History of Danville Main Page
This page is maintained by Terri Cook as part of the USGenWeb Project.
©2001. Terri Cook. All rights reserved.

Danville Past and Present
Danville, Montour County, Pennsylvania
A Collection of
Historical And Biographical Sketches,
By: D. H. B. Brower
Harrisburg, PA.:
Lane S. Hart, Printer and Binder

First Sunday School

     For the following sketch of the first Sunday School in Danville
and the brief but interesting biographical notes of its founders, I am
indebted to John Frazer, Esq., of Cincinnati.

Robert Raikes is known as the originator of Sunday schools. He was an editor, and published the Gloucester Journal. At first he employed and paid teachers to give instruction to the children that had no other means of either religious or secular education. This was in 1781. Reverend Robert Stork soon joined him the pious work, and success crowned their earnest efforts. In five years from the first Sunday school, organized under the superintendence of Robert Raikes, there were two hundred and fifty thousand Sunday school scholars receiving regular instruction in the various cities and towns of New England. At first the instruction given was mainly in the or- dinary branches, and extended but little more to the moral or religious training of the children than the common schools of the present day. In Scotland, the first Sunday schools, mainly devoted to religioius training, were first instituted. The Sunday schools in Scotland were more like those of the present day than were those of England, and yet they were far behind the standard of excellence now attained. In 1786, Bishop Asbury, of the M. E. Church, established the first Sunday school in America. It was in Virginia. Shortly after that date the Society of Friends planted the Sunday school in Philadel- phia, and in 1791 Bishop White, of the Episcopal Church, was pres- ident of a Sunday school in that city.

There is also another claimant for the first Sunday school in America. Dr. Hildreth says that a kind old lady at the Fort, now Marietta, Ohio, gathered the children of the garrison together on Sundays and gave them religious instruction on the general plan of the Sunday school. Parson Story gave her efficient aid in the pious work, and she continued the Sunday school after the good parson was called away. This was in 1792, and about one year after the establishment of the institution of Virginia by Bishop Asbury. 1809, a Sunday school was organized in Pittsburgh, which was the first in this State outside of Philadelphia. In 1816, the New York Sunday School Union was established, and the American Sun- day School Union was organized in 1824, and now the Sunday school system became a power and found its way into every village and hamlet throughout the country. It has steadily grown in num- bers and in influence, and now the number of Sunday school libra- ries in the United States is nearly five thousand, and the regular worship in not less than three million.

The first Sunday school in Danville was established in 1817, mainly through the efforts and influence of Judge William Mont- gomery. In July of that year he induce3d a few others to join him in the good work, among whom were Evans, Russel, Barret, and Daniels. About twenty boys were gathered together on Sunday, the 2nd day of August, 1817, and the first Sunday school of Dan- ville was opened. It was in a private room on Market street. Judge Montgomery and Jeremiah Evans were the superintendents. John Russel was treasurer, and Josiah McClure was secretary. But they had no books, no tickets, no maps, nor any of the thousand advantages enjoyed by the Sunday schools of the present day. Soon they procured red and blue tickets containing a text of scripture. For every six verses in the Bible or Testament repeated from mem- ory, the scholar received a blue ticket. A red ticket was worth six in blue, and were good for the purchase of books. This was the pioneer school of all the flourishing Sunday schools now in this place. The constitution of the first Sunday school in Danville was written by Jedge Montgomery, and was long in the possession of Honorable Paul Leidy, and a copy, with the signatures of the orig- inal signers, is now among the records of the Grove Church. The following is a correct copy of the document:

