In the spring of 1849, President McMaster resigned. He
had presided over a dwindling college, and the four years past must
have seemed a long term to him. As his successor the trustees chose
the Reverend Thomas Stockton of Cincinnati. When Stockton
declined, the Cincinnati Daily Dispatch reported: "The
presidency of Miami University has absolutely gone begging." (Miami
has always endured a grudging and purblind press in Cincinnati.) On
the next try the trustees got a good man indeed, the Reverend
William C. Anderson of Dayton, a brother of Charles Anderson, Miami
1833, who later became governor of Ohio. Anderson was chosen in
June; two months later the letter found him in a mountain resort in
Austria where he was recovering from an illness. Perhaps that
distance kept him from knowing of the Snow Rebellion and other
misfortunes at Miami. He accepted the office on his return to
America in September.
On arrival in Oxford in October, 1849, President Anderson found the campus "looking like a horse barracks"--broken doors and windows, weeds, bricks and cinders in the yard, brush and locust shoots springing up beside the paths. He became superintendent of grounds, without additional salary, turning over the work to his son John, Miami 1853. John Anderson repaired the college fence to keep hogs out of the yard and set out the first hedge that enclosed the campus. When President Anderson left in 1854, the college was neat, orderly and intact except for 485 empty window lights.
A tall, blond, handsome, courtly man with wide experience and easy bearing, President Anderson was the leader Miami needed. He came to a college with 68 students; he left it five years later with 266. He met students warmly, in chapel and classroom, in their lodgings and his own home. He and his faculty, Moffatt, Elliott, Stoddard, Swing, R. H. Bishop, Jr.--were both liked and respected. The sullen years were over.
From the start Miami had been a religious college, the principal training ground of Presbyterian ministers in Ohio. Morning prayers and Sunday worship were compulsory, with a voluntary college prayer meeting on Thursday night. One of Dr. Anderson's accomplishments was to make the chapel services as attractive as they had been in Bishop's time. To morning prayers he brought his own manly sincerity and instead of theology a friendly concern for the spiritual life of all his students. On Sunday afternoons the chapel filled up with students and townspeople, and the president's reflections on truth, beauty and holiness made the drab room a place of meditation while the winter dusk came on. In a revival of religious life at Miami he brought to Oxford a series of distinguished preachers--Rice, Beecher, Davidson, Steele, Childlaw, Mills. But the most winning figure in the old chapel pulpit, the best witness to the inner grace, was President Anderson himself.
Conscience does not develop under authority but in freedom, and the Miami of the 1850's led students to seek their own philosophy in fire-lit rooms or under the stars on winter nights. But the chapel helped them to take their souls seriously and to make college a search for meaning. The old room was bare enough, whitewashed walls and undraped windows letting in a sunless northward light. And the services were simple--a brief prayer, a singing of Psalms in the "Rouse's Version," a meditation by the president or one of the faculty, a brief concluding prayer, and then the announcements for the day. Nothing to cast a spell or leave a memory, yet Miami men did not forget that morning session. From the daily chapel they took a sense of the college unity, and of something above and beyond the daily round. They came out less self-occupied, less separate, than they went in. Something had drawn them subtly to a; On Saturday mornings the students read essays from the chapel platform. After a twenty-one-year-old sophomore had read an essay against religion Dr. Anderson called Henry macaroon, then in the preparatory department, into his home and asked if he would read an essay in reply. Young MacCraken copied the president's notes, ridiculing the sophomoric atheism, and read the essay on the following Saturday. "It carried the sympathies of the college," he recalled years later, "for I was a sub-freshman tackling a mature sophomore." A few days later, meeting the boy in the college doorway, the president smiled broadly. "People are saying, Mac, that it was not quite fair for you to answer Bingham's serious essay with ridicule and nonsense."
President Anderson was religious but not dogmatic, and his interest were as broad as life. In his classroom he kept a cabinet of fossils, picked up from the crumbling bluestone along the Tallawanda, an endless fascination to his students in moral philosophy. He began a program of college sports, the Miami Cricket Club playing in front of present Stoddard Hall and students fencing, boxing, wrestling in a gymnasium room under the roof of the main building. In squirrel season a holiday was declared for hunting. The only student complaint arose when the well rope broke. In November, 1854, Abner Jones noted in his diary: "This week I wrote a petition to the faculty, desiring that the old oaken bucket, the iron bound bucket, should hang in the well. William secretly laid it on the chapel table. Thus the president saw, read, and announced it. Accordingly a bucket was the next day provided, much to the gratification of many students."
