To the Treasurer of Colorado College in the year of our Lord Two thousand and one, I, Geo. N. Marden, Treasurer of the said College, in this year of grace ninteen hundred and one send greeting. This message I commit to father time, the unwearied messenger, to be delivered after the earth shall have journeyed a hundred times more around the sun.
I have now been connected with The Colorado College a score of years: first as a teacher, then as the peripatetic representative of the impecunious College, & now, since 1896, as the Treasurer. Having been requested to contribute to the Century Chest "some account of the financial difficulties & struggles of the College, also of the discovery of the man who as President has so grandly led the College since the difficulties of a former period were removed. I will try to give a brief sketch, which, together with the enclosed printed statement by the College, and by The American College and Education Society, will, I suppose, be enough for the purpose of this communication
The darkest days this College has known were between the years 1883 & 1888. It is unnecessary to dwell upon the conditions and causes from which the trouble sprung. The future historian may deal with these. It is enough here to remark that the troubles arose as do most of their kind, from violation of the laws of thrift; not maxims merely, but laws; laws of God, which bind very prayerful men of high purpose and unselfish spirit with the same unrelenting grip they have on other mortals.
In the autumn of 1884 the College opened its doors as usual, & scores of students came. The teachers resumed their work with the understanding that it might end at any time. Their salaries for the previous year were far in arrears. The College was making brick without straw. It could guarantee nothing. It had debts, small credit & less money. Its library was mortgaged; its campus, its apparatus, its very chains and tables were attached. Some persons were giving unwonted proof of their attachment to the College & all its belongings. Lawsuits were on foot and in the air. One of the Professors, now Vice-President of Girard College, had to mortgage his house & finally to sell it at a sacrifice to get bread money. Another, a teacher of marked ability & of great devotion to his work, declared as Christmas was approaching, that for the first time in his life he could not spare a sixpense for presents for his little ones, and that tho' their shoes were full of holes he could not buy them new ones.
That two Professors' families were living on oatmeal though reported was not strictly true. At this juncture it was evident that some one must go east. One of the teachers who was temporarily in charge of the educational work of the College called together the Trustees and said, "Gentlemen, this College is not going to lie down here on the buffalo grass and die. Somebody should go to the Eastern friends & state the facts & get help."
Accordingly one of the teachers was requested to go East. It was anything but an inviting task that fell to my lot. I left my home on Christmas Eve 1884, went to earl old New England, & did the best I could. I found some strong men, naturally hopeful, almost despairing of Colorado College. One, a large hearted pastor of a church of much wealth, afterward declared he had hardly courage enough to day "God bless him." A distinguished Boston merchant, of great liberality, the Hon. Samuel B. Capen, wrote of the Colorado College's representation, "He has the toughest job on his hands of any man I know." The Boston Editor of a leading denominational newspaper remarks that "folks want to see whether Colorado College is going to live before they put out anything in it."
As though it were possible for the college to live in any other way than by being helped! But I found clear heads and warm hearts, Heaven bless them! The first gift was from a Boston woman whose hoard was small but whose spirit was large. The next was from a congregation of sailors & others. Then a beloved physician, Dr. A.U. Burbank, of Yarmouth, Maine, laid down a hundred dollars saying with tremendous emphasis "I give this money to Colorado College not because I ought to but because I love to."
Soon we were enabled to mail a check to each teacher. With what joy were those remittances welcomed! One assistant teacher wrote "never was anything so thankfully received though the Professors' distress is greater than mine yet my need is urgent & I do most heartily thank you for what you have sent, [It was 30$] A gifted Professor was overheard saying to his pastor, "He sent me 60$ which is almost as much as I have received from the college in thirteen months." The wife of another Professor said to my wife "tell Mr. Marden he is all our hope now." In the future history of Colorado College very grateful mention will be made of those teachers who so heroically stood to their tasks. Also to the Trustees both East and West some of whom have served the college from its beginnings. And who have given much time as well as generous sums of money.
