Thursday, August 8, 2013

Recollections Discovered

            There was a time when Smith Hall, known then as College Home, served as the dwelling for President Rufus Wright Smith and his family as well as student boarders.  “Uncle Rufus” as he was affectionately called, assumed the presidency of LaGrange Female College in 1885, leasing the College from the Methodist Church.  He remained as president until his death in 1915.  During his tenure his wife Oreon and a number of their adult children and their spouses served as faculty members, staff members and officers of administration.   Throughout the years the number of Smith family members actually living in College Home fluctuated, but the sweetness of that time and the closeness of the cousins who lived there together created a loving bond which lasted all of their days.      

            This charming photograph, circa 1904, pictures members of the Smith family on the steps of College Home, renamed for Oreon Mann Smith in 1911.  The identification of Sam and his brother Frank was added years later by Sam Hill himself, whose mother Claire, was the daughter of President and Mrs. Smith.  Following the death of his mother, the then four year old Sam, and his siblings spent a number of years in the care of their beloved aunt, Miss Maidee Smith.   Mr. Hill treasured this photograph and his childhood recollections.

            Isabel Smith Ratliff, daughter of Rev. Hubert M. Smith and granddaughter of Rufus Wright Smith also treasured her memories of those times.  Both her father and mother served as faculty members.  In 1901 after an absence of several years her father returned to the College to teach and history and then to serve as vice president from 1903 until 1908.  Although Mr. Hill was not able to identify the other cousins in the photograph years later when he added the notations, it is quite possible that Isabel, born about 1898, is also pictured.  

            Included in Mr. Hill’s collection of family memorabilia is a copy of his Cousin Isabel’s volume of poetry, While the Iron is Hot.  Published in 1970 and sent to him by Mrs. Ratliff, the book includes several poems based on memories of her early Georgia childhood.  Shortly afterward she also sent copies of “some poems that need polishing up a bit, but may interest you, anyway.”  Among these additional poems recalling the College years is “Bedlam” which captures the essence of that time when the cousins shared their college home.      


Seven little cousins on THE HILL;

Seven little cousins never were still;

Seven had the whooping cough,

And if that wasn’t enough,

They ate seven dozen batty-cakes

And had seven dozen stomach aches.


When their mothers kept them in

There was such a howl and din,

running up and down the hall,

Chasing, racing, playing ball;

Then they whooped like everything,

And, brother, did the welkin ring!


So the uncles and the aunts

Came and tanned their little pants.

The photograph, correspondence from Isabel Smith Ratliff and the gift copy of While the Iron Is Hot which includes handwritten notes by the author were presented to LaGrange College by Patricia Hill Schmidt, daughter of Sam Hill and great-granddaughter of Rufus Wright Smith.

Prepared by:

Visit the Archives to discover for yourself the collection of rich resources which preserve the history of LaGrange College.  Generous and often unexpected donations insure that the collection continues to expand.  Displays on the main floor of Lewis Library and just outside Suber Archives on the ground floor of the Library provide a sampling of our holdings.  Let us know if we can be of assistance. 

Suber Archives and Special Collections

Frank and Laura Lewis Library

LaGrange College

LaGrange, Georgia


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