I was born on a Michigan farm the third in a family of ten children. Some of the first words, the meaning of which I learned, were Debt, Mortgage, and Interest. And I soon appreciated that the united toil of the entire household was required through the season to provide for interest and annual payments on the mortgage. We were happy, notwithstanding the scarcity of money. The produce from the farm furnished us with an abundance of good food and we had cheap but comfortable clothing. With my brothers and sisters I attended the district school and completed my course in it at fifteen. Two or three young men of the neighborhood had gone to college and I was fully bent on going too. It never occurred to me that poverty was a barrier to a college course. I was large for my age. So I took a teacher’s examination and was granted a certificate and taught a six months’ term of country school, closing it seven days after I was sixteen. I boarded at home and received $130 for the six months. Half of this money I gave to my father and with the other half I entered and completed 36 the spring term of the high school. During the winter evenings while I was teaching I studied Latin grammar and Jones’ “First Latin Lessons.” Hence I was able, with some help from my brother, to join the Latin class on entering the high school, to pass the examination at close of the term, and thus to have a year’s Latin to my credit. I returned to school at the opening of the fall term, but left at Thanksgiving, when I returned home to teach the same school I had taught the previous winter. I received this time $120 for four months. I studied my C?sar evenings, and on re?ntering school in the spring found myself able to join the class and to maintain a passing grade. I always was needed on the farm as soon as school closed in June. There was a large hay crop and a wheat harvest of 75 to 100 acres. Then followed plowing and preparation of soil for fall seeding. But I generally found a few weeks and a few rainy days, that I could take for making money. I canvassed the country one summer selling a United States wall map. The price was $2.00, within the reach of the farmer’s purse. I was quite successful in making sales, and the commission was good. Indeed, I regarded it a poor day in which I did not make five dollars, so that in two or three weeks I earned about $60, my capital for the coming school year.

I entered college in the fall of 1883. I really had no money and had no hope of any financial help from home. During the summer I had earned 37 enough to purchase a four years’ scholarship, the value of which was $100, but which I secured at a reduced price. This, together with good health and a hopefully inclined temperament, was my capital with which to begin my college course. I secured a room in the men’s dormitory, and to obtain necessary furniture, I had to incur a debt of $16. The room was to cost me $12 per year. Of course, I had to have books and that increased my debt; but I was perfectly familiar with the word, for my whole previous life had been concerned with it. I did not worry. But with neither wheat nor potatoes growing to pay my debt, I realized that the situation required some attention. I noticed in a corner of the campus about fifteen cords of four foot beech and maple wood. I made inquiry and learned that it belonged to the college president. Then I called upon him and applied for the position of wood sawer to him. He asked me whether I had ever sawed wood. I replied truthfully that I had never sawed much, but that I knew how it was done. He said he would furnish the saw and the “horse” and that I would have to saw only enough each day to keep him supplied. That suited me, for it meant that I could have other contracts running at the same time. It took practically the whole winter to complete the work, sawing usually toward evening enough for the following day. My compensation in money was $20. But I was also facing the question of daily bread. I couldn’t go to a boarding club 38 for I had no money. There was a college boarding hall. I noticed that they kept a cow, and I conceived the idea that that cow might help support me. I applied to the matron and arranged that for feeding and milking the cow and running some errands (the telephone was not yet) I was to have my board. It seemed to me then that everything was favorable. I continued to earn my board in this way till towards the close of my sophomore year. Then, for what reason I do not now recall, I resigned as milkman and secured a position to assist in the dining-room of a leading hotel. There was no specific contract as to how much I was to do. What was right in service for my board was left entirely to my judgment. But I recall that I aimed at one thing—punctuality. I do not remember ever to have been late. I remained there until I voluntarily quit near the close of my senior year. I never had any misunderstanding with anyone while there; was always treated well, and liked the place. The board, of course, was good—almost too good for a college student.

