Wednesday, November 22, 2017

For What We Are About to Receive

First page of the Oct. 29 letter by Sylvester to his sisters
The fall term is almost done, except for perhaps a few final projects, and we are looking forward to the holiday season that will begin on Thursday. To get us in a festive mood for Thanksgiving, we looked through our various collections of Dartmouth student letters that are in the archives to see if we could find something suitable for the occasion. As expected, the archives did not disappoint. Among the numerous letters written to and by students, we found a great little note from Charles B. Sylvester, class of 1905, to his sisters at the family home near Haverhill, Massachusetts, north of Boston near the New Hampshire state line.

Second page of the Oct. 29 letter by Sylvester to his sistersIn the letter, written on October 29th, 1901, during his first semester in Hanover, Sylvester is quick to encourage his sisters to send him "a box for Thanksgiving, as good a one as you can, and we will have a spread." Although he won't be able to be
home for the holiday, he reminds them that he'll see them again a few weeks after Thanksgiving is over. The letter continues by relating various stories of college life, among them stealing a number of apples from an apple orchard and the prospect of sharing a large box of fudge with a friend. He concludes by asking his family to send him photographs and any local news.

Sylvester went on to be a well-liked teacher of mathematics and Latin and then principal at various high schools in New England. In his later life, he experienced multiple hardships, including the contraction of a serious case of polio in 1916 that left
Third and final page of the Oct. 29 letter by Sylvester to his sisters
him partially crippled for the rest of his life. In 1933, his wife of only two years, Eleanor Stonestreet, died while giving birth to their daughter, Nancy, and Sylvester went on to raise her as a single parent while continuing his work. As is so often the case with stories of our alumni, learning about their lives and their experiences never fails to inculcate a sense of admiration for their perseverance and a feeling of gratitude, or thankfulness (if you will), for the many ways in which we have been blessed.

To read through Sylvester's letters from his freshman year through his junior year, come to Rauner and ask for the Charles B. Sylvester Student Letters (MS-853).