The Age of George III

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Dickinson College and Institute

This extract comes from History of Cumberland County, p. 416. I am grateful to Joe Dickerson for providing the information.

The original charter of the institution was granted by the Legislature of Pennsylvania, in 1783. By that instrument it was determined—"that in memory of the great and important services rendered to his country, by his Excellency, John Dickinson, Esquire, President of the Supreme Executive Council, and in commemoration of his very liberal donation to the institution, the said college shall be forever hereafter called and known by the name of Dickinson College".

The Faculty was first organised in 1784, by the election of the Rev. Charles Nisbet, D.D. of Montrose, Scotland, as President, and the appointment of Mr. James Ross, as Professor of Languages; to whom were added in the following year, the Rev. Robert Davidson, D.D., as Professor of Belles Lettres, and Mr. Robert Johnston, Instructor in Mathematics. The college, under the administration of Dr. Nisbet, flourished as much perhaps, as the times would allow.

Dickinson College: west frontIn 1798, the spot now occupied by the college buildings, between High and Louther street and west of West street, was selected, and the first edifice erected and ready for use in 1802. The edifice was destroyed by fire in 1804, but the trustees proceeded to erect another, which was completed in September, 1805, and is now known as the west college.—Before the completion of this building, the college sustained a heavy loss in the death of Dr. Nisbet, which occurred on the 14th of February, 1804. The office of President was exercised pro tempore by Dr. Davidson, until, in 1809, the Rev. Jeremiah Atwater, D.D., was elected to fill the vacancy. The institution was prosperous under his direction, and the class of 1812 was the largest that had graduated for twenty years. In 1815, President Atwater resigned, and the following year the operations of the college were suspended, and were not renewed till 1821. In that year, the Rev. John M. Mason, D.D., was called to preside over the institution, and during the first part of his administration there was a considerable influx of students; but previously to his resignation, which took place May 1, 1824, the college began to decline, and continued to languish, except for brief intervals, while under the presidency of Drs. Neill, and Howe, until 1832, when the trustees determined that the operations of the institution should cease.

[There is now a Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania]

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