"Let me see generation times, will we hear children singing rhymes? Sweet memories gone by..."

09 April 2013


The back of the winter is broken
And light lingers long by the door
And the seeds of the summer have spoken
In gowans that bloom on the shore
--"Follow the Heron" by Karine Polwart

Two events in family history occurred 122 years ago today in Richmond, Virginia.  Both were mentioned the following day in the Richmond Times - on the same page!

First, my great-great-grandfather, Charles Lawrence Siegel, graduated from the Medical College of Virginia, now part of the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center.

In the Richmond Theatre last evening was a vast audience, representing Richmond's wealth, culture and beauty.

Almost every seat in the old play-house was filled.

The occasion was the celebration of the fifty-third commencement of the Medical College of Virginia.

A number of beautiful baskets of flowers, seen sitting at one side of the stage, were, soon after the curtain was raised, delivered to the various members of the graduating class, for whom they were designed.

On the stage, besides the graduating class, were Rev. Dr. W. V. Tudor, pastor of the Broadstreet Methodist church; Rev. Calvin Stewart, of the Fourth Presbyterian church; Doctors Stewart, Tabb, Barham, Williams, Oppenhimer, Hinchman, David McCaw, William Mathews and McCarthy.


The exercises were opened by the dean, Dr. Cullen, in introducing Rev. Dr. Stewart, who offered a fervent petition, praying especially for the young men of the graduating class.

After an appropriate overture by the orchestra, Dr. Cullen read the names of the fourteen graduates, who, he said, had perfected their studies, and, by virtue of the authority vested in him by the Medical College of Virginia, he delivered to them their diplomas.

At his request the young men presented themselves at the front of the state, where, after a short advisitory speech, the Doctor gave each the seepskins which are to be their passport through life.
The class is as follows:  Messrs. O. F. Blankenship, H. F. Brunning, W. Payne, C. L. Siegel, Jr., R. P. Oppenhimer, all of Richmond;  W. T. Holland, Nansemond county;  A. Micklem, Nelson county;  R. W. Robertson, Danville;  R. R. Jones, Brunswick county;  S. A. McConkey, Salem;  S. W. Hobson, Powhatan county;  E. M. Ship, Orange county;  H. Field, Jr., Dinwiddie county;  W. L. Dalby, Northampton county.

After all of the badges had been presented, Dr. Cullen, in a few appropriate words, presented the orator of the evening, Rev. Dr. W. V. Tudor, who said:

I recognize the honor I have of addressing you on this occasion, and I recognize also the most interesting epoch tonight in the history of this graduating class of young gentlemen whom the scholarship and science of this faculty think worthy to send forth commended to society for therapeutic offices unto the ills that flesh is heir to.

You have been much occupied, gentlemen, with the concrete in your late studies. My subject will conduct us somewhat into the realm of the abstract.

You would not expect a medical thesis from me; and while the ethics of your profession offer an inviting field of essay, I could not say more in the line of them than has already been suitably impressed upon your minds by the humane and Christian sentiments that have certainly mingled in all the lectures of this Christian college.

The benevolence of medicine and surgery goes without saying.

Yours is a ministry to suffering, blessed office.

The manifold and tiresome ministrations of the physician, unremunerated by the least contribution to his material wealth, are known, I suppose, only by the profession itself.

The severest toils in life are those upon which no money valuation can be placed.

Heroic study has preceded the great discoveries of science.

Search and research, the voluntary labors of literary restless inquiry have led to the conclusion which then astonishes the world by its grandeur and truth.

The falling apple of legend was not the first, but the last link in the chain of Newton's thought of gravitation.

Nor was gravitation a discovery;  it was a thought - one of the greatest thoughts of the ages.

You have gazed before now at complicated machinery in motion at back and forth, up and down, in and out, round and round, fast and slow, quick and heavy motions, a mazy wilderness of movement.  Would it not be a sight, a spectacle, to behold the mind revolving a subject within itself a deep, arduous, real thought - the mazy movements of what Sir William Hamilton calls the "elaborative faculty," thought?

