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Word of a Rhodes Scholarship and a Letter Home

Below is a piece previously shared only with family members. It’s part of a long series on the experiences of Charles Mahaffie as a Rhodes Scholar in 1906-8

Charles D. Mahaffie, Sr. was awarded a Rhodes scholarship in early 1905. Rhodes Scholarships were funded by a bequest from Cecil Rhodes, and Englishman who made a fortune in diamond mining. They enabled students to attend the colleges of Oxford University.

Charles was a brilliant, accomplished 21-year-old from a prominent farm family living outside Hobart Oklahoma. He was finishing his studies at Kingfisher College, Kingfisher, Oklahoma, where technically a junior, he was completing his degree early. He graduated on the last day of May in 1905.

At Kingfisher he had studied, among other things, Zoology, German, Trigonometry, and Public Speaking. In Latin, he completed full courses on two treatises by Cicero. And he’d been a fixture on the Kingfisher sports teams.

1905 was the second year that the Rhodes bequest scholarships became available to Americans. One young man from each U.S. state was awarded a scholarship each year, along with scholars from throughout the British Commonwealth.

Here’s the telegram Charles got, telling him he’d passed:

In early March, on receiving the news, Charles wrote his family the letter below.


Kingfisher 3/3/05

Dear Home Folks:

I just got a telegram from Boyd that I passed in that exam alright. Prexy [President D. R. Boyd of Kingfisher College] is still having fits. I’m feeling pretty good myself you bet. Feel like celebrating. Don’t know but I’ll get drunk. I’ve got away from shaking hands and being tossed and am locked in my happy home to write a little.

I’ve got to have a certificate of birth right away to take to Norman [Oklahoma] and present with myself when the committee meets. I suppose I’ll have to go to Norman again, at least I have to go wherever they meet to be inspected.

About that birth certif. Can you get it from the County Clerk or Coroner or whoever keeps the record of Johnson County? Or the Doctor? I don’t know much about it except that it says there must be one.

I’m about out of money and am going to require a good deal this spring, ‘cause the last year [at Kingfisher College] is a lot more expensive than other years and then of course this [Rhodes] scholarship business will add somewhat to what I’ll be out. Now I reckon it’s about time for Papa to quit just giving me money and the best thing for me to do is to borrow about $50.

I guess I could get it here but if Papa is not too much afraid of the security—that’s a joke—has it to spare I mean, I’d rather get it from home.

Of course I don’t know yet how much I’m going to need but have got to have a new outfit of clothes before long and then by the time I pay my debts and take a trip to Norman there will be quite a hole in 50.

I’m feeling most too good to sit still and just write so will close with lots of love to all from your son and brother,

Charlie M.

P.S. Just happened to think maybe you won’t get this till Monday but hope you do anyhow.

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