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The Glengarry McDonalds of Virginia
Chapter 9 - Angus W. McDonald, Jr., School Days


School Days.

I was born on the 16th of May, 1829, in Romney, Hampshire County, then a portion of Virginia, now West Virginia. The place of my birth was in the house now owned by the Gilkeson family. In this house also were born my sister, Ann S., and my brother, Edward H. It is immediately opposite the old Armstrong Hotel.

This was a noted hostelry in its day. Before the completion of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad to the Ohio River the North Western Turnpike, built by the State of Virginia, passed through Romney. This with the National Turnpike, passing mainly through Maryland and Pennsylvania, carried then much of the travel and freight from the East to the Ohio River. Passengers were carried in Troy four horse coaches. Col. Crozet, a professor at West Point during my father's cadetship there, was its Chief Engineer. My father was very fond of him, and I have often seen him as a visitor at our house while he was building this road. The stages, as we then called them, changed horses and were furnished with meals and liquid refreshment, if desired, at this hotel. Many members of Congress and other distinguished men from the South and West were its

guests from time to time. Amongst these I can recall Henry Clay and the crowd of admirers who called on him when he was candidate for President in 1844.

It was here that I met for the only time in my life the brilliant Tom Marshall of Kentucky. I was a youngster at the time, and was introduced to him by my father and placed under his care while going to Winchester. I sat beside him and was greatly attracted to him. He entertained the passengers continuously with his stories which were full of fun and interest.

At a very early age, before I was big enough to sit upon the wooden benches in front of the desks and touch the floor with the tips of my toes, I was posted off to the Academy, then taught by Dr. Foot. I carried with me a little stool, the seat of which was covered with a piece of carpet. Upon this I sat with no desk in front of me. Two other boys about my age were similarly accommodated with seats, which were located in different parts of the schoolroom, the idea doubtless being that good behavior for the three would be much promoted by getting each one as far as possible from the others thus preventing combustion by scattering the brands.

I don't mean to intimate that this was the only means the Doctor had to enforce good behavior. He also had conveniently at hand a heavy ruler about two feet long which he frequently used. The Doctor, besides being the Principal of the Academy, was the Pastor in charge of the Presbyterian Church at Romney. He left Romney when I was about ten years of age but returned again about 1845. In the meantime he had been engaged in writing his "Sketches of North Carolina" and "Sketches of Virginia." Both of these books have great value for their historical accuracy and are often quoted by later historians. President Roosevelt in his "Winning of the West" repeatedly quotes them.

During the interval between his leaving Romney and his return the Academy had two principals, men of very opposite characteristics. The first, the Rev. Theodore Gallaudet, was not over five feet, four or five inches in height and very subdued looking, "as meek as Moses." He would submit to almost any kind of disorder in the school rather than thrash a boy. He did not even keep a ruler or switch at hand. The result was that the school was a perfect pandemonium. We sometimes organized regular bands. The instruments upon which we performed were combs wrapped with tissue paper through which we used to sing. My sisters, Mary and Ann, and three brothers besides myself, Ned, Will and Marsh, all attended this school.

The Academy was then divided by a board partition. In the room adjoining was another school with Mr. Ben E. Pigman as principal. Pigman was the opposite of "Old Gallaudet," as the boys called him. He kept always something between a switch and a club which he freely used.

Upon one occasion the smaller boys of the Gallaudet school, composed of Ned and Will McDonald, Bob White and some others about the same age, led by "Old Dad Kern," a boy about my age, had gotten out of the open windows and as "Old Gallaudet" sat upon the platform hearing recitations commenced an attack upon him by throwing clods, pieces of sod and other things neither clean nor hurtful at him. At first there was no intention of hitting him but the sport got to be very exciting a he left his platform and dodged about the room to avoid the missiles, and though the old gentleman was not hurt, he was struck often. This attack continued until the boys got tired, when the outraged old gentleman hunted around the schoolroom until he got hold of a good sized stick and then quietly resumed the hearing of his classes.

The first one of the party to appear, climbing in the open window, was "Old Dad" (John Kern) . At sight of him the old man grabbed his cane and went for him. The first lick was just over the eye brow, laying the skin open, and then such a trouncing as Dad received had never before been seen in that school. After this reckoning with Dad he quietly resumed his work and watched for the next victim. One by one the other participants in the sport stole quietly into the schoolroom and were permitted to take their seats. When all had been seated the fun again commenced. The old gentleman grasped his stick and went for each one. As each boy in turn was attacked he would dodge under his desk, which prevented the free use of the stick, as he would scramble from one end of the desk to the other. In this way the members of the whole party took their medicine. While the school was never famous for its orderly conduct there never was any more clod throwing at the teacher. "Old Dad," who was somewhat of a rhymer, composed this couplet upon the occasion:

"Gentlemen and ladies, I'll tell you plump and plain,
If you fool yourself with Theodore he'll hit you with his cane.''

He would repeat it often during the school hours, to the amusement of the scholars as well as Theodore himself.

