Lower Merion Academy: A Legend in Learning

Union Sunday School

page with maxims: Idleness begets many sins; There is no such word in life as fail
Epigrams from the copy book of Susanna Evans done in 1829

While the Academy took care of the educational needs of our community, the Union Sunday School provided the spiritual needs. Before there were enough people to support separate congregations, the Union Sunday School filled the void. It was started by the American Sunday School Union of Philadelphia, and from 1861 to 1915, it provided a place for non-sectarian worship. At last, the Trustees allowed the Sunday School to meet at the Academy, since the purpose of both institutions was to educate and enlighten the youths of the community.

Two of the headmasters of the Academy, Clifford Levering and Israel Irwin, served as Superintendents of the Sunday School.

Around 1876, at the conclusion of the Centennial Exhibition in Fairmount Park, several of the houses that were constructed by the different states were available. Several members of the Sunday School, including Israel and his son Hervey Irwin, went to dismantle a house, returned to Bala Cynwyd to reassemble it, and used it as the Union Sunday School. The building sat near the Academy, approximately where the bus circle and the front entrance to Bala-Cynwyd Middle School meet.

The Union Sunday School was the center of social activity in the community: strawberry festivals, oyster suppers, picnics, a speaker on Anniversary Sunday.

Some families, such as the Irwins, were very involved in the Sunday School. Israel was Superintendent; Hervey and his wife, along with Aunt Cora, taught classes; Aunt Della played organ; and Evelyn and Florence, Hervey’s daughters, attended classes.

book cover: Royal Diadem for the Sunday School
Song book used in the Sunday School, published by Lippincott, 1873, in Philadelphia.
title page: 10th anniversary of the Union Sunday School title page: 23rd anniversary of the Union Sunday School
Covers of the anniversary programs at the Union Sunday School, 1870 and 1893.