The “Terrible Trough”

Most Dartmouth students are familiar with the Senior Fence located at the south-west corner of the Green.  Back in its heyday, it served as a site for members of the senior class to congregate, carve their graduation canes, and generally make the most of their fleeting status on campus. 

Seniors carving canes on their eponymous Fence

Of course, the inherent nature of a “Senior” fence implies that students in other years did not congregate there; indeed, it was expressly forbidden. 

Enter the “Terrible Trough,” the fate of any Freshman, Sophomore, or even Junior who was spotted leaning against the privileged railing.  Quite simply, the offender was dragged to a nearby watering trough (intended for livestock), and summarily dunked in. 

The “Terrible Trough” in its original location

 Apparently the Trough was a potent deterrent, as the Fence has stood in one form or another since the 1830s, and indeed a portion of it is preserved today.  The fate of the Trough itself, however, seems to have taken a different arc; in 1961, it was removed from the Green.  While this change may account for the diminished status of the Fence, one is still left with the question of what exactly became of the “Terrible Trough.”

It turns out that the Trough has been with us all along, albeit in entirely different employ.  The “Terrible Trough” currently rests in front of another relic of Old Dartmouth: the Webster Cottage.

The “Terrible Trough,” now a planter by Webster Cottage

The meticulous work of the team at Dartmo., an architecture-oriented Dartmouth blog, made it possible to track down the Trough, which seems to be in decent shape-given its age.  There is an iron brace gripping the Trough, which was originally hewn from a single block of granite; it looks like there is a crack running across one side.

The “Terrible Trough” shows its age

It’s a bit painful to see such an iconic remnant of Dartmouth’s past so unceremoniously put out to pasture.  The restoration of the Senior Fence and the penalty for transgressors may be unlikely, but at the very least there ought to be some sort of plaque preserving this artifact’s identity.

All of this leads one to wonder how many other relics and remnants of the College’s storied history and traditions lie hidden in plain sight, waiting to be discovered.

–Sam A. Ticker