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During the winter of 1897-8, after a campaign lasting for more than two years, I came to my last stand and finally surrendered to the call of Jesus Christ to enter the Gospel ministry. I had completed the eighth grade in my fourteenth year and had spent two or three years working with my father at the carpenter’s trade. I began now to gather information about colleges and the cost of getting an education. I soon found that to wait until I could earn enough money to pay my way through college would take a long time. I had no friends or relatives to help me pay even a part of such an expense, and I realized that I must either work my way through or give up my vocation. The long and bitter struggle that preceded my decision to become a minister left me but one alternative. I was determined to get an education which would fit me for the work I had chosen. I felt that a minister must know men as well as books, and that whatever would give me a touch with folks as they are would add to future efficiency. I liked work, carpenter work or any other kind. I had never known what it was not to work, even as a child, and so it 158 was but natural that I should look about for an opportunity to work while attending school. This is why I worked my way through college.

One man’s need is often another’s opportunity. In the fall of 1898 the Synod of South Dakota found it necessary to close its university at Pierre, after a long struggle against great odds. It was finally decided that its academy at Scotland should also be closed and a new institution started at Huron, the best location available. Huron had a large four-story brick hotel building unoccupied for several years. This building became the home of the synod’s new educational venture and became known as Huron College. Rev. C. H. French, the President of Scotland Academy, became the new president of Synod’s College. I had become acquainted with President French during the summer of 1898, and with the opening of Huron College he found an opportunity for me to help put the old hotel building in shape. So it happened that I landed in Huron, South Dakota, about December 1, 1898, having about $25 in money and my chest of tools. I went to work at once repairing and remodeling the college building, and for five years I was the college carpenter (ex-officio). I had been there about two weeks when one of the boys, Ray Scofield, found a place for me in a small hotel where I received room and board for three or four hours’ work a day waiting on tables, buying provisions, etc. I remained in this hotel three school years. Railroad 159 men and other common laborers were the boarders at this hotel, and I learned to know this class of men in a very intimate way. Odd jobs of carpenter work, or perchance scrubbing office floors, carrying coal, cleaning rugs or cutting wood, added a little now and then to my cash account. During the first two summer vacations I worked with my father and helped him to carry the unequal burdens of life. During the summer of 1900 I read Latin in the evenings and made up one year’s required work in that subject, thus enabling me to graduate from the academy department the following commencement.

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In the spring of 1899 I signed the Student Volunteer Declaration, and began to look forward to service on foreign mission fields. I had become active in Y. M. C. A. work, and became treasurer of the local association. During the fall I began to give talks to Sunday schools held in country schoolhouses, and in December, 1900, I took charge of a country church about thirty-five miles from Huron, preaching regularly every two weeks. Often the alternate Sunday would find me supplying some other pulpit near Huron. This added a little to my income, and gave me plenty of opportunity for studying different kinds of people as well as learning how to reach them through preaching. From this time forward there was rarely a Sunday that I was not out of the city preaching somewhere. The school year of 1901-2 I spent at home working 160 with my father, though I continued to preach on Sundays. When I returned to my school work in the fall of 1902 I was absent from my classes for over a month at the request of the president, in order that I might be able to fit up additional dormitory rooms on the fourth floor. I might have paid my way through college that year, but my habits of work made the boarding club less desirable for me. I rented a room in a private home and secured work at a large café where I received my board for waiting at table three hours a day. I took great delight in study, just for its own sake, and found in my outside work a wholesome check to the tendency to forget that books and real people are often very far apart. The claims of both were ever present with me, and to respond to them both I found it necessary to keep on working. That became another reason why I worked my way through college.

There are perhaps few men in whom poverty extinguishes the desire to give to others. It is one of the prerogatives of free sovereign manhood to bestow gifts on others. This is one of the primitive instincts that remains amid the evolutionary changes of the human race. Under the influence of Jesus it has become a form of the highest act of worship. It was this impulse that led me to form habits of giving in college. In looking over my college accounts now, I find that during those seven years I gave to church, missions, Y. M. C. A. and other objects from $500 to $800 in money. In addition 161 I paid my own expenses to the Student Summer Conferences at Lake Geneva, Wis., three times, attended the International Y. M. C. A. Convention at Buffalo, N. Y., and the International Student Volunteer Convention at Toronto, Ont., all at my own expense. At the close of my college work I had a library of several hundred volumes. Now, after eight years, I can look back and feel that were I to do it over again I would, without hesitation, follow a similar plan. I am now finding almost constantly that my college experiences are to my advantage in many ways.

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To the young men and women who may read this brief story I would say: Be never afraid of work, but honor it by doing it in the very best manner possible. Add to your strength, efficiency, to efficiency a noble purpose, and with it all be loyal to Jesus Christ whose moral grandeur and spiritual transcendence have made the honest laborer a member of the world’s best aristocracy.

In the hope that this story may nerve another for the struggle to breast the current which sweeps humanity onward, ’mid hopes and fears, ’mid agonies and tears, to destinies unknown; and with the prayer that the vision of far off success may inspire another to do and dare in the search after Education’s Holy Grail, I send forth this little message to all who belong to the great fraternity of Workers.

Plankinton, S. D.



In the summer of 1903, at the age of twenty-five and with very little high school training, I determined to go to college. I had no money and my people were too poor to give me anything but encouragement. I had taught one country school and spent one summer in the West selling maps, but the most I could scrape together, in addition to experience, was a slight equipment of clothing and $30 in money. With these stored in my old trunk, I landed in Bloomington, Indiana, a few days early to report for football practice and to look for work. I was given a try-out at football before any arrangement was made for permanent quarters.

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I shall never forget that first afternoon football practice. Nature had been kind to me in giving me a strong body and good judgment, and I felt I could tackle any fellow that ever carried the pig-skin. I was well seasoned, having spent the summer working on the section, and it was lucky that I was. We kicked and fell on the ball for a while and then the coach lined us up for a little line-bucking. This was in the days when the line man on the football team selected his opponent who played opposite him and 163 fought it out with him. The modern, open and better style of football had not yet invaded the game. I had always played the position of tackle and it was there I was tried out that first afternoon. Captain Clevenger took the back field to run down punts and Coach “Jimmie” Horn took us heavyweights for a little line-bucking. I happened to be the only lineman that was an unknown quantity to “Jimmie” and he promptly proceeded to get acquainted, in the peculiar way that coaches sometimes have. He first lined me up against “Cube,” but as he was fat and soft from his summer vacation, he was put to snapping the ball and Smith, Shirk and I tried it. I was not tried out much on the defensive that day but was asked to open up a hole between that big tackle and guard for the man who was coming through with the ball just behind me. We worked at that for about an hour. I do not know how well I succeeded but there never was a time after that first practice that I ever feared losing a place on the team.

The coach and manager knew of my financial condition and, as that was the days of the training table, my first job was purveyor for the training table. It was really the best snap I ever had. All I had to do was to collect the money from the other fellows at the end of the week and turn it over to the manager. Things moved along well until the football season was over and the training table broke up. I then took the job of waiting on a table and washing 164 dishes at one of the high-priced boarding clubs. This lasted until I was given a job by a friend.