Search billions of records on

Mercer Soldiers Orphans School

Mercer Soldiers  Orphans



Established 1868


Closed 1890


The Mercer Soldiers' Orphan School was established January 1, 1868, in the eastern part of the borough of Mercer, county-seat of Mercer county. The situation is a beautiful one, and as well adapted to this purpose as any that could have been selected. A spring of soft, pure, cold water gushes from the base of Bald Hill, on the east; the west is fringed by a winding stream, the excess of waters from numerous springs. A beautiful natural grove ornaments the property and affords an excellent and delightful play-ground for the children. Nature's sweet and varied songsters, in season, inhabit this grove, and appear intent on giving culture and refinement to the nation's orphaned children.

To the natural beauties of this place, the hand of Art has added its attractions. Maple-trees surround the buildings of the institution, and a line of the same bounds the property. Fountains have been constructed on the ornamental grounds, the water being supplied by the spring above mentioned. This spring supplies water for all the seven buildings of the school; the water being conveyed in pipes to whatever point it is needed. The buildings mentioned are commodious, attractive, airy, and ample for the accommodation of over three hundred children, in school-rooms, chapel, play-rooms, laundry and wash-rooms, dining-room, and dormitories. The farm connected with the institution is productive, and cultivated to great advantage, through the labor-system of the school. Messrs. George Reznor and J. G. White were the first Proprietors--the former having charge of the business, and the latter of the educational department. Mr. Reznor retired at the end of the first year, and Mr. White continued as Proprietor and Principal until March 1, 1874, when Messrs. G. W. Wright, R. R. Wright, S. F. Thompson, and John I. Gordon became Proprietors, and still continue such.

Of the first hundred children admitted to the school, few were over eight, and a number under four years of age. This was called one of the juvenile schools of the system; but, in 1871, it was discovered that the division of families, occasioned by placing those under ten and those over ten years of age in different institutions, often widely separated, was very unsatisfactory to mothers and guardians, and primary schools are no longer known.

It was an arduous task to care for so many little ones during the first two years, and this was especially so to those who had direct charge. Mrs. Jane Findley, of Erie City, was the first matron employed. This lady was the widow of a distinguished minister, and was possessed of excellent culture and fine executive ability, and brought to bear, in the discharge of her duties, the best qualities of head and heart. Her name is still cherished by the children whom she cared for so efficiently, and by her co-laborers whom she so greatly assisted by her knowledge, prudence, and sagacity. Mrs. Findley was obliged, on account of failing health, to resign her position in the year 1870. She was succeeded by Mrs. Wm. F. Dickson, a woman of remarkable talents and culture, and who made promise of great usefulness in this position; but she was obliged to leave her place on account of the ill health of her husband, Rev. Wm. F. Dickson, who acted as Principal for a few months in the year 1870.

Mrs. Mary C. Galbraith was the next matron of the school, and held the position for over four years. She was one who had no superiors--intelligent, prudent, systematic; and although the machinery by which her different departments were conducted was complicated, everything was harmonious. She was a model of order, ever busy in superintending the work of the girls, correcting bad habits, giving good advice, teaching cleanliness and neatness, and by her uniform bearing affording a living example of a true lady and Christian mother. The present matron is Miss Jennie Martin, a young lady of large experience in connection with this system of schools, having filled responsible positions at Dayton Soldiers' Orphan School; and notwithstanding her youth, she performs her work in a most satisfactory manner. The above-mentioned matrons have had for their lieutenants, Miss Lizzie Foust, Miss Dougan, Miss Maria Beggs, now deceased, Miss Maggie White, Mrs. Martha Fowls, and Mrs. Elizabeth Johnston, who still remains, and is the mother of three of the children of the school. These persons performed well their part during their respective terms.

The educational department has been one of peculiar interest, and a brief history of it may not be improper, as it is here the foundation is laid for the great superstructure of practical manhood and womanhood. Teachers, as a general rule, have been retained for a long time, some being still with the school who began their services here with its origin in 1868.

Mr. J. G. White, the former Proprietor, was first Principal, but other duties required him to fill his place with another who could devote his time to the educational department. Rev. Wm. F. Dickson, a man of high intellectual attainments and a teacher of large and long experience, was employed. After a few months of earnest and faithful labor, he was obliged to resign on account of ill health. He was succeeded by Miss Sarah Pew, who remained two years. Under her instruction the school made rapid and thorough progress, and her excellent discipline soon brought incongruous and disorderly elements under the rule of almost perfect law and order.

Prof. Wm. Bogle succeeded her, and is still the Principal. Mr. Bogle has displayed a peculiar fitness for this place. He is a man of thorough scientific and classical education, of large experience, and of the highest type of moral character. How well, not how much, is his motto. It is earnestly hoped that Mr. Bogle may remain at his post until this system of schools expires by legal limitation. The assistant teachers have been as follows: Miss Mary E. White, Miss Josephine C. Smith, Miss Annie Williamson, Miss Bell Orr, Miss Elmira Marsteller, Miss Amelia Leech, Miss Sadie Leech, Miss Russell, Miss Hattie Pettit, Miss Allie Bogle, and Mrs. Wm. Bogle, wife of the present Principal. Space will not allow a detailed history of the services of each of these teachers; but we must say that all have done well, and to them the school is indebted, to a very great degree, for the most enviable reputation it has achieved. Mrs. Bogle has no superior as a juvenile teacher, and deserves the especial thanks of the proprietors and patrons of the school, while the others mentioned deserve to be ranked as our best educators.

Schools of this character cannot be conducted without an army of other assistants, such as seamstresses, washwomen and laundresses, cooks and bakers, farmers, and general managers. Mrs. Armstrong, Miss Nannie Beggs, Miss Maggie Blair, Misses Reed, Miss Black, Miss Carmichael, Mrs. Crawford, J. B. Nickum, and a few others whose names we fail to recollect, all did good service, and added greatly to the morale, good order, and efficiency of the school.

Messrs. Chas. H. White and John Black have been the local managers or male attendants, Mr. Black being the present incumbent. These gentlemen have both shown that they were fully able to discharge their arduous duties in a satisfactory manner. S. F. Stewart, Timothy Thomas, D. A. Eberle, and Warren Crooks have each acted as assistants to the above-named gentlemen.

The department for manufacturing and repairing shoes has been conducted by H. C. White and Mr. Ross, the latter-named gentleman still continuing to peg-away.

Pennsylvania's Soldiers Orphan School by James Laughery Paul, Chief Clerk of the Department of Soldiers' Orphan Schools, 1876, pages 466-469.


All documents, photos, materials and graphics contained in the Western Pennsylvania Orphans pages are copyrighted  by the submitter and by this site.  You may not use them elsewhere, whether  in print or electronically, without written permission. Space generously provided by RootsWeb. 

Copyright 2001 Teri A. Brown, Walter Brown and Associates.  All rights reserved.

Revised: September 08, 2001.