AGE AND YOUTH
On September 17, 1885, every carriage, trap and buggy in Oxford
was at the village depot to meet the morning train, and some
hundreds of visitors had a free ride through a festive town. Flags
and banners lined High Street, shop fronts were bright with autumn
flowers, Chinese lanterns swayed in the autumn breeze. At the
slant-walk corner of the campus, above a new cattle-guard, hung a
sign of welcome. After twelve years the doors of Miami University
That evening, after a picnic supper on the new-mown grounds, the college bell rang from the roof of the Main Building and the clangor of church bells came across the town. With a din of horns, tin pans and fire-crackers, a procession of visitors, villagers, alumni and new students moved across the campus and up High Street. In the public square, by a bonfire's leaping light, they heard speeches from the trustees and the new president, Robert White McFarland.
That evening the future of Miami looked as bright as the bonfire. The college debts were paid and $50,000 had been accumulated as a permanent endowment; railroad-builder Calvin Brice of the class of 1863 had underwritten two professorships; and the State of Ohio had appropriated $26,000 for current expenses and the repair of the university buildings. Except for the previous payment of a few tuition fees for Civil War veterans the first G.I. bill--this was the first state support for Miami. It was the beginning of an annual appropriation that would grow from $2,250 in 1886 to more than ten and a half millions eighty-two years later for the fiscal year 1968-69.
The last speaker in the ruddy light was Professor Bishop, who had stood by during the darkened years now ending. He had been back in the classroom since September, 1884, when he organized a freshman class in preparation for the reopening of Miami. To the twelve freshmen of that year, reciting their lessons in a room of North Hall--Trufant and Marsh were using the Main Building--Old Bobby was the entire faculty. His beard was a bit longer and more grizzled, his tall frame was more stooped, but his eyes still looked up, shrewd and stern and kindly, from the text, and his voice still rumbled: "Parse it, young gentlemen, parse it." Now, at the full reopening of the college, he had some hopeful things to say of the future.
When the speeches were over and the bonfire sank, the crowd roamed the streets, singing, shouting and blowing horns, and again the village bells rang out. For a while, at least, there was a happy harmony of town and gown, trustees and faculty, alumni and new students.
In that crowd were just forty students, half of them from the preparatory department. New Miami was a new beginning and a small one. But when the town fell silent and the students crossed the dreaming campus, with leaves rustling underfoot and the college tower lifting in the starlight, Miami was something venerable and exalted. The autumn darkness had a sense of all the generations of young men who had reveled and aspired there before them.
For these forty students the trustees had assembled a small strong faculty. President McFarland had returned to Miami from Ohio State, where he was professor of mathematics, astronomy and civil engineering. Dr. Hepburn had come back, from the presidency of Davidson College, to resume his teaching of English language and literature. Professor Oliver Holben had come from Paris where he had been director of an international academic association. Professor Joseph Francis James had left the curatorship of the Cincinnati Society of Natural History to open a new department of botany and geology. Professor Henry Snyder had come from Ohio State to teach physics and chemistry. Professor Bishop handled the Latin and President McFarland the mathematics. These men had a small student load--three or four boys to a recitation--but an extended schedule of classes. They staffed a curriculum including both the classical and scientific departments of study.
It would have been a problem, that first year, to conduct any larger classes. As McFarland said: "There was the $20,000 [the State's grant for the repair of buildings] and that meant dust, lime, mortar, sticks, chips, mud, bats, bricks, beams, boards, teams, oils, paints, glass, gravel, picks, shovels, iron, slate, men, boys, animals, all at once. . . . Every room in the [Main] building was torn up, and we were driven out and kept out four months." But it was a happy confusion, promising comfort and convenience to come, and spirit was high. Classes met in the old dorms, and even there they recited against the clatter of hammers and saws. A chemistry laboratory was being formed out of two rooms of the North Hall. President McFarland stressed the importance of the burgeoning sciences.
To Oxford when the college was newly opened came Henry Howe, tireless traveler and historian, then revising his Historical Collections of Ohio. McFarland took him up to the roof of the Main Building and pointed out the landmarks. In his new edition Howe described "a magnificent panoramic view of a rich country undulating in all directions with cultivated and grassy fields interspersed with woodlands." He also referred to the financial struggles of Miami: "Its starving treasury receives occasional pittances from the state. The university was opened in 1885 after a lapse of twelve years, and whether it will once again regain the position it once held among Ohio colleges is a question not easily answered."
