The Life of Lorin Andrews

Editor's note: On Thursday, April 23, 1998, the remains of Lorin Andrews, the sixth presi-dent of Kenyon, were interred in a new grave in the College cemetery, not far from the spot they had occupied for more than 136 years. (The construction this summer of the College's new music building, which will be located between Rosse Hall and the cemetery, neces-sitated the move.) The reburial service, accompanied by a full academic procession, was led by Rt. Rev. J. Clark Grew, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio and a Kenyon trustee ex officio. The ceremony also included an address by McIlvaine Professor of English Perry C. Lentz '64 (published here), student testimonies first read at Andrews's funeral and recited on this occasion by Affiliated Scholar Andrew S. Richmond '96, and the singing by the Chamber Singers of Andrews's favorite hymn, "I would Not Live Alway," the text of which was discovered by Fine Arts Librarian Carmen M. King.

P rior to the recent reburial of his remains, the last time people gathered on Gambier Hill to honor Lorin Andrews was on September 20, 1861--a Friday morning of gray skies and dry, rustling brown leaves. The preceding summer, while on operations as the colonel commanding the 4th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Andrews had contracted typhoid fever. Typhoid is caused by Salmonella typhosa, a bacterium that enters the body through contaminated food or water. That summer, the 4th Ohio Infantry had served in a small army commanded by General George McClellan, which had destroyed the rebel forces in western Virginia. During that brief, brilliant campaign, the officers and men of the 4th Ohio had cleaned and fed themselves in ways practiced by soldiers in the field since time immemorial. They had bathed in the streams and rivers from which they drew their drinking water; they had slaughtered beef cattle in the open air and butchered the meat amidst swarms of flies; they had been casual about personal hygiene and the location of latrines. Because of the omnipresence of typhoid fever in army camps, it was often called "camp fever."

A man infected with typhoid will at first experience headache, lassitude, intestinal distress, then rising fever. On August 26, Colonel Andrews was persuaded to take sick leave; a fellow colonel sent his spurs to a Kenyon classmate in the 23rd Ohio, Major Rutherford B. Hayes. Andrews returned home to the College president's house, a two-story building of whitewashed brick that stood to the northwest of Old Kenyon.

When typhoid arrives in its full virulence, a man's fever will rise steadily for a week, reaching a high of a hundred and four degrees, and it will remain at that level for another two weeks. During those weeks, Lorin Andrews--a man known for energy, decisiveness, and disciplined self possession--lay in his bed, alternately in sweat-soaked delirium or in a stupor. Students in the College Park refrained from their customary games and music--even from loud conversation. It is possible to survive the fever itself, and on Tuesday, September 18, there was some hope of his recovery. But typhoid often brings on other, catastrophic, illnesses: peritonitis, pneumonia, meningitis.

It is worth recalling that exactly twice as many Union soldiers died of disease during the Civil War as were killed by combat--two-hundred twenty thousand of them. At three-thirty on the afternoon of Wednesday, September 19, Lorin Andrews joined that number. The College bell tolled forty-two times--once for each year of his life. News of his death shocked the entire state. The next day, lines of people passed through the house to pay homage. His emaciated body was clothed in his uniform: a dark blue frock coat, with two rows of brass buttons and the embroidered silver eagles of his rank.

The noon hour, then, on September 20. The funeral procession came up Middle Path: twelve students formed an honor guard; the faculties of the College and the Seminary were the pallbearers. The coffin was covered with a black cloth. Andrews's sword lay on it and, in silver thread, a device of a crown and cross, interwoven with Golden Rod, evergreen ivy, and snow-white flowers. Following came the family, then the choir, and then the students from the College, the preparatory schools, and the Seminary. Bishop Charles P. McIlvaine, accompanied by his coadjutor and his chaplain, stood waiting on the steps of Rosse Chapel. "I expected," McIlvaine was thinking, "that he would stand at my grave. But here am I to lay him in his. We have paid a large price." There was a moment of silence before the coffin was born into the chapel for the funeral service.

The human journey that came down to that last stretch of gravel path and those stone steps had begun in 1819, in a log cabin in a village that had been platted only four years earlier: Uniontown, Ohio, which would not be called "Ashland" for some years. Andrews's father soon established his wife and four children in a com-fortable brick farmhouse. John Chapman, Swedenborgian tracts in one pocket of his saddlebags and apple seeds in the other, was a frequent visitor. Schooling in that frontier culture was uncertain, and it could be brutal. The first "academy" in Ashland was founded in 1830, when Lorin Andrews was eleven, but there is a family reminiscence of his having been sent "when very young" to a teacher whose punishment for wayward students was to suspend them from the ceiling by their wrists.

