Putnam county was named in honor of General Israel Putnam, of revolutionary fame. The surface in the northern and eastern parts of the county, is, in some places, level, and in others gently undulating, and before being improved was quite wet. In the centre and southwest it is rolling, and in the vicinity of the streams is, in places, quite hilly, yet but few of the hills are too steep to be cultivated. The prevailing timber is beech, sugar tree, walnut, ash, oak and poplar. The soil is, in general, a black loam, but in some parts clayey. It is a good agricultural county, and has had good prosperity, both in wealth and population.
Greencastle is the county seat, and is a thriving town of about four thousand five hundred inhabitants, with good public improvements and educational facilities. The chief attraction of the place is the Indiana Asbury University. The town has excellent railroad facilities.
The Indianapolis, Vandalia and St. Louis Railroad intersects its southern, and the Indianapolis and St. Louis Railroad its northern limits. The Louisville, New Albany and Chicago Railroad crosses the former a mile and a half to the southwest, and passing through the western border of the city, it crosses the latter a half mile north of the public square. These three railroads, by means of their numerous connections, afford almost hourly communication with all portions of the country, and render the site particularly eligible for an institution of learning. The city extends over a high plateau, bounded by the several railroads, a little more than a mile square. The founders of the university were fortunate in selecting for its situation a place so admirably fitted by nature to all the purposes of educational demand. The citizens, through the lapse of the years, have added to its natural advantages whatever industry and taste could effect. With salubrity of atmosphere, purity of water, and the uniformly large grounds connected with the homes of the people, the city has been reputable for its healthfulness, and rendered desirable as a place of residence. The attractions of the place have been such as to allure a class of inhabitants very superior in their intelligence, morals and rank in social life.
While the university is freely open to all persons of whatever religious education and preference, it is yet under the more particular patronage, and in the interest of the Methodist Episcopal Church. By the conditions of its organic law, it is under the supervision, in very important regards, of the several annual conferences of Indiana. These conferences have representation in its joint board of trustees and visitors, of equal numbers of ministers and laymen. The trustees are twenty-one in number, and have full authority over all the interests of the institution. There are nine visitors, clerical representatives of the conferences, who are associated with the trustees with full advisory powers, but voting only on questions concerning the election and dismissal of the faculty.
As early as in 1830, a resolution was adopted by the Indiana Annual Conference to establish within its territory an institution of learning of liberal character. For reasons of economy; efforts were repeatedly made to arrange for the joint management of the State university on terms that would adequately meet the increasing demand of the church, which was spreading rapidly, under the vigorous energy of an itinerant ministry, over every portion of the country. Failing, however, in the consummation of this plan, an appeal was made to the legislature, and a charter was granted by the session of 1836-7. The first meeting of the board of trustees was held in March, 1837, at which the organization of a preparatory department was authorized, in which instruction should be given in all the branches usually pursued in that grade of schools. This work was effected in June, 1837, by Cyrus Nutt, D. D., LL.D., at this date president of Indiana State University. An edifice suitable for collegiate purposes being necessary for the prosecution of the enterprise, the foundations were commenced about the time of organizing the preparatory classes, and the corner-stone was formally laid June twenty-first, 1837, Bishop Henry Boseau officiating. In 1839, the regular collegiate classes were formed and placed under the direction of an able faculty of instruction. This university sent out from these classes its first graduates, three in number, in June, 1840; since which period, there have been annual additions to the lists of its alumni, who, in gradual yet constantly increased numbers, have swelled to an aggregate in 1875 of five hundred and eighty-one.
In 1866, by a formal act of the board of trustees, ladies were admitted to the privileges of the institution. They were invited to all the departments of instruction, and with no discriminations, subject to the same requirements and disciplines, and eligible to the same distinctions and lessons that at other periods were offered only for the advantage of gentlemen. Already large numbers have availed themselves of these liberal privileges in both the preparatory and collegiate departments, and nineteen have passed, by excellence in scholarly attainment, to their graduation. Two of these graduates have won distinction in their respective classes. By the terms of the charter, the institution is invested with full university powers, so that the board have authority to establish the complete circle of schools comprehended in the representative university.
On November first,1848, a medical college was organized,with a large corps of learned and experienced practitioners retained as its faculty. This department of the university was continued with energy and success during three years, having its seat of operation at Indianapolis, under the conviction that facilities for medical learning could be had more advantageously in the midst of a large population. During this period, about fifty persons, having completed satisfactorily the prescribed course of lectures and examinations, were graduated into the medical profession.
