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  • Jack Bowerman

Published Sources of Baker History

For those of you who would like to take a deeper dive into Baker University history, I recommend you check out these three books:

  • “Alumni Record of Baker University: Including an account of the Principal Events in the first Twenty-five years of the History of the College, with a Roster of the Trustees and the Faculty, and their Officers,” compiled and edited by Osmon Grant Markham, 1917.

  • “History of Baker University,” by Homer Kingsley Ebright, 1951

  • “John Baldwin and Son Milton Come to Kansas: An Early History of Baldwin City, Baker University and Methodism in Kansas,” Virginia Gatch Markham, 1982

All of these books are available on Amazon or AbeBooks, and the Alumni Record book is available as a free download from the Internet. The remainder of this post is written to honor these author/editor “heros” of published Baker history. Much of the information contained in our blog posts is drawn from the books they published.

OSMON GRANT MARKHAM


Osman Grant Markham was born on August 21, 1865 to Reverend Doctor Lewis and Sarah Wirt Markham in Loudonville, Ohio. I have to wonder whether Osmon was named after Bishop Osmon Cleander Baker that Baker University is named after. In any case, Osmon used his middle name, Grant, with friends and family. His father was trained as a medical doctor but was “called” to be a Methodist preacher in 1863. In 1880, Reverend Markham took his oldest son, Lincoln, to enroll him in the Academy of Baldwin University in Berea, Ohio (in those days academies were the equivalent of high schools today). Baldwin University (which later became Baldwin Wallace) was founded in 1845 by John Baldwin the same man that Baldwin City, Kansas is named after. Grant was the next oldest of five children and in 1881 it was his turn to go to Berea. To earn money while he was in school, Grant was on the janitorial staff and his room was in the tower of Hulett Hall because one of his jobs was to ring the bell that was housed in the tower. His room was heatless, and he slept on ticking stuffed with corn husks. Grant was joined a few years later by the next son in line, William Colfax Markham, who also joined the janitorial staff.

Grant graduated from Baldwin University in 1886 and after teaching for a year in Missouri, he was named principal of the Academy at Baker University. He remained as principal until 1892 when he spent a year doing graduate work in Latin at the University of Chicago. Returning to Baker the following year he was made Professor of Latin, a position he held for 31 years. He was not only known for his fine work as a teacher, but as a leader in many other school activities, including managing the baseball team, helping to organize the Baker University Althletic Association, serving as the Secretary of the Faculty, and overseeing the Student Council. In 1898 he was made Registrar and in 1905 he was named Dean of the University. In 1914, he served as the secretary of the endowment fund campaign that raised a half a million dollars. It was no surprise when President Lough resigned in 1921 that the Board turned to Grant to fill the position in an acting capacity until Wallace Bruce Fleming was named President.

On August 24, 1894, Grant married Presocia “Socia” Buckingham. Socia was a descendant of the Gatch family which had a prominent position in the history of the Methodist church in the US. Her great grandfather, Phillip Gatch, was one of only 10 native born Americans asked by Bishop Francis Asbury to become an itinerant circuit riding preacher to serve the 1200 or so Methodists in America at that time. In 1772, he founded what is known today as the Gatch Memorial United Methodist Church in Baltimore. Socia’s grandfather, George Gatch, was also a well known preacher. Grant and Socia had one daughter, Virginia Gatch Markham, in 1898.

In 1909, after the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Baker there was increased interest in researching and preserving the key events in Baker’s history and in recognizing the individuals who helped shape it. The Trustees entrusted this work to Professor Grant Markham. Even with help of Professor Lillian Scott the task proved to be overwhelming. So, it was not until 1917 the work ““Alumni Record of Baker University: Including an account of the Principal Events in the first Twenty-five years of the History of the College, with a Roster of the Trustees and the Faculty, and their Officers” was published. The book begins with a section called “Annals of Baker University” which documents all of the key events and decisions that took place in the first 25 years which allows the reader to understand how and why Baker was created and the role that a number of individuals had in its creation. The rest of the book is essentially a series of lists of Trustees, Presidents, Faculty and Alumni with brief biographies of many on the people listed. It is an invaluable document for anyone seeking to understand the early days of Baker.

