Beginnings of Juniata


Reprinted From The Juniata College Bulletin Summer, 1993
Juniata College's first classroom as illustrated in David Emmert's book Reminiscences of Juniata College.

The Dream Realized...

It has all the ingredients of a best selling novel. A physician, living in a small Pennsylvania town, dreamed of building a school where young people could satisfy their hunger for learning. The school would be surrounded by "one of the grandest cycloramas of mountain scenery, a river that weaves through the community , and valleys dotted with farmhouses and variegated by cultivated fields and native woodland." Knowing that the task before him was monumental, Dr. A.B. Brumbaugh asked his two cousins to help fulfill his dream. And so the three men with their wives undertook the task.

It is a love story ...the love of church and God, the love and commitment to young people and education, the love of nature and the Huntingdon community. The story as it unfolds has as many twists and turns as the river for which the school would be named.

Opposition was strong among members of the Church of the Brethren, education was viewed as worldly. Still A.B. and his cousins H.B. and J.B. Brumbaugh would persevere in an effort to resurrect a desire for higher education among the Brethren. Church historians testify that early church leaders were advocates of higher education, but following the Revolutionary War there came a period of education eclipse which took more than a century to pass.

Despite the opposition, the physician's dream became reality on April 17, 1876, when a young man named Jacob Zuck greeted three students in a small room on the second floor of a building in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.

David Emmert in his book Reminiscences of Juniata College writes, "The surroundings were in keeping with the humble spirit of the founder. The little room, 12 x 16 feet, with two windows on the south, through which soft light sifted in under the leaves of the tall maples that stood close outside; a longpine table in the center, with three chairs around it; plain pine shelves, holding the modest but well-selected library of the teacher; at the far end of the room, and close by it his table with checkered cover and large glass ink stand, above these, on the wall, a map of the world; a round backed arm chair with deerskin thrown over the back and seat, and a long blackboard on stilts leaning against the wall, completed the general furnishing. ..Into this little compartment, morning by morning, gathered the band of earnest workers, slowly increasing,-now one and another was added as the skill of the teacher became known. By the end of the session a dozen or more were crowding around the long pine table and 'the star of hope' was rising."

From a humble beginning the school blossomed, enrollment increased, a larger location was needed and the professor persevered. The message to the sixty students who enrolled in the fall of 1877 was "we want no drones in this educational hive. If you do not care to work, save your money and go home. .."

Professor Zuck was eminently practical and aimed to bring out the best in the individual. ..There was a buoyant feeling of hope among the students and a deep sense of responsibility among founders and friends of the school. It was a kind of dream period of the "what is to be" Emmert explained in his book.

Love, commitment, courage and hope were several of the main ingredients of the compelling story on how Juniata College came to be. The story, however, would not be completed without recounting the tragedy and the will to overcome and conquer challenges.

An outbreak of the smallpox epidemic forced the school to close its doors. Emmert accounts in his book, "before us lay the possible abandonment of the school enterprise."

"The newborn institution through these trials manifested an unexpected vitality. The smallpox epidemic and the loss of the principle just on the eve of a hopeful development would have thoroughly discouraged any but the stoutest hearts. The men who built Juniata, however, were men of courage and of vision..."
C.C. Ellis


Prof. Jacob Zuck

At the same time a committee consisting of James Quinter (an elder in the Church of the Brethren), Dr. A.B. Brumbaugh and Professor Jacob Zuck, recommended "solicitation of stock subscriptions from Brethren and others friendly to the cause, to establish a school of learning that will provide the young of both sexes with such educational advantages as will fit them for the duties and responsibilities of life..."

