A Brief History of OARDC

By R. E. Whitmoyer, Historical Records Officer

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Land Grant College Act proposed by Justin S. Morrill of Vermont. Each state would be given an amount of land that they could sell to provide funds for establishment of an Agricultural and Mechanical College. In 1868, Ohio accepted the provisions of the Morrill Act. The state of Ohio received 630,000 acres of land script, which sold at an average of 54 cents per acre for a total of $340,894.70. In 1870, The Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College was established on the "Neil Farm" north of Columbus, Ohio. OSU history.

Charles ThorneIn 1878, the name was changed to The Ohio State University and the educational emphasis was toward a liberal arts education rather than agricultural and mechanical arts. This alienated the agricultural community within the state, and many boycotted the university. In 1882, an attempt was made to heal this rift with the establishment of an agricultural experiment station at the university. The new experiment station (OAES) was incorporated with the university farm and the two agriculture professors, W. R. Lazenby and Norton S. Townshend, divided their time between classroom duties and directing research on the station land. The budget was a meager $3000 per year. The work went slowly and was often in conflict with the OSU farm, which produced food for the college dorms. Moreover, the city of Columbus dug sewers through the plots, paved roads around two sides of the farm, and the river flooded the area each spring. The only good farm foreman the station had found, Charles Thorne, quit to become editor of Farm and Fireside Magazine in Springfield, Ohio. From this position as editor, Thorne launched a vigorous campaign to separate the experiment station from the university and also to convince the university to offer more agricultural and mechanical courses rather than a liberal arts curriculum.

Since many land grant universities had moved to liberal arts institutions and away from the agricultural and mechanical arts, the U.S. Congress passed The Hatch Act of 1887, which provided funds for states to establish an agricultural experiment station under separate federal funding and to provide $15,000 annually for continued support. Dissatisfaction with the OAES's work had already caused a separate board of   control to be named, and with the acceptance of the Hatch Act funds, the board hired back Charles Thorne as the first full- time director in 1887. At Thorne's urging, the board received permission from the Ohio General Assembly to relocate the station by open bids from each county in the state. Warren, Clark and Wayne counties submitted bids, and Wayne County's bid of $85,000 in monies and land was accepted as the high bid.  

In 1892, the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station moved from the university at Columbus, to Wooster, Ohio, in Wayne County. The move was done in the past by wagon train and followed the present Route 3 from Columbus to Wooster. The station took possession of 470 acres of farmland just south of the town of Wooster. The bulk of the land was composed of the two "Rice Farms" established by Barnhart and Simon Rice in 1822. Both of the original farm houses are still on campus and are historical landmarks. Wayne County's proposal to fund the purchase of the station via tax bonds was declared unfair by the Ohio Supreme Court and the debt was assumed by the state, but the station stayed in Wayne County anyway. Over the next three decades, Director Thorne supervised the growth of the station both physically and scientifically. The sandstone building complex on central campus was constructed, with the Administration Building being dedicated in 1897.

A large dairy barn was constructed, and 26 miles of field tile were laid to prepare land for the Wooster test plots. These plots, hundreds of one-tenth acre fields, were to be used by Thorne and his staff to illustrate to both the farmers of Ohio and of the entire Midwest, how to bring old, farmed-out land back to maximum productivity. This work was to make Thorne famous throughout the country. The added work of the station staff in areas of pest control, animal nutrition and animal husbandry would make the station known worldwide. In 1903, Director Thorne hired a Mr. L.H. Goddard of Washington Court House, Ohio, who had been very active with the Ohio State University College of Agriculture Student Union. Mr. L.H. Goddard set up the Department of Cooperative Experimentation at the research station. The following year the university hired Mr. A.B. Graham of Springfield, Ohio, to become the first director of Agricultural Extension. Mr. Graham and Mr. Goddard would map out the Ohio Cooperative Extension Service. W.O. Thompson, president of Ohio State University, drafted the original agreement linking the federal government and the land grant colleges through the Cooperative Extension Service. This became the Smith-Lever Act of 1914. Mr. Graham also brought with him his boys and girls clubs from Springfield, and these would evolve into the 4-H clubs of today. The era of Director Thorne was one of farm land reclamation, fertilizers, horses and steam power. The horses and steam power were soon to be replaced.