The fraternities, however intense their rivalries and friendships, did not divide the college. Under the same leaky roofs lived Greeks and non-Greeks; in the University Inn, the first campus dining room, they ate together. Men from all the fraternities mingled at the long table in the Girard House, opposite the town hall. The favorite eating-place of seniors was Mrs. Hughes' boarding house across the street from present Benton Hall. They climbed the five steps of the stile over the campus fence, dodged the cowpiles in the college common, and crossed the lane to the Hughes house on the corner. In the kitchen merry Ann Reagan baked the best rolls and pies in Oxford. From the head of the table Mrs. Hughes, widowed daughter-in-law of the man who had opened the Miami grammar school in 1818, asked the students to say grace. They ducked their heads and muttered "Bless this food and forgive our sins" and began eating. Among the men at the table in the early fifties sat Ben Harrison, Whitelaw Reid, David Swing, Gates Thruston. After graduation, in reunion times, Mrs. Hughes' boys gathered again at the long table. Swing was a professor then, teaching the preps and collecting money from villagers and alumni to give the college buildings a new coat of whitewash.
As superintendent of grounds President Anderson sold the hay from the commons for $30, "a larger sum than it has brought for some years." From a dense grove on the site of present McGuffey Hall, hundreds of locust posts were cut; in 1854 they yielded $84.25. Living costs were rising, and in this year the faculty appealed to the trustees for a reconsideration of their salaries. They got a reconsideration but no raise, to the trustees' regret. Miami never had a better faculty.
Benign Professor Elliott lecturing on Greek antiquities--it seemed he must have been there, in the cobbled marketplace of Athens where barefoot Socrates with his tattered cloak across his shoulder discoursed on the improvement of the soul, or in the courts of Sicily where Plato traced geometrical figures in the sand for the education of the young king Dionysius. He walked through the woods to Western College to teach a class of girls; in the lecture room, looking up vaguely from his text, he called them "Young gentlemen," and the girls replied "Yes ma'am." Courtly, gentle, absentminded, he was a favorite guest at Oxford gatherings. One evening, arising from the dinner table, he trod on the cat's tail. Quickly he bowed and murmured, "Excuse me , madam." Born in Scotland, he had come to the far West, but his mind went east to the classic past. He was modest and innocent, learned and forgetful. While serving as Miami librarian he could never keep the accounts; at each annual report he apologized for "seemingly having mislaid records of withdrawal." But he never was in doubt about the art and science of antiquity. He talked of the ancient Greeks as of old acquaintance.
Professor Thomas Matthews, mathematician, was also a lover of art and music, who made those devotions seem related to calculus. An uncle of President Grover Cleveland, he had held public office and could refer in the classroom to experience in the field. As Ohio state civil engineer he had surveyed through the woods and river bottoms, running the lines of the Ohio and Erie Canal. Thousands of farmers, tradesmen and travelers were in his debt, as well as the students in his mathematics room.
Presiding in the one-room laboratory building was Orange Nash Stoddard, for twenty-five years professor of natural sciences. A homely, long-nosed, slope-shouldered man, his photograph looks like Henry David Thoreau, and he had that Yankee's mixture of curiosity and transcendental faith. An expert ice-skater, he wore his own path through the snow to the Western College pond. He came home at dusk, crossing the college yard with skates over his shoulder and his mind on tomorrow's science lecture. One of his good friends was genial and candid John Witherspoon Scott, former professor of science at Miami, who returned to Oxford in 1849 with two carryalls full of girls and began the Oxford Female Institute. Dr. Scott arranged to have his advanced class attend Stoddard's demonstrations. Once a week, to the delight of Miami students, a file of girls, Stoddy's daughters among them, came down Walnut Street, crossed the campus stile and gathered in the science room to watch experiments with chemistry and magnetism. To the Miami boys Stoddard was the "Little Magician." When college could not afford an electrical machine, he made one. During a crashing thunderstorm a student taking refuge in the science hall doorway was killed by lightning. It made the whole campus wonder.
But Stoddard's science was more than magic. It was the scholarship of an ingenious experimenter who was also a devout believer in God. See his notes for his opening lecture on chemistry: "The Field of Chemistry as wide as nature's self. Value Chem--1st, to train the mind, 2nd, its uses in life. Education embraces relations to God, to life, to self. We 'progress,' whither? Often to old discoveries, to old follies. This is a Gordian age, cutting not solving, difficulties. Dandies of body or of mind must go smoothly along, showy, superficial . . . . In Chemistry the three topics, light, heat and electricity, branch out boundless. How little we know! So in all things, so here." There were wisdom and humility in that dim science room.
