Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Back to Home

After the erection of the new court-house, in Wilkes-Barre, in 1804, the old building, which had been removed to a point a few feet west of the present court-house, was converted into an Academy. It was incorporated under the style and title of the Wilkesbarre Academy, and was the first institution of learning, superior to the common log schoolhouse, in Luzerne county.

The first teacher or principal was the Rev. Mr. Thayer, an Episcopal clergyman, who was followed by Mr. Finney. Mr. Finney was succeeded by Garrick Mallery in 1809. The trustees requested Dr. Dwight, of Yale College, to send them an active, intelligent, and competent teacher and graduate. The doctor sent them Mr. Mallery, under whose superintendence the school advanced to considerable eminence. Greek, Latin, the mathematics, and all the higher English branches were taught here.

Soon the institution became very popular, and students from abroad came in such numbers that the trustees, by the advice of Mr. Mallery, engaged Andrew Beaumont as assistant. Mr. Beaumont was then an active, intelligent young man, just arrived in the valley. Messrs. Mallery and Beaumont were succeeded by Joel and Joseph H. Jones. Then followed Woodbridge, Baldwin, Granger, Orton, Miner, Talcott, Ulmann, Hubbard, and Dana. Finally, the old edifice was sold to Colonel H. F. Lamb, who removed a portion of it to his lot in Franklin street, where it was used in the erection of the building now occupied as a dwelling. Such was the end of the first courthouse and academy in Luzerne county.

There are among us men and women who can look back twenty, thirty, forty, or even fifty years, with fond recollection to the days when, with bounding youth and health, they assembled with their companions within the walls of the old academy, or sported on its playgrounds. Some, within its venerated walls, have filled their minds, as from a storehouse, with useful knowledge, and have so disciplined their intellectual faculties as to have been enabled to rise to positions of distinction and profit. Others there were of brilliant talents, bright prospects, and surrounded by all the advantages of social position, who went forth from that institution and became mere ciphers in society. They have gone down to their graves unhonored and unsung.

In 1842 a new brick academy was erected on the site of the old one, and a high school prospered there for several years, under the tuition of Messrs. Owen and Jackson, but eventually dwindled to a common day school. In 1858, the building was sold to E. B. Harvey, Esq., who removed and converted it into his present residence on Union street.

It may not be amiss to mention the names of some of the teachers and students of the Wilkesbarre Academy, who have risen to eminence in the world. Garrick Mallery, LL.D., was a president judge of the state courts, and is now one of the first lawyers in the nation, Andrew Beaumont was a statesman, who ably represented his constituents in the State Legislature and in Congress, and who held important trusts under the federal government. Daniel Ulmann is an eminent lawyer in New York, and was a candidate for the office of governor of that great state. Joel Jones has been a president judge, and is now a prominent lawyer in Phila- delphia. H. B. Wright is an able lawyer, and has represented this district in Congress. B. A. Bidlack also represented this district in Congress, and afterwards became the United States minister at the capital of New Granada, where he died. Luther Kidder was a lawyer of note, and a president judge. George W. Woodward is one of the supreme judges of Pennsylvania. Dr. S. D. Gross is Professor of Surgery in the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. Ovid F. Johnson was a brilliant lawyer, and the attorney-general of this state. Samuel Bowman, D.D., is the acting bishop of the Protestant Epis- copal Church in Pennsylvania. J. S. Hart was lately the eminent principal of the Philadelphia High School. There are also Zebulon Butler, D.D., of Mississippi, and George Catlin, a celebrated painter. E. W. Morgan was major of the eleventh United States regiment of infantry during the Mexican War, and is now principal of the military school at Newport, Ky. Major A. H. Bowman of the United States Army, and Lieutenant J. C. Beaumont of the United States Navy, were also pupils in this academy. (Stewart Pearce)

"According to my recollection the old building was demolished in 1839, and for two or three years the school was kept in a part of the old Morgan hotel, on River street. A brick building of more modern pretensions and appointments was erected on the old site, and that gave place, with the other buildings on the square, to the present courthouse."
C. E. L., Carbondale (Historical Record - 1886)