Kenyon College

From Ohio History Central
Kenyon College.jpg

Kenyon College is a liberal arts institute of higher education located in Gambier, Ohio, near Mount Vernon.

During the first half of the nineteenth century, numerous religious groups moved to Ohio. Some came seeking converts; others came to avoid persecution; while others came for a combination of these reasons and numerous other ones. Many of these congregations established institutions of higher education in Ohio. These colleges served to educate future ministers as well as to instill the various faiths' values in their younger brethren.

One of these religious groups was the Episcopal Church. Philander Chase, the bishop of the Episcopalian diocese in Ohio, realized that the Episcopalians needed to establish a seminary in Ohio if the Church hoped to grow further. In 1823, the Chase sailed for England, hoping to secure funding for his seminary from Episcopalians in Europe. He secured twenty thousand dollars for his venture as well as numerous books and religious articles for the school's library. His primary benefactor was Lord Kenyon and Lady Rosse. Upon his return in 1824, Chase used the funds to purchase eight thousand acres of land in Knox County at Gambier. In 1829, the first building of what became known as Kenyon College was completed, making Chase's vision a reality. He served as the institution's first president.

The first several buildings at Kenyon College were log structures. They barely protected the students and professors from the weather, but the school quickly replaced or dramatically improved many of these buildings over the next decade. In 1852, the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity constructed the first fraternity house in the United States at Kenyon.

Chase found college administration tiring. He was an authoritarian and ruled his diocese and college with an iron fist. He angered many of Kenyon College's faculty members and students, as well as many of his parishioners. Many Ohio residents had willingly left the more structured social system of the Eastern United States behind. The large amounts of available land resulted in a less deferential class system on the American frontier. Many Ohioans rejected Chase's governance due to his unwillingness to listen to others. In 1831, Chase resigned as as Kenyon's president and as bishop of his diocese. Despite the difficulties Chase faced in beginning the institution, Kenyon survived and grew to become a leader in higher education in Ohio. During the 1800s, the college's most famous students included Rutherford B. Hayes, Edwin M. Stanton, and Salmon P. Chase.

See Also