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W. R. L. SMITH, D.D. 






Copyright, 1921, by Richard G. Badger 

All Rights Reserved 

•U3UC UBfiARv 


R 1«22 L 

Made in the United States of America 

The Gorham Press, Boston, U. S. A. 


IT will be obvious that this biography has been 
written in a passion of admiration and loyal 
love. Conscious of the eminent worthiness of its 
subject, the writer has felt no temptation to ex- 
ceed the just limits of praise, or to violate the de- 
mands of a true sincerity. The effort has been to 
hold the record to a faithful presentation of the 
facts in a long and distinguished career. The 
singular unity of his life-work, localized on one 
spot of earth, has made the gathering of materials 
an easy task. An intimate and affectionate friend- 
ship of twenty-three years, is one of the author's 
invaluable sources. Then, abundant information 
was found in the minutes of the trustee meetings, 
the yearly catalogues, the college magazines, the 
occasional reminiscent speeches to students and 
the annual commencement address. 

One makes bold to say that he fears not the 
verdict of the older Hollins girls on this memoir. 
If it shall awaken hallowed memories and unseal 
the fount of tears ; if it shall tighten the clasp of 
their heartstrings to dear old Hollins, its pur- 
pose will have been largely accomplished. 

W. R. L. Smith. 



The Early Years 21 

chapter ii 
Call of the Southwest 34 


HoLLiNS Institute in Struggle and Growth 49 


The Clearing Skies 63 


Expansion and Achievement 75 

chapter VI 
The President and his Girls 91 


Commencements and Addresses 105 


Religious Enthusiasms and Activities . . 123 

chapter ix 
Characteristics 132 


His Comrades and Co-Workers .... 142 


His Monument i59 


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in 2007 witii funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 



Charles Lewis Cocke .... Frontispiece 


Charles Lewis Cocke and Susanna Virginia 

Pleasants, About 1840 30 

The Valley Union Seminary, 1842-1852 . . 36 

The Female Seminary at Botetourt Springs, 

1852-1855 46 

HoLLiNs Institute 60 

Mrs. Charles L. Cocke 70 

"Good Morning, 'Gyrls' " 92 

Charles L. Cocke 132 

Mrs. Charles L. Cocke 142 

Mrs. Anne Hollins 150 

John Hollins 154 

Hollins College 160 


THIS biographical sketch of Charles L. Cocke 
has been written with fine appreciation and 
sympathy. It brings before us an exceptionally 
strong man, who after years of struggle against 
discouragements realized, in large measure, the 
ideals of his early years. It is a story of heroic 
achievement that can not be read without emotion. 
Hollins College stands today as a fitting and 
permanent memorial of its founder's indomitable 
will and noble aims. But there was something 
still finer connected with his years of struggle 
and toil. Long before the end came, he had 
made the noblest achievement of human life, 
bringing from its disappointments and conflicts, 
not a cynical distrust of his fellow men, but a 
courageous, hopeful and invincible character of 
righteousness and love. He learned to look upon 
the tumultuous world with a serene and benig- 
nant spirit. 

It was my privilege for many years to serve as 
one of the chaplains of Hollins College. The 
hours spent in Mr. Cocke's oflice after the even- 
ing service are among my cherished memories. 


10 Introduction 

Our talk, often protracted till nearly midnight, 
turned chiefly on educational, religious, and social 
subjects, which always made a strong appeal to 
his vigorous mind and earnest nature. He loved 
the truth; but in the expression of his opinions 
there was sometimes a delightful touch of exag- 
geration that lent a peculiar charm to his con- 

Beyond any man I have ever known he pos- 
sessed the power to call forth noble sentiment and 
stimulate intellectual activity. This quality 
explains, in part at least, the loyal devotion of 
his co-workers and the grateful affection of his 
students. It made him a great teacher. It 
endowed him with a sort of divine right to lead- 
ership; it crowned him with the glory of peren- 
nial, unconscious beneficence. 

In the quality of his intellect he was distinctly 
Roman. By the law of resemblance he easily 
conjures up before our minds the dignified and 
sturdy personality of a Cato. Without the gifts 
of Attic versatility, his strong intellect and sound 
judgment set him apart for substantial practical 
achievement. We are fully warranted in believ- 
ing that he would have won in any industrial or 
political field the same distinguished success that 
he achieved in education. 

The religion of the New Testament was a vital 
element in his character. Its dominant feature 

Introduction 1 1 

was not emotion but conscience. To him the call 
of duty was Imperative and final. It was In 
obedience to this call that he entered upon his 
work at Hollins. The materialistic science of 
the latter half of the nineteenth century left him 
untouched. He recognized the Divine agency in 
the lives of men no less than in the destiny of 
nations. This profound and dominant faith 
habitually filled the future with hope, and im- 
parted to him, as to all who cherish It, unfailing 
courage and strength. 

A massive intellect, supported by a deep sense 
of religious duty, made him an independent and 
fearless thinker. He had the force to break the 
trammels of tradition. With the vision of a true 
pioneer he saw the need of a better intellectual 
training for American women, and with the re- 
sourcefulness of a strong nature he led the way 
In its attainment. His aims and efforts were man- 
ifestations of real greatness. It is men of like 
vision and resourcefulness who are raised up 
from time to time to lead the forward movements 
of our race. It is no reproach to say that Mr, 
Cocke would hardly have been in full sympathy 
with the feminist movement of recent years. No 
man can live too far ahead of his time. But he 
helped to prepare the way for it by his pioneer 
insistence on a richer culture and larger oppor- 
tunities for women; and it may justly be said that 

12 Introduction 

no other man in Virginia or the South has a 
higher claim on their recognition and gratitude. 

He was fortunate to recognize in his early man- 
hood his vocation as a pioneer educator. The 
call was clear, and his consecration complete. 
Few men have ever labored with greater single- 
ness of purpose. As Tennyson dedicated his life 
to poetry and Darwin to science, so Mr. Cocke 
gave himself to the work of a nobler culture for 
the women of Virginia and later of our whole 
country. W^ithout this singleness of aim, which 
gave unity to his efforts for more than fifty years, 
he could not have brought his great life-task to a 
triumphant conclusion. 

But his great mind and heart were not so 
utterly absorbed in this work as to exclude from 
his thought and effort other important interests. 
Before the present movement for social better- 
ment had been inaugurated, he labored unselfishly 
for the material and moral improvement of his 
community and State. He was interested in the 
establishment of schools for boys. He was a 
recognized leader in the extension of the Baptist 
Church in Southwestern Virginia, and his fore- 
sight and wise counsel contributed in no small 
measure to the vigorous life and growth of that 

Yet he was not narrowly sectarian. His broad 
outlook on life welcomed every agency that con- 

Introduction 13 

tributed to moral and religious advancement. To 
his mind denominational differences of creed 
were of secondary importance as compared with 
the great fundamental agreement in the work 
of establishing the kingdom of God in the world. 
He cultivated friendly relations with all branches 
of the Christian Church, and invited their min- 
isters from time to time to conduct services in 
the Hollins Chapel. His chief requirement was 
a helpful message supported by an upright life. 

He delighted, it seems to me, in what we might 
call intellectual athletics. He welcomed a dis- 
agreement of view, and enjoyed measuring 
strength in an argument. The enjoyment, I think, 
was independent of the outcome of the discus- 
sion; it was found in the pleasurable exercise of a 
vigorous brain. Defeat in argument yielded him 
scarcely less pleasure than did victory. The 
warmest discussion never ruffled in the slightest 
degree his self-possession and friendly courtesy. 

In the massiveness of his character he was 
exempt from the foibles of smaller natures. In 
his striving after truth he was unswayed in his 
judgment by petty prejudices. His broad benev- 
olence and warm interest in the welfare of others 
shielded him from envy and jealousy. While 
sternly intolerant of wrong-doing, he was gently 
patient with the wrong-doer, being less anxious 
to punish than to reclaim. Though he was doubt- 

14 ' Introduction 

less conscious of his strength, as are all truly 
great men, he was too sensible and honest to feel 
the inflation of egotism. His natural stately dig- 
nity forbade famiharity; but to those in need he 
was uniformly kind and helpful. It is the mem- 
ory of his kindness and helpfulness that has 
enshrined his image in many hearts. 

The life of so rare a character deserves to be 
recorded in permanent form. It will thus stand 
as an inspiration and guide to others. As biogra- 
pher Dr. Smith has performed his task worthily; 
and I esteem it a privilege to write this intro- 
duction and pay this tribute of admiration and 
affection to one of the greatest men I have known. 

F. V. N. Painter. 
Salem, Va., 
September 2, 1920. 


February 21 Charles L. Cocke was born at 
Edgehill, King William County, Va. 

He entered Richmond College. 

He entered Columbian College at Washing- 
ton, D. C. 


Graduated from Columbian College, and ac- 
cepted a position at Richmond College. 

On December 31 married Susanna Virginia 
Pleasants, of Henrico County. 

1 840-1 846 
Connected with Richmond College. 

Called to take charge of "Valley Union Sem- 
inary," a co-educational school, Roanoke County, 
Va., at Botetourt Springs. 


1 6 Chronology 

June 23 arrived at Botetourt Springs to take 
charge of the school. 

July I the first session under Mr. Cocke's 
superintendence opened with 36 boys and 27 girls. 

Board of Trustees discontinued the depart- 
ment for boys. 

July 20 the session i852-'53 opened for girls 
only, under the name The Female Seminary at 
Botetourt Springs, Va., Mr. Cocke, Principal, 
Registration 81 girls. 

September 4 the session of i853-'54 opened 
with increased faculty and registration of 150 

Mr. and Mrs. John Hollins of Lynchburg, 
Va., donated funds to the institution, and in their 
Honor the name was changed to Hollins Institute. 

Average attendance 106. 

Chronology l^ 

Doors not closed during this period. Aver- 
age attendance 134. 

Average attendance 73. 

Buildings, enlarged to accommodate 225 stu- 

May 4 Charles L. Cocke died. 



I think I would rather have written a great 
biography than a great book, of any other sort, 
as I would have rather painted a great portrait 
than any other kind of picture. 

Phillips Brooks. 




1 820-1846 

IN the library at HoUins College is a life-size 
portrait of a great Virginian. In its presence, 
you instantly feel the spell of a commanding per- 
sonality. The figure is tall, graceful, well pro- 
portioned, and in the right hand is a diploma, 
the proper symbol of the vocation of a College 
President. The attitude exactly fits the supreme 
moment on Commencement day. In the face, the 
artist has cunningly gathered the insignia of fine 
mental quality, and pictured the forces of achiev- 
ing manhood. The ample brow looks the home 
of ideality and enterprise, the aquiline nose hints 
endurance and tireless energy. Napoleon 
selected as his marshals men marked by the prom- 
inence of this feature. That jaw and chin and 
those thin lips speak virility and determination. 
In the glance of those blue, eagle eyes, are inti- 


22 Charles L. Cocke 

mations of keen intensity and lightning force, 
yet subduable to all the moods of tenderness and 
love. Truly, this is a notably fine presentation in 
art of one of the noblest Virginians of the 19th 

This man was marked for high performance, 
and would have won distinction in any sphere of 
honorable endeavor. "Excelsior" was the divine 
imprimatur stamped on his nature. His call was 
to leadership, and his response enrolled him 
among the pioneers in the cause of the higher 
education of women in the South. The educa- 
tional ideals of Thomas Jefferson became the in- 
spiration of his youth, and with astonishing te- 
nacity and unity of purpose he pursued them until 
he worked out Hollins College, making it one of 
the rare gems of American culture. His work 
stimulated the founding of other like institutions 
in Virginia and the South. Thus he builded 
wiser than he knew. He wrought well in his gen- 
eration, and a multitude of splendid women 
throughout the whole nation will revere his name 
forever. It was a brilliant battle he fought 
against hostile conditions and appalling odds. 
He was cast in heroic mold. In fancy we can 
see him bearing his banner up the heights, his 
eyes flashing strange fires, and every energy of 
soul and body exerted to its utmost. The name of 
this remarkable man is Charles Lewis Cocke, and 

The Early Years 23 

there stands the faithful, impressive likeness of 
him in the library building at Hollins College. 

It is the story of this man that we want to 
know, and to that end the following pages are 
written. It is the right of every child to be born 
of honorable parentage. The life of Charles L. 
Cocke began with a good heredity. He was born 
February 21, 1820, at Edgehill, the home of his 
father, James Cocke, in King William County, 
Virginia. Elizabeth Fox was the maiden name of 
his mother. Both family names run back a num- 
ber of generations, the old Enghsh ancestors 
having come to Virginia in the 17th century. 
Richard Cocke bought a home with three thou- 
sand acres, and from 1644 to 1654 represented 
Henrico in the House of Burgesses. John Fox 
located in York County and then in Gloucester, 
in the years 1660 to 1680. From this worthy 
stock descended the subject of this biography. 
Charles Lewis was the oldest son of the family at 
Edgehill. Religious reverence and intelligence 
dwelt in the home, and correct views of conduct 
were expressed in parental example. The Baptist 
faith was an important part of his inheritance, 
and at Beulah Church near by his childhood re- 
ceived its first impressions of divine worship. By 
singular good fortune, the benign influence of the 
eloquent pastor and friend, the Rev. Dr. Andrew 
Broaddus, fell on the family and the growing lad. 

24 Charles L. Cocke 

In the atmosphere of this happy home, and in the 
moral securities and privileges of a good country 
community, the early years were passed. The 
boy's mind was alert, and both on the farm and 
in the local schools, gave hints of latent powers. 
The growing youth demonstrated his managerial 
capacity one year by taking charge of a kins- 
man's farm and raising, as he said, "the finest 
crop it had ever borne." Self-reliance and the 
power of bringing things to pass early became 
distinguishing quahties. The father was proud 
of the promise of his son, and when the boy 
was about fifteen years of age, gave him his 
choice of a career on the farm or in some pro- 
fessional calling. The father could hardly have 
been surprised at the prompt decision in favor of 
a profession. 

Richmond College was then new, and under the 
presidency of the Rev. Dr. Robert Ryland, was 
prosecuting its work in the suburbs of the Capital 
City. The College was only twenty miles distant 
from Edgehill and soon our ambitious youth 
was diligently pursuing his studies within its 
walls. No special genius betrayed itself, but there 
was the same bent of assiduous application which 
was on display when the abundant crop was 
raised. Dr. Ryland was not slow in discovering 
the promising traits in the new student, and a 
mutual interest sprang up between them. The 

The Early Years 25 

astute President saw in the boy the prophecy of 
stalwart young manhood, just such a factor as 
might some day be of value to himself in the 
labors of the Institution. The interest grew into 
intimacy, and there were occasional confidential 
interchanges respecting the boy's hopes and aspi- 
rations. The time of attendance on the College 
classes was drawing to a close, when one day the 
Doctor suggested to him a further course at 
Columbian College, a Baptist institution of 
higher learning in Washington City. The 
thought enlisted the youth's enthusiasm, but he 
urged the lack of funds needful for such a 
scheme. Then the generous friend replied: "I 
will furnish that, and you can repay me at your 

Here was a compliment from a wise educator 
which, though it tended to no inflation of conceit, 
put a glowing stimulus in a young man's soul. 
No true man or woman ever fails to give grati- 
tude and honor to those who quickened and 
encouraged aspiration in the days of youth. 
Impressed deeply by the kindly offer, and stirred 
by leaping ambition, Charles Lewis Cocke left 
the College and returned to his home. At once 
he communicated to his father the new visions 
and hopes. The father, pleased at the hunger of 
the son for larger knowledge, said: "You shall 
go to Columbian College; but we will not draw 

26 Charles L. Cocke 

on the generosity of Dr. Ryland. I will supply 
the means." Charles was then about eighteen 
years of age. 

The boy Daniel Webster was riding one day 
in a buggy with his father, when at a certain 
point of the conversation the father said: "Son, 
I have decided to send you to Dartmouth Col- 
lege." The announcement fell like music on the 
aspiring soul, and the only response the delighted 
son could make was to lean his head on his 
father's bosom and burst into tears. Edgehill 
knew an emotion like that in the summer of 
1838. Pursuant to plans for early departure to 
Washington, James Cocke and his son drove to 
Richmond in a buggy. While the reins were in 
the father's hands, the horse went at a sluggish 
gait. Presently they were passed to the son, 
when instantly the drudging steed pricked up 
his ears and struck a new stride. 

"You have been whipping this horse," ex- 
claimed the surprised father. 

"No," was the reply, "I have never whipped 
him, but he knows what I want him to do." 

Long years afterward, this little incident was 
told by the President of HoHins Institute to his 
graduating class, with the reflection, that he had 
learned that the best movements in horses and in 
people can be secured without whipping. 

The new student was welcomed Into Columbian 

The Early Years 27 

College and there pursued the courses of study 
with unabating enthusiasm. Naturally the envi- 
ronment of the national Capital served as a whole- 
some stimulus to all his faculties. The good 
habits of his life suffered no deterioration and the 
fine qualities of his mind went on maturing rap- 
idly. It was during this period that deepening 
religious impressions resulted in an open con- 
fession of faith, and in union with a Baptist 
church in the city. He was baptized in the Poto- 
mac river. Closely following his twentieth birth- 
day came his graduation with the degree of M.A. 
It is to be regretted that no letters written to 
his parents during this season have been pre- 
served. Fortunately, two written to his friends 
do survive. One, sent to his college chum, Mr. 
A. B. Clark, of Richmond, Virginia, bears date 
of May 22, 1839 • 

"I walk at the usual times alone, spending the 
moments mostly in meditation on serious subjects. 
My thoughts are more apt to turn this way than 
formerly. I write two lessons per day In Greek 
and read but little In other books." 

Something far more significant appears in the 
second letter which was addressed to a kinswo- 
man In the neighborhood of Edgehill. In that 
he declared a settled purpose, "To devote my life 
to the higher education of women In the South, 
which I consider one of our greatest needs. In 

28 Charles L. Cocke 

this decision, my promised wife concurs." What 
special Influences led the college boy to such a 
majestic consecration, we have no means of dis- 
covering. That It Is a mark of uncommon matur- 
ity and breadth of Intelligent conception, there 
can be no question. 

The benignant spirit of Democracy was be- 
coming atmospheric and the intellectual emanci- 
pation of woman steadily and slowly pressed to 
the fore. Ancient prejudices and stupidities were 
beginning reluctantly to yield. Not one of the 
elder ages had ever grasped the thought of wo- 
man's mental, social and political equality with 
her brothers. Here and there a lone voice had 
been lifted in her behalf to fall on deaf ears 
and unresponsive hearts. The world habit of 
thought laughed the Innovation out of court and 
the bondage of general ignorance remained un- 
broken. But the imperial idea of the dignity and 
worth of the human individual could not be for- 
ever submerged. Its persistent pressure loosened 
the bonds of tradition and began to breach the 
walls of custom. Modern freedom wrought 
Itself Into the minds of men, and thinkers an- 
nounced the harbinger of a new era. Practice, 
as usual, lagged behind theory, and one hundred 
years ago when Charles L. Cocke was born, 
advantages for the culture of daughters were 
inferior to those afforded the sons. That this 

The Early Years 29 

inequality should have impressed the mind of a 
young collegian, shows uncommon susceptibihty 
to social needs and sacred human rights. A rare 
young manhood came to expression when he ded- 
icated himself to the new ideal. He did not 
originate the ideal. It was borne to him in the 
expansive thought of the time. His shining merit 
is in the fact that he made the early resolve to 
be an agent in bringing in the better day for the 
liberal education of young women. 

It was in the Spring of 1840 that his college 
work closed and he received the degree of Mas- 
ter of Arts. Before the Finals of that session, 
there was some important correspondence be- 
tween himself and Doctor Ryland. The good 
President had startled Charles with the flattering 
proposition that he should become a member of 
the Faculty of Richmond College, as assistant 
teacher in Mathematics and as manager of the 
dining hall. The college was then trying to com- 
bine training in agriculture with the usual cur- 
riculum, an experiment that was soon abandoned. 
The young man was too genuinely modest to 
fancy himself equipped for so responsible a posi- 
tion. He faced the issue frankly, however, and 
much influenced by confidence in the judgment of 
Doctor Ryland, decided to accept. Leaving 
Columbian College he hastened to witness the 
closing exercises at Richmond College. 

30 Charles L. Cocke 

It must have seemed almost comical to see a 
practically beardless youngster put in charge of 
some of the vitally important duties of the Insti- 
tution. There he was, without a touch of ego- 
tism of self-consciousness, quiet of manner, and 
yet with something about him that looked re- 
sourceful, unapologetic, and unafraid. You may 
be sure that the boys looked at him curiously, 
and asked themselves, "Can he do it?" Of course 
there were cautious conservatives who doubted 
the competency of the new incumbent. This tribe 
is always with us. However, there was ground 
of assurance in the known confidence of Doctor 
Ryland, and nothing remained but to wait and 
see its vindication. No misgivings troubled the 
Doctor himself. Without bluster or consequen- 
tial airs, the assistant professor made prompt 
acquaintance with his tasks, and discharged them 
with an eflficiency that left nothing to be desired. 
He was on his mettle, conscious of the question- 
ing curiosity centered upon himself. For the first 
time in his life he stood before the footlights 
of public observation and expectation. Leader- 
ship had thrust Its burdens on him early and had 
Imposed Its first critical test. 

