Separated since birth, Otterbein bookstore joins the family (a history that starts in Uptown Westerville circa 1870).

The bookstore at Otterbein University wasn’t always as convenient as being located a floor below the dining hall on campus. And neither the bookstore nor any food service was originally a University enterprise. Students made the trek via the notoriously muddy unpaved streets to the Uptown State Street commercial district for meals and whatever might be needed for their academic pursuits. Not until 1964 did Otterbein own and operate its own bookstore. Prior to that, the sale of textbooks was in the hands of local merchants. Historical material in the archives at Otterbein University and at the Westerville Public Library’s History Center & Museum reveal a timeline as outlined below.

Identifying the businesses that operated in the Uptown starting with Otterbein’s founding in 1847 is dependent upon locating old pictures, advertisements in newspapers and yearbooks, and published histories…the latter of which contain recollections of contributors that are not always accurate. Fortunately, there is enough reliable information to conclude that a bookstore operation for the sale of textbooks to students began sometime after 1869 and by 1876.

  • Regarding the year 1876: Otterbein’s first campus newspaper, The Otterbein Dial, began in 1876 and was published monthly. Both faculty and students contributed to it, but the effort proved to be too much to handle and it ceased publication after just one year. Fortunately, all 10 issues still exist…and in them is an advertisement catering to Otterbein students by James Mossman’s  “Book Store.” The store also carried picture frames and books according to a history of Westerville compiled by Otterbein history professor Dr. Harold Hancock.
  • Regarding the year 1869: The Westerville History Center & Museum has just a few newspapers published prior to 1876. A February 12, 1869 issue of the Westerville Banner has advertisements by three different businesses carrying (besides books for church and school) such items as coal oil, groceries, paints, varnishes, feed, fancy notions…and “pure liquors for medical purposes” (LOL on that one considering Westerville was home base for the Anti-Saloon League which authored the Prohibition Amendment). None of these is obviously a store primarily dedicated to the sale of books. Thus it appears James Mossman, with his dedicated space, is the Founder of a university bookstore business that continues to this day.

Mossman’s store was located in a two-story frame house constructed in 1839 of hewn logs by James Westervelt. It was located at the southwest corner of North State and West Main Streets. Westervelt sold the property which then became a hotel. Ownership changed hands several times before purchase by Mossman who added the bookstore to the hotel which was called Commercial House. Mossman today would be considered an entrepreneur. He was a farmer, cattle dealer, hotel operator, and in the real estate business in addition to other pursuits. Per an 1872 town map, he owned a large tract of undeveloped land on the east side of North State Street, north of East Lincoln Street, and running east to likely a bit beyond Vine Street. His plan was to build houses and indeed he did. The 1910 U.S. Census shows his residence as “State Street”, but by 1913 the town directory listed his address as 50 East Broadway Avenue. That was the first house built in the development according to current owners Dr. and Mrs. Thomas James. Dr. James is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Otterbein. James Mossman is buried at Otterbein Cemetery.

After a four-year absence, a campus newspaper renamed The Otterbein Record resumed publication. Sometime between 1876 and the May 1883 edition of the newspaper, the bookstore ownership changed to I. Brown per an advertisement in it. Information about I. Brown remains to be discovered.

An advertisement in the April 1884 edition of the newspaper shows ownership changing to Henry Bushnell, “Successor to I. Brown.” Bushnell was a retired minister originally from Granville, Ohio, who is credited with writing the very first history of that town. In 1868-69, he served as president of Albany College (now Lewis and Clark) in Portland, Oregon. Perhaps that environment led to his owning a store whose primary customers were college students. When Vine Street School (now Emerson School) opened in 1896, Governor Asa Bushnell participated in the program and the town made great celebration of that. I was familiar with Asa Bushnell as his magnificent mansion is in my hometown of Springfield, Ohio, where it has been repurposed as a funeral home. I wondered if the two Bushnells were related. confirmed that…the families date back to several Connecticut towns all within a short distance of each other despite, surprisingly, Bushnell being a very common name in that state. It is likely the Governor was recruited by his 3rd cousin Henry. Their great grandfathers were brothers. The commute would have been easy as the interurban line between Columbus and Westerville began two years prior. At the time of his death in 1905, Henry was serving as pastor of the First United Brethren Church (now Church of the Master, United Methodist). He resided on West Park Street with his sister, Julia Bushnell Johnson, who at some point moved to Seattle, Washington, where she is buried. Due to the fact house numbers were not assigned until 1912 and Julia had moved prior to the first town directory published with address numbers, the specific house could not be identified. Reverend Henry Bushnell is buried at Maple Grove Cemetery in Granville, Ohio.

