Logan County’s first college

Congregation brings higher education to area

Geneva College 1855

The Geneva College women’s seminary is shown in this 1855 photo taken by Bellefontaine photographer F.M. Rudy. BELOW: The marker that commemorates the site, located along State Route 638, is unveiled. (PHOTOS| COURTESY LOGAN COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY) 

Way at the top of the Great Miami River, Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America members, commonly called Covenanters, came to settle in the 1820s.

They came mostly from eastern Ohio and upstate New York, unlike Covenanters farther down state. Those who’d earlier come up from South Carolina and Tennessee founded RPCNA congregations in Cincinnati, Xenia, Cedarville and the Beechwoods near Oxford. The newcomers were in a clearing in the woods far to the north of these places. That’s how the settlement came to be called Northwood, Ohio, in Logan County.

They were farther away from schools back east. In 1836, the first minister, John Black Johnston, was involved in discussion around a stove in the store in nearby Richland. Presiding over the discussion was his brother, J.S. Johnston, the storekeeper. The topic was the need for a school, particularly for the RP young men in the area. There were other places for schooling in Ohio, particularly Miami University in Oxford, but Old School Presbyterians and Associate Reformed Presbyterians dominated.They were good men, and a couple of them had RP pasts, but they weren’t Covenanters now.

J.B. Johnston took the ball, so to speak, and ran with it. He put the idea for a “grammar school” before the Lakes Presbytery of the RPCNA in late 1847.

He got their approval, and on April 20 of that year the school started up in Northwood with the name “Geneva Hall.” Rev. Johnston had a brick building constructed, and Geneva Hall moved into the two-story, five-roomed building. Geneva printed advertising and distributed it to papers, including those of the RP Church. Students came, in increasing number, from nearby and from farther away. It helped that a railroad came to the village of Belle Center, only three miles away, at around the same time Geneva Hall was opened.

geneva college dedication

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