A department of law was established in July, 1846, with Hon. R W. Thompson, professor elect, at its head, and has been continued, with occasional interruptions and varying encouragement, until the present year (1875). An aggregate of fifty-six have completed the entire course usually required for practice in the legal profession. Many of them have proved their ability by the eminent positions an intelligent people have awarded them as a popular recognition of their merit. Because of limited funds, the university has, however, been devoting its strength chiefly to intellectual culture. This, with Biblical' literature, embracing under the term the Hebrew language and Old Testament criticism and exegesis — also the Greek Testament with criticism and exegesis —has received greatest attention, and hereafter to this class of instruction will the resources of the university be particularly devoted. In this field of endeavor has it achieved its enviable reputation among the institutions of the continent. Such, doubtless, will be the policy of the future, exclusively. Since the State has undertaken to supply the demand for medical and legal knowledge, and from its treasury for this purpose appropriates liberal sums annually, it is deemed to be the dictation of wisdom that this institution of the church should have a more exclusive consecration to that which is disciplinary and non-professional. It is proposed, however, in any event, that the work of Biblical instruction shall receive increased attention. This comes legitimately within the purpose and intent of the founders, and accords strictly with the requirement of the church under whose patronage it comes. To this extent and in this way may its work be deemed professional.
Two departments of instruction are provided for, the preparatory and collegiate. The former extends through a period of two years. The course of study consists of the elements of the classic languages, and the mathematics, including algebra, complete. This part of the course is fully equal to the requisites for admission into first-class New England colleges. To these are added Latin, prose composition, rhetorical lessons, American history, and American antiquities. The condition of public education is such, that to discontinue the department of preparatory study, would be disastrous to the interests of higher education. It is a singular fact that the high schools of the country furnish very few students to collegiate classes; once graduated from the comparatively limited courses there pursued, they at once enter their respective avocations of life. The Indiana high schools usually make no provision for instruction in the Greek language, for the reason, probably, that the masses of the people have not and do not require it. Every aspirant for a thorough higher education, however, wishing to have an acquaintance with that branch of learning, the university has not sympathized in the least with the suggestions of some of the leaders of public school education of the State, to dispense with this language from the requirements of collegiate preparation. It has been believed, rather, that to act under this suggestion would be to reduce disastrously the standard of mental culture, and discriminate far too greatly against the dignity and real worth of classic learning. It is believed also that to abate such preparatory classic requirements, would be to deter effectually many from an extended course of study, especially in the classics, who otherwise would be influenced to pursue it. Certain it is, that the proposed plan does discriminate, in the popular interpretation, to a very great extent, against a liberal classical education. The decision and sufficient proof is, as it seems to the greater number of collegiate educators, the facts connected with those seats of collegiate learning where the suggestions alluded to have been adopted, and have been carried into practical effect. It has been thought advisable, therefore, as a wise economy of resources, that the faculty retain under their own exclusive management a preparatory school, adapting its course precisely to that required for the advanced classes.
The collegiate department embraces a full four years curriculum, and consists of nine professorships: the mental and moral, natural science, Greek language and literature, Latin language and literature, belles-lettres and history, modern language and Hebrew, mathematics, civil law, and Biblical literature. Provision is made for instruction in the Anglo Saxon, in connection with the chair of belles-lettres and history. In connection with the chairs of Greek, Latin, and modern languages, instruction is afforded in the Sanskrit, Spanish and Italian languages. Physics is taught in connection with the natural sciences. It is understood that a donation of $25,000, by Robert Stockwell, Esq., in the latter part of 1874, is expressly for the support of a professor of systematic and practical divinity. This fact, together with the large demand existing for instruction in these branches of study, will, no doubt, result in the creation of the proposed chair at the earliest meeting of the board of trustees, which will occur in June, 1875. The course of study in all the professorships, respectively, is remarkable for the fact that nearly everything has been excluded that is not of a strictly educating character. It is the aim to supply facilities whose use shall result in substantial discipline. The faculty and board of trustees agree fully in the policy which should be pursued in executing the educational trust committed to them. They are of the conviction that he who is disciplined into ability to control the attention, and to think closely, can himself gain knowledge to any extent the exigencies of life may require. They have, therefore, constructed the work of the departments with the view of promoting sound discipline, leaving the accumulation of knowledge to the discretion and industry of the student, after he shall have taken his graduation. The result is that the meta-physical philosophy, the classic languages, and mathematics, constitute a very large part of the undergraduate requisites The prescribed sciences are, for this reason, taught with the use of such authors, or texts, as treat their respective subjects under profound and exhaustive methods. They are encouraged to continue this plan of instruction by the success which has uniformly attended its practical operation in every period of the institution's history.