Andrews was, nonetheless, precocious and admired. When he was seventeen, he was selected to deliver the Independence Day address at Carter's Grove: he made such an impression that his father was persuaded to send him to college. He studied for two years in the Senior Preparatory Department of Kenyon College and in November 1838 entered the Freshman Class. Rutherford Hayes described him in his diary: "Mr. Andrews is a young man of good natural ability, is very industrious in whatever he undertakes [and] does every-thing with his whole soul. Through freshman year he was invariably at the head of the class in all the studies. In the winter term of sophomore year he became interested in the establishment of a magazine, called the Collegian; he spent his whole time attempting to carry this scheme into operation. . . . He was a warm supporter of General Harrison's; went to the [Whig Party] convention at Columbus on the February 22, 1840, and came back a warm politician." Andrews also came back having made the acquaintance of Sarah Rebecca Gates of Worcester, Massa-chusetts, one of several young women who had ridden on a wagon carrying the log-cabin symbol of Harrison's campaign.

"In my opinion," Hayes wrote, "he is a talented, energetic, honorable young man, and if he will let politics alone, will make a good lawyer." But meanwhile Lorin Andrews's father, too "openhanded" in his generosity, had plunged the family into debt, and in the autumn of his junior year, Andrews was compelled to withdraw.

He became an assistant teacher at Ashland Academy in May 1841, and--balked in his own formal education--studied every book he could lay his hands on in order to keep ahead of his students. His dedication was matched by his keen insight into human nature, and he became a superlative teacher. He married Sarah Gates in 1843: Clara, a daughter, was born the next year, and a son named Lewis two years later. His career was flourishing: he moved on to a position at Mansfield and then returned in 1844 to become principal of Ashland Academy.

Public education in the United States was then in its infancy, especially in newly settled western states such as Ohio. Citizens could argue, in complete sincerity, that it was "heresy" to "confiscate part of one man's property to educate another man's child," and parents were charged a fee for each child they decided to put in public school. And following the panic of 1837, the General Assembly had abolished the position of state school superintendent. The teaching profession was considered a "business of last resort" for men otherwise defeated by life or a "painful alternative" for men temporarily down on their luck. Well over half of the full-time teachers were men, because of the brutal disciplinary problems arising in common-school classrooms, where five-year-old children were educated beside youths of nineteen and twenty.

Confronting these harsh realities, Lorin Andrews and a dozen fellow teachers met in Akron on December 30, 1847, and founded the Ohio Teachers' Association. Their intention was twofold: "to prepare the public mind" to enact legislation that would provide a genuinely free public-school system and yet also to "induce improvements"--somehow--in the existing public-school system, so as to convince the "public mind" that the system had benefits that were indeed worth extending. In October 1848, Andrews was named super-intendent of the new Massillon Union School. The denomination "Union" meant that the school divided its students into instructional grades, and it was one of only five schools in the entire state that was so organized.

Photographs of Lorin Andrews from this time show a solemn, handsome, clean-shaven young man, with a high, broad forehead, straight nose, determined mouth. In 1846, Kenyon had awarded him an honorary master's degree; in 1848, he was admitted to the bar in Ashland County. He was energetic, industrious, sober, and pious. His Christianity was central to his conception of himself--and to his com-mitment to public education: Bishop McIlvaine, his spiritual mentor, noted that one of Andrews's "main ends was to secure in the working of the schools as much religious instruction as the system was cap-able of admitting." He had thick reddish-brown hair and clear, direct, brown eyes. He was five feet, eight inches in height, one hundred and thirty pounds in weight, erect and vigorous. In 1849, his young son died of whooping cough; in 1850, he and Sarah had a second son, named Frank.

Then, in early 1851, the Ohio Teachers' Association asked Andrews to resign his position at Massillon and to become their "agent," their "missionary" in advancing their "principle that common school education should forever be made free to every child in the state"; to become their apostle to the teachers themselves, bring-ing them inspiration, information, and new ideas; to become, in essence, the superintendent that the state itself believed it could not afford. In fact, the association itself could not afford to offer him a salary: for compensation, Andrews would have to rely upon what individual teachers could voluntarily contribute.

