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"McKean: The Governor's County"
Rufus Barrett Stone
Chapter 27
Miscellany
 

Submitted by PHGS Member
Mike Henderson


"McKean: The Governor's County", Rufus Barrett Stone. Lewis Publishing Company, Inc. New York, 1926. Pages 164--168

CHAPTER XVIII

SMETHPORT ACADEMY

Smethport Academy was established by Act of Assembly approved January 1, 1829 (P. L. 17). It named as trustees Jonathan Colegrove, Solomon Sartwell, Jr., George Darling, James Taylor, Joseph Otto, Paul E. Scull and William Williams. By its provisions only subscribers to the stock or funds were privileged to vote at the annual election.(Note 1) The State appropriation of $2,000 was conditional upon subscription and payment of $500 in addition to the donation of $500 assured by John Keating. Poor children to the number of five were to be taught gratis for a year.

The academy opened in 1837 with Luther Humphry as principal. In 1841 that position was held by Hon. Glenni Scofield, in 1844 by Hon. Byron D. Hamlin, in 1849 by F. A. Allen, in 1863 by Columbus Cornforth, in 1864 by Hon. W. W. Brown, and he was followed by W. J. Milliken, Esq., and W. H. Curtis. It passed into history, as did other like institutions throughout the Commonwealth, upon the advent of the high school. But the doors of its memories are still open. Its catalogues of pupils bore some notable names.

At the time of her death in I907 Miss Sarah Amelia Scull was mentioned in the local press as "One of the most talented and highly educated women in this State." As a Greek scholar her position was unique. She made a profound study of Greek mythology. She was the author of a work entitled "Greek Mythology Systematized" and other kindred works. Her collection of authorities on the subject and of photographs made in Athens under her direction were unsurpassed. She was a teacher and lecturer of note upon Greek art. As a pupil of Smethport Academy, of which her father, Paul E. Scull, was one of the corporators, she set in its history an undying star. Her further studies were prosecuted in the university at Lima, New York. She taught in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Ogontz. She had famous Greek studios in Washington and Athens. How completely her life became absorbed in the thrilling grandeur of Greek art is illustrated in the following passage from the eloquent funeral tribute of her former pastor, Rev. W. A. Harris: "I have listened as she has told of standing for the first time before the crumbling splendor of the Parthenon, beholding that wonder of Greek art, as it gleamed like a broken jewel in the sunlight, while the tears fell down upon the sacred dust from which had flown forever the noble spirit of her loved Greece."

But what shall be said of the personality of this rare, gifted, favorite daughter of McKean for the eye of future generations to read? Perhaps Mrs. Ada M. Young, writng as if for the community, has given to it the best expression when she says: "We all loved her dearly." In more measured phrase her pastor contributed his portrayal in these culled passages wherein he spoke of the common "admiration for the childlike simplicity of her life, its gentleness of spirit and charm of mama, is gift of friendship, its devotion to beauty, both in nature. and in art, and for its still more intense devotion to truth and goodness. . . . She held this simplicity in such a natural way that it gave to her a certain nobleness of character. . . . Who of us shall ever forget the sweet gentleness that was as much a part of her as the fragrance is of the rose? .... For her, beauty was the smile which God had thrown out upon the universe. . . . The beauty which appealed to her most strongly was that embodied in the mythology and art and literature of the ancient Greeks . . . . . In her book, Greek Mythology Systematized, she has written: 'Wherever human beings have lived we find this mingling of fear and hope, this evidence of the spirit's consciousness of its divine origin and heavenly destination, taking pathetic expression in its sacrifices, votive offerings, priesthoods, sacred fanes and festivals. We admit that these were but indirect revelations, but we hold that they were God-given and not the result of mental processes' . . . . It does not seem to us a strange thing that she should be the friend and associate of scholars and lovers of art and religious leaders of our own and other lands, nor that her qualities of mind and heart won for her the friendship of statesmen, bishops, editors and authors whose names are household words. It is not so easy to understand how she bore toward all the same gracious manner of a true friend nor how she held the affection of the highest and the humblest just as she held ours who would pay her a tribute of love this day."

By invitation of Pompelon Club she addressed that famous forum on the evening of the 25th of February, 1888. The Bradford "Era" next morning published the following report:
 

"A sweet, womanly, intellectual face, surmounted by a coronet of silver hair: a petite form, robed in a costume of gray lustrous silk, such is the agreeable, attractive personnel of Miss S. Amelia Scull, who lectured under the auspices of the Pompelon Club Saturday evening on 'The Shrines and Deities of Ancient Greece.' This dainty cultured lady has explored Attica, stood upon Olympia, photographed the sacred places of Greece, gazed upon all that is beautiful and ennobling in art of the world's art treasures and crystallized this knowledge into an agreeable entertaining lecture. This is profusely illustrated from photographs taken by herself of the objects and places seen and visited. Miss Scull is an undoubted enthusiast in the fascinating study of ancient mythology, and brings all the knowledge acquired by years of research, study and travel before her hearers. The gifted lecturer traced the gradual evolution, the upward influence as expressed in the ennobling forms, the dawning of inspiration in the purity and majesty of expression in the wondrous art work of Greek genius. In the diminished light, looking at the illuminated pictures of the gods and goddesses, listening to a musical voice recalling Jupiter, Plato, Apollo, Minerva, Diana, Juna and Venus, ancient mythology becomes a reality: the enthusiasm of the speaker becomes contagious; the heroic deeds of the Trojans are again enacted, Doric architecture is all that is ideally beautiful. The speaker gracefully expressed acknowledgments to Pompelon Club; its president thanked the speaker for her entertaining and instructive lecture, and two hours' journey in ancient Greece was ended."


Note 1: See reminiscences of Byron D. Hamlin.
 


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