The report on the Vevay, Switzerland County, Indiana Spelling School appeared in:
Vevay Reveille – 27 Mar 1875 – Page 4, Column 1
THE SPELLIN SKULE.
The war of Words—A list of the Victims—The words that Strangled Them—Tongue rolling, Jaw-twisting, Teeth jarring, Neck jerking words.
A Young Lady Wins the Prize of $5
The Spelling mania, which has been sweeping over the country, struck Vevay, Friday evening, 19th. The attack was a severe one, and it did not subside until 50 persons were afflicted, of whom only one survived. In order to calm the nerves of the timid, and prepare them for the terrible ordeal through which they were soon to pass, a number of young ladies and gentlemen made the Court House resound with excellent vocal and instrumental music. Dr. Butz then called the people to order, and requested them to permanently organize the meeting. On motion, Col. W. D. Ward was selected to act as President, and C. O. Thiebaud Vice President. On taking the Chair, Col. W. made a neat little speech appropriate to the occasion.
On motion F. M. Griffith was selected to “give out the words,” and John Dickason and Alfred Shaw to act as “Captains of sides.” 25 persons were chosen on each side. The Captains arranged their spellers in rows, and took their places at the heads of their columns. A deathly stillness pervaded the house. Some faces grew a little redder than usual, while others grew decidedly white. Sprinkled among the victims could by [sic] found self-possessed individuals, who didn’t seem to realize their danger.
The awful stillness was soon broken by the stern word of the Teacher, “spell.” Not a lip moved. Again screamed the Teacher, “spell.”—Not a word was spoken, though a shudder rand through the spellers.—“Spell!” yelled the Teacher fiercely. By this time the spellers comprehended that the Teacher was actually giving out the word to be spelled.—Capt. Dickason responded by straightening himself up and spelling the word. Then followed other words, and the show was in full blast.
J. W. Faulkner being a nice young man, and only having a taste for the beautiful, found “ugly” too much for him. He threw in a little e, which killed him as a speller for the rest of the evening. John Dickason is too practical and sensible a man to wear useless ornaments himself, or spend his time in learning anything in regard to them, consequently it was not to be presumed that he knew how to spell “plume.” He called it ploom, which “laid him on the shelf.” W. H. Wallick is a matter of fact man, not at all disposed to be gassy, so of course it was not his business to know how “vapor” was spelled. He concluded the word er, which “blowed him up.” The a which Dr. T. J. Griffith placed in “brier” was too much for him, and he responded to “step down and out.” A dose of “senna” was hurled at W. R. Johnston. He left out an n, which made his so sick he had to go down and see Dr. Griffith. Prof. P. T. Hartford was asked to spell “complacent,” but instead spelled complaisant, and retired amidst uproarious applause. Alice Ward spelled “nitrous” nitress, and consequently was permitted to select a more comfortable seat in the audience. Josie Boerner placed um on ‘dukedom,’ and went down to see Miss Ward. Mrs. Alfred Shaw glided out by putting one too many l’s in “angelic.” W. J. Baird spelled “absence,” and then because some person laughed got scared and blustered out ‘scence, which gave him a leave of absence from among the spellers. Lilley Walters did not put enough p’s in “stopple,” which excused her from spelling any longer. John Orem nearly twisted his jaws off trying to spell “javelin.” If he had placed an e in the middle he would have succeeded. Being still a school boy it is not strange that the “ferule” frightened Samuel Porter. He put one too many r’s in it. Josie Detraz placed er in “sponsor,” and then, like an evening shadow, flitted out.—Dick Archer was just one l too much of a “scholar.” Mrs. W. J. Baird evidently does not desire to vote, or she would have learned how to spell the word “suffrage,” without er. Mrs. Wm. Archer did not use enough o’s in ‘cocoa.’ Wm. Newton tried to play the character of a conjurer, sorcerer, and enchanter, by making the Teacher believe there was [sic] two z’s in “wizard.” Maggie Northcott glided out by placing an a where an o ought to be in “chancellor.” We don’t see why a word only used to express the killing of kings should be placed in a Republican spelling book, but it was, and instead of placing an i after the g in “regicide,” Mary Rous placed an o, and was granted a leave of absence. If Willie Bonner had been a lawyer he would have known “mittimus” could not be spelled with one t.—Alfred Shaw nearly knocked front teeth out trying to spell “concatenate.” The i which placed in it spoiled it. Mary Northcott placed an a after the d in “academy.” Fannie Hedden sailed through “diameter” nicely until she placed an n after the m. Kittie Dickason spelled “Evangeline” correctly, but noticing a g on the countenance of an opponent, substituted an a for the e after the g.—Charlie Caln wrestled awhile with “grasible” [sic]. He added an r, which tripped him. Olive Northcott, instead of being invited to spell a short sword, was asked to spell “scimiter” [sic]. The y which she placed in it, cut her out. Kate Ward wanted to substitute n for o in “idiom,” but it would not fit.—Mrs. F. M. Griffith perhaps thought of danger after the Teacher gave out “eminent,” and in order to make sure of the word put in two m’s. It would not stand but one. Though a good speller, Mary Torrance surrendered to “machination.” Fannie Northcott concluded “femoral” with an e, which concluded her spelling for the evening. Nannie Kessler twisted in one too many p’s in “apropos.” Mrs. R. D. Black had the horrid black work “coalery” thrown at her. She met it with an i after the l, which knocked the word to pieces. Estella Griffith had a yard word, “legerdemain,” given to her. She placed a d after the first e, then joined her school companions in the audience. Mary Lathan left the e out of “bombazine,” which spoiled that piece of goods. Anna Whallon murdered the peaceful word “civilian,” by placing in one too many l’s. The word “embarrassment” frustrated Geo. P. Anderson so much that he forgot to put in enough r’s, and as a consequence had to travel. Prof. Garmon, of Patriot, was sacrificed on the word “indictable.” Ida Stagg found “inflammable” too hot a word. If she had only placed in another m it would not have burned her tongue. Eli T. Ogle rolled his tongue around once too often, turning out one too many l’s in “indelible.” Cora Shaw placed a c where the q belongs in “equitable,” and then surrendered. Addison Works nearly jerked his head off in endeavoring to spell “supersede.” An s where he placed a c would have saved him. Irvin Armstrong hung on like a bear half way up a slick beech tree, and it did seem as though he never would let go, but he placed an e where an a belongs in “exhilarate,” which knocked the breath out of him, and he rolled down among the slain. He was the last person on Shaw’s side. Mrs. Lockwood might have yet been spelling if she had not placed er in “omnivorous.” Rev. Thos. Whallon fell a victim to “apostasy.” The c which he placed in the word spoiled it, and him. Freddie Boerner passed through a great deal of danger, as a speller, but when again placed in “jeopardy” surrendered. She left the o out. The contest was now narrowed down to two sisters, Mrs. J. D. Harwood and Miss Lizzie Shaw, who belonged to Mr. Dickason’s class. It was a very lively family fight, and lasted for several minutes. Finally Mrs. Harwood was given “supercilious.” She tried to take it with two l’s but it would not answer; and she left her smaller sister along in her glory. Round after round of applause went up from the audience, none cheered more lustily than the defeated contestants. The Chairman of the meeting, Col. Ward, presented to Miss Shaw the prize of $5, offered by the Good Templars for the best speller. She returned thanks for the honor conferred, and donated the amount to the Lodge. Another song was then sung, (Miss Freddie Boerner presiding at the organ), and the audience dispersed, evidently well pleased with the manner in which the evening had been spent.