CONSTITUTION OF THE MALE SUNDAY SCHOOL OF DANVILLE. Article I. The object of this society shall be to teach children to read and commit portions of scripture, catechism, hymns, &c., to memory. 2. The society shall consist of fourteen members. 3. The officers shall consist of two superintendents, a treasurer, and secretary. 4. It shall be the duty of the superintendents to attend every Sunday, or at least one of them, at the place of meeting, and re- main there until school is dismissed, also to preside at all meetings of the society, to keep order, take the vote on all questions of de- bate, appoint committees, sign all orders for the payment of moneys, &c. 5. It shall be the duty of the secretary to keep all papers de- livered to him, to collect fines and keep correct minutes of the society; also an account of the books distributed, and to whom. 6. It shall be the duty of the treasurer to keep all moneys, to pay all orders when properly signed, and when required by the society, to give a statement of his accounts. 7. An election of officers shall take place quarterly, on the first Mondays of August, November, February and May. 8. Six members shall form a quorum to transact business. 9. The members shall be divided into committees, two of whom shall attend every Sabbath at the appointed hours, and remain until school is dismissed, under a penalty of twelve and a half cents for neglect, for the use of the school. 10. The school shall be opened by reading a chapter, by singing a hymn, or by prayer. 11. Each member shall have the names of his class enrolled, see that they attend punctually, perform all their duties with propriety, and reward them accordingly. 12. Tickets shall be issued for the encouragement of the pupils. 13. It shall be the duty of the teachers to report to the superin- tendents such children as shall merit rewards, and the superin- tendents to give such premiums to the children as in their opinion will incite them to further improvement. 14. No member shall leave the school during the hours of tuition, without leave of absence from one of the superintendents. 15. All unnecessary talking, as well as light, trifling behavior, shall be avoided by the teachers during school hours, and it shall be the duty of each teacher, as far as ability has been given, to be careful to instruct the scholars in the knowledge of Diving things. 16. When a scholar has been absent from school two Sabbaths, he shall be visited by the teacher of the class to which he belongs, who is to report the cause of such absence to the superintendents. This rule should be strictly adhered to, as it may prevent the schol- ars form breaking the Sabbath. 17. Alterations or amendments of the constitution cannot be made without the concurrence of three fourths of the members. 18. The society, two thirds of all the member concurring, shall have power to raise money for the use of the school. 19. It shall be the duty of each and every member to attend the quarterly meetings, and all other meetings that may be deemed necessary by the superintendents, under a penalty of twelve and a half cents for each neglect, for the use of the school.

IRA DANIELS                         JEREMIAH EVANS
WILLIAM WILSON                D. C. BARRET
JOHN IRWIN                          JOHN RUSSEL

     DANVILLE, June, 1817.

From this document, it appears that there were no female Sunday school scholars in that day, and consequently there was still much to learn and an open field for great improvements.

This first Sunday school, in Danville, was organized as above sta- ted, on the 2d day of August, 1817, in a private dwelling on Market street, east of Pine. A brief, biographical note of each of the old founders of the first Sunday school in Danville is appended.

Doctor Ira Daniels was a native of Connecticut. He and Doc- tor Petrikin were the village physicians of that day. They suc- ceeded Doctor Barrett, who was the successor of Doctor Forest, the first physician of the place. Doctor Daniels was editor of the Ex- press, the second newspaper of the county, which succeeded the Columbia Gazette, the first journal in this place, and which was pub- lished a year or two. The Doctor rendered effective aid in drawing up the constitution and in obtaining the cooperation of others in establishing the school. He was a member of the commit- tee, of which Hon. William Montgomery was the chairman, and drew the last two articles of that instrument.

James Humphreys, a worthy citizen, who cheerfully joined in the good work of establishing the school.

James Montgomery was a member of the large and influential fam- ily of that name, who did so much to establish and aid the village in its early days to obtain a position for usefulness and to give it a reputation for sound morality. His brother, Rev. John Mont- gomery, was a teacher in the school, and subsequently became su- perintendent, and continued in that capacity until he removed to western Illinois where he labored long and faithfully as pastor of a church. They and Rev. William B. Montgomery, were sons of Col. John Montgomery, one of the earliest pioneers who reclaimed Mahoning to civilization and religion. He (James) died in 1826, at the early age of thirty-five years.

William Wilson, the village justice, who most respectably filled that office for an age. After a long and useful course here, rearing a large family, and when well advanced in years, he removed to Il- linois, near the Mississippi river, where he died in 1848, at the good old age of eight-three years. His descendants still reside in Knox, Rock Island, and Mercer counties, and in Chicago.

Josiah McClure, one of the prominent and popular citizens at that period, held the office of register and recorder of Columbia county, being the first incumbent; he was also the first secretary of the school, and faithfully discharged his official duties.

John Irwin was one of the early residents, and a hotel keeper, who united with the others in promoting the good work, and he lived to see the institution permanently established. He was one of the thirty-four subscribers to an agreement to contibute to the support of the preaching of the Gospel in 1785, before the erection of the old Grove church.

