West Sunbury Academy.– The West Sunbury Academy, a chartered institution, is pleasantly located in the village of the same name. Concerning its early history, its inception, etc., it appears that in 1853, a scholarly gentleman from the South, who called himself William THOMAS (but whose correct name was Rev. William Thomas HAMILTON), came here and established a private school, wherein were taught studies of a higher grade that those usually pursued in the public schools. His object, it seems, was more for the purpose of having something to occupy his [p.422] attention, than the pecuniary gains derived from his teaching, for his pupils were limited to about fifteen in number. This school was continued for two or three terms, when Mr. THOMAS departed.
However, a considerable number of those instructed had by this time learned the great importance and needs of a higher course of instruction for their sons and daughters. Hence, in 1855, when the Rev. William T. DICKSON (a Presbyterian minister, and an educator, as well as a native of Butler County) and his wife,1 en route for the State of Tennessee, stopped at Sunbury for a few days, for the purpose of visiting acquaintances, it was proposed to him by various leading citizens to remain here and establish a high school. He finally consented, and as a result, with himself and wife as teachers, an academic school was established, which was a success from the beginning.
A building now occupied by John DUNLAP was occupied until the fall of 1861, when through the efforts of people in the village and the country surrounding, the present academy building was completed and occupied. The Sunbury Academy was then in a flourishing condition, and its capacity, during the winter months at least, was tested to its full. But a terrible and desolating civil war had already been ushered in. The hydra-headed monster, treason, secession, slavery and its extension, had its adherents and advocates in the North as well as in the South, and the government at Washington needed the services of the loyal youth everywhere, their brave hearts and willing hands to keep the starry banner from trailing, aye, more than that, to carry and maintain it in the forefront of battle. In response to the President’s call for volunteers, therefore, the “DICKSON Guards” (composed of many of the Academy boys) was organized in the summer of 1861, and under the command of Capt. Samuel LOUDON [Louden], marched to the front and joined the Eleventh Pennsylvania Reserves, as Company C. Afterward, Mr. DICKSON joined the same regiment as Chaplain, remaining in the field one year.
Returning from the army, Mr. DICKSON again assumed charge of the academy for a few months. He then, with his family, removed to Pine Grove, Penn., where he remained eleven years. During these years the Sunbury Academy was not in a flourishing condition, and for three years prior to 1875, its doors had been closed. In the autumn of that years (1875), however, Mr. and Mrs. DICKSON returned to West Sunbury. The academy building was repaired, and the sessions resumed under their management. Mr. DICKSON died in February 1877, since which time Mrs. DICKSON with various assistants has remained in control. Seventy students are now attending and under the principalship of Rev. George W. BEAN the fame and prosperity of the West Sunbury Academy is in no wise decreasing. Many lawyers, ministers of the Gospel, and prominent men of business have already gone out from it. Doubtless many more will do so in the future.
Currently a resident of Burke, Virginia - I'm originally from the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I have been a student of the Pennsylvania Reserves since 1997 and thoroughly enjoy telling their story. By trade I'm a former IT Professional but presently working as a Letter Carrier for the United States Postal Service.