During Grant’s 37 years at Baker he no doubt witnessed or was aware of a number of pranks committed by the student body. One prank that involved Grant was documented in an earlier post to this blog but bears repeating here: “Another tale is that of Dean Markham’s chair. In the Faculty hierarchy on the Chapel platform the Dean sat next to the President, center stage. Now, no one really disliked Dean Markham. We came to realize, after we were alumni, that the Dean was a man of good humor and an affable, lovable gentleman. Presumably, however, as the Dean he was a symbol of authority the restraints of which must have seemed to justify some offsetting devil-may-care action. So, one night, a trio bent on such action climbed the creaky stairs of Centenary Hall to saw and sever the legs of the Dean’s chair from its seat, leaving the parts in position, standing upright in apparently normal condition. Next morning, the Dean came on to the Chapel platform, but to go to the second row. The reason became evident when President Fleming entered escorting Mr. Joab Mulvane, from Topeka, an elderly gentleman who was then in the process of giving to Baker the money to build the Science Hall which now bears his name. Mr. Mulvane was about to sit in the Dean’s chair but was moved over a spot to permit that morning’s speaker, his son, Dave, to sit there. Dave Mulvane was the publisher of one of the Wichita newspapers and the then Chairman of the Kansas State Republican Committee. Lo, the chair stood – to the relief of the trio, I suppose, who must have thought the janitors had discovered their handiwork. That is, the chair stood until the first hymn was announced. As Dr. Fleming offered Dave Mulvane a hymnal, his center of gravity moved, the engineering planned for the Dean worked perfectly, and the chair gave way, “Kerplop!”. Dave dropped backwards, feet high in the air, to come to rest with his head in the lap of one of the women professors, a lady of some proportions. To his everlasting credit, Dave took the episode in stride and in his talk thanked the student body for his touching reception. So far as is known, no attempt was made to identify the pranksters. Dean Markham was seen to chuckle when he left the Chapel service.”

Grant had always been interested in the work of the Methodist Church. He was a lay leader in the local church and in the Kansas Conference and was chosen six times by the Laymen’s Association to be a delegate to the Church’s General Conference held every four years. In 1924, Grant left Baker after he was elected as a Publishing Agent for the Methodist Book Concern, a very prestigious position within the Church. He worked in this capacity for 16 years. Upon his retirement in 1940, he and Socia moved to Cleveland where their daughter was working as a teacher. Grant died April 18, 1943 and was buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Baldwin.

HOMER KINGSLEY EBRIGHT


Homer Kingsley Ebright was born August 30, 1878 in Hartford, Ohio County, Kentucky to Reverend Alpha Omega and Arminta Philbrick Ebright. Homer’s father graduated from Western Reserve Medical College in Cleveland (now the School of Medicine in Case Western Reserve University) and was a practicing physician for several years before entering the ministry. In 1870, Alpha was ordained as a Methodist clergyman an in Ohio and Kentucky. In 1885, Alpha moved his family to Kansas and joined the Southwest Kansas Conference of the Methodist Church. He served churches and districts in Kansas including Lyons, McPherson, Winfield, Marion, Wellington, superintendent of the Winfield district, Sterling, superintendent of the Hutchinson district, superintendent of the Wichita district, Trinity Church in Wichita, El Dorado, Anthony, Calvary Church in Wichita and chaplain at Wesley hospital. For thirty years he was President of the Board of Trustees of Southwestern College in Winfield. Reverend Ebright and Bishop William Quayle of Baldwin, were close personal friends, and the last letter Bishop Quayle ever wrote was to Dr. Ebright.

Homer graduated from Winfield High School and attended Southwestern College there. He transferred to Baker and graduated with the class of 1900. He was initiated into the Alpha Omega Fraternity in 1897 which was a forerunner of the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity and was later initiated into that fraternity as an alumni member. His brother, Alpha Mills Ebright, who also attended Baker was a Kappa Sigma and graduated in 1905. (There is some evidence that he went by “Kingsley” while at Baker, but we will use “Homer’” in this post.)

