John Finley Crowe
History of Hanover College 1858

Edited with Introduction by Daniel Burns


John Finley Crowe, who is generally credited with the founding of Hanover College, was born in Green County, Tennessee, which was then a part of North Carolina, on June 16, 1787. He attended Transylvania University from 1811 to 1813 and Princeton Theological Seminary in the academic year 1814-1815 and was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1815. After serving as pastor of two rural churches in Kentucky for several years, Crowe left Kentucky, apparently as a result of his unpopular abolitionist and pro-temperance views and became pastor of Hanover Presbyterian Church in 1823. In 1827, the Madison Presbytery asked Crowe to become the instructor and principal of the academy that it sought to found in order to train youth for the ministry. When Hanover Academy received its new charter as Hanover College in 1833, Crowe became Vice-President of the College, "Professor of Logic, History, Belles Lettres, and Political Economy" Additionally, he served as President of the Board of Trustees throughout much of the time during which he was involved with the College and effectively guided Hanover College until the year before his death, when the Board of Trustees named him Professor Emeritus. Crowe died on January 17, 1860.

In 1857, at the request of the Board of Trustees, Crowe wrote a History of Hanover College, which remained unpublished, but was later transcribed by his son. In the first two chapters of this book, Crowe outlines the early years and difficulties of Hanover Academy. While he does not give a precise statement of his vision for Hanover College, he makes clear his belief that God wills the establishment of a church college in order to prepare young men to supply the clerical needs of the Presbyterian Church in the on the western frontier.

Chapter I.

As Hanover College is the child of the Old School Presbyterian Church in Indiana, and acknowledged by it, as such, in all grades of its progressive development, from its inception to the present day, both light and interest may be thrown around its origin, by glancing at the rise and progress of our church in Indiana. The first Presbyterian church in Indiana was organized in the neighborhood of Vincennes, Knox county, A. D. l806; when the population of the Territory was about 12,000. Six years afterward, the Charlestown church, Clark county, was organized making two churches in the Territory, amid a population, at that time of some 30,000. And in l824, when the population had swelled to upwards of 200,000, and the churches had nearly increased to fifty; there were only seven ministers of our denomination in Salem Presbytery, which embraced at that time almost the entire state of Indiana and a large part of Illinois.

The fewness of the laborers and the immensity of the harvest; together with the loud and importunate Macedonian cry which came up from every part of the Land, urged upon the Presbytery the question, - What can be done to increase the number of laborers? Again and again had the general Assembly been applied to for aid: but that venerable body, had not been able to do anything more than to send out occasionally such young men as had intimated their willingness to labor a few months as missionaries in the West. Very few of these missionaries however, seemed disposed to encounter the toils and privations of a settlement in the Wilderness, and of those who consented to remain, four, within two or three years fell victims to the acclimating fever.

Though discouraged by these facts the Presbytery had still to meet the question, - What can be done for the multitudes, ready to perish, with eyes directed to us for aid? We had long been praying the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers, but now felt that we were called upon to act. And the only plan which seemed to promise, with God's blessing, a competent supply for the extended and constantly extending harvest was to raise them up on the ground.

