Chapter X


   The Miami Student began publication on May 8, 1867. Years later, tracing its origin through a broken sequence of periodicals to the Literary Focus of 1827, it came to consider itself "the oldest college newspaper in the United States." Hardly a newspaper, the original Student appeared bi-weekly and was soon reduced to a monthly publication. But it kept its readers informed of visiting lecturers, Literary Society programs, baseball rivalries ("Miamians 27, Olympians 64"), and the current building program.
   The first item in the first number of the Miami Student was a rhymed "Lament from an Ancient Alumnus" on the demolition of the West Wing of the Main Building.

Builder! spare that pile!
Touch not a single brick!
In youth I spent a while
Within its wall--how thick!

Builder! forbear thy blows!
E'en though its doorless halls
Invite the rain and snow,
Oh, spare its tottering walls.

After fifty years of wear and tear the West Wing was coming down. Its upper rooms had stood empty for a decade. Windows and doors were gone, the roof dripped after every shower, the rickety stairway was a peril. Now a new president, Robert Livingston Stanton, had taken hold and the old hall was going.
   When President Stanton came for a preliminary look at Miami in the summer of 1866, there were two public conveyances in Oxford. The elongated hack, "the Longfellow," carried people in Commencement season to Western College and Scott House (Oxford Female College now Fisher Hall) and on special days it took picnic parties to the Tallawanda and Hueston Woods. The smaller omnibus met the trains and delivered guest to the Girard House on High Street. Doubtless President Stanton got his first impressions of Oxford from the omnibus, to the lazy clip-clop of Wes Logue's team of sorrels.
   Climbing the hill from the station, he soon saw Dr. Buchanan's college for young ladies--the Oxford Female Institute. High Street was drowsing in the summer afternoon, with a couple of loafers in front of Joe Hayden's gun shop and a dusty team of horses tied outside of Henry Styhr's saloon. He passed Nagel's wagon shop, the three story Mansion House on the Main Street corner, Pap Ringgold's shop (though the war was over Ringgold was still busy hating all abolitionists) and the tobacco shop of the cigar-maker Crawford, a man who wore out his life in Oxford always homesick for Baltimore.
   Across the street, around the barn-like market house, the town square lay baking in the sun. It was treeless, but supported a crisscross stubble of hitching racks; on Saturday the township farmers drove in with loads of apples, pumpkins, cabbages, potatoes, and home-cured hams and sides of bacon. Around the square were the town opera house, Harry Gath's furniture store, and Tom McCullough's grocery store and livery stable. The north side of High Street, east of the square, was lined with lofty elm trees, their dry leaves rusting on the roofed gallery that shaded the shop fronts. On the next corner stood the Girard House, a popular boarding place of Miami students. From there the campus looked like a woodlot, until you saw the peeling whitewashed walls of the West Wing with its empty windows frames. Even the trustees' records described it as "the main dingy and dilapidated edifice."
   A weedy slanting path let through the campus. Oxford as yet had no sidewalks, but paths which changed by season--muddy, grassy, dusty, frozen. At night the streets were dark as a forest, though Richard Butler, editor of the Oxford Citizen, had hung up a new kerosene street lamp in front of his house on Church Street. On Sunday evenings he lit the lamp and sat on the fence to hear the exclamations of people coming home from church.
   The university to which President Stanton came had 166 students and was running into debt. To attract more students the new president proposed repair to the two dormitories and rebuilding of the wing of the Main Building. While the old West Wing was hauled down, he had workmen busy erecting a new president's mansion across from the south gate of the college yard; the house that Stanton built later became "Bonham House." In its friendly drawing room the Stantons entertained new students with receptions and served an annual oyster supper for the seniors. With the clatter and debris of repair and rebuilding, the Center Building could not be used for recitations. Ground floor rooms in the two dorms, enlarged by knocking out partitions, served as temporary classrooms.