Homely, awkward young David Swing soon forgot himself, and hearers forgot his awkwardness, in the ardor of his teaching. He had a kindling mind, poetic insight, a natural eloquence. For a decade he was a gifted Miami teacher, modest, simple, generous, before he went to Chicago and became the preacher of his generation.
R. H. Bishop, Jr.--soon he was "Old Bobby" to Miami men--wore a full beard, early grizzled, and looked with keen and kindly eyes through steel-rimmed spectacles. As boy and man in Oxford he saw every class graduate from Old Miami. He had a shrewd understanding of undergraduates; he knew when to be stern with them and when to relent. One winter day in his Livy class some of the boys put pepper on the stove. When the sneezing began, Old Bobby opened the door and stood in it. Without comment he conducted the recitation from there while the students suffered their own punishment. As years went by he kept trace of the alumni and knew them all; Miami was his family. He alone stayed on when Old Miami closed its doors, and he was left there when the New Miami opened, ready to receive new generations of students. All his life he loved classical learning, but he loved people better.
This was the faculty that asked for a raise in 1854. They needed and deserved it, but the money was not there. Ten years earlier, Joel Collins, superintendent of buildings, had advanced $1000 for repairs, and he was still waiting for repayment. In 1855 he resigned from the Board of Trustees, and in recognition of his long services the members voted to give him a silver pitcher on Commencement Day. Meanwhile his note again fell due, and once more the treasurer had no money to pay it. Collins then offered to renew the loan, at 8 per cent , and he specified that the first $50 of interest should be used to buy a silver pitcher. So with Collins' own funds the trustees bought the pitcher and presented it to him at the graduation under the campus trees. Still the $1000 note was unpaid. Two years later it was sold to Elias Kumler, an Oxford banker. When he demanded payment the trustees borrowed $500 from Collins to pay off the balance due to the banker. And Joel Collins loved Miami till the day he died. What money the University had not already got, he left to establish a health service for the college students.
Miami in the 1850's was ringed in women's colleges: "female education" came to Oxford all at once. In the west end of town in 1849 John Witherspoon Scott established the Oxford Female Institute, having brought the students and faculty in two four-horse buses from College Hill beyond the edge of Cincinnati. On rolling acres southeast of the Miami Woods the white gate of the Western Female Seminary swung wide in 1855; its first class of girls was welcomed by a faculty just arrived from Mr. Holyoke. In 1856 on leafy grounds northeast of the village, beyond the Botanical Gardens, the Oxford Female College opened its imposing building (now Fisher Hall for freshman men); after theological trouble with his trustees Dr. Scott had left the institute to organize this new college. The last to open was the first to close. Ten years later, deep in debt, the oxford College left its towered building and moved to the other end of town where it finally merged with the Female Institute--sixty-two years before it final merger with Miami.
In the 1850's Miami men visited all the women's colleges in the gala Commencement season. In turn they entertained the college girls at their own senior party and took them to the roof of the Main Building to enjoy the circling view of woods and meadows--a scene which amiable, far-traveled Bayard Taylor, on a lecture visit, described as equal in quiet beauty to any vista in the world.
Before the Commencement gaiety came the examination week, especially strenuous for seniors. In June of 1853 the faculty protested that students were called out for road work while examinations were in progress. The local ordinance required young men to perform two days' work a year on the public highways, and certain senior men had arranged their summons at the end of term. Road work, the faculty induced town officials to say, must be done between April and October, but not especially on examination days.
At the end of examinations and before the protracted exercises of Commencement, the students held a celebration of their own--the Burning of Logic. Gathering at midnight at the college door, with the village band playing a dirge, they marched by flickering torchlight to the college gate and on up High Street to the market house in the public square. It was a grotesque procession, feathering spectral pall bearers, the ghost of three famous logicians, a pillow-stuffed Undistributed Middle, a Dilemma with horns like a Texas steer, and a ragged Beggar of the Question holding out his hat in both hands.
Each year the class had a formal printed program of the ceremony.
The mighty Logic sleeps at last,a torch was touched to heap of firewood. Finally the Logic text was cast into the flames, to the chorused groans and jeers of all the mourners. Back to the midnight campus the procession went, chanting the witches' song:
The dews of death are on his brow--
His greasy corpus we will burnThough they burned the book with malediction they had learned the rigors of Whately's Logic. Forty years later the Ohio Society of New York gave a dinner for three men who had achieved eminence in public life: Henry M. MacCracken, chancellor of New York University; Whitelaw Reid, editor for the New York Tribune; and John Shaw Billings, director of the New York Public Library and the man who had persuaded Andrew Carnegie to build libraries across the nation. All three had marched in the great Burning of the Logic in 1856.
And gather up his ashes vile.