After graduating from Baker, Homer taught mathematics at Winfield High School, 1900-01. He then went to New York and received a master’s degree from New York University in 1904 and at the same time attended Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, New Jersey where he received a Bachelor of Divinity degree in that same year. While at Drew he served as a Methodist minister at churches in Rockaway Valley, Weehawan and Grantwood, New Jersey. Returning to Kansas he preached at Lakin, Linwood and Kansas City in Kansas as well as Hennessey in Oklahoma. In 1905 he was invited to be become a Professor of Greek at Baker. He remained at Baker for 46 years teaching Greek and Biblical Literature, Serving as acting Dean in 1914 and 1922 and permanent Dean from 1924 to 1935. While teaching at Baker, he continued to pursue his own educational interests doing graduate work at Columbia, University of Chicago, and Drew Theological Seminary where he received a Doctor of Theology degree. He also received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Southwestern College.

On June 6, 1905, Homer married Marie Lenoir Moorhead, who was also a graduate of Baker, in Baldwin City. They had two children, Elizabeth Joan Ebright and Jean Helen Ebright. Jean died in infancy, but Elizabeth graduated from Baker in 1933, was a long-time librarian at Washburn University and returned to Baker in the 1960’s to teach English. The Ebrights bought a house at 613 Eighth Street in 1910 and it remained in the family until 1996 when Elizabeth died and she left it to Baker.

Homer retired in 1951 and in the same year published the definitive “History of Baker University.” The book was dedicated to the memory of Osmon Grant Markham. It contains everything you need to know about the first 93 years of Baker history, including brief biographies of all of Baker’s Presidents and prominent faculty, interesting chapters about the founding of the University, academics and social and Greek life. In fact, it covers many of the topics that we have written about in our blog, but we have endeavored to use other sources and expand upon what Homer wrote about as well as add content about people, places and event s that occurred after 1951. Homer died May 6 1964 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Baldwin City.

VIRGINIA GATCH MARKHAM


Virginia Gatch Markham was born on November 18, 1898 to Osmon Grant and Presocia “Socia” Buckingham Markham in Baldwin City. Virginia was named after her maternal grandmother, Virginia Gatch, who was descended from Reverend Phillip Gatch one of the first native born Methodist ministers in America. Her father, who is discussed earlier in this post, was a Professor, Dean and acting President of Baker for 37 years.

Virginia graduated from Baldwin City High School in 1915 and Baker University in 1919. At Baker, she was a member of Delta Delta Delta Sorority. After graduating from Baker, she did graduate studies at Columbia University, Western Reserve University and University of Chicago where she earned a master’s degree in 1925. She taught Latin and mathematics at Florence High School in Kansas and at Greencastle High School in Indiana from 1919 to 1930. From 1930 until her retirement in 1963, she taught in high schools in Cleveland, Ohio. After retiring she returned to Baldwin City to complete a book based on a family project begun in the 1930’s and then set aside after her father’s death in 1943. This book dealt with early Methodism in Maryland, Virginia and Ohio and with the descendants of Godfrey Gatch.

Her book, “John Baldwin and Son Milton Come to Kansas: An Early History of Baldwin City, Baker University and Methodism in Kansas,” is interesting. It is not an attempt to be a complete history of Baker or Baldwin City, but it does contain great detail about the trials and tribulations of the Baldwin family attempting to establish a foothold on the frontier with a new city and a new university. The book includes a large collection of letters written between members of the Baldwin family and letters by other people involved in the creation of Baker and Baldwin City to and from the Baldwins. Virginia then puts the letters in historical context by describing the conditions that existed at the time the letters were written. One of the most interesting parts of the book is found in the appendices where she displays the extensive research she did on a number of topics that interested her, like biographies of the founders of Baker, the man called Kibbee, and Quantrill’s retreat. The book fills in many of the gaps that might have been unexplored in a more comprehensive history like Ebright’s History.


Virginia died February 27, 1999 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Baldwin City.

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