To William Cox Cochran

23 February 1867


[Autograph signed letter in the possession of Mrs. Ellen Speers, 3915 Sierra Drive, Austin, Texas 78731.]



Endorsed at the top, in the handwriting of William Cochran:

recommending "work"


Postmark: OBERLIN O FEB 23


Stamp: [Removed]


Address: William C. Cochran Esqr.


Care of Gov. Cox ) Ohio.




Oberlin 23d. Feb. 1867.

Dear Willey,

Yours of the 20th inst came duly.

We shall expect you on wednesday &

will have your room ready. They have

cleaned it & set it in order already.

If you have any old clothes in which you

can make fires in the furnace I

wish you would bring them. I am

unable, without great fatigue & danger

to tend the furnace fires. We have no

young man in the house to do this

& do not intend to keep one. I hope you

will take that upon yourself. Mr Preslar


atŸattends to the getting of wood down cellar

& to making fire in the morning. I have

come near being laid up several times

by putting in heavy sticks. If you will

pound for Miss White she will do your washing.

I must find some chores for you to do so that

young men shall not think that you &

I regard chores & labors beneath a gentleman

You are aware that such an inference

would be very injurious. On the other hand

for a young man sustaining your relations

to show himself not above work will do great

good in this community. You can do much

to honor labor & encourage poor students

or to dishonor labor & discourage them.

I have no idea that you feel above labor

[page 2]

& I want you to do something daily that

will let the students know that you do not

I dont want you to do much, but so

much as will encourage & honor labor.

You can get & harness my horse, feed

the pigs & learn to milk the cows as

my sons did. In leisure hours you can

do noticable things so that the students

will see that the Governors son is not above

taking part in the necessary labors of life.


Mr. Preslar will make the garden &

what is needful, that you can not do

better than not to do it. Tell your folks that

Uncle Charles is improving. He rides out,

& can just get his right hand to his mouth

& feed himself. His left hand is not healed

& he can not move that himself. He is very

helpless yet. His voice does not return, & he

can not speak above a whisper. He is

yet very weak & helpless but steadily

improving. Ange has wondered all along

at Charles imperturbable patience. She has

sometimes been almost alarmed at it

& said she wished he would manifest

impatience at something. I Trust the grace

of God has helped & humbled him.

The revival is truly great & wonderful. It

is all the Lords work & not mine. God bless you all

Love to all. In haste. C. G. Finney



. William Cox Cochran (1848-1936) was Finney's eldest grandchild. He was born in Finney's house, his mother (Finney's eldest daughter, Helen) having just been widowed. Named William Cochran after his father, he adopted his middle name, Cox, when he was sixteen, in honor of his step-father, Jacob Dolson Cox. His mother had remarried in 1849, while her fiancé was still a student in Oberlin College, and by the time William was old enough to attend the College himself, he had a step-sister and three step-brothers.

Cochran's step-father, Dolson Cox, was by then a prominent man. He had become a lawyer in Warren, Ohio, and after serving as a major-general in the Civil War, had been elected Governor of the State, and the family had moved to Columbus, Ohio.

Cochran lived with the Finneys while he was a student in Oberlin College from the fall of 1866 to the fall of 1869. He kept the letters which he received from Finney and they are now in the possession of his grand-daughter Mrs. Ellen Speers of Austin, Texas. None of Cochran's letters to Finney have so far come to light.

. The letter is written on both sides of a single sheet of paper.

. Leander Cole Preslar (1838-1901) was a married student in the College at the time. According to family tradition, he lived in a cottage in Finney's orchard, about where the administration building now stands. (See Clara Preslar Aldrich, Oberlin College '89 class letter, 23 March 1930, Alumni Records "Aldrich, Mrs Leander Jefferson" Box 6, Oberlin College Archives. The cottage may be the small building to the west of Finney's house on the "Bird's Eye View of the Town" drawn by Prof. Ruger in 1868).

In later years he owned a farm on the east side of the town, and was a well-known citizen. An obituary states: "He was a member of the First Church, and in spite of his many eccentricities, was regarded as a very good man" (The Tribune [Oberlin], [28 June 1901], p.{5}). (See also "Daniel B. Kinney" in The Oberlin Weekly News [1 August 1879], p.{3}; and The Oberlin News [28 June 1901], p.1.)

A solid walnut chest of drawers, which is now in the President's house at Oberlin, is said to have been given by Finney to Preslar in payment for milk and farm produce. Preslar's eldest son, born in Oberlin in 1865, was named for Charles Finney. (See "Finney furniture" in the Observer (Oberlin) Vol. 15, No. 18 (26 May 1994), p. 4; and General Catalogue of Oberlin College 1833-1908, p.786.)

. Finney probably omitted the before cellar in error.

. This word appears to be pound. This may be referring to the process during laundering, when clothes would be stirred and pounded in the boiler to get them clean.

. spelt thus.

