Franklin Museum of New Athens, Inc.
The Franklin Museum of New Athens, Inc., is a museum dedicated to preserving the history of Franklin College.
In 1818, abolitionist John Walker, a minister in the Presbyterian Church, established Alma College, in New Athens, Ohio. Walker hoped that Alma College would instill religious and abolitionist beliefs in its students. In 1825, Walker changed the name to Franklin College. This new institution continued Walker's desire to educate students in Presbyterian and abolitionist beliefs. These institutions educated several prominent Americans during the nineteenth century, including two governors, eight United States Senators, and nine members of the United States House of Representatives. Illustrating Walker's abolitionist beliefs, Titus Basfield, a former slave, graduated from the institution, making him one of the first African Americans to graduate from college in Ohio. Franklin College also eventually allowed women to enroll, and three of Ohio's first women doctors graduated from this institution. Due to declining enrollment, Franklin College ceased operation in 1919.
New Athens eventually acquired Franklin College's buildings and converted one of them to a high school. The high school remained in the structure from 1927 to 1971. The building then served as an elementary school until 1987. In 1992, the Franklin Museum Board of Trustees acquired the building, the last remaining structure from Franklin College, and established a museum. This building dates from 1900. The original structure burned in 1899, but Franklin College rebuilt the building on its original foundation. The museum especially commemorates Franklin College's important role in the abolitionist movement. The museum also contains displays on local history, as well as information on prominent graduates from Franklin College.