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Greersburg Academy - Darlington PA

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In early 1802 the Reverend Thomas E. Hughes, a graduate of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), was authorized by Presbyterian Church officials to establish a preparatory school in a wilderness area along the Little Beaver Creek. Hughes began fundraising efforts and a small building, sometimes called the “Old Stonepile,” was soon erected in the center of what became the village of Greersburg (later Darlington). The new Greersburg Academy provided young men with advanced classes in such fields of study as astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy. The school’s alumni include famous abolitionist John Brown, future Pennsylvania governor John W. Geary, school textbook guru William H. McGuffey, and soldier and physician Daniel Leasure. (c1915) Full Size

The academy closed for a time in the 1860’s but I believe was opened for most of the 1870’s.In 1883 the building was sold to a railroad company and saw longtime service as a railroad station. Meanwhile, the academy trustees purchased a new brick building (shown above) a few blocks away and operated the academy until it finally closed in the early 1900’s. The second building was then utilized as a public schoolhouse until 1956. Both of the Academy buildings were acquired by the Little Beaver Historical Society in the 1960’s and converted into museums. (c1912) Full Size

The Academy was founded by the Rev. Thomas E. Hughes (1769-1828), the longtime pastor of the Mt. Pleasant Presbyterian Church. Hughes, of Welsh descent and born in York PA, is claimed to be the first settled pastor north of the Ohio River.

One of the most famous alumnus was John Brown (1800-1859), a well-known abolitionist who was raised in Summit County OH. Brown was vehemently opposed to slavery and believed violent action was necessary to fight the evil institution. He was known for leading raids in Kansas during the 1850’s. He was captured during a daring raid against the federal armory in Harper’s Ferry WV in October 1959. He was executed soon after.

Col. Daniel Leasure (1819-1886), who attended the Academy in the late 1830’s, went on to become a well-known soldier and physician. He served with distinction as the commanding officer of the 100th Pennsylvania Regiment (“Roundheads”) during the Civil War. He later practiced medicine in Darlington and New Castle and served with the Pennsylvania Board of Health.

Alumnus John W. Geavy (1819-1873) went on to become a prominent attorney, politician, and U.S. Army general. He served with distinction in the U.S. Army during the Mexican War and the Civil War. He was the mayor of San Francisco CA from 1850-1851, the governor of the Kansas Territory from 1856-1857, and the Governor of Pennsylvania from 1867-1873.

Greersburg student Walter Forward (1786-1852) became a famous attorney, politician, and diplomat. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1822-1825, helped found the Whig Party in the 1830’s, served as the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury from 1841-1843. He later saw service as a diplomat to Denmark and as a county judge in Pittsburgh.

Greersburg graduate William H. McGuffey (1800-1873) became an accomplished college professor, roving instructor, and Presbyterian minister. He served as a professor or president with a handful of colleges to include Miami (OH) University, Cincinnati College, Ohio University, and the University of Virginia. He is most known for creating the McGuffey Readers, a popular series of textbooks that were published between 1836-1960.

The original building (shown above) housing the Greersburg Academy was sold in 1883 and saw longtime service as a railroad station. (c1975) Full Size

The original building, acquired by the Little Beaver Historical Society in the 1960’s, was converted into a museum and still serves in that capacity today. (May 2013) Full Size

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This building served as the second home of the Greersburg Academy in the 1880’s until it closed in the early 1900’s. It was then used as a public schoolhouse until 1956. It is currently owned by the Little Beaver Historical Society. (Jan 2017) Full Size


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