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Mercer Soldiers Orphans School

Mercer Soldiers  Orphans



Established 1868


Closed 1889


Soldiers’ Orphan School. —This benevolent and valuable school was established on the 1st of January, 1868, by J. G. White and George Reznor, on a tract of land owned by the former. The site and some of the buildings had been previously used for a water-cure. The location is a favorable one, being in the valley which lies between the hill on which Mercer is situated and Bald Hill lying to the northeast. The grounds, embracing seventy acres, are abundantly supplied with living water, that gushes from the base of Bald Hill. In addition, McCollough’ s Run, fed by springs, flows near by, affording a copious supply of the liquid element for all practical purposes. In the distribution of labor Mr. White became the superintendent of the educational department, and Mr. Reznor the general business manager. Mr. Reznor, however, retired from this position at the expiration of a year, but Mr. White continued as proprietor and principal until the first of March, 1874, when the proprietorship was transferred to Messrs. G. W. Wright, H. B. Wright, John I. Gordon and S. F. Thompson, its present owners. When the institution opened the attendance was necessarily small, and limited to a younger class of pupils. It is said that of the first hundred admitted nearly all were between the ages of four and eight years, a few even falling under the lesser number. This was in consequence of the theory first held, that pupils of about the same age should be sent to the same school. In a few years, however, this theory was discovered to be a false one, and children of the same family, whatever their ages, were sent to the same school. Mr. J. G. White, now a leading attorney at the Mercer bar, was, as has been already stated, the first principal. His duties in other directions required, however, that he should be relieved from such labors. 

He selected Rev. William T. Dickson, a man of intellectual power and experience. He occupied the position but a few months when ill health compelled him to resign. He was succeeded by Miss Sarah Pew, a Mercer lady, who, during the two years of her incumbency, gave efficiency to that department of the school.  She in turn was succeeded by Prof. William Bogle and G. W. Mays. 

The first matron selected for the responsible place of governing these little ones was Mrs. Jane Findley, of Erie, widow of a distinguished minister. She faithfully performed the duties belonging to her position until 1870, when failing health compelled her to resign. Her memory is lovingly cherished by those who knew her in any capacity.

The second matron was Mrs. William F. Dickson, wife of Rev. William F. Dickson, who acted as the second principal. On account of his removal by reason of ill health, her stay was of short duration. Her successor was Mrs. Mary C. Galbraith, who held her position with success and general acceptance for a period of over four years. During her administration order, system and harmony prevailed. At the termination of Mrs. Galbraith’s term of service Miss Jennie Martin, formerly connected with the Dayton Soldiers’ Orphan School, was chosen. She had had quite a varied experience in similar work, and was, besides, the daughter of a soldier, who was a victim of the horrors of Andersonville. The wisdom shown in her selection was vindicated in the fact that she still [1888] occupies the position with honor and acknowledged success. 

History of Mercer County, 1888, pages 365-366.


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Revised: September 08, 2001.