He nonetheless took the job. "August 26, 1851," Rutherford Hayes wrote: "Sun-day, received a call from my old college classmate, Lorin Andrews. He stood first among us as a student, ambitious, enthusiastic, hopeful, with great industry. . . . Yet he never seemed to have unusual powers of mind, and now I feel sure he has not. His hobby now is common schools."

To this "hobby" Andrews committed himself in his wholehearted way. He appeared at scores of teachers institutes across the counties of the state, reminding awestruck backwoods teachers that Aris-totle and Jesus had been teachers themselves, illustrating new ways of managing a budget or teaching a natural science, explaining the value of the "union" system of school organization. Then, returning to his office in Columbus, he plunged back into correspondence with lawyers, legislators, and editors in that constant campaign to influence the "public mind."

Thousands of miles of travel by horseback and buggy each year, for three full years, hundreds of appearances, sheaves of private correspondence, scores of public lectures, labor of a sort that is especially selfless because it leaves so little by way of public memorial, or even evidence, of itself. In the Kenyon archives, only a single letter replying to a "friend" and fellow worker named "Rosella" remains. Nor did this labor produce much monetary com-pensation: in 1853, Andrews received just over a thousand dollars.

And yet Andrews's exertions proved to be of incalculable worth. Delegates to the Teachers' Association rose from twelve to a hundred and fifty, then to three hundred, then to five hundred. The number of "union" schools rose to forty-five, then to a hundred. And in 1853, the General Assembly enacted the association's entire slate of proposals into law: most particularly, it established a state property tax of two mills to support the establishment of free, universal, public education in Ohio.

"The School Law of 1853" also established the position of a State School Com-missioner, and at its July meeting the five hundred delegates of the Ohio Teachers' Association unanimously recommended Lorin Andrews. But the position was elective, and in the elections that autumn, the Democratic Party won a landslide victory. Andrews lost to a high-school principal from Cincinnati.

So instead, in 1854 Andrews accepts the invitation of his alma mater and returns to Kenyon as its president. The institution is in a "fatal depression": financially bankrupt, ineptly administered, and enrolling only forty-odd students. But when Lorin Andrews comes home, Gambier Hill glows with new hope: on a brilliant December evening, every window in the College is illuminated with candles and transparencies, and Kenyon welcomes its sixth president with addresses, music, and parades.

Andrews is thirty-five years old. Bishop McIlvaine finds in his new president the same qualities he remarked in him as a student: he is energetic, sincere, warmhearted, and decisive. In the discharge of his presidential duties, Andrews particularly impresses McIlvaine with the soundness of his judgment and with his selflessness. Indeed, the bishop probably does not know exactly how selfless he is: McIlvaine's powerful presence in the life of the Col-lege constantly undermines Andrews's presidential authority, but rather than complaining publicly, he paces away his frustrations in the midnight corridors of the president's house.

His faculty finds that its new president is "not endowed with great brilliance of intellect," nor is he a "profound scholar." But he is exactly what Kenyon needs: a man of "decision, energy, and disinterestedness"; an "efficient executive" who is also a genuinely pious and prayerful human being; a president who governs the College "with energy and success," yet who is "also genial, sensitive, warmhearted, [and] free from harsh judgment and ill-will."

To his students, he is an "able and beloved teacher." Expounding to a class upon Haven's Moral and Mental Philosophy, he is so earnestly engaged that he unconsciously raises and lowers himself upon his toes as he lectures. The students also consider him to be a "sagacious and prudent president," and they admire him as a "truly good man." He can show a flash of anger, but he typically responds to students' pranks and offenses with wit and good humor.

The particular esteem he enjoys among high-school principals is directing scores of their students to the College; the general esteem he enjoys throughout the region is bringing it widespread attention, admiration, and support. According to the Ohio State Journal, President Andrews has launched Kenyon College "into a career of prosperity" unparalleled "in the history of Literary Institutions" anywhere in the nation. He is offered, and declines, the presidency of Iowa State University. In 1857, the cornerstone of Ascension Hall is laid, and Andrews's presence and example are crucial in persuading the Rev. Gregory T. Bedell to leave his New York City parish and join Bishop McIlvaine in Gambier. In 1858, Princeton awards him an honorary doctor of laws. In 1859, the Collegian--the journal upon which he had squandered his own sophomore year--writes that Kenyon's preeminence among colleges west of the Alleghenies is axiomatic: a matter of simple fact. College teams play baseball on the Old Kenyon lawn. In 1860, there are two hundred and thirteen students enrolled in the three divisions of the College. Andrews's popularity is so great in the State of Ohio that delegates to the convention of the Constitutional Union Party advance his name as a candi-date for governor.