A survey of the affairs of the dining hall con- 
vinced him that a change of methods was neces- 
sary, and with pure audacity he Introduced them. 
At the opening of the fall session of 1840 he pre- 

ABOUT 1840 


The Early Years 31 

sented the boys with a new bill of fare. To their 
astonishment he gave them oysters, finding them 
as cheap as other meats. He gave them raisins 
and plum pudding for dessert. He scored instant 
success, and the boys' heartstrings were in his 
hands. Without incurring increased expense, the 
new manager secured a new satisfaction with 
the dining hall. Noiselessly other needed changes 
were made and the voice of the growler ceased 
to be heard. At the helm was an officer who 
knew college boys, and the college spirit was 
noticeably improved. Like competency appeared 
in the duties of the class room. He could teach 
mathematics and he did. Before the Commence- 
ment in 1 841, Charles L. Cocke was recognized 
as a distinct contribution to the life of the Insti- 
tution. Here is a young professor who does not 
propose to rest content with inadequate facilities 
and outworn methods. His whole nature cries 
for improvement and for better ways of doing 
things. What a boon to many a school and col- 
lege would such a man be. Good Doctor Ry- 
land's face wore a smile which plainly said, "I 
told you so." His judgment of capacity and 
character was sufficiently justified. The young 
comrade was to him an object of ever-deepening 
interest and their relations steadily ripened into 
sincere and loving friendship. 

Now, the President knew that his assistant was 

32 Charles L. Cocke 

romantically entangled with an affair of the heart. 
He also knew the fair young woman who was 
responsible for that state of things. Miss Su- 
sanna V. Pleasants lived five miles north of Rich- 
mond in a lovely old Virginia home which bore 
the Indian name of "Picquenocque." Knowing 
that a matrimonial alliance was imminent, the 
Doctor, one day, ventured to ask Charles about 
the date of the coming event. He warmly ap- 
proved the match and was exuberant in congrat- 
ulations. As a matter of fact he was hoping that 
the marriage would tend to fix his assistant more 
firmly in Richmond College. This genial intru- 
sion into sacred privacy was not resented, but 
Charles found it inconvenient to confide. The 
question was asked in November, and at that 
very moment the issue to be decided between the 
sweethearts was whether the ceremony should 
come off on the last day of December, or the first 
of January following. That problem enabled 
the young gentleman to make a complete but 
truthful evasion. His honest reply was : "I know 
neither the day, nor the month, nor the year." 
There the matter ended, and the mystified Doc- 
tor relapsed into silence. Later the mighty prob- 
lem was solved and the marriage was solemnized 
on the last day of 1840. Doctor Ryland, oflficiat- 
ing, beamed on the happy pair and found great 
merriment in the perfectly true, but dextrously 

The Early Years 33 

non-committal answer, made just six weeks be- 
jfore. The bride and groom had not quite 
reached their twenty-first birthdays when they 
began that remarkable human pilgrimage which 
was to endure a little more than sixty years. The 
angels of domestic peace and joy sang benediction 
all the way. That home life is a glorious memory 
now, but its lesson is more precious than gold. 
An astronomer discerned a luminous star. On 
closer inspection he found it, not single but 
binary. The twin stars joined their radiance, 
which came streaming down in one glorious pen- 
cil of light. Such a star beams forever in the 
HolHns firmament. 




THE attraction of the Blue Ridge and Alle- 
ghany mountains was a fact freely confessed 
by eastern Virginians. Even before the Revolu- 
tionary War the section, now known as the Taze- 
well country, became an Eldorado, and thither- 
ward set the streams of migration. Along the 
beautiful valleys and in the hearts of the hills 
lay the possibilities of fabulous wealth. Through 
the early decades of the nineteenth century this 
fascination continued, population increased, cen- 
ters of culture were formed, and men of enter- 
prise began to think of a railroad from Lynch- 
burg, Virginia, to East Tennessee. Christian 
evangelism was active, but education lagged. 
There were fine brains in the Southwest, but the 
means of culture were deficient. The land called 
for the school teacher. Slowly the providential 
workings were preparing a place for a young 
professor in Richmond College, who as yet had 
no dream of it. 


Call of the Southwest 35 

Seven miles north of the City of Roanoke, Gar- 
vin's creek pours down out of the mountains into 
the wonderful Roanoke Valley. Right in the 
aperture of the hills where it emerges, was dis- 
covered a little sulphur spring whose properties 
suggested the estabhshment of a watering place. 
Accordingly, Mr. Johnston, a man of wealth 
from Richmond, bought a hundred acres and built 
a commodious brick hotel near the two springs, 
one limestone, the other sulphur. This was some- 
where near the year 18 15. A race course was 
made one of the additional attractions. The 
place took the name of "Botetourt Springs," and 
at once leaped into fame as a health resort. The 
turnpike from the west passed immediately in 
front of the hotel and between the springs, which 
are one hundred yards apart. General Andrew 
Jackson stopped here for entertainment on his 
way to and from Washington City. General 
Lafayette, on his last visit to the United States, 
was an honored guest. Touring south, he came 
out of his way to pay respect to his old friend, 
Mr. Johnston. 

Interesting legends from the old pioneer days 
gathered round the spot. One bold adventurer, 
named Carvin, was said to have built a rock 
castle on a crag near the springs and to have 
had many hair-breadth escapes from Indians and 
wild beasts. All that is certainly known is, that 

36 Charles L. Cocke 

he left his name on the Httle creek that passes 
nearby. A huge, isolated mountain, in the shape 
of an elephant, rises just one mile to the north, 
and tradition says that cowardly slackers of the 
Revolutionary period made it a hiding place. 
They mended pots, plates and pans, and so were 
called "tinkers." Thus it comes that the beau- 
tiful mountain wears a homely name and perpetu- 
ates an unworthy memory. 

Botetourt Springs was popular and well pat- 
ronized by seekers for health and pleasure, but 
the death of Mr. Johnston brought a crisis, and 
in 1840 the property was on the market. The 
administrator. Col. George P. Tayloe, offered it 
to the highest bidder. Just at this time a Baptist 
minister, the Rev. Mr. Bradley, from New York 
State, had come into the neighborhood, seeking 
a home and work. Being an intelligent man and 
especially interested in education, he saw that 
this property was capable of being converted to 
the uses of a school. His zeal and industry soon 
materialized in the organization of the "Valley 
Union Education Society," and that body pur- 
chased Botetourt Springs with promises to pay. 

The buildings were easily adaptable to the pur- 
poses in hand. The old hotel, consisting of a 
basement and two stones, provided a dining hall, 
a chapel, and thirty-one rooms. Then, there 
were seven smaller buildings with two to four 


Call of the Southwest 37 

rooms each. These latter were ranged on oppo- 
site sides of the front yard, at right angles to the 
main building. In the fall of 1842 the "Valley 
Union Seminary" was launched, under encourag- 
ing conditions, with Mr. Bradley at the head. 
The patronage was large and the prospects allur- 
ing at the outset, but soon the relations of the 
Principal with his faculty and students became 
unhappy. He was a worthy, irreproachable man, 
and intellectually competent, but it seemed im- 
possible for him to make tactful adjustments with 
the young Virginians. The management was 
changed, attendance was large, and the only cloud 
on the enterprise was the unpaid notes. The 
affairs of Mr. Johnston's estate must be wound 
up. The young Seminary in its third year was 
in the breakers, and looked disaster in the face. 
It was now in the spring of 1845. Deliverance 
must come speedily, or another dead school would 
pass into the abyss. In this critical hour, two or 
three students just returned from Richmond Col- 
lege said to members of the society: "We know 
a man who can handle your Seminary and make 
it go." Any remark that hinted at relief was 
more than welcomed by the trustees, who asked 
whom the students had in mind. 

"It is Professor Charles L. Cocke of Richmond 
College. He is only twenty-five years old but he 
has had five years' experience in teaching. He 

38 Charles L. Cocke 

knows how to bring things to pass, and if your 
school can be pulled out of a hole, he is the man 
you want." 

Such was the homely but emphatic tribute of 
the college boys, and it did not pass unheeded. 
Propositions from the Society went promptly to 
Richmond, and the Professor was induced to 
come to the mountains to look the situation over. 
The Society was pleased with him, and he was 
impressed with the possibilities of the Seminary. 
The call of the great Southwest sounded in his 
ears and the visions of the things that may be, 
beckoned him on. The call was made in the 
spring of 1845. He would ponder it devoutly. 

Shall he break all the tender ties that bind him 
to his Tidewater home? Shall he sunder rela- 
tions with Richmond College and bring grief to 
the heart of his devoted friend, Dr. Ryland? 
Shall he take his young wife and three little chil- 
dren into a rugged land, remote and destitute of 
the comforts they have known? Such questions 
voiced the negative, self-regarding view, and he 
asked himself: "Is not this Southwest a land of 
great promise and educational need? May not 
this be the providential arena for the realization 
of my fond dream of mental liberation for the 
daughters of Virginia and the South?" This 
noble speculation, still working, was hid away in 
his soul, vague and undefined. It would grow. 

Call of the Southwest 39 

This was the positive and unselfish view, and he 
knew it. "Yes, I will go," was the final settle- 
ment of the painful controversy. Like Abraham, 
he would go forth all unknowing, yet believing in 
the guidance of a divine wisdom. No, this young 
man was not the football of impulse. His deci- 
sions were the outcome of long deliberate thought. 
This was the most vital step of his life. He 
heard the voice of duty, that "stern daughter of 
God," and obeyed. He had an imaginative 
power which went, not to the uses of poetry, but 
to the practical problems of life. It was his habit 
to project his thought thirty years forward, 
deploying before him the reasonable develop- 
ments of a growing civilization. In these fore- 
casts, imagination did him a fine service. Here 
was the spring of those ceaseless demands for en- 
largement and improvement of facilities, which 
later marked his work as college president. 

The spring of 1846 is come; the six years of 
work in Richmond College are closed ; the fare- 
wells are spoken; and Mr. Cocke journeys toward 
the sunset. It is a weary overland drive of five 
days in a carriage from Richmond to Botetourt 
Springs. Lofty "Tinker" salutes the pilgrims as 
they move up the highway, and now the vehicle 
stops in front of the old hotel, whose front yard 
is a wilderness of weeds. Mrs. Cocke's heart 
sinks within her as she looks on the inhospitable 

40 Charles L. Cocke 

desolation. Ghosts of dilapidation and decay 
stretch out hands of welcome in sheer, grim 
mockery. The anguish in the young wife's heart 
is momentary. With a sublime courage, equal 
to that of her husband's, from that awful moment 
she goes smilingly with him to the task of pre- 
paring for the coming session. Unwittingly, they 
are laying the foundations of the noble Institu- 
tion which, today, is a pride and joy to the state 
and nation. Little do they dream that before the 
closing of their toil, they will see girls from 
thirty states parading and singing on that out- 
landish front yard. 

"I'd rather walk with God in the night 
Than go alone by day." 

By a business arrangement with the trustees, 
Mr. Cocke had put into the treasury of the Soci- 
ety $1,500.00 of his own and his wife's money, 
to stay off the creditors. On the 23rd day of June, 
1846, the session opened with the new Principal 
in charge. It was a new dignity, truly, but how 
precarious and involving what weight of respon- 
sibility! The young soldier is on the firing line 
with an independent command. He can hardly 
anticipate the leagued masses of trouble, disap- 
pointment and despair that lurk in the mountains, 
plotting his destruction. For the next twenty-five 
years we shall see the storms of battle break upon 

Call of the Southwest 41 

him, and we shall see his banner waving in vic- 
tory to the shoutings of a multitude. The Prin- 
cipal is a born leader. He is resolute and confi- 
dent without egotism; resourceful and wise with- 
out display. The Richmond College boys were 
right. Here is the man. However, the burden- 
bearing years must develop the fact. The first 
nine years will carry us through seasons of strug- 
gle and painful progress. With the outstanding 
facts of this period, it is the purpose of this 
chapter to deal. 

He was now the head of a co-educational Sem- 
inary, which from its inception was designed to 
be strictly benevolent in character. In ample 
proof is the fact that $45.00 paid the student's 
bill for tuition and board for five months. The 
school never made money, nor was that ever its 
end. The purpose of the founders was to put 
education in the reach of all who thirsted for it. 
Such was the generous basis of the enterprise. 
The small revenues thus realized, yielded the 
teachers pitifully inadequate reward, and made 
improvements practically impossible. 

You may be sure that good order was main- 
tained and good lessons were required. From 
the start, Mr. Cocke's administration won pop- 
ular confidence and approval. Soon after his 
coming he was announced to speak in the Baptist 
church In Big Lick (now the City of Roanoke), 

42 Charles L. Cocke 

and a large audience was there to greet him. In 
the address he said, among other things, "1 
have come to Southwest Virginia to give my hfe 
to the cause of education, to spend and be spent 
in that work." A fine impression was made on 
the citizens, and on dismission a gentleman said 
to a lady: "That is the man to send your son to." 
Fifteen years later that boy was a Colonel in the 
Confederate army. This boy's older brother had 
told Mr. Cocke that Thomas was a bad boy, and 
had added, 'Tf he does not behave, I hope you 
will thrash him." For two whole sessions the 
youth found himself seated at the table next to 
Mr. Cocke and the coffee pot. He was en-^ 
trusted with messages here and there, and finally 
the boys began to say that Tom Lewis was Mr. 
Cocke's pet. Not so : that was his ingenious dis- 
cipline. He could control horses and boys with- 
out whipping. In the long after years the Prin- 
cipal had no more faithful and devoted friend 
than Colonel Lewis. Once a group of older boys 
made some of the younger ones drunk. The 
offenders were promptly expelled, and nothing 
was done to the innocent victims. Other young 
men made angry threats, and their expulsion fol- 
lowed. Rebellion grew; a large body of the boys 
defiantly paraded the campus, making the situa- 
tion ominous. The school was called to the 
chapel, the boys on one side and the girls on the 

Call of the Southwest 43 

other. The Principal fronted the boys and said: 
"I am the head of this school and I am going to 
run it. I have sent some disorderly students 
away, and if necessary I will send more. I will 
send every one of you home and start a new 
school, and if I can't run it I will give it up and 
go at some other business." The audience under- 
stood the tone of that voice and took warning 
from the gleam in the blue eyes. After that the 
incident was closed. 

His skill in dealing with mischievous boys is 
exhibited in another episode. Some of them felt 
that school life was dull without a little spice of 
adventure, so in pure fun they sallied forth at 
night to visit the neighbors' orchards, and even 
to take unwarranted liberties with their chicken 
roosts. Complaints came to the Principal, who 
at once sought a private interview with the cul- 
prits. He* talked to them kindly, yet with earn- 
est protestations against such pranks. He knew 
they were not thieves, far from it, but they should 
not take people's property that had cost labor 
and care. After duly moralizing on the case, he 
closed the interview with the following burst of 
magnanimity: "Now boys, if hereafter some irre- 
sistible impulse is on you to prowl, spare the 
neighbors and plunder my poultry yard." What 
human heart but a school boy's could resist an 
appeal like that? One night not long thereafter. 

44 Charles L. Cocke 

Mrs. Cocke heard curious noises on the back 
premises. Mr. Cocke slipped out in the dark- 
ness and readily took in the situation. The fol- 
lowing night he stood at the window of one of 
the boys' cottages and saw the preliminaries look- 
ing to a midnight carnival on roast duck. Just as 
the feast was ready to begin, there was a tap at 
the door. Hospitality invited entrance, when in 
stepped Mr. Cocke ! To his friendly inquiries 
they responded that they were about to dispose 
of a savory meal and coolly Invited the visitor 
to share it, which he as coolly proceeded to do. 
The party was jolly, and though all knew that 
nobody was deceived, the fact was not betrayed 
by one look or word. Mr. Cocke bowed himself 
out with a pleasant good night, and the mysti- 
fied marauders went to bed. Depredations 
ceased, and the boys' admiration of that midnight 
diplomacy was unconcealed. 

When a boy was guilty of some offense, not 
mean, but mischievous, his case was stated In the 
presence of the school, and the roaring laughter 
that followed was sufficient correction. There 
was not a case of disobedience among the girls 
In the years 1846-^2, but they would keep their 
windows open. The boys lifted hats in passing, 
and were rewarded with pleased and winning 
glances. Often while sitting by the open window, 
a thoughtful look covered one side of a girl's face, 

Call of the Southwest 45 

while on the other side, looking window-ward, 
played a bewitching smile. In those days was 
established the yearly October visit to the 
top of Tinker. The day of the excursion was a 
"secret between Charles and the Lord," as Mrs. 
Cocke once humorously said to the inquiring girls. 
Arriving on the summit, and viewing the land- 
scape over, suddenly an apple would fall in the 
midst, as from the sky. Where did it come 
from? The girls knew, and the boys knew. The 
boys had gone before and hidden behind the rocks 
and brush. Then the mountain scenery lost its 
charm, and a romantic search for flowers began. 

The halls of the Seminary filled to their capac- 
ity and the Principal pleaded for more room. 
Alas, the Trustees had no money, and the school's 
revenue was a sacrifice to the benevolent princi- 
ple of minimum rates. The Institution he 
wanted could come only through increased equip- 
ment and accommodations. There the young 
Principal was, the sport of harsh conditions. One 
balm came to his heart in the timely sensible 
praise of the Trustees. In their meeting, Janu- 
ary 10, 1851, they said in formal resolution: "We 
cannot speak in terms too high of the untiring 
diligence of the Principal and his assistants in 
maintaining judicious discipline, and in the prose- 
cution of their responsible duties." 

His efforts for notable success had a double 

46 Charles L. Cocke 

motive. First, he quite properly wanted to con- 
vince all of his capacity for educational work. 
Second, by the overcrowded conditions, he 
wanted to force an issue on the Trustees respect- 
ing the future policy of the school. The accom- 
modations were palpably insufficient, and as there 
was no possibility of increasing them, what 
should be done? The Principal knew what to 
do. He boldly advised a radical change : dismiss 
the male department and convert the Seminary 
into a school for girls. To his immense delight, 
the proposition was accepted. The new order 
looked like the opening of an approach to the 
goal of ambitions born in his college days. His 
loyal interest in the education of young men was 
not abated, but the dream of the higher educa- 
tion of women became a passion. This impor- 
tant decision was made in the spring of 1852, and 
thus a ten years co-educational school, in which 
Mr. Cocke had labored for six prosperous years, 
came to a close. With mingled feelings of grate- 
ful hope and keen anxiety, he now faced a golden 
opportunity. He enjoyed the distinction of being 
the head of the first chartered school for girls 
in Virginia. The fall session of 1852 opened 
with eighty-one pupils. That of the fall of 1853, 
with one hundred and fifty. The wisdom of the 
radical change was fully justified. It was a time 
of radiant satisfaction and jubilant hope. 


Call of the Southwest 47 

But it was now that the battle with austere con- 
ditions and scant equipment became the torment 
of his mind. The Trustees could give no material 
aid, and popular interest in education was too 
feeble to proffer financial help. It is simple truth 
to say that on this vestibule of his great enter- 
prise, the gravest doubts and trepidations of his 
whole career assailed him. In moods of depres- 
sion the heroic man feared that he had attempted 
the impossible. Was he unnerved or unstrung? 
Not for one minute. In these black days he 
fronted his task with the resourcefulness of an 
uncommon manhood. The stamina of his nature 
came to expression in a way that surprised even 
himself. He made imploring appeals "to friends 
who were well to do in this world's goods. A 
good providence put him in touch with two noble 
spirits, Mr. John Holllns and his wife, of Lynch- 
burg, Virginia, members of his own denomina- 
tion. Mr. Hollins presented the Seminary with 
a gift of $5,000 cash, and then the daylight began 
to break. The good man proposed as a condition 
of his gift that the old management by an Edu- 
cation Society and its appointed Trustees must 
give way to a board of self-perpetuating Trustees. 
To all concerned the proposition seemed wise and 
just, and it was so ordered. It was then gen- 
erously agreed that the name of the Institution 
should be changed, and that henceforth it should 

48 Charles L. Cocke 

be known as "Hollins Institute." To Mr. Cocke 
and the dissolving Society, this appeared to be a 
comphment well deserved by the man and his 
wife who had saved the life of the school. 

The transfer of all the property of the Valley 
Union Education Society to the Trustees of Hol- 
lins Institute was made in March, 1855. Thus in 
the first nine years of his incumbency, Mr. Cocke 
saw two revisions of the original charter granted 
in January, 1844. By the first revision in 1852, 
the Seminary was made a school for girls. By 
the second, in December, 1855, the name of the 
Institution was changed, the old management was 
abolished, and its functions put into the hands of 
a self-perpetuating Board of Trustees. No fric- 
tion arose; all was harmony. The old regime 
passed, but its personnel remained steadfast. 

