Ohio’s First Free Schools
In the early 1820’s Dr. Hoge began to campaign for free public schools. He appeared before the legislature again and again to plead his case, and was aided by Cutler of Marietta, Gifford of Cincinnati and Atwater of Pickaway County. In 1825 the legislature passed a bill providing for funds from taxes for educational purposes. Two schools were opened in Columbus, one for advanced pupils and one for small children, and free public schools had a beginning in Columbus, largely through the work and influence of Dr. Hoge.
Dr. Hoge also became interested in an experiment being tried in Hartford, Connecticut. Deaf people were being trained in a special school. He wanted these advantages for the deaf in Ohio. From 1824 he never ceased to work for that end. At last the legislature authorized Dr. Hoge to try the experiment with the Ohio deaf. As one legislature said, “I have no faith in the scheme but I have faith in Dr. Hoge.”
In 1829 the first Ohio State School for the Deaf was opened in a rented room at the corner of Broad and High streets where the Deshler-Hilton Hotel now stands. The school grew until a permanent site became necessary. Dr. Hoge, Peter Sells and John McDowell offered to sell 10 acres of land for the nominal sum of $300. This land became the location of the School for the Deaf located on Town Street. The first building was erected on this site in 1834. To learn more about the School for the Deaf he helped establish go to their website at www.ohioschoolforthedeaf.org.
Dr. Hoge received many calls to other churches and was offered the professorship of theology at Hanover College in Indiana. He refused them all. In 1827, Miami University conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Divinity. For several years he was a trustee there as well as Ohio University in Athens. Dr. Hoge and President William McGuffey, author of McGuffey Readers were fast friends.
Dr. Hoge was a great reader and a profound scholar. His knowledge of state craft was so great that lawyers and legislators of the state consulted him and his influence over legislation was such that much of the Ohio law at that time was affected by him. One eminent jurist of that day said; “I believe Dr. Hoge to be the best statesman in our commonwealth.” Dr. Osman Hooper in his “History of the City of Columbus,” writes, “No man in the city was more instrumental in shaping the charitable and educational policy of the state than Dr. Hoge.”
PART FIVE: Dr. Hoge Builds New Church; Founds Columbus Presbytery
Dr. Hoge’s church had been growing so rapidly that in the summer of 1830 it was decided to build a new church. Dr. Hoge, Gustavus Swan and David Deshler were appointed on the committee to select a suitable site. Three men of wealth, Lynn Starling, Gustavus Swan and Robert McCoy agreed to erect a building acceptable to the congregation. They were to be repaid by sale of pews and by subscription. The building was located at the corner of State and Third streets where the Hartman Theater now stands.
At the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, held in Philadelphia in 1832, Dr. Hoge was elected moderator. He was then 48 years old. Dr. Hoge may justly be called the founder of the Columbus Presbytery and a leader in the organization of the Synod of Ohio. Dr. Hoge was at his best in these church courts. On one occasion in a meeting of the Synod, a number of members tried to have the roll so called that Dr. Hoge’s vote might be cast last, lest it should influence all that followed him.
In the summer of 1833 a terrible scourge of cholera broke out in Columbus. The population of Columbus at that time was about 3000. Before the summer was over one-third of the people had fled the town. Dr. and Mrs. Hoge remained and Mrs. Hoge, with the other women of the First Church, working tirelessly to help the sick. This small group of women formed the beginning of what was later to become the “Columbus Female Benevolent Society”, still active [ in February 1956 ] at 40 S. Washington Avenue, and the oldest charitable organization in Columbus. Mrs. Hoge served as first president of the society. For more about the society go to www.faqs.org or look for them on facebook.
That same fall, work on the church building was completed and the First Presbyterian Church was dedicated. For that day it was an imposing edifice. Dr. Hoge’s salary was raised to $1000 annually. Dr. Hoge had now reached the most useful and influential period of his life. On Sunday mornings there gathered in the sanctuary many important men; governors, judges, members of the legislature, business and professional men. O.E. Randall, the historian wrote; “Dr. Hoge stood as a bulwark of strength in the rapidly growing capital city. He was universally trusted and honored. At one time when he was called as a witness in a case, his testimony, though decisive, was taken without oath. As he was about to be sworn the opposing counsel cried, “You need not swear that man.”
PART SIX: Dr. Hoge Completes 50 Years As Pastor And Civic Leader
During the time Dr. Hoge had been working for a school for the deaf he had been thinking, too, of the blind people of Ohio. Again he appeared before the legislature many times pleading the cause of the blind. On March 11, 1836, the legislature appointed a commission with Dr. Hoge as chairman to collective information relative to the education of the blind. Following a report of this commission, an act was passed April 3, 1837, making provision for the education of the blind in Ohio. A lot of nine acres was purchased through the benevolence of a few interested men. These lots were located on the corner of Main Street and Parsons Avenue, where the state school for the bling was located. Classes for the blind met in Dr. Hoge’s church until the building was completed in 1839.
The strain of constant hard work began to tell on Dr. Hoge, and in 1845 his doctor prescribed a rest. In August he set out on his journey home to Virginia. In 1850 he accepted a professorship of theology and church history in Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. He returned to his church in Columbus after his six month term in the professorship had ended.
Time and space will not permit the telling of the entire story of Dr. Hoge. It would include his stand against the liquor traffic. Our liquor spots today [ 1956 ] are mild compared to the taverns in Columbus in those early days. One such tavern, the scene of many brawls, was called, “The War Office”. Dr. Hoge was a pioneer for temperance. His story would also include his of a Presbyterian College in Ohio, such as Princeton, dedicated to the building of Christian character and ideals. While Wooster College was not founded until after Dr. Hoge’s death, he helped to pave the way for such an institution.
Also written in the history story would be the great revival of 1857 and his part in it. Or on the occasion of the 50 anniversary of the First Church in 1856, how honors and tributes were heaped on Dr. Hoge. Another chapter in the life of this man of God on which we could dwell, is that of the daily morning prayers held in Dr. Hoge’s church for many years. People in all walks of life attended. Members of the legislature and judges have left testimony of the help they received.
On February 28, 1857, the congregation at Dr. Hoge’s request, reluctantly consented to his resignation. Dr. Hoge’s state of health and advanced years made this action imperative. On June 30, 1857, The Patriarch of the Church, after 50 years in the ministry of the Presbyterian Church in Columbus, preached his last sermon as pastor of the First Church. In 1861, Dr. Hoge’s beloved wife, Jane Woods Hoge, died. Scarcely two years after his wife’s death, his own life ended on September 29, 1863, at the age of 79. His body was laid beside that of his wife in Greenlawn Cemetary. There tombstones, though very worn and hard to read, are in the middle of Section I, an oval area in the center of Greenlawn, under three large pine trees. For more about the site and the cemetery go to www.greenlawncemetary.org.
So the Old Warrior of the Cross fought a good fight and went home anticipating with joy the ”precious and exceeding great promises” of the Lord whom he has served so well.
WE REMEMBER: Dr. James Hoge
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