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James Ralph Jewell

Dr. James Ralph Jewell, '03, Daniel Coe's grandson, presented a speech on Founder's Day, December 5 1912, in honor of his grandfather.  Jewell was a Dean of the Vocational School at Corvallis, Oregon.  He was a debator, one of the best forensic speakers at Coe according to the May 17, 1928 Cosmos.  He received his Ph.D. degree in 1906.  The following excerpts were collected from the Coe College Courier, Vol. XIII, December 1912.

Daniel Coe, the founder of Coe College...was born in Durham, New York, on May 26, 1794, a descendent in the seventh generation of Robert Coe, Puritan, who came to New England from Suffolk County, England, with his family in 1634.  In 1820, Daniel Coe was married to Rebecca Clark, a school teacher from Plainfield, Mass., up in the Berkshire Hills.  No children were born to them.  But Mary Clark, an older sister of Mrs. Coe, also a teacher, had a few years previously married the Reverend James Jewell, first pastor of the Congregational Church of West Durham, and at her death in 1824, Daniel and his wife took the three Jewell children and brought them up.  Afterward, Mary Rebecca Coe, born Oct 24, 1856, the only child of Daniel Coe, and by a second wife, married the eldest son of James Jewell, one of these three foster children, and he is my father….

Mr. Coe's life was closely circumscribed by the environment of the Catskill Mountains until he was well along in years...When Daniel Coe was eleven he was permanently taken out of school...  That winter he drove three yoke of oxen hauling logs for the construction of a new family home...  The old people living in the vicinity of Durham remember that his English was noticeably purer than that of the community, and that he taught school near his home for one year..The first money he ever earned, at the age of 18, when he worked for some little time for a neighbor, was given to him to keep by his father, to whom it was paid, and he spend the entire sum for school books, which he studied during the long evenings...

In this day of scientific management it seems that a large part of the material success of Daniel Coe came because he practiced the principals of conservation long before the day of recognized conservation had come.  For example, his neighbors were prodigal of their woodland, because the mountaintops and sides were still well timbered.  But at his death the farm on which he was born was "in better heart," as they say in the Catskills, than when he took over the management of it...

While other farmers of the community were selling their farm crops direct or else placing certain products on the general market, my grandfather was carefully grading his products and so topping the market with what we would now call a fancy line, and selling them to discriminating consumers himself when possible.  He kept what was thought then a large herd of dairy cows and sold the butter direct to customers in New York City.  All the butter was made daily, worked and packed away in the cold springhouse cellar before breakfast...

Most of the farmers in the central Catskills were sheep raisers...  The majority of the sheep kept there until war times were large and rather coarse, of a mixed breed, used both for fleece and mutton.  When the popularity of imported Merino sheep came to New York State in the twenties...Daniel Coe was the first farmer in the central Catskills to abandon scrub sheep for grade Merinos.  He and a neighbor, Curtis Humphrey, imported a fine Merino buck from Spain at such a cost that he never would tell either his daughter or her husband how much he paid for it, saying that the increase in wool that he got showed him that it was a good investment, but that his reputation for sound business sense was too valuable to allow the criticism he felt sure would result if the real price was known.

It was perhaps because of his recognized discretion in financial matters that he became in a small way...something of a banker for his neighbors, who left sums of money with him till they happened to be going down to Catskill where there was a bank.

Socially, morally, politically, and religiously Mr. Coe showed himself possessed in no small measure of the Puritan blood of his family.  And with the spirit of the Puritan he stood firm in his time for whatever his conscience told him was right, with little regard to the standards of the community.  Living in a time when everyone, churchmen and laymen alike, drank intoxicating liquor and drank to excess, he was a "teetotaler" when there was a stigma attached to the very name.  Before his one child could write, he came home one night from a temperance meeting, and taking her on his lap told her he had that night signed the pledge for her with her name, trying in many ways to explain to her by means of simple stories of life on their farm the force of habit.  It was the custom for the entire population of a community to help with a "raising," when one or another had a heavy scaffolding of a new house or barn to erect; no pay in money being expected, but instead free food and liquor in any quantity.  Mr. Coe was the first man in the Catskills to raise a large barn without the free use of liquor, and when it was noised about that he would be unable to get the frame up because no one would come, he quietly hired enough men to do the work and paid them wages...

