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The Tuscarora Academy
Tuscarora Academy Museum
Operated by the Juniata County Historical Society
“Interesting Historic Sketch of Tuscarora Academy”
One of the oldest landmarks now standing in the Juniata Valley is the Tuscarora Academy building situated at Academia, about eight miles west of here. Although abandoned as a school for more than a decade, the old pebble-washed stone structure stands proudly in the midst of the scenic beauty and peaceful solitude of the Tuscarora Valley, the last of a group of buildings that comprised the school when it ranked high among the educational institutions of the state and nation. Unfortunately much has been lost in the numerous fires that have razed the buildings at different times since its inception and comparatively little of written or authentic oral tradition is available at this time.Location
The Tuscarora Academy, the first institution of higher education in the valley, owes its existence to the Rev. McKnight Williamson, who was pastor of the Lower Tuscarora Church at Academia in the spring of 1825. The Rev. Mr. Williamson was called to the lower Tuscarora charge in the spring of 1825 and moved into the valley later that same year. Rev. Williamson’s activities along educational lines ante-date even the origin of the academy since he had been engaged in teaching the classics during his previous ministry and had taught lessons in the elements of Latin and in mathematics in his home during the first year of his pastorate in Academia. The following year, he conceived the idea of establishing an academy for the double purpose of educating young men of the Presbyterian Church who desired to enter the ministry and of preparing teachers to conduct the public schools of this region. His plan met with the instant and hearty approval of John Patterson, a merchant of Academia, who donated $2000 in cash and a tract of land upon which the original buildings of the school were built. The ground upon which the present building stands had been granted by the state as a church site. This liberal contribution from Mr. Patterson with many smaller ones from inhabitants of the valley, who appreciated the magnitude and importance of the work, served to give the enterprise vitality and the necessary buildings were soon erected and the school opened. The school was incorporated by an act of the legislature in 1837 and placed under the control of a Board of Trustees. The same act also appropriated $2000 for maintenance of the school. This action on the part of the state gave the institution permanence. Mr. David Wilson, a very able educator was the first principal appointed by the Board of Trustees. He remained at the head of the teaching staff until 1852, when he left Tuscarora Academy to be associated with Mr. David Laughlin, who was also a member of the faculty of the Tuscarora, in establishing the Airy View Academy at Port Royal then called Perryville.
During the period from 1848-1852, three successive fires destroyed all the original buildings, necessitating the suspension of the school for a time, threatening to prostrate the enterprise. Notwithstanding that they were unable to collect the insurance and entirely without funds the trustees displayed that indomitable courage and dogged determination so typical of their pioneer fathers and grandfathers and immediately began to rebuild on a much more extensive scale than before, with the result that at the opening of the school year November 1, 1853, the new buildings were completed and ready for occupancy. These buildings consisted of a four story brick structure, eighty feet long and forty feet wide, heated with hot air furnaces, which was quite an improved method of heating for the period and a two story stone structure the one yet standing, sixty feet long and forty feet wide. This latter building was erected as a church in 1816 and abandoned when the present brick church [Lower Tuscarora Presbyterian] was built in 1849. The trustees of the Academy remodeled it for school purposes following the above mentioned fires. It was originally a one-story structure and the alterations included the addition of a second story and the plastering over the stone. 
The brick building, which was destroyed by fire in 1875 was used as a boarding hall for students and as a residence for the principal. The first floor of the other building was arranged for chapel and school excerises with two society rooms attached. The second floor contained 12 rooms, which were occupied by students who were unable to obtain rooms in the main dormitory. Still others found board and lodging in private homes in the community.
From a catalogue or annual published in 1854 for the school year ending September 30, one of the few records touching on the history of the Academy available, we note that Silas E. Smith was president, Rev. George W. Thompson, secretary, and Joseph Pomeroy treasurer of the institution. The other members of the board of trustees were: Joseph Kelly, M.D.; John Patterson, John P. Sterrett, M.D.; Andrew Patterson, Stewart Laird and James Patterson. The faculty was composed of John H. Shumaker, A. M.; and Wallace C. Wilcox A. M., associate principals [as well as] Samuel L. Gamble, John A. McGinley and Solomon S. D. Orris, assistant teachers and T. K. White, teacher of penmanship. The school year was divided, at that time, into two ten-month [sic] sessions [should read five-month]. The winter session opened November 1 and closed March 29, while the summer session opened May 1 and closed September 29 when the annual commencement exercises were held.
We quote the following verbatim from the catalogue:
“In a secluded portion of Tuscarora Valley, noted for its beautiful scenery, healthful climate, and freedom from causes of local disease, the Institution is freed from the temptation, distractions from quiet study, and many other objections to a city or village location. Every facility is here afforded for study, while in the deep forest and shady walks of Tuscarora Mountain and Valley abundant opportunity is afforded for healthful recreation; to which is added facility, during the summer season for safe breathing.” (The last two words italicized.)
Terms of Admission
“Every student applying for membership is expected to exhibit satisfactory testimonials of good moral character, to have attained at aleast a tolerable familiarity with the elementary English branches, and to have completed his twelfth year.”
