The International Writers Magazine
First Chapters
The Origins of Stanford University

EARLY TIMES: Master visiting the servants
Jerry Franks

Chapter One
April 15, 1865

Five-year-old Ellen Brown played in her grandparent’s front yard while her grandpa was busy planting two linden trees by the parlor windows. Signs of early spring were clearly visible: blades of grass emerging, virgin leaves unfolding. A man ran up, pushed himself against the white picket fence, and shouted out to Ellen’s grandpa, "Dr. Brown! Dr. Brown! They’ve shot Lincoln! Lincoln’s dead!" The man turned around and ran off, continuing down the lane, not waiting for a reply.

Leland Stanford

Dr. Brown stood still as a statue with his spade hovering in mid-air. He wasn’t sure whether he had heard the man right and called after him, "Peter! Peter! What did you say?" By that time, Peter had disappeared from view.

Inside the house, grandma heard what Peter had shouted and rushed out, followed by Ellen’s two aunts who continued down the gravel path and out the front gate while grandma ran over to where grandpa was standing with his suspended spade. In loud, startled voices, they asked questions of one another with no thought of a reply.
"What did Peter say, something about Lincoln?"
"Lincoln’s dead, shot?"
"Who’d do that?"
"The girls will find out…"

Ellen’s father ran out of the front door, leaped off the stoop like a bird in flight, and followed his sisters down the lane. Ellen went inside the house to find her mother. She was not in the parlor. The house was cool and quiet, except for the tick, tick, tick of the mantel clock. Ellen cried out, "Mommy! Mommy! Where are you?" There was no answer.
After looking throughout the house, Ellen found her mother alone in the back woodshed. She was crying and saying to no one, Ellen could see, "Lincoln is dead. Now, there will be more war. What will happen to us? What will happen to us?"
Ellen had heard her aunts say her mother was from the south. She had no idea where or what south was.

Later in the afternoon, the Brown family reassembled in the parlor. All the doors were shut; no one spoke. Holding hands, her father and mother sat on the dark mohair lounge in the middle of the room. Close by, completely ignored, Ellen sat on a low, wooden footstool. She folded her hands, put her head down, her chin touching her chest, and kept quiet. Abruptly, her grandma arose from her chair, went to the nearby bay windows, and began pulling down all the shades. Everyone silently watched, as she went from window to window pulling down shades, altering the parlor from bright and cheery to gray and somber.

Ellen Brown grew up, but only to four and a half feet. She had wavy blonde hair that fell to her shoulders. She was petite, a little over eighty pounds, a pretty, young woman. But what she lacked in stature she made up in energy, determination, and honesty. Her father said she had the unfortunate habit of speaking whatever was in her head, mindless to those who could hear her. Sometimes, that habit got her into trouble.

Unlike most women of the day, who married early and had a family, she went to Cornell University and studied English. She was planning to teach English, but while she was at Cornell she met and married Orrin Leslie Elliott, a young English instructor from Montana. He preferred to be called Leslie. He was also short, but the opposite of Ellen - quiet and unassuming. Her girl friends noticed this difference and Ellen told them, "Opposites attract and he was so handsome. It was love at first sight."

Ellen and Leslie had a baby boy they named Louis after Ellen’s favorite author, Robert Louis Stevenson. In 1889, Leslie got his doctorate in Economics from Cornell and for two years he unsuccessfully looked for a position, allowing him to teach Economics. In the early 90’s, there were few teaching positions or, for that matter, any jobs available. The two young people joked that if nothing turned up, we’ll head for California.
In the middle of March 1891, Ellen Elliott was broiling a thick, juicy porterhouse steak over a glowing coal fire on the kitchen range in her home in Ithaca. She was turning the long-handled wire cage holding the fragrant, browning meat, over and over. Leslie walked in, through the back screen door, breathlessly, and with a mischievous grin on his face. He came up behind her, put his arms around her, and whispered in her ear, "How’d you like to head for California?"
Ellen Elliott, thinking it was still part of their little joke, ignored him and turned out the steak on a hot platter and continued tending to it---peppering, salting, and buttering.
Not to be ignored, Leslie pulled out a yellow telegram he was carrying in his coat pocket and put it in front of Ellen’s face, inches from her nose. "It’s from Dr. David Starr Jordan, president of Indiana University. He’s been named president of a university in California, founded and endowed by Leland Stanford. Dr. Jordan requires a secretary and he’s asked me to come to Bloomington, at once, to take the post. In June, he wants me to accompany him to California. If it’s all right with you, I’m going to accept, and we’re going to California."

Ellen had dropped her basting spoon. She turned around and began hugging Leslie. She kissed him full on the mouth and for a few seconds they embraced.
Ellen whispered in Leslie’s ear, "How much will you be paid?"
Leslie whispered back, "He didn’t say, but I’ll send him a wire and find out and if it’s reasonable, I think we should go. It’s a real opportunity for me to teach Economics."
Ellen again whispered, "We’ll go even if it’s unreasonable, my darling Leslie." Her tone of voice indicated she had made up her mind, but as she said it a tingle of apprehension ran down her spine. Going to California was like going to another planet.

In April and May of 1891, Ellen and her son, Louis, waited to join Leslie at her parents’ home in Burdett, upper New York State. While there, hints about their potential new home in the far west were sent to her in Leslie’s letters from Bloomington, Indiana, where he was working for Dr. David Starr Jordan.
Ellen read that in California, rose vines grew to over forty feet high and reached the rooftops. Senator Stanford bred racehorses, some worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, housed in immaculately clean, whitewashed stables. Millionaires’ estates were nearby, and it was easy for Ellen to imagine gentle and gracious millionaire neighbors dropping by for tea and to get acquainted with the Elliott family.
Leslie wrote the university would be made up of a series of great quadrangles. One was already up and others would join it. Stone buildings, tile roofed, surrounded garden-like courts, and the entire campus would be beautifully landscaped with sloping, green lawns and curving roadways. Frederick Olmsted, creator of New York’s Central Park, had created the site plans. And what sounded particularly inviting, to Ellen’s ears, were stone cottages, also tile roofed, were to be built for the faculty and, of course, rents would be nominal.
All this news gladdened Ellen’s heart. She could not wait to rejoin Leslie in Bloomington, travel to Stanford, and begin their new life.

