[Nameplate] Overcast ~ 43°F  
High: 63°F ~ Low: 54°F
Thursday, May 5, 2016

DePauw's forgotten founder is remembered in book

Saturday, February 6, 2010

GREENCASTLE -- He is considered a forgotten founder of Indiana Asbury University or later DePauw. Yet, Calvin Washington Ruter considered it to be one of his life's greatest achievements.

"The names of Robert R. Roberts, Edward Ames and Allen Wiley are well-known founders, but until examination of his two-volume, hand-written memoirs, little was known of Ruter's efforts on the university's behalf," wrote Wesley Wilson in the introduction of "DePauw's Forgotten Founder: The Memoirs of Calvin Washington Ruter."

Ruter was born March 15, 1794 in Orange County, Vt. He died in 1859 at the age of 65. During his life, Ruter answered God's call to be a preacher. He began his ministry as a circuit preacher in 1817, just one year after Indiana received statehood.

His first appointment was to the Silver Creek circuit in Indiana. However, with the exception of two pastoral appointments in Indiana, Ruter spent most of his career preaching along the Ohio River.

His interest in education developed into a passion to establish a higher education institution or university. He described his deep interest in his endeavor and considered no sacrifice too great. Ruter later served on the university's board of visitors and board of trustees.

Among Ruter's writings, he talked about a chance meeting with former United State Senator from Indiana James Whitcomb. It led to a windfall for the fledgling university -- the Senator's library was bequeathed to Methodist founded Indiana Asbury instead of Indiana University, which was still believed by the senators to be under Presbyterian control.

Ruter gave some space in his memoirs to his marriage to Harriet Cutler and the great value he placed on her support in his ministry. Little else is mentioned about his family. However, Ruter had a son, Rinaldo R. Ruter, who is listed in the 1920 DePauw alumni directory.

In 1849, Indiana Asbury opened a medical school in Indianapolis. Indiana Central Medical College only graduated 40 doctors during its three-year existence and listed Rinaldo as an 1852 graduate.

During some research, Wilson found Ruter also had a daughter, Rebecca Ruter Springer, who authored a book, "Intra Muros," which was published in 1898. More than 100 years later, the book is still in print, now titled "My Dream of Heaven" and endorsed by Billy Graham.

"DePauw's Forgotten Founder: The Memoirs of Calvin Washington Ruter" is a transcription of Ruter's two journals he titled "A Brief Sketch of the Life and Itinerant Labours of Calvin W. Ruter With Some Account of the Progress of Methodism in Indiana," which is also printed on the book's cover.

David H. Tripp worked for nearly one year in his spare time to transcribe Ruter's scrawled handwriting on the aged, unlined pages of the journals. That work can be found online at www.depauw.edu/library/archives.

He eventually wanted to publish a book with the memoirs, as they are Ruter's account of life during Pioneer days in early Indiana. In December 2007, Tripp passed away. It was before the book was finished.

"I had to finish the book," said Wilson, coordinator of archives and special collections at DePauw and one of Tripp's friends. "I told (Tripp's) widow I would."

It was published almost two years to the anniversary date of Tripp's passing in December 2009. On one of the first pages is a dedication, which reads "In memory of David H. Tripp."

Since the style of Ruter's writing was unchanged, readers will find the book has a 19th century feel. Aside from the introduction written by Wilson, the book includes a list of Ruter's ministerial appointments, notes and scanned pictures of the actual journal.

"With this edition, it is hoped that the reader can sit down and simply enjoy the story," wrote Wilson.

The book of Ruter's memoirs is available for purchase at DePauw's bookstore in the Union Building for $10 or by e-mailing the archives department at archives@depauw.edu.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: