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John McKnight Bloss

John McKnight Bloss served as the third president of Oregon Agricultural College from 1892 to 1896 and was the first OAC president hired directly by the Board of Regents.  After a nationwide search, the board selected Bloss in April 1892, and he arrived in Corvallis in early June.  In addition to his duties as president of OAC and director of the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station, he was appointed as a professor of mental and moral science and taught courses in political economy, psychology, and ethics.  

John M. Bloss was born in 1839 in New Philadelphia, Indiana.  He enrolled at Hanover College in Indiana in 1854 and received an A.B. degree with honors in 1860.

After finishing his degree, Bloss fought with the 27th Indiana Volunteer Infantry in the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War.  On the morning of September 13, 1862, during the Battle of Antietam, Sergeant Bloss found what would later be known as "Lee's Lost Dispatch" (Special Order 191) giving detailed Confederate troop movements.  Bloss recognized the importance of this find and forwarded it through the chain of command to General George McClellan.  His discovery and communication of the order likely changed the outcome of the battle which, though generally considered a draw, thwarted Lee's attempt at making an incursion into the northern states. Bloss fought and was wounded in several battles, including Antietam, before he resigned his commission and retired from the Army in 1864.

Following his military service, Bloss studied medicine at Ohio Medical College in Cincinnati from 1864 to 1865.  He married Emma L. McPheeters in 1865, and they had two children, Nannie and William (Will).  Emma later died of typhoid in Topeka, Kansas.  Bloss did not remarry until 1893 when he met Mary A. Woods while serving as OAC president.

From 1865 onward, Bloss served in administration in a variety of schools until 1892, when he became president of OAC.  His career in education included serving as a teacher; a principal; superintendent of the Indiana city schools of Evansville (1875-1880) and Muncie (1883-1886) and of Topeka, Kansas (1886-1892); and the State Superintendent for Public Instruction for Indiana (1880-1882).

Both of Bloss's children spent time in Corvallis during his presidency.  Nannie Bloss accompanied her father in 1892 and later married Dumont Lotz, an assistant professor of chemistry (1891-1892) and station chemist (1892-1893).  Will Bloss came to Corvallis from 1893-1894 and, though not enrolled as a student, he coached and quarterbacked the first college football team (1893), sang first baritone with the College Quartette, and coached the college baseball team the following spring (1894).  After three years of service in the U.S. Army in Vancouver, Washington, Will returned to Corvallis in 1897 and coached the championship 1897 football team.

President Bloss resigned from OAC in 1896 due to failing health and returned to his farm north of Muncie, Indiana where he remained until his death.  During his retirement he established Royerton, the first consolidated school west of the Allegheny Mountains, in Hamilton in 1902.  Bloss died in Hamilton Township, Indiana on April 26, 1905.

Related Resources: President's Office Records of John M. Bloss, John McKnight Bloss Collection, Board of Regents Records, Memorabilia Collection.

Black and white photographic portrait of John McKnight Bloss.

John McKnight Bloss, ca. 1890s.

Black and white photograph of John McKnight Bloss with students.

John McKnight Bloss with students, ca. 1894.

Black and white photograph of John McKnight Bloss.

John McKnight Bloss, 1896.