Ohio Biographies

George Junkin

George Junkin, president of the Miami University was born in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, on the 1st of November, 1790. He was the son of Joseph Junkin and Eleanor Cochran, both descended from Scotch covenanters who had settled in Ireland. Nowhere, probably, have religious duties been more strenuously attended to than among those of this descent; and the Junkin family were no exceptions to the rule. In his eleventh year he became impressed religiously, but made no public acknowledgment of his conversion until his nineteenth year, when he united with the Church.

George Junkin was a boy of exceeding diligence, and as a man he fulfilled in this respect the promise of his youth. There was nothing to help him in his efforts to obtain an education; but, by dint of industry, he qualified himself to enter Jefferson College in 1809. In 1813 he graduated, although not having been the whole term at college. For the sake of lessening his expenses he had been much of the time at home, studying, and keeping pace with his classes.

He had early entertained the idea of becoming a minister, and immediately after graduation entered the Theological Seminary of the Associate Reformed Church, then under the supervision of the illustrious John M. Mason, the great pulpit orator. In this place he stayed the customary three years, and was then licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Monogahela of the Associate Reformed Church, in September, 1816. He was immediately sent to the presbyteries of New York and Saratoga, preaching in various places in 1816, and afterwards laboring in the same way in Pennsylvania and Maryland. In June, 1818, he was ordained at Gettysburg, and was soon invited to take charge of the united congregations of Milton and Pennell, a call which he accepted.

He preached to these flocks about eleven years, but in 1824 changed from the Associate Reformed Church to the Presbyterian Church. In 1830 he resigned this charge, accepting the position of principal of the Manual Labor Academy at Germantown, near Philadelphia. Two years of successful labor followed. Easton offered him, however, inducements to remove his students to that place, and taking advantage of the opportunity, a charter was procured from the Legislature of Pennsylvania granting the institution the title of a college, named after the illustrious Lafayette, who had shortly before been in this country on his last visit. The new institution was successful, and it has since performed a great work. Mr. Junkin toiled assiduously. He gave regular instruction in the college, and, besides, preached on the Sabbath. In 1833 he was made a doctor of divinity by Jefferson College.

In 1841 he came out to Ohio and entered upon the residency of the Miami University of Oxford. He can not be said to have been very successful in this place. He was a man naturally of an autocratic disposition, and he found in the free West difficulties in maintaining the same discipline that was to be enforced in the East. Many friends of the institution considered him as the choice of a cabal which had ousted Dr. Bishop and the other professors who were not meek-minded, and he was offensive also to some patrons who were not Presbyterians. This was a State institution, and yet entirely controlled by one sect. There was still another grievance which was felt, although not in the university. Dr. Junkin had imbibed a strong friendship for the "peculiar institution," or at least for its friends, and his politics were tinctured by the Jeffersonian school of State rights. The anti-slavery discussion had then begun, and was not to be stopped. Dr. Junkin became involved in a controversy with the Rev. Thomas E. Thomas, of Rossville, one of the most eloquent preachers of the day, in which these questions were brought up. The discussion was oral, but was afterwards published in a very large volume. No decision, of course, was reached satisfactory to the minds of the public. Each party thought as before. Finally Dr. Junkin concluded to resign and give up his unquiet seat. He did so, and went back to his former place at Easton.

There he continued till the Autumn of 1848, when he accepted an invitation to become president of Washington College, Lexington, Virginia, to which he was followed by twenty-six of his former pupils, who thus indicated their high appreciation of his merits. He continued in this place until May, 1861, when he was admonished that it was time to withdraw. The clouds and portents of disunion were thickening fast, and he felt that he could no longer remain in this college, which was a hot-bed of secession, or even occupy an equivocal position. His love for the Union was strong and ardent, and he foresaw the certain ruin that would follow to the inhabitants of the Southern States if they took up arms against the United States. He went from there to Philadelphia, where, for the remainder of his life, he found a home in the family of his son, George Junkin, an eminent lawyer. He did no desist from labor. He preached earnestly and often. To the soldiers he was a friend; their encampments were visited, their wants inquired into, and their souls' prosperity solicitously regarded. He visited the Southern prisoners at Point Lookout and Fort Delaware, and looked after the unhappy wounded made at the battle of Gettysburg. He also wrote much. For a long time he contributed articles to the newspapers on the proper observance of the Sabbath. He published a "Treatise on Sanctification," a "Treatise on the Ancient Tabernacle of the Hebrews," and some smaller works; and he left behind him in manuscript a full commentary on Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews.

He was married in June, 1819, to Julia Rush Miller, of Philadelphia, and by her had five sons and three daughters. One of his daughters married General Jackson ("Stonewall"), of the Confederate army. Mrs. Junkin died in February, 1854.

Dr. Junkin was a man of great general ability. Impatient of contradiction or procrastination, he had an excellent insight into the ways of remedying difficulties. Church matters were thoroughly understood by him, and he was at home in a Church trial. He knew instinctively the measures to be taken. He was well liked by those with whom he was brought into contact unofficially, and his memory will long be cherished by those who had the honor to know him. He died May 20, 1868


From A History and Biographical Cyclopædia of Butler County Ohio, With Illustrations and Sketches of its Representative Men and Pioneers, Western Biographical Publishing Company, Cincinnati Ohio, 1882.