A young man in college, though, must have collars and cuffs, and a cravat occasionally and new clothes. He will have laundry bills, and must have money for stationery and postage, if he writes home to mother weekly. Every young man who has a mother should do so. I was such a young man, and of necessity I was constantly alert for employment that would bring me needed money. My suit became shabby. 39 I pondered what to do. I saw in the Sunday School Times an announcement of Dr. Trumbull’s new book, “Teaching and Teachers,” and sent for a copy and agent’s terms. It sold for $1.50 and the commission was 60 cents per copy. I started out, and by putting in spare time for a week I earned enough to purchase the new suit. The college cistern needed cleaning. I took the contract for $3.50. It was a large cistern and supplied the drinking water for the dormitory students. There was about one foot of water in it the day I cleaned it. I hired a fellow for $1.00 to hoist the buckets and I went down into it and scrubbed it clean. We finished about sunset. The authorities concluded to lay a new conducting pipe from the dormitory to the cistern, a distance of about fifteen feet. While we were cleaning they tore the old one out. Just as we finished, the college president came along and peered down at me. “Ah,” said he, “how nice and clean. Now pray for rain.” “No, no,” exclaimed the registrar, who had overheard him, “don’t you see we have not laid the new conductor pipe? Wait till that is laid before you pray.” There was no sign of rain. We felt perfectly secure in leaving it; but that night there came a great storm with a terrific downpour. The water collected from the dormitory roof was discharged into that open clay ditch in which the new conducting pipe was to be laid and thence flowed in a dashing stream into the cistern. At sun-up there was four feet of water and clay in the cistern. I 40 had another contract at $5.00 that day, and I wrote on the fly-leaf of my trigonometry that night, “God helps those who help themselves,” and I’ve believed it ever since.

Let no one think I had no fun. The memory of my college days is decidedly pleasant. I found time to play ball. I was a member of the college male quartette and of the Choral union. I always attended the college lecture and entertainment course. I was a member of one of the literary societies, and was frequently on the program of great public demonstrations of college oratory. I never was conscious of any slight because I worked. On graduation day Ex-president Rutherford B. Hayes addressed our class. Some things he said seemed intended for me. He spoke of the Dignity of Work. He said many people had hands and didn’t know how to use them. It was really an appeal for manual training, a phase of education not then in vogue, but to which advanced educators were turning attention. But I had had it all as an extra. I had read Latin, Greek, and German with my classmates. I had traversed the historical centuries in their company. I had struggled with them on conic sections and had lounged with them in logarithms. They were my equals and superiors in all these, but I had the advantage—I had taken Manual Training. There were some points of contact around that college and campus that I only had touched. To be sure it was of necessity, but it was a blessing, nevertheless. 41 I have not yet lived to see the hour that I have regretted that I worked my way through college.

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St. Joseph, Mich.


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Burton L. French of Moscow, Idaho, who is now serving his fifth term as representative in Congress, was born on a farm near Delphi, Ind., August 1, 1875, of Charles A. and Mina P. (Fischer) French. In 1880 the family moved farther west and lived two and a half years near Kearney, Nebraska, where young Burton attended four terms of three months each, in the country schools. When he was seven years of age, his people moved to the Northwest, living part of the time in the State of Washington and part of the time in Idaho. At the age of fifteen, Mr. French had completed, in the Palouse, Wash., public schools, a course practically equivalent to our present public school course, including the first year of high school work. From this period in his life, he worked his way through the preparatory school and through college, taking the degree of A.B. at the University of Idaho in 1901, and the degree of Ph.M., at the University of Chicago in 1903. 43


Mr. French says: “As one of the older children in a large family, the responsibilities that rested upon my father and mother at the time I was ready to take up educational work preparatory to entering college, and as well later, to carry through a course in college, were such that I was thrown upon my own resources.

“Two of the chief circumstances that attended my early life were:—

“1. That of being required as a boy to perform under the direction of my father and mother, a reasonable amount of wholesome manual labor, largely the kind that is required of the ordinary farmer’s boy.

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“2. That at the age of sixteen, I was thrown upon my own resources in the matter of continuing my educational work.

“My parents, aside from teaching me respect for manual labor and in a large degree helping me to be proficient in the same, inspired me with the ambition to complete a college course. I did not regard the fact that I would need to work my way through college as in any way an embarrassment, and I do not recall ever having had the wish that my people could send me through college.

“Before reaching my eighteenth year, I had been able to attend the preparatory department of the 44 University of Idaho for six months and had earned the money to carry me through this period by serving as clerk in a general merchandise store and by working in hotels as a waiter.

“Following the close of the term of school, I found work as a waiter during the summer months, and in September following my eighteenth birthday I began teaching in a country school. During the succeeding eight years I completed the work in the preparatory school and a college course in the University of Idaho, leading to the degree of A.B., earning most of the money that I required to pay my expenses by teaching school and at periods when there was no employment in this field, by working upon a farm.

“My circumstances required that I take my college course by doing part of a year’s work at a time and I was able to attend college from the opening of the college year in the fall until the close of the college year in the spring, only once during my college course and that was during my junior year. During the period, too, I was away from college two years in succession, serving during this time as principal of the public schools at Juliaetta, Idaho.