Next in line for bookstore ownership was W. A. (William Alvin) Doherty who, according to Dr. Hancock, was a former Otterbein student. The date ownership changed hands from Bushnell to Doherty is not known. An advertisement in the student publication Otterbein Aegis of June 1892 lists an address of “Opposite Holmes House.” In 1889, Commercial House was razed and in its place rose the Hotel Holmes (aka “Holmes House”) which still stands today and houses Expresso Air Coffee Terminal, Uptown Pharmacy, Abbey Rose, and businesses on the upper floors. Thus, “Opposite Holmes House” meant Doherty moved the business to 24-26 North State Street, the Weyant Block, occupying the south side of what is today a single storefront housing Old Bag of Nails Pub. Doherty departed the business at the end of the summer of 1892. Age 26 at that time, he moved from the family home just west of Westerville in Sharon Township to what was then rural Mifflin Township where he became a farmer. He had a fairly substantial home on Cleveland Avenue a few blocks south of Morse Road. It was razed just a few years ago per the Franklin County Auditor website. He is buried in an unmarked grave in the same vicinity as his house at Riverside Cemetery on Sunbury Road a bit south of Easton Mall.

Per the Otterbein Aegis of September 1892, the 1892-93 academic year began with a new owner at the helm of the University Book Store. J. L. (John) Morrison, at the near retirement age of 60, began a twenty year career catering to the needs of Otterbein students. John retired in 1912 and changed focus in his final four years to authoring a book of poetry published as Heart Poems. There were numerous glowing remarks at his passing including “Mr. Morrison was for twenty years the proprietor of a bookstore in Westerville where with his wonderful personality and lovable disposition he won the hearts of hundreds of Westerville people and Otterbein students.” Son-in-law John Wesley Jones, who assumed management at John’s retirement, moved the University Book Store in 1917 three doors south to 18 North State Street. This structure (today Pure Roots) had previously housed the Bank of Westerville which moved across the street. John passed away unexpectedly in 1925 at which time his wife, Olive Morrison Jones, assumed sole ownership. Daughter Ellen Margaret Jones, a 1923 graduate of Otterbein and likely already a seasoned employee, ran the operation from that point to its end some forty years later. In 1964, Otterbein opened its own bookstore in the new Campus Center on West Home Street thus ending an amazing run of seventy-two years spanning three generations of Morrisons. It seems reasonable to conclude that James Mossman was the Founder and the J. L. Morrison family was the Foundation of the University’s bookstore. The Morrisons are buried at Otterbein Cemetery.

In June of 2019, twenty bronze plaques were mounted on the exterior fronts of historic structures in Uptown Westerville. This project was an effort of Uptown Westerville, Inc. whose purpose is to preserve and promote the city’s “main street” district. I was proud to be part of this volunteer committee undertaking. Funding was entirely by Bill Bishop and family and by Bert (Otterbein Class of 1949) and Jane Morrison Horn (Otterbein Class of 1950) and family. Jane’s great uncle was J. L. Morrison, and two of the plaques are mounted on former locations of the University Book Store.

Published 1/18/2021. Don Foster, Otterbein Class of 1973.

James Mossman’s Book Store located in the 3rd building from the right, southwest corner of State and Main. Originally erected by James Westervelt in 1839 and razed in 1889. Westerville was named after the Westervelt brothers.
Same corner of State and Main today.
Westervelt’s building changed ownership several times during its 50 year existence. The above 1876 advertisement is from The Otterbein Dial.
The business changed hands to I. Brown, but so far no information about him has been discovered. The advertisement appeared in the May 1883 issue of The Otterbein Record. An article in the Public Opinion of 9/1/1932 explained: “At the time the store was started, Otterbein was known as Otterbein University and the store took the name University Book Store.”
Henry Bushnell, per The Otterbein Record of April 1884, becomes the new owner. A Granville native, Reverend Bushnell is the author of the first history of town.
William Alvin Doherty, former Otterbein student, succeeds Henry Bushnell as owner.
This advertisement from the Otterbein Aegis of June 1892 identifies the location as the
Weyant Block.
And now J. L. Morrison becomes owner per the Otterbein Aegis of September 1892 beginning
a run of 72 years of ownership by three generations of Morrisons.
The Weyant Block at 24-26 North State Street. The University Book Store is in the right (south) half of the building where the person is standing in the doorway.
J. L. (John) Morrison above and below.
One of “the boys” mentioned above is James H. Morrison, father of Jane Morrison Horn. “Mr. W. G. Morrison” in the address field above is the son of J. L. “John” Morrison’s brother. This real photo postcard was in Jane’s possession.
The interior of the store in the Weyant Block prior to the two storefronts being combined into one and prior to the stairway to the upper levels being moved to the south end of the building. Today the bar at Old Bag of Nails Pub would be where the center aisle of the bookstore was.
John Wesley Jones, son-in-law of J. L. Morrison, who ran the store from 1912-1925.
The Weyant Block after it was combined into one store for Bates’ Ben Franklin. Note the entrance to the upper levels has been moved from the middle of the building to the south end.

