James Griffing and his chum, George Stillman,  couldn't believe how much money they had spent during the past week outfitting their room in the college dormitory. They had just negotiated a bargain price for a good used stove but it had left them each with a dollar and a half less in their pockets. James looked about the room and took stock of his purchases, estimating the cumulative sum in his head. There was his bed, the bedding, and the straw for his mattress. A clock, a table, a lamp, and chairs, some dishes and pails, a bookcase, curtains and a carpet. He had to admit that the steel plate engraving of the city of Middletown had been an unnecessary purchase, but he just couldn't resist it. It would add such a touch of distinction to the letters he intended to send to his friends back home, he reasoned.
The first day of school had been long and eventful. His head was spinning with the excitement of the day and he needed time alone to think about the day's events. To get away from the other students, he volunteered to go down to the well to draw themselves some water and told George he'd be back in awhile. As he wound his way down the back steps of the dormitory, he thought about the barrage of appeals he had endured from interested upper classmen throughout the day. He had heard that competition for membership in the debating societies was keen, but he had never expected this. He knew that his good friends John Griffin and William Lawrence had already decided to join the Philorhetorian Society and were urging him to do the same. Members of the Peithologian Society, however, had approached him several times during the day in equal earnest. It was a tough decision and he wasn't one to make decisions quickly. Finally he decided to trust his instincts. He would join the Philorhetorians.
Membership in one of the Wesleyan University debating clubs was not a decision to be taken lightly. These clubs were the chief form of regular social interaction among the students. To participate in their activities was to share a common bond with the other members in much the same fashion as the fraternal organizations that evolved from them in later years. Meeting once a week on Tuesday nights, the members selected some current, sometimes philosophical topic for discussion and took turns developing their declamation and debating talents. 
September 15, 1846, promptly at seven o'clock in the evening, James was escorted
into the meeting hall with the other members who had been selected for
membership and ushered into the front row of chairs. The walls of the room were lined with large candelabrums, smothered in
wax drippings, whose candles threw dancing flashes of light into the room where
the upperclassmen sat with bent eyebrows and discriminating eyes. James sat looking forward at the expansive shadows cast by the
President's chair on the speakers platform before him and waited for a break in
the eerie silence. Finally, the
sound of footsteps across the hardwood floor announced the entrance of the
officers and participants of the evening's events.
roll call of the Philorhetorian Society taken, James and the others listened to
the first oration delivered by James Rogers. 
He had met Rogers earlier in the week and had talked with him briefly
before deciding to join the Philorhetorian Society. He had been favorably impressed with Rogers and struck by the similarity
in their backgrounds and their views. They
were both from upstate New York, older than their classmates, and shared the
same disgust for their country's involvement in the war with Mexico.
listened to the speaker eloquently dispute the selected question, "Is the
preservation of the balance of power a justifiable cause of war?" and
failed to understand how others could not be persuaded by the power of his
arguments. A lively debate ensued
in the aftermath of the speech and James sat in silence as he listened to the
other participants voice their views on the subject. He became incensed by the madness that threatened to take over the room
as the sensitive issues pertaining to expansionism, State's rights, and the
Constitution were discussed. He had
to agree with the one fellow who suggested that a war with Mexico was perhaps
better for the Union than the alternatives. It was no secret that the Southern states were upset by the imbalance in
legislative power brought on by the recent admittance of free states and that
more than one statesman from the South was advocating secession from the Union.
was relieved when the president called a halt to the debate and announced a much
less sensitive topic for discussion at next week's meeting of the Society. He was watching the recording Secretary write the selected question for
debate in the record book of the Society minutes when suddenly, without warning,
he heard his name being announced by John Clarke,  inviting him to stand and be recognized. The
announcement startled him and he stumbled on numb and rubbery legs to rise out
of his chair. His awkwardness
apparently went unnoticed, however, as the welcoming applause made him quickly
forget the incident. 
How ironical, he noticed, that the days before classes started had passed so slowly. Now that school was in session, the weeks were passing before him as if but pages in a book. Had he really missed the beauty and grandeur of the New England autumn? Was he so busy that he could no longer find the time for daily spiritual advancement? He picked up his journal, poised his pen, and waited for the words to flow:
October 24, 1846. A half of the term at college already gone. How very soon have
all the moments fled. I find college life in many respects very agreeable
although not so in every favorable respect to religious advancement when there
are so many subjects demanding one's attention. Unless he is very careful and
faithful, he will spiritually decline. An individual seems to think that where
there are so many ministers, professors of religion, etc., that spiritual
declension will be impossible, but this is Satan's most successful method of
seducing the soul from God. It needs the greatest watchfulness to keep from
backsliding, losing all religion, and making miserable the soul for ever. I
attended this evening class meeting. Our leader was Tutor Loomis (a man who
delights to converse with God in prayer). The testimony given was most
encouraging. The advice given was comforting and profitable.
