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The Scots-Irish Settlement

Among the first to settle in the Lehigh Valley were the Scots-Irish, who founded the "Craig Settlement" led by Thomas Craig in 1728. The Scots-Irish were Presbyterians who came to America to escape Ireland's widespread famine and to freely practice their faith. They built log and stone homes and established farms in this area, already inhabited by the local Lenai Lenapee Indians and by Germans who were also settling in the Lehigh Valley. By 1790 the American frontier had moved westward and many of the Scots-Irish left to settle in western Pennsylvania and beyond, leaving Pennsylvania Dutch farmers of German descent to inhabit most of the fertile lands in this area.

Governor George Wolf (1777-1840)

Born in East Allen Township and schooled at the Wolf Academy, Governor George Wolf served two terms as the seventh Governor of Pennsylvania, from 1829 to 1835. He was instrumental in the passage of the 1834 Common School Act which initiated public schools in our state, thereby becoming known as the "Father of the Free School System."

One of the primary functions of the GWHS is the acquisition and restoration of historic homes and properties. Currently the Society owns three buildings: Ralston-McKeen House, the Wolf Academy, and the Monocacy Schoolhouse.
Ralston-McKeen House (circa 1795) view picture

Situated next to the Wolf Academy, this late eighteenth century home is typical of the beautiful Georgian-style square cut limestone houses built by the Scots-Irish and German immigrants who settled in this area.

The first-floor northern end of the house is believed to have originally been built by Captain James Ralston, a gentleman farmer and surveyor who in 1816 drew the plans that lay out the town of Bath.  The property then came into the hands of Thomas McKeen, a storekeeper who would later become the city of Easton's most prominent citizen.  McKeen is believed to have built the more formal two story southern end, and is known to have operated a store in the house's dirt floor basement.

In 1981 the Governor Wolf Historical Society purchased the Ralston-McKeen house in order to restore it to its original condition.  The home consists of eight rooms, six of which have large fireplaces.  Although abandoned for many years, nearly all of the original trim and fireplace mantles remain.

Major structural work on this home, including a new roof, rebuilt chimneys, and exterior pointing of the stone walls has been performed by the Society.  In July 1996 an archaeological dig around the western stairs found numerous artifacts now on display at the Society's museum.

Wolf Academy (1785) view picture #1   view picture #2

Built as the Allen Township Academy, Governor George Wolf attended and later taught in this beautiful one-room building.

The Academy's origins begin in the latter eighteenth century, when the citizens of the Scots-Irish Settlement were anxious for their sons to acquire a better education than the few schools of the time afforded.  Money was raised by voluntary contributions to build the Academy and pay for educators.  For forty years after its opening, the Academy maintained the best of English and classical academics in the region.

In 1820 the Academy was changed to accommodate church services.  An altar and high back pews were added, giving the Settlement a nearby house of worship.  In later years the Academy was also used by a debating society, as living quarters, and as a barn.

By 1835 a free education was available for all young girls and boys at the Academy.  Early nineteenth century families throughout the Lehigh Valley could now provide the benefit of preparing their children for their futures through quality schooling.

Today the Academy has been restored as a one room structure.  The Academy features a vaulted ceiling and a classic symmetrical facade with its original limestone walls preserved in pristine condition.

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