Miami University in Oxford -- named for the Native Americans who once inhabited the region -- was chartered Feb. 17, 1809, by the Ohio General Assembly, but its history started more than 20 years earlier. That's when Judge John Cleves Symmes purchased land north of the Ohio River and between the Little Miami and Great Miami rivers from Congress. The government gave Symmes a township for an academy or university, but either forgot his 1787 promise to built the school, or was unable to fulfill it when his real estate venture encountered legal and financial problems. Eventually, settlers in the area petitioned Congress for the promised college township. In 1792, Congress and President George Washington acted to correct the omission. This led to the grant of a 23,040-acre township west of the Great Miami River, outside the Symmes Purchase, as the College Township. In March 1810 land sales began in the remote tract, which became the town of Oxford and Oxford Township. Miami opened as a log-cabin preparatory academy in 1818. Collegiate instruction began Nov. 1, 1824, directed by Robert Hamilton Bishop, its first president.
The first class of 12 men was graduated in 1826. Financial problems forced the closing of the university from 1873 until 1885, when the state began direct monetary support ($26,000). Other educational institutions in Oxford, most of which were absorbed, directly or indirectly, by Miami included Oxford Theological Seminary (1838-1858), Oxford Female Institute (1849-1867), Oxford Female College (1854-1929) and Western College for Women (1853-1974). In addition, in the 1960s, Miami established campuses in Middletown (1967) and Hamilton (1968). (See separate entries.) During its colorful history, Miami has won acclaim for both its academic and athletic excellence. It has been labeled "The Yale of the Early West," "The Cradle of Coaches" and "The Mother of Fraternities." Benjamin Harrison, an 1852 graduate, became the 23rd president of the United States, 1889-1893.
(See McGuffey Museum for information on William Holmes McGuffey.)