Finally in June, filled with great hope and anticipation, Ellen and Louis took leave of her parents. They climbed into her father’s gig and his horse stepped off toward the nearby city of Watkins, where there was a railroad station and their journey to the West would begin.
Before she left, Ellen’s mother, with tears in her eyes, told Ellen she thought she might never see her daughter and grandson again. After all, California was on the other side of the continent.

Traveling west with the Elliotts to California from Indianapolis in mid-June, 1891, were eight more travelers. Dr. David Starr Jordan, president of the university, and his wife Jessie brought two of their three children, Edith who was eleven years old and Knight, three years old. The third son, Harold, who was eight, remained with relatives in Indianapolis because of an illness. Dr. George M. Richardson, who would teach Chemistry at the university, brought his wife Emily and his mother Mrs. Richardson. Two young people, Charlotte Rankin and Albert Fletcher, joined the group. They were going to help with the chores and might become students at the new university.

Even though they traveled Pullman class with berth accommodations, the train ride was still hot, long, and confining, and soon the two youngsters became agitated and bored. Louis was relatively good, but Knight Jordan was a scamp and started throwing temper tantrums. He hurled himself to the floor, screaming, "I want to go home. I don’t want to go to California." Leslie felt sorry for Dr. Jordan when he tried to calm his son and ended up with flailing fists in his face. During one of these encounters, Dr. Jordan looked over at Leslie and Leslie was sure he was going to ask his secretary for assistance. He must have thought better of it; the moment passed.

It took eighteen hours for their train to cross Kansas. For half days at a time and sometimes overnight, their steam locomotive stopped for no apparent reason. Was it another train coming? Was it mechanical failure? Did they need another locomotive? They were never told the reasons for the delays. Conductors when questioned merely shook their heads and muttered, "We’ll soon be underway," and scurried down the aisles, quickly out of sight.

At Pueblo, Colorado, the party disembarked for six hours. Dr. Jordan arranged for a large bus-like wagon to transport them to an outlying area where the ground plan of a city-to-be had been laid out with little white stakes indicating streets, parks, lampposts, and buildings. Ellen thought people had to be imagined on the gray stark plain. She could not imagine herself being one of them.

At another stop, Dr. David Starr Jordan enthusiastically embarked upon a botanical lecture - picking up small flowers with his thumb and forefinger, holding them up for all to see, and telling the group their Latin names, how many petals each had, and how they reproduced.

Ellen looked around and saw prairie dogs sitting on their haunches, staring at the intruders. Giant cacti, eighteen to twenty feet high, appearing like unworldly figures with arms held high, surrounded the travelers. Dr. Jordan told the group their Latin names, too.

They spent a night in a mining camp, Leadville. Dr. Jordan told them ten million dollars’ worth of silver was mined there each year, but Ellen was more in awe of the snow-capped mountains rimming the area and the crystal blue sky above that, after a stunning sunset, became an umbrella of stars.
Traveling through the Rockies, Dr. Jordan showed them the exact spot where a drop of water split, half flowing toward the Pacific and half toward the Atlantic.
The Royal Gorge impressed Dr. Jordan but not Ellen. She found it lonesome, wild, barren, and tremendously useless. She couldn’t help expressing her thoughts for others to hear and several of her fellow travelers nodded their heads in agreement.

But compared with the Great American Desert, they were approaching and entering, the Royal Gorge was an oasis. The desert was the worst. Gazing at its vast nothingness, Ellen made the comment, "I don’t believe there is a more desolate spot on earth." Dr. Jordan, within earshot, agreed with her, "There isn’t," he said.

During the night, as they traveled across the desert, Ellen couldn’t sleep and she lifted her berth’s window shade and looked out upon a rapidly passing, pale gray desert. It stretched before her disappearing into nothingness. For the first time, she felt pangs of remorse about leaving Ithaca’s green hills. "What had they gotten themselves into?" She said aloud and looked around, wondering if Dr. Jordan had heard that remark, too.

After a ten-day trip across the country, they approached the San Francisco Bay. When they arrived at Benicia, a ferry carried their train in sections across miles of salt flats. "The salt of the Pacific," Dr. Jordan told the group. At Oakland, another ferry took them across the bay, but this time their train section set on the upper deck, forward, allowing the passengers a grand panoramic view of the shimmering bay.
Ellen looked out and cried out in joy, "I don’t believe there is more beautiful water on earth!"
Again, Dr. Jordan heard her remark and nodded his head in agreement. "There isn’t," he said.
Ellen was beginning to wonder if he purposely stayed close to her to hear what she said. Perhaps, some of her more disparaging remarks had gotten back to him. It no longer mattered. They were almost there.
She saw lovely blue water twisting around the harbor’s capes and islands. Everywhere there were ships, coming and going. At the wharves were steam ships or the older two and four mast schooners. Other ferryboats with Mill Valley or Alviso painted on their sides churned the waters beside them. Ellen thought the scene brimmed with beauty and bustle.

On Thursday, June 26, Mr. Herbert Nash, Senator Stanford’s secretary, met them at the Third and Townsend Streets’ Station. Leslie told Ellen Mr. Nash had been Leland Stanford Jr’s tutor. He was the son who had died prematurely, and the Stanfords had created their university in his memory.
Nash had already met Dr. David Starr Jordan so they quickly recognized one another. Even without that advantage, it was easy to pick out the ragtag group of men and women, dressed in heavy, hot eastern clothes, dragging two youngsters along with them.

