Reverend George Carothers Vincent
First presiding officer of Westminster College
Reverend George Carothers Vincent was born on a farm in Harrisville, Pennsylvania, in 1813, the youngest of ten children. His academic education took place at local schools and his religious education was overseen at home. At the age of twenty, he attended Franklin College in New Athens, Ohio, from which he graduated in 1836. Soon after, he moved to Canonsburg to attend The Theological Seminary of the Associate Presbyterian Church. His first work as a graduate of the Seminary was as a home missionary in Iowa and western Illinois, areas where more than a hundred miles separated the various parishes over
which he had responsibility. Rev. Vincent was the father of three small
sons when his wife, Margaret, died of tuberculosis in 1844. The next year,
Rev. Vincent remarried Widow Martha Carnahan. The family continued their
missionary work out west until Rev. Vincent’s health deteriorated, at which
point he accepted a post as Pastor of the Mercer United Presbyterian Church.
He also acted as the Principal of Mercer Academy in Mercer, Pennsylvania.
Established in 1812, Mercer Academy appears to have been a precursor to a public school system for the town of Mercer, Pennsylvania. Rev. Vincent became Principal of the Academy in 1847. Five years later, Rev. Vincent was one of the founding members of Westminster College, an outgrowth of and collaboration with Mercer Academy and the nearby Greenville Academy. Rev. Vincent was first a professor at the newly established college and later would serve as Vice President.
While at Westminster College, Rev. Vincent helped found and took leadership of a reserve company of approximately 100 male students in 1862 to fight for the Union in the Civil War. That same year, the unit assisted in guarding river crossings that led into Pennsylvania. While they did not engage in battle, their presence was a strategic necessity: their assignment commenced on September 17, coinciding with the Battle of Antietam just over the border in Maryland. In 1863 they would take up guard duties for three months at a nearby railroad.
By 1871, Rev. Vincent was ready to retire from academia and accepted a position at the First United Presbyterian Church of Brookville, Pennsylvania. His tenure at Brookville was interrupted by admirers from his alma mater, Franklin College, electing him (without letting him know he was in the running) president of the school in 1877. With several of his nine children coming of college age, Rev. Vincent resumed his academic career, in part to assure their educations. He retired in 1884 to preach at the First United Presbyterian Church of Latrobe, also taking responsibility for a parish in Fairmount, Pennsylvania. Health problems finally led Rev. Vincent to retire from the church in 1889 and he died in October of that year.
Of Rev. Vincent’s nine children, two, (Alvan (sic.) Stuart Vincent and William Hanna Vincent) became Presbyterian Ministers and a daughter, Charity Jane Vincent, became the first female physician in Allegheny City.