Mercer Academy

   Mercer Academy


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Mercer Academy.  Much of the early educational history of this county was made by Mercer Academy, the first regularly constituted school in the county. The legislature in the act of March 30, 1911, provides for an academy to be called “Mercer Academy,” to be established in Mercer county. “Poor children to he taught gratis, not exceeding five at any one time.”

The academy was not opened until after 1820, though the building itself was completed by the close of 1819. Thomas Templeton was paid $1,500 for constructing the academy building. It was located on the north side of East Market street, and the original building, after having been repaired a number of times, and after having ceased to be a school house in 1856, was finally burned in January, 1879.

Aside from the state appropriation, the academy was designed to be self-supporting, that is, the tuitions were to pay for the expense of maintenance. A price was attached to each study, so much a quarter. Reading was $1.50, and the other two R’s were lumped together at two dollars per quarter.

Many of the native sons of Mercer county now of the generation that is passing attended the old Mercer Academy. For over thirty years it was the leading educational institution of the county. The old Greenville academy, the Gamble school at Jamestown, and the academy at Sharon were each schools of influence, but not one may he said to have had the standing of the Mercer Academy. The successive heads of the school were: John Kelley, U. B. Cook, William M. Stephenson, D. H. A. McLean, John W. Duff, D. R. Harper, G. C. Vincent. Some of the ablest and most respected citizens of the county filled the successive boards of trustees for the academy, and among the students who at various times were within its walls were some of the names that Mercer county most likes to honor.

The old Mercer Academy was designed in some measure to supply the facilities of popular education which the state at the beginning was unable to afford on a more liberal plan. After the passage of the free school law of 1834 more attention began to be given to the primary schools of the various communities, and the importance of the old central academy of the county somewhat declined. About 1850 the question came up about the erection of a new building, and it was discovered that considerable opposition prevailed to such a proposition, and the school continued for several years until a more definite plan of organization could be found.

Finally the legislature, by act of May 13, 1856, created the Mercer independent school district, with a view to establishing a union school. The old academy had fulfilled its purposes, and the property was sold in 1857 and the proceeds turned over to the school district.

What is now known as the “old academy building,” where at the time of this writing the principal county offices are located, was the principal school building erected for the Mercer district. The old three-story brick structure on the north crest of the Mercer hill has stood since 1867, and to most of the men and women of the present generation who were brought up at Mercer it stands out foremost in their recollections and associations of school days. The original cost of this building was $15,000, and about 1875 the other school building on the east side, a two-room brick, was built at a cost of about $4,700.

Twentieth Century History of Mercer County, 1909, Vol. I, page 93-95






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Revised: February 13, 2001.