With great consideration, Mr. Nash quickly transferred them and their baggage to a local train that made its way south to the Menlo station. There was no station for the Palo Alto Farm - the general name given to Senator Stanford’s home, stock farm, vineyards, orchards, hay fields and the site of the new university.
There he was, standing on the Menlo Station platform, waiting to greet them, Senator Leland Stanford; senator of the sovereign state of California, former governor of that state, part owner and founder of the Central Pacific Railroads, co-founder with his wife Jane of the University, a viable candidate for the Presidency of the United States in ’92, and considered by many to be the most popular man in America.
Ellen thought he looked like the many pictures and illustrations she had seen. A portly man, average height, with long arms and short legs, a prominent nose, full beard; but it was his dark piercing eyes taking in all that was going on around him that Ellen found to be his most prominent characteristic. When he first saw the new arrivals, his eyes swept from side to side and up and down each individual. It reminded Ellen of her father’s perusal of horses he was considering buying. She looked over at the opulent carriage with bright red wheels driven by a Negro in full livery. Peering out the isinglass window was another elderly gentleman who appeared to be doing the same kind of sizing up. Must be his friend, she almost said aloud. She brought the back of her hand instantly to her lips. She must watch what she said; otherwise, she might embarrass her quiet, unassuming husband.

Dr. Jordan introduced Senator Stanford to everyone. The Senator acknowledged each by shaking hands with the gentlemen, and tipping his top hat to the ladies. The travelers could tell he fully appreciated the difficult journey they had made. When he saw the two little boys scampering about, he said, "So this is Knight and Louis." He touched them lightly on the tops of their heads. Both were too preoccupied to look up. Dr. Jordan leaned over so they could hear him and insisted, "Knight, Louis, say hello to Senator Stanford."
The boys ignored him.
The Senator smiled wanly and said, "Boys will be boys. A long trip is hard on the children."
Even that slight smile and remark was enough for some to recognize his heart was still broken.
Senator Stanford looked back at Dr. Jordan. "The cottage has been prepared for you. Ah Sam is the best cook in the valley, better than ours. I hope you and Mrs. Jordan and your guests find the arrangements to your liking."
Dr. Jordan drew close to the man now ruling his destiny. "I’m sure we will. And we all appreciate your coming here to greet us."
"After all your trials, it was the very least I could do. I hope you don’t mind but Mrs. Stanford and I will be coming by early this evening to say hello."
As a group, the response was, "No, no, no, it’d be a pleasure to see you both." Leslie Elliott said the words but, in his heart, didn’t mean them. Why tonight? Give us some time to recuperate from the journey. He looked over at his wife wondering what she might say but she had a welcoming smile on her face like all the others. He breathed a sigh of relief.
Senator Stanford waved his broad hand to encompass them all. "Then I bid you good-bye and will see you later."

The Senator returned to his carriage. Inside, waiting, the other elderly man was already talking while the Senator settled in his seat. As the carriage departed down Menlo’s dusty dirt roads, Senator Stanford earnestly began to converse with the man. Ellen guessed he was asking his friend what he thought of the new arrivals.

The group now dwindled to nine. Dr. Richardson with his wife and mother left for Cedro Cottage, another of Stanfords’ cottages located about a mile and a half south, next to the dry creek.
Mr. Nash loaded the remaining travelers into a carryall with two long lengthwise seats. He sat up front with another of Stanford’s Negro drivers. He looked back at the assembly of men, women and children, now seated across from one another, and said, "I know you all want to get to your destination, but first we must pick up the mail for the university."
Leslie did not expect the detour. He had worked diligently, right up to the time he left Bloomington to make certain all the mail for the University had been answered.
Nash saw from the looks on his charges’ faces, they were not happy about the stopover. "The post office is only a few doors down," he shouted at them over the creaking of the harnesses and the sounds of horses’ hooves. Ellen Elliott had to contain a groan. Leslie returned her look of dismay with a his own look, which meant in any language, "Don’t say a word."

The carryall maneuvered up narrow dirt roads, and since it was hot outside and noontime, past empty boardwalks and empty verandas of non-discreet hotels. Their destination---a small one-storied, white-framed building with a hand painted, lopsided sign, "Menlo Post Office."

The four men--Mr. Nash, Dr. Jordan, Leslie, and young Mr. Fletcher--went in and out of the post office countless times with their arms loaded with mail. They attempted, at first, to stack it in tidy piles on the floor of the carryall. After the forth trip, tidiness was forgotten. The ladies, young girl and children found their shoes soon disappearing under the accumulation of correspondence. It was almost up to their knees. Knight and Louis, having the time of their lives, literally swam in it. The ladies were close to hysterics.
Through it all, Leslie’s face became grimmer and grimmer. Obviously, most of the mail had not been forwarded to Bloomington. From the look of it, some of it dated all the way back to last year and had been addressed directly to the Senator. Leslie questioned to himself why no one had bothered to go the Post Office and pick it up. Then he realized that in the Senator’s eyes, it was their job to do-—his and Dr. Jordan’s--and no one else’s. That was why they were hired.
Now knee-deep in mail, the scruffy group made their way back on to the county road leading to their future home, already named by Dr. Jordan—Escondite--Hideaway Cottage. About a mile to the south, Leslie saw the bare outline of the university he would help administer.

As they got closer, Dr. Jordan proudly had the carryall stop to point out his university to the newcomers.
It was far from the splendid sight Ellen Elliott expected. Across a dry, trampled hay field, she saw the bleak outline of bare single storied buildings with a tall chimney looming behind them. In the background were rolling hills, also yellowed and burnt out. No green lawns or gardens-- none of the grandeur her husband had written about. Of course, she thought, we are seeing the buildings from the outside; the courts and gardens must be inside. But the first impression remained, particularly with the tall, domineering chimney—-it was the site of a factory and a bleak one at that. As if sensing his wife’s feelings, Leslie looked at the same dismal scene and mouthed the words, "I didn’t know." Silently, Leslie made a vow to himself. From then on, he would be chary of Dr. David Starr Jordan’s inclination to be overly rapturous in his descriptions and overly optimistic in his anticipations. Leslie would be the opposite.

After another half mile they were nearing a village that Dr. Jordan told them was Mayfield. From what they could see, it was a collection of dusty, weathered, wooden, single storied buildings. No one was disappointed when on its outskirts; they turned right, and headed south--back into open fields. Another half mile, and they saw the first signs of cooling shade---oak, pepper and pine trees. In the midst of these pleasant surroundings was their destination, Escondite Cottage.