   At the same time some improvements were coming to the village. Dr. Keely, a tree-loving dentist, got the town officials to move the hitching racks to the borders of the public square. He then filled in holes and set out rows of shade trees. The village council passed an ordinance establishing the grade of Oxford streets and requiring households to lay down sidewalks. Still, stray horses, mules, cattle, swine and geese roamed the streets, and the college enrollment went on shrinking.
   President Stanton did not lack energy or ideas. He was a brother of the abolitionist leader Henry Brewster Stanton, whose wife, Elizabeth Clay Stanton, was the foremost feminist of America; aggressiveness ran in the family. President Stanton applied to the Ohio Legislature for an appropriation to support a law school. When the Legislature declined, he successfully organized a series of law lectures by Miami alumni. He sought direct aid from the Presbyterian Church (he had served as moderator of the recent national Presbyterian assembly) but found the church unwilling to endow a university controlled by the state. It was proposed that control of Miami University be transferred to the church, but the state constitution prevented that. Somewhat earlier, in 1865, the synods of Ohio and of Cincinnati had offered to endow four chair at Miami University, provided they could name the incumbents. This proposal was finally accepted by the trustees, but already a movement had developed to establish Wooster College as a Presbyterian institution in Ohio. Church support then turned to Wooster, and Miami was forgotten.
   In 1862 the Congress had passed the Morrill Act, granting public lands to various states for the support of agricultural and mechanical colleges. For eight years until The Ohio State University was founded--Miami officials sought a share of the $340,000 which Ohio realized from the land grant. All their efforts yielded nothing. When the Ohio Legislature in 1867 voted a substantial sum to create a state agricultural college, hopes leaped up in Oxford. Miami with its spacious campus and Botanical Gardens seemed an attractive sit for such a college. University officials invited a delegation from Columbus. They met them at the depot, showed them all the rural advantages of Oxford, and gave them a formal receptions at Professors Stoddard's house--Mrs. Stanton being ill that day. When they escorted the visitors to the train the Miami future looked brighter. That night the students were busy. When the faculty filed into chapel next morning they found a haystack in the middle of the floor and beside it a plow, a harrow and a farm wagon. Nibbling at the hay were a cow, two horses, pigs, ducks, and chickens. Across the platform hung a sign Agricultural College. There was no chapel service that morning, and soon came the bad news. The Ohio Agricultural College was not in Oxford but in Columbus, as the beginning of The Ohio State University.
   The cow was the hardest animal to get out the cluttered hall and the worst to clean up after. In those years Miami had a famous Irish janitor, Fardy Devine, who alternately befriended and berated the students. While prodding the cow wedged in the chapel chairs, Fardy turned to the grinning boys in the doorway. "It' not the first time a full-grown calf has gone through the Greek room."
   The new west wing of the Main Building was completed in 1870, at a cost of $20,000 raised by alumni subscription. The president and the secretary moved into offices on the first floor and the college convened each morning in a commodious chapel above. The students contributed twenty-five cents each to buy twelve kerosene wall lamps so that the room could be used for evening lectures. A new furnace failed to heat the chapel, and in winter months the morning prayers were conducted in the dim and cheerless Greek room. Want of heat was given as a reason for abandoning the Sunday afternoon religious service, which had been a fixture at Miami since 1824. A better reason was the reluctance of students and the indifference of the townspeople. President Stanton was as devout a churchman as any of his predecessors, but he could not resist the slow tide of secularism that followed the war.
   Even in a dwindling college there were new activities to contend with the traditional Bible study and student prayer meetings. In 1869 the first Maim annual, the Recensio, listed ten baseball clubs, a University Velocipede club, a Miami Chess Club, and a Serenade Band.
   The final improvement to the Main Building was the raising of a tower (its twin would be added thirty years later), and the walls were painted red. The old whitewashed college became a memory.
