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Curry proved to be an aggressive administrator. "Old Hippodrome," as he was soon known on campus, gained strong support from the students in confrontation with town authorities over the stabbing of an undergraduate by a local ruffian. But when he attempted to strengthen college discipline a serious student rebellion erupted. It began in the fall of 1856 with a faculty ruling that the literary societies hold their weekly meetings on Friday afternoon rather than evening. When students resisted the ruling, claiming the right to regulate their own literary society affairs, the president demanded they sign a pledge to obey the regulations of the university or be dismissed. As a result 77 students were suspended including the entire senior class. No one graduated at Commencement in 1857, though defiant seniors were eventually awarded their degrees and recognized as alumni.



In July 1857 the board of trustees voted a lukewarm endorsement of the administration, but Curry resigned anyway, followed by two members of the faculty. Too heavy handed and tactless for a college president, he went on to successful pastorates in New York and Connecticut and a 12-year stint as editor of the Christian Advocate in New York City.


       David McDonald was president of the board of trustees
           from  1858-61.  He was a county attorney, legislator,
           Circuit judge, and first professor of law at Indiana
           University.  He was offered the presidency of Indiana
           Asbury in 1857, but turned the offer down a year later -
           after stationery with his name had been printed!
           (Indiana Historical Society)

To replace Curry the trustees chose one of their own number, Judge David McDonald, former head of the Indiana University Law School and a layman, who waited a year before declining the post. Cyrus Nutt, who had returned to the Asbury faculty for the third time as vice president, acted as president until the arrival of the Rev. Thomas Bowman, a Pennsylvanian and graduate of Dickinson College whom the board elevated as president in 1858.


The '50s were a turbulent period in the university's history, marked by high faculty and administrative turnover as well as a
 certain amount of alienation. The Berry faculty from 1849 to 1854 consisted of Wheeler, Larrabee, Charles Downey, Tingley, Lattimore, and Benson, plus Miles J. Fletcher, professor of English literature and normal instruction after 1852, and John A. Matson in law, and the president himself. Larrabee left in 1852 and Wheeler, Fletcher, and Matson in 1854 with Berry. Curry replaced Matson with Alexander C. Downey, and brought Edmund E. Bragdon to teach Latin, Bernard Nadal in belles lettres, and Henry B. Hibben to direct the preparatory department and teach foreign languages. Nadal, Hibben, and Charles Downey left in 1857 with Curry, and Bragdon a year later. Tingley and Lattimore were the only leftovers from the Simpson-Berry era; shortly rehired were Matson to replace Downey in law in 1858, Fletcher in Belles Lettres and history in 1857, and Nutt in mathematics with administrative responsibilities in 1857. The Simpson-Berry appointees were back in the saddle on the faculty.

Likewise in the '50s the students were becoming restless under a narrow and rather arbitrary course of study, which included compulsory chapel attendance plus three or four hours of class recitations each weekday morning, Saturday morning exercises in composition and declamation, and Sunday afternoon faculty lectures. It is surprising that there were not more frequent student uprisings!




Prosperous members of the new middle class of farmers and professionals were constructing red-brick mansions and sending their children to college to "get ahead." Greencastle was connected to the wider world by the Terre Haute Railroad (later part of the Pennsylvania system) running east and west; and to the north and south by the Louisville, New Albany, and Chicago (The Monon) railroad. While Indiana Asbury experienced some enrollment declines in the '50s, it remained the largest institution of higher education in the state, with a student body ranging between 200 and 300. Its alumni were successful lawyers, ministers, physicians, editors, teachers, politicians, farmers, and businessmen in Indiana and beyond.

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Depauw University e-history | E-mail comments to:


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