In all the stress and tribulation of the past 
years, Mr. Cocke had been the central bolt that 
held the structure intact. Around his single 
heroic personality gathered all the forces that 
made possible the perpetuity of the Institution. 
His reward had now come, and a blessed assur- 
ance threw its foregleams on the future. He was 
now in his thirty-sixth year and athrlll with that 
full health and masculine energy that was his 
blessing to the end of his Hfe. 




THAT was a high day, in the summer of 
1855, when HoHins Institute flung its banner 
to the breeze. A munificent gift, a new regime 
and a new name put fresh enthusiasm into the 
Institution, and the gladness of hope into the 
hearts of all its friends. You have noticed how 
these joyous effects always flow from new deals 
and revisions of plans. A better day has dawned, 
bright visions float in the brain of Mr. Cocke, 
and the blue mountains seem to hail him with 
congratulation. The human heart would famish 
but for these fountains that break out in the 
midst of weary, toiling years. Economic con- 
ditions are improving in the Southwest. The; 
Kanawha Canal now connects Richmond with 
Buchanan, a village just twenty miles away. The 
Virginia and Tennessee Railroad has been built 
(1852), supplying quick communication with the 
outside world; and the macadamized turnpike 


50 Charles L. Cocke 

has been built from Buchanan to the west, pass- 
ing within a few hundred yards of the School. 
The general conditions were never so cheering, 
nor was the outlook ever so bright. 

Some necessary changes have been made by the 
Trustees in internal affairs. The rates of board 
and tuition are moderately increased, and Mr. 
Cocke is put in charge of all departments, with 
authority to select his teachers and to fix their 
salaries. The new Board of Trustees knows the 
qualities and capacities of the Principal, and from 
this time forth they give him confidence and al- 
most unlimited powers. Charles L. Cocke, not yet 
thirty-six years of age, had attained enviable dis- 
tinction in the educational ranks of his native 
State. He will justify the faith of his friends. 

The Hollins gift of $5,000 was put to work. 
The East Building with thirty-eight rooms, was 
projected, and by January, 1857, completed at 
a cost of $12,000. Alas, calamity crashed upon 
the school. In the fall of 1856 typhoid fever 
broke out and forced a temporary suspension. 
With cruel suddenness the epidemic worked a 
loss of public confidence, and once more the heart 
of the Principal was harrowed with discouraging 
thoughts. It was given out that bad sanitary con- 
ditions had invited the scourge, but rigid investi- 
gation exploded the theory. The fact was that 
the disease had been brought to the Institute by 

Hollins Institute in Struggle and Growth 51 

one of the pupils. Slowly the panic yielded and 
confidence returned, but the experience was shock- 
ing. Quickly the Principal regained his tone of 
courageous hope and its wholesome contagion 
spread far and near. In July, 1857, in a report 
to the Trustees, he made this important and as- 
suring statement: "By affording these superior 
inducements the school has realized a degree of 
prosperity beyond that of any boarding school 
in the state, and has given an impulse to female 
education heretofore unknown. The plan and 
policy of our school must be considered the true 
one. This plan recognizes the principle that in 
the present state of society in our country, young 
ladies require the same thorough mental train- 
ing as that afforded to young men, and accord- 
ingly, in the arrangement of the course of studies, 
and the selection of teachers, and the conferment 
of distinctions, we have kept this principle stead- 
ily in view. This feature o£j the Institution has 
given to it its prominence and past success, and 
other Institutions, originating since our plan was 
made public, have almost uniformly adopted it." 

"To each man is given a marble to carve for the wall; 
A stone that is needed to heighten the beauty of all ; 
And only his soul has the magic to give it a grace; 
And only his hands have the cunning to put it in place." 

During the year 1858, the activity of the Trus- 
tees secured a good many subscriptions, and the 

52 Charles L. Cocke 

generous Mrs. Anne HoUins rallied with her own 
gift of $2,500. The dark days of 1857 began 
to be a memory, and the revival of public confi- 
dence and patronage smoothed the brow of care. 
It must not be supposed that Mr. Cocke lost 
interest in the education of boys when the co- 
educational system was abandoned in 1852. No 
man in Virginia was more enlisted in the educa- 
tion of all the people than he. There must be a 
school for the boys in the Virginia mountains, 
and in the later fifties, though sufficiently bur- 
dened with local cares, he turns his attention to 
this interest. With the valuable assistance of Dr. 
George B, Taylor, later an eminent Baptist mis- 
sionary to Italy, he was the chief factor in estab- 
lishing Alleghany College, in Greenbrier County, 
one hundred miles northwest of HoUins Institute. 
This county was included in the new state of West 
Virginia, organized in 1861. The school opened 
with one hundred young men and ran well for a 
brief season, but was suspended at the beginning 
of the Civil War. The buildings were occupied 
by Federal soldiers, and shortly afterwards were 
destroyed by fire. All subsequent efforts to 
revive the college were unavailing. With char- 
acteristic loyalty, Mr. Cocke matriculated his son, 
Joseph James Cocke, at the opening of the first 
session. The brave boy laid down his books at 
the first alarm of war and entered the Confed- 

Hollins Institute in Struggle and Growth 53 

erate army, and in the terrible battles in North- 
ern Virginia, he was twice dangerously wounded. 
That boy is now a venerable and honored citizen 
of the State of Texas. 

Long years after, Mr. Coclce bent his efforts 
towards the erection of Alleghany Institute at 
Roanoke, and had great satisfaction in its com- 
modious buildings and its promising attendance 
of boys. In the course of varying fortunes this 
enterprise fainted by the way and ceased to be. 
One can but fancy that if Mr. Cocke himself 
could have held the helm in these two adven- 
tures, the story would have been different. The 
storms beat and the floods came, but Hollins 
Institute stands. Her standards are stirring 
thought currents and stimulating like enterprises 
in Virginia and the nation. For our pioneer in 
the Southwest, this is compensation and a crown 
of glory. Without one thrill of jealousy does he 
see the spread of his views and the certainty of 
large competition. To stand in his own place 
and make good, is the one guiding and all-con- 
trolling purpose of his life. 

In i860, Mrs. Hollins, now a lonely widow, 
signalized her profound interest in a new gift 
of $10,000. This generous and timely act pushed 
up the contributions of the Hollins family to the 
handsome sum of $17,500. The growing popu- 
larity of Hollins sprung the problem of enlarged 

54 Charles L. Cocke 

facilities and to solve it was the design of this 
latest benevolence. It was greeted with bound- 
less gratitude, and the Trustees deputed one of 
their members, Mr. Wm. A. Miller, to bear to 
her their most cordial thanks. Accompanying 
this message was an urgent request for the oil 
portraits of the two benefactors. In due time 
the portraits came, and to this day they adorn the 
walls of the Main Building, whose erection was 
made possible by the recent gift. An architect 
was employed, and work was begun on this build- 
ing in the spring of 1861, on the very day that 
Virginia seceded from the Union. The tempest 
and blight of the Civil War came down to 
threaten the life of the Institution and to almost 
break the heart of the founder. Expectant hope 
had looked for early occupancy, but it was not to 
be. In one year the walls were upreared, the 
roof was on, and then the work stopped. The 
contractor quit his job because the war had dis- 
organized labor and the situation was simply 
helpless. There stands the unfinished structure, 
and there it will stand, a ghastly skeleton for 
eight long years. 

At this beginning of horrors, Mr. Cocke's rep- 
utation as a strong man was establisEed, and the 
fair name of his school was extended beyond the 
limits of the State. Seasoned in old battles and 
richly schooled in experience, he stands in his place 

HoUins Institute in Struggle and Growth 55 

unterrified. He dares, even amid the clouds and 
disasters of war, to send out his adventurous 
thought, thirty years to the fore. What ought 
to be, what may be, the facilities and achieve- 
ments of this Institution a generation hence? He 
is now too well fortified in his convictions of edu- 
cational theory and practice, and of their fitness 
to the needs of the time, to be affrighted by the 
spectres and goblins of ultimate failure. 

In 1862, he speaks to his girls and the public 
in this fashion: "The organization of this school 
is unlike all others in Virginia. To some extent 
it is denominational, but decidedly anti-sectarian. 
Its Trustees perpetuate their own existence. Its 
funds cannot revert to any other object. It is 
responsible to no religious body and its success 
depends solely on its merits. It looks to perma- 
nent existence and to the good of the whole 
commonwealth. Its successes have exceeded the 
most sanguine expectations of its friends. It was 
first to adopt a high standard of classical educa- 
tion for young women in Virginia; first to place 
the English Department under a regular profes- 
sor; and first in the nation to adopt the elective 
system of studies. With the prestige of a history 
of twenty years, it may properly and confidently 
appeal to the general public to make it an addi- 
tion to the permanent wealth and moral eleva- 
tion of the country. I believe its reputation will 

56 Charles L. Cocke 

spread until it draws pupils from all over the 
South." Under the distressful conditions, is 
there not something morally grand in this utter- 
ance? It was a prophetic speech, and the daring 
prediction was more than realized in the thirty 
years that followed. 

In 1863, one hundred girls filled every room, 
and seventy-five appHcants were turned away. 
Oh, for the forty-six student-rooms in that unfin- 
ished hulk ! Sequestered snugly in the mountains, 
no Institution in the country suffered less from 
the demoralization of the war. FamiHes driven 
from the areas of invasion sent their daughters 
to the haven of its seclusion. The faculty of four 
gentlemen and three ladies had ample occupation. 
It was at this juncture that the President dropped 
the wise remark that the success of an Institution 
demands a capable manager as much as qualified 
instructors, and that he is harder to find. Of 
course, during this period, the depreciated cur- 
rency and the correspondingly high cost of living 
required advance in the rates of the tuition and 
board. In 1864, one hundred and twenty-eight 
students were crowded into the rooms, and an 
equal number were turned away. In these days 
of inevitable stringency, the fare was far from 
luxurious, but it was accepted by teacher and pupil 
with that cheerfulness which becomes sensible and 
considerate people. 

Hollins Institute in Struggle and Growth 57 

That year the school was not immune to the 
alarms of war. A Federal raid, led by General 
Hunter, rushed into the town of Salem, nine miles 
distant, and the news spread consternation at 
Hollins, but without panic. The President had 
prepared a paper, stating the defenseless condi- 
tion of the college and entreating protection by 
the General of any invading force. This paper 
he kept in his pocket, ready to be sent by mes- 
senger, if from any cause he himself should be 
prevented from going to make an oral request. 
Happily, Hunter came no nearer than Salem, and 
the awful suspense was relieved. On that very 
day, George Newman, the faithful colored driver, 
went to Salem with his omnibus, and was waiting 
at the depot, when the horsemen in blue came 
thundering down the street. He cracked his 
whip over his trusty four and dashed southward 
across the river, amid a shower of bullets. He 
was going in a course directly opposite from 
Hollins, but that was the only avenue of escape. 
When he was not heard from for the best part 
of two days, he was given up for lost. But late 
on the second day, who should drive in but this 
same George Newman, with an air of triumph 
and an ecstasy of smiles on his face! He came 
bare-headed, having lost his hat in the impetuos- 
ity of that patriotic retreat. The girls hailed him 
with a storm of acclamation and instantly took 

58 Charles L. Cocke 

up a collection with which they crowned the hero 
with a new straw hat! 

Mrs. Cocke, in these times of nervous excite- 
ment, was perfectly sure of her own demeanor 
in case of irruption by the enemy. She would 
stand defiant in the doorway and forbid all 
entrance. The family tell a story which the dear 
mother never denied. One day her son Charley, 
a lad of ten years, with some of the servants, was 
coming back to the stables with the horses which 
had been hidden in the woods of Carvin's creek, 
to escape the hands of the enemy. The young- 
sters came galloping down the road, when some 
excitable person imagining it a charge of Yankee 
cavalry, raised the alarm, and then followed the 
worst panic Hollins ever knew. Mrs. Cocke, 
quietly busy in the pantry, hearing the shrieks, 
following an irresistible impulse, left the pantry 
door wide open and vanished to some place, she 
was never quite sure where. 

It was Mr. Cocke's custom in those days to 
send a group of girls in the omnibus to the Sun- 
day morning service of one of the churches in 
Salem. Such was the economic stress of the pe- 
riod that a handsome new hat in the school pro- 
duced a sensation. Fortune crowned one of the 
students with a beautiful headgear. She wore 
it to church, and generously, on the following 
Sunday put the treasure on the head of a comrade 

Hollins Institute in Struggle and Growth 59 

who was going up to worship. So the ornament 
became a regular attendant at the Salem services. 
Gathered at the church doors were the Salem 
boys, of course, and they soon became merrily in- 
terested in the new hat. One day after service, 
the girls found in the omnibus a note, inquiring: 
*'Who does that hat belong to?" The owner 
lives, today, in Blacksburg, Va. Those trips to 
Salem ceased long ago, and now in the Hollins 
Chapel, regular Sunday evening services are con- 
ducted by chaplain pastors from the various de- 

In the spring of 1865, pneumonia became epi- 
demic in the school, taking off six of the pupils 
and two more in their homes. This disaster 
caused a suspension one month before the close of 
the regular term. 

With the fall of the Confederacy, Mr. Cocke 
had again to face a condition that seemed the 
mockery of his hopes. Everywhere were economic 
prostration, social disorganization, and pinching 
poverty. Shall Hollins keep up the fight? Will 
the sun of Austerlitz ever rise on her long and 
varying battles? What young Institution ever 
threaded its way through a wildnerness so gloomy 
or by pits and precipices so dangerous? Hollins 
will go on, walking by faith, and its doors shall 
not be closed, even for the part of a session. 
That Is the mind of the President. He and his 

6o Charles L. Cocke 

faculty, though exhausted in means, will face the 
destitution and never give up the ship. The ses- 
sion of 1865-6 ran on with forty-five students. 
Rates had to be increased, and even with that, the 
college would have been compelled to close but 
for a timely loan from Colonel Tayloe to buy 
food. This noble friend and President of the 
Board of Trustees had been a comfort to Mr. 
Cocke from the beginning, and will continue so 
for thirty years more. Our great leader did not 
talk about his troubles, being always master of 
himself. Once he made this brief pathetic admis- 
sion to his Trustees: "I am so burdened that I 
do not feel fit for my work." What can move us 
to tears like a strong man's grief? And there 
stands the ghastly figure of the unfinished Main 
Building, mocking his struggles and dreams. For 
five years now, pine boards have been nailed up 
to cover the windows, and not even a porch re- 
lieves the monotony of its ugliness. Two alter- 
natives were before him : first, reduce the faculty, 
which is a most deplorable thing to do; second, 
go on as we are, but that is bankruptcy and ruin. 
Hear him: "I will go on; I will trust in God and 
the people." He insisted to his Trustees: "We 
must not descend to the character of a neighbor- 
hood school." Their sympathies were with him, 
but they felt unable to cope with the iron strin- 
gencies of the time. He did go on, never lower- 

HoUins Institute in Struggle and Growth 6i 

ing a standard or abating the passionate cry for 
more room and better equipment. How he ever 
pulled through this slough of despond, he him- 
self could not possibly tell. Of one thing he was 
in no doubt and it was this, that in the long night 
of anguish, there was a precious mystery of 
heavenly aid. 

One of the encouraging incidents of this sea- 
son, was the fact that one of the finest young 
scholars in Virginia accepted a call to the Insti- 
tute. When Professor Joseph A. Turner, in 
1866, consented to become a member of the fac- 
ulty, it meant that a finely accomplished man had 
confidence in the character and destiny of the 
College, and that certified confidence was a tonic 
to the President's soul. But Hollins is still in 
the depths. There is no bracing of firm rock 
under her feet. All the oflicials know that the 
whole property is in peril of a public sale. How 
did the School go on? You must find answer 
in the resourcefulness and adamantine will of one 
great man. Hollins did go on, and compliment- 
ary testimonials from leading scholars in the 
State began to be written and spoken. Mr. 
Cocke was cheered at the generous recognition 
and said: "We must lift our standards a little 
higher than ever before. Our school should be 
second to none in the State and we must reach 
out for more distant patrons." The tide begins 

62 Charles L. Cocke 

to rise, and on the horizon there are gleaming 
hints of a better day. In 1868, Mr. Cocke 
secured a loan of $10,000, and by the end of 
1869, that nightmare of the Main Building was 
transformed into a handsome and completed edi- 
fice. The passing of this melancholy incubus 
made a new epoch in his life. It was the cutting 
of chains from his feet, and the addition of wings 
wherewith to fly. The new structure greatly 
increased the accommodations, and now begins 
active propaganda in the South, acquainting the 
people with Hollins Institute. Newly risen, like 
a star above tempest and cloud, she will shed 
benignant light on the homes and daughters of 
the land. May she go on shining forever! 



THE torturing issues of the past are now 
settled. Mr. Cocke will let them pass to 
practical oblivion while he presses on to larger 
realizations. Of course annoying problems will 
continue to dog his steps, but they will not wear 
the malignant aspect so familiar in the strenuous 
years. His ideal is a flying goal, and he will 
never see his loved college free from growing 
pains. The happiest decade of work that he has 
yet known is before him. He stands on its 
threshold with hope assured, and his face is lit 
with thanksgiving as he beholds the clouds reced- 
ing, and the sunshine flooding all the sky. It is a 
time to grasp his hand and shower him with con- 
gratulations. He hasi now completed twenty- 
four years of toilsome labor beside the little sul- 
phur spring. Into the holy enterprise he has 
grandly flung himself, his property and his family. 
Never had a man a more tactful and sympathetic 
co-worker than he found In his wife. Without 


64 Charles L. Cocke 

one murmur of complaint she has shared all his 
burdens and cares. Her feminine quietness and 
grace have matched his masculine push and exec- 
utive force. In him is a certain rugged virility 
which is delightfully supplemented by her charm 
of patient gentleness. With a noiseless and tire- 
less efficiency, she has managed the domestic de- 
tails, while he has handled the administrative 
affairs of the school. In the apportionment of 
praise, he would resent a bestowal that made her 
unequal to himself; nor would he fail to recognize 
the services of his children. Since the wedding 
bells rang, thirty years ago, nine have come into 
the home [Joseph J., Leila V. (Mrs. Joseph A. 
Turner), Sallie Lewis, Mary Susan (Mrs. C. W. 
Hayward), Rosa Pleasants (Mrs. W. R. L. 
Smith), Charles Henry, Matty L., Luclan H,, 
and Bessie (Mrs. J, P. Barbee) ]. Brought up in 
an atmosphere of service, all of them have, for 
longer or shorter periods, loyally served the insti- 

The new session of iSyo-'yi began with the 
registration of eighty girls. The Trustees at this 
juncture stepped to the front with a cheering note, 
announcing that the Institute was "Getting on a 
firm basis," and expressing their intense gratifica- 
tion at its increasing popularity and patronage. 
They emphasized their high appreciation of the 

The Clearing Skies 65 

system of instruction, and the thoroughgoing 
diligence of the President and his faculty. i\ll 
honor to these men who were sensitive to merit, 
and who had the grace to crown It with praise. 
These men also had learned that human progress 
is not much accelerated by whips of fault-finding 
and rebuke. In all their official records there is 
not an instance of clash between them and the 
President, nor even a hint of cross-purpose or loss 
of good understanding. When we think of the 
rough road they had travelled together, and the 
bewildering tangle of issues with which they had 
grappled, this concord is as surprising as it is 
honorable. An obstinate and wrangling Board 
could have crippled him cruelly. These har- 
monies were due to two facts: first, the absolute 
confidence of these gentlemen in the judgment and 
business capacity of Mr. Cocke; second, his recip- 
rocal confidence in them, accompanied by the 
most cordial respect and courtesy. At the Board 
meetings through this decade they will not for- 
get the value of commendatory resolutions, and 
it is pleasing to mention now, that this congenial 
partnership never knew a jar in all the after 

Never was sunshine more grateful to the flow- 
ers, or music more cheering to a tired spirit, than 
were the tokens of the spreading fame of Hollins 

66 Charles L. Cocke 

to the soul of Mr. Cocke. Golden appreciations 
by distinguished men began to be spoken and writ- 
ten. Here is a tribute from Professor Edward S. 
Joynes, of Washington College, Lexington, Vir- 
ginia: "I am intimately acquainted with the his- 
tory of Hollins. It is an Institution of the very 
highest character, certainly second to none of 
its kind in this State. It has existed for upward 
of twenty-five years and been conducted upon the 
very highest standards of moral and intellectual 
education. Its success and permanence have been 
due to its merits alone. It is an unendowed In- 
stitution, founded originally by benevolence and 
supported by public patronage, and by the energy 
and economy of its administration. The Presi- 
dent is a man of ability and of the highest per- 
sonal character, and no Institution in this State 
has a higher claim on the public confidence." Dr. 
John A. Broaddus, of the Baptist Theological 
Seminary, Greenville, South Carolina, wrote his 
estimate: "I know of no better female school in 
the whole country, and very few, that for a 
moment, can be compared with Hollins. The in- 
struction takes an ample range, and is able, skill- 
ful and honest." The Rev. Dr. J. L. Burrows, 
pastor of the First Baptist Church, Richmond, 
Virginia, stated his view: "In beauty and health- 
fulness of location; in attractiveness and adapt- 
ableness of its buildings; in tasteful adornment 

The Clearing Skies 67 

of grounds; in the wild grandeur of surrounding 
scenery, HoUins Institute occupies one of the 
most charming and sequestered nooks among the 
far-famed mineral springs of Virginia. In the 
comprehensiveness and thoroughness of its course 
of study; in the ability and devotion of its in- 
structors; in the carefulness and homefulness of 
its domestic economy; in its seclusion from the 
distractions of fashion and social disquietude, I 
regard this Institution as one of the very best for 
girls on this continent." 