The usual punishment in the school, for an offence not capital, was the announcement to the offending party that he would not hear him a lesion for one, two or even three weeks, according to the grade of the offence. The result of this kind of punishment was that at the end of the last session there were some in the school who had not recited a lesson for weeks.

Poor old gentleman! Often have I recalled him in years since and sorrowed over the more than savage treatment he received. He was a scholar and an author; no one ever possessed a greater or kinder heart; but he was as much out of place in that school as an angel.

My memory, in spite of me, goes back to those bygone school days. I cannot help recalling here another incident. Our boys would frequently, in warm weather, stand before the open windows of the Pigman school and watch the proceedings going on inside. John J. Jacob, an eminent lawyer in his day and at one time Governor of West Virginia, was a pupil in that school. Jacob had committed some offence, it could not have been a great one for he was a model boy as well as man in every respect. The penalty inflicted was to make him walk the floor of the schoolroom with a paper fool's cap on his head and a long, paper cigar in his mouth, while a part of the Gallaudet school enjoyed the performance through the windows.

The same party of boys who had engaged in throwing clods, etc., at "Old Gallaudet," undertook, shortly after the affair with him, to play the same game with Pigman. But Pigman was made of sterner stuff. The game had hardly begun before Pigman seized his stick and vaulted through the window. Pigman was a young man not over twenty-five years of age and close on to six feet high, broad-shouldered and fully able to take care of himself. The assailants first showed fight. Ned McDonald was in the advance. Pigman seized him by the collar and commenced to belabor him with his stick. Ned was a child in his hands. Others of the assailants came to the rescue, but Pigman kept his hold and thrashed away. The cries of the boys brought to the rescue three or four of the larger boys in our school, who were soon out of the windows and rushing at Pigman. Against this new force the enemy gave away and ran to the cover of his schoolroom amidst a shover of missiles from the victorious and pursuing boys.

Gallaudet was succeeded as principal of the school by one Johnson, an Englishman. There was nothing of the Gallaudet type about him. He had great contempt for moral suasion as a means of preserving order amongst boys. He was much after the order of Pigman, only more so. Fully six feet tall, about fifty years of age, with iron grey hair, short cut and standing straight up from the scalp, he was an impersonation of the English bull clog. He, too, relied upon a stout stick in his maintenance of order. He had two sons, Dick and Bill, both hard and game fighters. Dick Johnson and Ned McDonald were frequently engaged in fights. These fights, before they were ended, generally involved in addition a fight between W'ill Johnson and Will McDonald. While never fought to a finish the bloody noses and torn clothing which resulted showed that they were no child's play. Johnson was inclined to put the blame on Ned McDonald for these fights. One day, after an unusually severe fight had taken place between these boys, Johnson seized Ned and commenced to thrash him. Will and I interfered; Johnson seized me, as the most dangerous of his foes by reason of superior size, got me down on the floor and gave me the last thrashing that I ever got in school. Then Will and Ned were taken in turn and received like punishment. My father happened to be standing in a yard adjoining and witnessed the whole scene. But he never said a word about it and we did not even know he was there. Speaking of it afterwards, when we were disposed to complain of his indifference, he said he knew nothing about who was to blame but was inclined to believe that we were and that Johnson was right. There was no appeal from his judgment as far as I remember. This was the last fight between the McDonald and the Johnson boys.

Dr. Foote returned, as well as I remember, to Romney about the year 1844. He had been engaged by the Literary Society of Romney to become the principal of the "Romney Classical Institute." This society in its day took a very active part in the education of the youth and in the development of a taste for letters in the town. In the early history of the society the State had granted it a charter to sell lottery tickets. Principally through the agency of my father this charter had been sold in New York for some twenty-five or thirty thousand dollars. The members of the society embraced principally the members of the bar of the town, at that time numbering some fifteen or eighteen, the physicians, the clergy and others of literary tastes. For years the annual contribution of each member for the purchase of books had been ten dollars. From the sum raised by the sale of the lottery tickets some thousands of dollars had been set apart, the income of which, together with the annual contribution from the members, was expended in the purchase of books, embracing history, belles lettres, science and art. At the breaking out of the war between the States this library had become, perhaps, the finest and most complete of any in the State west of the Blue Ridge.

The school buildings, upon the return of Dr. Foote, had not yet been completed and the school which was to be installed in it was temporarily taught in the old Court House. All of the nine children of my father, except the eldest, my sister Mary, who was then at school in Winchester, and the youngest, were pupils in this school. Dr. Foote was a man who sanctioned fully the biblical precept that to spare the rod was to spoil the child, as many of the boys could testify.