Thought is creation.  How indescribable to the process of thought!

What intensity, what concentration, what toil in thought!

The honest toil of all the mechanical trades is in it, the laborer's pick, the blacksmith's brawn, the carpenter's plane, the bricklayer's patient trowel, the painter's brush.

The process of thought seems to a man to be going on within him.  He locates it within his brain.  What is doing?  How is thinking conducted?  Everything helps it, everything hinders it.

We should need to define spirit, to describe its doings.

Thought, like electricity, existing everywhere, is quiet, gentle, native at home, dreadful abroad.

It is slumbering power awakened by friction with the will.  Descartes said, I think, therefore I am.  Thought, therefore, is essential life at work.

The man is not fully conscious of himself who does not know his utmost power to think.  The ever retreating horizon beckoning us forward suggests immortality as the necessary condition to enable man to be fully conscious of himself.

We may not say how, but we have the power.  Sap of thought rises and puts forth in green and leaf and flower and fruit;  the wing of thought flies;  the muscle of thought has locomotion;  the stream of thought has its spring;  the thought has its medium as light has and sound.

No man can tell how effective thought is carried on within him.  Somehow the mine yields its ore, the ore its gold.

Thought sits at the forge and waits for the red-hot metal;  sits on the shore and waits for the argosies it has dispatched itself over the main to bring it the desired cargoes.

In literature whose are the works that are immortal?

The men of thought.  Living thought gathers within, expands, grows, enraptures, surprises.  Inward spiritual fields bloom into landscape and garden, stretching wide their odoriferous and lovely acres.

It requires patience, persistence, purpose, toil, but the force is in man to yield its effects.

I have sought to give you, young gentlemen, some inspirations to study.  The drudges in every field of learning are few, but they are men who do the great works for the race alike in the highest culture and in the most beneficent arts.

I take within the scope of my thoughts with you this evening the possibilities of future discovery, the hope that future ages may have a benediction for the student and thinker of this class who, at the close of the nineteenth century, or in the first half of the twentieth, found a new and potent guide for the relief of human maladies.

A wide domain of physics in your profession has not yet been interpreted to science.

What a world of inquiry lies out before the future philosopherThe world is waiting for the coming thinker.   

(From Wikipedia: Richmond's Egyptian Building, built in 1845, is the oldest medical college building in the South)
The second article on the page was about the wedding of my 3rd-great-grandmother, Lucy Atkinson Baker, and her second husband, John Alexander Fleet.  Lucy's first husband, Dabney Baker, had passed away four years prior.

A quiet but very pretty marriage took place at 5:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon at the residence of the bride's father, Mr. H. A. Atkinson, Sr., No. 2620 east Grace street, only relatives of the family being present.

Mr. Alexander Fleet, of Mathews county, was the groom, and Mrs. Lucy F. Baker the bride.

Rev. George Ray was the officiating clergyman.

The bride was dressed in a steel gray traveling suit.  She is the beautiful and accomplished daughter of one of our oldest citizens.

The groom, who resided in Louisville, Ky., for fifteen years, is from one of the oldest and best families of this State.

The bridal party left on the 7:10 train for the North.  From thence they will go to Fleetwood, his lovely country-seat, in Mathews county.  The bridal presents were many and handsome, among them an elegant pair of diamond earrings, the gift of the groom.  A handsome collation followed the marriage ceremony.

It's interesting to note that the two families, the Siegels and the Atkinsons, were not yet connected by marriage.  Dr. Charles Siegel would marry Lucy's daughter Grace Baker three years later.  I wonder if they had met, or even heard each other, yet.

Hard to say for sure.  The Atkinsons were an old Virginia family that had been around since before the Revolution, while the Siegels didn't come to Richmond until late in the Civil War.

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