Birthplace of William Rainey Harper, 1856-1906. This log house, constructed by blacksmith Joseph McKinney, was the birthplace of William Rainey Harper. The son of Scotch-Irish settlers, Harper graduated from Muskingum College at the age of 14, giving his valedictory address in Hebrew. A gifted scholar, Harper earned a Ph.D. in Semitic languages from Yale University at the age of 19. He was a nationally-known Biblical scholar, lecturer and author. Harper's vision of higher education led him to found the University of Chicago, a European-style university committed to freedom of intellectual inquiry. His views were shared by John D. Rockefeller who financed the institution. Harper served as president of the University of Chicago from 1891 until his death in 1906.