Students Bury Book

Mon., Dec. 15, 1856

At the end of the Fall 1856 session, students from the Junior and Senior classes gathered to bury Asa Mahan's Intellectual Philosophy, a book which students found an "abominable bore."  The copy belonged to Prof. Herman Merrills Johnson (tenure 1850-1868) before students stole it from him and conducted the ceremony.  Horatio Collins King (Class of 1856) described the processions in his journal:

"At 11 o'clock the officers elect met in Slape's [Albert Henry Slape, Class of 1858] room, and in a few minutes marched to South College, where we took up the bier (a white window shutter) on which in a black-box lay Mahan's Intellectual Philosophy shrouded in black. ... W.J. Stevenson [Class of 1858] opened the services by an Oration on the life and services of Mahan, which was very good.  After this Gough [Harrison Dorsey Gough, Class of 1858] read a very appropriate poem, with a number of good bits.  The procession then re-formed, bier supported by six pall-bearers in front, Cloud [Daniel Mountjoy Cloud, Class of 1858] and myself next, the Juniors as chief mourners, and then the Seniors, about half of them with lamps and candles, and marched with solemn tread down Main Street to the Campus gate, which entered, we proceeded towards West College up the main path, thence down the North & South path, to the S.W. corner of the campus, where was Hulsey [Jennings Marion Clark Hulsey, Class of 1858] - the sexton - standing by the open grave.  The first Ode - to the tune of 'Auld Lang Syne' was sung with spirit, after which I read my Sermon, of fifteen minutes length: during which the coffin was lowered and the earth dropped lightly in. ... I then pronounced a blessing, and we started toward our rooms yelling and howling most piteously.  During the exercises we were of course occasionally interrupted by sobs and loud wailing. ... Farewell Old Mahan: may you be forever, in that silent and chilly grave, undisturbed, unchanged."

In January, when students and faculty returned to the college, a townsperson of Carlisle grew suspicious of the disturbed earth in the middle of the campus and called in a professor and the coroner to inspect what he believed to be a small grave.  Naturally, digging into the earth revealed the buried book, rather than a body.  Students did not admit to having buried the book even after the incident.

Event Type: 

Journal of Horatio Collins King, Class of 1858