Henry Secrist Letters
1854-1855

These letters were written to the great grandfather of James Hartline, Frederick Hartline (xx May 1828 - 11 Mar 1901) and generously shared with 
us by James.

08 Jan 1854 

 Letter, Henry Secrist, age unknown, Ontario Collegiate Institute, LaGrange, Indiana to his friend, Frederick Hartline, age 25, Franklin Twp, Tuscarawas, Ohio.

"The Ushering in of Another year brings to mind the question of how many of us will see the last sunset of 1854.  It is something to think on.  It may be possible that you and I may be cut off from existence before the year is half out.  It always makes a kind of good feeling to everyone when Christmas or New Years comes.  There is one thing certain that we are nearer the grave, yet people amidst all of this will carouse about between these holidays. 

But that is a subject that could be written on by everyone.  It appears human nature in all its wisdom wishes the time to speed on with rapidity to drown their solemn thoughts to hurry them through the world without even reflecting for a minute that every year that rolls around brings their time still nearer to the grave.  These lines have been penned by me while in solemn thought. 

I am now going to school in Ontario.  Elias is going to school with me now.  I went 1 month before he came back home.  I do not know how long I will go here.  It costs $25 per quarter
including everything, boarding $1.50 a week and tuition $3 per quarter.  A student can board himself for 75 cts a week and a good many do it.  There is at present about 60 students here. 

There is also some fine young ladies going here now; about 1/2 the students is female.  I am studying Arithmetic, Grammar, Algebra and Philosophy and find plenty to do.  Elias is Studying Arithmetic and Grammar. 

I hardly know what I shall do the coming summer.  I do think of going to Indianapolis the 1st of March, but I wrote to the principal of the Commercial College there and I find that the expenses are about $65 per quarter.  I also wanted to know about a situation and he informed me that depended altogether on the Character and qualifications of the person.  If I could get employment as soon as I graduated I would go and think the expenses moderate but I hardly think that I shall.  I won't have enough money to go a full course after going here these months.  Therefore I must content myself with taking chances as they come. 

Abraham Gnagy was at our home on the 28th and 29th of December.  He has taken some jobs on the Railroad  such as building bridges.  Tell everybody I am well."                                                          

Henry Secrist.

27 Mar 1854 

 Letter, Henry Secrist, Ontario Collegiate Institute, LaGrange County, Indiana, age unknown, to his friend, Frederick Hartline, age 26, Franklin Twp, Tuscarawas, Ohio.

 
"The present opportunity has been offered to me and now I will give you a few lines to let you know that I am well.  The reason that I did not write sooner was that I was kept busy at the studies that I had taken up.  I am studying 5 at this time.  All go along very well, although Algebra is middling hard and blind yet I think that I can master it in time.

 I am studying Astronomy.  It is a great study.  It raises the mind to a higher sphere than a man can imagine.  It elevates man to think of those Innumerable Worlds that twinkle through the Celestial Heavens.  Those worlds revolving around their common center of gravity.  Think for one moment that if man was to start for one of those brilliant planets, say Levenier, it would take him 2,800 years going at the rate of 100 miles an hour and he might start at the sun and at that age he might reach that world that is 1,000 times larger than ours. 

 I am now busy engaged in preparing for an Exhibition that is to come March 29th.  We have to get up our own pieces.  My subject is the Growth of the United States.  I have written it and have it all committed ready to offer forth.   It is going to be a trial to get up before 500 people and speak but I am and I am determined to stand my post.  When you receive this I will be at home.  There is a vacation of 2 weeks.  I am going all summer and if no preventing Providence I will try to obtain a good Education.
                                                            
Elias has left school.  I don't know what he is doing now for I have not heard from him since he left home.  I hardly know what else to write but still accept these lines as a token of respect to you.  Give my respects to Michael Eberly and Wife and all Old Connections.  When you write again let me know more about that Railroad that is running through your plains.  No more, but Yours with Respect.

 My mind is agitated from the hard study that I went into this winter.  I would study at nights from ten minutes to 11 and then be up at 5 in the morning.  I put myself through but I can't stand it all the time and I will not study as hard this summer."                                              Henry Secrist.

16 Jun 1854

  Letter, Henry Secrist, age unknown, Ontario Collegiate Institute, LaGrange County, Indiana to his friend, Frederick Hartline, Franklin Twp, Tuscarawas County, Ohio.

 
"It is with much pleasure that I adopt the present opportunity of addressing you.  At the present time, I am able to say, my health is yet what I wish it to be.  I am going to school yet.  This term will close July 5th.

 Allow me to give you an imaging idea of my situation:  in the first place, imagine you are standing with your back to the North, facing the South, behind you is the beautiful little village of Ontario, still a little further North is the Little Pigeon River which moves so nicely to meet the Father of Waters.

Then return your position and imagine you see a building as the Strasburg Meeting House with a cupola rising in the center and suspended to it a bell which your humble servant has the privilege of ringing about a dozen times a day.
          
Then think you are entering the Temple of Instruction a little distance from your entering door and you will be received into the Chapel by Mr. Warren, who is assistant teacher and is instructing at the time of your admittance the young Striplings in Discounts, square roots or unraveling the Algebraic problems to older students like myself.  

 Then return out from the place in which you entered and on the outside of that door you will see a pair of stairs.  If you go up them you will reach the hall above where you will be welcomed by the Principal, Mr. Patch.  Here is where he is hearing classes recite in Latin and Greek and Geometry.  
                                                            
Cast you eye to the left and you will see at the first room through an eyehole (cut out by someone in Violation of good principles) the subject of this letter pouring over his Latin, reading the life of Joseph, or his brains puzzled with some hard sum or is tearing about the room trying to scratch it out of his head.  

