HIRAM COLLEGE, Hiram, Portage County, Ohio - an institution of the highest grade, known originally as Western Reserve Eclectic Institute - it was established in 1850 by the Disciples of Christ and located in Hiram, Ohio. The original charter was modified in 1867 to recognize it’s new collegiate rank as it then became Hiram College!
From 1850-1867 they had seven different principals who tried to guide the school through rough waters, including the Civil War years. One of those principals had been a student himself from 1851-1853 and returned in 1856 to become a teacher and then the principal. He left Hiram in 1861 to take command of Company A, 42nd Ohio Vol. Infantry in the Union Army and in 1881 this same Hiram graduate became the 20th President of the United States, James A. Garfield !
During this same time frame came GEORGE HENRY COLTON (#2319), born 10 Oct 1848 to John Belden and Mary (Tilden) COLTON (#1374) in Nelson, Portage Co., OH. He went on to graduate from Hiram College in 1871, spent a year taking Civil Engineering courses at the U. of Michigan followed by working for the Cuyahoga Valley RR doing surveying and engineering for them. This took him to the time in 1873 that he accepted the chair as Professor of Natural Sciences at Hiram College.
Clara Amanda (wife), Mary Bell (daughter) and George Henry Colton
December 25, 1899 - Garrettsville, Ohio
This position meant teaching in every scientific area; Biology, Zoology, Botany, Chemistry, Physics and Geography. Not only did Professor COLTON have to be a scholar and teacher, he also served as Hiram’s Treasurer and Secretary from 1882-1905 handling most of the business affairs of the College. In the 1870's, he and wife Clara (Taylor) managed the Ladies Hall and that included purchasing the food for the dining hall. In addition he supervised the College library! The community also benefitted from his presence as the Village water system, installed in 1897, came with COLTON’s help and encouragement. He also provided weather reports for the National Weather Bureau for the Hiram area for more than 30 years! Occasionally he took students on field trips and his wife would supply the potato salad!
With his health declining Professor COLTON took retirement in 1926 after 53 years dedicated to the best interests of Hiram College. In consideration of this the college didn’t hesitate to honor him and in 1928, when the new 4-story science building was dedicated it was named “COLTON LABORATORY” and to this day remains a major part of Hiram College’s campus honoring a man who gave so much of himself for many others to learn from.
However, a cruel trick by fate called George Henry COLTON to his maker just before graduation 4 June 1927 and he did not live to see this edifice as part of the college. And when we talk of fate, the same day of his death was the exact same day, within a couple of hours, that I took me first breath as a COLTON !
Hiram College - Colton Hall, dedicated to George Henry Colton in 1928
Today’s Hiram College is a Liberal Arts school with 2,200 students enrolled in 32 bachelor programs. Many of it’s students study abroad and it enjoys over 13,000 living alumni, a few of whom can still savor very fond memories of this COLTON!
Plaque of George Henry Colton
inside main entrance of Colton Hall at Hiram College
Many thanks to Lisa Johnson at the Special Collections & Archives in the Library of Hiram College for her help and permission in producing this story. All photos are used with permission of Hiram College per Lisa Johnson.
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