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The Conneaut Reporter 5 Feb 1852

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Unfavorable press and Antioch College have gone together since before there was an Antioch College. Barely a 16-monthold idea and still yet to become an actual place, Antioch had already been a hot topic in Ohio newspapers when the following dispatch from The Lebanon Western Star appeared in The Conneaut Reporter. Though they conceived their school in upstate New York, the fundraising prowess of Rev. John Phillips of Brown County led the Founders to believe that their strongest constituency was in Ohio. The 17th state had seen the establishment of several colleges since its formation in 1803, and by the 1850s it had become a frenzy. Ohio towns were well accustomed to the practice of attracting these institutions, and the competition could be fierce. Like the bitter fights between municipalities over county courthouses, post offices, and access to new canal systems and railroads earlier in the century, landing a college meant the difference between survival and otherwise.

Incorporated in 1810, Lebanon was much older and well established than yet-to-be-incorporated Yellow Springs in 1852. Named seat of Warren County as early as 1803, it had aspired to be the seat of a college as well from 1809 when its founder Ichabod Corwin donated land toward Miami University, which ultimately went to Oxford, a town created by the Ohio General Assembly expressly for the purpose of having a college there. Despite its historic significance, Lebanon would be foiled time and again in its attempts to ensure its future, such as in 1839 when it demanded and got the Warren County Canal to connect with the Miami and Erie Canal. The branch, completed in 1840, joined Lebanon to the great shipping networks of the Ohio River and the Great Lakes, but not for long. In 1848 a swamp began draining into the canal, causing it to be abandoned by 1852. When the Little Miami Railroad began surveying to construct the first rail line to connect the Ohio to the Lake Erie, Lebanon was bypassed owing to difficult terrain.

Owing to a range of circumstance and the cagey play of metaphorical trump cards by a man called Judge Mills, Yellow Springs had the one thing Lebanon lacked in the contest for Antioch: transportation. In 1845 the aforementioned Little Miami Railroad completed its line through the village and soon joined with the Mad River & Lake Erie line winding south from the increasingly important harbor at Sandusky. The resulting economic boom at Yellow Springs that no doubt helped seal the deal for Antioch was nearly instantaneous and patently obvious, painfully so to the jilted observers from Lebanon.

Three years after the Star vented its spleen, Lebanon finally got a college, the National Normal School, which lasted and even thrived a bit, producing no fewer than 15 members of Congress, three US Senators, and FDR’s Secretary of State. It merged with Wilmington College in 1917. Lebanon would not connect to Ohio’s vast rail network until 1881.



     “The long agony is over,”  and, Antioch College goes to Yellow Springs. Lebanon offered the best site in the State, backed by the best arguments and the most money, and yet the prize is lost. The Lebanon Committee offered nearly forty thousand dollars as a donation, endorsed by the guaranty of some forty of her most wealthy citizens, worth nearly half a million of dollars. It will be difficult to convince the people of Warren County, that the site was not pre-determined before the Locating Committee went through the farce of visiting the several sites in Ohio; and it will be still more difficult to convince them that Yellow Springs won the location by her superior position, soil, mineral waters, or the amount of her contribution to the building fund. We shall, of course, give no currency to the general suspicion as to unfair appliances. Time will reveal the motives of all the parties concerned. And moreover, it would not be in good taste, nor an indication of wisdom, to denounce the grapes as sour which we have so pertinaciously struggled to reach. But, we felt and still feel a sense of humiliation when we reflect that some ten towns in Ohio were placed in the position of hungry hounds jumping for the prize of suspended sirloin. The one which made the highest perpendicular leap was to have the meat! Old Warren leaped some ten thousand feet higher—every foot representing a dollar than the lank hound at Yellow Springs—and yet the latter was pronounced the victor. So let it be. Warren will have a College of her own. Our citizens offer thirty thousand dollars to any christian denomination who will establish a college at Lebanon; and, our brethren of the press will confer a favor on us, which we will be pleased to reciprocate when called on, if they will announce this fact to their readers.   We also propose to place our Lebanon Academy under the patronage of the Ohio Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which will insure us a Female high School of several hundred scholars. We are already in negotiation for the establishment of a flourishing College here, which, if successful, will give us a college for boys of more than two hundred students. These institutions will confer on us all the advantages ever contemplated from Antioch College without any of the gas.