Many scores of eminent men are numbered among the alumni, who have gone from its halls at the several commencements. These are represented in the public trusts, both civil and political, and equally in the responsible and successful industries of the country. The university has become distinguished as the educator of many of the most eloquent of orators; also many of the most efficient and reliable workers in both the church and state. In all these regards the institution has cause of congratulation, and can confidently point to the men educated under its direction — their learning—their character—their power — their work, as the unquestioned proof of the excellence of its educational processes. No institution of learning in the entire country has made for itself a more brilliant record. In the respect of its educated men, strong and efficient in their respective spheres, Asbury University holds a high position among the colleges of the continent — the peer of the best—superior to most. Such is the meed of distinction the impartial discriminator yields, as justly due to the wise adjustments and thorough application of a well selected means of scholastic discipline.
The endowment of the university is $212,000, the greater portion of which is profitably invested. Of this amount, $75,000 are the gift of Robert Stockwell, Esq., of La Fayette, and consisted of first mortgage bonds of the Indianapolis, La Fayette, and Chicago railroad, with two thousand dollars accrued interest in addition. Fifty thousand dollars, and the two thousand dollars interest, by the direction of the donor, go into the general fund for endowment purposes; twenty-five thousand dollars, was a special direction, and is intended to be the nucleus of a foundation for a theological department; the balance of the fund, one hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars, was procured, with possibly very small contributions excepted, by the sale of scholarships. Early in the history of the institution, an attempt was made to make sale of scholarships at the rate of five hundred dollars each, with the hope that, by such sales, the necessary amount could be quickly secured. This proved a failure, the cost of the certificates being greater than the friends of the university could, at that day of comparative poverty in the development of the country, afford. In 1844, a plan was devised, adapted better to the ability of the people. Under this plan, certificates of tuition in perpetuity were issued for one hundred dollars. At a later period still, certificates running through twelve years were issued for fifty dollars; six years, or one full course, preparatory and collegiate, for twenty-five dollars. At these rates of cost, severally, scholarships were taken, amounting in the aggregate, in 1858, in cash and productive notes, to seventy-five thousand dollars. In the year 1866, marking the centenary period of the Methodist Episcopal Church as an organized body in the United States, a vigorous effort was again made to increase the funds of the institution. Appeals were made directly to the people for their contributions, by agents of the Indiana conferences, who, in prosecuting their work, canvassed the entire State. Scholarships were issued, meanwhile, to any contributors who desired to use them, and whose contributions were sufficiently large to meet the conditions of their sale. The sum realized through this plan of operation amounts, in cash and notes, to sixty thousand dollars. Small portions of the fund are not yet productive, and the productive portions are realizing for the purposes intended at different rates. The whole, however, is sufficient to yield an income equal to the essential demand of instruction. Having confidence in their ability to maintain their endowment and increase it in proportion to any enlarged requirement that in any probability will arise, the board of trustees, at their annual meeting in June, 1874, declared that tuition shall be free to all. This provision of free tuition applies not alone to students in the regular classes of the university, but equally to all who are candidates for those classes in its preparatory school. To date (collegiate year, 1874-5), four hundred and twenty-four are availing themselves of these liberal allowances, and the number is very rapidly increasing.
On December fifth, 1837, Rev. Joseph A. Tomlinson was elected to the chair of mathematics, and at the same meeting of the trustees, Rev. Cyrus Nutt was made professor of ancient languages, and principal of the preparatory department. Rev. Mr. Tomlinson declining to accept the chair of mathematics, it was tendered to Rev. Mathew Simpson, who also declined the position. The presidency was tendered to Mr. Tomlinson in 1838, but, declining to accept which, it was offered, in 1839, to Mathew Simpson, who accepted the position, and served nine years in that capacity. During these nine years the institution was permanently endowed by the sale of scholarships, and by donations to the amount of $50,000. In 1840, the faculty consisted of the president and the professors of mathematics and natural science, the Latin and Greek languages, and two tutors. The course of study was made equal to the older institutions, and was quickly brought up nearly to its present status, but little having been added since, except to the departments of English literature and natural science.