Dr. Jordan called it a cottage but Ellen considered the long, low, white-painted house to be more like a chalet or a single-storied villa. An ancient oak tree growing from neatly graveled surroundings shaded its front veranda. A dovecote stood secluded in the foliage, and beyond was a substantial brick building that had to be the library Dr. Jordan had mentioned. It was here that Leslie was to establish the first administrative office. Wearily, the travelers jumped down from the bus and proceeded to begin the unloading process, including all the mail, which had to be taken to the brick building.

With barely enough time to wash the dust off their faces, the new arrivals were ill prepared for Senator and Mrs. Stanford’s promised visit. But at exactly four o’clock they arrived and sat on the veranda with the families, gently conversing about the unseemly hot weather and the horses the Senator had been training and racing. Much of the time was taken with silently watching the two young boys constantly prancing around them. Senator Stanford appeared to enjoy watching their behavior more than joining in on the conversation. Even while talking to an adult, his eyes followed the children’s antics.

After the Stanfords had left, in the privacy of their bed, Ellen told her husband she thought the Stanfords were kind-hearted and unpretentious. As he turned over on his side, Leslie wondered if Ellen was being totally honest. Sometimes, she said untruths strictly for his benefit. He could not fault her because he did not mention his real feelings to her. It reminded him of the master and mistress visiting the hired help.

Even after three months’ employment, Leslie was never sure what Dr. Jordan really thought of him. He remembered the day when he first arrived in Bloomington, and was greeted at the Jordan’s residence’s doorway by the still president of Indiana University. Dr. Jordan had hired Leslie solely on the recommendation of Dr. Andrew White, the president of Cornell. He had, in his capacity as one of Cornell’s trustees, briefly seen Leslie hard at work in the Cornell Administrative Office but never met him and, apparently, Leslie was always seated.

When Dr. Jordan saw Orrin Leslie Elliott standing before him, all 5’ 2" of him, disappointment like a cloud swept across his face. Leslie could feel he wanted to deny entrance to little person standing before him and shut the door in his face. Dr. Jordan, standing 6’ 2" in his stocking feet towered over the diminutive Leslie. And worst, Leslie, although in his early thirty’s, with his fine features, short dark hair and the beginnings of a mustache, appeared five to ten years younger.
Instantly the cloud disappeared, replaced by a wide smile of welcome. Leslie assumed reality set in---the little man was here and was said to be a hard worker, scrupulous with details. In his deep, melodious voice, Dr Jordan looked down at the man before him and said, "Welcome aboard, Dr. Elliott. Come in, come in. We’ve lots of work to do."

Leslie was also not sure when he was promoted from secretary to registrar. In Bloomington, the university’s staff was he and Dr. Jordan, and Leslie performed all sorts of duties from secretarial and stenographic, reading and answering letters from schools and applicants across the nation, sweeping out the temporary office Dr. Jordan had created in one of the out buildings on his property, and making certain plenty of cut newspaper was on the hook in a nearby privy.

Before they left for California, Dr. Jordan told Leslie he should hire a stenographer and Leslie immediately thought of Frank Batchelder, who had worked for him at Cornell. There was an exchange of letters. Frank was staying with his parents in New Jersey and expecting to spend the summer there, but going west and being part of a new university excited him and it was agreed he would begin working in California on July 1st.

Leslie liked Frank. He was a diligent, accurate stenographer and owned his own typewriter, which he boxed up and shipped to Palo Alto. He was a bit talky, never lacking in gossip or lengthy descriptions about what he had done over the weekend. But Leslie only had to gently suggest Frank should get back to work and he immediately did so. Leslie also found some of his gossip to be enlightening—-somehow Frank knew other people’s salaries.

On the way out west, out of the blue, Dr. Jordan started referring to registrar duties Leslie would perform---responsibility for all admissions, only seeking Dr. Jordan’s advice in exceptional cases; and responsibility for all communications with other colleges and preparatory schools. And gloriously, he would teach several Economics classes---his special love. Dr. Jordan mentioned there might be miscellaneous additional duties he might perform on Dr. Jordan’s behalf. Leslie could foresee those duties included anything Dr. Jordan did not like or want to do. From that moment on, Leslie was the registrar. Ellen was pleased but noted that no increase in salary was mentioned.

The next day after their arrival at Escontite Cottage, in spite of the over 500 letters they had picked up the previous day, Leslie decided he should go back into Menlo and get any additional, incoming mail, arriving that day. Dr. Jordan took the day off and was using the provided gig and horse for a trip, alone, over rough mountain roads to Santa Cruz and a view of the Monterey Bay. Leslie understood the trip was daunting and dangerous—-perfect for Dr. Jordan’s taste.

There was no other way. In spite of the hot weather, Leslie must hike the two miles to Menlo and back. Ellen wanted him to wait until Monday when a gig would be available, but Leslie insisted it must be done today. Ellen didn’t argue with him. She had learned Leslie had an unswerving allegiance to any task he began. His work, his responsibilities dominated all other considerations, even his own welfare and at times, his family’s.

The unseeming hot spell continued. It was 95 degrees in the shaded cottage and outside the thermometer read 105 degrees and upwards. Without a second thought, Leslie in his heavy eastern gear calmly began walking to Menlo. Two miles and an hour later, when he got to the post office, he was red-faced and every bit of clothing he wore was wet through with perspiration.
Mr. Grady, the postmaster, was surprised when Leslie walked in. "What are you doing back here so soon? You were here yesterday."
Finally in some shade, Leslie wondered why he was there, foolishly doing this chore. Between breathes, he said, "I thought some more mail might come in."
"Well, you were right," and Mr. Grady went into the back and returned with a leather pouch filled with letters.
Leslie immediately slung it over his shoulder. His body noticeably buckled under its weight. He said good bye, and started back out the door.
As he turned around to leave, Mr. Grady said, "Why don’t you sit down for a moment and have a drink of water or something. You going right back out into that heat isn’t a good idea. You should see yourself. Face red. Looks like you’re about to keel right over."
Leslie hesitated for a moment and answered. "No, thanks. The sooner I leave, the sooner I’ll be home and I want to get back and start working." Out the door, he retraced his tracks, only thinking about the welcoming shade at the cottage. As he walked, it became more and more to occupy his thoughts.
Halfway there and he could feel the heft of the pouch starting to dig into his shoulder’s flesh. He paused and shifted the satchel from one side to the other. As he was changing its position, the pouch’s weight pulled him off balance and he had a hard time keeping himself from pitching forward. With great effort, he regained his footing and continued on but noticed his stride growing shorter and shorter---slower and slower.