   Despite a Germanic tower and the new red walls Miami was in fading season. Enrollment went on shrinking; there were empty chairs in all the classrooms and when the college assembled the new chapel was half empty. Yet America was in the midst of a spectacular expansion. In 1869 the last spike was driven in the Union Pacific Railroad and the new telegraph flashed the word to the world. The huge resources of the interior were released--oil and coal in Pennsylvania, iron and copper in Michigan, the vast pine forest of the upper Mississippi, the sleeping fertility of the prairies, the mineral wealth of the Rockies and Sierras. American wealth and power were bursting on the world like a sunrise. With these energies surging through the nation old colleges expanded and scores of new colleges were springing up. But Miami seemed a backwater cut off from the strong currents of the national life. The village cattle passed through the broken fence and children gathered walnuts around the college building while the long autumnal shadows crept across the leaf-shrewn yard.
   To liven the curriculum President Stanton proposed a new department of military science. In May, 1869, as an official visitor to West Point, he was assured by President Grant that an officer of the regular army would be assigned to Miami. He arrived in September--Colonel Caleb H. Carlton, a West Point graduate and veteran of Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge and Sherman's march through Georgia. For a few months the students studied military law and engineering and dragged a cannon across the college yard. They were to use the old chapel as a winter drill room. But in December Colonel Carlton was called to Omaha to answer charges that as commander of a post in Wyoming Territory he had irregularly disposed of commissary stores--bacon, mackerel and beans--to the amount of $7,000. In Oxford the military program collapsed, until a restless night in April when the artillery squad dragged the cannon through the moonlight to Western College and fired a blank charge at Peabody Hall. Next day the Western girls pushed it into the pond, a maneuver which attracted newspaper notice as far away as Boston. Colonel Carlton returned that spring and the military classes were resumed. He stayed another year, with small success. The students in tranquil Oxford had lost their interest in field fortifications and military law.
   In 1870 Professor Stoddard went to join the new faculty of Wooster College; he was offered $500 more than his Miami salary and he could not afford to stay. Then only "Bobby" Bishop was left of the old faculty. Professor Elliott had gone to the McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago and David Swing had become minister of Chicago's Westminster Church. One notable newcomer to the faculty was Andrew Dousa Hepburn, who in 1868 inaugurated a department of English language and literature. Dr. Hepburn understood the things that young men feel and wonder about; he knew the end of education, which is the acquiring a sense of values. He was everyone's choice for president when Stanton resigned in 1871.
   To replace Professor Stoddard a far-traveled scientist came to the Miami faculty. Professor Henry S. Osborn, from Lafayette College, he studied in England, France and Germany; he had memories of travels in Arabia and voyaging up the Nile; his house and laboratory were strewn with relics from distant lands. He made the old chapel into a new science hall, filling cabinets with three thousand mineral specimens. At the long raised table he introduced new ideas of teaching science, including the dissection of freshly asphyxiated rats and rabbits and the demonstration of internal organs.
   To the students the little vine-covered science building was no longer a classroom; it became "Old Egypt", a place of dusty and exotic learning where Dr. Osborn drew maps of the Arabian desert and the Valley of the Nile. In a litter of test tubes, beakers, flasks, scales, old books, boxes of minerals and catalogues bulging with pressed plants, he worked happily while the boys played baseball outside. At night he was still there, sorting notes for his lectures on "Buried Cities of the Old World," "The Arabs and Their Homes," "Afoot in the Holy Land." Bending in the lamplight in Old Egypt, tracing the journeys of Saint Paul through harsh and haunted lands, he was a reminder to Miami students that college has a far reach.
   In November, 1870, Elisabeth Cady Stanton, an assured and handsome women with strong blue eyes and snowy hair, lectured in the chapel on "The Coming Woman." By that time President Stanton was a going man. He resigned at the end of the year, grimly presiding over his last Commencement. He had not seen the increased enrollment that he foretold, nor did his wife inherit the fortune he expected. He left the college deep in debt and his own house unpaid for; it went to his creditors, one of whom was Professor McFarland. Stanton moved to New York, where he became an editorial writer for the New York Independent. Fourteen years later on the steam ship Nevada en route to Europe, he died at sea.
