Historical marker for Hartsville College. Located on the town square in Hartsville, Ind. Photo credit: Submitted.
Historical marker for Hartsville College. Located on the town square in Hartsville, Ind. Photo credit: Submitted.

Editor's Note: Following is a guest column by Emily Haines, a BCSC student and member of the Bartholomew County Student Historians. Originally published as an academic paper, HSJ is presenting this story of Hartsville College in its original form offered in three installments with minimal edits that appear italicized brackets. Paragraph breaks inserted by editor. 

Like many things in history, Hartsville College has been lost to time. As the only college in Hartsville, it has a significant role in history, making it even more tragic that it has been forgotten. Similarly, to many other buildings and events in history, the college has an interesting and important story. In short, the creation, issues, students, closing, the events that took place after its closing, and what exists today of the college are important details to be discussed.

Firstly, the creation of Hartsville College was a very interesting and slightly complicated process. Although the marker on the Hartsville Town Square claims that the “coeducational United Brethren school [was] founded [in] 1850,” that is incorrect. According to many sources, including an Indiana Magazine of History article published in 1915, a Report of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction published in 1917, and a student report titled “Marker Text Review Report” by an unknown author in 2011, the school was established on April 3, 1847, by a vote by citizens of the Haw Creek Township. The construction of the school began soon afterward.

According to Hartsville College, Hartsville, Indiana, 1850-1897 by O.W. Pentzer, the citizens of the Haw Creek Township voted to transfer claims of the school to the United Brethren Church in February of 1848. At that time, the United Brethren Church was already trying to create a school in that area and had the means to do so. Such means were gathered through conferences across the Midwest, causing Hartsville Academy to be a multi-state college. According to A History of Education in Indiana by Richard G. Boone, “Subsequently other conferences of the same denomination, both in Ohio and Michigan, joined in supporting the institution. Thirteen conferences now, in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Ontario, co-operate in its management” (Boone 423). After the vote, the transfer was completed on March 16, 1849.

Later, the school was finished and named Hartsville Academy on January 12, 1850, after being approved by the General Assembly. As previously stated, Hartsville College was originally called Hartsville Academy in 1850. Afterward, the name was changed to Hartsville University on February 8, 1851, by the Indiana General Assembly. Such was stated in an 1891 Federal Bureau of Education article. The college’s name was then changed to Hartsville College on March 5, 1853, by the General Assembly.

What truly set Hartsville College apart from other educational institutions at that time was that it was a coeducational facility, meaning that both males and females attended the school. This is mainly according to A History of Education in Indiana by Richard G. Boone, which reads “The school has been co-educational from the beginning, and for twenty-five years fairly collegiate in rank” (Boone 424). Along with this, a report states that at least one female professor taught there at the time of its operation. Although this alone is not very impressive, in the lens of that time, such an occurrence is a major improvement in women’s rights.

[In] an 1856 address, Reverend S.J. Browne stated that many women passed their exams with much success. According to O.W. Pentzer, a large dormitory for females opened in 1866 under the name of “Germinal.” The college’s purpose was to support the “giving of young men and women with limited means a college training.” This information was provided in the footnotes of the report’s author. The Hartsville College provided many different courses and studies for numerous professions.

According to A History of Education in Indiana by Richard G. Boone, “At present it maintains (1) a Preparatory School, (2) a course in pedagogy, (3) a commercial course, (4) a course in music, (5) two college courses - one in arts, leading to the degree of A.B., and one in science, followed by the degree of B.S” (Boone 424). This maintains that college provided numerous opportunities for education as well as many options for pupils to take in their studies. The school went to such lengths as to acclaim that it should “‘grant all such degrees in the sciences and arts as are customary in other colleges, universities, or academies of the United States’” (Boone 423). All in all, Hartsville College had a very intriguing start and provided many opportunities for its pupils.

Secondly, throughout the institution’s time of operation, many issues led to Hartsville College's closing. Such included monetary issues, the Civil War, and groups that had formed within the school. After some time of functioning at the original college, the college was demolished and moved to a different location.

The construction of this second building was delayed due to the pressing matter of the Civil War. The war caused the building to not be erected and finished until 1865. Such is proclaimed by the late professor O.W. Pentzer. According to a student at the college named Dr. Arne Wilber Clouse, the economic issues that took place during the Civil War later led to the closing of Hartsville College. This information was found in a report titled “Marker Text Review Report.” This article also mentioned that during the time frame of the Civil War, no students graduated between 1859 and 1865. This information came to the author from the Hartsville University’s Annual Catalogue for 1872-3. Both the lack of graduates and the delay in construction are evidence of how the Civil War was detrimental to the school’s health.

