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Was There a Washington Academy in Beaver County?

Milestones Vol 29. No. 4

By Roger Applegate


If you look at a map of the Depreciation Lands located on the north side of the Ohio River, you will find a plot of land amounting to about 3,000 acres that was granted to the Trustees of Washington Academy in August, 1793. The grant itself was located northwest of the Ohio River and included the mouth of the Connoquenessing on Big Beaver Creek. Known as "Morrison's Hunting Ground," it also encompassed parts of the present-day Borough of Ohioville. Just seeing that on the map and applying the old standard of "common sense," leads one to think that there was indeed an early school, either named after or founded by George Washington, established there. After all, why would an institution own that much land and not use it? Unfortunately, the test of "common sense" fails here. Washington Academy was never located in Beaver County, and it was not founded by George Washington.

A merger of three smaller Presbyterian schools, Washington Academy was chartered by the state and first opened in April of 1789 in the town of Washington, Pennsylvania. In 1865 the Academy, then known as Washington College merged with their rival, Jefferson College, to create present-day Washington & Jefferson College.

In 1789, supporting the chartered academies and colleges was a major problem for the cash poor state. In order to endow the academies and colleges, Pennsylvania gave large grants of land so that each institution could use it to generate income. The 3 , 000 acres in Beaver County was used in this manner, and never served as the location of Washington Academy.