So slow, in fact, a black and white dog caught up with him and sniffed his dusty shoes as if he thought it was a tree trunk. He kicked the dog off, shouting, "Shoo," at the same time. The dog yelped and ran away.
So far on the county road going south, the dog had been the only living creature, Leslie had encountered. Apparently, he thought, only a fool like himself or a dumb dog ventured out. The song, "Mad Dogs and Englishmen," came into his mind. He started to hum and sing it to get his mind off his predicament.
When Leslie’s eyesight started to blur, he was no long able to deny the seriousness of his weakened condition. Objects around him were fuzzy and he could no longer identify where he was or where he should turn off on the road leading to the cottage. He must have walked straight past the turn off. For the first time, a tingle of apprehension ran through his body.

Storefronts and hitching posts loomed up and he knew he was in the middle of Mayfield, the little desolate village next to the university. He needed to ask for directions but there was not a soul to be seen. The first sign of human presence was the sound of laughter coming from a building to his left, on the corner. With some effort, he stepped up to the wooden planked sidewalk and heard men laughing, their voices coming from behind swinging doors. It was a saloon. Leslie hesitated, but not for long. He needed help. Again, he almost lost his footing, so he forced himself to go through the doors and stumbled into a cool, semi-darkened room. The smell of stale cigar smoke and cheap whiskey was in the air, but still preferable to the scorching heat.

Seated at a bar running the length of the room, he could make out three scraggly cowboys---dusty and dirty like everything else, Leslie imagined, in Mayfield. They looked around at Leslie as if he were the Grim Reaper about to claim their souls. The looks on their faces tempted Leslie to turn on his heels and go back out into the furnace like heat. He hesitated, but a stout, bald-headed fellow with a wooden leg came from behind the bar and approached him. His face showed at least some compassion at Leslie’s plight, unlike his companions. He immediately took Leslie’s elbow to help him stand erect.
"Young man, are you all right? I’d say you should sit down with that heavy pouch and all. My name’s Fred Behn and I’m the proprietor of this saloon."
Suddenly the world around Leslie began to spin and swirl and he had to grasp Mr. Behn’s arm to keep from falling. Barely he said, "My name’s Leslie Elliott and I’d shake your hand but I’d fall if I didn’t hold your arm."
"Here, give me that pouch." Fred Behn could see from the reaction on Leslie’s face he was reluctant to part with it. "It’s all right I won’t steal it. Here, Here…" and he took the heavy mail pouch off Leslie’s shoulder and pulled a chair out. "Sit down, Mr. Elliott, and take it easy for a while. Let me get you a drink of water or beer, if you prefer."
"Water is fine, thank you.’ Mr. Behn was gone for a second and returned with water in a tin cup, and Leslie eagerly drank its contents in one long swig. He had never tasted such cool elixir in his life. He sat for only a moment, decided he should be on his way, and started to get back up.
Mr. Behn gently held him back and put his hand on Leslie’s forehead. "Whoa there, Mr. Elliott, I think you’d better think twice before you go anywhere. I’m sure you’ve got a high fever. We call it sunstroke ‘round here, pretty common for this time of year." Mr. Behn put his index finger to his head, as if in deep thought, and said, "For some reason, I think you’re part of that eastern crowd moved into the Peter Coutt’s place yesterday. Am I right?"

The cowboys at the bar guffawed in unison at Mr. Behn’s pretended ignorance.
Leslie had never heard of this Peter Coutt person. He answered, "I’m staying with Dr. Jordan at Escontite Cottage."
"That’s it. I heard this Dr. Jordan was renaming everything around here with foreign names. So how about me getting my rig out and taking you over to that "Iscontight" place. I can have you home in fifteen minutes where you might take lots longer walking, and I’m not so sure you’d make it."
Leslie felt better but he knew Mr. Behn was right. He was in no condition to walk anywhere. Even getting back up on his feet made him dizzy.

Ellen was sitting with Louis on the front veranda when a strange man pulled up in his rig with Leslie at his side. The man was holding the reins in one hand and with the other, supporting Leslie. Ellen, startled, jumped to her feet. Something was wrong with her husband. His face was red, his eyes, glassy.
The stranger called out to her. "Mam, this here gentlemen is not feeling well and I’m going to need some help getting him out of the rig. I’m afraid if I let him go, he’ll topple right over. Nothing serious, he’s got sunstroke. Give him some water and put him to bed for a while and he’ll be as good as new."
Without saying a word, Ellen rushed into the house and got Mr. Fletcher and between the two of them they were able to lower Leslie to the ground and supported him so he could get to the veranda.
The stranger, in spite of his wooden leg, jumped down from his rig, holding a leather pouch. "I’m sure he’ll want this." And he put it carefully on the veranda.
Because of her wifely concerns, Ellen had forgotten about the stranger. She called out to him, "Forgive my bad manners, sir. He’s my husband. Thank you for getting him home. My name’s Ellen Elliott. What’s your name so we can thank you properly, later."
"Fred Behn, I’m the proprietor of a saloon in Mayfield. You and your husband drop by and see me, sometime. In spite of everything you may hear, we Mayfield people aren’t such a bad lot."
As she and Mr. Fletcher were struggling to get Leslie inside the doorway, she said, "I’m sure you’re not and I can assure you, we will be seeing you."

The last thing Ellen saw of Mr. Behn was his waving good bye to her as if she were an old friend.
That night at about ten o’clock Dr. Jordan returned from his journey across the Santa Cruz Mountains. He was elated and immediately regaled Jessie and Ellen with the beautiful redwood trees he had past through and Monterey Bay’s pounding, gorgeous surf. Ellen could tell he considered his feat almost on a par with his ascent of the Matterhorn, which he regularly recalled to them. He did not ask about Leslie and Ellen did not volunteer that Leslie also had an adventure. That night and over Sunday, Leslie recovered between cool sheets in a darkened bedroom.