   It must have seemed on that Commencement day in 1871 that he had accomplished nothing in Oxford. But his son, Robert Brewster Stanton, was in the graduating class, and he soon became the most famous civil engineer in America. Just ten years after his Miami graduation he was building the famed "Georgetown Loop" on a narrow-gauge railroad high in the Colorado Rockies. A few years later he surveyed the Grand Canyon, making the first descent of the Colorado from Utah to the Gulf of California, and wrote a monograph on possible railroad routes along the Colorado River. After his death the United States Geographic Board named a dramatic spire of rock in the Grand Canyon "Stanton Point." As a mining engineer he directed projects in Canada, Mexico, Cuba and the Dutch East Indies.
   Robert B. Stanton learned science, he said, from bruising climbs in the Rocky Mountains and studies around the campfire; but the foundation went back to the classical curriculum at Miami--the training to think clearly, to analyze correctly, and to relate facts to each other. "That training," he wrote years later when a bleak specialization had invaded the colleges, "was the glory of Old Miami."
   But scholarly President Hepburn was not satisfied with the past; he wanted changes. The traditional senior vacation, a month of freedom before the Commencement, was canceled; now the seniors were kept at their studies until graduation day. Written examinations replaced the oral examinations of years past. Afternoon classes were scheduled, despite the students' protest that they interrupted a long afternoon of study. To bolster enrollment free electives were allowed for any student not seeking a degree. And new degrees were offered, Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Literature, for those who did not choose the traditional curriculum.
   "Heppy" was a favorite of all Miami students, who revered him as earlier generations had revered President Bishop. A man of handsome presence and distinguished bearing, he balanced wisdom with a quiet humor. He was devout without solemnity. Janitor Fardy Devine had a permanent quarrel with students who stole his firewood for their own stoves. At last he complained to the president. At morning prayers Dr. Hepburn gravely repeated the janitor's grievance and warned against stealing Fardy's fuel. Then he opened the Bible to the 20th chapter of Proverbs and read the text for the morning: "When there is no wood, the fire goeth out."
   In 1873, with enrollment dwindled to eighty-seven students, the fire went out in Old Miami. The last week of June brought a final flurry of activity. On Sunday the chapel was filled for a Baccalaureate service. On Monday a committee of the Board of Trustees reported ". . . that your Board has tried everything expedient for increasing the endowment; by appealing to the Churches, the Alumni, the State and to the liberality of individuals: but in vain.
   "Therefore, Resolved that instruction in the Collegiate Department be suspended, and R.H. Bishop and R.W. McFarland or Osborn be appointed a faculty to conduct a Grammar School . . . to prepare young men for admission to college . . . and that the remaining income of the University be applied as rapidly as possible for the extinction of our [$8,00] indebtedness; and when that is done be safely and productively invested, with a view to a full reorganization at the earliest practicable period."
   In a nostalgia for years past when Miami was the foremost college in the West, the fraternities held their annual suppers, and on Class Day the seniors went through the burlesque ceremony of the Peace Pipe, the senior sachem solemnly handing the pipe to the junior spokesman--who would have no successor to receive it. On Wednesday the alumni gathered for their supper under the huge walnut tree in the Bishop lawn. After a reading of one of Bret Harte's poems Ozro Dodds, now a member of the Ohio Legislature, told Mark Twain's "Jumping Frog" story. Finally all joined hands and voices in Auld Lang Syne. That night the literary societies held "Exhibitions." On Thursday came the Commencement, under the trees where now the Beta Bell Tower stands. A recent faculty ruling limited each senior to a five-minute oration; even so it was a lengthy program. On Friday trains carried the students and alumni away, the last carriages rattled off toward Hamilton and Cincinnati, and the dust settled in deserted High Street. The years of Old Miami were ended.
