Thursday, January 28, 2016

Family History at Auburn

I went to college (undergrad) at Auburn University.  I knew that my uncle David had attended there.  I did not know until much later that I had earlier relatives that also attended.  I recently found that Auburn's old yearbooks are available online back to the 1897.

Here is my great uncle, Thomas Early Paden, as a student in 1939 .  I never really heard about him since my grandfather on that side died when my mom was young and I didn't see relatives from that side of the family very much.  In digging around, I found he had gone to Auburn (or Alabama Polytechnic Institue, as it was known then).  So that makes three generations of my extended family that had been at Auburn.  But we can top that.

Going back even further, I have a first cousin four times removed (in other words, my great-great-grandmother's first cousin) by the name of Harvey Owen Sargent.  The illustrious Sargent family includes an Alabama legislator, a Confederate captain, and if you go back far enough, it connects to Governor Winthrop Sargent of the Mississippi territory, and renowned American painter John Singer Sargent.  (Expect a post on this family later.)  But back to Harvey--he must have been an interesting fellow.  He was an assistant editor for the Chrysalis, which was an alternative yearbook founded because the fraternities had too much influence on the Glomerata.

Here he is on the 1896 football team, on which he played left guard. This is shortly after the introduction of football in the south and only the fifth year the school had a team.  They went 3-1 that year, losing to Georgia (still an opponent every year) and defeating Mercer, the Georgia School of Technology, and Sewanee (two of them in shutouts).  The school was part of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association, now known as the SEC.

Harvey even gets called out as a promising newcomer in the accompanying story.  (He did not play in later years, except on an intramural squad.)  But it gets better--who's that handsome coach standing up on the right side, his leg outstretched?  Maybe if he held his arm straight out, it would give you a hint.  Right, that's legendary coach John Heisman, in his second year at Auburn.  Heisman would go on to coach at eight different schools and was very influential in the game's history, coming up with innovations such as saying "hike" or "hep", dividing the game into quarters, and the jump shift.  And of course the famous trophy is named for him.  The yearbook describes him as a "perfect gentlemen" that they love for "all he is worth".

Incidentally, Heisman was a Shakesperean actor.  Here is an amusing speech he used to give.
"What is this? It is a prolate spheroid, an elongated sphere in which the outer leather casing is drawn tightly over a somewhat smaller rubber tubing. Better to have died as a small boy than to fumble this football."
By the way, the early Glomeratas and Chrysalises are quite interesting to browse through if you went to Auburn or are familiar with the campus. A lot of the buildings are named for early professors. There is a Tichenor on the team. Not the one Tichenor Hall is named after but I imagine there is a family connection. One of the postgraduates was S. L. Toomer, studying pharmacy. Auburn fans will recognize the namesake of Toomer's drugstore and Toomer's corner.

It was neat to me to see four generations of my extended family at Auburn. Later I will tell a little more about Harvey Owen Sargent's career after college.

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