By Wednesday, July 1, he recovered enough to begin his duties as registrar at the new university. In the morning, three candidates arrived at the cottage and took their entrance examinations on Escontite’s veranda---two passed, one failed.

In the afternoon, Leslie accompanied Dr. Jordan, driving his rig, and Dr. Richardson back to Menlo Station to pick up late arriving luggage and, of course, more mail. On the way there, they fortuitously bumped into Frank Batchelder, the newly hired stenographer, hiking south on the county road, headed toward the cottage. Hot and tired, Frank was more than willing to let them take his heavy valise while he continued on to Escontite Cottage.
After leaving Frank and continuing onto Menlo, Dr. Jordan remarked, "We can temporarily put the young man up with Mr. Fletcher, but there’s no room at the table for him. He’ll have to find a place for board, now, and room, later."
Leslie knew Frank and he did not consider him to be a robust young man. Others, in the office at Cornell, called him a mother’s boy. Living and eating in Mayfield would not be to his liking. Leslie said, "That will not please him, I’m sure."
Dr. Jordan took his eyes off the road ahead and regarded Leslie. "Sorry, Leslie, but I can see that all of us will be facing pioneering times."
Leslie let the remark pass without comment.

Next day Frank helped Leslie in the cottage’s library and they held the second day of student entrance examinations. Six young people were tested. Only two passed. Leslie could only think California high schools were not doing a good job of preparing their student for college.

As soon as space was ready in the Quad, Leslie and Frank moved the administration into a classroom located in the Quad’s southeast corner. They occupied Room #30, destined to be a large romantic languages’ classroom. Dr. Jordan, Leslie, and Frank shared the space, at first. Mr. Woodruff, the librarian; Miss Stillings, another stenographer; and a part-time fellow, Bert Hoover, recommended by Dr. Swain, a senior member of the faculty, soon would be joining them. Some space was provided for Irene Butler’s desk where she might persuade parents to send their daughters to the preparatory school for girls, she and a friend were establishing at Adelante Villa.

The room would be crowded, but it was anticipated that within two months, they’d be moving again to their permanent quarters at the entrance to the university with private offices for the president and registrar.
Ellen knew from the start two families living under the same roof at the cottage would not work out. Not that she did not try to get along with Miss Jessie, the domestic name Dr. Jordan had for his wife. Ellen could understand why Dr. Jordan idolized his wife. Miss Jessie had replaced his first wife, Susan, who had died four years ago. Even with the spectacles she constantly wore, she was a striking woman with dark eyes, olive skin, and straight black hair done in a pompadour. She appeared to have Spanish ancestry, but she was Middle Western through and through. Quick and capable, by nature she liked to be in charge. This was fine with her adoring husband who was happy to leave domestic and, for that matter, parenting decisions to his wife. University decisions were enough of a challenge.

But Miss Jessie’s treatment of Edith, Dr. Jordan’s older daughter from his first marriage, was particularly galling for both Ellen and Leslie. It soon became apparent Miss Jessie considered Edith to be both a domestic servant and a nanny for Knight, the youngster. Ellen wondered when Edith had any time for herself. Leslie, in the confines of their bedchamber, expressed his thoughts that Harold, Edith’s brother and Dr. Jordan’s eldest son from his first marriage, was not present because Jessie did not want to bother parenting a child that was not her own. The story about Harold being ill was a sham. He had noticed whenever Dr. Jordan spoke of Harold, and it was not often, Leslie sensed he felt remiss as a parent, which in Leslie’s mind, he was.

Ellen couldn’t tell if her presence threatened Jessie in some way. At night, under the covers, Leslie whispered that when Ellen and Dr. Jordan were joking about something or other, Jessie watch intently with a cold look in her eyes. All of this, of course, created tension. There were never words between the two of them, but Ellen never felt at ease in the same room with her. Matters came to a head when Jessie asked Ah Sam, the cook, to leave. Both Leslie and Ellen were more than pleased with the bill of fair he presented at each meal and agreed with Senator Stanford he was the best cook in the area.
But Jessie wanted Ah Sam to be more than a cook. There were beds to be made, sweeping, and mopping. Ah Sam would have none of it, and eventually Jessie told him to do what she wanted or leave. Leslie happened to see him as he was walking out the door for the last time and his parting words were loud, clear and spoken to anyone within shouting distance, "I no do beds," he said and he was out the door, never to return. With him went any thought of good food, well prepared.

Domestic life at Escontite steadily went downhill after that. The ladies attempted to cook in the small kitchen without success. All they got was in each other’s way. The men and children sat waiting for meals that never came on time and were tasteless and cold when they did.

Whispering at night, Ellen and Leslie discussed the dilemma they found themselves in. It was obvious they could no longer stay at the cottage. Leslie’s career depended upon a good relationship with Dr. Jordan. If there was any falling out between the two ladies, it might have long lasting repercussions. Before such a catastrophe ever happened, the Elliotts must leave. They had no idea where they would go, but there was no alternative. After all, in a few months, they would move into the permanent accommodations they had been promised---cottages were to be built south of Encina Hall, the men’s dormitory.
Next day, after breakfast, as they walked over to the Quad, Leslie said to Dr. Jordan, "Ellen and I talked it over last night and we think our staying at the cottage is a burden. Jessie and you have done everything possible to make us comfortable, but it’s time we moved on."
Leslie was not surprised Dr. Jordan made no effort to change his mind. He said, "Well, for the next week, I’ll be traveling and lecturing in Southern California. That should give you plenty of time to find other accommodations."

Neither Dr. Jordan nor Leslie made any further comments about the matter. As simple as that, Leslie thought, they would have to find new accommodations within the week.
Of course it was Ellen who had to begin looking for new arrangements for room and board. Leslie was reluctant to ask for any time off when there were so many things to do at the Quad. Ellen had learned from experience taking time off from work, other than holidays or vacations, was something Leslie did not do.
During the next week, Ellen found herself, along with Louis, being driven about Mayfield by young Albert Fletcher, using Dr. Jordan’s rig while he was in San Diego.

