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John Way, Jr.

Portrait of John Way, Jr.


A member of one of Sewickley’s oldest families, John Way, Jr. was a farmer and educator who donated land to the Sewickley Academy and ran the school for thirteen years in the late 1800s. 

Way’s ancestors were Pennsylvania farmers and merchants. His great-grandfather, Caleb Way, bought 200 acres of Sewickley land, sight unseen, around the time of the American Revolution. John Way, Caleb’s son, moved from Chester County, Pennsylvania, to Sewickley in 1797, settling on the acreage his father had purchased. In 1810, John Way built a brick house, which served as an inn for half a century, hosting travelers using the Beaver Trail to travel to and from Ohio Territory. John Way served as an Allegheny County justice of the peace from approximately 1803 until 1825. He was also a lawyer and a surveyor.

Detail from 1914 map showing the 200 acres purchased by Caleb Way, great-grandfather of John Way, Jr., in the late 1700s.

John Way’s sons, Abishai and Nicholas, split the family’s 200 acres into two parcels. Abishai, a merchant who handled wool and produce sales for the Harmony Society at Economy, Pennsylvania, started building a house on his land parcel in 1838. The beautifully designed Greek Revival residence was built with bricks fired on the property. Lumber was shipped from Pittsburgh via the Ohio River, and the windows of the house were made by Way’s business acquaintances in Economy.

Unfortunately, Abishai Way died before the house was completed. He was 43 and left behind a widow and four children. Abishai Way’s house, which still stands on Beaver Road in what became, in 1904, the borough of Edgeworth, was where Abishai's son, John Way, Jr. grew up and lived the rest of his life. The house was expanded to 22 rooms and accommodated an extended family that included Way’s widowed mother, two sisters, and his own wife and children. Speaking tubes were installed so the family members could talk to one another from different parts of the residence. The property also had orchards, an ice house, a barn, and vegetable and milk cellars.

John Way, Jr. was educated at the Sewickley Academy. He studied Latin, the classics, astronomy, geography and other subjects under Rev. Joseph Travelli, principal of the institution for 20 years. The education of youth, both boys and girls, became a passion for Way.

Although he listed his occupation as farmer when he opened a savings account at Dollar Bank in January 1857, Way’s role in the Sewickley community was much broader. For fifty years, he taught a boys’ Bible class and was one of the founders of the Sewickley Y.M.C.A. From 1877-1890, he served as principal of the Sewickley Academy, teaching Latin classes during his tenure. He donated land from his own property to the school and had a brick building constructed for the academy.

1881 newspaper ad for Sewlickey Academy and Dollar Bank account signature for John Way, Jr.

A devout Christian, Way made considerable contributions to charity while living a frugal life, a practice he maintained over the course of his adult years. His gestures of benevolence included opening a savings account at Dollar Bank in 1857 in trust for one of his farmhands, Robert Glancy, who was working to support a wife and children. After the Civil War, Glancy became a store clerk in Sewickley. Glancy and Way remained lifelong friends. Way was a witness to Glancy’s last will and testament in 1896, shortly before the latter’s death in 1897.

John Way, Jr. was a member of the Sewickley Presbyterian Church, where he also served as an elder and trustee. For several terms, he was justice of the peace for Leet Township.

In 1863, Way married Catherine Ellen Wilson, daughter of John Knox Wilson and Maria Shields Wilson (who was the daughter of David Shields and granddaughter of Maj. Daniel Leet). The Ways had three sons, William, Frederick and John W.

John Way, Jr. had two savings accounts at Dollar Bank. He opened the first in January 1857 and the second in August 1861.
Dollar Bank account signature of John Way, Jr.