Course of Study
“Students who design entering College will be prepared for any stage of advancement desired. [Those who wish] to become teachers will receive careful instruction in the higher English branches and in such Latin and Greek authors as they may desire. Students who propose entering on active business life will be instructed in Book-keeping by Single and Double Entry, Surveying and such other mixed mathematics as their intended pursuits require, in addition to the ordinary studies of a substantial English education.”
The test books used are next listed in the catalogue. They included English grammar, analysis of the English language, written and mental arithmetic, the English classics, algebra, surveying, higher mathematics, geometry, plane and solid, geography, elementary and advanced, natural philosophy, civics, ancient, modern and United States history, Latin and Greek. The course apparently was equivalent to our present day high school course.
Terms and Vacations
“The Winter Session opens on the first Wednesday in November and continues five months. The Summer Session opens on the first Wednesday in May and continues five months. Vacations during the months of April and October. The Anniversary Exercises are held on the last Wednesday in September each year.”
“The students are assembled for Divine Worship, every morning and evening, when one of the Principals presides. On the Sabbath, all are required to attend church and to study a portion of scripture for recitation and explanation in `Bible Class.”
“A careful record is kept of each Students standing, from which is printed a list of credits condensed at the close of each session, showing the absolute and relative standing of every member of the Institution. One of these printed lists is transmitted to every parent or guardian”. 
Modes of Access
“The Pennsylvania Railroad affords direct and easy communication with all parts of the country. Students from the East and North can take it at Philadelphia; from the South via Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad, at Harrisburg; from the West at Pittsburgh. A carriage from the Academy will await the arrival of Students, at Perryville (now Port Royal) some miles distant, when previous instructions are given. Conveyances are at [indecipherable word] times to be obtained.”
“For Board, Tuition, Washing and Room Rent, per annum----$110. Fuel and light are charged extra. Books, stationery, clothing, and other necessary articles will be furnished the students, at ordinary reasonable prices, whenever funds are supplied for that purpose. Regular charges, payable quarterly in advance, and all balances to be liquidated before the Student leaves.”
Another page in the catalogue is devoted to “Hints to Parents and Guardians” in which the principals relate, briefly, what is expected of the parent or guardian of a student: in the way of discipline and teaching in the home and what the school plans to do for the pupil while in attendance there.”
The influence of Tuscarora Academy for good has been felt through out the length and breadth of the land and while few of those who acquired their preparatory education within its walls are now living, the pages of history teem with the attainments of those who did. In most every business, profession, [indecipherable word] and art, some one or more products of it have risen to great heights. Numbered among these are business men, physicians, surgeons, statesmen, educators and men of high rank in the Army and Navy who have attained the pinnacle in their chosen vocation.
Some idea of the important position the Academy occupied in the educational world before the Civil War is gained from the list of students matriculated at the 1853 winter session. There were in attendance one-hundred-fifty students representing eight states, in the United States, and one country in South America. The summary of the school roster shows that 84 came from Pennsylvania, 24 from New Jersey, 20 from Virginia, 9 from Maryland, 4 from Alabama, 4 from Illinois, 3 from New York, 1 from Indiana, and 1 from Chile, S.A.
The Academy was established and remained for many years, exclusively a boys’ school. It was however, converted into a co-educational institution in later years. A female Academy or Seminary stood near the Tuscarora Academy and flourished for many years. The history of this institution is even more obscure than that of the boys’ school since it was abandoned as a school long before the latter. It is said that it did not survive the Civil War as many students were belles from the aristocratic families south of the Mason-Dixon Line and if the school did not cease to exist immediately after the declaration of war, it was abandoned soon after because of lack of patronage. The building is still standing and part of it is used as a dwelling by the present owner.
The old Tuscarora Academy building is in a fair state of preservation, considering the number of years it has withstood the vicissitudes of the elements, and present indications are that it will be standing many years hence. The Tuscarora Dramatic Club, an amateur theatrical organization, has placed a new slate roof on it and made other minor repairs, which will save it from immediate disintegration. It was abandoned as an Academy in 1911 and was used as a township High School from 1912-1916. It has stood unused since, except for the few occasions when the Dramatic Club has produced plays in it. It still remains under the control of a Board of Trustees. 
Tuscarora Academy Museum
Open Sunday's June -July - August 1:30 PM - 4:00 PM
Open at other times by special arrangement.
Call the Juniata County Historical Society at 717-436-5152
From Mifflintown, take SR 3002 [old Rt. 22] towards Mexico. At the blinking traffic light [intersection of SR 3002 and Rt. 75] turn right, driving south/west about 5 miles through the town of Port Royal). Continue on Rt. 75 until reaching the Spruce Hill Lunch. At this point the road forks; take the right fork SR 3013. Drive approximately 1.5 - 2 miles to a stop sign, intersection of SR 3013 and SR 3008. Turn left. Go very short distance turn right onto SR 3015. At next stop sign the Tuscarora Academy is on the left.
 Microfilm, Juniata Tribune, Mifflintown, PA, November 22, 1928 to June 2, 1931, Juniata Tribune, September 11, 1929, pg. 1, Juniata County Historical Society, Mifflintown, PA 17059.
 Ibid., Juniata Tribune, September 19, 1929, pg. 5.
 Ibid., Juniata Tribune, September 26, 1929, pg. 5.
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Juniata County Historical Society, all rights reserved.