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The Conference took final action on the proposal at its Indianapolis meeting in October 1836, when it decided to establish "an institution of the first order. .. upon an extensive plan of operation and equal to any College or University in the valley of the Mississippi." A committee was appointed to draw up a charter and see to its approval by the state legislature. Another committee would evaluate the offers of the various towns competing for the location of the institution, considering such matters as the amount of money subscribed by each community as well as the general state of health and morals! Somehow the small Putnam County town of Greencastle managed to raise $25,000 to induce the committee to select it over Indianapolis, Lafayette, Madison, Rockville, and Putnamville as the site for the new college. Another factor was its alleged healthfulness. One local booster, Dr. Tarvin Cowgill, is supposed to have said that "people never die in Greencastle, although for convenience they have a cemetery there."

Hoosier Town

The charter for Indiana Asbury University, as the new institution was officially named in honor of Bishop Francis Asbury, was prepared and on January 10, 1837, duly approved by the Indiana General Assembly. Despite its sectarian sponsorship, the "Seminary of learning" was to be founded "for the benefit of the youth of every class of citizens, and of every denomination, who shall be freely admitted to equal advantages and privileges of education." Again the charter refers to "an extensive University or College Institution be conducted on most liberal principles, accessible to all religious denominations and designed for the benefits of the citizens in general." While some historians point to this statement as reflecting the liberality of the founders' intentions, others suggest that it merely represents the lip service to nonsectarianism required to win legislative approval.

The charter named 25 trustees to be invested with the direction of the university, particularly to appoint the president and his assisting faculty, and to begin the enterprise. Vacancies were to be filled by the Indiana Conference of the Methodist Church or such other annual conferences as might be established in the state. In addition, the conference or conferences were authorized to appoint nine visitors, who would report annually on the condition of the university and, together with the trustees, make up the Joint Board or governing body of the institution. Clearly Indiana Asbury University was conceived at its origin as a creature of the Methodist Episcopal Church.


In 1837 Greencastle, the site for the new university, was still a raw frontier village. It was formed from land given to the newly created Putnam County for its seat of government by pioneer settler Ephraim Dukes in 1823. Surrounded by small log or frame houses scattered along unpaved streets and about 20 or so stores located in a square, the one story, brick, hip-roofed courthouse was the focus of business activity.
In his diary, first teacher Cyrus Nutt records his impression on arrival in 1837:
Greencastle was only about ten years old, small and rough. The site was by no means the most pleasant, it being a succession of hills and hollows, the streets were without grading, or side walks except about the public square. Six months in the year mud was an abundant article. The population was about five hundred. Yet this place and its vicinity subscribed twenty five thousand dollars to obtain the location of the University and it was exceedingly fortunate for that place that it succeeded in its application. Had it failed the county seat would probably have been moved to Putnamville, and Greencastle would to day have been numbered with the things that were....

Likewise President Matthew Simpson shares this revealing impression of the community when he arrived in 1839:
The houses were primitive, and the people largely from Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina. There were three church edifices, a Baptist, a Presbyterian, and a Methodist, all of them very plain .... While the people were both respectable and pious, society was in almost every sense in a very primitive condition.

The first meeting of the trustees was held in the still-unfinished Methodist church building the first week of March 1837. Of the 16 men present, 15 were from Greencastle or Putnam County. Bishop Robert R. Roberts, who had presided over the 1834, 1835, and 1836 sessions of the Indiana Conference which had taken the decisive steps to establish the university, was absent, as were other trustees from parts of the state too remote for easy access to Greencastle.

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People, Events & Traditions

Cyrus Nutt

The Edifice

Tommy Goodwin

Matthew Simpson

John W. Ray

William C. Larrabee

Rebellion of 1856- 57

Literary Societies

Thomas Bowman

The Civil War

Joseph Tingley

Alexander Martin

The Edifice Fire

Bettie Locke (Hamilton)

East College

Japanese Students