Colorado College Bulletin

On Connections and Webs

By Richard Bradley

When I came west with my family in the summer of 1961 to take a teaching job at Colorado College, I thought I was doing something new, going to a school where few of our friends and none of our ancestors had ever trod. Imagine my surprise, then, when some 15 years later my stepmother in Berkeley, California, rummaging through old boxes in her attic, uncovered a diary my grandfather Cornelius Beach Bradley had written in which he described teaching here in the summer of 1892. 

Photo courtesy of Ric BradleyA quick visit to the college archives conformed for me that he had indeed been here, and I also learned that 1892 was the first year the college had offered a summer session, calling it “The Colorado Summer School of Science, Philosophy, and the Arts” (note the regional implication -- “Colorado” rather than “Colorado College” or “Colorado Springs”). The session lasted three weeks, a dozen or so faculty plus several assistants participated, mostly from Front Range schools but a few from as far away as both coasts. There were 175 students, mostly townsfolk. President William Slocum presided. A college bulletin written later boasted “ … a wide range of subjects was covered, and the greatest interest was manifest throughout, in all departments. The attractiveness of Colorado Springs as a place for recreation as well as for work was thoroughly demonstrated.” Doubtless true: Katharine Lee Bates succumbed to the attraction the following year and wrote “America the Beautiful.”

But what had attracted Bradley that first year? His diary gives a hint:

“ … I received an invitation to go there and accepted. The work was new to me, and therefore the more desirable, and it would bring me into acquaintance with eastern men.”

More to the point, why had Bradley been offered the job at CC? Through what connections or contacts did Slocum even know about him? Again, the diary suggests an answer.

“Arrived upon the theatre of action, I found the usual confusion of an opening term of school. I was quartered with Rev. C. E. Dickey (1200 N. cascade Ave.), whose home was made, by the kindness shown me by himself and his wife, one of the memorable abiding places of my many wanderings. With them I stayed three weeks and a little over.

“The opening exercises were held in the Congregational Church on the evening of the 6th. Speeches were made by Pres. Slocum, the president of the Denver College, and by myself. My lectures began the next day in the course in Hist. & Compar. Grammar, and also in Chaucer. The attendance was remarkable in being made up not of teachers, but very largely of notable women in town and folk not supposed to need further schooling. They did me the honor to attend in good numbers and they seemed greatly interested. There were 10 lectures in the one course and six on the other. Besides these I delivered an evening lecture in the Church on the novel, and read my Big Trees paper in the Chapel. I found a most warm reception everywhere in the community, and enjoyed the hospitality of a number of the good townspeople.”

Reading the diary with its many references to church and clergy, I believe I understand why Slocum found him attractive: he was a man of the cloth as well as an educator. Colorado College at that time was a Christian college, founded and presided over by Congregational ministers. Bradley had been born and raised in Bangkok, Siam (now Thailand), the son of missionary parents. After attending Oberlin College and Yale Divinity School, he returned to Siam, for three years of missionary service before settling in California to teach English. The United States was much less populous in those days. The number of people with his qualifications and experience could not have been large, and I suspect Slocum learned about him through the various ecclesiastical and educational societies they both must have belonged to.

But there is another interesting connection to be made here that might have influenced Slocum, this one between the two institutions, UC and CC. The University of California, a land-grant institution chartered in 1868, arose on land ceded to it by the embryonic College of California, a would-be private coeducational liberal arts Christian college very much in the mold of the future Colorado College. One of the people out on the West Coast who had championed the creation of the College of California was none other than Edward Payson Tenney, the same person who in 1868 strove unsuccessfully to create another private coeducational Christian college just south of Denver modeled on the College of California blueprint, and the same person who in 1876 became the first successful president of Colorado College, Slocum’s immediate predecessor. So Slocum had reason indeed to look favorably on the University of California -- where Bradley was a professor of English and Rhetoric -- when seeking new faculty.

So many connections, such a tangled web! It brings to mind the oft-quoted statement by naturalist John Muir: “When we try to pick out something by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

And that suggests yet another strand in the web: Bradley, a good amateur naturalist in his own right (note the allusion in his diary to his paper “The Big Trees”) who spent all his spare time exploring the region, was a personal friend of Muir’s. When, in 1892 (again that date!), Muir gathered together 26 citizens from the San Francisco Bay area to form the Sierra Club, a wilderness advocacy group, Bradley was one of them, a charter member. They signed the articles of incorporation on June 4, just one month before Bradley caught the train to Colorado. Now fast-forward 85 years and we find Colorado College awarding an honorary degree to the Sierra Club’s first executive director, David Brower, widely considered John Muir’s heir apparent.

Who was in Colorado Springs in 1892 that might have matched Bradley’s enthusiasm for hiking and climbing, and shown him some trails on his leisure time forays? Well, who indeed but mountain man Manley Ormes, one of the organizers of the local hiking group “The Saturday Knights,” a man who has a mountain peak named after him (as does Bradley). Ormes was not yet connected with the college -- that would come later -- but he was a Congregationalist, was not one to skip Sunday services (except once to climb Pikes Peak). Even if Bradley attended services on campus instead of in Ormes’ church, which seems likely, he still must have met Ormes at some point. The town was no more than a village in those days. But the diary makes no mention of Ormes, and the archival file on Ormes in Tutt Library makes no mention of Bradley. Too bad. If they didn’t meet, they should have. 

Happily, that particular deficiency was rectified in subsequent generations. Manley’s son, Bob, a mountain man even greater than Manley, was teaching English at CC when we arrived in 1961, and we shared many a trail with him. 

I never really knew Cornelius Bradley. I met him briefly only once -- when I was 6 and he was nearly 90 -- and I doubt we had a lot to talk about. But now that I have seen his diary, I would like to be able to swap stories with him. Quite obviously he enjoyed teaching here as much as I did. 

Richard Bradley retired from the physics department in 1987 after serving as college dean from 1973 to 1979. Ric, who has devoted considerable time to enjoying nature as well as defending it, is also a pianist, composer, and singer. The essay printed here is excerpted from a longer piece now sealed tight inside the Colorado Springs Century Chest for residents of the year 2101.

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