In the year 1847 I became an assistant in the school and just before starting for the University of Virginia in October, 1848, felt very proud when the good old Doctor counted out to me two hundred dollars in payment for my services as assistant. It was the first money, of any considerable amount, that I had ever earned, and was devoted by me, as far as it would go, in payment of my expenses at the University. I took what was called by the students "the green ticket," that is ancient and modern languages and mathematics. I offered for graduation upon Latin only, and much to my disappointment and surprise was "pitched." I was a fair Latin scholar before I went to the University, having read Caesar, Cicero, Virgil, Sallust, Horace, Ovid and Livy, and I could translate them all without much trouble. Dr. Gessner Harrison was professor of Latin at the time. The Doctor used a grammar written by himself. His hobby was the uses of the ablative, roots of words and other things strange to me of which Adams (the grammar I had used) had known very little, or if he did know had never said much about it. One thing I recall; in Adams one of the rules was: "When the place `where' or `at which' is spoken of, the name of a town is put in the genitive. As vixit Romae, he lived at Rome." The Doctor's grammar taught that this was error and that Romae was the ancient form of the ablative. The rock upon which I split was ignoring Harrison's grammar and sticking too closely to old Adams. The next year, 1849-50, I dropped ancient languages from my ticket and substituted Dr. McGufl'ey's course, mental and moral philosphy and political economy. I received diplomas that year on French and Spanish and Dr. McGuffey's ticket.

During my absence at the University my sister Mary had married Thomas C. Green, who was then practicing law in Romney and was a partner of my father. They afterwards moved to Charles Town, where Mr. Green continued to practice law up to the time of his appointment by Gov. John J. Jacob to fill a vacancy upon the bench of the Court of Appeals. He was twice chosen to this office by the people and held it until his death. He was the son of Judge John Green, who for many years had been a distinguished Judge of the Court of Appeals of Virginia, and a brother of William Green, recognized as the most learned lawyer in the State, and upon his merits alone appointed by the Military Authority commanding in Virginia, Judge of the Circuit Court of Richmond. This notwithstanding the fact that he was a strong Southern man and had given to the Cause his only son who was killed on the battlefield. Judge T. C. Green had another brother, James W. Green, who was a Major in the Confederate Army, and who had married my sister Ann S. Both James W. and John Cooke Green were noted lawyers. Thus connected with a family of distinguished lawyers it was to be expected that Judge Green should become prominent in his chosen profession. It has been said of him while on the Bench that he scarcely knew the names of the parties to the suits which he decided. To him they all were A, B and C. His decisions were logical conclusions arrived at by almost mathematical processes. It has been generally conceded by the Bar of this State that he was the greatest Judge that ever sat upon the Supreme Bench of West 'Virginia. A private in the Confederate Army, no braver or more faithful man ever carried a musket. A man without guile; simple hearted as a child; absolutely indifferent to friend or foe in the performance of a duty; fearing his God but no man: true to every relation of life, he (lied loved best by those who knew him best.

On my return from the University in 1850, John Jacob and myself, he having graduated from Carlisle College, Pa., became law' students in Judge Green's office at Romney, and without further preparation were both licensed to practice law in the year 1852. Jacob), having been elected about this time President of the University of Missouri, was not engaged in the practice Lentil after the war. He then returned to Romney and formed a law partnership with Col. Robert White, afterwards Attorney General for the State. I opened an office in Romney and was as successful as most young lawyers generally are. I recollect well the first fee I received. It was a twenty dollar gold piece. The service rendered was the obtaining of an absolute divorce. It was my first case and the fee looked to me as bib as a cart wheel. I wondered how anybody could have the conscience to take so much money for so little service. In the course of time these qualms were gotten rid of.

in the spring of 1852, I was nominated by the Democratic Convention as a candidate for Commonwealth's Attorney. My opponent was a well equipped lawyer, Alfred P. White, who had held the office for a number of years previous. I was beaten by from one to two hundred majority. The result surprised no one. I had been warned repeatedly by my friends that I would be beaten if I (lid not ride around more and electioneer. The idea of asking a man for his vote was repulsive. My view was that the office mist seek the man, and not the man the office. This view, however, became somewhat modified in later years I recall an incident in that campaign. I was mounted on Old Bob, my father's favorite riding horse, and was some sixteen miles from home. I had passed several voters, strangers to me, and had not had the courage to ask them for their votes. I was ashamed of the whole business, especially of my want of courage in failing to ask for votes. Shortly afterwards I saw in the distance a man approaching me. I resolved at once to ask him for his, vote. As soon as we met I told him my name and that I had the honor of being the nominee of the Democratic Party for Commonwealth's Attorney. My father had been formerly a State's Right Democrat. He was opposed to the proclamation of General Jackson issued upon the Act of Nullification by South Carolina, and after that, with many State's Rights Democrats in the State, had voted with the Whig Party and was still classed as a Whig. This voter R,:new how my father was classed, and evidently had some difficulty in reconciling the facts that the lather was a Whig and the son of a Democrat. He asked me to repeat my name, and then replied: "Yes, I know your father is a Whig, and I reckon you have changed over to get this office. That's enough for me, I votes for Alf 'rite." Indignant and disgusted with that reply, I dropped my heel into Old Bob's flank and never stopped until I had covered the fifteen miles between me and home. Four years afterwards I was again the nominee of the party, with the result that the election was reversed. I was elected over White by about two hundred and fifty majority.

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