Mathew Simpson, D.D., came to the presidency of the university in 1839, was elected editor of the Western Christian Advocate in 1848, and bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1852. In his administration he was positive and strict, yet kind and gentle, his most severely disciplined students generally loving him best, because brought to repentance and reformation by his kind and firm exercise of authority. No man has been more popular, both among the students and citizens.
Lucian W. Berry, D.D., succeeded to the administration in 1849. He came directly from the active itinerant ministry, he was strong in the pulpit and in extemporaneous discourse on the rostrum. He was known particularly for his wonderful power in exhortation. He was exact in the tone of the discipline he executed in the university, and precise in his own moral and Christian conduct. In the later years he became sensitive to a fault by reason of protracted physical suffering. He went to the presidency of the Iowa Wesleyan University in 1854, and presently died in an attempt to establish an institution of learning of high grade in Missouri.
Daniel Curry, D.D., succeeded Dr. Berry as president of the university, in 1854. He was strict, fearless, almost rash, inflexible, estimating expediency as nothing in the alternative of right. He would compromise with no shadow of wrong, and his will was unconquerable. He was the man to quell a rebellion, at the same time that he was the very man under whom a rebellion would be most likely to occur. Dr. Curry resigned his position in the University in 1857, having held it for only three years, and, within a brief period, was elected editor-in-chief of the Christian Advocate, in New York. Thomas Bowman, D.D., was president in 1858. A man of trust, affable, versatile, of unusual ability to utilize resources, exerting influence kindly, yet powerfully, he presided with great success over the work of the institution for fourteen years. In 1872, the general conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church gave him an election to the episcopacy, where he executed duty as properly as in the narrower sphere of the presidency. Take him, all in all, though not the most learned nor eloquent, yet, in the judgment of a discriminating public sentiment, Bishop Bowman overranks any of his predecessors in the elements of popular character and of efficiency in work. Many men of note have had part in the work of the university, either as trustees, agents, or in other positions of responsibility. Isaac Owen deserves very honorable mention. A man of energy and steady faith, he successfully sold scholarships, at one hundred dollars each, for the endowment of the institution. He was without a liberal education, but self-educated in theology, and a ready and constant reader of the scriptures in Greek, eccentric and unpolished, yet commanding great respect. In terms not greatly dissimilar should allusion be made to Samuel C. Cooper, Daniel DeMotte, and Aaron Wood, who, in the agency of the institution, did excellent service. In the list of men who have honored the university by their attentions and counsel, the names of Calvin Fletcher, Joseph A. Wright, Tilman A. Howard, Austin W. Morris, Alfred Harrison, F C. Holliday, John L. Smith, Henry S. Lane, Williamson Terrell, John Ingle, W. C. DePauw, Asa Iglehart, David McDonald, John A. Matson, T. J. Sample, S. W. Parker, G. M. Beswick, E. G. Wood, Allan Wiley, Bishop Ames, John Wilkins, Isaac C. Ellston, Bishop Roberts, A. C. Downey, W. H. Goode, Calvin Butter, D. L. Southard, Will. Cumback, and many more ranking among the nobility of the State.
Among the alumni should be named: James Harlan, distinguished for his career in public life; Newton Booth, governor of California and United States senator; Thomas Goodwin, W. H. Larrabee, Joseph Glenn, James P. Luse, W. H. Barnes, Henry Benson, George B. Jocelyn, Oliver S. Munsell, George W. Hoss, Samuel Lattimore, Philip Gillette, and many others in literature, authorship, and the practical professions. Many represent the university in the learned professions and in political life; many are in military life. During the period of the great rebellion, the classes of the university were nearly deserted, by students volunteering. The same was substantially true in the Mexican war. Among the distinguished specialists, it is but just to mention Elkanoh Williams, of Cincinnati, who stands quite at the head of the celebrated oculists.
Not invidiously, but as justly indicating the notable legal record of very many of the alumni, may be mentioned the names of Albert G. Porter, James Mcintosh, Daniel W. Voorhees, John W. Boy, John Hanna, John S. Torkington, Wm. P. Hargrave, H. C. Gooding.
A very large proportion of the alumni have entered the work of the Christian ministry, chiefly as it is prosecuted under the methods of the itinerancy in the Methodist Episcopal Church.