In her introductory archaeology course with Prof. Aubrey Baadsgaard, English major Erica Haas ’16 was asked to trace the past of a historic campus landmark. She shared her discoveries with Gettysburg magazine.
Gettysburg: What made you curious about the Tiber?
Haas: It is often unnoticed and as I began to study the campus, I found that the twisting creek that runs mostly underground throughout the town of Gettysburg and through the south of campus is called Stevens Run Creek on the official campus map. I had never heard of anyone calling the stream anything but the Tiber, and I wanted to know why.
Gettysburg: Where did you begin?
Haas: In Musselman Library’s Special Collections and College Archives. I wanted to find out how far back the reference went. The archivist suggested using the Pennsylvania College Monthly, the precursor to this alumni magazine. I chose the oldest volume they had, and immediately found a reference to the creek, dated May 1877: “The classic Tiber has ceased it[s] turbulence.”
Gettysburg: Had you found the first reference?
Haas: I turned to looking at College histories and found The Pennsylvania College Book 1832–1882, edited by Gettysburg College’s own Edward Swoyer Breidenbaugh 1868. He published accounts of students’ memories from their years here. The class of 1852 credited themselves with the creation of the now tantamount nickname, the Tiber.
Gettysburg: So how did we get from Stevens Run to a river in Rome? It seems the College had a very friendly janitor, Mr. Peter Aughinbaugh, whom the class of 1852 decided to prank by taking his prized calf. Sadly, they accidentally drowned it in the river. The students were remorseful and paid for the calf. One student, a Mr. [Henry] Spang, wrote a poem that referenced the creek as the Tiber, after the famous river in Italy where the legendary king Tiberinus is said to have drowned.
Gettysburg: It is amazing that the name— nickname, really—has continued by word of mouth.
Haas: I have to admit, the story itself was a little bleak. It was alarming to learn a prank gone wrong is what secured the name, the Tiber, but it was also exciting to learn that we have been keeping a convention from 1852 alive.
Haas, from Mahwah, New Jersey, planned to pursue a career in publishing after attending the Summer Publishing Institute at New York University.
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Posted: Fri, 9 Sep 2016
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