Director Thorne retired in 1921 with a worldwide reputation as an agronomist and left behind a solid, well-operating agricultural experiment station with a similar reputation. Dr. C.G. Williams became the station's second director that same year. Under Director Williams' guidance, departments of agricultural engineering and home economics were established in 1926. Director Williams, also an agronomist, became an expert in breeding and culture of wheat, oats and corn. Many new varieties, such as Trumbull, Gladstone and Portage, were developed under his directorship. The station focused on the problems of mechanized farming and the disappearance of abundant farm labor.

Director Williams retired in 1937 and was succeeded by Edmund Secrest, a station forester. Director Secrest had been on board the station since 1905 and developed most of the re-forestation programs in the state. He also developed the Wooster Arboretum (later named the Secrest Arboretum) into one of the best long-term plant repositories in the nation. Secrest was successful in obtaining funding and plans for building expansion of the station which continued into the 1950s. During this period, the emergence of the high-tech laboratory brought investigations of many problems from the field inside to the laboratory bench. This has continued to the present day.

In 1948, Leo L. Rummell was named both dean of the College of Agriculture at The Ohio State University and director of the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station at Wooster. Thus the directorship was transferred from Wooster back to the university at Columbus. Director Rummell had worked for Thorne as an editor in 1915-1917 and left the station's employ to become editor of the Ohio Farmer and a consultant in the emerging Ohio food industry. He was a member of the Ohio State University Board of Trustees and the OARDC Board of Control at the time of his appointment. Director Rummell united the departments in the college of agriculture and the departments at the experiment station at the academic level, with the department chairman at Columbus and an associate chairman at Wooster. The funding for the college and the experiment station remained separate as both state and federal line items in their respective budgets. The OAES continued to expand under the direction of Dr. Rummell until he retired in 1959. Many professors, under Director Rummell, now divided their efforts between research, teaching and extension duties, with split appointments in each area. In 1948, with Director Rummell's appointment, Dr. William E. Krauss was appointed the first associate director of the experiment station, a post he would hold until 1969.

In 1960, Dr. Roy M. Kottman became the fifth full-time director of the OAES when he was named dean and director, replacing Director Rummell. Dr. Kottman would soon be named director of extension, thus becoming the first person to administer all three branches of the agricultural effort in the state--teaching, research and extension. The OAES expanded rapidly with several new buildings under Dr. Kottman, including Gerlaugh Hall (Animal, Dairy and Poultry sciences) in 1964, the 1,000-seat Fisher Auditorium in 1968, and Selby Hall (Plant Pathology, Electron Microscopy and Environmental Science) in 1972. Farming became a large agri-business during the Kottman era, and the station worked to solve problems and formulate advice to these areas.
In 1965, Director Kottman changed the name of the station from the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station to the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. In 1969, with the retirement of Dr. Krauss as associate director, Dr. James M. Beattie was appointed associate director. He was succeeded by Dr. Clive W. Donoho Jr. in 1973. Dr. Donoho would serve as associate director until 1982. In 1981, Governor James Rhodes signed legislation that merged the research center with Ohio State University. The merger took place officially in 1982, 100 years after the establishment of the station. Dr. Kottman retired the same year as the first vice president for agricultural administration at Ohio State University.

In 1983, Dr. Donoho was officially appointed as director of the OARDC and served a short time until his retirement in 1984. In 1985, Dr. Frederick E. Hutchinson was appointed as director of OARDC. This was a period of budget reduction and funding problems at both the state and federal levels. Unstable funding and commitments resulted in deficits and enforced downsizing of staff positions. In 1986, Dr. H. Russell Conrad was appointed as associate director.

Dr. Hutchinson was promoted to the vice president for agricultural administration position at Ohio State in 1987. He was replaced as director by Dr. Kirklyn M. Kerr, who served from 1987 until 1991. In 1989, Dr. Conrad retired and was replaced by Dr. James H. Brown as associate director. In 1990, Dr. Hutchinson was promoted to Provost. Former Ohio Cooperative Extension Service director Dr. Bobby Moser became vice president for agricultural administration in 1991. Dr. James H. Brown served as both associate and acting director until January 1993, when Dr. Thomas L. Payne was appointed as the ninth full-time director of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.  Dr. Payne resigned to become Dean of Agriculture at the University of Missouri in December 1998.  L.R. "Skip" Nault, was named Interim Director. On October 1, 1999, Dr. Steven A. Slack, Chairman of Plant Pathology, Cornell University, became Director of OARDC and Associate Vice President of Agricultural Administration in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

The center continues its primary mission of research targeted at better food and fiber production, environmental and water quality issues for both rural and urban populations, and continued emphasis on new, improved and safer products for use in the agricultural endeavors of both the state of Ohio and the world community.