    In referring to the Locating Committee, we do not mean to disparage, by innuendo or otherwise, the integrity or fidelity of Elder Phillips. We believe he did his best for Lebanon, and that he remained faithful to her cause to last.   When the injunction of secresy is removed from the Secret Council of the Committee, we shall then know the whole truth.

    In putting up the Antioch College to the highest bidder—auctioneering the site as an auctioneer would a yard of calico—and then striking it off to one of the lowest bidders, and to a site, too, not a whit superior to any of the others—the Locating Committee made a mistake, which, we apprehend, they will not recover from in half a century. They have not only offended their own brethren of the Christian Church, but those of other pursuasions in the unsuccessful counties; and the result will be, the location of other colleges where one, if judiciously located, would have sufficed for all. So far as we could gather public sentiment at Enon, there would have been less opposition to Lebanon than any other point in Ohio, for it was generally admitted that there was no better place for a college in Ohio, nor a town which furnished as strong claims.    In money; in beauty of position; as a central point farthest from any rival college; as a location more strongly surrounded by the Church than any other; for adjacence to Cincinnati; for richness of soil and abundance of provisions; in moral and educational advantages as shown by official statistics; in a word, on every ground—which should have influenced the committee in making their selection—Lebanon offered comparably the strongest inducements.

    It is a remarkable circunstance that Conneaut and Lebanon were the only-towns in Ohio regarded as worthy of receiving a single vote in opposition to Yellow Springs. Eaton, Hilton, Mount Vernon, Union, Newtown, New Carlisle, etc., were not worthy of a moment’s consideration in comparison with the scrub-oak ridges, the hazel thickets, the cedar bluffs, rocky cliffs, impoverished soil and yellow water of Yellow Springs. We know this place twenty-five years ago, when James B. Gardiner kept a House of Entertainment, which he called “Poverty Hall”—a name significant of the character of the sterile land which surrounds it. Notwithstanding the celedrity of its waters and the fact that the Springs were open to the public many years, there never were sufficient attraction at that point—with all the aid of the Little Miami Railroad, the boasted scenery, the curative Spring, and the untiring exertion of Judge Mills—to make a village of over two or three hundred inhabitants. As it seemingly taking pity on its forlorn and desolate condition the Locating Committee have at last “Come to the rescue” and propose to give it a little vitality by locating Antioch College on its poverty-striken and sorrowful Heights.

    Yellow Springs has the site, and now that she has her grip on it, many of her citizens refuse to pay their donations unless the locating Committee will permit them to dictate the location of the college building! They have selected the west part of the town and the Committee will point a quarter of a mile south on the railroad; and, at the latest dates, there was likely to be a blow up unless Mills could succeed in allaying the raging storm. The Committee also demand that the $30,000 be paid in bank in eight months! This is another earthquake shock, which makes the oak nobs shake like a young Vesuvius. Perhaps the banks will loan the money on the security of yellow water hazel-nuts and a certain plant not good for cows!   Lebanon was ready, by a gaurantee of half a million, to fork over the money in advance, if required, with the free privilage to the Committee of selecting such a location as they preferred. There was a general disposition to do more than was stipulated in their offer, and if the Committee had barely intimated a desire for even ten thousand dollars more, as a condition of the location of the College at Lebanon, it would have been forthcoming. But, as she had already outbid every other place in the State, and as her location was Superior to all others, it was thought inexpedient to offer more than about $40,000. If we are not greatly mistaken, the Locating Committee will yet remove the College from the Springs.—Lebanon Star.

Taken from the Reporter Feb. 5, 1852
Conneaut, Ohio