Many such heartening notes by University pro- 
fessors, ministers, editors and heads of colleges 
for girls, began to sound forth as early as 1868. 
Golden opinions, rightly deserved and rapidly 
spreading, brought the natural result. The ses- 
sion of i869-'70 opened with twenty-one girls 
from nine Southern States, not including Virginia. 
The year following, the number grew to twenty- 
eight from the nine states. The session of 1873- 
'74 reported thirty-nine girls from thirteen states 
outside of Virginia, and that of i875-'76 enrolled 
fifty-three from fourteen states. The session of 
i877-'78 registered a total of one hundred and 
seventeen students, seventy of them coming from 
other states. This noticeable decline In the per- 
centage of Virginia girls is easily accounted for 
by the Increasing competition of the new and 
excellent schools for girls, now arisen In the Old 

68 Charles L. Cocke 

Dominion. During this decade, the fair fame 
of Hollins spread swiftly, and from this time on, 
a gradually increasing and uninterrupted stream 
of pupils, from all points of the compass, poured 
smilingly through her doors. Nor did her native 
commonwealth fail in admiration and generous 

You can imagine the emotions of the founder 
in this happy emergence from the dilemmas and 
horrible incertitudes of the past twenty-five years. 
His bearing was calm and undemonstrative, while 
in his bosom the peans of thanksgiving go up to 
the great White Throne. But on the gladness 
of these days, a blight of bereavement was about 
to fall. In 1 87 1, the brilliant and able Professor 
Turner had married Miss Leila Virginia Cocke, 
an accomplished daughter of the President. He 
was a shining light in the faculty, and on him 
great hopes centered. For two years his health 
declined, and on May 5th, 1878, gloom settled 
on Hollins. Great was the grief at the going of 
the beloved scholar and teacher. His twelve 
years of service began in the dark days of 1866, 
and closed in the full tide of victory. The mem- 
ory of him will never perish from the hearts of 
pupils and friends who almost Idolized him. 

An event in 1874 meant much relief and com- 
fort to our veteran educator, amid his manifold 
labors and cares. Charles H. Cocke, his son, 

The Clearing Skies 69 

now in early manhood, capable, courageous and 
completely responsive to the father's wish, took 
on himself the duties of business manager of the 
Institution. Here was a much needed and most 
grateful division of responsibilities, and the com- 
petent new official magnified his calling to the 
uttermost. The thoroughness and courtesy with 
which he handled affairs, won for him the confi- 
dence and affection of the girls. 

Have we ever found Mr. Cocke in a state of 
perfect satisfaction with things as they are? 
Never. He is a stranger to that experience, and 
will ever remain so. When we met him forty 
years ago as an assistant professor in Richmond 
College, his slogan was, "Betterment, enlarge- 
ment, progress." The urgencies of an early ideal 
are still upon him, and he will never count him- 
self to have attained. This fact touches him 
pathetically, now that he is nearing his sixtieth 
year. Unrealized aims add somber hues to every 
earnest life. 

"All I aspired to be 
And was not, comforts me." 

The equipment of growing Hollins is far from 
complete; much remains to be done. The spirit 
of advance gives him no rest. He has a vision, 
and "forward" is ever his imperious challenge 
to things as they are. Absolutely sure is he that 

70 Charles L. Cocke 

his beloved College, with its reasonably low rates, 
and its high standards, is on the sure road to 
greatness in human service. 

All through this decade his brain had been ac- 
tive with schemes of improvements. In the early 
seventies, the Baptists of Virginia were freshly 
aroused on the subject of education, and made 
large plans for strengthening Richmond College. 
Taking cue from this new denominational inter- 
est, the Trustees of HoUins Institute determined 
to go before the public and ask for a contribution 
of $100,000. A financial agent went among the 
people with argument and appeal. The result 
was disappointing and the agent was withdrawn. 
The failure was depressing, but by no means 
unnerving. From the beginning of the "Semin- 
ary" in 1842, the intermittent calls on public 
benevolence had never met with notable response. 
Nor is this fact any real ground for reproach. 
The mood of the general public had never been 
toned and cultivated in the interests of liberal 
education. From first to last the benevolent gifts 
to HoUins amounted to but $35,000, exactly half 
of which had come from Mrs. Ann HoUins and 
her husband. In the light of the recent failure 
Mr. Cocke saw that there was no further ground 
of hope from this source of supply. The school's 
expanding reputation and growing patronage grat- 
ified him exceedingly, but the financial situation 


IMS. ^'£■•. 

The Clearing Skies 71 

excited disquieting apprehensions. The Trustees 
had no funds in the treasury; the Institution was 
making no money, and their debt was growing 
every year. The mind of the President was filled 
with foreboding and grave anxiety. 

Let it now be said that not one dollar had 
ever been added to the debt by any form of ex- 
travagance. No head of an Institution ever 
practiced a more rigid economy in projecting im- 
provements. Not even a fancy catalogue was 
ever sent out from Holllns. His severe frugal- 
ity, and the constantly demanded investment of 
his personal means in improvements, actually lim- 
ited the reasonable privileges and gratifications 
of his family. Never did a family bear restric- 
tions more cheerfully and uncomplainingly. It 
was not In Mr. Cocke to rebel against the law of 
sacrifice, but once, In his annual report to the 
Trustees In 1879, he permitted himself to say: 
"It is a hard case, however, that a man should 
have all his means so wound up In an Institution, 
conducted for the public, that he cannot command 
enough money to give his family anything at all, 
except hard work and self-denial." 

In 1846, by express contract with the Trustees, 
Mr. Cocke became Principal and Steward of the 
Seminary without stipulated salary. Neither he 
nor any one of his sons and daughters, who 
worked so loyally with him, ever received a salary 

72 Charles L. Cocke 

from the Board. That initial agreement illus- 
trates the unbargaining generosity of the man. He 
pressed on the attention of the Trustees the cer- 
tainty of continuous demand for enlarged facili- 
ties. To provide for this, it was agreed that the 
revenue from the boarding department should go 
to the Trustees, who would devote it to that pur- 
pose. How ridiculously small that revenue was 
likely to be, may be gathered from the fact that a 
student was boarded at the rate of $5.00 a month ! 
Through all the subsequent years this principle 
of benevolent rates had never been abandoned. 
The figures were necessarily increased, but only 
with the view of keeping out of debt. Now what 
possible promise was there in this arrangement 
for increasing facilities? Absolutely none. So 
the long issue of events proved. By the same 
agreement, Mr. Cocke was to pay his teachers' 
salaries and maintain himself and family out of 
the tuition funds. What remained in the treas- 
ury after the teachers were paid was his. Out of 
that residue, it soon became evident, must come 
much of the means for repairs and improvements. 
There was no other source from which to draw. 
Improvements were made, and self-denial paid 
the bills. 

Now, while this involved inconveniences, it did 
not, of course, mean the making of gifts to the 
Trustees. In just business fashion, they recorded 

The Clearing Skies 73 

each outlay of this kind as a loan to themselves. 
As a consequence they went steadily in debt to 
Mr. Cocke, until by 1864 they owed him $7,785. 
This included the $1,500 which he lent to them 
in 1846. This curious financial arrangement con- 
tinued, unavoidable and regretted by all con- 
cerned. In 1868, the debt of the Trustees ran 
up to $17,473, and in 1876 it reached the sum of 
$22,094. Why had not these claims been settled? 
We have seen the source of the Trustees' reve- 
nue; how could they pay? The $35,000 raised 
by public gift had been given to the Trustees, who 
invested every cent of it in new buildings and 
accommodations. Not a dollar of it ever touched 
the hand of Mr. Cocke. On the contrary, 
as noted above, the growing plant had com- 
mandeered much of his own slow, hard earnings. 
Either this undesirable order of things had to go 
on, or Mr. Cocke had to abandon his dear ambi- 
tion. But the time had come for better adjust- 
ments. He felt that the multiplying years 
required that he think of the interests of his 
family. With these views and wishes, the Trus- 
tees were in their usual cordial sympathy. The 
Institution was their property. They were in 
debt to Mr. Cocke in a large and yearly increas- 
ing sum. They had no possible way of liquidating 
that debt. What could they do? What ought 
they to have done? They solved the question by 

74 Charles L. Cocke 

offering to give Mr. Cocke a deed to their Insti- 
tution in satisfaction of their debt. The propo- 
sition was declined. He did not want to own the 
College. Such had never been his aim. He saw 
that the move would be a relief to the Trustees, 
but a disadvantage to the school. He deprecated 
the idea of the College going into private owner- 
ship. The associated wisdom and responsibility 
of a good Board of Trustees he regarded as one 
of its best assets. Moreover, what could such a 
deal effect in the way of relieving his financial 
embarrassments? He could not see, and so the 
troublesome question was left unsolved. The 
school was prosperous, his heart was serenely 
grateful; and this personal matter could wait. 



I 880-1 901 

THE projection, building, and safe establish- 
ment of Cornell University, in the State of 
New York, was essentially the work of that re- 
markable man, Andrew D. White. In the face 
of many obstacles and antagonisms he founded 
it, named it in honor of its chief benefactor, was 
its first President and led its fortunes until he 
saw it take rank among the famous Institutions 
of the United States. Another famous man per- 
formed the same kind of service for his people 
in the South. The founder and builder of Hollins 
Institute was long a voice in the wilderness. You 
have seen the stern, invincible purpose of this 
man in the face of an apathetic public, painfully 
straitened finances, epidemics, and the desolations 
of war. Several times his enterprise trembled on 
the verge of ruin. But in him was that iron 
quality that never knew when It was beaten. 
Forty years of toil in the educational field sat 
lightly on him, thanks to the natural vigor of a 


j6 Charles L. Cocke 

well knit body and the resilient tone of a well 
endowed mind. We come now to the last lap of 
the journey, which most gratefully takes the form 
of a triumphal progress. In the good providence 
of God, the next twenty-one years were to be 
filled with expansion and achievement. His years 
multiplied, but there was no slowing down of 
energy and contriving strategy. Destiny put him 
benignantly into a life-long association with the 
young, and he could not grow old. To thousands 
of us still, no figure on the Hollins quadrangle 
ever stands out so statuesque as his large form, 
becomingly clad in a Prince Albert suit, and sur- 
mounted with a favorite tall beaver hat. As he 
walked in unconscious majesty, one could hear 
that resonant voice, issuing orders or bestowing 
courtly greetings. The grace and evenness of the 
old Virginia gentleman sat on him like a crown, 
making him ever accessible to student and friend. 
He was a worker, and he hated idleness as sin. 
Unrelentingly he demanded work. Never a stu- 
dent was allowed to escape that imperious law. 
For this his girls gave him honor. Well did they 
understand that Hollins was not for fashionable 
finish, or for money-squandering, but for down- 
right honest study and true adornment of woman- 
hood. He requested parents not to encourage 
extravagance in their daughters by putting in 
their hands undue sums of money to spend. 

Expansion and Achievement 77 

The sessions in the early eighties showed a ris- 
ing volume of patronage from the Southern 
states, a condition that was to go from more to 
more. His chief resulting gratification was in 
the obvious awakening of Southern people to 
better appreciation of the higher culture of 
women. Along with this pleasing discovery, how- 
ever, he began to realize a serious barrier to the 
task at HoUIns, created by the defective prepara- 
tory training in the primary and secondary 
schools of the country. In later years the diffi- 
culty began to disappear. To him, education con- 
sisted in the acquisition of knowledge, the 
training of faculty, and more especially, the 
broadening and multiplication of powers. His 
students must think, reason, and understand. 
That is the top of culture. Did he show any dis- 
position to remain satisfied with the standards 
already erected? Not by any means. This is a 
growing world where nothing is stationary but 
a cemetery. The developing impulse in the mind 
of the Founder would never subside while the 
perfect was unattained. Even in this good sum- 
mertime of 1920, nineteen years after his going, 
the mighty momentum he gave to the College 
operates with undiminished force. One does not 
expect spectacular variety in the life of an 
educator, particularly in one whose labors for 
fifty years were focalized on one spot. The 

7 8 Charles L. Cocke 

philosopher Kant never went away from the 
place of his birth, nor figured once in the pub- 
licities of his time, and yet the patient thinker 
has won undying fame among the intellectuals of 
the world. So we shall not find abundant incident 
at HoUins, but we shall know that its organizing 
genius is ever active and sounding the note of 

On the 15th of June, 1882, was adopted a new 
adjustment with the Trustees. Mr. Cocke was 
still unwilling to take over the property in pay- 
ment of the Trustees' debt, but he had come to 
the conclusion that it might be wise to take a 
lease on it for fifteen years. To this the Trustees 
agreed, and the lease was duly written in favor 
of Charles L. Cocke and his son, Charles H. 
Cocke. At this time the debt due Mr. Cocke 
was $42,212, and by the terms of the contract, 
that sum might be increased to $50,000, An 
annual rental of $3,500 was to be due the Trus- 
tees, which was offset by the interest due on their 
$50,000 debt. In this arrangement the only 
right reserved by the Trustees was that of sanc- 
tion of all improvements that might be under- 
taken during the period of the lease. On the very 
day when this agreement was written, Mr. Cocke 
submitted a plan for a Chapel. This was 
promptly approved by the Trustees. The work 
began, and soon the sacred edifice was an accom- 

Expansion and Achievement 79 

plished fact. A little later the open grates and 
hot air furnaces in the buildings were abolished 
in favor of steam heat. The limestone spring 
and the pump in the yard were abandoned to give 
place to a reservoir on the side of Tinker Moun- 
tain, which supplied running water on every 
floor. Needed philosophical and chemical appa- 
ratus were forthcoming, and a beautiful Art and 
Music hall was built on the site of Carvin's rock 
castle. Then followed a new and enlarged din- 
ing room with all its appurtenances. The Trus- 
tees acquiesced cheerfully in all these betterments, 
but they looked on the vast increase of their debt 
in a sort of helpless wonderment. How should 
they ever meet the huge obligation? While they 
forbore to put a check on this advance, they were 
sure that there could be only one way of ultimate 

In July, 1882, came the first great heartbreak 
his own household had ever known. His daugh- 
ter, Rosa Pleasants Cocke, wife of the Rev. W. 
R. L. Smith, pastor of the First Baptist Church, 
Lynchburg, Virginia, passed to her dreamless 
sleep. She was young, beautiful, universally 
loved, — the fairest bloom of queenly womanhood. 
She left a little Edith, who, twenty months later, 
went to rest with her mother on the green hill 
near Hollins. 

The enrollment of one hundred and seventy- 

8o Charles L. Cocke 

six girls in the session of i888-'89, was the largest 
in the history of the school. At this date the 
President found, by careful comparison, that dur- 
ing the past forty-seven years, the average 
attendance had been greater than that of any 
other school for girls in the State. The session 
of i889-'90 registered two hundred and nine 
students, and for the first time since 1864 appli- 
cations had to be declined. The only minor chord 
that marred the general joy sounded in the 
troubled minds of the Trustees. In his own pri- 
vate reflections, Mr. Cocke had to confess that 
the solution offered by the Trustees looked like 
the obstinate, unavoidable necessity. About this 
time he made known to the Trustees and friends, 
a compliment to the Institution, recently paid by 
the National Bureau of Education at Washing- 
ton. In a report of that body concerning schools 
for girls in Virginia, Hollins was named the fore- 
most Institution for girls, the best known and 
the most effective in the State. The report con- 
tinues: "There is an admirable foundation 
already laid at Hollins Institute . . . for a 
woman's college of the type of Vassar, Smith, 
Wellesley and Bryn Mawr ... in a beautiful 
and healthful region with ample buildings for a 
great beginning. . . . An investment of a mil- 
lion would place here a great school of the 
highest type, and perpetuate the well-earned repu- 

Expansion and Achievement 8i 

tatlon of this well-known Institute, — for the past 
forty years one of the most notable of Southern 
schools." This fine appraisement, coming from 
an independent and impartial source, was un- 
speakably pleasing to the man around whom this 
school had grown, and he could but cherish the 
hope that some large-minded man of wealth 
would arise to follow the suggestion of endow- 
ment made in the quotation. 

A rare sensation was sprung on the Hollins 
community in the celebration of Mr. and Mrs. 
Cocke's Golden Wedding, December 31, 1890. 
All unknown to them, a group of loving hearts 
and hands had prepared an elaborate and impres- 
sive program. But some days before the bril- 
liant event, mysterious hints, furtive interviews 
and beaming expectancy gave away the secret. 
Mr. Cocke himself began the jubilee in the early 
dawn, by slipping on the finger of his sleeping 
wife a handsome plain gold ring. All day, by 
letter and telegram, came happy congratulations 
and "bridal presents" from former pupils and 
friends. In the evening, Hollins took on un- 
precedented splendor with illuminations every- 
where. Chandeliers, windows and doors were 
hung with ivy, and over the door of the main 
parlor, in large green figures, were placed the 
dates, 1 840-1 890. At 7:30 p.m. Mr. and Mrs. 
Cocke took their stand in the large parlor. 

82 Charles L. Cocke 

thronged by loved ones and friends. Prayer was 
made by Rev. Dr. G. W. Beale, pastor of Enon 
Baptist Church and chaplain of the college. Then, 
the Rev. Dr. E. C. Dargan of Charleston, S. C, 
a former pastor of Enon and college chaplain, 
made an affectionate address. Among the appro- 
priate remarks is the following quotation: "This 
great school, the love and labor of your life, 
speaks for itself, both in glad presence and widely 
extended absence. From over all the land, and 
indeed from far distant lands, the pupils of Hol- 
lins send their love and congratulations. Through 
the willing service of one who has labored long 
at your side,* they present to you this book, con- 
taining the signatures of hundreds, who came to 
learn of you. Their affection also presents to 
you this portrait, intending that it shall be a per- 
petual heirloom, at once a splendid souvenir of 
this day and a monument of their lasting grati- 

As these words were spoken, two of his little 
granddaughters, Thalia Hayward and Leila 
Turner, touched a wire, and the veil dropped, re- 
vealing the fine life-size portrait of Mr. Cocke, 
described in the first chapter of this book. It 
was the work of his accomplished daughter-in- 
law, Mrs. Lucian H. Cocke of Roanoke, Va. 
Mr. Cocke made brief and tender acknowledg- 

* Mrs. Eliza S. Childs, Associate Principal. 

Expansion and Achievement 83 

ment of the honor done him, and then his son, 
Mr. Lucian H. Cocke, expressed in few words 
the same sentiment. Professor Wm. H. Pleas- 
ants read a poem, written for the occasion by a 
former pupil and teacher of Hollins. Two other 
short speeches were made by admiring friends and 
Dr. Dargan pronounced the benediction. 

In every particular, this program was beauti- 
fully conceived and gracefully executed, making 
one of the most felicitous and memorable events 
ever known in the life of the Institution. 

On the occasion of their meeting in July, 1896, 
the Trustees signalized the completion of a half 
century of service by renewed expressions of ad- 
miration and love for Mr. Cocke. One year 
later they returned to the theme and took action 
which gave the most general delight. They 
passed two resolutions: "First, that in honor of 
President Cocke, while living, and after his death, 
in memory of his great achievements in education, 
the 2 1 St of February, his birthday, be set apart 
as a legal holiday in Hollins Institute. Second, 
that the young ladies be permitted to celebrate 
the day in such manner as may be deemed by 
the officers of the school appropriate to the occa- 
sion." Such was the origin of Founder's Day, 
only three happy celebrations of which the 
beloved President was destined to see. 

The eventide drew gently on, and that good, 

84 Charles L. Cocke 

gray head was crowned with glory and honor. 
His own health was still fine, but his dear family 
was drawing near to a land of shadows. Three 
times in a very short period the billows of be- 
reavement went over him. An avalanche of grief 
fell on his stout heart in the sudden loss of three 
of his children. Mrs. Leila Virginia Turner, on 
October 21st, 1899, laid her burden down and 
was put to rest beside her husband on the green 
hill. On the 3rd of May, 1900, the noble Man- 
ager, Charles H. Cocke, passed away, and was 
gathered to the loved ones gone before. Miss 
Sallie Lewis Cocke died on July 29th, 1900, and 
was added to the silent company of brothers and 

"Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." 
With chastened tenderness and submissive resig- 
nation, Mr. Cocke held his course as one who gets 
support from an invisible world. The concerns 
of the Institute pressed on him, and he must still 
take hold on life's affairs. The lease, in 1897, 
had been extended for a new period of ten years. 
But, obviously, it was now full time that his busi- 
ness relations to the Trustees be brought to a 
definite and final settlement. The issue, pending 
through many years, could be deferred no longer, 
and on June 2nd, 1900, a radical change In the 
old order was made. The Trustees found them- 
selves in debt to Mr. Cocke $101,253, In addition 

Expansion and Achievement 85 

to the $50,000 in bonds already executed. Not 
yet had they been able even to pay the $1,500 
loaned by him in 1846. He gave up his notes and 
bonds to the Trustees, and they in turn gave over 
the Institution. Thus the Board of Trustees, 
after a period of forty-five years, went out of 
existence, and HoUins became the property of 
Mr. Cocke. It was not the consummation that 
he wished, but there was no other alternative. 

