphasis and interest to the public schools, resigning the tradition of John Knox of a school in the shadow of every church. It was a movement perhaps historically inevitable, but it would be foolish to overlook the social loss.
Colleges were to come from some of these academies that began as secondary schools. This took place up and down the entire frontier. The number was remarkable. Today a stained glass window in the Brick Church, New York, has the coats of arms of many Presbyterian colleges which were once academies on it.
In 1977 the sense of Presbyterian history in education was very evident when the University of Georgia opened a center dedicated to international law housed in Waddel Hall, named after Moses, the fifth President of the University. This new Rusk Center for International and Comparative Law was named for its head, ex-Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, the son of a Georgia clergyman.
It is good and necessary for people and traditions to change, but bad for them to forget and, as Rusk set up office in Waddel Hall, it was obvious that the Presbyterian tradition in the South was evolving to meet the needs of the time, but the faith symbolized by Moses Waddel was still leaving a very clear imprint.
N.B. Presbyterian sermons set their ministers apart. Often these sermons were intellectual events. They were criticized as being too cold and above the heads of common people, however, who, in the words of C.A. Beard wanted a "gospel of hell-fire and salvation."
On the other hand the Presbyterian sermons were one of the appealing qualities of the church to some. J.D. Davidson in 1853 believed Louisiana was ripe for a new Presbytery since some of the people were "worn out with the prattle of uneducated men."
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