Two of the staunchest friends a college was ever blessed with Mr. Henry Cutler of N. Wildraham Massachusetts, and Mr. Samuel Crooks, of Hopkinton Mass. both now gone to their eternal reward, had, with others also lost large sums of money thro' the college mismanagement referred to, yet with a characteristic magnanimity they came to the rescue of the college in its distress. Another Eastern trustee the Rev. Dr. Charles B. Rice of Danvers was most untiring in devotion to the college interest and to his most valuable counsels & self denying labors the college owes a debt it can never repay.
There were covetous eyes on the fine site of the college in those days. Word came to me from Colorado that the Jesuits had been watching us; that they had $50000 conditionally pledged monthly in Denver with which they hoped to secure the college plant in case it should fail to hold its own.
But God had other plans than theirs. Warm praise is due to many strong men of vision who, in the hours of the college's weakness saw it at its best & spoke their faith by words & in deeds. John G. Whittier, Dwight L. Moody, Lyman Abbott, Nathaniel G. Clark, Joseph T. Duryca, Joseph Cook, Mark Hopkins, and many others like minded.
Tried and true friends at the seat of the college, as Gen'l Wm. G. Palmer, Wm. S. Jackson, Irving Howbert, Rev. Richard C. Bristol and others were with Eastern friends helping not only to keep the college alive but to begin an environment.
By 1888 the long night was about past. The clearing up period had come and great was the joy among the friends of the college. The time was ripe for becoming a leader to develop the work of the college. Several of the trustees had expressed a hope that in the course of my travels in the East I might discover the right man for the place of President.
On Saturday March 10th 1888, on my way from Philadelphia to Washington, I stopped at Baltimore to call upon Rev. & Mrs. Wm. F. Slocum with no thought of remaining over a half hour.
When the door at No. 1809 Linden Ave. opened to me there stood both Mr. & Mrs. Slocum with outstretched hand of welcome & Mr. Slocum almost immediately said, "Do spend the Sabbath with us. I want you to speak to my people about Christian education in the great new west." I gladly accepted the invitation. Sabbath morning after I had addressed the congregation, many gather about me, thanking me, & asking questions that as went out I was impressed with the thought. It is evident that this people have a leader who has taught them to look over hedges, to see broadly & to have quick sympathy with the highest deeds [?] of our country.
In the afternoon a storm set in. It was the beginning of the Great Blizzard of March 1888. The pastor went to the jail & preached to three hundred prisoners, came home met his face all a glow as he spoke of the joy of the privilege of talking to those needy men of the Christ who could save.
This noble enthusiasm impressed me. By evening the storm had increased. The pastor went to his evening service. I went to my room and there the thought was borne in upon me with great force. Here is the man, and we must have him.
When Mr. Slocum returned, he & his wife and I went into his study & there I proposed to him the Presidency of Colorado College, and I plead for the dear college as well as I knew how, and that I believed Mr. Slocum could nowhere else make his life so great a power for all that is good.
Mr. Slocum was evidently much impressed. He assured me that it appealed to him strongly & that he would most conscientiously & prayerfully consider it.
By morning the storm which had been raging was furious. Railway blocked in every direction. It was Wednesday before I could leave the city. And I had the opportunity I most earnestly wanted. We talked Colorado College & Colorado and the vast new West & their crying wants & magnificent opportunity.
It was a fortunate circumstances too that, nearly two years before Mr. & Mrs. Slocum had been in Colorado, had visited the seat of the college. They had been great at my home, at a time when Lymen Abbott & his wife were our guests. They had remembered Colorado pleasantly. It did not seem like a terra incognita to them. Mr. Slocum gave me news of a few of his friends whose opinions as to his future for the Presidency of the college he would like to have the trustees know.
I wrote these friends, John G. Whittier, Lymen Abbott, Joseph T. Duropea [?], Rev. Dr. Fiske of Newburypot, Mass., & others. Prompt and most satisfactory were the replies of which I made thirty two copies which could reach all the trustees.
And I sent word to the Board to this effect. "Don't let this fail: With Slocum we shall have victory all around."
The trustees acted promptly and harmoniously and their invitation was accepted in due time. The new President began with the college in the fall of 1888; and a very remarkable and blessed work it has been & is.
Long may our noble President & his wife who is like unto him continue their blessed activity here, & may they go home to heaven late!