From a distance she had seen Mayfield and knew it was not the flowery village she envisioned from her husband’s letters. If anything it was worse up close. She saw unkempt one-storied houses, shanties or shotgun houses were the terms used to describe them in the east, a few shops for fruit and household items, a couple of hotels next to the county roads, but mostly saloons. She counted fourteen of them.
In their travels, they went past P. F. Behn’s Saloon and Ellen thought about stopping by and seeing the peg-legged fellow who had gallantly saved her husband. She thought better of it and decided to wait until Leslie was with her.

Ellen with Louis in her arms accompanied by Albert went into one of the hotels. Strictly men were in the lobby. They glanced at the threesome with obvious interest---the petite blonde lady with young child and the accompanying young buck. In Ellen’s eyes something about their looks suggested leers. Could they be thinking of them as a threesome? She tugged at Albert’s sleeve and they turned around and walked out.
They continued to drive along dirt roads, stopping at the homes least disreputable looking, and found out it was unheard of to take in boarders. The usual response was, "Why should we take in boarders?" Doors were shut slowly and eyes peered at them through dirty windows as they got back into their rig. Albert decided it might be better if they explained that they came from the east to start up Leland Stanford Junior University. When they tried this approach at the next house, an old lady asked, "Oh, do you think Senator Stanford is really going to start his college?"
Ellen, somewhat surprised at the reaction, answered, "Yes, of course, we do."
Albert was curious and asked, "Why not?"
The old lady laughed and looked at them with pity as if they didn’t know what was going on, "Them workmen been a-building’ over there for more years than they aught. Seems they build it up and the Stanford lady tells ‘em tear it down. Build it. Tear it down." She smiled slyly, showing wide gaps between her few dark teeth. "That’s fine with us. Lots of our men folk workin’ over there." And she shut the door.

So that was what the residents thought about their university, Ellen thought, a pipe dream.
Finally, a man at a half-empty shop said he could accommodate the family. He’d make an eight by ten room for them at the back.
By then, Ellen was desperate. She told the man she’d have to consult with her husband and then let him know. Outside, Albert told her he thought the man’s proposal was impossible. "You can’t live all summer in an eight by ten room,’ he said. "What would you eat? Saw dust and shavings?"
Albert was right. They would be sharing accommodations with a carpenter’s shop. Ellen decided to give up the idea.

That night, in the privacy of their bedchamber, when Leslie heard about the old lady’s comments, he whispered, "No wonder the worker’s treat us as if we are foolish to think this university will ever open its doors. Up to now it’s been a plaything to keep Mrs. Stanford occupied. Something must have happened to give Senator Stanford a sense of urgency. I wonder what it was?" Ellen had already fallen asleep so there was no answer to his question. Soon he joined her.

Luckily for the Elliotts, when Dr. Richardson heard of their plight, he agreed to rent out a bedroom at Cedro Cottage, the temporary dwelling he and his family occupied. The only problem---the Elliotts would have to take their daily meals at the Oak Grove Villa Hotel, roughly over a mile distant from Cedro and Dr. Richardson’s mother was due to arrive, so it was a temporary arrangement.

In mid-August, at noontime, Drs. Leslie Elliott, David Starr Jordan, and George M. Richardson sat together on a curb next to the administration offices, facing the completed Quadrangle. On October 1st, six weeks off, Leland Stanford Junior University would open its doors.

The three men were eating their lunches from lunch pails they brought that morning. Dr. Jordan had walked the half-mile from Escondite Cottage to the Quad. Drs. Richardson and Leslie had a longer walk from Cedro Cottage--a mile. Staying with the Richardson’s was still a temporary arrangement, so Ellen had been looking for another place in Menlo to live and board---so far without success.
For the gentlemen eating lunch, it was another hot day, with a brilliant sun and no cooling breeze from the bay. What wind there was, was like heat from a hot coal fire. Every day had been hot since they arrived, six weeks’ before.

At first, the threesome ate in silence, surveying the expanse of the inner courtyard, almost 600 feet long and nearly 250 feet wide. The area was covered with black asphalt, hot to the touch, interspersed by eight circular plots planted with different varieties of three to four foot high palm trees. It reminded Leslie of a #8 domino. Around the quadrangle sat twelve, single storied buildings constructed of buff sandstone topped with reddish tile roofs, joined and shaded by the Romanesque arcades that Leslie thought, were heaven sent on a hot August day such as this.