The venerable man, now in his 8ist year, had 
on his hands the great Institution he had so 
laboriously builded. If he could have called back 
forty years, the responsibility would have rested 
on strong shoulders and a confident brain. But 
the competencies of the earlier years were spent, 
and age could only plan for the activities in which 
it should not share. He stood a noble, pic- 
turesque figure on the peak of life's work, look- 
ing backward with thankful satisfaction, and then 
wistfully forward into those years when other 
hands, hearts and brains should shape and guide 
the Institution. Not with one touch of gloomy 
foreboding did he make this provision. He be- 
lieved that his children and grandchildren would 
loyally cherish his ideals and aspirations. They 
would hold the legacy sacred, maintain its stand- 
ards, and keep it true to Its aims. In the mellow- 
ing days of life's late afternoon this confidence 
gave him comfort and peace. Human affection 

86 Charles L. Cocke 

played around him soft and tender as summer 
sunset on the mountains, but it could not be 
doubted that among the deepest satisfactions of 
his soul was the conviction that his successors 
would do him the real homage of preserving the 
fruitage of his long, unselfish labors. 

His form was unbent and his physical force 
gave him hope of ten more years of life. It was 
not to be. In the summer of 1898 a violent car- 
buncle brought him perilously near the brink of 
the great mystery. Two years later, warning 
symptoms came upon him suddenly. They did not 
yield to careful treatment, and with premonitions 
of the end, he decided in January, 1901, to go to 
the home of his son, Lucian H. Cocke, in Roa- 
noke. This arrangement was his own device. He 
thought thereby to save HoUins from the anxiety 
which his illness would create, and from the shock 
of its probable end. What could be lovelier than 
the two letters that follow? 

"Hollins, Virginia, February 21, 1901. 
"Our Dear Mr. Cocke: — 

"We, the members of your Faculty, — or rather 
of your great household here at Hollins, — deeply 
touched by your never-ceasing thought of us, and 
your intense interest in the work of our classes 
which prompted you even in the hour of great 
bodily distress to send us from your bed of sick- 
ness a message of comfort and encouragement, 

Expansion and Achievement 87 

feel that we can not suffer this, your birthday, to 
pass by without some expression of our gratitude 
and sympathy. 

"We can never cease to be grateful for the 
kindly wisdom of your counsel which has directed 
us always unerringly to what is true and right, 
and for the firm guidance of your hand which has 
unfalteringly led us through the dark places of 
doubt and despair. Though we miss your wise 
head and guiding hand, we shall ever feel the 
inspiration of your spirit and the silent influence 
of your example; and trusting in that Divine 
Providence which has so long directed and pros- 
pered the labors of your brain and hand, we will 
endeavor to carry out, along your own lines, the 
work which you have so nobly planned and which 
you are now forced to lay aside. 

"In this time of your physical weakness and 
bodily suffering, our thoughts are often with you, 
and we send you this message assuring you of 
our sympathy, both as a body and as individuals. 
May our Heavenly Father take you in His keep- 
ing and give to you unwavering faith and com- 
fort and peace. 

"With the expression of our affectionate re- 

^^'■^' "J. M. McBryde, Jr. 

"On behalf of your fellow laborers, the Faculty 
of Hollins Institute." 

88 Charles L. Cocke 

"To The Faculty and Pupils of HoUIns Institute: 
"It is now nearly two months since I have been 
with you. During this time I have been pros- 
trated by great infirmities of body, and my weak- 
ness still is extreme. During my illness, however, 
there has been no time when I have ceased to 
have the welfare of each of you upon my mind 
and heart. Of all the expressions of sympathy 
that have come to me, none have been so com- 
forting and gratifying as those that have come 
from my faculty and pupils. I wish to extend to 
each one of you my sincere appreciation of your 
earnest solicitude on my account. From every 
source the information comes to me of the 
orderly conduct of affairs at Hollins — teachers 
and pupils in their accustomed places, performing 
in a faithful and conscientious manner each duty 
that the occasion demands. It would be difficult 
indeed to adequately express to you the gratifica- 
tion that this information brings to me. For 
many years it has been my earnest desire to so 
conduct the affairs of the Institution, that 
whether I was present or absent there should be 
no abatement in the earnest purpose and devo- 
tion to duty which I have sought to make a part 
of the atmosphere of Hollins. I can not express 
to you a proper idea of what a pleasure it has 
been to me to know that this ideal is being exem- 

Expansion and Achievement 89 

plified in your conduct, and I feel that in my 
declining years I am greatly blessed in having 
your sympathy and co-operation in the proper 
conduct of the work which has been on my heart 
for these many years. 

"I trust that under the care of a favoring 
Providence, I may yet be able to be with you, and 
exchange once more the kindly greetings that have 
been a delight to me; but should it be otherwise, 
I always feel well assured that I can rely with 
confidence upon you to give to the Institution and 
the work with which I have been connected, the 
same devotion and loyalty which you have, with- 
out stint, accorded to me. 

"May our Father in Heaven preserve each one 
of you in His holy keeping. 

"March loth, 1901.' 

It was on May 4th, 1901, that the end came. 
In the early morning of May 6th, the body was 
brought to Hollins and placed in the Chapel. 
Mr. Cocke had planned the two funeral services 
of the day. The first was held in the Chapel, for 
the family, faculty and students, who crowded the 
room. It was conducted by the Rev. Dr. F. H. 
Martin, Baptist pastor at Salem, assisted by min- 

90 Charles L. Cocke 

isters of the Presbyterian, Lutheran and Episco- 
pal churches. At the beginning and close of the 
service were sung his favorite hymns: "How Firm 
a Foundation," and "My Hope is Built on Noth- 
ing Less." 

At 4 p.m., the second service was held at 
Enon Church, which was thronged by neighbors 
and friends. The pastor, the Rev. J. M. Luck, 
presided, and after the singing of "There is a 
Fountain Filled With Blood," remarks followed 
by the pastor, the Rev. Dr. W. E. Hatcher, and 
Mr. William EUyson of Richmond, and the Rev. 
Dr. P. T. Hale of Roanoke, The service closed 
with "My Jesus, as Thou Wilt," and then the 
procession moved up the hill in a sudden shower 
of rain. As the casket was lowered, the great 
assemblage sang softly, "There's a Land That is 
Fairer Than Day," and the Rev. T. J. Shipman 
offered the closing prayer. Two impressive inci- 
dents followed. A procession of HoUins girls, 
dressed in white and bearing white carnations, 
came up the slope and covered the grave with 
flowers. In the same moment the setting sun 
broke through the clouds and bathed the scene in 
a radiance of glory. Dr. Hatcher, with felicitous 
tact, called attention to the shining symbol of 
heaven's benediction on the proceedings of that 
solemn day. 



A CAREFUL examination of the catalogues 
and school registers of the early years leads 
us to believe that by June, 1896, when Mr. Cocke 
delivered his semi-centennial address, he had seen 
under training at HoUins not fewer than 5,000 
young women. To the privileges of the school 
he had welcomed the children and grandchildren 
of his first pupils. As terms of study closed, what 
did this host of girls think of the Head of the 
Institution? Today in thousands of homes 
throughout the nation, the name of Hollins un- 
seals, as by magic, a well-spring of precious and 
tender reminiscence. With unanimous devotion, 
the girls who knew him, honored and loved the 
name of Charles L. Cocke. Hardly did Tinker 
and Dead Man Mountain loom so large to them 
as the form of the venerable man. They hon- 
ored him because he was strict and absolutely 
just; because he held high standards of school 
decorum and culture, and insisted on hard work. 
He was too honorable to take the daughters of 


92 Charles L. Cocke 

patrons, and allow waste of time and opportunity. 
His stringent demands may sometimes have 
caused irritation, but the good sense of the stu- 
dent was certain to react to grateful recognition 
of his wisdom. The after years never fail to 
evoke loving acknowledgment in the heart of a 
girl whose teacher requires her to make good in 
her studies. The Hollins girls loved Mr. Cocke 
because he was uniformly considerate and kind. 
The fatherly interest in his heart, not one was 
allowed to doubt. Daily he met them at the 
evening worship. Often has the visiting "old 
girl" spoken of those unforgotten prayers. He 
welcomed them in his office, listened to their re- 
quests, responding with sound advice and encour- 
agement. Arbitrariness and severity were foreign 
to his nature, but all knew that the standards of 
conduct and study must be maintained. 

How proud he was of the distinctions won by 
his girls ! In the early eighties five of them, in 
the English literature classes, took the Shake- 
speare prize offered in London. 

The class room work was ever the major in- 
terest, but beyond this was a large range of 
activity and diversion. In 1855 the Euzelian 
(Love of Wisdom) Society was organized for 
debate, recitations and essays. Increasing num- 
bers in 1874 required the formation of the 
Euepian (Pure Diction) Society. Still memor- 


The President and His Girls 93 

able are those exciting joint debates, held occa- 
sionally by the Societies, along the years. In 
these latter days, they have given place to other 
disciplines more in harmony with the practical 
spirit of the age.' Class organizations, Sororities, 
Clubs, Student Government, the College "Spin- 
ster" and Magazine, monopolize the spare hours. 
The Young Women's Christian Association main- 
tains its prominence and usefulness. 

But the old-time diversions do not pass. Those 
glorious romping trips up Carvin's Creek to the 
Falls, and the annual holiday climb to the top of 
Tinker in October, together with the strenuous 
games and sports on the campus, will continue to 
furnish happy memories. 

The democratic spirit of the Institution Mr. 
Cocke constantly cultivated, and with profound 
satisfaction he welcomed students from the homes 
of rich and poor. All entered on terms of 
equality In privilege and opportunity. The rich 
girl of common sense and Industry won popu- 
larity and honor; and by the same token the poor 
girl gained the love of classmates and the medals 
of distinction. At no institution was there 
more contempt for snobbery or for the spirit of 
favoritism. Moral and Intellectual worth were 
the sole tests of credit and high standing. 

His Interest followed the students, and he 
smiled at the tidings of their usefulness. He 

94 Charles L. Cocke 

counted on their private and public values in 
society. Some, he was fond of saying, had be- 
come the wives of ministers, of lawyers and 
judges, of officers of the Army and of the Navy, 
of political leaders and of distinguished men in 
all ranks and professions. With pride, he spoke 
of those who were teaching in the schools and 
colleges, and of those who had gone into the far 
mission fields of the world. In his heart the 
grand old man felt: "They are all my daughters, 
and the sweetest benedictions be on every one." 
You will never meet the daughters of Hollins, old 
or young, whose faces do not light up at the men- 
tion of his name, or that of the dear place where 
many of life's holiest memories were stored. 
When old Hollins girls meet — whether as bosom 
cronies, after years of separation, or as strangers 
at some Exposition, gazing through tears at a 
portrait — a listener need but catch fragments of 
their reminiscences to know how Mr. Cocke's 
personality glows In the memory of his "gyrls." 
"Could we ever forget how he used to read 
the hymns at evening worship? Nobody else 
could, or can, read them as he did: 

Guide me, O thou great Jehovah — 

My hope is built on nothing less, 
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness — 

In the Cross of Christ I glory, 
Towering o'er the wrecks of time — 

The President and His Girls 95 

This last always with an unconscious lifting of 
the head in his vision of the glory one day to be 
revealed. It meant much to look, once a day, on 
a colossal faith hke his. Was it due to those un- 
broken, silent trysts with his Savior in the chapel, 
in the early morning?" 

"Latin and mathematics were always second 
to the Bible with Mr. Cocke," testifies another. 
"He was certainly never afraid of the 'hard- 
grained muses' for us. I once heard him say, 
with a touch of regret, 'The next generation in 
our country will produce many more readers, but 
fewer scholars.' He revered true learning and 
made us revere it, however little some of us pos- 
sessed it. Scholarship with him was no musty 
work, smelling of the midnight oil. He never 
laughed at it as odd or pedantic. It was, in his 
mind, never dissociated from service; but scholar- 
ship was a high thing, and he flung out the work 
as a challenge to the best within us. 

"One now laughs to recall her own mental pro- 
tests, as a new girl, when Mr. Cocke would so 
earnestly tell her fellow-students that they would 
be leaders in their communities, in their states. 
'How mistaken Mr. Cocke is about this,' I would 
say to myself. 'He doesn't know this year's 
girls. He is thinking about those women who 
shone out so brilliantly here two, four, ten, thirty 
years ago — those stars in the crown of Hollins. 

g6 Charles L. Cocke 

But these girls are just ordinary people. The 
best of them don't even know their lessons every 
tune — not to mention the rest of us. They could 
never lead communities. Great women would be 
necessary for that.' But those girls have been 
real leaders, just as Mr. Cocke said. They were 
nothing but girls, just like other girls, but they 
did, many of them, go forth to lead and to lead 
straight. It may be that they had from him some 
touch of his power; it may be that he opened their 
eyes to the fact that there is, after all, nobody 
else to do most of these things except just plain 
humanity. There really is nobody else, you 

"And Mr. Cocke's dignity withal — how cheap 
have many other men looked to my eyes when 
set beside my image of him ! It is like that fabled 
measuring rod which made inflated pride shrink 
to its true stature. Mr. Cocke was the only man 
I ever saw who really seemed equal to wearing a 
high hat. I have watched the throng of the gen- 
teel coming down Broadway in their Sunday best 
and have thought, 'Not a man of you looks right 
in it — looks wholly free from affectation.' To 
him it was as natural as the crown of white hair 
beneath it. 

"Imperious sometimes? Yes. I recall once, 
certainly. That new invention, the telephone, 
had been installed at Hollins. It was wonderful. 

The President and His Girls 97 

enabling one to talk to the depot agent at Clover- 
dale, three miles away. For the first few days 
of the new 'fixture,' Miss Matty had attended to 
all the preliminaries, so Mr. Cocke had not real- 
ized just what these preliminaries were, or that 
any were necessary, I saw him walk up to the 
transmitter and speak into it, without ringing the 
bell, asking a question of the agent. No response, 
of course. He spoke again. The same dead 
silence. Then he right royally tapped the trans- 
mitter as with a rod of office and commanded, 
'Here, answer me!' Although I knew that the 
ringing of the bell was essential, I had the feeling 
that some response must come when Mr. Cocke 
spoke like that. 

"By means of credit and otherwise, he helped 
me and helped other girls from my section of 
Virginia who had less ready money than crav- 
ing for an education. The work of one of these, 
as Foreign Missionary, has been so good and so 
big that I love to think that in her, Hollins may 
have its reward for what it did for the rest of 
us. But so utterly did Mr. Cocke ignore all such 
benefits conferred by himself that I used to think 
he surely must not know about these things, that 
they must have all been transacted in the privacy 
of Mr. Charley's business office. The President 
looked so far above any money considerations; 
and still he must have been a wonderful financier. 

98 Charles L. Cocke 

Who else could have found the means of build- 
ing and maintaining that great Institution without 
aid of church or state or millionaire? I never 
know what to say when asked by school men how 
Hollins was financed in the old days. The means 
must have been brought down by prayer from 
Heaven somehow. 

"We talk much of the prudence that keeps at 
a safe distance from the plague of influenza. 
That is right, often. But when LaGrippe came 
from Russia in 1889 and invaded Hollins, I saw 
how the suffering was, to some of the girls, far 
outweighed by the honor and joy of having Mr. 
Cocke himself make the rounds to visit them as if 
he cared. Cared? I have looked out into the 
semi-darkness of the campus and seen that stately 
figure, with bowed head, walking up and down 
beneath the window of the infirmary, where some 
girl lay extremely ill, moving to and fro, far into 
the night, in a vigil, which, let me say it with rev- 
erence, has made It easier to believe that close 
to all earth's pains, 

"Standeth One within the shadow, 
Keeping watch above His own." 

E. P. C. 

Such was the inner life of Hollins. It was and 
Is the loving fellowship and co-operative industry 
of a big family, consecrated to true culture, good 

The President and His Girls 99 

citizenship and human progress. It was the life- 
work of the Good President, to cheer and help 
his girls onward to the realization of these noble 

One day in May, 1901, the sad tidings of Mr. 
Cocke's death reached them. Out of the multi- 
tude of letters that came to Hollins, all bearing 
the same message of sympathetic grief, only a 
few can be subjoined. 

"It is sad, and almost unbearable, to think of 
Hollins without Mr. Cocke. And yet, our grief 
at his death has, mingled with it, a spirit of 
thanksgiving for his life. We are so glad that 
we came under the influence of that life. I was 
so young when I first went to Hollins, and Hollins 
was my home for so long, that its influence, the 
life-example of Mr. Cocke, all, indeed, that made 
up the strength and beauty of those days, are 
woven into every fibre of my being, have become 
a part of my very life, so that I know I am better 
for having known Hollins, and Mr. Cocke." 

R. B. 

"For a long time I have realized that I owe 
more to the influence of my teachers and friends 
at Hollins than to all the text-books I have ever 
opened, and today I count it one of the greatest 
blessings of my life that it was in the pure, ele- 

r^p.^'f .^.4 

lOO Charles L. Cocke 

vating atmosphere of HoUIns that I grew into 
womanhood. To dear Mr. Cocke, the Founder, 
the Head, the Life of HolHns, I do now and ever 
shall feel the deepest gratitude, and shall ever 
think of him with reverence, so high has always 
been my regard for him. Hundreds of women 
all over the land are sorrowing that they will see 
his noble face no more; for we, his old pupils, 
have lost a benefactor, a teacher, a friend." 

M. W. C. 

"Indeed, a course so nobly run can be as fitly 
congratulated on its close — a close pertaining 
not merely to the finite conditions which fetter it 
here, but which, freeing it from these, ushers its 
powers, refined, magnified, glorified, into the 
blessed sphere of attainment awaiting those who 
have steadily followed the steps of the Master in 
ceaseless effort for the good of man. It is not 
the note of lamentation that accords with this 
grand freeing and glorious entrance of a friend 
of man, a soldier of the Cross, into the kingdom 
he has won: we rather shout our acclamations for 
the triumph of our friend, and drop the tear only 
that we are for a moment shut from the comfort 
of his countenance. We all, in fullest degree, 
offer our love and attachment, founded on un- 
speakable memories of early and lasting life." 

B. D. F. 

The President and His Girls lOi 

"I am only one of the hundreds of girls who 
loved Mr. Cocke dearly, and honored him beyond 
the power of words to express. I feel that I 
loved him particularly well, more than others did; 
but perhaps many others feel the same way. I 
never knew any other man whose religion showed 
so plainly in his daily life. It always seemed to 
me that he walked with God. Holllns will never 
be the same again to the old girls." 

L. J. M. 

"I feel sure that all you dear HoUins people 
know how fully my heart is with you at this time; 
but I feel that I must give some outward expres- 
sion to the love and sympathy that I feel. Along 
with thousands of other old Holllns girls, I know 
what a great loss the world has sustained, and 
what a great and lasting grief has come to all of 
us who knew and loved and revered Mr. Cocke. 
To think of the thousands of minds and souls 
he has helped to strengthen and fit out for life's 
work! His opportunity was great, and he made 
the most of it, — and what higher praise can be 
given to any man?" 

B. P. M. T. 

"I have been more distressed than I can tell 
you to hear of dear Mr. Cocke's increasing 
feebleness and dangerous illness, and I have 

102 Charles L. Cocke 

opened each letter from Hollins with a feeling of 
dread, always fearing the worst. But although 
the sad news, now that it has come, does not find 
me unprepared, my grief is no less acute. I 
know so well what this loss means not only to 
the thousands of girls who, like me, loved him as 
a father, but to the cause of education and re- 
ligion, in which he stood ever as a beacon light. 
My heart is very sad when I think of how much 
goodness and greatness and strength went out of 
the world when he was taken, I have not the 
power to express in words the grief I feel! I 
shall always thank God for the priceless boon of 
being for a time under the influence of that con- 
secrated life, and it is my earnest prayer that I 
may never lose sight of that blessed example of 
'pure religion and undefiled before God and the 
Father.' " 

E. S. F. 

"A friend writes me that Mr. Cocke's work is 
done, and that today he is laid to rest, I suppose 
on the beautiful hill that looks down on the field 
of his labors, that field that has borne such beau- 
tiful fruit. We are all distressed, as will be a 
great many others throughout the South who 
have felt the importance in life of a character 
like that of Mr. Cocke. If there were more 
men with like quality of character and mind, the 

The President and His Girls 103 

world would speedily become a better place. He 
did what he could to better it, and there are many 
left to honor him who have not the strength to do 

L. B. P. 

"As one of the many thousands who owe to 
him unestimated, because inestimable, blessings, 
treasures of thought and influence and inspira- 
tion that time can not touch any more than it can 
dim his priceless memory, I sorrow today for 
HoUins' great 'creator, builder, guide.' " 

S. B. D. 

"The news of dear Mr. Cocke's death has 
filled me with sorrow, for I realize what an ines- 
timable loss the church, the school, his friends, 
and his family have sustained. I never knew any 
one like him! No one ever laid down a life more 
filled with good works, and he has indeed earned 
the blessed rest which he is now enjoying." 