To bridge the gap between Old and New Miami, the editors of the monthly Miami Journal proposed "to make our paper a medium of communication between the past generations of students and the present generation," and it welcomed echoes from the past. For several years the Journal sought contributions from alumni, who recalled the loyalties, rivalries and aspirations of the pre-war college. Sketches of eminent graduates were featured in the magazine, along with the biographies of early faculty members. So the struggling New Miami recalled the luster of the University which had been "foremost in the West."
After the noisy first year came an academic quiet, and a growing academic struggle. President McFarland was a vigorous, weathered man with coarse gray hair, shaved cheeks, and heavy mustache and chin whiskers. He had strong beliefs, strong feelings and no diplomacy whatever. Blunt, positive, often impersonal, he had years earlier barred his own brother from his mathematics classes, refusing him a hearing by the faculty. Shrewd business sense had led to his owning property in Oxford, including the president's mansion which Stanton had not been able to pay for.
To the conservative college with its deference to its own traditions, McFarland brought an awareness that the classical curriculum was no longer adequate, that higher education was inevitably growing secular and scientific, and that coeducation was coming. He was the first lay president of Miami and the first non-Presbyterian. Reared a Methodist, he had become something of a free-thinker, and so he drew doctrinal suspicion and disapproval from his neighbors and colleagues. When he ended compulsory attendance at chapel, he was accused of abandoning the religious foundations of Miami. It was rumored around Oxford that he made infidels of his students: "Boys, you know that we don't take stock in Moses like our fathers did." He gave up any thought of finding church support for the college and directed all his efforts toward increased support from the State.
With President McFarland on the side of science and a progressive curriculum were Professor Snyder and Professor James. Snyder was a busy little man working up demonstrations of lenses, prisms and induction coils in his laboratory and always ready to give popular lectures, illustrated with lantern views, on "Science in the Kitchen" and "Science on the Farm." He lived with his wife, Minnie, in South Hall, where the boys harassed them by throwing pokers, stove lids, and occasionally an entire stove, down the stairs. Professor James lived quietly in the present Simpson Guest House, preparing his lectures and writing monographs on plant science and mineral formations.
On the side of the classical studies were Hepburn, Bishop and Holben. Dr. Hepburn became the leader of McFarland's opposition. Between these two men there was a whole set of differences: McFarland had served in the Union army, Hepburn had Southern leanings; McFarland stressed the sciences, while Hepburn lauded literature; McFarland favored the admission of women students, Hepburn hated coeducation; McFarland minimized the place of religion, Hepburn became the college chaplain, conducting voluntary morning prayers and preaching on Sunday afternoon.
They were two strong men, sharply divided, and their difference soon entered into their personal relationship. McFarland scoffed at Hepburn's services on the chapel platform--"Miami is the most religious place in the world, to hear them tell it. Every week they publish the name of the saint who conducted chapel or spoke to the Y.M.C.A." He regarded Hepburn as hypocritical and referred to him in private as "the Hyp." Meanwhile Hepburn charged that the sciences were unduly favored, optional chapel attendance had led to laxness in class preparation and attendance, and the college was suffering generally under a dogmatic president.
Despite these differences, McFarland was never less than fair to his colleague. Hepburn was a poor manager financially, and McFarland approved an addition of $200 to his salary for conducting the chapel services which he viewed so dimly. As superintendent of buildings, he set aside four rooms in North Hall, rent-free, as living quarters for the Hepburn family.
Dr. Hepburn had influence with the trustees, who were predominantly conservative. When a Greek professor was elected in 1885 the appointment went to one of Hepburn's former students at the University of Virginia. A distinguished classicist and more of an aristocrat than Miami had ever seen, John Robert Sitlington Sterrett arrived in Oxford in 1886, with his man-servant, and moved into rooms in North Hall. Sterrett was in Greece at the time of his appointment, preparing for an archaeological expedition in Asia Minor; hence his delay in joining the Miami faculty. He had been abroad for twelve years, taking a Ph.D. degree in Germany, continuing classical studies in Rome and Athens, and leading parties of archaeologists into Assyria and Babylonia. Miami was his first teaching assignment. In North Hall he unpacked his books and papers, including notes of nine hundred inscriptions collected on his last tour of Assos and Tralleis. Now he was a neighbor of Dr. Hepburn, who worked in a cluttered study on the ground floor.
