David Earhart Coming to Emory & Henry College, 1853

by Ty Smith

Because the Virginia & Tennessee railroad was not completed until October 1856, when David Earhart arrived at Emory & Henry a few days before the start of school in August 1853, he likely came by stagecoach from his home near Christiansburg, Montgomery County, Virginia. The stagecoach would have deposited Earhart where the road over the ridge to Emory intersected with the main road and he would have walked over the hill. The College, the largest structure anywhere around, was probably the first thing he saw.

On Thursday, August 18, Earhart enrolled in Emory & Henry College’s “Preparatory Department,” which offered “rare advantages for those who design to take a regular College Course, or to fit themselves for the ordinary business walks of life.” Earhart was nineteen years old. He was assigned a room in the east wing of the College, on the left side of the building, probably on the second floor. He did not return to Christiansburg for the “Christmast hollydays,” but stayed in Emory. On Monday, January 2, 1854, Earhart registered for the spring session. As he had for the first session, for 21 weeks of board, he paid $31.50 and $15.00 in tuition. He also paid 50¢ for the Literary Fee, $2.00 for his Fuel, and $1.25 in Contingency Fee.

Friday, February 10, 1854, Earhart wrote to his cousin reporting that his room was “one of the best rooms in [the] college.” His roommate was a “quite agreeable” member of the senior class. The food in the boardinghouse, where all students ate their meals, what “tolerable good.” He told his cousin about the Calliopean Society, going to preaching services, and the widespread gambling among his peers.

Earhart attended Emory & Henry for two years, before returning to Christiansburg. He married Mary Elizabeth Caddall of Pulaski County, Virginia on May 9, 1861. Earhart was killed on May 3, 1863, in the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Click to read David Earhart’s letter of February 10, 1854

Click to read a typed transcript of Earhart’s 1854 letter

David Earhart’s letter is part of the Caddall Civil War Letters Collection at the Wilderness Road Regional Museum in Newbern, Virginia

Click to learn more about the Watershed Project at Emory & Henry College

“…a rugged pile of bricks four stories high, utterly devoid of architectural beauty…”

Walter Spencer, quoted in Increase in Excellence, by George Stevenson

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