C. M. J. 

"The knowledge of such a life is Invaluable. 
We should, we will, cherish the remembrance of 
it and hold this among the greatest object lessons 
taught us by God. The treasure of his memory 
would not be so priceless had his life been one 
smooth journey. It is the knowledge of the 

104 Charles L. Cocke 

struggle, the knowledge that a man has fought 
and gloriously won in life's severest conflicts, 
that furnishes us the incentive, that lends us the 

A. W. 



THE fine portrait of Mr. Cocke in the Rol- 
lins Library, executed by his daughter-in-law, 
Mrs. Lucian H. Cocke of Roanoke, was formally 
presented at the Golden Wedding celebration in 
1890. Death claimed the brilliant artist in 1899. 
With keen insight she portrayed her subject at 
the culminating moment of the final exercises of 
the Institution. The diploma in his hand is the 
one which he handed to his daughter, Miss Matty 
L. Cocke, on the day of her graduation. The 
artist wanted a real diploma, and by felicitous 
chance, this was the one supplied. At the time, 
the owner little dreamed of being her father's 
successor as President of Hollins Institute. 

As now, so during the lifetime of Mr. Cocke, 
Maytime at Hollins stirred a flutter of excite- 
ment in the student's mind. The session's close 
was drawing near, with its terrors of examina- 
tions; its flourish of music, oratory and white 
dresses; its orderly pomp and splendor. The 
season brought a new flush of animation and 


io6 Charles L. Cocke 

gaiety. There were happy greetings of fathers 
and mothers. The old girls came, eager for the 
raptures of re-union. The bright stars shone 
on dear old Hollins; the blue mountains stood 
guard round their jewel; and the sky dropped 
down benediction. Nature and the human heart 
held high festival on Commencement Day. 

Services began with an interesting dramatic 
presentation, and the Reception to the Senior 
Class. The Sunday services were conducted by 
invited ministers. In the days following, came 
the jollities of Class Day, the joint celebration of 
the Societies, the Musical Concert, and lastly, the 
annual address by the President, with the con- 
ferring of Diplomas. Of course the programs 
of the earlier years were not so elaborate as the 
one just indicated, but the exercises were as vitally 
interesting and popular. On these occasions 
many distinguished men delivered strong and 
eloquent addresses. Woe to the man who ven- 
tured to stand before a Hollins audience without 
honest preparation. Declamatory rhetoric never 
deceived this group of intellectually alert stu- 
dents. Mr. Cocke drew his ministers for Com- 
mencement from the various Protestant denom- 
inations, as the students came from all these 
bodies. Sectarian narrowness never guided his 
choice, and that spirit never thrived in his school. 
Christian truth and character were to him the 

Commencements ^and Addresses 107 

eternal verities, and among all communions he 
made devoted friends. One of his preachers dis- 
appointed him cruelly. That good man made a 
calamitous mistake. He had fancied that he was 
to appear before a mountain school, and that 
almost any sort of a sermon would answer. Lazy 
unpreparedness meets retribution. Arriving at 
Hollins, his disillusion was instantaneous, and all 
that Saturday night he tossed in mental misery. 
The next morning he appeared in the pulpit with 
an irrelevant theme, and a profitless sermon. 
College girls are never profoundly impressed by 
unctuous platitudes, or by theological combat. 

One of the surprises about these years is the 
small number of Full Diplomas that were given. 
From 1855 to 1900, Mr. Cocke bestowed this 
honor on one hundred and twenty-five girls. To 
secure it the student had to graduate in at least 
seven of the departments of study. The stand- 
ards were high, so that to win the Full Diploma, 
demanded native ability and long, hard work. 
In the operation of the school's elective system, 
each girl chose the classes she preferred, and 
received certificates of graduation as the work in 
each subject was accomplished. Though, as we 
have said. Full Diplomas were rare, many girls 
won these minor distinctions, which also bore the 
name of Diploma. Many were the students who, 
coming for one year's course, were stirred by 

io8 Charles L. Cocke 

these Commencement occasions to larger views 
and longer attendance. This imposing pageant 
of the Finals was apt to awaken in the ambitious, 
first-year girl, a sense of her intellectual poverty, 
and to inspire noble resolution for ampler educa- 

At the close of the session of 1 899-1900, Mr. 
Cocke delivered his 52nd annual address. Sad 
to say, it was his last. It is a notable and prob- 
ably an unparalleled fact, that he should, through 
fifty-two consecutive years, have made the 
graduation address and have delivered the Diplo- 
mas. In these messages he dealt with the many 
problems of educational theory and practice, 
never failing to appeal for high and noble stand- 
ards of living. He counted on his girls as the 
finest advertisement, and as the most eloquent tes- 
timonial of the merits of Hollins. It was no vain 
reckoning. As a matter of fact, it became no 
unusual thing for him to hear patrons confess 
that they had seen Hollins girls and had been 
deeply impressed by their intelligence, cultured 
manners and social grace. 

Now we yield the platform to the President. 
There can be no more fitting close of this chapter 
than a few paragraphs, taken from his annual 
addresses. The captions are not his, but they in- 
dicate the special thought of the passage. 

Commencements and Addresses 109 


"I have aimed to implant deep in the hearts of 
my pupils the principles and precepts of our holy 
religion, as taught in the Word of God. As to 
those externals of religion which divide the Chris- 
tian world into parties and sects innumerable, I 
have nothing to say; for our great Law-Giver and 
High Priest has said, 'The Kingdom of God is 
within you,' and unless we are subject to this law, 
all rites and ordinances and organizations put 
together and scrupulously practiced, cannot save 
the soul." 

JUNE, 1896 

"Our trouble has been all during these fifty 
years, to secure equipment. Had this been fur- 
nished, the history of the school would have been 
far more satisfactory. The success of the school 
in 1852 and years following, gave a wonderful 
impetus to girls' schools in Virginia. Many char* 
tered schools came into existence during that dec- 
ade. Some of course proved failures, and others 
exist to this day. 

"The annual registers of pupils during the en- 
tire existence of the school, aggregate 6,689. It 

no Charles L. Cocke 

has been almost exclusively a boarding school, 
and as such has led in numbers all the schools 
of Virginia. Its contributions to the teaching 
profession have been most valuable and probably 
more numerous than that of any other Virginia 
school. It has educated many daughters of min- 
isters of different communions, free of charge for 
tuition. It has aided large numbers of indigent 
girls. Its graduates are in all parts of this coun- 
try, North, East and West as well as in the 
South, where they are numerous. Some six or 
eight are in foreign mission fields. The school 
has far surpassed my own expectations and has 
been a surprise to the general public. 

"As soon as we took charge in 1846, and 
became acquainted with the surroundings and 
prospects, we saw clearly that the school could 
not live with a merely local patronage. It was 
almost wholly a boarding school, and it must 
draw its pupils from a broad area. The neces- 
sary steps were taken to make its advantages 
known in all parts of Virginia, and that patron- 
age was sufficient for our limited accommodations 
until the close of 'the war.' We often declined 
applicants for want of proper accommodations. 
But after Virginia had been devastated by two 
contending armies within her borders for four 
years, we had to look to still broader fields for 
pupils. It was about the year 1870 that we first 

Commencements and Addresses 1 1 1 

made known the advantages of the school in other 
states, and now a majority of our pupils come 
from other sections beyond our state lines. This 
patronage, with more ample equipment, might be 
greatly increased, and with broader and more 
ample facilities, it might be made the most prom- 
inent school for girls in all the South. Its coun- 
try location, its invigorating atmosphere, its min- 
eral waters, its glorious mountain scenery, all 
combine to bring to it increasing numbers from 
different and distinct sections. The great board- 
ing schools for girls in the North, in which mil- 
lions are invested, are in the country. 

"My life has been one of unceasing work and 
energy, of constant cares and anxieties, and of a 
deep sense of responsibility. I have only laid a 
foundation on which the next generation may 
build. Will Virginia, the most desirable State 
in the Union for institutions of learning of every 
grade and class, seize the opportunity and again 
advance, through educational channels, to the 
leadership of States, and inaugurate an era of 
greater glory and higher destinies for this great 
American people? Oh, that she may be wise 
to discern the ominous signs of these times and 
seek through great schools for young men and 
young ladies, a power and progress which shall 
far eclipse her pristine glories I 

"And now, at the close of fifty years' connec- 

112 Charles L. Cocke 

tion. with this school, I can, without reservation 
or modification, say I have done all I could to 
conduct and perpetuate an Institution which 
might prove a blessing to the people without dis- 
tinction of sect or class, and an honor to my 
native State. And this, too, on the very basis I 
found it standing when I took charge." 

JUNE, 1893 

"These graduates are not confined to a single 
Christian denomination; they have come from 
all denominations. And this is, in my judgment, 
the true ideal of a Christian school. I have often 
said that the associations of a school for young 
ladies, properly conducted, are worth more to 
them than any single department of study. They 
learn so much from contact and association with 
each other. 

"Certainly a school for young ladies should not 
aim to send forth all its pupils of exactly the 
same type. Its facilities and associations should 
be such as to give ample scope for individuality 
of development, and that genuine sympathetic 
contact and impress, which lifts the less cultured 
to higher walks and ways, and impresses the more 
fortunate with their duty to the needy and de- 
pendent, often the most deserving, and often 

Commencements and Addresses 113 

reaching, under such Influence, the highest sta- 
tions of life, 

"The school from its beginning has main- 
tained and made prominent one feature so cul- 
pably neglected, and even opposed by most 
schools for girls. It has maintained a broad and 
elevated course of study and fixed high stand- 
ards of graduation. This has been done with 
special reference to the demands of that class 
of girls who propose to make teaching their pro- 
fession or business in life. And most abundantly 
has it been rewarded in this effort. Its gradu- 
ates are in great demand and many of them hold 
elevated positions as teachers. But there are 
other courses in addition to that required for 
full graduation. These are intended to meet the 
varied wants of other classes of students, who, 
from feeble health, inadequate means or mere 
preference, decline to pursue the full course. 

"The school has accomplished far more than 
Its early founders aimed at or even dreamed of. 
They looked to local demands and a limited 
sphere. But its influence has been felt not only 
through Virginia, but throughout the South and 
West, and even from the great North, pupils 
have sought and enjoyed its advantages. Grad- 
uation from school does not imply full and com- 
plete knowledge on any subject or in any depart- 

114 Charles L. Cocke 

ment of learning. The object of true scholastic 
training is, first, to discipline the powers, and, 
second, to open to pupils the sources of knowl- 
edge. In these processes, of course, much infor- 
mation is imparted; but to stop here and read 
and study no more, would be fatal to a high and 
commanding success in life. You must read and 
read systematically and continuously. You must 
keep up with the progress of the times, and times 
are in quick movement in this day. . . ." 



"If you would have your minds well disciplined 
and well stored with useful information, you must 
be willing to retire, for a time at least, from the 
enticing and distracting scenes of the busy world, 
and in the quietude of academic life, devote your 
powers to those labors which alone can secure 
the desired boon. Here the work must be done, 
here the foundation must be laid, upon which 
your future attainments and your future eminence 
must rest. Neglect this preparation, and you can 
have no well grounded hope of rising to distinc- 
tion in society, or of exerting an influence which 
shall leave a record of your name and your deeds 
upon the hearts and memories of those who shall 
come after you. . . . 

Commencements and Addresses 115 

"The secret of success is the ability to fix the 
attention on one subject at a time. . . ." 


"I urge you to cultivate a taste not only for 
literature, but for making literature. The litera- 
ture of a country determines its institutions, its 
social conditions, and its destiny. It is really 
its inner life whence its external manifestations 

JUNE, 1894 

"Many a wise man has said repeatedly: 'Let 
me go into a young lady's parlor and examine 
the literature which lies on her table, and the 
books which fill the shelves of her library, and I 
will tell you all about her; the secret thoughts 
which habitually haunt her imagination, the pur- 
poses, the ambitions, the affections, good or bad, 
which agitate and fill her heart; the scenes, the 
sights, the objects, the aims which thrill her soul 
— all this I know from the companionship amid 
which she delights to linger and live, and with 
which she delights to commune." Young ladies, 
when you reach home and unpack your trunks, 
will you take out the text books you have studied 

ii6 Charles L. Cocke 

in this school, one by one, and place them on the 
highest shelf of your library and in the far corner, 
and with a scowl on your face say to them, 'Now, 
you go and stay where I put you; you have cost 
me weeks and months and years of toil, of anxie- 
ties, of troubles, vexations and tears, but you 
have at last given me my full diploma and I want 
nothing more to do with you' I Are you going 
to speak thus to your best friends, who have done 
more for you than father and mother? 

"Are you going to turn your back upon, and 
quit the company of, the only true aristocracy of 
all the ages and all countries, and seek lower 
associations? These people are not upstarts; 
they have lived and still live in all ages and coun- 
tries; they have been the intimate and loving 
companions of kings and queens; of emperors and 
statesmen; divines and poets, scientists and lin- 
guists, and all the great of all the earth and every 
clime and kindred. 

"Again, the Good Book says, 'Where there is 
no vision the people perish.' This was spoken 
most probably in regard to the ancient prophets 
and seers who received the divine light from 
the great original source, and reflected it from 
their own hearts and minds on a benighted race. 

"But has not the great Inspirer of light and 
knowledge, since that remote past, raised up 
other prophets and seers and Imparted other 

Commencements \ctnd Addresses 117 

visions that the people might not perish? These 
great men are among us; they do not compel, 
but they invite companionship; they say, 'Come, 
go with us, talk with us, commune with our spirit, 
drink with us of the clear, cool springs of nature; 
the journey is pleasant and the scenery is grand; 
come, go with us and we will do thee good.' 

"Will you reject the invitation and decline the 
association? So, young ladies, as I said in the 
beginning, from a literary standpoint, from a 
social standpoint, from a business standpoint, and 
from the standpoint of philanthropic and Chris- 
tian usefulness, your future position and success 
in life depend upon the company you keep. 
Under the great principle of the freedom of the 
press, the newspaper has become a universal in- 
stitution in America, — omnipresent, and almost 
omnipotent. The result is that the vast constit- 
uency of our great government are better in- 
formed on current events all over the land and 
all over the world, than any people on the earth. 
"But the curse of the land is this: We spend 
too much time on this and kindred literature ; this 
habit enfeebles the mind, contracts the vision, and 
suppresses high ambitions in the fields, the vast 
and elevated fields of broader, more solid, more 
useful and more permanent knowledge. Our 
people are making the most marvelous progress 
on all lines of human thought and effort, but on 

Ii8 Charles L. Cocke 

none more rapid than that of science and litera- 
ture. The spirit of the nation seems to be a 
consuming ambition to lead the world in thought, 
in intellectual development, and in products of 
the brain of men. To keep in harmony with this 
spirit, you, young ladies, must rise above the 
plane on which so much of our literature moves 
and study the works of great minds." 



"The great mistake which so many make and 
which satisfactorily accounts for their want of 
success, is that they regard the mere accumulation 
of facts as the sole object of scholastic study; — 
that knowledge may be stored in the mind as we 
gather grain into a garner, and this, too, without 
regard to its character or quality, or the order 
in which the deposits are made. We have aimed, 
young ladies, to give you a better theory of edu- 
cation, and a more enduring foundation of schol- 
arship. . . . 

"The great object of that culture and training 
which courses of scholastic study afford, is to 
assist the mind in the processes of its own devel- 
opment; to give to Its searchings after truth and 
its toils in the fields of literature, direction and 
system; to enable it to think, to reason, to solve; 
to give it scope and expansion that It may sue- 

Commencements and Addresses 119 

cessfully grasp both the theoretical and the 
practical of life and advance to those objects and 
destinies which its very structure implies and fore- 
shadows. . . ." 

JUNE, 1892 

"I would remind you, young ladies, that you go 
forth into life at a time when society is advanc- 
ing on all lines of progress. In breadth, variety 
and thoroughness of literary and scientific knowl- 
edge, we are no less a marvel to ourselves than 
the wonder and admiration of the oldest civili- 
zations of the world. This American people pro- 
poses to hold no inferior rank in the world-wide 
race for the greatest and grandest results in 
material development and production. This the 
most casual observer beholds all around him in 
every-day life. But when we come to review, crit- 
ically and comparatively, the rise and progress 
of American learning, we see one determined and 
steady advance towards the highest standards the 
world has ever known. In the production and 
giving forth of all kinds of literature, this people 
aspires to the highest place; to the most advanced 
achievements that bless society and adorn life. 

"And shall our own section and people con- 
tinue heedless and oblivious of this throbbing, 
restless, inspiring energy to rise to the very acme 

I20 Charles L. Cocke 

of literary fame and glory? We blush to own 
that, thus far, we have made but a feeble response 
to the high and honorable calling. When the 
poison diffused through the channels of a false 
and envenomed literature during the last gen- 
eration, South as well as North, shall have 
spent its force, and the prejudices and passions 
that literature engendered and fostered shall 
have given place to just and generous award, 
then, and not until then, will the whole people 
and the outside world be prepared to receive and 
appreciate a truthful revelation, and do mental 
honor to all, of every section, who from their 
standpoint and environment, and with the light 
that shone upon their pathway, lived and labored 
for great ends, and the same ends. That rec- 
ord will show that not only under Southern skies, 
but throughout the nation, in national Senate, in 
Northern cities, even in Western wilds, Southern 
counsel has contributed in full proportion to the 
great results which today astonish the world. 
And furthermore, it will show that Northern 
energy, foresight and enterprise have made their 
deep and ineffaceable mark on the whole country 
in its educational and religious work, its business, 
political and social life, and its institutions. The 
gigantic struggle which occurred on this continent 
just before your eyes opened on the light of day 

Commencements <md Addresses 121 

was the result of a misunderstanding; a family 
quarrel on a grand scale, such as more than once 
has occurred in the land of our forefathers. But 
even when the conflict rose to its most fearful 
height, deep down in the heart, this people were 
one. They are now one, and may the high coun- 
cil of Heaven ordain that they shall never be 
other than one. 

"Young ladies, suffer no sectional jealousies or 
narrow prejudices to find a resting place in your 
bosoms. They dwarf your souls, they contract 
your minds. Love your country in all its sections 
and broad limits and constituent elements, and 
contribute your best energies, in appropriate 
spheres, to its high and grand mission." 

APRIL, 1862 

"You go forth at a dark and threatening hour. 
. . . When the great plans of His far-reaching 
and comprehensive providence shall have been ac- 
complished, in the stupendous conflict which you 
now behold. He will speak peace to the troubled 
waters, and there will be peace. Till then let us 
wait with calm resignation and abiding confidence 
in His designs of mercy. . . . This providence, 
however complicated and strange, leads only to 
some good and grand result, opening up new 

122 Charles L. Cocke 

channels of usefulness to the virtuous and the 
good, and saying to the faithful — nations as well 
as individuals : 'This is the way, walk ye in it.' " 


"For many years it has been my earnest desire 
to so conduct the affairs of the institution that 
whether I was present or absent, there should be 
no abatement in the earnest purpose and devotion 
to duty which I have sought to make a part of the 
atmosphere of Hollins." 



ALL the activities of a good man's life are 
religious. Intelligent Christian thought has 
long since abolished the distinctions, "sacred" and 
"secular." The minister is not the only man with 
a divine calling. It is the right of every true 
man to regard his tasks, of whatever kind, as 
sacred, and the vigorous discharge of them as re- 
ligious fidelity. The apostle, making tents, was 
serving God as truly as when preaching to the 
philosophers of Athens. All the vocations are 
spheres in which men serve their generation, in- 
creasing the sum of human comfort, and secur- 
ing the moral order of the world. The man who 
serves his fellowmen is the anointed servant of 
the Lord. 

Mr. Cocke's life was an uninterrupted conse- 
cration to the cause of the education of women, 
permeated and energized by spiritual motive. 
No man understood better than he the living 
unity between Intellectual and moral culture. He 


124 Charles L. Cocke 

knew that cultivated faculties without correspond- 
ing nurture of the spiritual nature may prove a 
curse rather than a blessing. Along with grow- 
ing mental power, must go a development of reli- 
gious character. The two are inseparable in any 
right conception of human life. So, while he 
wrought with a wonderfully sustained enthusiasm 
in the sphere of education, he kept always in 
mind the transcendent claims of religion. There 
he recognized the fundamental interest of human- 
ity. Teaching was his vocation, but the honor 
of God was his comprehensive guiding principle. 
To him the Bible was the word of Life, and the 
worship of the Holy One of Israel the supreme 
privilege and duty. Such was his view and, with- 
out intermission, his practice. 