Having reached this conclusion, the Presbytery at their fall Sessions, l825, appointed a committee to devise a plan for a Presbyterial Academy, and to fix on a place for its location. A variety of considerations led to the selection of Hanover as the place, and the Manua1 labor system as the plan. [Note: As the system proved a failure, involving the institution in a heavy debt, it is due to all concerned, to notice briefly, some of the reasons which induce the Presbytery to adopt it. [1] The circumstances of the churches in Indiana absolutely forbade the adoption of any plan, which wou1d require a large amount of means to carry it into successful operation. For altho' the number of churches had greatly increased, the number of communicants was only about 1,500. And a large majority of those were struggling with the difficulties of the new settlement, and were barely able to support their families. Again, the manual labor System, then but recently introduced from Europe, had been adopted by the Oneida Institute, N. York, and was represented as working admirably, and assurances were moreover given in the public papers, that young men with good health and industrious habits, could sustain themselves, while obtaining an education by laboring three hours per day, without any prejudice to their intellectual improvement, and finally it was urged that men of more than ordinary nerve and muscle were needed as pioneers of the church, and that consequently those who had been early throw [sic] upon their own resources, and had learned to bear hardness as good Soldiers, were just the men for the field. Influenced by such considerations as these, the report of the committee was approved and adopted by the Presbytery.] By a resolution of the Synod of Kentucky, October 1825, the Salem Presbytery was divided, and two new Presbyteries formed, viz:- Wabash on the West, and Madison on the East. And as the contemplated Academy was to be located within the bounds of Madison Presbytery, that body at their first meeting took action on the subject, adopted the report of the committee which had been appointed by the Salem Presbytery, and appointed a committee to secure a teacher. The committee opened a correspondence with several persons whom they supposed competent, and who they hoped, might be induced to undertake the establishment of the Academy. But difficulties of an insurmountable nature, were found standing in the way. The location had been made, and the system on which the school was to be organized, adopted, but the means to carry out the plan were wanting. No one could be found able and willing to meet the responsibilities of providing a farm and a dwelling house for the teacher, indispensibles [sic] even to an experiment.

As the efforts of the committee to employ a teacher proved utterly unavailing the Presbytery at their fall session, l826, urged the writer, then the pastor of Hanover church, to organize the school and take charge of it, until with the blessing of God, it might grow into sufficient importance to Justify the employment of a competent teacher. Convinced that the interests of the church demanded a school, and that the interests involved would justify any reasonable sacrifices in meeting that demand, he consented to make the experiment.

Accordingly on the first day of January 1827, he opened a 1ittle Grammar school, in a log cabin, which had been built for a different purpose, on his own premises, consisting of six boys, not one of whom was pious, though all sons of the Covenant . [Note. - And that little Grammar School, solemnly dedicated to Almighty God, as a nursery of the Gospel ministry, was the nucleus of both Hanover College and the Indiana Theological Seminary. We would add that four of the six became ministers of the gospel, the other two pious physicians.]

Chapter II.

No further action of the Presbytery was had on the subject of the institution, until the spring meeting, held in the Sand Creek church, April, 1828; when after a verbal report made by the Teacher, the following resolutions were adopted;

Before the close of the meeting the committee reported the following plan: The following lay-men were then appointed members of the board viz. Samuel Smock, George Logan, William Reed and Samuel Hanna. Presbytery also appointed Rev. Messrs. J. M. Dickey, J. H. Johnston and Samuel Gregg the visiting committee, and J. F. Crowe Agent of the Academy. But a new difficulty began to be felt. Most of the students were from a distance and needed boarding. The teacher accomodated [sic] as many as his house would hold, and two other families in the vicinity did the same. [Note. - It may be interesting to learn that the price of board for students, including room-rent, washing, everything, was then 75 cents per week. It must be evident to all, that even then, low as was the price of provisions, 75 cents would not be an equivalent for a week's board, to say nothing of the trouble and labor imposed on families and the wear and tear of rooms and their furniture. But the founders of the school cheerfully made the sacrifice.] But the number was increasing and provision must be made for their accomodation [sic]. To meet the emergency, the teacher suggested Judge Dunn, who had donated to the congregation, the lot on which the church was built, and owned the adjoining farm, that he should lay off the land adjoining the church and his own residence, in lots for a village which might grow with the necessities of the Institution. The Judge, then a resident; of Crawfordsville, Indiana, adopted the suggestions, laid out the village of Hanover, and donated to the academy a beautiful lot of two acres for a Campus, together with six unimproved lots in the village.

