Lower Merion Academy: A Legend in Learning

The Trust and the Trustees

title page: Promiscuous Examples

With the death of Jacob Jones in 1810 and the death of his wife Mary in 1811, his wishes and the trust were established. According to the Minute Book of the Trustees,

…he [Jacob] having most generously Bequethed a Lot of near ten acres of Land for the purpose of erecting there in a School house and Other Improvements and the sum of six thousand three hundred and Eighty seven dollars a part thereof for erecting said School house and Improvements and the remainder to be placed at Interest on Landed security and the Interest thereof to be appyled to the Schooling Poor Cnildren Inhabitants of Lower Merion. To the foregoing donation is to be added the sum of three Thousand five hundred and seventy seven dollars being a Bequest of the Widdow Elizabeth George a sister of the afforenamed donor: And the further sum of One hundred and thirty three dollars and Thirty three Cents being a Bequest of his Nephew John Roberts; which several sums fell to the direction of the Trustees appointed by the will of Jacob Jones…

Jacob apppointed five men and their heirs and assignees to oversee the trust…Jonathan Jones, Algemon Roberts, Henry Bowman, Jonathan Walters and David Roberts.

Before Jacob’s death, Walters had died on April 1, 1806, but for some reason, no amendment for replacement was made in the will or its codicil (June 10, 1807).

This led to some confusion concerning whether the remaining Trustees could legally act to fulfill the last wishes of Jacob.

Edward Tilghman offered his legal opinion, dated March 3, 1812: He advised the Trustees that they could legally carry out Jacob’s wishes with a reduced number of trustees, but they should apply to the Yearly Meeting of Friends in Philadelphia to appoint the fifth and any future trusees as Jacob had requested in his will.

The Trustees applied to the Committee of Sufferings which was the primary step before an educational matter could be placed before the Yearly Meeting. The Committee decided not to represent the Trustees’ problem before the Yearly Meeting and

…gave such umberage to Jonathan Jones as caused him to withdraw his further assistance from the remaining Trustees.

This event did not stop the construction of the school or the determination of the Trustees to open its doors. Only three Trustees were functioning without a problem until the death of Algernon Roberts in 1815.

At that point, Jonathan Jones returned to help the remaining two Trustees, Henry Bowman and David Roberts. They again applied to the Yearly Meeting (April 15, 1816) and the Meeting decided

…that it did not comport with the nature and design of the Meeting to take charge of such an appointment and that it declined taking any further steps in the business.

The extract from the Meeting defined Jacob’s wishes as

…the establishment of a School for the free Education, of poor and orphan Children without regard to any Religious Profession or denomination whatever, and also leaving the branches of Education entirely in the discretion of certain Trustees…

Apparently Jacob’s wishes were too liberal for 1816. The nature and direction of the Committee of Sufferings and the Yearly Meeting obviously had changed since Jacob’s participation in those meetings (almost 30 to 40 years before).

Replacing the vacancies of Roberts and Walters was not settled until 1819 when Jonathan Jones and David Roberts petitioned the General Assembly of Pennsylvania to have the Trustees appoint the successors with the consent of the Orphan’s Court, Montgomery County.

Governor William Findlay approved a legislative act (March 16, 1819). Because of this act, Jonathan Walters and Algernon Roberts were replaced by Paul Jones, Jr. and Isaac Warner Roberts (Algernon’s son).This act finally established the process of Trustee succession which will last forever, as the trust must.

The duties of the Trustees were numerous. In the beginning, they had to decide who would build the school, how it should be constructed, how the school would be governed, who would qualify for the “free of all expenses” schooling, and who would teach.

woodcut: pupil stands before a teacher schoolbook: The Infant School Alphabet