From the beginning of his work at Botetourt 
Springs in 1846, daily the assembled students 
heard the reading of Scripture and united with 
the President in ascriptions of praise. Nor were 
Mr. Cocke's religious services given only to the 
school. His Christian interest ran out to the whole 
community. He recognized an obligation to his 
neighbors, and was soon meeting them here and 
there, instructing them in the Scriptures, and 
leading them in their worship. In 1855 the little 
Enon Baptist Church was organized and located 
within a quarter of a mile of the Springs. Into 
membership in this church he and his family went, 

Religious Enthusiasms and Activities 125 

to be a strong nucleus around which has since 
grown the excellent congregation and the beauti- 
ful building of today. The pastors of Enon 
never had a more loving and loyal member of 
their church. By all odds the strongest force 
in the body, he could have ruled as he pleased, 
but the humble man never dreamed of domina- 
tion, or of the assertion of any kind of superior 
right. He wanted harmony and growth, and 
sought it by preferring his brethren in honor. 
His wise counsel and influence were potent, of 
course, but not another member of the church 
was farther from the assumption of authority. 
He was a model church member in attendance 
and gifts; hence all the people gave him honor 
and love. 

But Enon set no limits on his religious activity. 
The neighboring towns and communities felt the 
force of his spirit of evangelism. The Christian 
religion must have free course in the regions 
round about. There was not a village within 
twenty miles of his school that failed to catch 
something of his spirit. The impulses he gave 
in that early day lie at the foundation of much 
of the present religious strength and prosperity 
In the regions he touched. 

Did this young school teacher overlook the 
needs of the colored people? Would It look 
strange to see him conducting a Sunday School 

126 Charles L. Cocke 

for the slaves on Sunday afternoons at Big Lick? 
That is what he did. "Inasmuch as ye have done 
it to the least of these, ye have done it unto me." 
The negroes, in the days of slavery, learned to 
love him as a friend, and when freedom came, 
his service among them did not cease. Their 
struggling pastors and congregations sought his 
counsel and were not disappointed. They looked 
on him as their big white brother, wise and good, 
and to this day he is remembered among them 
with affection. Here is a tribute written by a 
negro teacher on the occasion of Mr. Cocke's 
death. No more tender or significant praise has 
been accorded him. 

"My race in this section of the State would be 
guilty of the rankest ingratitude did they not pay 
a humble tribute to the memory of their friend 
and benefactor. Professor Charles L. Cocke. 
Any tribute to his memory must needs be incom- 
plete without a touching reminder of his devo- 
tion to the cause of Christianity among my people 
in the days of slavery. To him my people looked 
for religious instruction in those dark days. 
Through his zeal and untiring efforts the slaves 
of this section of the State were allowed to attend 
services at the white Baptist church Sunday even- 
ings where they could hear the word of God 
preached to them by the white ministers of the 
gospel. Professor Cocke himself frequently lead- 

Religious Enthusiasms and Activities 127 

ing the meetings. He taught the slaves sound les- 
sons in morality and honesty, and it is a well 
known fact that the slaves of this county were 
among the most upright, honest and trustworthy 
to be found anywhere in the South. Upon every 
plantation were to be found Christian men and 
women of our race whose lives were honest and 
true, and whose characters were spotless, and they 
enjoyed the confidence, respect, and sometimes a 
devotion, from their masters, that was touching 
and beautiful. Upon every plantation were to be 
found colored preachers who 'exhorted' to their 
people and explained to them the lessons that had 
been taught them by Professor Cocke. Whilst 
laboring faithfully amongst the whites, he did not 
forget the poor African slave. 

"At the close of the war, when freedom came 
to our people, he gave them the best advice and 
encouragement in the organization of their own 
churches. He was full of the milk of human 
kindness. He was ever ready, willing, yea, anx- 
ious to give advice and instruction to our preach- 
ers who sought his aid. His purse was open to 
any colored minister who appealed to him for 
help. No colored church was ever built in this 
county that did not receive substantial aid at his 
hands. Thousands of our people with bowed 
heads mourn his loss and revere his memory. My 
mother and father received religious instruction 

128 Charles L. Cocke 

at his hands, and it is with a heart full of untold 
gratitude that I pen this tribute. Professor 
Cocke was a white man in all that word implied, 
but he was a Christian and not afraid to labor 
among men of 'low estate.' 

"Such men are the negro's best friends on 
earth. We have nothing to fear at their hands. 
To them we have ever been true and devoted, and 
shall forever remain so. Such men are the salt 
of the earth, and the negro believes In such salt. 

"We, too, drop a tear upon his bier and shall 
ever hold in grateful remembrance his many acts 
of kindness to a benighted race. Sweet be his 

Zachariah Hunt. 

With the increase of Baptist churches in the 
Southwest, the Valley Association was organized, 
and Enon became a member. Not a pastor 
brought into that body more interest and zeal 
than did Mr, Cocke. He was not of those whose 
Christian liberality slackens and enfeebles devo- 
tion to their own communion. While broadly 
charitable, he was firmly Baptist. The influence 
he carried into these conferences with his people 
arose from his personal worth, not from his offi- 
cial prominence in education. Not one of the 
denominational causes failed to receive his cor- 
dial support. They appealed to him in the degree 

Religious Enthusiasms and Activities 129 

of their relative importance, but in the round- 
ness and balance of his benevolence nothing was 
slighted. He spoke in advocacy of each and all. 
Of course many gatherings wished to hear Mr. 
Cocke speak on the subject of Education. In 
such addresses the fire of his soul was apt to 
burst into flame. He did not quote much. 
Being the impersonation of the educational spirit, 
he did not need to borrow thoughts. The man 
who does things has power with an audience. 
Your theoretical orator has no thrills. i\fter 
one of his powerful utterances, many fathers and 
mothers said in their hearts: "I want to send my 
daughter to that man." His motive was not the 
cunning calculation of a man with a school, but 
rather the pure devotion of a large-minded ser- 
vant of the Master. 

In the State assemblies of his brethren, where 
he was regularly found, he was equally a man of 
recognized distinction. Likewise in the meetings 
of the Southern Baptist Convention, he was 
greeted with the honor due to one who had ad- 
vanced the credit of the denomination. He knew 
that fact himself, but no man could have been 
more Innocent of self-important airs. While the 
higher education of young women was the goal of 
his dally thought and labor, the Kingdom of God 
was central to all his alms. 

Religious controversy never Interested him. 

130 Charles L. Cocke 

Through the years ministers of the various 
churches were invited to HoUins to lead its ser- 
vices and receive its hospitalities. Many were the 
interviews with them in his office and on the 
verandas in which conversation drifted into ani- 
mated discussions of things political, educational 
and religious. Views differed, thoughts clashed, 
but the best of humor prevailed. In every de- 
nomination he had devoted friends. 

In vacation periods it was his frequent custom 
to make tours through the Southwest in a large 
vehicle, capable of carrying six or eight persons. 
His trusty colored driver, Prince Smith, held the 
reins, and commonly there was in the party a 
goodly number of Baptist ministers from middle 
or eastern Virginia. From one District Associa- 
tion to another, the caravan went, adding zest and 
interest to the meetings. It was a genuinely de- 
lightful religious progress. The Baptists in all 
this region considered him as their greatest lay- 
man and their unordained Bishop. Everywhere 
he and his fellow-travelers were welcome guests. 
Sometimes they lodged in homes presided over by 
women who had been Hollins girls. Then the 
hospitality was overflowing. These summer 
visits did much to stimulate the hope and cour- 
age of many small and slowly growing churches. 
And what charmingly exhilarating experiences 
they brought to the caravan! The men who 

Religious Enthusiasms and Activities 131 

shared these progresses with the "Bishop" of the 
Southwest considered themselves the favorites 
of fortune. 

It was never his habit to go off for a summer's 
rest. It might have been well if he had done so, 
but such was not his bent. When the pressure 
ceased at the close of the session, he began to 
plan another visit to his brethren in the moun- 
tains. To go about doing good was the call of 
his heart in those long past summertimes. 

Religion and Education were the watchwords, 
written on the tablets of his heart. "This one 
thing I do, ever pressing on to the mark of the 
prize of the high calling of God." Here is the 
rare spectacle of a long life, full of religious 
activity, supported by unfailing enthusiasm, by 
fixed, high purpose, and by that ardor of achieve- 
ment which are the marks of a great soul. Un- 
selfish human service magnified him and gave his 
name to grateful remembrance. 



THERE was nothing angular or dispropor- 
tionate in the structure of Mr. Cocke's mind. 
The photograph of it may be said to have been 
reflected in his face, with its fine assemblage of 
strong and well-balanced features. The intellect 
was clear, the will robust, and the feeling intense. 
One never saw him when he did not know what 
he wanted to do; never found him irresolute or 
languid of purpose; and never knew him indiffer- 
ent or unresponsive. Along every line of enter- 
prise that summoned him, these powers were 
joined in unity and concert of action. He was 
not in the smallest degree visionary or quixotic. 
Illusions, phantasms, Utopian dreams, perished 
in the light of his large common sense. Yet this 
man was a true idealist. In his youth he saw 
a vision. At first he saw it dimly, but as time 
passed it grew in clarity, until It materialized in 
a better system for the higher education of young 
women. Had he failed, we might have called 
him a dreamer; but as he succeeded gloriously, 









Hf. .'. J 










' ^^^m 






Characteristics 133 

we rank him with the adventurous thinkers who 
have blessed the world. He followed the gleam 
and domesticated it in society. In his early days 
Hollins Institute was to him what the Holy Grail 
was to the Knights of King Arthur, or what the 
Golden Fleece was to the ancient Argonauts. 
The thing that makes a man great, is a great idea 
seized and brought into beneficent application. 
He is greatest that is servant of all. When Mr. 
Cocke said that his habit was to think thirty 
years ahead, he was hardly conscious that it was 
a fine feat of imagination. Yet this is his title 
to the crown of the Legion of Honor. Intellect- 
ual and moral heroism must have its reward. 

He would not have us say that his scholarship 
was broad. Too honest was he to make pretense 
of much learning. Broadly intelligent and well 
informed he was, and an efficient teacher of 
mathematics, but he made no claim to extended 
acquaintance with literature, science or philos- 
ophy. It is interesting to know that he was fond 
of Milton's "Paradise Lost" and Pollock's 
"Course of Time," and could quote long passages 
from each. He deplored inability to devote him- 
self more assiduously to wide reading and deep 
study. The scholarly instinct and craving was in 
him, but the engrossing cares of his Institution 
absolutely monopolized his attention. Pathetic 
necessity barred him from the fuller measures of 

134 Charles L. Cocke 

intellectual culture. On administrative burden 
bearing depended the life and growth of the 
school, and with perfect intelligence of the per- 
sonal sacrifice involved, the responsibiHty was 
accepted. However, he was keen to discover 
scholarship, and quick, with the wisdom of a mas- 
ter, to add it to his Faculty. 

It was sometimes said that he was autocratic, 
and he himself admitted that there was some 
ground for the charge. How could it be other- 
wise? He was the informing soul and energy 
of the Institution, and in that fact was the sole 
guaranty of its development and perpetuity. He 
knew his plans and hopes, he had bold confidence 
in his own judgment, and he possessed an indom- 
itable will. He had to speak with decision and 
authority. All confessed his right to command 
and understood the certain penalties of faulty 
service or of disobedience. The harassments of 
interminable worries and of defeated hopes may 
at times have resulted in a look of sternness, or 
have given his manner a touch of unpleasing 
abruptness; but, withal, it was far from him to 
inflict intentional pain. Austerity of manner, in- 
cidentally of expression, was balanced by as kind 
a heart as ever beat. He was a superb gentle- 
man, and in his prevailing gentler moods, had 
pleasant greetings for all. He was at the helm, 
and the necessity was on him to guide and direct, 

Characteristics 135 

but behind the flash of those keen blue eyes lay 
a wealth of human kindness and affection. All 
HoUins knew it. Tyrant he could not be, but 
master he was. Never did it pass from his 
thought that he was a servant of God and that 
the mind of the Master was the goal of his life. 
He had the bearing of a lord, but the child in his 
heart never died. Then, if ruggedness appeared, 
it was but a surface exhibition, the fatherly feel- 
ing being the deep inextinguishable fact within. 
For this, his pupils and friends gave him a life- 
long devotion, and his children loved him, almost 
to adoration. This man was no autocrat. 

He was conspicuous for his liberality. Owing 
to the fact that his earnings and that of his fam- 
ily were constantly swallowed up by improve- 
ments in the Institution, he was never a wealthy 
man. Yet that fact did not close the door of his 
compassions and generosities. Gifts went to the 
poor, contributions unstinted went to his church 
and to the benevolences of his denomination. 
Once, when attending the Baptist State Associa- 
tion at Petersburg, Virginia, after several 
speeches had been made on missions, he arose and 
said: "Now let us do something. I wish right 
here to subscribe $100." The suggestion struck 
the body and a handsome subscription was taken. 
Mrs. Cocke said, some time after the event: 
"Charles came home and sold a horse to pay that 

136 Charles L. Cocke 

subscription." At an educational gathering in 
Enon Church, when the inevitable subscription 
was taken, his young son, Lucian, signalized his 
immature and reckless enthusiasm by saying: "Put 
me down for $100." The cautious collector 
called out to the father what the boy had done. 
"All right," said the acquiescent father; "he has 
a pony." In dismay the youth saw the meaning, 
and the pony went to education. 

Not often did he relate jokes and anecdotes, 
but he enjoyed them at the hands of his friends. 
He had a saving sense of humor and could relish 
a flash of it even at his own expense. This inci- 
dent he told on himself. At one of the Valley 
meetings of ministers and laymen, he made a 
stirring speech. His oratory was of the sponta- 
neous, practical type, often impassioned and tre- 
mendously moving. When he closed an admiring 
brother arose and paid compliment to the speaker 
for his "exhaustive" address. The modest ora- 
tor meekly protested the extravagant language. 
Then a wit of a preacher stood up to explain to 
Mr. Cocke that the brother did not mean that 
the speaker had "exhausted" the subject, but that 
he had "exhausted" himself! The house was in- 
stantly in a roar of laughter, in which the orator 
himself as heartily joined. His brethren knew 
they could take innocent liberties with him, be- 
cause they loved him so. At Walnut Grove Bap- 

Characteristics 137 

tist Church in Bedford County, Virginia, a meet- 
ing was in progress in the fall of 1881. The 
house was crowded when Mr. Cocke arose. The 
good genius of speech was upon him and that 
address on education was memorable for power. 
Later, in the church yard, a good mother was 
tallying to a minister about the speech. A flush 
was on her face and tears glistened in her eyes 
as she said, "Oh, I wish I was able to send my 
daughter to HoUins." Now he had not said one 
word about Hollins, his effort being to magnify 
the importance of the education of young women, 
and to fasten conviction on parental hearts. At 
another time, while he was attending a Baptist 
meeting in Southern Virginia, he spoke before the 
body, A college professor in the audience in- 
quired as to the personality of the speaker. On 
being told, he said: "I want to meet him, for he 
said more forcible things in five minutes than all 
the speakers before him in fifteen." An inter- 
view followed, with the result that the distin- 
guished Professor Kusian spent twenty-eight 
years in teaching at Hollins. 

Self-conceit Mr. Cocke regarded as a sort of 
vulgarity. With all sincerity, his soul responded 
to the sentiment of him who asked: 'Why should 
the spirit of mortal be proud?" His friends 
thought that in some instances his humility was 
overdone. Richmond College gave him the 

138 Charles L. Cocke 

degree of LL.D., but he declined it, silently and 
unostentatiously. His frank reverence for truth 
disallowed acceptance. The degree, in his view, 
stood for a measure of learning which he regarded 
himself as lacking. His modesty wronged him. 
The compliment has come to be bestowed on high 
civic merit and achievement as well as on broad 
scholarship. In the former virtues, Mr. Cocke 
stood pre-eminent. His standard, if applied, 
would strip a multitude of names of this honorary 

Interest in making money seems never to have 
touched him. Not once did he venture on an in- 
vestment. The material prosperity of men grati- 
fied him. He knew that most men ought to make 
money, but he had no time for it. "'This one 
thing I do." On one thing, the gifts, plans and 
powers of his long life were literally and undi- 
videdly centered. 

He loathed the feeling of jealousy. He would 
have despised himself If he had been unable to 
hear the praise of other college presidents and of 
their institutions without inward pangs. Eulo- 
gize his brethren, and you smote on no chord of 
envy. He was a large man. He bore no grudges 
and carried no enmities, the common luggage of 
proud and envious minds. 

What a good and generous neighbor this man 
was ! The successes and sorrows of the country- 

Characteristics 139 

side round about Hollins touched him sensibly. 
He was their counsellor in times of perplexity; 
their comforter in seasons of grief. Frequent 
were the times when a minister not being acces- 
sible, he conducted funerals and buried the dead. 
He loved the people as do all who really love 
God. The rehgion that attempts to terminate on 
God, ignoring human beings, is as sounding brass 
and a clanging cymbal. Of such worship this man 
knew nothing. He expressed love to the divnne 
in even-handed justice and in benevolent sym- 
pathy among men. Perhaps the finest tribute 
paid at his funeral was spoken by the Lutheran 
minister, Dr. F. V. N. Painter, a part of which 
is as follows: 

"Dr. Cocke was a great educator. He was 
great both In theory and practice. He had not 
made, I think, an elaborate study of the science 
and history of education, as they are presented In 
text-books. His knowledge was deeper than the 
knowledge acquired In that way. In the educa- 
tional work of more than fifty years, his strong 
Intellect worked out Independent views of educa- 
tional principles and methods. In no small 
degree he helped to make the educational history 
of Virginia and of the South. 

"Dr. Cocke always impressed me as a large 
man. His stalwart frame was but the counter- 
part of a vigorous intellect. There was nothing 

I40 Charles L. Cocke 

petty, narrow, cynical, in his views or aims or 
methods. He loved to deal with fundamental 
principles and great facts; and in his discussion 
of any subject, there was always a breadth of 
view and a vigor of utterance that commanded 
attention. In his great, absorbing concern for 
truth, he cared but little for that delicacy of 
diction and that refinement of phrasing which so 
often, in the hands of smaller men, become an 
end in themselves. He was a strong earnest man, 
wrapped about with invincible integrity, remind- 
ing us of Carlyle's words on Luther, 'Great, not 
as a hewn obelisk, but as an Alpine mountain, yet 
in the clefts of it beautiful valleys with flowers'. 

"Dr. Cocke was a man of sterling integrity of 
character. A brief acquaintance was sufficient to 
elicit our highest confidence. He was straight- 
forward and honest in his aims and methods of 
work. He attempted to deceive neither himself 
nor others; and it is impossible now to associate 
an insincere or crafty diplomacy with his char- 
acter. His native integrity of soul, which must 
have come as a rich inheritance from worthy 
ancestors, was strengthened by his deep religious 
life. He recognized his supreme obligations to 
God; and he took the life of Jesus Christ as his 
model. Thus he stood before us as a beautiful 
example of Christian manhood. In character and 

Characteristics 141 

in life he reflected credit on our common 

It is the divine way to do mighty works 
through consecrated men and women. Christian 
faith so identifies one with the life of God that 
the eternal energies can flow onward to great 
consummations, even to the casting of mountains 
of difiiculty into the sea. Nothing evil was ever 
charged against Mr. Cocke. The absolute open 
purity of the man shamed all envy, and paralyzed 
misrepresentation. Misunderstood and unappre- 
ciated at times he doubtless was, but this he 
accepted as one of the inevitable assets of an 
ongoing, achieving career. He was not perfect, 
but he pressed far up the heights of resplendent 
manhood. The signature of a divine call was 
upon him, and he honored it to the end. His long 
labor fell far short of his dreams, but it was 
crowned with the blessings of Heaven. 

"All I could never be, 
All. men igjiored in me. 
That was I worth to God." 

Hollins College is his monument. There it 
stands, a thing of beauty, by the little Sulphur 
Spring. There may it stand forever I 



THE building of Hollins Institute was not 
the achievement of one man. It was the 
outcome of associated work. There was a leader, 
gifted with vision, judgment and iron will, but 
without abundant and able co-operation, there 
would have been no realization of his scheme. 
No man would be more prompt than Mr. Cocke 
in acknowledgment of this fact. He was accurate 
in measurements of the qualities of men and 
women, and not often in his selection of teachers 
was his judgment at fault. It was a compliment 
to be invited into his Faculty, and its members 
always found Hollins one big family. In one 
dining hall, students and teachers met three times 
a day, and the warmth of home feeling fused all 
generous natures into one delightful fellowship. 
Mr. Cocke did not look on his comrades as hired 
people. He took them into his confidence and 
high regard as honorable and worthy associates 
in his sacred work of education. He was no dic- 
tator; he Issued no commands. He trusted his 




TlLOe^ i-OUJNu ■.TT'-Nn 

His Comrades and Co-Workers 143 

teachers, invited their freedom of initiative, and 
complimented them with the expectation of 
efficient service. He asked for good team work. 
It is no surprise that in such an atmosphere and 
under such genial conditions, he always had a 
loyal and harmonious Faculty. Rarely did one 
of its members go away without happy memories 
and loving attachments. Many fine men and 
women, through the long years, made invaluable 
contributions to the upbuilding of the Institution. 
Their work was worthy of all praise, and it is a 
matter of regret that most of their names have 
to be omitted from this brief record. 