Then imagine that you see him seated at meal time before a temporary table partaking of the repast which he has prepared with his own hands.  If you can see such a picture before your mind you have a correct view of my present situation; yet I feel better and happier here in such a place than to be seated around the most Luscuriant and spread table or live with the gay and charming youths in some beautiful house.  

But still I have to sacrifice a great deal of earthly pleasure for the sake of obtaining what I am seeking after; still if I am aided by the care of Providence I expect someday to receive a reward for my persevering efforts of trying to obtain an Education; that thing which raises man from the low degrading path of ignorance which prepares him for future usefulness and then he is prepared to meet the incessant difficulties which awaits him on his entrance into the busy scenes of life.
 
My determination is to have an Education at all honors.  Probably I shall go to school 2 or 3 years.  My present studies are Arithmetic, Latin and Algebra.  Latin is good but a hard study, although anyone can study that has any  memory at all.  It is not like mathematics for which there are problems that no one can solve, but with Latin anyone with an attentive memory can accomplish it.  

I have been studying nearly 3 months and now I am reading.  Elias is in Pennsylvania this summer; he went with Solomon.  I would like to hear from you and how things are in the Plains.  Give me some of the incidents that happen occasionally there.  I would like you to answer this as soon as you receive it because I will not be here more than a month no more."          Henry Secrist.

21 Nov 1854

  Letter, Henry Secrist, age unknown, Ontario Collegiate Institute, LaGrange County, Indiana to his friend, Frederick Hartline, Franklin Twp, Tuscarawas, Ohio.
 

"I am permitted by the Act of Providence to address a few lines to you and let you know that I am well at present and hope that these few lines will find you all enjoying the Same Blessing.
 
I wrote to you just before I left Ohio and have received no answer.  I am going to school to the Ontario Academy.  I am studying Arithmetic, Grammar and Geography and All kinds of Devilment.  I have been here about 4 weeks and will continue Untill March 1st and I am going to work on the Railroad awhile if nothing happens.  Myself and my cousin, Solomon Secrist,  will be in there by May 1st on our way to Pennsylvania.  
 
I will give you a Statement of the Weather.  We have a cold winter here so far and lots of good sledding and there is a good coat of snow.  Now wages are good here.  Winter hands get $1 a day and boarded too.  All kinds of marketing is higher.  Wheat is $1.20 bushel, corn 40, oats 37, butter 18, and Pork $5 per 100#.
 
I would like to know whether you would like to sell a couple of books that you got before we left Ohio.  They are "Crockets Comical Speeches", or "Mince Pie for the Millions".  If you will take what you gave for them, that is if you have got them yet."                                             Henry Secrist.

18 Jun 1855                                                    

  Letter, Henry Secrist, age unknown, Ontario Collegiate Institute, LaGrange County, Indiana, to his friend, Frederick Hartline, age 26, Franklin Twp, Tuscarawas, Ohio.
 
"With a desire to know how you are prospering in life I concluded to write something in the form of a letter.  Wishing to hear from my Old Beloved Home again and the news of the day with the various changes which are continually going on in the world and particularly in Tuscarawas County which would be more interesting to me than any other news of the day.
 
I am attending school at the Ontario Academy in LaGrange County and am studying Latin and Algebra.  I am reading 'Caeser's Commentaries', a Latin work.  The school closes July 3rd and then a vacation of 2 months.  I expect to return again in the fall.  My object is to acquire a good education and by so doing I am compelled to teach in the winter and with my labor in vacations can accumulate enough to pay my way and clothe myself respectfully.  I can go to school at least 6 months out of a year.  I taught last winter and received $19 per month and board.
 
The coming winter I expect higher wages.  I am going to school 1 year yet and then will be prepared to enter college at Ann Arbor, Michigan.  I don't know whether I will take a full collegiate course.  It will be owing to circumstances and to my advancement in learning.   Be that as it may, my motto is "Go on".  Bright laurels are ready for those at the end of the race for those that conquer.  
 
I have difficulties and discouragement almost sinks me to rise no more in the path of knowledge.  But the most distinguished names in the annals of history went up through tribulation and obstacles of every kind presented themselves, yet with the ambition of a Bonaparte they have surmounted every impediment.  With such examples on record, the student, no matter what may be his situation in life, though he be the son of a rich man or a poor daily laborer, yet there is always hope when industry and perseverance once are combined in the same individual.
                                                                  
Father's family are well, or was when I head from them.  Elias and Joel are in Pennsylvania this summer.  They will be out here in the fall.  Elias is earning $18 and Joel $15 per month.  I expect to go to hard work soon.  We have taken a crop of wheat to cut at $1.50 per acre.  
 
There has been only 3 days of hot weather yet and from the appearance of things will doubtly be a cold summer.  I would like to have the full particulars of affairs in your country, Frederick, if you can please.  I feel particularly discouraged today.  We had a very hard Algebra lesson today and I came out rather minus, but Study will Accomplish the Result.  
                                                                   
This county has undergone a great improvement since you have been out here.  I do not feel like entering the marriage state yet.  Plenty of chances but I must Decline all offers at present until a more convenient season.  My compliments to all acquaintances young and old great and small, male and female.  I must close for the bell will call us to study soon." 
                                                                Henry Secrist.


More information on the Ontario Collegiate institute can be found here-
History and General Catalogue of LaGrange Collegiate Institute

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