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The Civil War and the Morrill Act

The Civil War helped North Columbus grow. Camp Thomas was established in the area to train new regiments. In 1862, the Morrill Act was signed into law creating land-grant colleges.
University District

Historical Context and Overview

When Columbus was created on the east bank of the Scioto River by the state legislature in 1812, most of the land was still covered with dense hardwood forest. On the west bank of the river, the village of Franklinton, established in 1797, was settled by families from Virginia and Kentucky. To the north of Columbus, along the High Trail Indian path (later High Street), the village of Worthington was founded by New Englanders in 1803. Positioned between these early villages, the area of North Columbus became a popular trading center in central Ohio. By the 1840s, Columbus entrepreneur William Neil owned at least part of all of the stagecoach lines that ran through North Columbus and the rest of Ohio as well.

When the Civil War began in 1861, Columbus became Ohio’s main mobilization and training hub for Union soldiers. Camp Thomas was established in North Columbus to train new regiments for service in the Western Theater. A year later, General Lew Wallace (later the author of Ben Hur) established Camp Wallace near Camp Thomas.

Another important development during the Civil War permanently changed the city of Columbus: the Morrill Act. Signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 2, 1862, the Morrill Act authorized each state to received federal land to be used to supported colleges of agriculture and mechanical arts. The Ohio General Assembly accepted the offer in 1864 and in 1870, the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College (later renamed the Ohio State University) received its charter. Classes begin in 1873 on the new campus, erected on the site of the old William Neil farm.

  • Standards Alignment
  • Learning Objectives
  • Discussion Questions
  • Extensions Activities
  • Additional Resources
  • Early Settlements and Growth - SA
  • Early Settlements and Growth - LO
  • Early Settlements and Growth - DQ
  • Early Settlements and Growth - AR
  • Early Settlements and Growth - EA

Ohio’s New Learning Standards: K-12 Social Studies

Content Statement 3: Local communities change over time.

Content Statement 5: Daily life is influenced by the agriculture, industry and natural resources in different communities.

Content Statement 7: Systems of transportation and communication move people, products and ideas from place to place.

Grade 4
Content Statement 3: Various groups of people have lived in Ohio over time including prehistoric and historic American Indians, migrating settlers and immigrants. Interactions among these groups have resulted in both cooperation and conflict.

Explain why the location of North Columbus made the area a popular trading center.

Analyze the impact of stagecoach transportation on the early growth of Columbus,especially North Columbus.

Describe the role of North Columbus in the Civil War.

Analyze the impact of the Morrill Act.

Compare the characteristics of the University District in the past to the area now.

Discuss the influence of The Ohio State University on the city of Columbus and beyond.

Compare photographs, maps, and buildings to analyze change over time within the community.
1. What was the area of North Columbus like around 1803?

2. Why did the location of North Columbus make it a popular trading center?

3. How did stagecoach transportation impact the growth of North Columbus?

4. What role did North Columbus play in the Civil War?

5. What was the Morrill Act? What was the impact of this act on Columbus and Ohio?

6. How did the development of Ohio State University affect the growth of North Columbus?

7. How did the Ohio State University play a role in shaping North Columbus and the University District as it appears today?
Have students participate in a scavenger hunt of the oldest buildings in Columbus (e.g. David Beers’ log cabin house). Students can plot these buildings on a map of the city or they can build a timeline showing the years of construction of the houses.

Students compare old maps of Ohio that may show American Indian trails, stagecoach routes, etc. with maps of today that show interstates, freeways and main arteries. Students should discuss how they may or may not match and the reasons for this.
A Traveler’s Guide to The Historic National Road in Ohio
This 52-page online book discusses the history of the National Road, the early days of the stagecoach in Ohio, and identifies early stagecoach stops in central Ohio.

Oldest known home in Columbus: 208 years logged - The Columbus Dispatch
This article features the David Beers house and other homes in Columbus of notable age.

Ohio’s Learning Standards: Social Studies

Grade 3
Content Statement 1. Events in local history can be shown on timelines organized by years, decades, and centuries.

Content Statement 2. Primary sources such as artifacts, maps, and photographs can be used to show change over time.

Content Statement 3. Local communities change over time.

Grade 4
Content Statement 3. Various groups of people have lived in Ohio over time including prehistoric and historic American Indians, migrating settlers and immigrants. Interactions among these groups have resulted in both cooperation and conflict.

Content Statement 14. Ohio’s location and its transportation systems continue to influence the movement of people, products and ideas in the United States.

Grade 8
Content Statement 15. The movement of people, products and ideas resulted in new patterns of settlement and land use that influenced the political and economic development of the United States.

Identify the first groups who settled along Alum Creek and describe the evidence of their settlement.

Identify the first white settlers to arrive in the Alum Creek area and discuss their contributions to the area.

Analyze the significance of the National Road in local and national history.

Explain how the Bexley area has changed over time and how it has stayed the same.

1. Who were the first inhabitants of the area along Alum Creek? What evidence of settlement did they leave behind?

2. Who were the first white settlers to arrive to in the Alum Creek area? What contributions did they make to the area?

3. When did the National Road arrive in Columbus? Why was the National Road significant in the development of the American West?

4. What evidence of Bexley’s past remains today? How was the Bexley area of the past different from modern-day Bexley?

Have students create an illustrated timeline showing the settlement of the area along Alum Creek beginning with the Adenas and ending with the creation of the National Road. Students can create their timeline on paper or using an electronic timeline builder such as Time Toast or Read Write Think.

Have students research the population growth of cities along the National Road. Students can create bar graphs showing the population of cities and draw conclusions about the relationship between the National Road and population growth in these cities.