Mrs. Charles L. Cocke 

In the presentation of Mr. Cocke's fellow- 
workers in the building up of Hollins Institute, 
no one will deny the first place to his wife. Her 
pre-eminent worth has already been indicated in 
the foregoing chapters. Longer than others, she 
bore him company and demonstrated a sturdiness 
of character, quite as marked as his own. She 
did not want to come to the mountains with her 
three little children. In 1845, she listened with 
loving interest to the enthusiastic recitals of her 
husband, just returned from the Southwest, but 
kept hidden In her heart an Invincible preference 
for her old home. Yet, In the summer of 1846, 
she went with him, loyally and cheerfully. His 

144 Charles L. Cocke 

optimism she could not share, but the path of 
duty she trod as wiUingly as he. In the far after 
years she confided to her children that she had 
never loved the mountains, and then added, "But 
I never told Charles 1" The fact would not have 
helped him, hence it was shut up in her heart. 
That confession is full of great meanings, 
pathetic, unselfish and honorable. Such was her 
faith in him, such her love and hearty comrade- 
ship in toil and sacrifice, that he most likely never 
suspected the secret feeling. 

The shock of that first view of her new home 
we have seen. A little later, the primitive raw- 
ness of it was accentuated to her as she saw a 
wild bear leisurely passing through the premises ! 
Bravely she plied the domestic tasks, and smiled 
sympathetically on her husband's plans. In truth, 
without such a wife he could not have won. In 
the strong cord that held him to his work, she 
was the golden strand. Though loaded with the 
cares of the household and of her little ones, this 
wonderful woman gave herself to numberless 
ministries among the girls. One feels astonish- 
ment at her physical endurance. Her energies 
and womanly loveliness were elemental in the 
making of Hollins. Six years after her arrival, 
it was her joy to see her brother, Professor Wil- 
liam H. Pleasants, added to the Faculty. In the 
long, dark struggles that were to follow, there 

His Comrades and Co-Workers 145 

was no breaking down of her faith and courage. 
Through two generations, the girls loved her with 
a genuine affection, and made no distinction be- 
tween her and Mr. Cocke in the bestowal of 

It was truly said, that if Mr. Cocke was the 
head of HoUins, Mrs. Cocke was its heart. That 
splendid patriarchal Trustee, Mr. Wm. A. 
Miller, says: "It is common to speak of the wife 
as the better half. In my view, Mrs. Cocke was 
the better two-thirds." She watched the health 
of the girls, and entered into their amusements, 
sometimes even lending her own wardrobe for a 
histrionic performance. She could never endure 
harsh criticism, and if conversation drifted in that 
direction, she invariably withdrew. No unkind 
speech ever escaped her lips. To most mortals 
this will seem unbelievable, but ample testimony 
supports it. If ever compelled to express dis- 
approval, it was in fashion so gentle that no 
sting was left. In the latter years, all the graces 
and beatitudes seemed to cluster on that feminine 
face, framed in with silver locks and the little 
white cap. She had a delightful gift of humor 
and many times the unconscious play of it sur- 
prised her by its mirthful effects. Enon Church 
and Its worship always enlisted her active sym- 
pathy and gave her spiritual comfort. Often In 
quiet seclusion, she was found reading her Bible. 

146 Charles L. Cocke 

The eventide came slowly on, with the relaxa- 
tion of cares long borne. Then came the desola- 
tion of sorrow, and a deepening of life's lone- 
someness. There was no decay of mental power, 
no encroachment of disease. At last the mortal 
part went down without pain, and on January 5 th, 
1906, the Mother of Hollins went away. Just 
three weeks more, and she would have rounded 
out her eighty-sixth year. The last services re- 
vived memories of those solemn scenes of May 
6th, 1901. She was laid beside him on the hill, 
and weeping college girls strewed the grave with 

Professor William Henry Pleasants 

Here is a great looking man, scholarly, courtly, 
popular, and in his maturer years, affectionately 
called, "Uncle Billy." He was born at the "Pic- 
quenocque" homestead, five miles north of Rich- 
mond, January 29th, 1831, the youngest in a 
family of nine children. The family was reared 
under the quiet influence of the Quaker faith. 
At about eighteen years of age, the young man 
graduated at Richmond College, and entered into 
business relations with a foreign tobacco firm, in 
which was the promise of promotion and wealth. 
Turning from this inviting prospect, he went to 
the University of Virginia, and by dihgence in 
study, bore off its honors. Mr. Cocke invited 

His Comrades and Co-Workers 147 

him to Hollins in 1852, just as the "Female 
Seminary" began its work. Soon thereafter, he 
married Miss Minta Smoot, of Washington City. 
After a few years, the young wife passed away, 
leaving him with a little daughter and son, who 
became the sole objects of his devotion. It was 
his joy to see the daughter, Mary, achieve dis- 
tinction as a teacher of Music at Hollins. 

He was a lover of Latin and Greek; and lit- 
erature, ancient and modern, was his passion. 
Latin was his special department of instruction, 
but so versatile was his culture that he often 
taught the classes in Natural Science and Phi- 
losophy. He was a magnetic teacher, accurate, 
clear and inspiring. He won reputation as a 
polished writer and speaker, and had a natural 
fondness for music and flowers. In association 
with congenial friends, he was the center of 
courtesy and charm. Masonry was his pleasing 
avocation, and he was twice honored with the 
office of Grand Master of Masons of Virginia. 

Here are a few of the many fine sayings which 
reflect his quality: 

"Find out things for yourself, and you will 
know them better than if I were to tell you be- 

"I am afraid that the average teacher of the 
present day prepares the students for examina- 
tions, not for life." 

148 Charles L. Cocke 

"All higher education is essentially self-educa- 

"Can anyone who himself neither intelligently 
observes, reflects, nor reasons, aid others in so 

Washington and Lee University gave him the 
degree of LL.D in 1907. He gave up his work 
as teacher in 19 12, having spent sixty years in 
the service. On November 26th, 19 14, he 
passed away, lacking only two months of fulfill- 
ing his eighty-fourth year. He sleeps with his 
kindred in the little cemetery on the hill. 

Professor Joseph A. Turner 

Professor Turner was born in Greenville 
County, Virginia, August 6th, 1839; was a B.A. 
of Richmond College in 1858, and an M.A. of 
the University of Virginia, in i860. He served 
in Mahone's Brigade, Army of Northern Vir- 
ginia, during the entire war, and in 1866 accepted 
the chair of English and Modern Languages at 
Hollins Institute, which position he held to the 
time of his death. May 5th, 1878. Hollins has 
had many able and popular teachers, but it is 
simple truth to say that none ever stirred more 
enthusiastic admiration and devotion than he. 
Indeed, after hearing and reading his eulogies, 
one is almost forced to the conclusion that he was 
one of the most remarkable teachers the Institu- 

His Comrades and Co-Workers 149 

tion has ever known. Of high character, broad 
scholarly sympathies, and passion for teaching, he 
made his classroom electric with literary con- 
tagions and enthusiasms. Not only did he teach, 
but he magnetized and inspired the student. His 
teaching was largely by lecture, punctuated with 
pointed questions. Intellectually honest, accurate, 
painstaking, he cultivated the same qualities in 
the student. He published a valuable treatise on 
Punctuation and left several works in manuscript 
on his special subjects of English literature and 
philosophy. He contributed occasionally to 
Appleton's Journal and The Atlantic Monthly, 
and regularly to the editorial columns of The 

Mr. Cocke honored and loved him, and the 
tribute he paid to the lost teacher in his annual 
report to the Trustees in 1878, is probably the 
finest ever given by him : 

"Mr. Turner was a man of no ordinary type. 
When a boy, he was a mark among boys; when 
he became a man, he was a man among men. He 
hesitated long between law and teaching, and 
when the question was settled, he gave all the 
energies of his soul to his chosen calling. Prompt, 
able, faithful and enthusiastic, he carried his 
pupils to the highest standards of improvement 
of which they were capable, opening the fields 
of Literature, where they might wander, explore 

150 Charles L. Cocke 

and gather the richest fruits in after years. Not 
only did he give them knowledge and culture, but 
he inspired a zest for knowledge which would 
carry them beyond the ordinary confines of 
female acquirements. As an officer in a school 
for girls, his eminent literary attainments, his 
temperament, manners and very person, inspired 
respect and affection. His purpose was to make 
this a prominent Institution for young ladies, and 
accordingly he was engaged in preparation of 
textbooks adapted to that end. Among literary 
men, Mr. Turner was regarded as a scholar of 
mark, and destined to become a figure in the lit- 
erary world." 

M7S. Leila Virginia Turner 

Mrs. Turner, Mr. Cocke's oldest daughter, 
was born in Richmond, Virginia, February 5th, 
1844. She was educated at Hollins and taught 
twenty-one years in the Institution. Brightly 
gifted, ardent, magnetic, witty and companion- 
able, she had peculiar power to win and hold the 
hearts of students and friends. She was happily 
married to Professor Joseph A. Turner in 1871, 
and was consigned to early widowhood in 1878. 
Two little children were left to her care. The 
daughter, now Mrs. Erich Rath, teaches in the 
College, and the son, Mr. Joseph A. Turner, is 
its Business Manager. 


His Comrades and Co-JVorkers 151 

Miss Sallie Lems Cocke 

This gentle and accomplished daughter was 
born in Richmond, Virginia, May 25th, 1845. 
She was a graduate of Hollins, and taught many 
years in the college. Though frail in body, she 
was alert in mind, and lovingly responsive to all 
those tasks wherein she could do her father 
service. Gentleness and spiritual refinement were 
eminent qualities. Friendliness and social grace 
seemed native to her character. Her teaching 
was in the department of Literature and Lan- 
guages, and to this day her pupils speak in praise 
of her taste and skill in the teaching art. She 
was a model of feminine culture, and filled her 
mission well. On the 29th of July, 1900, the 
lovable life faded away, at Hollins. 

Mr. Charles Henry Cocke 

This nobly useful man was born at Hollins, 
May 2 1 St, 1853. He took a course at Richmond 
College and in early manhood became an invalu- 
able helper to his father in the business affairs 
at Hollins. The growth of the Institution, with 
the multiplying years and cares of the President, 
made assistance imperative. No more timely 
relief could have been given than that which 
came when young Charles H, Cocke threw his 
fresh energies and enthusiasm into this work. On 
the new manager a multitudinous and bewildering 

152 Charles L. Cocke 

mass of incessant duties descended. He dis- 
charged them with surprising swiftness and 
ability, A friendlier manner or a kinder heart 
could not be. He had patience even with the 
trivial and senseless interruptions that arose. 
Everybody leaned on him and everybody loved 
him. His work at Hollins was one of the finest 
contributions given by any one to the success and 
stability of the Institution. All honor to his 
name. His health began to fail before the end 
of twenty-five years of service, and, too late, he 
began to recruit his spent vitalities. On May 
3rd, 1900, his labors closed in death. All Hol- 
lins wept and mourned his loss. Mr. Cocke said : 
"He was the right arm of my strength. Without 
him the school would never have reached the 
commanding position it now holds." With the 
precious company on the hill he rests In peace. 
One is glad to see his son, M. Estes Cocke, a 
prominent member of the Faculty, 

Mrs. Eliza Speiden Childs 

This noble woman was one of the distinguished 
factors in the evolution of beautiful Hollins. 
Rich and varied are the contributions which she 
made to the school. She was born In Washing- 
ton City, July 26th, 1829. Her father, William 
Speiden, was a U. S. Naval officer, and rose to 
the rank of Commodore. Her mother was an 

His Comrades and Co-Workers 153 

English lady. Eliza was the oldest of seven chil- 
dren. She was educated at Mrs. Kingsford's 
School in Washington, and in that environment 
of elegant culture, her young womanhood was 
nourished. By the strange vicissitudes of human 
life, she was, before middle age, twice a widow, 
with two little children in her care. In the year 
1873, by good fortune both to herself and Mr. 
Cocke, she came to Hollins as Associate Princi- 
pal, a position she was to fill for twenty-five years. 
After resignation, she was made "Emeritus." 
Mr. Cocke said of her: "Mrs. Childs' gifts and 
qualifications were of inestimable value to the 
Institution, and without them and her untiring 
service, it could not have reached the excellence 
it has." 

There was about her a captivating nameless 
grace of womanly finish, dehcacy and comeliness. 
Her unaffected goodness blended smoothly with 
her emphasis of authority, and a perfect taste 
joined itself to charm of manner and flowing sym- 
pathy. It was social culture to be in her com- 
pany. Her influence went out over all the South 
and will abide. Her daughter, Miss Marian 
Bayne, is Librarian at Hollins today. Mrs. 
Childs resigned at HolHns in 1898, and on 
August II, 1901, she passed away, at Marshall, 
Virginia. Her body was laid to rest at Alex- 
andria, Virginia, near the scenes of her childhood. 

154 Charles L. Cocke 

Professor A. T. L. Kusian, LL.D. 

Here is one of the most picturesque and de- 
lightful of scholars. His history is dramatic and 
his experience of the world is rich. He was born 
in France and educated in Germany. During the 
Civil War his sympathies were with the South, 
and he bought supplies for the Confederacy in 
France and Italy. He came to the United States 
while still young, and took out naturalization 
papers in Kentucky. He married a Virginia lady, 
and taught a number of years in the Baptist Col- 
lege at Danville, Virginia. From there he was 
called to Hollins in 1890. After more than 
twenty-five years of work in the department of 
Modern Languages, he retired as Professor 
Emeritus. He was a man of remarkable memory, 
never forgetting a fact or a face. He was one 
of the most competent, courteous and obliging 
of teachers and friends, and for Mr. Cocke he 
had the most sincere admiration and attachment. 
Honored and revered by all, he fell asleep March 
24th, 1920, at his home in Accomac County, Vir- 


Two of the original Trustees of Hollins stand 
out particularly as notable for long service and 



His Comrades and Co-Workers 155 

Mr. William A. Miller 

This venerable and delightful gentleman was 
born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, in March, 
1824, and is now in his ninety-seventh year. This 
summer of 1920, he is in fair health, and goes 
daily to his place of business in Lynchburg, where 
most of his life has been spent. His whole 
career has been one of stainless virtue and lofty 
Christian character. His first meeting with the 
Trustees of HoUins was on July 5th, 1855; his 
last was in February, 1900, making a term of 
forty-five years. He was always high in the es- 
teem of Mr. Cocke. He recently explained in 
humorous way, that his long term of life was due 
to long teaching in Baptist Sunday Schools. This 
got into the papers, and he has received letters 
from all over the country, and some from people 
in other countries, asking his methods of teaching 
the lessons. A halo of honor is on his head, and 
thousands of friends wish him long life. 

Colonel George P. Tayloe 

On the 1 8th of April, 1897, this splendid citi- 
zen of Roanoke, Virginia, this strong and invalu- 
able friend of HoUins Institute, passed away, in 
the ninety-third year of his age. He was the 
first-named Trustee on the Board of the Valley 
Union Seminary, in 1842. That position he held 

156 Charles L. Cocke 

until the school took the name of Hollins Insti- 
tute. In 1857 he became President of the Board 
of Trustees, and as long as he lived, he held this 
office with distinction. In 1896 some members 
thought it expedient to elect another President, 
owing to Colonel Tayloe's frequent, enforced 
absence on account of sickness. Mr. Cocke ob- 
jected, however, and the grand old man was 
re-elected. Before the next annual meeting he 
was no more. 

Mr. William A. Miller has this to say of his 
comrade: "Colonel Tayloe was a gentleman in 
every sense of the word, and was often consulted 
by Mr. Cocke. He seemed to feel himself a part 
of Hollins and was almost like the right arm of 
the President." 

Mr. Cocke himself, in giving a brief history of 
the Institution, in 1896, said, "I cannot close this 
sketch without a tribute to one who well deserves 
to be mentioned on this occasion. The Hon; 
George P. Tayloe, of this County, a gentleman of 
wealth and exalted social station, was the adminis- 
trator of the estate which held possession of the 
property at the time the purchase was made for 
educational purposes. He not only heartily ap- 
proved of the establishment of the school and gave 
liberally to its funds, but he gave his personal in- 
fluence and more than all, he indulged the Trus- 
tees in the payments due the estate, to the utmost 

His Comrades and Co-JVorkers 157 

limits of the law, refusing to accept offers made 
by others, until he finally secured the property to 
its present owners, thus enabling the school to 
continue its high mission. For nearly the entire 
period of fifty years, he has held the Presidency 
of the Board of Trustees, and seldom has he been 
absent. When at any time during the history of 
the school, money had to be raised for any 
emergency, he was the first to subscribe and 
prompt to pay. His influence has contributed 
largely to its successful career." 

The Institution never had a more loyal friend, 
or a more generous and intelligent Trustee. Rol- 
lins and its community ought to wipe the op- 
probrious name of "Tinker" off the beautiful 
mountain, and replace it with the honorable and 
cherished name of "Tayloe." 

Mr. and Mrs. John Hollins 

Mr. and Mrs. Hollins lived at Lynchburg, Vir- 
ginia, prosperous, highly respected and influential. 
Mr. Hollins was a man of superior worth and al- 
ways responsive to the generous impulses of his in- 
telligent wife. Her ancestors, the Halseys, came 
from England In 1623. One of these kinsmen 
was a member of the English Parliament, and 
another went to the United States Congress from 
New Jersey. She was a member of the First 
Baptist Church of Lynchburg, but her husband. 

158 Charles L. Cocke 

on account of self-distrust, never joined. Mr. 
Hollins' gift of $5,000 in 1855 was by her in- 
spiration. Her own later gifts, amounting to 
$12,500, assured the life of the Institution. But 
for the Civil War, which destroyed most of her 
wealth, she would have given much more. They 
had no children. Mr. Hollins was born Febru- 
ary nth, 1786, and died April 7th, 1859. Mrs. 
HoUins was born in 1792 and died July 3rd, 
1864. Both were buried in Spring Hill cemetery, 
at Lynchburg. 



THE perpetual, unsatisfied longings of the 
Founder of Hollins projected plans and 
schemes whose completion had to be left to other 
hands. In his wise view, an Institution com- 
pleted was an Institution already on the down- 
ward grade. The large, expansive life of the 
age requires continuous modifications and en- 
largements to meet the ever-springing exigencies 
of society. In his eighty-first year, amid the deso- 
lations of a triple bereavement, the aged hero 
sounded this note : "I will devote my energies tq 
putting the Institution on a permanent, broad 
basis, with faciUties of all kinds to meet the 
advancing demands for such schools; for educa- 
tion of every kind throughout the South is on 
rising grade, and Virginia, like New England, 
may yet have a reputation for school facilities 
with scholarly men and women equal to those of 
any section of this broad and progressive land." 
This is the same clarion voice so familiar through 
two generations. Thus came from his lips the 


i6o Charles L. Cocke 

general program, committed to his successors for 
the following thirty years. With no conscious- 
ness of the fact, he was providing his own mon- 
ument which lives in the noble HoUins College 
of today. 

When the Institution passed from the Trus- 
tees to Mr. Cocke, it became the charge of a 
Board of Governors, selected from the members 
of his own family. From that day, they have 
regarded as their precious inheritance the plans 
of his mind and the wishes of his heart. His 
principle of progress has been the guiding light 
of the Board of Governors and not for a moment 
have they forgotten that the passionate desire of 
the Founder of the College was to make Hollins, 
in an ever increasing degree, a leader in the cause 
of the education of women. 

What has been done during the nineteen years 
of the Board's control? It is Impossible to visit 
Hollins without feeling that the memory of Mr. 
Cocke and his influence equally abide. He, being 
dead, yet speaketh. At his death the Presidency 
of the college went to his daughter, Matty L. 
Cocke, and the Chairmanship of the Board of 
Governors to his son, Lucian H. Cocke. The 
business affairs, so long and heroically managed 
by Charles Henry Cocke, are now entrusted to 
two of the Founder's grandsons: Marion Estes 

His Monument i6i 

Cocke as Secretary and Treasurer, and Joseph 
Augustine Turner as General Manager. 

The improvements on the grounds and build- 
ings, and on the farm, have been many. A beauti- 
ful Library building, made possible by the 
Alumnae, was erected in 1908, as a memorial to 
Mr. Cocke. The Susanna Infirmary was built in 
191 1, as a memorial to Mrs. Cocke. In 19 14, the 
Science Hall was built. Meanwhile important 
changes were being made in the courses of study. 
The curriculum was gradually enlarged, and eight 
years after the Founder's death, the institution 
was standardized on the basis of a four years 
college course. When this change was recognized 
in a new charter from the legislature of Virginia, 
the name "Hollins Institute" gave place to that 
of "Hollins College." 

The realization of the Founder's dream is an 
endless process, and the motto will ever be, 
"Forward and Upward." In the very atmos- 
phere of the place, the sensitive soul feels a 
brooding presence. The trees on the campus, 
nearly all of which he planted, seem to whisper 
the revered name. His Ideal lives, and his Spirit 
interfuses all. His monument is building still. 
Let it go shining down the centuries ! 

T^o^cumstances to be 
This book Uund-^^^^^^.,,,„, 

form 41"