While these two scholars bent over their texts, the students lugged potatoes, corn meal, cabbages and firewood up the stairs. They chopped kindling and sawed logs in the hallways--despite the unrepealed rule of 1836: "If any student shall cut, split or saw wood in any of the rooms, halls or passages. . . he shall pay a fine of two dollars." They cooked their meals on iron stoves and studied by the glimmer of oil lamps. The old dorms had not changed from earlier years. Outside in the woods stood the college latrine, a low stone crypt with four cold cells. Traditionally called the "gin," it had replaced the perishable wooden backhouse of the 1830's. There was no college bathroom, but in the upper halls, beside bins for wood and potatoes, stood a galvanized tub and a battered pail. There was plenty of cold water in the three college wells. Once a year, in June, pugnacious little Fardy Devine, with his reeking pipe and dented derby, swept the dormitory halls. There was an accumulation of twigs, bark and sawdust, ham bones, potato peel and apple cores, by then.
To students in this primitive setting Professor Sterrett brought a sense of the international world of scholarship. He had attended four German universities and had held offices in the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, the American Philological Association, and the American Archaeological Institute. From his Miami study he corresponded with scholars in Germany, Italy and Greece, and wrote his account of An Epigraphical Journey in Asia Minor including translations of 397 inscriptions he had found on ancient city walls and crumbling temples.
In 1887, after half a century in the classroom, old Bobby Bishop was retiring. To fill the chair of Latin came another young cosmopolitan scholar, Alfred Emerson. Emerson and Sterrett had been graduate students together in Munich; now they were colleagues, exchanging memories of Germany, Italy and Greece in their battered rooms in North Hall. With Dr. Emerson came his brother Edwin, who enrolled as a sophomore. Edwin Emerson had grown up in Germany where his father was in the consular service. To the Miami Monthly he contributed sketches on European travel and education and he promptly won a reputation as the most persistent caller at the women's colleges. The Emerson brothers introduced tennis to the rustic Miami campus, despite the dubious views of President McFarland.
With discord in his faculty, with enrollment dragging and division growing among the trustees, McFarland was re-elected for one year in 1887. It was a stormy year and the opposition grew. Solidly the classical bloc voted against McFarland, Snyder and James. Hepburn was secure, but Sterrett was perhaps vulnerable. Though the students praised his teaching and took pride in his international reputation, McFarland reported to the trustees that he was "a dead weight on the college."
That winter came an exchange of letters unique in the records of Miami. From McFarland to Sterrett: "Messrs. Boyer and Pann [undergraduates] desire to occupy the room now used by your servant. Of course you know that the buildings are all under my care and charge.
"You put your servant in that room without asking me: the room is an excellent one, and the young men have first choice.
"If you desire a room for your servant, there is but one in the building which can be used, viz.: the NE, third story room. Of course, also the cost per session is the same charged the students, $5.00 per term, according to the order of the Trustees.
"The young men wish to take possession today."
From Sterrett to McFarland, the same day: "I have received your note and in reply have simply to say that I do not understand that the buildings and rooms are wholly under your control. I do understand that you are wholly subject to the control of the Executive Committee. When the Committee, through its proper officers, give directions, I shall comply."
Six days later the Executive Committee wrestled with this problem, asking Professor Hepburn's counsel. They also had a letter from Sterrett: "The room they [the two students] are reported as wishing to secure, is in all respects the most undesirable for their purposes. They, as most of the other occupants, do their own cooking, and keep large piles of wood brought from the farms of their parents. There are no wood boxes or coal bins connected with the room I am using,--wood of necessity would have to be piled up in the hall. . . . These young men have been in the habit of splitting and sawing the wood in their rooms and in the halls, until Dr. Hepburn, after repeated attempts, succeeded in checking the evil in part. Dr. Hepburn tells me that one of the applicants is one of the rudest, most unmanageable boys he has ever had to deal with at college. . . ."
