Ohio University Bicentennial Celebration
September 11, 2004 | Cleveland Ohio
The Bicentennial

The following is an excerpt from "Ohio University, 1804-2004: The Spirit of a Singular Place" by Betty Hollow, published by Ohio University Press.

At the end of the war both Cutler and Putnam found they had "an abundance of liberty but no property, and their occupation gone." Hoping to emigrate to the vast Northwest Territory that the defeated British would have to forfeit, Putnam petitioned the Continental Congress to honor its promise to pay soldiers for their military service with grants of land. Three years later, Congress still had not drafted a satisfactory plan for distributing land and governing the Northwest Territory. Putnam decided on a new tactic. He would try to buy land in the Ohio territory, specifically in the Muskingum valley, which he had been told was fertile. Consequently, he placed an "Information" in Massachusetts newspapers, inviting veterans of the Revolution who had been promised land in "the delightful region" of the Ohio Country to send delegates to a meeting at Boston's Bunch of Grapes Tavern, where they would form an association to purchase lands from Congress.

Though seventeen years passed before the founding of the university, Manasseh Cutler and Rufus Putnam did not waver in their determination to see it become a reality. By the spring of 1788, Putnam had gathered fifty laborers, surveyors, and boat builders and proceeded to the mouth of the Muskingum River, near Fort Harmar, where he founded Marietta, the first settlement in Ohio. The following year, the Ohio Company's directors urged Putnam and Cutler to seek "the establishment of Instructors in the university," to "procure a charter for that Seminary," and to "Fix the townships which the Directors are obliged to Set apart for the support of a University." However, it was not until 1795, after General Anthony Wayne's devastating campaign against Ohio's Native Americans the Shawnee, the Miami, and the Delaware that Putnam could complete a survey and select the two centrally located townships for the university's land. When he persuaded about twenty "substantial men" to pole their way up the Hocking River in 1797, the slow settlement of the area began.

Bicentennial Did You Know

  • The Ohio University football team didn't lose a home game from 1927 to 1937.
  • Seventy of the University's 243 students earned free tuition in 1865-66 thanks to taking part in the Civil War.
  • The University - after a hotly contested debate - switched to the quarter system in 1967.
  • E.W. Scripps Hall was the first campus building to be constructed as a library.
  • The Echo and University Record was the University's first student newspaper.
  • "The Athena" yearbook was published for the first time in 1892.
  • Margaret Boyd was Ohio University's first female student and graduate.
  • John Newton Templeton became the University's first African American graduate in 1828.
  • A student from Japan became the University's first international graduate in 1895.
  • Ohio University began training teachers in 1879.
  • The town of Athens - containing space for a college with house lots for a president and professors - was founded on Dec. 5, 1800.
  • Winning a contest, Kenneth Clark wrote "Alma Mater, Ohio" in 1914.
  • Wilson and McGuffey halls were the University's first residence halls.
  • McGuffey Hall once shared its name with the award-winning NBC drama "The West Wing."
  • Boyd Hall, named for the University's first female graduate, was built in 1906 to house women.
  • Before becoming Ohio University on Feb. 18, 1804, the University was known as American Western University.
  • Cutler Hall was the University's only structure until 1837.
  • The College Green was once reserved for villagers' livestock and traveling medicine shows.
  • The University's first students paid $2 per quarter in fees.
  • The $2-per-quarter student fee in the early days of Ohio University was spent on firewood.
  • In 1825, students were given grades for the first time.

Learn more about Ohio University's Bicentennial

Bicentennial Did You Know? was compiled by Jennifer Kirksey, a writer with University Communications and Marketing

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The Event
The Bicentennial
The Planning Committee
The Venue: Playhouse Square Center
Ohio University
Athens, OH 45701
Tel: (740) 593-1000
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