Encouraged by the smiles of Divine Providence, vouchsafed to the plans and efforts of the Presbytery in providing for the education of young men for the ministry: the Teacher now Agent of the Presbytery, felt that the time had come to make an effort to erect a building on the Campus. He suggested the subject to several of the Trustees, but they seemed to regard the suggestion as visionary. Where could the necessary funds be secured? was an unanswerable argument against the undertaking. But the teacher could not get rid of the conviction that a building was necessary to the success of the enterprise, and if so, not impracticable. He therefore after mature deliberation resolved to try. And believing that all hearts are as really in the Lord's hands as is the heart of the King, he felt a confidence of success. Having decided in his own mind that a two story brick building, 25 by 40 feet was needed, he opened the following supscription [sic]. "For the purpose of erecting a suitable building for Hanover Academy, we whose names are hereunto subscribed do promise to have performed the jobs of work taken by us severally, against the times specified" viz: -

After having let out the work as above stated, the teacher informed by letter, his friend Judge Dunn of his plan, and challenged his known liberality, by proposing to give $100 himself, for the building, if he would give a like sum. The Judge promptly responded by transmitting his check for $100.

In order to show that the interest felt by the Presbytery in their school continued without abatement, extracts from their minutes will occasionally be made. At the fall meeting Oct.1828, we find the following report, viz: -

The report was adopted and in conformity with the recommendation of the committee, Judge Sullivan and Judge Dunn were appointed to make application for a charter.

But this meeting of the Presbytery was too important in its results, both to Hanover church and Hanover Academy to be permitted to pass without further notice.

In those days when there were so few ministers to supply the numerous little churches, scattered over the new settlements, it was necessary for each minister to supply several churches, sometimes as many as four. And the administration of the Lord's Supper was confined to the Spring and Fall of each year. Nor was the Privilege enjoyed by each little church apart, but the several churches constituting the ministers charge, met together in the most central, or most important church, where they enjoyed for four succes sive [sic] days, the preaching of the Word, by two or three neighboring ministers, and the delightful ordinance was often found to be a communion of Christian hearts, where, under the banner of love, they felt that they were all one in Christ Jesus. And from this feast of fat things they returned to their homes strenghtened [sic] for the toils and trials of many days to come.

Now I need hardly remark that the ministers found it very convenient to unite these Sacramental Seasons, with the meetings of Presbytery, and that the churches esteemed it a great privilege to have the Presbytery meet in their bounds; for they would no more have thought of the Presbytery holding a regular meeting without administering the Lord's Supper, than of holding one without preaching the gospel.

Well such was the meeting of the Madison Presbytery at Hanover Oct., 1828. They met on Friday and, as usual, continued their sessions until Monday afternoon, preaching daily, fore-noon and evening. The interest of the congregation, gradually increasing, had become so intense at the time of the adjournment of Presbytery; that two of the brethern [sic] remained through the week with the Pastor, preaching the word, and directing anxious enquirers in the way of life. The result was the addition of 46 members on examination, to the communion of the church, including eight of the sixteen students then in the Academy.

This display of Divine Mercy hot [sic] only encouraged the heart and strenghtened [sic] the hands of the Teacher, but excited in the churches a deeper interest than had been felt in beha1f of the Academy.

The next session opened, Nov. l823, with upwards of twenty students, most of the addition being fruits of the recent revival which had spread extensive1y through the Presbytery. It was now found necessary to procure a larger school-room, and a transfer of the school was made from the Log-cabin to the Church, a stone building 40 feet square, which added as much to the respectability as it did to the comfort of the Academy. By these changes a new impulse seemed to be given to the enterprise. And the students, in accordance with the advice of the teacher, resolved to organize themselves into two literary Societies . For this purpose they held a public meeting and appointed two of their number to make the division. Having decided by the loss of a copper , who should have the first choice they divided the company by alternate choice.

One of the companies thus formed took for its name "The Union Literary Society", the other, "The Philosophronian."

The committee appointed by Presbytery to apply for a charter, attended promptly to the business and were successful, as will appear from the following action of the Board.

