The history of Jefferson College includes the contributions of two of the area's most famous citizens, John Canon and Reverend John McMillan. McMillan had been giving instruction in his log cabin school on his property near Chartiers Hill Church and that school was the building block for higher education in the area. In 1791, John Canon offered a lot in his town and a building to be used for the construction of an academy. That became the Canonsburg Academy and Library Company in 1794. The academy grew quickly. Increases in the student body, the faculty and course offerings soon had this new venture offering college level education to those who enrolled.
On January 15, 1802 the former Canonsburg Academy became the Jefferson College when a charter was obtained from the Pennsylvania legislature.
During its first decade and a half the school's enrollment remained small, graduating an average of about 5 students per year. The school's reputation grew and more students enrolled for the esteemed education that could be obtained at Jefferson College. By the late 1850s the graduating class would top 50 students for whom degrees were conferred.
Hostilities between the North and the South led to a decline in enrollment and the eventual merger with Washington College as students from the South moved back below the Mason-Dixon line and students from both regions took up arms in the Civil War.
Three fraternities were founded at Jefferson College. Two of those are still in existence locally.
Each year a Catalogue of Officers and Students of Jefferson College was published. It included the list of faculty as well as the students in each of the classes. The course of study and other particulars of the school were also regularly included.
These catalogues help discover students who, for one reason or another, may not have completed their studies and earned a degree at Jefferson College.
Additional catalogs will be offered here as our digitization program continues.