Jacob Martin Zuck -- (1846-1879) Educator, President.
Jacob Zuck was the founder of the Huntingdon Normal Select School, and served as its first teacher and principal until his death in 1879.
Jacob Martin was one of six children born on a farm in Caylick, Franklin County, Pennsylvania on October 29, 1846, to Jacob and Susannah Martin Zuck. Raised in a Church of the Brethren household, Zuck was quiet, studious, and devout. A fall at age two left him physically weakened for life and dependent on crutches and canes. Unable to engage physically, Zuck became a scholar instead.
Zuck attended the Lafayette District School as a child, and did well in his studies despite bullying from other students. His older brother taught at the Layafette School, and Zuck received his own teaching certificate in 1863, at age sixteen, and began teaching in Franklin County. In the same year, he was baptized into the Welsh Run Church of the Brethren.
Zuck attended the Millersville State Normal School between 1867 and 1870. There Zuck began suffering from depression and anxiety, and struggled with the subjects of mathematics and Greek. However, colleagues remembered him as “a close, hard worker and an accomplished organizer.” He remained a devout member of the Brethren community, and he served as a dormitory residence assistant and thrived on the school’s debating club.
After graduating from the State Normal School in July 1870, Zuck accepted a teaching position in Donaldson, Pennsylvania, for $65 per month. Unfamiliar with Pennsylvania’s coal-mining region, Zuck found himself struggling in his new location. He lived in a rented room of Lorinson’s Tavern, and complained of drunkenness and lack of church attendance in the community.
Zuck served temporarily as principal of a Mercersburg school in the fall of 1871 before returning to the coal region to work in a Tremont area school. The following year found him teaching in Waynesboro, where he boarded with David Emmert, whom he would later employ as a teacher at his Huntingdon Normal School.
In 1873, Zuck returned to the Millersville Normal School for another semester, and afterwards he attended the National Normal School in Lebanon, Ohio. He graduated in August, 1874, with a normal diploma in the science course.
Zuck’s final teaching position before coming to Huntingdon was at the Mount Pleasant School in Maryland. Zuck was popular among Mt. Pleasant students and staff, but his career there was cut short by his hasty departure for Huntingdon in April, 1876. A piece taken from a Mt. Pleasant publication reads “on bidding farewell to his scholars, many of them shed tears.”
In addition to his varied teaching roles, Zuck frequently contributed to the Brumbaughs’ Brethren publication, The Pilgrim, and also contributed pieces to the Christian Family Companion—which consolidated with The Pilgrim in 1877—and to many other journals and newspapers. He often wrote of Brethren education, and sometimes published the work of his pupils. While Brethren ideology was not typically supportive of higher education, Zuck strongly defended it in his writings.
Zuck’s role in the founding of Juniata began on New Year’s Day of 1876, when he made a surprise visit to John Brumbaugh, a friend from Millersville. Brumbaugh was living with his wife in the Brethren Pilgrim Building on Washington Street in Huntingdon, and he encouraged Zuck to open a school in some of the building’s spare rooms. Similar Brethren educational institutions had been established elsewhere, but none had lasted through the nation-wide depression of the 1870s. Zuck’s school, therefore, was the first permanent Brethren institution of higher education.
Zuck returned to Huntingdon in April of 1876 to begin classes in Brumbaugh’s Pilgrim Building. The school was named the Huntingdon Normal Select School, and Zuck served as its first teacher. The hastily-opened school was attended by only three students on its first day, to Zuck’s disappointment, but the numbers grew throughout its inaugural year. The fall semester began with fifteen students from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and Colorado. Their numbers doubled in the winter semester, and increased to forty-five by the spring of 1877, when the school was transferred to the larger Burchinell Building on Washington Street.
Larger numbers also demanded more teachers. Between the 1876 and 1878, Zuck hired additional teacher for the subjects of literature, modern and classical languages, voice, drawing, science and math. Among these were Jacob Brumbaugh, who worked initially for no pay and soon became Zuck’s close friend, and David Emmert, with whom Zuck had boarded while teaching in Wayensboro.
During the first semesters, Zuck boarded in the Pilgrim Building with John Brumbaugh. When the Burchinell Building opened, students began boarding there, and Zuck joined them. The boarders referred to themselves as the “seven orphans,” and Zuck dined with them each night along with David Emmert.
Zuck also founded the school’s popular Eclectic Literary Society and held voluntary Sunday Bible lessons. While the school was non-sectarian and pupils were not denied or accepted based on religion, Zuck held the school to Brethren standards of piety. Zuck attended the baptisms of several of his students in the Juniata River.
Zuck oversaw the school’s first three years, acting as both teacher and principal. These three years were eventful, and included the renaming of the school to the Brethren Normal College in 1877, the chartering of the school in 1878, the smallpox scare of the same year, and the completion of Founder’s Hall in 1879. The building was erected to accommodate over sixty students now enrolled.
Jacob Zuck died on May 11, 1879, aged 33, of pneumonia. At the time, the illness was attributed to his having moved into the brand new Founder’s building, which was still damp and freshly painted. His final known piece of writing was an undelivered speech for the school’s three-year anniversary. In accordance with Zuck’s Brethren faith, the speech states, “In view of our small beginning and past history, it were more or less than human for us to boast ourselves a little on an occasion like this, yet we would do it with becoming modesty, and even with godly fear and trembling, lest in our foolish, erring way we should honor the created more than the Creator.”
Kelsey Molseed '14
Emmert, David. Reminiscences of Juniata College, Quarter Century, 1876-1901. David Emmert,1901.
G.P.L. “Closing of the Mt. Pleasant School.” The Pilgrim, April 25, 1876.“
"Jacob Martin Zuck and the Founding of Juniata College.” Accessed February 15, 2013. https://www.juniata.edu/magazine/jacob-martin-zuck-and-the-founding-of-juniata-college/
Kaylor, Earl C. Juniata College: Uncommon Vision, Uncommon Loyalty: The History of an Independent College in Pennsylvania Founded by the Brethren 1876-2001. Huntingdon: Juniata College Press, 2001.
Kaylor, Jr., Earl C. “Zuck, Jacob Martin.” The Brethren Encyclopedia. Philadelphia and Oak Brook: The Brethren Encyclopedia, Inc., 1983.
Zuck, Jacob. “Anniversary Address,” April 1879. Juniata College Archives.