. William Cochran wrote in his manuscript autobiography:

At the end of the Freshman year my earnings were about exhausted and in September, 1866, grandfather Finney gave me room and board at his house with the understanding that I was to do a certain amount of work in gardening, picking apples and pears, sawing and splitting wood for the kitchen stove, tending the furnace which I always supplied with fuel, assisting in cutting grass, cleaning the walks, etc., all of which I did with alacrity. I soon became aware that busy-bodies were watching me and informing President Finney of what they regarded as a failure on my part to "set a good example" for other young men to follow. I was amused when grandfather told me about these critics and said he wished me to "set a good example" by digging around the trees which were growing between the sidewalk and the traveled road on Professor and Lorain Streets. I was to break up that stiff clay which prevented rain from reaching the roots, and then dress the top with stable manure, which I wheeled to the front in a wheelbarrow. The exhibition was bound to be public enough, but to make sure I invited all my classmates, including the girls, to come on a certain day and see me "set a good example". They came by twos and threes and lingered about while I worked, and grandfather was so pleased that he threw up the windows overlooking my field of action and called out to me to do this and that, all of which had already been told me in private. Somehow or other, when that window was opened the people who were to be benefitted by my example moved on with no slow pace.

Another complaint which reached his ears was that I spent my afternoons playing ball. As a matter of fact our ball playing was all [page 107] done on the campus and we were limited to little more than an hour, except on holidays and Saturday afternoons. This ball-playing in Oberlin was the first I ever indulged in. I was actually growing tall enough to be seen by the older boys and to be allowed to join in the sport. My hands were tender and after every day's sport I had to wash them in salt water to allay the swelling and enable me to play the next day. I always knew when grandfather invited me to the study that something was about to be discussed which annoyed him. From the time I was nine years old I knew that the way to discuss matters with him was to tell the exact truth and then argue the point if I had anything to stand on. So one day in October, 1866, I was called to the study and grandfather said he heard that I was "sometimes seen on the ball ground". That was putting it mildly. I said, "Yes, grandpa, I go there every week day if it is pleasant." "Why, Willie," he said, "I thought when I gave you [naming the various jobs he had cut out for me] you would have exercise enough." "So I do, grandpa," I said. "I have exercise enough, but no fun with that." "Fun!" he said, "Fun!" in a tone almost contemptuous. Then he stopped, seemed to fall into a trance, and finally said, "Willie, I don't want to spoil your fun, but don't carry it too far." In that interval of trance he remembered how he had enjoyed fun of all sorts when he was a boy and even a grown-up man. He did not tell me about it at the time, but did so later (pp. 106-107). (The typed manuscript is in Oberlin College Archives.)

Finney's eldest son, Charles, had received a serious gunshot wound while out hunting during "a vacation from severe office labors, which had brought on ill-health." (See "Accident to C. G. Finney, Jr." in The Lorain County News (Oberlin, Ohio), November 21, 1866, p.3.) "While leaning on his gun, it discharged and the bullet went through the center of his right hand, broke the bones in his left forearm, and went through his neck. As a result he was badly crippled." (Jacob Dolson Cox Sr., Building an American Industry [Cleveland, Ohio: The Cleveland Twist Drill Co., 1951], p.45.). The details of the accident are given in an obituary:

Major Finney's life was ruined by a sad accident which came very near a fatal termination. In October 1866 ... he went on a hunting excursion to the woods near Fremont, in company with Philip V. Wright, a brother of W. W. Wright of this city. It was the custom then for deer hunters to take the Wolf river to a point on the river and game was abundant at almost any stopping place. On a cold October day, Major Finney, Mr. Wright and Mr. Ben Brickley left Brickley's hotel at Fremont and went into the woods on a hunt for deer. The parties separated and when Mr. Brickley and Mr. Wright returned to the hotel, Major Finney was missing. Then they remembered that a shot had been heard in the woods, and a general alarm was sounded. Every man who could be found was engaged to search the woods for the lost hunter, and about eight o'clock in the evening Major Finney was discovered in an unconscious condition, with the gun lying by his side. While standing with his rifle in his hands, his chin resting upon the mouth of his gun, the gun was discharged. Six different holes had been made by the murderous bullet on its way through the man's person. Both hands, one arm, the shoulder, the neck, throat and head all received a visit from the ball, which cut entirely through the neck and narrowly escaped the jugular vein.

The news of the accident reached Oshkosh late in the evening and the steam tug Oshkosh, Captain H. C. Johnson, was at once chartered to go to the relief of the sufferer. Col. H. B. Harshaw, Dr. T. P. Russell, Mrs. Finney and a dozen others hastily started on board the tug. ... Dr. A. B. Wright started for the scene on horseback, ... Everything possible was done for the sufferer, but it was more than two weeks before he could be brought home. For weeks he lay at the point of death, and it was six months before he recovered sufficiently to walk out. The wound permanently injured Major Finney's health and made him a partial invalid for life. It also affected his speech, as the vocal organs were cut by the path of the bullet.

("Maj. C. G. Finney Dead" The Northwestern [Oshkosh], 23 April 1896, cutting in Wright Family Scrapbook, Oshkosh Public Museum)

Two of Charles's flintlock hunting rifles are in the possession of a descendant. (Information from Mr. Earl Hampton, of Ventura, California, 20 December 1993).

. Charles was married to Angelina Mumford Atkinson (1836-1886), daughter of Finney's second wife. She was generally called Ange.

. The town and the college were in the midst of one of the most remarkable revivals ever known at Oberlin. A local newspaper report attributed it mainly to Finney's initiative: "... first among all human means must be counted the resistless arguments, the probing rebukes, the wonderful winning appeals of his sermons. Frequently do we hear the remark that never has his preaching been more powerful." (The Lorain County News [13 February 1867], p.3.) The culmination was a great meeting in First Church on 10 March when 108 people joined the church. See Finney, Memoirs, p.623.