The Weyant Block today.
Per the Public Opinion of 2/1/1917, the entrance is changed to ground level. I’m puzzled as to how the floor was altered.
The relocated University Book Store. The side porch has been enclosed.
The above picture is from the Otterbein yearbook of 1930. Cook House Fraternity occupied the second floor for a brief period before merging with another fraternity to form Zeta Phi Fraternity which today is located at 48 West College Avenue. Note the students standing on the roof of the second floor enclosure.
Ellen Margaret Jones on the right, granddaughter of J. L. Morrison, ran the store from her father’s 1925 unexpected passing until the store ended its run in 1964.
The above picture is from the Otterbein yearbook of 1952.
The Public Opinion of 9/1/1932.
Towers Magazine, May 1963. The house occupied by Kings Fraternity above will be discussed in a separate blog. It was razed, but had noteworthy history.
The “sidewalk supervisor” above and his friend, below, mentioned in the article.
Otterbein yearbook 1911.
New home of the bookstore, 1964, and still located there today.
The founder of the University Book Store. Fortunate to have a picture of James Mossman as shown above from the Find A Grave website.
James Mossman’s house at 50 East Broadway Avenue as it appears today. The porch was added by the current owners.
Public Opinion 4/16/1914
The Columbus Dispatch 11/20/1905
Public Opinion 11/23/1905
Photo circa 1868.
Burial at Maple Grove Cemetery, Granville, Ohio.
Bushnell biography from Our Ancestors of the Westerville Area by Dr. Harold Hancock.
The first history of Granville, Ohio, written in 1889 while Henry Bushnell was living on West Park Street in Westerville. House numbers were not assigned until 1912 (and he died in 1905) so the house identity is unknown…awaiting a lucky discovery. The Granville Historical Society refers to Henry Bushnell as “one of our heroes.”
William’s death certificate confirms burial at Riverside Cemetery, 3840 Sunbury Road. Above is from the Find A Grave website.
William’s unmarked grave would be somewhere in the area of the two markers above. The picture of wife Flora’s gravestone on the left, below, is from the Find A Grave website. Today it is barely readable. Her parents’ gravestone is the flat white one pictured about 20 feet above hers. William E. on the large gravestone to the right above is his son.
William A. Doherty’s house on South Cleveland Avenue in the same vicinity as the cemetery where he is buried. The picture is from the Franklin County Auditor website taken just prior to demolition in 2017.
The Otterbein Review 5/27/1916
The Otterbein Review 4/3/1916
Public Opinion 4/3/1916
The above poem appeared in the September 1912 issue of the campus newspaper, The Otterbein Aegis. The introduction read: “In this issue of the Aegis a poem from the pen of Mr. J. L. Morrison, until recently the well known proprietor of the local book store. On Friday, the twenty-seventh of the month, Mr. Morrison will celebrate his eightieth birthday and at that time he will enjoy the privilege of having his children and grandchildren help him observe the day.
The Morrison family home as it appears today, 64 South Vine Street.
Commentary by John L. Morrison’s granddaughter, Ellen Jones.
The Columbus Dispatch 2/3/1925
Tan and Cardinal 2/10/1925
Letter to John Wesley Jones from Governor Frank B. Willis.
Public Opinion 1/4/1934
Public Opinion 7/27/1994
All of the Morrisons are buried at Otterbein Cemetery.
Pictured above is Maple Street (abandoned long ago) which ran north/south through the Otterbein campus between West Main Street and West Park Street. Alumni Gymnasium (now Battelle Hall), the tennis courts and the Science Building are on the right…King Hall is on the left. In front of King Hall was the house pictured below, owned by Otterbein, that is in the process of being moved after its sale to Bert and Jane Morrison Horn. As previously mentioned, the bronze plaques mounted on the fronts of twenty historic Uptown buildings in June 2019 were funded by two Westerville families…one of which was the Horns…and this history of Uptown Westerville’s University Book Store, fittingly, ends with them.
Jane Morrison Horn, great niece of J. L. Morrison, heading home with the newly purchased house to be relocated at 112 North West Street. Accompanied by Sanders Frye, Otterbein Business Manager, who likely handled the sale of the house to the Horns and its removal from campus.
A reception was held in June 2019 to recognize the Bishop and Horn families for funding the twenty bronze history plaques. Two of Bert and Jane Morrison Horn’s sons were able to make the trip to Westerville. Pictured in front of the final Uptown location of the bookstore are Bill Horn on the left and Tom Horn and his wife and daughters on the right. John (Otterbein Class of 1980) was not available that day.


  1. Colleen Kasson says:

    Excellent article. I really love seeing the old pictures with what is there today. Glad so many buildings were preserved in Uptown Westerville.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Janet Flagler says:

    What an in-depth and meticulous review on the history of the Otterbein bookstore. I am amazed at how you were able to follow it’s history through the years! Great information and photos!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lucindaindelaware says:

    Great article,Don. Thanks for all your hard work.

    Liked by 1 person

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