And then the election of 1860, the secession of the southern states, and the coming of the Great Rebellion. Lorin Andrews will enter history as "the first man in Ohio to volunteer for the Union Army." He has cultivated his reddish-brown beard in a ferocious style, and he glares out of his mature photographs with the intensity of a prophet, or a firebrand. But these martial appearances belie a deeper truth.

All of his life, Andrews has hated human suffering; he has an academic's loathing for violence and a deep distaste for military life. But he has always been an extraordinarily public-spirited man and, in meditation and prayer, he has been pondering the question of his duty. And also, during these first months of 1861, he has been considering the quandary in which Gover-nor William Dennison is finding himself. The governor cannot anticipate how the citizens of the Sovereign State of Ohio will respond to a call for volunteers to serve the federal government in suppressing the rights of other states. In February--two months before the Confederates fire on Fort Sumter--Andrews authorizes Governor Dennison to use his name if the time comes when he must call for volunteers. Both men recognize how widely Andrews is admired; no private citizen in Ohio is more influential. So when the time does come in April, and President Abraham Lincoln does request seventy-five thousand volunteers for three months of federal service, the first name Dennison officially "receives" is that of Lorin Andrews. Throughout the state, from school district to school district, the example is felt.

Andrews himself raises a company of volunteers in Knox County, and he is made its captain. On April 19, he tenders his resignation to the Kenyon Board of Trustees; they refuse to accept it and, instead, grant him an indefinite leave of absence. On April 22, he marches with his company to Camp Jackson in Columbus, where it becomes Company A of the 4th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and is regimented with nine other companies raised in neighboring counties. On April 29, Governor Dennison appoints him to the rank of colonel. The man who once read every book he could get his hands on to stay ahead of his students now applies himself to learning all the things he needs to know to command an infantry regiment. He sits for a photograph in his uniform, wearing gauntlets and a kepi. At the beginning of May, he marches his regiment to Camp Dennison, near Cincinnati, and they are mustered in, one thousand and four of them, for three months' service.

From the outset, he proves an unusually effective disciplinarian. These volunteer soldiers, who have enlisted in companies titled "The Knox County Guards" and "The Canton Zouaves" and who are accustomed to electing their officers, are at first resentful, but they discover that this college president's discipline never becomes tyrannical; that his officers are unanimously loyal; that he knows his business. He is strict but also frank, open, selfless, and zealous in providing for their needs. He drills them rigorously in the manual of arms and in field maneuvers, pushing them toward excellence. They find themselves growing in self-respect and in the desire to excel, and they come to believe they are the best drilled regiment in the Union Army, a judgment shared by visiting officers, newspaper correspondents, and friends from other regiments. On May 22, they are paraded and urged to reenlist for three years of federal service. Andrews addresses them in his rich, powerful voice; virtually all decide to reenlist, many with the express understanding that Andrews will retain command of the regiment.

On June 12, the regiment reassembles after a week of home furlough. On June 17, General McClellan inspects them. Nine hundred and seventy-six men are present for duty. On June 20, 1861, Colonel Andrews inspects their new weapons--the eight line companies are armed with .69-caliber Springfield muskets, and C and F, the two flank companies, have British-made Enfield rifles. That afternoon, Colonel Andrews orders the company cooks to prepare two days' rations of beef, and he orders his quartermasters to issue forty rounds of ammunition to each soldier: buck-and-ball cartridges to the men in the line companies, cartridges with the conical Minie ball to those in the flank companies. The 4th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment prepares to enter the mountains of western Virginia--and history.

Almost exactly three years later, on June 22, 1864, the soldiers of the 4th Ohio will be mustered out of the federal service. There will be--almost exactly--eight hundred fewer of them: one hundred and seventy-seven men will receive their discharge papers and take trains for home.

Lorin Andrews will not be among them.

Perry Lentz is the McIlvaine Professor of English at Kenyon.

Back to Top