DANIEL WEBSTER THRUSH - TEACHER, 1861
After Rev. J. M. Brown stepped down from leading Marshall College, Daniel Webster Thrush took over the thankless job of overseeing the final months of the school’s existence as a private educational institution. There is evidence that he was a faculty member of the school during Principal Thackston’s final year. The Marshall University Archives has the minute book of a student organization, the Diagnothian Literary Society, which met during the first four months of 1861. Thrush was a member of the Society and in the minutes he is typically referred to as "Prof. D. W. Thrush." The minutes of the society indicate that its final meeting was held on April 19, 1861, a month before Thackston resigned as Principal. Clearly, Thrush was a member of Marshall College’s faculty.
If Rev. Brown took over when Thackston resigned in May 1861 and he resigned for illness within a short time, is it possible to determine the approximate period of Thrush’s tenure as "Principal"? Tradition holds that Thrush was one those who kept the school going during the Civil War years of 1861 to 1863. Evidence suggests the actual situation was otherwise. Upon leaving Marshall College, Thrush returned to Pennsylvania where he "was admitted to the Franklin County Bar on August 12, 1861." This suggests that Thrush could have only led Marshall College for two to three months, sometime between Thackston’s firing in May 1861 and his joining the Pennsylvania bar in August 1861. This means that the school was essentially leaderless and probably moribund from the summer 1861 until 1863, when John Laidley, Jr., sold the school property to Salina Mason. As with Rev. J. M. Brown, Thrush is not designated as a Principal in this paper, because there is no actual evidence that he ever held the position or title.
Daniel Webster Thrush was the oldest son of Leonard Thrush and Nancy (Fisher) Thrush. He was born on August 12, 1830, in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. He attended Pennsylvania (now Gettysburg) College in 1849-1850, intending to prepare for the Lutheran ministry. Although he received a license to preach in the Lutheran Church, he never accepted a pastorate and consequently never was ordained. He returned to Pennsylvania College during the academic year 1854-1855, majoring in philosophy. After leaving the school, he accepted a position teaching at the Young Ladies Seminary at Augusta, Kentucky, where he taught two years. He next accepted a position at Marshall College. He was described as a professor who "was a linguist of some ability, having a good knowledge of English, German, Latin, Greek and Hebrew. He taught all of these languages at times and read them with ease. He also was a ready and fluent public speaker." According to the recollections of Columbia Holderby, wife of Edward S. Holderby, and Dr. E. Stanard Buffington, at the beginning of the Civil War Thrush told the assembled students of the College, "I leave at once for Pennsylvania to arrange some private matters, and then I offer my services to my country." If this was the case, he changed his mind upon arriving in his home state and, as previously noted, he passed the bar and began practicing law, which he did for the rest of his life.
In 1863 he purchased the Shippensburg News, editing the newspaper until he sold it in 1867. Thrush married Mary Ann Bollinger on February 5, 1865. They were the "parents of two children, Ambrose Watts Thrush, born in 1865 and Nancy Lydia Thrush born in 1875." He purchased a farm, two and one-half miles southeast of Shippensburg in 1869 and moved with his family there in the spring of 1870. He lived there until he died on August 9, 1875, at the young age of forty-five.
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