Twenty Year's Experience of a Missionary
One Year's Work in the Agricultural and Mechanical
College, Normal, Ala.
In September, 1906, Virginia found herself again engaged in the regular work of the school
room in the A. & M. College, Normal, Ala. She met a friendly, sociable corps of teachers, all
apparently deeply interested and ready for the service as outlined by the management of the
institution and its honorable board of directors.
The president's zealous labors of more than thirty years to make the A. & M. College the
grand school it now is have been well rewarded in the success attained and he now lives to enjoy
some of the rich fruits of his early seed sowing. For natural beauty Normal can scarcely be
surpassed. It is situated in North Alabama upon the south side of one of the spurs of the
Cumberland mountains, which greatly protect the school buildings from the full force of
113the northern winds in winter. The campus is so elevated, situated as it is on the mountain side,
that one from this point can view all the surrounding country for miles away. The lights in the city
of Huntsville, four miles distant, can be easily seen at night. Beautiful green grass covers the
mountain side upon which the buildings are erected as with a carpet of green. Evergreen, shade
and fruit trees of various kinds adorn the ground, and fruit trees of various kinds adorn the
grounds, and beds of flowers and potted plants appear here and there, adding much to the natural
picturesque scenery of Normal. The most careless observer that passes is attracted by this scene
or beauty. Two railroad stations are adjacent to the grounds and furnish ample accommodation
for the ingress and egress of students. There are fourteen buildings for the work of the institution
besides the president's home and four cottages for teachers' families. Much emphasis is placed
upon industrial education and all students are given opportunity to learn two or more trades. The
literary school furnished three courses, preparatory, normal and college, and all students are
required to take two or more studies for their intellectual training.
Bible study is also emphasized and made a special department of the institution's work. The
state, however, makes no appropriation for Bible department. For the lack of some definite
support the department
114is crippled to some extent, as sufficient time cannot be given to fully develop it.
Virginia has found the young people even more interested in their Bible study than she
expected, as so few young people have been shown the importance of Bible study as a part of
their educational training. Bible class work is somewhat new in many of our schools. "The
Students' Bible Course" of "The John C. Martin Educational Fund" has been pursued with blessed
Books were secured in November, 1906, and the students entered heartily into the systematic
study of "The Life of Christ," as recorded in the Gospels. With this perfect threefold system of
education carried on in the A. & M. College, Normal, Ala., under the management of that
excellent leader of men, President W. H. Council, and his able corps of teachers, our youth are
compelled to be prepared for the arduous duties of life that await them.
Virginia entered into the inner life of the school at once; she was made superintendent of the
Sunday school at the beginning of the school year, supervisor of the Y. W. C. A. and Bible
teacher in the Normal and College Departments, while Rev. Dr. Brooke gave Bible lessons two
days of each week to the entire school. In November Virginia was given the entire class work of
Bible study throughout the school. She
115was thus enabled to come in close touch with all the young people and help them in their religious
life. Blessed privilege! She believes many have been led to appreciate the beauty and loveliness of
the true Christian life; several have accepted Jesus as their personal Saviour and have begun to
testify of his love and join heartily in the work of the public religious services. Many can be
dependent upon to present a creditable exercise for a religious service whenever requested.
Special Bible instructions have been given to those aspiring for the ministry and missionary work,
thus enabling our young ministers to give the schools several practical, theoretical and acceptable
sermons at the Sunday morning services, the principal church service of the day. Much attention is
also given to elocution and music as complements to the more solid and arduous work of the
Institution. Every class in its respective order presents a weekly rhetorical program. Honorable
rivalry exists that causes the classes to vie with each other for excellence in those weekly
exercises. There are also four literary societies, the Peabody, Douglas, Adelphic and Phyllis
Wheatly. Each Friday evening one of these literary societies entertains the school with an
excellent program of a literary and musical character. The social side of life is also given its share
of consideration. Occasionally a social is tendered the student body.
116One of special interest was given in November as a reward to the students for faithful service in
aiding the farm manager to gather the cotton from the fields, when help could not be secured for
love nor money. The students volunteered their services and went to the fields in large numbers
and soon had all the cotton gathered. The teachers or Normal have a "Round Table," a social and
literary meeting, every two weeks, and thus every one is kept busily engaged in art and science,
both theoretical and applied; in literature, profane and sacred, ancient and modern, and music,
both vocal and instrumental, according to their respective adaptabilities and capabilities. The Bran
Band, under the efficient direction of Prof. L. W. Hammond, was a great success this year. In
short, Normal A. & M. College is a regular beehive of humanity, and the king bee is sure to drive
out all drones if for no other reason that self-defense.
Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, Emancipation Day, Washington's birthday and Easter were all
appropriately celebrated at Normal, with helpful instructive and inspiring exercise.
Prof. W. S. Peyton introduced several healthful amusements in the line of sports on
Thanksgiving Day. As interest grows in this feature of college life, it is hoped the baseball team of
Normal will be prepared
117to contest successfully with the teams of any of our southern colleges.
A standing committee, representing the various colleges from which the teachers graduated,
namely, Dr. Annie B. Marsh, A. & M. College; Mrs. V. W. Broughton, Fisk University; Prof. W.
S. Peyton, Lake Forest; Miss M.G. Gibson, Tongaloo; Mrs. C.B. Hamilton, Wilberforce; Miss F.
T. Johnson, Walden; Mrs. H.M.F. Archer, Niagara Falls, was appointed to arrange programs for
all special occasions. Hence much praise is due said committee for the excellence and
suggestiveness of the programs for each of the special occasions referred to. Vice-President
Hopkins, who largely had the management of the school in hand this year, owing to the impaired
health of President Council, was found to be most genial and courteous, ever ready to relieve and
assist the teachers in their arduous duties, being made arduous because of the small teaching force
provided for the work to be done. Prof. Hopkins' years of experience in the school room enabled
him to do the work in the class room whenever necessary, as well as do the more responsible
work of directing the entire work of the institution.
Virgina counted herself favored to be associated with such a corps of faithful teachers in this
particular school year of 1906 and 1907 for many reasons, one especially she would mention,
namely: Led by
118President Councill with a liberal donation these associated teachers and students of A. & M.
College donated a large per cent of the expense of her trip abroad, wither she was delegated by
the Woman's Convention Auxiliary to N. B. Convention to attend the World's International
Sunday-school Convention. This trip prevents her closing the year's report in full. She will leave
her unexpired term to be filled by her daughters, Mrs. E. B. Sykes, if she is required to supply a
substitute. The commencement alone remains unreported.