All Aboard Kenyon College
Welcome to Gambier, a village along the Kokosing Gap Trail and home to Kenyon College. On this section of the trail.
The Kokosing Gap Trail runs through the heart of Knox County and Mount Vernon and makes up much of the corridor of our State Scenic River called the Kokosing. In the earlier years, the exact origin of the name of the river was in question but a common theory states “Kokosing” was used by the Algonquin Indians. Kokosing meant “River of the Little Owls,” in which the area had a vast population. Native Americans and settlers valued this river and the land of rich soil as it supported life and helped settlers move toward a growing economy. The Kokosing River flows for 57 miles and passes through Mt. Vernon, Gambier, Howard, and Millwood before crossing east into Coshocton County where it joins the Mohican River. What do you enjoy of your view of the river?
The once occupied Pennsylvania railroad has served as an important part of the Kenyon story for a century and a half. The first train to stop in Gambier – a freight with one passenger car attached – did so in 1866. Traffic increased rapidly over the following years, with the village’s station becoming a regular stop on the “Bluegrass Route of Ohio,” connecting Cleveland and Cincinnati. Students at the College tended to make their arrivals to and departures from the campus at the village’s station, which was situated at the bottom of the College hill.
The History of Kenyon College
During the first half of the nineteenth century in the early 1800s, many religious groups traveled to Ohio. These congregations wanted to create college institutions of higher education as they served to educate clergy.
In 1819, a man named Philander Chase (pictured centered above) became the first Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the new territory. Philander knew that he wanted to establish a college but needed to secure funding for the missionary so he sailed to England in 1823.
Bishop Chase received a letter of welcome from Lord Gambier, the chairman of the British Commission and through him and his influence, the missionary endeavor in Ohio secured a hearing in England. The principal English donors were; Lord Gambier (for whom the village is named), Lord Kenyon (for whom the college is named), Lady Rosse (for whom Rosse Chapel is named), and Lord Bexley (for whom Bexley Hall is named which is the Seminary building).
$30,000 was granted as well as numerous books and religious articles for the school library. Upon Bishop Chase’s return in 1824, he met with a friend, Henry B Curtis of Round Hill. Mr. Curtis was a notable businessman in Mount Vernon. Together they rode on horseback all over the hills east of town and with Henry’s influence, Philander Chase was able to purchase 8,000 acres to begin his endeavor.
In 1827 Philander Chase laid the cornerstone of Old Kenyon which was a massive Gothic structure and in 1829 it was complete. Gothic architecture became the design throughout the college as it is relevant yet today. The first class to graduate received their B.A.’s in 1829. The cost of education was $70.00 for 40 weeks of student life.
Many Kenyon students traveled to Gambier via the C.A. & C. Railroad and it was not uncommon to see them boarding trains at the small station. Stuart Pierson (pictured to the right above) was a student at Kenyon College in 1905, and an aspiring member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. On October 28, 1905, he was killed by an unscheduled train, after going to the railway bridge. Was as part of a hazing ceremony. Pierson was struck by the C.A & C. Locomotive #26 on a railroad bridge over the Kokosing River. Newspapers and commentators around the world were not bashful in their speculation. As one newspaper noted, the incident was “the talk of the United States for weeks.” Headlines cried, “Student Was Tied to Track” and was used as anti-fraternity propaganda. To listen to this story go to the link above.
Kenyon college is the oldest private college in Ohio. Old Kenyon is the oldest building on campus 1827-1836 and reconstructed in 1849. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1880 the village of Gambier was occupied by 576 people. By 1910-1911 aside from room and board, the cost to attend Kenyon College was $125.00 it was comprised of 14 instructors and 125 students.
Well known individuals such as the United States 19th President, Rutherford B Hayes (pictured left above) and Edward Stanton, Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War, and later film star Paul Newman graduated from Kenyon College.
Today we celebrate the rail line as part of a 365-mile multi-use trail called the Ohio to Erie which spans from Cincinnati to Cleveland. Knox County is proud to be a part of this trail system which includes our Heart of Ohio Trail, Kokosing Gap Trail, and Mohican Valley Trail