McGuffey of Reader Fame Has York County Ties
William Holmes McGuffey (1800-1873) was a professor of languages at Miami University in Ohio when he developed a series of enduring readers for children.
Truman and Smith, a small Cincinnati publishing firm, brought out the First Reader in 1836, followed by the Second Reader in 1837. The Third and Fourth were published in 1837. These volumes were used to teach untold numbers of children the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic, and other subjects up through the end of grammar school. McGuffey’s brother Alexander was the compiler of the Fifth Reader (1844) and the Sixth (1855) for students of a higher level.
The extremely popular readers were designed to instill good moral values and faithfulness to religion and country, and to encourage children to keep learning throughout life. The readers have been updated through the years and are still in use in some areas.
The York County connection? According an article in the April 1958 Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine, William’s and Alexander’s father, also named Alexander McGuffey, moved from York County to Washington County, Pennsylvania about 1790, marrying Anna Holmes there in 1797. William H. McGuffey was born in Claysville, PA in 1800. The family moved to Mahoning Co., Ohio in 1803.
I haven’t found anyone yet in early York County with the McGuffey spelling, but I did find quite a few McGaughy’s in the Marsh Creek area west of Gettysburg. This is likely to be the original spelling, pronouncing the gh as f. All of present-day Adams County, including that area, was part of York County until 1800. So the McGuffey/McGaughy family tree can claim some York County roots.
Sources: Family files, York County Heritage Trust; www.dictionary.com; and www.gutenburg.org.
Click on the links below to read more about education in York County, PA.
Principals want parent participation.
David B. Prince, long-time York teacher.
Aquilla Howard, who had a York school named for him.