There was a difference of opinion during his lifetime, and it still exists among the few old men and women around Durham and West Durham who remember him well, whether or not Daniel Coe was penurious.  Certainly he was saving to an extreme, and taught his household to be.  I have heard my mother tell how he taught her as a little girl to peel potatoes thin, saying to her, again and again, "you know, you may be a poor man's wife some day, daughter."  But old friends of his tell me that they recollect vividly his reply, when charged with stinginess, "It is never stingy to be saving, if you save to give away..."

He felt it was just as good business to borrow to give to a worthy cause in a crisis as to borrow for a business venture which demanded ready cash and promised large returns later... as in the land for the founding of Coe College.  He would have felt that way in any such struggle as Coe had just gone through in seeking to save a large endowment which had to be completed at a certain time...

Like the founders of our great universities Daniel Coe was interested in educational institutions perhaps all the more because a stern life of hardship had denied such advantages to him.  While yet in financial straits he heard, one Sabbath afternoon in the Congregation church of West Durham, the Reverend Williston Jones, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, made a plea for subscriptions towards a fund of $1500 to be used for the education of three Iowa boys who wanted to enter the ministry.  My mother tells me that she remembers vividly how her father looked as he sat in the afternoon sunshine in his pew - next to the front one of the little church - with his elbow on the arm of the pew and his head resting thoughtfully in his hand, while he heard Mr. Jones urge the need of bringing the three western boys east for an education.  At the close of the service he asked why it would not be better to educate the boys at home than to bring them east, and suggested it would be better to spend the money raised in starting an institution of higher learning at some western railway center - or where there was a certainty of some town becoming a railway center - than to use all the money on the three boys alone.  The next afternoon he had Mr. Jones come to his home, and before they retired for the night he had agreed to furnish himself all the money asked for...on the one condition that in connection with the founding of the school a tract of farm land be bought in order that boys could work as they studied and study as they worked, so getting an education largely through their own efforts.  With the Coe money an eighty acres was purchased, on a part of which the campus is now located, and four lots downtown...

It will be seen that he was a firm believer in Industrial Education.  It was his plan that at Coe College young men and women should be enabled to pay a large part of the expense of their college course by working on the eighty-acre farm, as has for years been successfully done at Park College, near Kansas City.  It is interesting to know that although this plan never came to fruition at Coe (as probably things worked out for the best here in Iowa), his plans have been worked out with complete success elsewhere.  Immediately on the close of the war he bought 680 acres of land near Talladega, Ala., and gave the property to the American Missionary Association, to be sold in small tracts to Negroes as soon as any particular ones showed the ability necessary to do small farming...

And so there died, in the same obscurity in which he had lived, one whom you might call a rude farmer, uneducated in any formal sense, little known and little known of, and yet a man to whom one may well take pride in tracing his ancestry, or in acclaiming loyalty to his name as belonging to such an institution as Coe College.  If Education be, as Dr. Burnham of Clark University says, "the formation of habits of healthful activity," then he was truly educated.  While passing through the hard school of life, as did the great Lincoln, he drew large stores of sympathy for his fellows from the same wellsprings of human companionship.  Gifted with great insight, he seems to have discovered for himself certain principals of economics, such as that of conservation; of education - the evolving a cultural value out of the industrial curriculum; and of sociology, for the plans that he fathered are now solving the race problem in the Black Belt of the South.  In view of this retrospect, looking back over the life of Daniel Coe and his habits of living, the things he was associated with, the movements with which he affiliated himself, and the purposes towards which he directed his energies, surely few men could better have been chosen to father a college; surely college students of today could hardly point to a better example of a life well lived, and worthwhile in every sense.

See also Daniel Coe

 
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