Wooster in 1870
When the University of Wooster opened its doors in 1870, the town of Wooster was not the large town it is today. The population was less than 2,000 families, and there were no paved roads leading downtown.1 Wooster was largely self-sufficient, only manufacturing and growing enough to provide to the needs of the town and surrounding district.2 With the arrival of the new schools in Wooster (both the new Presbyterian University and the Agricultural Research Station), however, the townspeople were optimistic that the new students and professors would increase the commerce of the town. They looked to Ann Arbor, MI and the University of Michigan as a reference for their expectations – hundreds of students flooding into Wooster would need lodging, a sewage system, and railroads connecting Wooster to Pittsburgh and Chicago.3 However, the townspeople were headed for disappointment. The complete count of students registered for classes in the fall of 1870 at the University of Wooster was a meager thirty-four.4 These first University of Wooster students were an odd bunch: nearly all were older than the average student, half of the first years came from a farming background and five had their education interrupted by the Civil War. When the school’s population jumped to 170 students in its third year, it is likely that the town finally started reaping the rewards they had anticipated when opening the school.5
1 US Census Bureau, Census of Population and Housing, June 1, 1870, census.gov.
2 Lucy Notestein, Wooster of the Middle West Volume One 1866-1910 (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1971), 12.
3 Ibid., 42.
4 University of Wooster Catalog, Wooster, OH, 1870.