Letter from J.M. Wells to his mother

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Letter from J.M. Wells to his mother


J.M. Wells’s (HSC Student in 1890) letter to his mother giving detailed description of HSC geography. Letter donated by Sarah Wells Blakely.


Hampden-Sydney Archives & Special Collections




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Original Format



Hampden Sidney, Va.
Oct. 5” 90

My dear mother:

I suppose the first thing you will want me to tell you about will be the state of my health; and in regard to that I can say “quite well thank you”. I can resume my studies in the morning, and before that I won’t be troubled any more. The rain has at least ceased and I am sitting by my front window looking out on a lovely view. Right under me lies the Seminary campus with its grand oaks and hickories -- there across the main street of the village a level meadow and beyond that the college campus and buildings. But I believe I promised sometime to give you a description of my surroundings here and now is a good a time as any. I will draw you a map of the “Hill” as it is called, though there is not much hill about it that I can see. If my distances are not correct just attribute it to lack of room on the paper and not to lack of knowledge on my part. Here goes.

[A hand drawn map of the campus follows indicating buildings of note, such as the chapel and dormitory, as well as homes of individual faculty]

Now I consider that map a work of art. If I had time I would write a geography or make an atlas, but my stars, I don’t even have time to go see the girls, let alone do such a foolish thing as I have spoken above. Now let me describe this work of art minutely. The house in the N.E. you see is labeled Prof. Holliday. The square is not intended to represent the Prof. but his house. He has charge of the discipline over at the College, and they put him on the road to Farmville so as to intercept any of the students trying to make their way back to civilization. On the college campus the building nearest the road - excuse me - the street is the new Ceremonial(?) Hall they have just finished. It is a neat building of brick and terra cotta, having the Chapel on the first floor, recreation rooms on the second and the Society halls on the third. The large building is used for dormitories. It is four stories high and belongs to the _____ style of architecture. It is very old and rather _____, but still safe and sound. The mess hall is two stories high, built of brick. Next is the President’s house, where Misses Anne and Martha McIlwaine, two exceedingly pretty young ladies, live. Then the church, built by Dr. Dabney during his stay here, after his own plan. It is brick, and is very ugly and the acoustics are not good. Then the stores and post office, which need no explanation. Next the mess hall, where the ___ ________ of the seminary eat, and where the married seminites[sic] and some that are not so unfortunate, room. It is a three story brick, built like everything else on the hill, in shape a parallelogram. There a private house rented for rooms for the seminities[sic], S.E. of which lies the base ball and foot ball grounds and tennis courts. There Dr. Smith’s residence old, but very nice. Like everything else here it is of brick. There the Seminary building, three stories high and basement and consisting of a main building and two wings -- though the wings only lack a few feet of being as broad as the main part. The Chapel occupies the first two stories of the main part -- on the third are rooms -- underneath believed(?) is the small chapel where we went every morning. Where the wings join are the stairways in front and recitation rooms behind. The rest of the wings are taken up with dormitories. West of us is Dr. Pecks, then the library, which is the most modern brick building on the hill, unless it be Dr. Moore’s handsome new residence immediately west of it. Then Prof. Blair’s, then Mrs. Long’s, where I board. Opposite is Dr. Dabney’s old place, now occupied by Dr. Latimer. The Seminary and all the other buildings in this row are about fifty yards from the road -- street and have a very pretty sloping lawn in front.

Well enough. You know, now, more about the Hill than I do, and what you do know is not worth uncle(?). I received your last letter yesterday and enjoyed it very much. Am so glad that sister is doing well at school and hope Calvin is doing well likewise. Tell him we boys must not let the girls carry off all the laurels. There are several that I want to write to, but my time is so limited. I really have not the time. Will write to Uncle ____ H soon. I think I told you that he wants me to preach for him next summer, and as experience and money are both precious in my estimation at the present, I expect I will do so. But thus(?) in the future. I am sorry to put you all to the trouble and expense of getting the things for me, but you can’t get anything either decent or reasonable here. Well I have bored you long enough. Love to father and the children and very much for yourself. Write whenever you can conveniently do so. Ask father to write me about his business, both there _______ _______. I am always much interested in it.

With much love,
Your devoted son,

J.W. Wells.




“Letter from J.M. Wells to his mother,” Hampden-Sydney College Digital Repository, accessed June 23, 2024, https://dams.hsc.edu/items/show/411.