Is it to be fitted with all the fullness of God? Lord, will thou help me
to consecrate my all to thee forever?
Before the end of his first term of college, James sat down to make three more entries:
October 29, 1846. Excused from recitation this
morning through the want of light. The practice of reciting at a regular hour at
this season makes it necessary that the recitation rooms be furnished with
artificial lights. Certainly this can be considered none other than a wise
regulation at college for it causes the student to arise at an early hour and at
that early hour it brings into active exercise his mental faculties. This begets
within him habits which certainly must be considered beneficial to him in
performing all those duties useful to him through his whole course of life. I
find that my mind is by far too unstable. I can never expect without there is a
decided reformation in my conduct and habits of ever attaining to any degree of
usefulness. This reformation must be immediately commenced and observed in my
whole deportment. I find I do not
sufficiently cultivate my powers of thought. I am not faithful in
concentrating every faculty of my soul upon the object under consideration.
sufficiently cultivate my powers of thought. I am not faithful in concentrating every faculty of my soul upon the object under consideration.
Saturday, October 31, 1846. This day accompanied my roommate to his school  in Farmington [Connecticut] about 18 miles from this village. I found the face of the country quite hilly, the soil much poorer than I expected. The age of the country, the thick settlement in our Country by foreigners led me to suppose that the land in this State had attained a high degree of cultivation, but how inferior to many parts of New York does it yet appear.
Sunday, November 15, 1846. Experienced a refreshing season last night in class. Formed the resolution that I would strive to be more devoted to the cause of God. Found it comforting to read my bible on my knees. Felt a good degree of comfort whilst engaged in the Sunday School prayer meeting. Listened to two sermons from Rev. James Floy. 
trip to Farmington had been most educational for James. He watched closely as George
Stillman showed him how to advertise his services as
a teacher by placing an announcement in the newspaper and getting endorsements
from respected leaders in the community. Once
finished in Farmington, George accompanied James to Kensington where they
repeated the process. Fortunately
for James, the local school district happened to be looking for a teacher and he
was able to make arrangements for his return at the end of November to open
 George Stillman, graduated from Wesleyan University in 1850. He became a Methodist Preacher and served various appointments in Connecticut and New York.
 George Dutcher, Wesleyan University: The First Years.
 James Rogers was born in 1818 at Cambria, N.Y. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1847 and was employed as a teacher and preacher in California starting in 1849.
 John Currier Clarke was born in 1822 at Chester, N. H. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1848 and was employed as a teacher and principal at N. H. Conference Seminary after graduation. After 1852, he was engaged in the lumber business in Michigan.
 "The one social group encouraged by the college was the literary society... The entire student body was ordinarily divided between two rival societies, each sporting the customary mysterious initiation ceremony and complex ritual. Meetings...featured the reading of papers and the debating of such profound topics as whether pride is essential to happiness and whether a thief or a liar is more degraded. Probably no one was influenced to change his mind, but the students enjoyed themselves and the college was happy in the thought that spare moments were being spent educationally." Robert Riegel, Young Americans 1830-1840, p. 249.
 Like many other Wesleyan University students, George Stillman taught a "Select School" for young students. "The college had two terms, with a long winter vacation to permit needy students to teach. Commencement came usually in late August and was similar to the modern exercises." Riegel, The Americans 1830-1840, p. 248.
 Rev. James Floy was a Methodist minister of the New York Conference who held strong anti-slavery views and, unlike many other ministers of the period, openly expressed them in the pulpit. This open agitation over the slavery issue prior to the split of the church in 1844 actually caused his conference to suspend his preacher's license for a time. His alleged crime was aiding in the circulation of an anti-slavery tract and attending an anti-slavery convention. Source: "Story of the Churches," Vol. on 'Methodists' pp. 165, 166.
 "Elementary education was the province of the local school district, which usually had no power of taxation. A local committee hired the teacher and theoretically supervised the school, but actually often ignored it. Costs were paid grudgingly by the parents." Riegel, Young Americans 1830-1840, p. 232.