BREWER DeMOTTE, CLASS OF 1874
November 10, 1817 - September 1, 1907
an early age John's mother died, and he was cared for by an aunt. His
father married Phoebe Foster, an educated woman from New York, and
had seven children. The new
Mrs. DeMotte possessed a natural gift for teaching and took great pride
in looking after John’s education. He never knew any other teacher
until he entered Asbury University.
brothers and sisters who joined his home acquainted him with
family cares at an early age, and through his inventive genius he made
mechanical devices that would rock the cradle, churn the butter, and
lighten almost every task. He was a rival of "Tom Sawyer" in
enlisting the help of the other boys.
John was a great hand to entertain the children with story telling, and
the older he grew the more exciting the tales became. One evening he was
left at home to care for two little sisters. As they were the sole
occupants of the house he decided to give a performance. The little
girls remained in the big front room while he improvised a curtain over
the doorway and disappeared. After what seemed a great while to the
spectators the curtain fell, and amidst great clatter and hullabaloo
Mephistopheles, in wonderful attire, illumined by a brilliant calcium
light, performed to the great satisfaction of the audience.
1863 the stories of our country’s need for brave men to defend our
homes thrilled his whole being, and after several attempts, he was
finally enrolled as a private of Company E, in the 118th Indiana
Volunteers, August 19, 1863. He was fifteen, tall and exceedingly
slender; too young and too frail, it would seem, to endure the hardships
But he wore the man’s uniform, too big almost by half, and carried the
heavy gun, a burden even for a strong man, until his regiment was
mustered out March 1, 1864. He never missed a march and the only wound
he received was the one inflicted by a fellow comrade. The regiment was
on a long march, the gun heavy, the boy tired and exhausted, and
occasionally his gun would strike the weary soldier, and he retaliated
with a thrust of the bayonet, and the scars ever remained as a reminder
of that hard march.
was detailed to cook for the captain a short time, and learned to toss
the "flapjack" and catch it with great dexterity. When DeMotte
returned from the war he opened a telegraph office, and the first
dispatch he received was the announcement of the assassination of
President Lincoln. He did not follow this business long, but came to
Asbury University for one year. He taught a country school, and he
served as clerk in a fine jewelry store. In 1870 he was elected
principal of the Jenks School in Lafayette. His success made him a
favorite, but he wanted to complete his education. He resigned, returned
to Greencastle and entered Indiana Asbury University.
at once was a leader among the students. He made his expenses by
tutoring, corresponding for the Indianapolis Journal and clerking in a
store on Saturdays. The Platonian Literary Society gave him an excellent
opportunity for concentration of mind, or it would have been impossible
for him to carry the college work with his other duties. One June he
decided to change his college course, and during the three months´
vacation he mastered two years of Greek. He graduated from Indiana
Asbury University in 1874.
two years he had been tutoring preparatory students, and his ability as
a teacher was recognized. He
was elected to take charge of Asbury’s preparatory classes, and in
1874 he organized the preparatory department and called a Psi Phi Deke
pledge brother, Dr. Philip S. Baker, and Dr. T.J. Bassett to assist in
the work. He was elected to deliver the master’s oration, when he
received the Master of Arts degree pro merito. For ten years he was
principal of the preparatory school; he was made adjunct professor of
mathematics, and in 1882 Professor DeMotte was elected chair of physics
in the university.
DeMotte was a member of the commission that made the arrangements for
the great electrical exhibition held in Philadelphia in 1884. This
display was a great inspiration to study, and he entered upon his work
with renewed energy and zeal, and was justly proud of the apparatus that
he brought home with him. Dr. Demotte’s work was along experimental
lines. It was so easy for him to make the truths of nature simple and
easy to understand by his experiments and illustrations. His classes
were large and enthusiastic. Across the wall of his recitation room were
the words: "The Laws of Nature are the Laws of God."
1887 Professor DeMotte received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy from
DePauw, and a few years later Doctor of Medicine from the Iowa Central
College of Physicians and Surgeons. He was a life member of the Franklin
Institute of Philadelphia, and greatly interested in its research work.
In Laboratories, hospitals, medical schools, state institutions for the
deaf and dumb and blind, the feeble-minded and the insane he pursued his
study, and at various times he went abroad to engage in original
research in leading laboratories.
resigned from DePauw in 1891 and joined the Slayton Lyceum Bureau where
he gave over 3,000 lecture engagements in the United States and Europe
over the next 25 years, speaking on such topics as "Electricity,
its nature and possibilities" and "The Princes of the Realm of
later years of his life were given to the study of psycho-physics, and
it grew to be almost a passion with him, he was so eager to push the
known laws further into the realm of the unknown. He was one of the
first to successfully photograph sound waves. For years he carried in
his suitcase some recent publication along this line of study.
Thompson’s Brain and Personality was his last study. A German book and
a history of music, or biography of some of the great musicians, and
"Elements of Psychology" by Thorndyke, were taken from his
case on his last return.
Dr. DeMotte composed and arranged the music for Shelley’s matchless
poem, "The Cloud." It was presented at one of the many
concerts given under his direction by a chorus of fifty boys and fifty
girls, accompanied by the faithful Mozart Club of forty instruments. The
"antiphonal" by the children "We bring fresh
flowers," was especially enjoyed by the large audience present.
Dr. DeMotte was a man of many abilities, horticulture being one of his
strengths, and he took many prizes on his fruit at the Indiana State
Fair. He was correspondent for years to the Country Gentleman magazine,
also several agricultural papers. He was an enthusiastic lover of
livestock, and was an authority on some of the fine strains, but his
favorite was a herd of Scotch Shorthorns.
For many years of his life he was a teacher. For twenty years he was a
professor of mathematics and physics at Asbury and DePauw Universities.
He had the benefit of post-graduate work in European schools. He won
many degrees and honors. His teaching life made him all the stronger for
his later work of the lyceum. He
died in Greencastle, Indiana September 1, 1907.