The Committee also had a letter from McFarland: ". . . Dr. Sterrett, as you see, cares nothing for the accommodation of the students,--he cares only for himself. He is a dead weight on the college. Should there be one or two more such, the University could not stand it."
Perhaps McFarland sensed that the ruling would go against him. He asked to be relieved of the custody of the buildings, and the trustees appointed Hepburn to that duty. So Sterrett's man-servant remained in the disputed room.
That spring Sterrett and Emerson resigned. Both went on to notable careers: Sterrett at Amherst and Cornell, and Emerson at Cornell, the American School in Athens, and the University of California. With them departed the dashing Edwin "Birdie" Emerson. He finished his college course at Cornell and Harvard and began an adventurous career as newspaper reporter, Rough Rider with Roosevelt in Cuba, and foreign correspondent.
The first Commencement of New Miami was held in 1888 with a graduating class of three. In silk hats and Prince Alberts they planted their class oak beside the newly-bricked Slant Walk, tying their colors, old gold and blue, to its slender trunk. In this festive week the trustees declared all the chairs of the faculty vacant (there was no tenure to trouble them), though immediately re-electing Hepburn and Snyder.
McFarland was out. He had worked hard if not happily at his office. He had been president, librarian, superintendent of grounds and buildings, adviser and admonisher of students, appealer for funds to the State Legislature and the alumni--all in addition to teaching thirty-five hours a week. Now he retired to his brick house on Exterior Street (Patterson Avenue), where he grumbled about the extravagance and folly of his successor.
The alumni had great ambitions for Miami and exalted ideas about its presidency. Someone, somehow, thought it an appropriate office for the English philosopher Herbert Spencer. Though he was not formally chosen, it appears that the offer was made, perhaps by a sanguine alumnus or trustee with the understanding that Calvin Brice would provide an exceptional salary for him. However, Herbert Spencer, at work in London on his synthetic philosophy between attacks of dyspepsia, was not persuaded to come to a struggling college in Ohio. In June the trustees proceeded to elect E. D. Warfield, a young lawyer from Louisville.
Ethelburt Dudley Warfield was a new-sounding name in the list of Miami presidents, and he was a new kind of man. Tall, distinguished, athletic, young--a dark beard made him look older than his twenty--seven years--he was a graduate of Princeton, had studied at Wadham College, Oxford, and had taken a law degree at Columbia University. Unmarried, he kept a butler and a cook in his house on Church Street; he entertained frequently and well. During visits to Cincinnati he enjoyed the society of the Tafts, Longworths and Herrons.
Warfield promptly brought to Miami a fashionable young faculty from Princeton and Yale. Bridgman in Greek, Johnson in philosophy, Cameron in German and French, Hargitt in botany and geology, Merrill in Latin, Parrott in the preparatory department--all were at the start of their careers, with their names to make. They were a bachelor faculty, sophisticated and cosmopolitan, a wholly different cut from "Old Bobby" Bishop sitting in his dooryard with the yellow leaves drifting down. Dr. Faye (Lafayette) Walker, pompous head of Oxford College, called them the "dude faculty," while the women of oxford murmured that they had danced in every capital of Europe. McFarland muttered about their "juveninity." Certainly they brought a wave of youth, ardor and glamor into the battered old college.
Warfield had the good luck of the young and confident. At the time of his appointment, June 21, 1888, the Republican Convention was in session in the huge Exposition Building in Chicago. Four days later, on the eighth ballot of the convention, a Miami man was nominated for the presidency. When word reached Oxford the Alpha chapter of Phi Delta Theta hung a huge flag from their third-story hall in the Mansion House. Attached to it was a placard: "Gen. Benjamin Harrison, a graduate of Miami, Class of '52, member of Phi Delta Theta." At the same time another Miami man, Calvin S. Brice, was named chairman of the Democratic presidential campaign. The struggling little college was represented in the national arena.
