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Westminster College - New Wilmington PA

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The Westminster Collegiate Institute, chartered by Presbyterian Church officials in April 1852, was opened for classes that same month in a private home and the nearby Associate Church. About a year later this two-story building became the first dedicated home of the college. It was sold in July 1855 but reacquired a few years later.

This new three-story “main” building was occupied in the fall of 1855, but was destroyed by a disastrous fire in February 1861. Afterwards, the original building used from 1853-1855 was once again utilized for classes until a new edifice, later known as “Old Main,” opened in the fall of 1862.

The Reverend George C. Vincent (1813-1889), the driving force behind the establishment of the college, oversaw the institution with the title of “Principal” until the first president was elected in October 1853. He subsequently stayed on at the school as a professor and a vice president – also serving in the U.S. Army during the Civil War – until he resigned in 1872.

The Reverend James Patterson (1812-1872) took up the post as the school’s first elected President in March 1854. His highly-regarded reign saw the school grow considerably over the next decade. His tenure unfortunately ended when he and the entire faculty resigned – in response to a crisis of some sort – in September 1866. He moved on to head up a church in Washington, Iowa, and died there in 1872.

When Patterson resigned in 1866 he was succeeded as President by the distinguished Reverend Robert Audley Browne (1821-1902), a former U.S. Army chaplain, reigning state senator, and current pastor of the First United Presbyterian Church in New Castle. Browne guided the college until he resigned in October 1870 and soon returned to the active ministry as pastor of his former church in New Castle.

The home of the Reverend D.H.A. McLean, one of the founders of the college who went on to serve as the President of the Board of Trustees. The building, built on the present site of Galbreath Hall, was later relocated to Prospect Street and converted to student apartments. I believe it was later razed to make room for newer apartments.

The second “main” college building, later known as “Old Main,” opened in the fall of 1862 and served the school for the next sixty-five years. Like its predecessor it was also destroyed by a fire – this time in January 1927.

The senior faculty members of 1873-74. From left to right: James W. Stewart (Greek), President Eliakim T. Jeffers (Mental & Moral Health), William Mehard (Mathematics), James B. Cummings (Natural Science), John Edgar (English), and John K. McClurkin (Latin).

The 1896-97 faculty surrounding the school’s fourth President Robert G. Ferguson (seated in middle). On the right end of the top row is Margaret McLaughry, the professor of English and a member of the prestigious McLaughry family of New Wilmington. She resigned in 1903 and later served as superintendent of the Overlook Sanitarium.

In April 1917 the United States had declared war on Germany and her allies, and as a result the male enrollment of the college dropped in half. The 1917 Westminster Titans football squad lost most of their veteran players to the military, and head coach Tuss McLaughry also left that season to play pro football with the Massillon Tigers. This inexperienced team finished with a record of 2-7, including a 25-0 loss to powerhouse Pitt, and were outscored 150-27. They did have a rising star in quarterback Allen Wierman, who soon served briefly in the U.S. Navy and then transferred to Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh.

A group of Westminster College graduates, probably from the class of 1876. James Thomas Hunter (class of 1876) is standing in middle back row. Full Size

Thomas James Ferguson, a 1875 graduate from Franklin County.

William L. “Will” Smith, a 1872 graduate from New Wilmington. The inscription notes he became a physician and died in what looks like 1943.

1873 graduate Tirzah Story of Jamestown in Mercer County.

Four unknown Westminster College graduates from the 1870’s Full Size

A few players enjoy the new tennis courts on campus (1925) Full Size

A part of the school’s old May Day festivities, which first commenced in 1907. (c1912) Full Size

A group of Presbyterian missionaries that visited the school in August 1909. (1909) Full Size

A member of the track and field team participates in the high jump in early 1933. This photo is marked as “Clark Goes Over.” (1933) Full Size

Westminster girls pose for a photo in gym class during the 1933-34 school year. (1933) Full Size

A photo montage of the tennis team from early 1933. (1933) Full Size

Several graduates among the Class of 1934. (1933) Full Size

Ralph Gibson McGill Memorial Library. (c1946)

The conservatory or greenhouse on campus. (c1946)

A view of the campus in the mid-1940’s. Full Size

The old gymnasium. (c1945)

The lounge inside Ferguson Hall. (c1945)

Inside McGill Library. (c1946)

A typical 1940’s dorm room inside Ferguson Hall.

Inside an engineering classroom. (c1946)

An experiment underway in the chem lab. (c1946)

Old Main Building on campus. This postcard is from June 1956 and sent to Lancaster PA. It reads in part, “We are in Ferguson Hall Dormitory Room 205. The other group just arrived at 2P.M. Love, Ann.”

Audley Browne Hall, a girls dormitory. This postcard, sent to Erie, is from June 1938 and reads, “Dear Dr., Having a grand time. Not such wonderful weather but it will do. Will be glad to get home. Betty.”

