"Well here I am at last feeling as well as ever after the trip." With this Irving Chapin Bartlett opens the first of a series of letters written between 1858 and 1863 from Centre College to various members of his family. He writes of the rivalry between literary societies, boarding at the home of President Lewis Warner Green, the town of Danville, growing antagonisms between Unionists and Secessionists, classes, money problems, and student activities. Although small in number - there are only 25 letters - his correspondence provides a fascinating glimpse into student life at Centre just before the Civil War.
Irving Chapin Bartlett was born on December 19, 1842, in Clarksburg, Virginia (now West Virginia), the son of Phipps Waldo and Emily Byrd Chapin Bartlett. In 1844 the family moved to Kentucky where young Bartlett received his education, attending schools in Flemingsburg and Covington.
Bartlett entered Centre College in the fall of 1858. During his years as a student, Bartlett lived the life of a fairly typical student. He joined the Chamberlain Literary Society, and during his senior year served as censor for the society. Since Centre did not have a dormitory, students boarded in private homes in town. Bartlett had the unusual distinction of boarding for a while at the home of the college president, Dr. Lewis Warner Green. Bartlett completed the full classical course, and graduated with a B.A. degree in 1861.
Upon graduating, Bartlett joined the Confederate Army, and served under John Hunt Morgan. He was wounded in 1863 during the engagement at Edgefield, Tennessee, the wound being serious enough for Bartlett to be discharged. By this time Bartlett has risen to the rank of lieutenant. His obituary referred to him as Colonel, but time and Kentucky's fondness for the title probably account for the higher rank.
Bartlett moved to Louisville and took a position with the Second National Bank. After several years he left to become a partner in the wholesale whiskey firm of John Callahan & Company. The choice of the whiskey business is ironic in the light of his letter home from Centre talking about a meeting of students to boycott stores selling liquor. Later, Bartlett moved to an office with Bartley, Johnson & Company, another whiskey firm.
On December 19, 1884, Bartlett married Ella Glazebrook, the daughter of a prominent Louisville businessman, Austin Glazebrook. The couple had one son, Austin Glazebrook Bartlett.
Bartlett was active in social and fraternal organizations, particularly the Masons, becoming a 33 Mason. He also served for a time as Eminent Commander of the Louisville Commandery of the Knights Templar.
During a trip to French Lick, Bartlett took ill. He died there of heart failure on July 10, 1893. He was buried in Cave Hill Cemetary, Louisville.
- Undated [probably December 3, 1860, to Mother]
Bartlett brags on his marks in one of his classes, second best on this day
- October 31, 1858 [To: Parents]
Recounts the trip to Danville and describes the town
- November 7, 1858 [To: Parents]
Describes life at President Lewis W. Green's house, where he is boarding, and announces he is joining the Chamberlain Literary Society
- November 18, 1858 [To: Mother]
Talks of the cost of boarding
- December 6, 1858 [To: Uncle]
Describes his initiation into the Chamberlain Literary Society
- December 12, 1858 [To: Father]
Recounts society activities and the rivalry with the Deinologian Literary Society
- January 3, 1859 [To: Father]
Thanks for food sent from home and talks about school starting after Christmas break
- January 23, 1859 [To: Aunt]
A chatty letter asking for one in return and brief descriptions of activities at Centre
- January 26, 1859 [To: Mother]
Admits a touch of homesickness; he would like to be at home, but school is more attractive to the mind
- February 20, 1859 [To: Aunt]
A student is expelled for being intoxicated in Lexington
- February 27, 1859 [To: Father]
Recounts a fight between two students and the February 22 celebration activities
- June 3, 1859 [To: Father]
Discusses his classes and readings
- June 8, 1859 [To: Mother]
Taking a study break to look forward to the end of school and summer break
- September 18, 1859 [To: Mother]
Recounts the activities of the L.W. Green family, including the visit of a relative
- October 11, 1859 [To: Father]
Describes a hunting trip taken with friends
- October 16, 1859 [To: Father]
Another hunting trip and an account of money spent
- January 19, 1860 [To: Mother]
Describes a meeting of students to organize a boycott of stores selling liquor
- April 30, 1860 [To: Father]
Recounts reasons for moving to a different boarding house
- October 22, 1860 [To: Mother]
Asks about the letter Dr. L. W. Green sent to his parents, and recounts the disagreement between Green and Dr. Breckinridge over the science department
- November 2, 1860 [To: Uncle]
Describes a political meeting of the students, which was broken up by the faculty
- December 2, 1860 [To: Mother]
A chatty letter to bring the family up to date on campus activities
- February 7, 1861 [To: Father]
Describes the disagreements between Unionists and Secessionists in Danville
- February 24, 1861 [To: Father]
The problem of Unionists vs. Secessionists on campus, particularly the question of whether the Star Spangled Banner would be enjoyed by the campus as a whole
- March 31, 1861 [To: Father]
Describes his hopes and plans; would like to go South and teach, then go to law school
- June 28, 1863 [To: Uncle]
Fond letter to an "enemy of the cause" from his "rebel nephew"; writes of his wound and events at home