Lemuel Moss was born in Bullittsville, Kentucky on December 27, 1829, to Demas and Esther Moss. After the first four years of his childhood, he relocated to Dearborn County, Indiana for another ten years. A printer by trade, Moss worked mainly a printer in Cincinnati, Ohio until 1853. He received his B.A. from the University of Rochester in 1858, as well as a degree from Rochester Theological Seminary in 1860. He also received his D.D. and LL.D. from the University of Rochester (1868, 1883). Moss served as the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Worcester, Massachusetts (1860–1864) and in Woodbury, New Jersey (1864–1866). During that time (1864–1865), he served as the secretary of the U.S. Christian Committee.
Moss began his career in academia in 1865 when he became Professor of Theology at the University of Lewisburg (now Bucknell University) until 1868. Between 1868 and 1972, Moss served as editor of the National Baptist as well professor of New Testament interpretation at the Crozer Theological Seminary in Upland, Pennsylvania. In 1874, Moss accepted the position as President of the University of Chicago. He left the next year to become President of Indiana University. He remained there until 1884, when a scandal broke with a female professor that brought him to resign his post. After a few years away from academia, he returned as Lecturer of Christian Sociology at Bucknell University, where he remained until his death on July 12, 1904.
Upon President Cyrus Nutt's death in August 1875, Lemuel Moss was elected president of Indiana University. During his first year as president, he made a strong impression upon the students and faculty at the university, viewed as a strong teacher and extremely adept at public speaking. Moss was also unyielding in his power and a firm disciplinarian, who was sometimes viewed as arrogant. However, giving his unusual prowess as a platform speaker, Moss accumulated several outstanding achievements during his time at Indiana University.
President Moss was a member of the National Council of Education (1880–1884), vice president of the American Baptist Missionary Union (1883–1884), and president of the department of higher education, a part of the National Education Association (1883–1884). Several small changes occurred at the university during his presidency: the curriculum was somewhat expanded, an attempt was made to increase salaries for professors and reduce faculty work loads, and several men were added to the faculty as well as young men added to the teaching staff as assistants. The Indiana Student, conceived in 1867 and now better known as the Indiana Daily Student, was revived in 1882 after a hiatus.
An Indiana University alumni convention convened in January 1883 in order to promote interests of the university. The most immediate success of this convention was the passage of a bill by the 1883 legislature giving a tax of one-half cent on each $100 of appraised value in order to create an endowment for the university. This tax was scheduled to last for thirteen years; at its enactment, it was estimated to produce over a half a million dollars.
The new science building that was built on Seminary Square in 1873 was struck by lightning and destroyed by a fire on July 12, 1883. The loss of this building was an estimated $100,000. After this event, the trustees felt they should rebuild on a larger campus. On February 4, 1884, an area of 20 acres (8.1 ha) known as "Dunn's Woods" were purchased. An additional site for buildings was available for purchase, amounting to $70,000, twenty of which went to insure the site with the additional fifty thousand donated by Monroe County. The first buildings on this site, Owen and Wylie Halls, were completed in 1885. Although Lemuel experienced the aforementioned successes while at Indiana University, the Law and Medicine departments at the university were ended (both revived in later years) and less than six new students enrolled during his presidency at Indiana University.
Moss Killers controversy
In November 1884 amid rumors of an improper relationship with a Katherine Garydon, a professor of Greek at Indiana University, Moss resigned abruptly as President of Indiana University. Sworn affidavits were presented to the Board of Trustees detailing the inappropriate behavior observed between the two by students M. W. Fordyce and Ed. Hall in order to bring charge of "improper and immoral conduct" by Moss. The affidavits states the two witnessed Moss and Garydon kissing and hugging as well Garydon sitting on Moss' lap in her office. These two were members of a group that called themselves the Moss Killers along with four fellow students and janitor Thomas Spicer. The group had drilled a hole in the ceiling of Garydon's office in order to observe her and Moss. Given the resignation of those involved, the Board of Trustees decided against continuing the investigation of the charges.
In addition to creating controversy because of his role as President of the University, at the time he was President of the National Baptist Association. In December 1884, the Baptist Council conducted its own investigation into the relationship between Moss and Garydon; in his defense, he stated, "I have confessed that I was guilty of an indiscretion but that was all". He was later reinstated by the council.
In addition to serving as editor of the National Baptist from 1868 to 1902, Moss published and edited many other works. He served as the editor of the Baptist and the Centenary in 1876 as well as serving as the writer of other various magazine articles and reviews. From 1889 to 1893, Dr. Moss was the editor of a Baptist publication, The Examiner. In 1897, Moss was the editor of the Philadelphia publication The Baptist Commonwealth.
Moss was the author of several works during his lifetime, one of which is the eight-volume Annals of the Christian Commission. He also wrote A Day with Paul and The Baptists of the National Centenary: A Record of Christian Work.
While serving as a professor of Christian sociology at Bucknell, Moss also contributed to the work of the American Baptist Historical Society, serving as president from 1895 to 1900 and vice president from 1900 to 1904. Although he suffered considerable physical ailments during his later years in life, Lemuel Moss used his remaining energy on behalf of the Baptist denominations. He died on July 13, 1904 in New York City and was buried in Flatbush, Brooklyn.
- Clark, T. D. (1970). Indiana University: Midwestern Pioneer / Volume 1: The Early Years. Bloomington, IN : Indiana University.
- Myers, B. D. (1951). Trustees and Officers of Indiana University: 1820 to 1950. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University.
- Woodburn, J. A. (1940). History of Indiana University 1820–1902. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University.
- Minutes of the Board of Trustees at Indiana University, November 8, 1884
- "A Grave Scandal". The Toronto Mail. 18 Nov. 1884.
- Asher, Gena. "Scandal!". Sunday Herald-Times [Bloomington, Indiana]. 12 March 1995: F1.
- "Indiana Clerical Scandal" New York Times 17 Nov. 1884.
- "Prof. Moss on Trial" New York Times. 21 Dec. 1884.
- "Dr. Lemuel Moss Reinstated" New York Times. 26 Dec. 1884
- http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/findingaids/archives/InU-Ar-VAA2629 Indiana University President's Office records, 1880-1884
- http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/findingaids/archives/InU-Ar-VAA2633 Lemuel Moss papers, 1860-1876
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David Starr Jordan