[Chronicled in] the Annual Catalogue of Hartsville University for 1875-76 and “Marker Text Review Report,” the school began to have financial problems after the Civil War. This reached such a point that the Catalogue asked readers to donate funds of $10,000 to “avoid financial difficulties and give greater efficiency to every department in the college.” One such donation was that of Professor Philip Fix. According to an article on December 10, 1891, Logansport Pharos stated that in his donation, Fix gave $5,000 to Hartsville so long as the school stayed under the control of the United Brethren and that his son would keep his position as a professor. Although this did help the college in a monetary stance, the monetary issue was still a pressing matter. An article on October 2, 1889 [in the] Logansport Journal stated that the college was in a bad financial state, which the school had acknowledged in a previous publication of their catalogue.

[In] an October 8, 1889 Logansport Journal article, Hartsville’s United Brethren church was “waging a bitter church war against themselves.” The division of the church was due to the tension between those who agreed with secret societies, the “Radicals,” and those who were against secret societies, the “Tights.” Those who belonged to the “Tights” side expelled those who were involved in secret societies, such as the G.A.R., as well as the Grange society, which was semi-secret. [As reported in] an article from the 1893 Logansport Report, the liberal side of the issue gained control of the school and, even with the change of leadership, maintained the conditions of Professor Philip Fix’s donation. In an article from June 19, 1897, Logansport Pharos stated that the conservative side of the church, which had split due to issues regarding secret societies, left the Hartsville College and established a new church under the United Brethren name.

Although the marker on the Hartsville town square implies that the school was functioning up until the historic fire, that is completely incorrect. In truth, the school closed due to monetary issues and divisions within the church. Many people had seen the closing of the college coming. After the closing, an article in the Logansport Journal from the June 19, 1897 edition stated that the closing “had been anticipated” because “for some time the college has been struggling.” Such was described in a report titled “Marker Text Review Report.” In summary, many issues throughout the college’s time as an academic institution led to the closing of the school.

** Stay tuned for Hartsville College Part II in the coming days.


Works Cited:

Boone, Richard Gause. “Under the New Constitution, 1851–91’.” A History of Education in Indiana, edited by Richard Gause Boone, New York, D. Appleton and Company, 1892, pp. 423–24.

“Hartsville College.” United Methodist Churches of Indianaarchive.inumc.org/heritagemapdetail/168773. Accessed 23 May 2022.

Huntington University. “University Archives.” Huntington University, 25 June 2020, www.huntington.edu/united-brethren-historical-center-1/university-archives.

Indiana Historical Bureau. “Hartsville College.” IN.Gov, State of Indiana, www.in.gov/history/state-historical-markers/find-a-marker/hartsville-college. Accessed 23 May 2022.

“Indiana Almanac.” IN.Gov, State of Indiana, www.in.gov/history/about-indiana-history-and- trivia/indiana-almanac. Accessed 23 May 2022.

Indianapolis University. “O.W. Pentzer: A Man of Varied Accomplishments.” Hartsville College Archive Project, Indianapolis University, uindy.edu/archives/files/hartsville-college/owpentzer_a_man_of_varied_accomplishments.pdf. Accessed 23 May 2017.

“Marker Text Review Report.” IN.Gov, Bartholomew County, 30 June 2011, www.in.gov/history/files/03.1995.1_Hartsville_College_Review_Report_and_Bibliography.pdf.

O.W. Pentzer & Son. “Hartsville College, Hartsville, Indiana 1850–1897.” We Do History, Indiana Historical Society, images.indianahistory.org/digital/collection/V0002/id/806. Accessed 23 May 2023.

Stimson, Richard. “The Boyhood Nurturing of the Wright Brothers.” Wright Stories, 2001–2022 Wright Stories, wrightstories.com/the-boyhood-nurturing-of-the-wright-brothers. Accessed 23 May 2022.

University of Indianapolis. “Hartsville College Archive Project Update: October 2019.” Hartsville College Archive Project, University of Indianapolis, Oct. 2019, uindy.edu/archives/files/hartsvillecollege/hartsville_college_archive_project_update_oct2019.pdf.

“Remembering Arne Wilbur Clause M.D. Class of 1897.” Hartsville College Archive Project, University of Indianapolis, uindy.edu/archives/files/hartsville-college/remembering_arne_wilbur_clouse_md_class_of_ 1897.pdf. Accessed 23 May 2022.