Surveyor’s Journal Entry Twenty-Two
Land Acts Provide for Education
The plan to create and fund public schools with the proceeds from the sale of federally owned land had its origins in the Land Ordinance of 1785, which called for section 16 of every township to be used or sold for education purposes.
In the spirit of the original land for education provision, Vermont Senator Justin Smith Morrill sponsored the Land Grant College Act, which President Lincoln signed into law on July 2, 1862. The legislation, commonly referred to as the “Morrill Act,” offered federal land grants to states that agreed to establish a college dedicated to the teaching of agriculture and mechanical arts.
For every senator and representative a state had in congress, 30,000 acres were to be awarded. At the time, Ohio had 21 congressional members and thus received 360,000 acres.
Since there was no longer any federally owned land for sale in Ohio, the state was given land scrip (promissory notes) that could be used to acquire public land elsewhere.
Proceeds from the sale of the scrip, totaling about $342,000, enabled Ohio to start a university endowment fund.
Ohio also benefited from the sale of nearly 77,000 acres of former Virginia Military District land ceded to the state by Congress in 1871. These proceeds were collected into the 1940’s and added to the university endowment.
The Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College, now known as The Ohio State University, was established in 1870 on a 327-acre farm, in Clinton Township, donated by William Neil, (hotel, stagecoach, and railroad entrepreneur). The site was desired for its proximity to Columbus and adequate water supply.
Joseph Sullivant served on the college governing board and was instrumental in the start of the broad liberal arts curriculum that the university offers today.