William Whitaker was a Hibernian who emigrated from Europ to Philadelphia, and soon afterwards to Danville, whilst it was yet a small village. He was an assiduous promoter of the school. About this period the Methodist church was formed and he was one of its zealous members. The father of a large family, he lived to see them arrive at years of maturity. His daughter and grand children still reside in Danville. His son, Doctor William H. Whitaker, re- sided in New Orleans, and afterwards in Mobile, where he lived in 1870, leaving a large family who reside there and in the vicinity.

Jeremiah Evans was a merchant then residing here, and who sub- sequently removed to Mercersburg. He was one of the most effic- ient members of the society, and one of the superintendents elected at the organization of the school in 1817.

William Woods was well known as a leading Methodist, who aided in the organization of that sect when they possessed but slen- der means for such an enterprise; he was one of the class leaders. His piety and energy commanded the confidence of his colaborers and coreligionists, as well as the respect of the entire community. Thus it will be seen that the school was established by pious and enterprising men, irrespective of religious creeds, though a majority of them were Presbyterians. Owing to the paucity of its friends at its inception it was found expedient for all to unite, who could assist in promoting its objects. Some of Mr. Woods' family still reside in Davnille, actively engaged in business pursuits.

Johsph Proutzman was a prominent and popular citizen. he came to Danville after having been elected sheriff of the county to succeed Henry Alward, the first one, about a year anterior to the organization of the school. After the expiry of his sheriffalty he resumed his former profession, that of surveyor, for which his math- ematical attainments and skill well fitted him. Subsequently, and until his decease, he was a justice of the peace.

Don Carlos Barrett was a native of Norwich, Vermont. His birth dated back to 1788. He was a most accomplished and suc- cessful teacher. His academy at Cincinnati in 1808, 1809, and 1810, was a grand success. His school in Danville at the time the Sunday school was formed was a most prosperous one, being patron- ized by the principal citizens of the place, and by those of the vicin- ity and neighboring villages. Whilst busily engaged in his school by day he studied law by night. Upon his admission to the bar he removed to North Carolina, and subsequently to Erie, from thence to Texas just prior to the revolution, and during that event- ful period, together with Austin and Houston, constituted the "Con sultation," the triumvirate which exercised supreme control during that sanguinary conflict. After the new nation had secured its in- dependence he resumed his law practice and resided at Bastrop. Here, after a life of great activity and usefulness he died in 1838, at the age of fifty years.

Hon. William Montgomery was born in Philadelphia in 1776, and was taken by his parents, when in his infancy, to Northumber- land, and from thence to Danville. From Danville the family had to flee several times from prowling parties of war-like savages. They sought refuge at Northumberland, or Fort Augusta. In early man- hood he was appointed on of the associate judges of Northumber- land county, for which position his intelligence and sterling integrity well fitted him. When the new county of Columbia was formed, he continued to hold his office in the new county to the close of his long and spotless life, in January, 1846. It may truly be said of him, "he felt that a christian is the highest style of man." The only surviving members of his family are Rev. Samuel Montgomery, residing in Oberlin, and his grand-children and great-grand children in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Nebraska.

John Russel, one of the pioneers, was a man much respected. He was a merchant, and one of the first in this place. Always ready to join in every enterprise for the moral as well as the material ad- vancement of the community he warmly advocated the establish- ment of the Sunday school, and was a co-laborer with Judge Mont- gomery in the organization of the first Sunday school in Danville. He was chosen treasurer, and ever manifested a deep interest om tje success of the school. John Russel was a man of merit, modest, loving the quiet of his family and his home, but was called to public life in 1824, when he was appointed prothonotary of the county by Governor John Andrew Shultz. He served six years with great credit to himself and satisfaction to the public.

Charles M. Frazer, the last survivor of the society, was born in Philadelphia, in February 1788. In his infancy, during the sum- mer of that year, his parents brought him to Mahoning where his childhood, youth, and early manhood were passed, in the old home- stead farm, now in part included in the corporate limits of Dan- ville. He was educated in the old log school-house, which stood about thirty paces east of the first Grove church, under the tuitionof Master Gibson and other teachers of the olden time, which was about the close of the last century. He cordially aided in founding the school and in its support, during his residence here. he resided for half a century in this vicinity with the exception of two years in California, in 1855-56. Having survived all the other members of the society many years, he died in Peoria, in October, 1876, in his eighty-ninth year. His children, grand-children, and great grand- children reside in Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and Peru, South America.

This page is maintained by Terri Cook as part of the USGenWeb Project.
©2001. Terri Cook. All rights reserved.