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The Birth of an Institution


I. -- The Strife for the University


The necessity of an agricultural and mechanical arts college for the state of Indiana had been universally agreed upon before that tenth of June in 1862, when a wartime congress of a divided nation made final passage on the Morrill Bill, beginning the long and strife filled discursions to that end.  The powers-that-be of Indiana, seeing both money and opportunity in the land grant act, fought vigorously for a portion of Indiana’s share.  They fought so veraciously for their own interest that a very real threat existed of piecemealing the Act to nothingness.      
Purdue was founded as a "Land Grant College" fifty-one years ago, under provisions of the Morrill Act passed by Congress July 2, 1862. On March 6, 1865, within the memory of the older citizens of Lafayette and Tippecanoe County, the General Assembly voted to take advantage of the provisions of this act. Keen rivalry developed over the location of the University. At first Battle Ground was considered because of its historical significance; but as citizens of Lafayette and vicinity, including John Purdue as the principal donor, offered it a gift of $150,000 in cash and one hundred acres of land, its site in West Lafayette, then known as Chauncey, was chosen.
History of Indiana from Its Exploration to 1922 also A History of Tippecanoe County and The Wabash Valley in Three Volumes (1928) by Logan Esarey, Volume 3 Page 81
II. -- An Act of Honor--Honorably Defended
III. -- Indiana Acts

Indiana House Bill 156 from the May 6, 1869 Session

"Section 3. In consideration of said donation of John Purdue amounting to one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and of the further donation of one hundred acres of land appurtenant to the institution, and on condition that the same be made effectual, the said institution, from and after the date of its location, as aforesaid, shall have the name and style of 'Purdue University,' and the faith of the state is hereby pledged that the name and style of said institution shall thus be permanently designated with modification thereof." -- Past and Present of Tippecanoe County Indiana (1909) Page 285
IV. -- Quest for the Hundred Acre Campus

The Gift of a Community

. . . The location was accordingly fixed upon a tract of one hundred acres, near Chauncey (now called West Lafayete), donated by the citizens of that town and vicinity. -- Past and Present of Tippecanoe County Indiana (1909) Page 286
V. -- Chauncey--Home of the Purdue University


What is now known as West Lafayette has had different names at various times in the history of the county. At first it was known as Kingston, and the land on which it was platted was largely owned by Jesse B. Lutz, who surveyed and converted it into lots and gave it its original name. Subsequently, however, the Chaunceys, of Philadelphia, located a town on land adjoining, to which they gave the name of Chauncey. Still later the two towns were united into one municipality, styled Chauncey and continued to be so called until recent years, when it has become virtually a part of Lafayette and is called by all "West Lafayette."

Concerning the organization of a town it may be stated that January 2, 1866, the citizens met at the Kingstown school house to consider the propriety of organizing the place as a village, and James H. Marsteller was chosen chairman of the meeting, and Daniel Royse as secretary. They then and there decided to incorporate and call the place a town. The first board of trustees selected from their number Mr. Marsteller as their president. At the first meeting of the trustees the name of Chauncey was adopted.

In the history of Tippecanoe, published in 1887, appeared this concerning this town: "Nearly all of the public improvements have been made by the corporate management. Chauncey is rapidly growing, and more residences were erected there than in Lafayette itself. The present population of the place is about two thousand."

As the history of this place is given complete under another head, this description of the origin of the chief town within Wabash township will suffice in this chapter.--
Past and Present of Tippecanoe County Indiana (1909) Page 193

The Name of Chauncey to be Changed

Mr. Editor:
Rev. Boothe, at the Crusade Temperance Meeting the other evening, mentioned a question out of the regular order of business. He said: In conversation with several prominent citizens of the place about changing the name of Chauncey to something that had a meaning too was with but one exception conceded to be an important and necessary matter. He said there was no particular meaning in the name of Chauncey, and to change the name of the town to something that had a meaning would give the place some prominence abroad; besides he understood from good authority that when the town was named the person or persons for whom it was named was to build a town hall and lay out a park. He said that it was suggested to him that while the persons promising this had failed to comply with this agreement, there would be no impropriety in changing the name to that of West LaFayette, and he desired the sense of the meeting be taken on the question.

On motion a rising vote was taken, resulting in almost a unanimous vote.

It is proposed to place in circulation a petition to have the name changed, if not to West LaFayette, to something that has a meaning. We heartily coincide with the reverend gentleman and would nominate the name of West LaFayette--any thing for a change for the present name is a hiss and a by-word.

Then in case we do not get the change, and some one succeeded in establishing a doggery in the town, it will sound, we apprehend, very musical to hear some sing out on hauling up and halting in front of the afore-said doggery. "Here's your last chance, Bill what will ye'r take?" "Why--why--y--y his last chance." Perhaps the individual too drunk to get out of the wagon or off his horse is handed the foaming beverage which goes down his throat like suds down a rat-hole, and doing him just as much good.

This question of changing the name is not a new question by any means. It has been talked about for several years, but until recently no one has ever seen the importance in having a change made. The chance is for a change and let us have it.
---N.M.C. --
The Lafayette Daily Journal, Saturday November 10, 1877

This Page was created by Jason G. King on September 23, 2001.