   "Colleges rise up like mushrooms in our luxurious soil," wrote one observer in the 1860's. "They are duly lauded an puffed for a day, and then they sink to be heard no more." At the end of the Civil War there were 104 living colleges in the United States and 412 dead ones. Surveying the dead colleges, Theron Baldwin said: "If a headstone were put up for each [defunct college] . . . the traveler after lengthened journeys by lake and forest and prairie might find himself still within the enclosure of this apparently limitless burial ground."
   Now Miami had joined the list of colleges where the light had failed. The reasons were several. Since the war Miami had lost its substantial number of students from the Southern states. A postwar inflation had shrunk the real income from the university land rents, and in a period when private benefaction was flowing into American colleges, Miami had no benefactors; Calvin Brice, the first substantial benefactor of the college, did not begin his gifts until the new Miami opened in 1885. The conservative administration of President Stanton ignored the demand for a "progressive" curriculum with a more modern and scientific course of study. The democratic West had turned away from the aristocratic curriculum of the classics, but Miami persisted in the old tradition. The only relaxing of the classical rigor was the surrender of Latin in the Commencement program; Elam Fisher, graduating in 1870, delivered the first salutatory oration in English. Finally, the growing movement of coeducation was resisted by the Miami faculty and trustees. The Civil War had replaced the American schoolmaster with the "schoolmarm," and there was widespread need for the academic training of women. But Miami held back. Dr. Hepburn, who modernized the course of study, would not give ground in his opposition to women students. Though Oxford had an important role in the education of women, Miami remained a men's college until the end of the century.
   With the closing of Miami in 1873, President Hepburn went to Davidson College in North Carolina, where he became president. McFarland soon went to the new Ohio State University as professor of mathematics and civil engineering. Professor Osborn worked on in the clutter of Old Egypt, writing books on metallurgy and Biblical history and carefully tracing his maps of the Judean wilderness. Professor Bishop, who had seen every class graduate in Old Miami, took a look backward and felt reassured. "I have seen her [Old Miami] in 1849 when as deeply in debt and with fewer students, she was involved in difficulty and trouble. She did not perish then and she need not perish now."
   Bishop ran a small Latin school for a couple of years, and in the winter of 1876 Osborn offered a "Private Science Course," with but a few takers. Meanwhile grass grew in the campus paths and barbed wire, a new invention from the prairies of Illinois, was strung on locust posts to keep the cattle out. The Botanical Garden, including the old Student Burying Ground, was rented for pasturage.
   In 1877 the University grounds and buildings were leased to two educational entrepreneurs, Messrs. Trufant and Marsh, who opened the Miami Classical and Scientific Training School. They renamed the two dorms Washington Hall and Franklin Hall, and lived there with their students. They used only the classrooms on the first floor of the main building.
   Isaiah F. Trufant was a short, stout, bearded man, called "Potty" by the schoolboys. Byron B. Marsh was a younger man, still in his thirties, with a boyish face hidden by a full beard. An expert marksman, he astonished the boys by shattering targets in the air with a .22 caliber rifle.
   Trufant and Marsh offered a thorough college preparatory course, including music lessons by a member of the Oxford College faculty and a "Telegraphic department" taught by Sam Allen, the Oxford station agent. The school attracted a gratifying enrollment of boys from Ohio and from a distance. Among them were "Kid" Tweed, son of the notorious political boss of New York City, and three Wilder brothers from Honolulu; their father was a leading sugar planter in the Sandwich Islands.
   In 1885 the trustees reclaimed the Miami buildings and advertised the reopening of the University. The Main Building, empty for a dozen years, was renovated--rotting sills replaced, glass fitted into scarred window frames, walls and ceilings plastered, floors repaired, slate blackboards hung in classrooms, and verandahs added at the three doorways. Then Miami was ready for a new beginning. "The university was reopened in 1885," wrote historian Henry Howe a few years later, "and whether it will regain the position it once held among Ohio's colleges is not easily answered."
   Meanwhile Isaiah Trufant then went West to buy land in the Kansas land boom, taking some Oxford money to invest for his friends in the village. He lost it all.
Return to Table of Contents  Go to Next Chapter  Go to Previous Chapter