PROFESSOR DAVID M. FERGUSON
Narrator: A group of his Pupils
Prof. Ferguson has left an indelible mark on the lives of the elderly people in Hamilton. It is fitting that they tell about him and his work.
He came here from Ohio 1873 to be the first principal of the new Brick School on the north side. The schools before that event had been in bad shape, some rooms here, some there, little supervision and no grading. Pupils took what they wanted and where they wanted to. All that has been described elsewhere.
When Prof. Davy Ferguson came, he and his wife first lived in the old Kirkendall house (after Marion Hines) then he moved into the present Seth Young House to be near the school. He stayed there. His wife was his second one and she was quite charming in looks and ways.
Joe Davis recalls the zest that pupils had in entering the new brick for the first time; it was a High School, a term new to them. There were other changes awaiting them under the new Professor. He took each one and examined them, putting them where they belonged, so that the term Hamilton Graded Schools, which he started meant something. Then those fitted to be in High School, he assigned to four classes A.B.C.D. (corresponding to Senior, Junior, Sophomore, and Freshman). As time went on, the best students won the back seats. Under Prof. Ferguson the High School Assistant was Miss Founts who resigned in a month and Miss Griffin came and stayed several years, finally becoming the second wife of Marion Hines. On the first floor were Ed Rix intermediate and Dot Morrow primary.
The school board did not have the money to buy a bell for the school; hence Prof. Davy had school entertainments and raised money to buy a bell, an organ and chandeliers, so that it could be used at night. One of these plays was "The Last Loaf."
The brick had one big room on the second floor and a recitation room at the north end. Afterwards many changes were made but the first way is the way it is recalled by Ferguson pupils. He stayed in Hamilton from 1873-1882, leaving to go to Gallatin, but somehow he found it handy to come to Hamilton often for a few years. He was about forty two when he left.
He never had a regular graduating class, but he had several who finished the course and they were recognized later as Alumni. One of his A classes which finished the course numbered about twenty including Ida Walling, Mel McCoy, Herbert Low, Will Moffit, Abby Perkins, Nolie Elliott, Mollie Partin Reed, Mamie Tuttle, Minnie Perkins, etc.
He had a fine way of talking to the pupils. They recall how he talked at the deaths of Leila Aikens, Flora Blaker and a Penney boy killed by the train. His favorite Bible selection was the 23rd Psalm.
He taught spelling from his own book on orthography which went through two editions, a copy of which is in the library. The pupils spelled by syllable - as it incompatibility I-n in c-o-m-com incom; p-a-t pat incompat
-i- incompati; b-i-l bil incompatibil; -i- incompatibili; t-y-incompatibility. You never got lost in your spelling that way.
His title was a new one - Principal of the Graded Schools and it stayed that way till 1891 when D.T. Gentry became Superintendent.
He was severe in his order and exacting in Scholarship yet his pupils would do anything for him. Perhaps that is why today in the Hamilton Public Library there is the Ferguson Memorial library collection for his memory.
At recess he played with the pupils, turning the rope or running, but the minute the bell rang, he was all business. He wore carpet slippers to get around noiselessly and slip up on the idle. One morning he saw some youngsters loitering two blocks away from school. He ran towards them and somehow they never played on the way to school after.
The High School pupils often had sociables in the building at night. One of his favorite games was Hurly Burly. Every one was instructed to make a noise of some animal. In the midst of the noise he yelled "Hurly Burly" which meant to run for a chair; since there was always one less chair than players, it was quite exciting.
Professor Ferguson or Uncle Davy as his old pupils called him after he grew older, was not a handsome man; yet his fine dark eyes made him quite a distinguished look. He wore a chin beard, as the fashion of time demanded. The reader of this paper can walk over to the Ferguson corner of the library and see an enlargement of the picture which he had taken here as a teacher. He gave small cuts of it on calling cards to several of his pupils.
It is difficult for us who worked under him to tell the extent of his influence in moulding the lives of men and women who became leaders in Hamilton life and progress. To him we were always his boys and girls; to us always he was the perfect teacher and gentleman.
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