When students arrived in September they found a log cabin--reminiscent of the campaign of Ben Harrison's grandfather, Old Tippecanoe--in the middle of High Street; beside it rose a lofty Harrison and Morton pole. Miami was in the midst of the political ferment. For a week before the election students paraded by torchlight and serenaded the Republican professors with campaign songs. On election night President Warfield and most of the college stayed at the telegraph office till three A.M. Then Warfield sent a message of congratulation to the President-elect. The next day Hoosier wagons rattled into town with bells ringing for Harrison. The village band played in the public square. Students paraded till midnight, carrying Harrison banners and singing Harrison songs.
Weathered old Miami was young again. There were just twenty-seven students in the college proper, but the future was before them. Professor Hargitt fitted out two upper rooms in North Hall as a biological laboratory. The department of chemistry received a shipment of "technological diagrams from Vienna." On Sunday afternoons Dr. Hepburn gave religious lectures on "The Life of Jesus" to a chapel full of students and townspeople. Mrs. Snyder, wife of the science professor, organized a University Quartette which gave concerts in Oxford and communities nearby. The young faculty men rearranged the library books according to the new Dewey system and made a card catalogue; now the library was open for eight hours every day, with current periodicals strewing the old eight-sided McGuffey desk. Both President Warfield and Professor Snyder addressed the Cincinnati Electrical Convention.
In this yeasty year a new sport, sparked by President Warfield and Professor Bridgam, came to the Miami campus. Bridgam, a broad-shouldered dark-mustached young scholar, had played football at Yale. Now he kept a football on the top shelf of his bookcase in North Hall, beneath pictures of classic temples and Athenian sculpture. In the mornings he taught Greek to seven boys--one of them, "the best student," was R. M. Hughes who would become a later president of Miami. In the afternoon he joined his colleagues on the football field, and he expected his students there as regularly as in the Greek room.
That fall there came to college a tall, thin fifteen-year-old, without the slightest interest in athletics. Years later, when he was organist of the Brick Presbyterian Church in New York, Clarence Dickinson recalled: "President Warfield started athletics that year, and we all had to play." The new boy was assigned to the scrub team and so he was on the side against the faculty. One chill afternoon he remembered especially, with players swarming on the field and the first lamplight showing in the college windows. "President Warfield, who was six feet four inches tall, broke through the line, knocking men right and left--till I was the only one between him and the goal! I can still hear the spares yelling 'Hold him, Dickie! Hold him!'--but he knocked me sprawling."
On the 6th of December, reported the Miami Journal, "President Warfield sustained a painful injury to the knee while playing football." Perhaps that kept him from appearing in a historic game two days later. On December 8, 1888, the University of Cincinnati played Miami on the trampled campus. Professor Marc Parrott, a veteran of Princeton football who would become a famed Shakespeare scholar, captained the Miami team. The average weight for Cincinnati was given a 162 pounds; Miami was lighter, 142 pounds, and supposedly faster. But speed was of little use on that wet day. The game, played in a pouring rain, ended in a scoreless tie. The next season the Miami team played a schedule of four games without a loss, with a total score of 100 to 4. That year the college colors were chosen--red and white--and an athletic association was organized. The era of athletics had begun.
At Miami as elsewhere the old college pranks diminished with the growth of organized sport. No more sheep were carried into the classroom, no cattle turned into the chapel, no raccoon fights staged in the dorms. A few hours on the athletic field worked off a student's restlessness.
Still Dr. Hepburn had small use for football--a young man's years in college were far too short for the urgent business of learning. Possibly he felt that Warfield's impressive salary, $3500, was not being earned at football. In any case Hepburn kept at the business of scholarship while the thud and rush went on outside his windows. In the small chaos of his study he wrote his lecture notes and turned the graceful phrases of his chapel meditations. At midnight, with the college soundly sleeping, his window was a lonely glimmer in the darkness. But he had a company in the lamplight--Captain Lemuel Gulliver and Corporal Trim, good Vicar Primrose and raffish Moll Flanders, wandering Prince Raselas and aspiring Paracelsus, Alton Locke and Henry Esmond, and rumpled Herr Teufelsdrockh in his lofty littered study, a place far from old North Hall and yet not unlike Heppy's own strewn lair.
