Friday, April 15, 2011
Stories of William Larned Thacher
William Larned Thacher was my great grandfather, his daughter Edith Thacher was my paternal grandmother. Here are some facts about him from the biography of his brother, Sherman Thacher and His School, by Leroy McKim Makepeace, 1941. The photo is also from the book.
Page 45: "The childless widow of Professor William Larned, one of Professor [Thomas Anthony] Thacher's closest friends at Yale, had offered to give $5,000 and her husband's collection of books to a baby son of the Thachers if her were named for her husband. The offer was made at the time of Sherman's birth, but that the first son should bear any name but Sherman was unthinkable. On the arrival of a second son, Mrs. Larned repeated her offer, and this time it was accepted."
Page 99: "Following graduation from Yale College, William had spent one year at the Yale Medical School, then transferred to Union Theological Seminary, where was graduated in 1891 with honors. For three years he worked at the Y.M.C.A. in New York City. In the Autumn of 1894 he was called to fill the pulpit of the Presbyterian Church in the little oil town of Bradford, Pennsylvania. Unable to subscribe conscientiously to some of the tenets required, he was never ordained but did receive a license to preach after a rigorous examination.... But he was not happy in Bradford, and resigned after less than seven months. He went to Ojai to pay his mother and two brothers a second visit which was to last more than forty-five years.... So well did he fit into the life and work of the place that Mr. Thacher invited him to remain as Associate Headmaster. He accepted, sent for his belongings, and prepared to join the faculty in the fall."
Page 118: "Interest in tennis was negligible until the arrival of Mr. William Thacher, but his enthusiasm and skill soon made it the most popular game at the school and in the valley. He had been champion of Yale, runner-up in the national Intercollegiate singles, and doubles champion. Not only was he a first-rate player himself, but he enjoyed teaching everyone else. New courts were built at the school, a tennis club was established in the village, tournaments were organized, and matches arranged between the valley and the school and with teams from other towns. Mr. William Thacher, however, was so much better than the next best that the visiting teams would inquire whether they were to play Ojai with, or without, Thacher. For the same reason he was often barred from local tournaments, and the result when he did compete may be imagined from this description by a local wit:
And over the heap raged a Form in white duck
Like a Berserker wild; till a voice from the ruck
Wailed, "Terrible Thacher is running amuck!"
And panic was wedded to frenzy.
Oh, the shake of the earth and the terrible sight
When Forster and Hubby rushed into the fight,
And over the stricken there danced in delight
The form of the Terrible Thacher.
The Ojai Valley became famous for its annual tournament.... More than anyone else, Mr. William Thacher was responsible for the original impetus and for carrying it successfully, serving as president of the club from 1895 to 1928.... But the tournament was also a social occasion.... Mr. William Thacher, with the social grace which he had demonstrated as a committeeman for the Yale Junior Promenade, contributed largely to making visitors welcome. He always met strangers with ease, an ability which his elder brother envied."