History of Lima College (1951) is held by the Lima Public Library, which graciously provided a copy. The author, Melancthon Luther Mayer, was an officer of Lima College. Another good, shorter, account is in History of the Evangelical Lutheran Joint Synod (1919) by C.V. Sheatsley.
Lima College was a product of the Joint Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. In 1884 meetings the Joint Synod proposed a normal school for “the education of young ladies and gentlemen for the profession of teaching.” The proposal addressed two concerns: that educational opportunities for “our daughters” were limited, and that education available in the public normal schools was causing the “minds of our youth to be poisoned with false notions of sectarianism, rationalism or infidelity.”
To help in the cause of developing such a college, the Lima Lutheran Educational Foundation was formed in 1890. Mayer was solicitor and later president of the group. Judge John Ritchie, a non-Lutheran resident of Lima, donated ten acres of land for the construction of the college with the condition that a building costing not less than $30,000 would be built on the site. The citizens of Lima pledged half of that amount for the building.
Before the completion of the building, school opened in 1893. The college ultimately consisted of a three-year preparatory course; four collegiate courses—classical, scientific, literary, and normal; and special courses in music, elocution and business. Listed enrollment in 1903 was 186. Graduation classes for the first nine years averaged seven students. Mayer says that there was a debating society that met on Friday afternoons. There was a Crescent Literary Society and a student newspaper.
But Mayer noted that the seeds of discontent began early. The college was never adopted by the Joint Synod; some of those who pledged money, failed to provide it; some Lutheran ministers gave only lukewarm support to the school, while some were outright hostile to the idea of a co-educational college. By 1897 the school was $27,000 in debt and in danger of being sold for taxes. While the school was rescued at the time, by 1902 the regular income was deemed insufficient for maintenance of the school. In 1905 the Foundation sold the school to Elizabeth Adkins, who continued it without religious affiliation.
The new Lima College became a much larger operation. 1906 Advertisements promise that the school “suits its work to the individual wants of the student.” Law and pharmacy schools were added. As a result, graduation classes for 1907 and 1908 were 32 and 30 students.
In 1908 the Adkins family sold the building and closed the school.
The 1907 graduating class of Lima College. This image came courtesy of Faith Stern, whose grandfather George Franklin Wise (second from the right inside the post) was a member of the class.
Bricks and Mortar
According to Mayer, Lima College opened in temporary quarters at the corner of North and Union Streets in Lima. The land given by Judge Richie was bounded by Jameson, Rice, Hazel and College Avenues. The three story brick building there was not completed until 1906. It contained “recitation rooms, society halls, library, laboratory, chapel, reading room and room for faculty and board meetings.” It was built with a capacity for 1,000 students.
When the college closed, the campus was sold to the Lima School District and became Horace Mann Elementary School. It is now listed as a “lost” Allen County school building.
Postcard view of Horace Mann Elementary School, <http://www.oldohioschools.com/allen_county_files/Allen%20Lima%20Horace%20Mann%201.jpg accessed 1-30-2017
Lima College fielded teams in football, baseball and basketball. It began playing football in 1896 with games against Ohio Northern College—a yearly opponent. Apparently sports programs were upgraded for the new Lima College. The last team lost games to Case Institute, Mount Union and Ohio Northern and in the process had so many injured players that the schedule had to be abandoned.