The Tie That Binds
As Southwestern University prepares to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its first homecoming in 1909, a new book offers a glimpse into what life was like for students who attended the university at that time.
The Ties That Bind: A Georgetown Texas Memoir 1904-1909 is based on more than 500 letters to Early Price, who attended Southwestern from 1901 to 1908, both as a student in the Fitting School and as a music student at the University.
Price was the youngest daughter of a large, socially prominent family whose ancestors had arrived in Georgetown in the 1870s. Early’s uncle, Captain Frank L. Price, was one of the men who helped get Georgetown selected as the site for the central Methodist college that was eventually named Southwestern University. Her father, Richard Price, was a founding attorney in the law firm of Makemson, Fisher & Price.
The Price family home still stands on 10th Street across from a house that used to be owned by Early’s aunt and served as a boarding house for young men who attended Southwestern. Many members of the Price family are buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery behind Southwestern.
Louise Walsh, a granddaughter of Early Price, started the book project two years ago as a gift to her mother, Early Fleming Cook.
“When my aunt, Louie Fleming Snow, died 12 years ago, I had to clean out her house and found a box containing all the letters,” Walsh said. “I decided to put them all on the computer.”
Walsh spent months reading all the letters. She e-mailed family members who sent her material to go with them.
Although the book was originally just designed for her family, Walsh realized that she had something much more significant on her hands.
“I realized this isn’t just about us, it is about Southwestern and Georgetown,” Walsh said.
After her mother died last fall, Walsh found additional material that needed to be incorporated into the book.
The result is a 283-page book that brings the letters to life with period photographs, vintage postcards, newspaper and magazine clippings, greeting cards, invitations, letterhead, telegrams, announcements and Victorian ornamentation. Some 130 early Georgetown families are mentioned in the book.
Walsh took the title for the book from the hymn “Blest Be the Tie That Binds,” which was sung at Southwestern’s first Homecoming in 1909. “That song fondly described Early’s close association with the school and its influence in her life,” Walsh said. Southwestern’s first homecoming in 1909 is among the events documented in the book through letters, photographs and articles.
Many of the letters in the book were written to Early Price by Morris Fleming, a fellow Southwestern student who boarded across the street from the Price house. Several other young men also courted Price until she finally decided to marry Fleming in 1909. The couple moved to Talpa, Texas, where he worked as a cashier in a bank, and then later to Paris, Texas.
“Early put off marrying many times because she didn’t want to leave Georgetown,” Walsh said.
The book also includes letters written to Early by her sister (who lived in Chihuahua, Mexico), her four brothers, aunts and grandmother as well as from other Georgetown residents and former Southwestern students.
Southwestern University Historian William B. Jones noted that letters such as those contained in Walsh’s book enable readers to “feel as if they know persons from long ago better than their own contemporaries.”
“For all the ubiquity of e-mails, they do not compare with the letters of the past,” Jones said. “Letters were written with the knowledge that the contents were, in a sense, committed thoughts, authentic expressions of our mental processes. They might even be classified as mini-essays; they were literature. I congratulate Mrs. Walsh on presenting and preserving this exciting body of work.”
Walsh will discuss her book at a Nov. 7 program that is part of Southwestern’s 2009 Homecoming festivities. The program will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Grace Heritage Center, 811 S. Main St. Copies of the book will be available for sale at the program.
Walsh also will sign copies of her book at the Williamson Museum on Friday, Nov. 6.