Ever wonder what life at Southwestern University was like in the early 1900s? I know you have – we all have. Now there’s an entire book about it. History buffs and curious students are bound to get a kick out of “The Tie That Binds,” a compilation of more than 500 letters written to one Southwestern University alum between 1901-1908.
Louise Walsh, the woman behind the book, started the project several years ago as a gift for her mother. “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 [to my grandmother],” Walsh said. These letters recorded the correspondence between her grandmother and her college friends and family. “I decided to put them all on my computer.” The project matured from there. She poured over the newly-discovered letters for months, contacting family members along the way for supplemental information. As the project grew larger in scope, Walsh began to realize that it wasn’t only her family that could benefit from the historical nugget of gold she held in her possession. The book that started out for members of her family as a way of cataloging their history in Georgetown quickly blossomed into a bona fide publication. “I realized this isn’t just about us,” Walsh said. “It’s about Southwestern and Georgetown.”
Walsh’s grandmother, Early Price, was the youngest daughter of a prominent family from Georgetown. Early’s grandfather, Frank L. Price, contributed to the naming of Southwestern University. He selected the site for a Methodist college in the area, which eventually blossomed into the private liberal arts university we attend. The Prices’ influence is still felt in the area, and their family history is inextricably connected to ours. Most of her family is even buried in the cemetery behind the university.
“For all the ubiquity of e-mails,” Southwestern University Historian William B. Jones said, “they do not compare with the letters of the past. 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.” It is this lost art of letter-writing that makes Walsh’s compilation so invaluable.
The compilation includes not only letters, but photographs, vintage postcards, newspaper and magazine clippings, greeting cards, invitations, letterhead, telegrams and announcements. The title of the book, “The Tie That Binds,” was taken from a hymn, “Blest Be the Tie That Binds,” which was sung at the first Homecoming here at Southwestern University in 1909. “That song fondly described Early’s close association with the school and its influence in her life,” Walsh said. It’s all too apropos to pass up. “I congratulate Mrs. Walsh on presenting and preserving this exciting body of work,” Jones said.
Walsh will be available during Homecoming this year, as well as featured in a program on Nov. 7 at 9:30 a.m. at Grace Heritage Center, on 811 S. Main St. Copies of her novel will be available for sale during this time. If you already have your copy, she will be doing a signing on Friday, Nov. 6, at the Williamson Museum.