Leslie, like the other men, was dressed in dark heavy trousers and a white cuffed and collared shirt with a thin black tie. Because of the heat, all of the men had left their jackets in the office but all wore hats--- Drs. Elliott and Richardson, black bowlers and Dr. Jordan a soft slouch hat of neutral shade.
At first the only sound was the men’s chewing and swallowing. Leslie spoke quietly, carefully choosing his words, "Dr. Jordan, I hate to bring up a disagreeable subject during our noon repast, but we must order books for the library, if we are to have a library. Our Librarian won’t be arriving for a few weeks, and if we wait until then, we won’t have books for the students starting class on October second. "
David Starr Jordan did not immediately reply. He continued chewing on a chicken drumstick Jessie had cooked for him. He had a white handkerchief in his left hand and a drumstick in the other. Unlike his slimmer, younger companions, he was in a slightly reclining position with his scuffed boots spread before him. His intent light blue eyes were concentrating on the drumstick he was about to stuff through a thin mustache into his mouth. The mustache growing under his Roman nose hid his mouth but not his weak chin. Because of the girth of middle age---he was 40 years old---it was not easy for him to bend in the middle.
After what seemed to be a lengthy period while he chewed the chicken meat and swallowed it, he answered Leslie’s question, "Senator Stanford, from what Charles Lathrop, his Business Manager tells me, wants only a modest beginning. Mr. Lathrop says the Senator doesn’t want any accumulation of materials or equipment beyond what is needed."
"And whom are we talking to, the Senator or Mr. Lathrop?" asked Leslie.
"We are talking to Mr. Lathrop, who says he speaks for Senator Stanford," was Dr. Jordan’s reply and he slightly squirmed in place, as if the position he was in had grown uncomfortable.
Leslie recognized the signs. He was getting into dangerous territory but he forged on. "And what does Mr. Lathrop say about the library on the Senator’s behalf?"
"He thinks a library such as a gentleman might maintain should be adequate--a library costing in the area of four to five thousand dollars."
"And what do you think?"
Dr. Jordan took the final bite of his drumstick, swallowed it, and wiped his mustache and mouth with his white cotton handkerchief. He pulled a green apple from the lunch pail and began to peal it, slowly and methodically, with a large jackknife he always used on such occasions. Leslie knew Jordan’s perennial goal was to make one continuous peal. While attempting to accomplish this feat, he pulled himself to a sitting position and devoted most of his attention to pealing rather that a reply to his secretary’s question.
"I think we need a library similar to what we had at Indiana University." Pausing for a tricky movement with his knife, he resumed. "Such a library should cost two or three times what the good Business Manager mentioned. I think we need to begin to lay the broad foundation of an academic library that will adequately support our students’ search for knowledge. That is what I think."
This time he paused, again, and looked at Leslie. "But as you know, we must get approval for all monies expended from the Business Office in San Francisco. I’m sure there will be a great deal of correspondence between myself and Mr. Lathrop on this matter, but I’m also sure that Senator Stanford will eventually agree with my requests." The apple was ready to eat. Dr. Jordan dropped the single peal into his pail and looked over at Leslie with obvious satisfaction at his victory over the elements.
"And how will the Senator ever learn of your requests when his brother-in-law is the go between?" Leslie was not to be dissuaded.
Dr. Jordan’s wariness of the questioning showed in the tone of his voice. "Leslie, at the right time and right moment I will make the Senator aware of my intentions. In the meantime, we will make purchases of books that meet my goals, not Mr. Lathrop’s"

Leslie decided he had spoken enough about the library, for the moment, but he had not given up. If books were not ordered, he would bring it up again at a more appropriate time when a new member of the faculty was not present.

Dr. Richardson was not as attuned to Dr. Jordan’s changing moods because he decided to follow Leslie’s example. He bluntly asked, "And what about apparatus for the chemical laboratories?"
Richardson was the only member of the Chemistry Department presently on campus. He, like Leslie, was about thirty years old, but he had the makings of a full beard that made him look much older. "So far I see only enough for minimal instruction. It appears, from what Dr. Elliott has told me, that numerous students have indicated an interest in Chemistry; and if we are going to have to purchase more equipment, it must be high quality. We don’t want to have an explosion like the University of Pacific."
Leslie was surprised when Dr. Richardson spoke up like he did. Unlike most of the other young faculty men who David Starr Jordan had selected and known personally, Richardson was still an unknown quantity, and because of that, Leslie knew, Dr. Jordan had to be careful what he said to him.
Speaking slowly and clearly, Dr. Jordan said, "Dr. Richardson, what we need, we’ll get, but first we’ll need to educate Senator Stanford and, I’m sorry to say, that will not happen overnight. " He abruptly stopped speaking.

There was a lengthy moment of silence as Dr. Jordan carefully resumed his original semi-reclining position, began to eat the pared apple, and put the jackknife back into his lunch pail. He rummaged in it to see what else Miss Jessie might have prepared and looked disappointed when he found nothing.
Dr. Elliott continued to eat in silence, but Dr. Richardson in this moment of honesty decided to bring up another tender subject he had on his mind. "I understand Coliss Huntington has referred to our university as "Senator Stanford’s circus."
Dr. Jordan’s face showed no expression as he said, "Yes, I’ve heard the same phrase, and knowing Huntington and his lack of affection for his business partner, Senator Stanford, I’m sure he is correctly quoted. But gentlemen," and here Jordan’s expression became expansive as he theatrically looked beyond his companions and said, "look at the broad expanse of our inner courtyard and the buff buildings with their red tile roofs framed by blue skies. It’s like a stage setting. All we need are the players---the students and faculty." Leslie could tell Jordan was about to make some dramatic statement. The man always appeared to be on stage. Jordan’s right hand made an all encompassing gesture as he said," And from this setting will come men and women who will be our future lawyers, doctors, scientists. We may even produce presidents, and senators, congressmen, Supreme Court justices. Gentlemen, I will tell you this, if we are to be a circus, I’m certain we will be a magnificent one."
Leslie Elliott smiled. It was an apt expression. He cocked his head slightly to one side and said, "That’s well put---a good phrase, Dr. Jordan. You should write it down."
Jordan had already taken a small tablet from his vest pocket. "I am," he said.
Leslie "I’ll try to eliminate the villains, Dr. Jordan, but I’m certain we will have our share."
Dr. Jordan smiled, knowingly. "Who knows, he may be our president." He looked over at the young professor and decided to change the subject, "Dr. Richardson, any interest in the study of Ichthyology?"
"The study of fish-- being a chemistry fellow, I never really thought about it, but it might be a jolly interesting minor."
Ah, hah, the dear boy may still make it into Dr. Jordan’s good graces, Leslie thought.
The lunching doctor’s conversation was interrupted by Frank Batchelder’s hurrying over to where they were seated. "Dr. Jordan, your daughter brought a note. You’re to call the Business Office. Something about needing the Senator’s approval for your new hires."
Jordan pulled himself up. He was instantly angry. "You know what this means. I’m going to have to walk all the way back to Escondite. Why won’t they let us install telephones at the university?"
Dr. Richardson had to say it. "Too expensive, Dr. Jordan?"
With the energy it took to arise plus his anger, Dr. Jordan’s face had considerably reddened. "And I guess my time isn’t." He was also angry with Lathrop that he discussed the topic of the call with Edith, and with Batchelder who read her note and announced its contents to the world. He hastily gathered up the leavings from his lunch and with a great show of haste, strode back to the office, accompanied by Batchelder, trying to catch up with him.

Drs. Elliott and Richardson were silent for a moment, then resumed eating the remnants of their lunch and making casual conversation about Ellen’s on-going, unsuccessful attempts to find new living accommodations in Menlo.

© Jerry Franks April 2006

This is the first chapter of Jerry Franks book. If you find it interesting, please let the author know.
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