The following resolutions were then passed: -

Thus far the Board had been remarkably prospered in all their plans and in all their efforts. And their uninterrupted success was, perhaps necessary to encourage them to encounter greater difficulties. They were engaged in a great enterprise, which called for patient perseverance in well doing; and had but a tithe of the difficulties, disappointments and losses which afterwards beset the way, been revealed, the stoutest hearts might have quailed and retired from the conflict, indeed the work was but just commenced, for altho' the erection of the public building had been undertaken with a zeal that left no room to doubt its accomplishment, yet a much more important want remained unprovided for. A farm was indispensible [sic] to the introduction of the system which had been adopted and the only possible way of obtaining one, as it appeared to the Teacher, was by Donation. He had in preparing a home for his family, at Hanover, purchased of Judge Dunn one hundred acres of his large homestead tract, and regarding the object to be of sufficient importance to justify the sacrifice, he resolved to provoke his friend a second time, to a good work, by proposing to donate one half (50 acres) of his land to the Academy for a farm, if he would add to it fifty more, and again he found his noble-hearted friend ready to second his motion. One hundred acres of land were accordingly laid off, adjoining the village and legally transferred to the Trustees of Hanover Academy. Hence we find the following record made by the Board at a meeting held August l5th, l829

Information having been communicated to this Board, that a donation of one hundred acres of land has been made by the Rev. J. Finley Crowe, and Williamson Dunn, Esq., to Hanover Academy, therefore:

At the meeting of the Board, October lst., l829, the committee appointed a previous meeting, to report a plan for connecting the manual labor system with the Academy, made the following report, viz: -


At the commencement of the summer session 1832, upwards of seventy students were enrolled; it was consequently necessary to employ additional teachers. Experience suggested the plan of employing a Theological Student, who could devote a part of his time to giving instruction in the Academy, while prosecuting his theological studies with Dr. Matthews. A letter was consequently addressed to Dr. Alexander of Princeton, requesting him to inquire whether any of the young men in the Seminary, who in his judgement [sic] was competent enough to give instruction in the Classics, would be willing to aid in building up a Church College in the West, while pursuing his theological studies at Hanover. Dr. Alexander kindly accepted the agency and selected Mr. M.A. H. Niles, a graduate of Amherst College, being a fine classical scholar, for the place. Mr. Niles arrived at Hanover early in the summer and was immediately employed. At the regular meeting of the Board, May 8th, 1832, the writer tendered his resignation of the office of Principal of the Academy, which resignation was accepted. He then moved that the Rev. James Blythe D. D. of Lexington, Ky., be elected President of Hanover Academy. The motion was seconded and Dr. Blythe was unanimously elected. [Note: - Dr. Blythe had for a number of years been President of Transylvania University, and subsequently Professor of Chemistry in the Lexington Medical School.] The writer was then elected Vice President.

The accomodations [sic] were now found to be insufficient for the increasing number of students, and the Board at this meeting resolved to build a college edifice, which would furnish, not only a chapel and recitation rooms, but also dormitories for a large number of students. During the summer and fall the resolution was carried into effect by the erection of a brick building 100 feet by 40, three stories high.


There had been from the commencement of the Institution, two sessions of five months per annum. The first session commenced with Nov. and closed with March. The second commenced with May and closed with September.

About the last of October Dr. Blythe removed to Hanover with his family, and with the opening of the session of Nov. 1st, entered upon the arduous duties of his office. The other Professors were all at their posts prepared to commence business in College Style. A new classification of the students was made, throwing them all into five classes. The first called the Preparatory Department, embraced all those engaged in studies preparatory to the regular Classical course: together with such as wished to attend only to some particular branches. The others were divided into four, regular College classes, Freshman, Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors; for there were found seven of the young men prepared to enter on the studies of the Senior year. With the opening of the New Year came the exciting exercises of the inauguration of the President and Professors. The occasion had drawn together a large audience. After prayer by the President of the Board, the Present elect delivered an appropriate and interesting Inaugural address, . . . .


1. Millis, William Alfred. History of Hanover College: 1827-1927. (Greenfield, IN: William Mitchell Printing Co., 1927.), 22.
2. Millis, Chapter II.
3. Early in its history, Hanover College operated using a manual system, whereby students received their education free of charge in return for working three hours each day, six days per week. This program was ultimately abandoned for financial reasons.

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