This December marks the 175th anniversary of teaching and learning at Wabash College. On December 3, 1833 the work of the College began when Caleb Mills rang a bell calling his 12 students to order. The bell Caleb Mills used on that day and for many more years is still used today. One of the best parts of Freshman Saturday is the “Ringing In” ceremony when the President delivers his charge to the incoming class and they become Wabash men. At Commencement, their last experience as students, the circle is completed when the President “rings out” the class as they become alumni.
Among the students present in Mills’ first class in 1833 was Samuel Steele Thomson, the youngest brother of two of our founders. This young man would serve Wabash for the rest of his life, as a teacher of Latin until 1885. Samuel Thomson was the first of a very long line of alumni faculty, a tradition that continues unbroken to this day.
The humble frame structure where the first students and faculty gathered was Forest Hall and it was built on a heavily wooded bluff overlooking Sugar Creek. When the College moved to this location, Caleb Mills bought the old campus. He moved Forest Hall to his land near the new campus and later donated the building to the college. Forest Hall has served as a dormitory and was the home of the first Scarlet Inn, a sandwich shop for the students and faculty. Old Forest now serves as offices of the Teacher Education department, which seems to me to be a perfect use for the first home of the College and the place where it all started 175 years ago this month.