I'm reviewing and re-describing our records from First Church in Cambridge. A lion's share of the records we have are from Alexander McKenzie, who was minister there from 1867 to 1914, the year he died. McKenzie left records from his student years in this collection, including his 1855 yearbook from Phillips Academy. Each young man had his own page in the yearbook, buffered by blank pages between each portrait to allow for autographs and tributes. The publishers did not include anyone's name along with the photograph, however McKenzie's annotations help fill in some blanks. While he did not label each student by name, he frequently listed tidbits about scholastic focus and later added further education and professional developments and finally included an alphabetic index of the whole class at the end of the book.
While I was investigating, I discovered the note his roommate wrote, which is so sweet and loving. It illustrates how dramatically societal norms have shifted over the last 158 years. We do not see many written contemporary examples of deep feelings shared between men. Cyrus Osborne's graduation farewell to Alexander McKenzie is heartfelt:
My Dear Chum,
I hardly know how to express my feelings as we part today. For one year we have been connected as roommates. This intimate relation which has proved to me so pleasant and profitable is now to cease. I assume you this day brings no thought more sad than that I must leave you. I shall always feel grateful for the influence you have exerted over me. Your kindness and forbearance with my faults I shall never forget. Though we are no longer roommates, no longer shall together delve in classic love, no longer bow together at the throne of grace; yet often shall I in imagination return to this spot, endeared by so many sacred recollections; and surely have memories [that] will always be pleasant.
I am most truly yours
Cyrus P. Osborne
Neither gentleman's obituary marks when they began their time at Phillips Academy, however at graduation, they were 21 (Osborne) and 25 (McKenzie). At the end of their formative education, with their higher education and eventual calling all still in the hazy future, waxing poetic and sentimental is unsurprising. What these friends did not realize was that they would have a further six years in each other's company; they both graduated from Harvard and then Andover Theological Seminary before they would separate and settle as ordained ministers. Even then, both men eventually gravitated into each other's company through their work with the Boston Seaman's Friend Society towards the end of their lives.
It was an honor to witness this deep connection between friends; I hope it truly did last their entire lives.