Formation of the McElwain Institute
the spring of 1880 an institution of learning, known as the New Lebanon
Institute, was established. W. T. Solomon was
a prominent factor in agitating the subject, but did not see his project
thoroughly materialized. The people of the place, recognizing the
necessity of greater educational facilities than they had previously
enjoyed, subscribed $2,500 for the purchase of land and the erection of a
suitable building for academic purposes. Four acres of land were secured,
and the erection of a suitable building was begun in the summer of 1880,
but not completed until January, 1881. The two-story brick edifice, with
four class rooms and two smaller ones for library and office respectively,
on first floor, and a hall with capacity for 400, besides two class rooms
on second floor, was dedicated February 22, 1881, Prof.
G. W. Williams, of Allegheny College, delivering the address. The
cost was $7,000. The sum of $4,650 was subscribed at the time of
dedication. By vote of the board of directors, the institution was
dedicated under the name of the McElwain Institute, in honor of John
McElwain, Esq., of New Vernon Township, whose generous benefactions
and sympathy gave the enterprise its proper impetus. On the 16th of May,
1883, the institution was incorporated as the McElwain Institute, with the
avowed purpose “to establish and maintain an institution for the
instruction and education of persons of both sexes in science, literature
and art.” The directors at that time consisted of John
L. McCormick, James Lindsey, James W. McConnell, A. D. McCracken. R. C.
Farver, James C. Brown, A. J. Palm and W. P.
McElwain. In the list of principals are to be found the names of E.
L. Richardson, W. H. Dodds (at present  principal of the
Pittsburgh High-school), S. H. Sheakley, George H.
Lamb and M. B. Griffith.
of Mercer County,
1888, pages 479-482
Institute [is] a
splendid academic school at which hundreds of young men and women have
received a training for responsible careers. The influence of such a
school cannot be measured better than by referring to the many who have
received their preparation for life within its walls.
citizens of the vicinity of New Lebanon and elsewhere owe their education
to McElwain Institute, one of those institutions of academic rank which
have exerted remarkable influences toward enlightenment and culture in the
state of Pennsylvania. When it was established in the spring of 1880 this
was known as New Lebanon Institute. It was founded for the purpose of
affording local opportunities superior to those given in the common
schools. Some citizens subscribed $2,500 for the purchase of land and the
erection of a building, which was begun in the summer of 1880 and
completed about the first of the following year, being a two-story brick
building with an auditorium on the second floor. The total cost was
$7,000, the balance of the debt being subscribed at the dedication on
Washington’s birthday, 1881. John McElwain
of New Vernon township had proved the most liberal supporter of the
institution, and by a vote of the board of directors his benefactions were
recognized by the change of name to its present  form, McElwain
Institute being incorporated in May, 1883.
Century History of Mercer County,
1909, pages 150-151.