Lower Merion Academy: A Legend in Learning

Life of Jacob Jones

page of arithmetic

Algernon Roberts, nephew and administrator of Jacob’s will, described Jacob’s life in the Minute Book of the Academy Trustees as follows:

On the twenty second day of the third Month/March One thousand Eight hundred and ten departed this life in the Ninety Seventh year of his age the afforenamed Jacob Jones by birth a Member of the Religious Society of Friends and an active usefull Member thereof through his long life which he closed in unity with them and was much Respected by his Neighbours as a Honourable and Charilable Man and whose Memory will justly be held in deserved estimation as long as Science shall record virtue and Benevolance for by his Christian Phylanthophy and Munificance was founded the Lower Merion Benevolent School…

Jacob Jones’ birth was recorded in the Merion Meeting book of births and deaths for 1682-1806 as “Jacob, son of Joriathan & Gainor Jones…Born…Day, 14; Month, 5; Year, 1713.” (This date is from the Julian Calendar). Jonathan was the son of Dr. Edward Jones, one of the founders of the “Welsh Tract,” and one of the original patent holders of Penn’s Experiment.

Little has been found about Jacob’s early life. His name begins to appear in the Radnor Monthly Meeting Minutes around March 14, 1752 when he and Mary Lawrence declared intentions [to marry] at Merion Meeting House, and Robert Roberts and Richard George were to inquire.

By June 11, 1752, Jacob and Mary were married. Merion Meeting proposed in 1759 a certificate for them to Philadelphia. Their three years in the city are unknown at this time since no evidence was found in city records or directories.

When Jacob did return, he became active in the Merion Meeting starting in 1763. That year he became an Overseer of the Meeting and held many positions from visiting wayward Friends (hoping they would return to Meeting), to membership on education committees, to Treasurer (January, 1772).

In March 1776, Jacob even counselled his nephew, Algernon Roberts, for his “military appearance” and reminded him of “our ancient and Peaceable Testimony.” Jacob was also confronted with difficult decisions such as expelling Algernon and others from Meeting since they persisted in “…the Practice of Bearing Arms” (May 10, 1776).

Jacob was part of the Committee of Suffering which helped those Quakers who refused to serve in the Revolutionary War by paying the fines that were levied against them (August 8, 1777).

He was also active in Monthly, Quarterly and Yearly Meetings in the 1790s. When Jacob died, Joseph Price in his diary (March 25, 1810) mentions Jacob’s passing, building his coffin and

Geard up and went to Burial, arivd at our yd. about 11 OC- & had a Great Meeting 3 Preachers…

(Price will later build the Academy.)

One feels compelled to call Jacob Jones a Quakers’ Quaker and a person who acted on his principles while finding the spirit of good in all.

From the tax records of 1786, 1788, 1793, 1795, Jacob was listed as a fanner with 200 acres, a dwelling, 1-2 horses, and 2-3 cows. He did not pay an occupation tax because he is listed as either “infirmed” or “ancient.” Jacob and Mary, apparently, had no children since none are listed in the wills or birth records. Knowing this, and his continued interest in education, it is easy to understand his gift and his generosity to future generations of children forever.

shapes and columns of numbers shapes and columns of numbers
Details of Academy student’s copy books (1830s) showing problems and solutions of trigonometry and long division. Since books were expensive, boys and girls kept their copy books for future reference.