Sunday, February 23, 2020

Allegheny College and Timothy Alden

Usually, I post links to my blog posts on Genealogy pages for the area my ancestor lived. I am always hopefully that I will find ‘cousins’ through my post and that they may have additional information about my ancestors that I previously hadn’t known. More pieces of the puzzle that tells about the lives of my ancestors.

Recently, I wrote about my maternal 5x great-grandmother Lois Wilcox Alden. (See post Celebrating the Life of Lois Wilcox Alden). Surprisingly a woman responded to my blog post and gave me new information about Lois’ husband, my maternal 5th great-grandfather, Timothy Alden. (See posts Sunday Obituary-Timothy Alden, Tombstone Tuesday-Timothy Alden and Using County Histories to Find Information-Timothy Alden)

I started by reviewing the research I had to see if I had just missed the information she shared or if this was all new information. Nothing I had previously found related to this new information. What my cousin shared is that “Timothy Alden was the founder of Allegheny College.” Wow! That is very exciting! What can I find out to add to this story?
Allegheny College is perched on a hill overlooking Meadville in Northwestern Pennyslvania. According to the college’s website the college was founded in 1815. At that time of the college’s founding Timothy was 45 years old. Allegheny College is listed as the oldest college in continuous existence under the same name west of the Allegheny Mountains.

On their website Allegheny College states “In 1815, Meadville was still a raw frontier town of about 400 settlers, of whom an unusually large number had come from Massachusetts and Connecticut. They dreamed of a college that might bring the educational opportunities of New England to the frontier. The Rev. Timothy Alden was recruited to take on the task, and two months after his arrival in April 1815, Allegheny was established-with Alden as its first president.  Within half a dozen years, Alden succeeded in attracting sufficient funds to begin building a campus, having traveled throughout the eastern states seeking support for a planned library and classroom building. The need of a building to house a library led to the construction, in the 1820s, of Bentley Hall, today a leading example of early American architecture. Designed by Alden, this handsome structure still crowns the hill on which the campus is located.”

Allegheny College goes on to say that Rev. Timothy Alden was a graduate of Harvard Divinity School. Further research on Harvard Divinity School showed that it dates from 1816 when it was established as “the first non-denominational divinity school in the United States”. Timothy Alden was born in 1770 in Tyringham, Massachusetts and married his wife Lois Wilcox there in 1790. The family moved to Monroe, Bradford County, PA in 1801. My guess is he would have attended Harvard Divinity School before 1801.

In the book entitled “Allegheny College Register of Alumni and Non-graduates, Allegheny College” Centennial Edition 1915 I found the following information on Timothy Alden:

There was also a new preparatory school building built in 1905 on the Allegheny College campus called ‘Alden Hall’.

When thinking about this, I remember that I found nothing in Timothy Alden’s obituary that talks about Allegheny College but then his obituary is one of the more interesting ones I have found that does not talk a lot of his accomplishments but more about his character. I have found him referred to as ‘Captain’ but not as ‘Reverend’ except at Allegheny College. Monroe, PA, where the family is known to have lived, was about 280 miles away. In the early 1800s that would have been a very long distance. Was, perhaps, Rev. Timothy Alden a different family member and not my Capt. Timothy Alden (married to Lois Wilcox) with the same name?

When I looked at the census records for 1830, when Rev. Timothy Alden was President of Allegheny College, I found two Timothy Aldens:

one listed in Mead Township, Crawford County, PA:

one listed in Monroe Township, Bradford County, PA:

To my knowledge Capt. Timothy Alden and Lois Wilcox Alden did not have a son named Timothy either.

This is a wonderful story and I wish they were the same person but right now I think they were probably two different men. I still want to check with the Harvard Divinity College to find out about Timothy Alden.  

Reminder, not all family stories turn out to yield information for your ancestors.  But by posting on The Pennsylvania Genealogy Network on Facebook…I found a new cousin and that’s more important than any story!

If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.
Enjoy the journey,

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