382 History of Wake Forest College
Amid so many embarrassments, the coldness of friends, debt, lack
of patronage, sectional dissatisfaction with the professors, Wait
struggled heroically to save the College. His labors and travels as
agent which already have been discussed were successful only to the
extent that enough was realized to pay the expenses of the work and
the interest on the loans. But they carried him into unhealthy sections
of the State, where he contracted diseases that kept him to his bed for
months on end and interferred with his work at the most promising
Yet for many months and years he pressed right on. We have
seen how great was his joy when, in 1841, he was able to announce to
the students, that a loan had been obtained from the Literary Fund and
the College saved. Serving with him was a heroic Board of Trustees,
some of whom signed all bonds, and refused to be dissuaded from
their great enterprise.
And yet the course of the College was attended with difficulties that
would have dispirited less resolute men. One of the most serious of
these was the decline in patronage, with the total enrollment falling
from 87 in 1839-40 to 85, 84, 63, 54 in the following years, while the
enrollment for any semester was never more than 65 and fell to 41 in
the fall term of 1841-42. In 1843, as we shall see, the Societies were
debating whether the College would suspend, and the report actually
got abroad that it has suspended. This rumor a writer over the
signature of "Peter," in the Biblical Recorder of October 30, 1843,
took pains to deny, putting as fair a face on the matter as
The small enrollment was the more discouraging since only so few
were students of collegiate grade. In each of the graduating classes of
1841, 1843, and 1846 there were only two, while there were no
graduates at the Commencements of 1842, 1844, and 1845.
Ibid., January 24, 1846, letter of White.
"What, W. F. College suspend? We may suppose from the absence of some of
the Trustees, that they indulge in long naps, but I have no idea that in all their sweet
slumbers they ever dreamed of suspending operations. The Watchword of the
Trustees is Onward, Onward, and if the Baptists of the State who are patronizing
other colleges, will but patronize their own, all will soon see that this watchword is
a correct one."
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