A Board of Trustees was assembled and included: James Quinter, H.B. Brumbaugh, A.B. Brumbaugh, J.M. Zuck and J.W. Beer. The latter, who was the first solicitor, left Huntingdon in 1878 and was replaced by William J. Swigart. Through the leadership of this first board, funds were sought to build a facility. "The new building, known as Founders Hall, was possible by the generosity of the citizens of Huntingdon, who bought and donated to the Trustees a plot of ground on an elevated site in what is known as West Huntingdon. This property embraced 16 town lots bounded by Moore, Oneida, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Streets. Ground was broken on May 6, 1878." (Juniata College: The History of Seventy Years, by Charles C. Ellis)

"Naturally Professor Zuck was filled with enthusiasm when he spoke on the occasion of the dedication of the new building, and it was an event long to be remembered by all those whose toil and sacrifice made it possible," writes Ellis in his book. Shortly after the dedication, Professor Zuck caught a severe cold while living in a dormitory room where the walls were damp. He developed pneumonia and passed away on May 10, 1879. He did not see the first class graduate.

Ellis writes, "the newborn institution through these trials manifested an unexpected vitality. The smallpox epidemic and the loss of the principal just on the eve of a hopeful development would have thoroughly discouraged any but the stoutest hearts. The men who built Juniata, however, were men of courage and of vision..."

At a special memorial service on June 12,1879, Dr. A.B. Brumbaugh delivered an address which is prophetic as we look at Juniata College 114 years later. He said, "The time will come when the influence of this school movement will be felt from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Lakes to the Gulf."

Today, if A.B. Brumbaugh and his cousins H.B. and J.B. were to walk across Juniata's campus, through the classrooms and laboratories, residences halls and playing fields they would be moved to tears. Just for a moment their Brethren piety just might be replaced with a sense of pride, their modesty replaced with majesty.

They would stand at the foot of Founders Hall surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the 100 acre campus and 32 buildings. They would feel the energy of a dynamic faculty: a faculty with the same enthusiasm for teaching and learning that characterized Jacob Zuck. They would encounter students with a vim and vigor for knowledge. They would have great satisfaction in knowing that the leadership of the institution, some one hundred years later, still possesses courage and is holding fast to a vision.

"The Time will come when the influence of this school movement will be felt from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Lakes to the Gulf."

A.B. Brumbaugh, 1879

Original Founders Hall

A.B. Brumbaugh would marvel at the school and its success. From three students and one room to 10,000 alumni whose impact has been felt "from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Lakes to the Gulf" and to the far corners of the world - alumni who have contributed to medical research, chemistry, education, business, law, music, art, social work, environmental science, athletics and entertainment- alumni who have served their churches, the homeless, the hungry and the abused.

A.B. Brumbaugh would feel satisfaction in learning that students from across the United States and from countries around the world enroll at Juniata College each year. Furthermore, Juniata students have the opportunity to attend prestigious universities in France, England, Ecuador, Mexico, Spain, Germany, Greece, Japan and China as part of a study abroad program.

Picture one is a residence hall of 1899, picture two is 1992.

He would be astounded to know that a tradition born in his generation, Mountain Day, remains popular today with the 1100 students on campus.

A library with 208,000 volumes, a rare book collection and a world-wide interlibrary loan system has evolved from Jacob Zuck's one shelf of books. Perhaps the most remarkable discovery for A.B. would be that the peaceful nature of his being has woven its way through the school's history and evolved into a peace and conflict studies program. A program which is the springboard for an exclusive agreement between the United Nations, the International Association of University Presidents and Juniata College (see stories, pages 8-10).

Picture Of An Old Mountain Day

Recent Mountain Day

Science Students

Students Sitting Outside of Good Hall

And while scientific and technological advances have made technological literacy and proficiency a requirement for success, Juniata has not lost sight of the humanity associated with scientific endeavors.

Finally, A.B. and his cousins would make their way through campus and up the mountain to Juniata's Elizabeth Evans Baker Peace Chapel. They would sit on marble rocks high above the college and the community and reflect on the journey their school had made through history. It survived small pox, death, wars, prejudice and hate, competition for students and deficits. It celebrated life, love, victories and success. It overcame challenges, sorrow and pain.

A.B. and his cousins, high above the campus, would give thanks for a dream realized. Indeed Juniata College had persevered.