A postcard depicting the campus of Westminster College, initially known as the Westminster Collegiate Institute until the charter was amended in May 1897. (c1960)

Audley Browne Hall, named in honor of the school’s second President, opened in the fall of 1928. It was originally a men’s dormitory but was converted into a dormitory for female students in 1932. (c1950)

Ivy covers many of the old buildings on the campus.

A view of Ferguson Hall (top), a women’s dormitory that opened in 1941, and McGill Library, which opened in 1938. (c1950)

The Mary Thompson Science Hall, paid for by funds provided by Professor S.R. Thompson and named in honor of his daughter, opened in 1894. (c1950)

The Old Main Memorial, the third “main” building, was designed in a Gothic style by renowned New Castle architect A.L. Thayer. It formed the anchor of a revived college – and the new Quadrangle – when it opened in the spring of 1929. Full Size

Audley Browne Hall was designed by the W.G. Eckles Company, another prominent architectural firm based in New Castle, and was built at the same time as the Old Main Memorial. Full Size

Mr. George Conway explains a problem in his math class. (1950-51)

Mr. John Zimmerman, assistant professor of chemistry, instructs his pupils. (1950-51)

Hillside Dormitory. This postcard, sent to Miss Sarah Snyder in Pulaski, is postmarked in Sept 1911 and reads is part, “I like it very much here… This is where I live.”

Another postcard from Aug 1910 howing the Hillside Dormitory. It was sent by a visitor to New Wilmington and reads in part, “Arrived safe in New W. Monday evening & found everyone well.”

A postcard showing the campus in the summer time. (c1950)

A postcard of Ferguson Hall from August 1941. It reads in part, “Chris and I are here at the conference. I’m just here for the week-end, but Chris is a full time counsellor (sic). It is just as nice as ever. Love, Jane M. & Chris.”

Head Coach Grover Washabaugh supervises as the Titans stretch it out during football practice in late 1950. This squad, led by captains Harry Sample and Victor Taylor, went a disappointing 2-5-2 for the season.

A team photo of the 1942 Westminster Titans football team, led by captain Ted Ossoff (#85 kneeling near left end). This team suffered lots of injures and finished 4-4-1.

The 1942-43 Titans basketball squad, led by captain Fred Miller (third from left), finished a respectable 7-5 despite being a very inexperienced group. Grover Washabaugh, the head of the Physical Education Department, coached these cagers as well.

Dick Sylvester of the Titans breaks a long run against the boys from Grove City College during the 1951 season. Grove City trailed in the fourth but scored three late TDs to win 33-20.

(Sep 1952)

A view of Brittain Lake, named in honor of Trustee J. Frank Brittain, and the Memorial Field House – both of which were completed in 1951. (c1972)

A kickoff on the campus of Westminster College. (c1972)


  1. Reverend D.H.A. McLean house

    still sits on prospect street. its storage for college on one side and the other side is rented out to faculty

  2. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=100038141

    I note at the top of the page that they list Rev. George C. Vincent as “(1813-??)”. That’s an easy to find answer. The link above will take you to a photo of his headstone.

    What was not noted was that Rev. Vincent was the man who established the Washington, Iowa church in 1841, which was the same church that Rev. Patterson, shown next to him, took over in 1866. Rev. Vincent remained in Iowa until 1847, having been sent out as a church missionary to Illinois and Iowa as early as 1839, with “general directions” but wide discretion as to where and when to preach. It appears he came across some Iowa settlers that he knew, or knew of, and established his own church there in Washington – but that was not the first of the churches he established.

    It is noted here that Rev. Vincent served in the Civil War. So did all 3 of his sons from his first marriage. Only one of them, John Walker Vincent, was married, with a little daughter, and of course, that was the son who did not survive the war (exact same situation was found in my wife’s family – 3 brothers, 1 married with a daughter, and the married one died). I read that Rev. Vincent chaired the Iowa Anti-Slavery Society meeting in 1844, and petitioned the statehood convention to adopt civil rights for all Iowans. His middle son, Alvan, was a Captain of colored troops during the Civil War. Alvan took up the ministry after the war, carrying on in his father’s footsteps, but with Slavery abolished, Alvan took up support of the Temperance movement.

    Anyway, an interesting family with an interesting history.

  3. In my last note, I mentioned John Walker Vincent, who I believe was a graduate of this college, and was the son of Rev. George C. Vincent who was killed in the Civil War. I then noticed a photo, above, depicting Prof. William Mehard. As history would have it, William Mehard was the clergy who performed the wedding ceremony of John Vincent and Martha R. Hunter. When Martha applied for her widow’s pension during the war, she learned that Rev. Prof. Mehard had not filed their marriage with the courthouse, and that he was unavailable due to his service in the war. She remarried in 1866, but still needed proof of her marriage to John Vincent, to secure the minor’s pension for their daughter, Mary. She obtained said proof once Mehard returned to the college, after the war, as he wrote out a full page affidavit of the marriage.


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