Neither did Hepburn approve coeducation, which began that year. The Reverend W. J. McSurely, a University trustee, pleased with the new president and his faculty, entered his daughter as a special student. The boys soon stopped grumbling; Ella McSurely was just one person and she came and went quietly. But Dr. Hepburn never accepted the change. For a year she attended his class without sign of recognition. With his colleagues and the trustees Hepburn argued against coeducation, but it was a losing struggle. Soon all Miami classes were open to women, and a traditional integrity was gone from the college.
For sixty years Miami had been masculine, except for the weekly procession of Oxford College girls crossing the campus stile and crowding into Old Egypt for a science lecture, with the boys watching from a distance. At receptions in the women's colleges relationships were mannered and formal; man and girl had little ground for conversation and no opportunity for anything more. From these brief encounters the Miami men went back to the male world of their books and batching, their Literary Halls and classrooms. So that for a few years a young man with intellectual pursuits could evade Nature, or even postpone it, while his mind reached out. It meant a singleness of life, a concentration of interests, and the asceticism that encourages learning.
Now, with Miss McSurely who would be a life-long spinster, the walls were breached and a new kind of college life was beginning. It would lead in the twentieth century to a too-easy and diverting companionship of the sexes; eventually even to undergraduate marriages and to students who came unprepared because they had been up all night with a colicky baby. If Dr. Hepburn did not forsee all this, he knew that the intellectual ends of college are a jealous pursuit. Yet he lived to see his name given to the first women's residence hall at Miami.
A liberal and gracious new president, Leila McKee, had come to Western College and the old barriers between Miami and Western were down. To the traditional "walk around"--the Miami boys noisily circling Peabody Hall while Miss Peabody warned her girls away from the windows--the two faculties added picnics on the Tallawanda, bob-sled rides on winter nights, receptions and collations at the College. Soon three of the Miami faculty, Warfield among them, had married young teachers from Western College.
President Warfield was a versatile man, at home in the drawing room, the football field, the classroom and the lecture hall. In addition to teaching history and political science, he managed to give lectures around the region on "Scientific Cattle Feeding" as well as "The Education of Farmers' Sons." He restored compulsory chapel and also liberalized the curriculum. He won small but regular appropriations from the state and raised funds for a science building. A proposed name for the new building was Warfield Hall, but it could not have been built without the benefactions of Senator Brice and so it was named for him.
In 1890 Calvin Brice offered to match the State's grant for a science building. That winter the Legislature voted $10,000, later adding $5,000 for equipment. Brice gave $15,500; he had previously contributed to the salary of the president and the faculty. These benefactions, along with his wife's gifts on her own Western College, did not strain the resources of the railroad, steamship and banking fortune which Brice had amassed in the Gilded Age. A poor boy, sharp-faced and undersized, he had lived as a Miami student on nine cents a day, cooking oatmeal on a cranky stove and wearing one suit of clothes year after year. But even then he had a prophetic shrewdness. As a Miami freshman on an autumn night he was taken snipe-hunting, an errand he agreed to after insisting that his mentors buy him a lantern. Leaving their victim in a wild and lonely thicket across the Tallawanda, the upperclassmen started back to town. Still laughing, they went into an Oxford tavern, where they found young Brice setting up drinks for his friends on proceeds from the bartered lantern.
The college enrollment was still small in 1890--it hadn't touched seventy since the reopening--and enthusiasm for President Warfield was waning. He was criticized for his youth, his extravagance, his lax discipline, even for spending his summers in Europe. The criticism of laxness came from Dr. Walker of Oxford College. He suggested that Miami get a new president, the king of man who could cross a field and persuade a farmer's son to attend the university--where, he added, all students should live under the supervision of married professors with an 8 P.M. curfew. Walker referred scornfully to the dude faculty and said it would take a good man to build up Old Miami.
When this creed appeared in the Butler County Democrat, Warfield was out of town. The students met his train, and with red flares and a brass band they escorted him to his home on Church Street. There they cheered the president, his new wife, his faculty, and jeered Dr. Walker.
There was genuine regret, at least among the students, when Warfield resigned to accept the presidency of Lafayette College. With his going, the young faculty dispersed. A more aggressive administration and a more seasoned faculty would take over in the fall of 1891. They found an old college invigorated by a tenure of youth.