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Below is a family biography included in the Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania published in 1904 by T. S. Benham & Company and The Lewis Publishing Company; Elwood Roberts, Editor.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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GEORGE M. DOWNING, principal of Abington Friends’ School, at Jenkintown, Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, is a son of Samuel Rhoads and Mary Miller (Goodwin) Downing, of East Goshen township, Chester county, Pennsylvania.

The Downings are an old family of Chester county. Thomas Downing, born at Bradninch, in Devonshire, England, in 1691, died at Downingtown, in 1772, aged eighty-one years. The village of Downingtown was named for him, its settler. He was three times married, his first wife being Ellen, his second Thomazine, by whom he had eleven children. The third of these, Richard, married Mary Edge, in 1741. He was born in 1719, and died in 1803. His wife was born in 1721, and died in 1795. Among the children of Richard and Mary Downing was Jacob, born 1756, died 1823. He married, in 1787, Sarah Sandwith Drinker. His wife was born in 1761, and died in 1807. Their children were: Henry, Elizabeth, Mary, Henry 2d, Sarah, and Sandwith, all of whom married except the first, who died in infancy.

Sandwith Downing (grandfather) was born in Philadelphia, 10th-mo. 24, 1799, and died 4th-mo. 4, 1847, in Susquehanna county. He married, 12th-mo. 22, 1829, Lydia, daughter of Peter and Phebe (Sharpless) Smedley. She was born 11th-mo. 22, 1797, and died 6th-mo. 29, 1835. Samuel Rhoads Downing, father of George M. Downing, is their only child.

Samuel Rhoads Downing was in early manhood the editor and proprietor of the Chester County Times. A fearless anti-slavery man, he supported Abraham Lincoln for the presidency in 1860. In 1863 he sold the newspaper and took up his residence on the farm in East Goshen on which he still lives. He has been deeply interested in agriculture, road improvement, education and progressive measures generally. He has served for many years as a member of the state board of agriculture. He married, April 25, 1861, Mary Miller, daughter of Thomas and Phebe (Miller) Goodwin. They have three children, all sons, and all occupying useful stations in life. Henry M. is a physician in East Goshen township; Charles T. G. is a farmer on the homestead, and George Miller is the subject of this sketch.

George M. Downing was born in East Goshen township, April 1, 1868, and at the age of twenty years graduated from the Pennsylvania State College with the degree of Bachelor of Science. From 1890 to 1892 he was instructor in physics and electrical engineering in the Pennsylvania State College. He also taught in the University of New Brunswick at Fredericton, New Brunswick. In 1899 he was appointed principal of Abington Friends’ School. He married, September 5, 1894, Ida May Cornog, daughter of George W. and Elizabeth Righter, of Radnor township, Delaware county, Pennsylvania. She was born May 3, 1871, and educated at Friends’ Central School, Philadelphia. The couple have a son, Harold Sandwith, born March 7, 1898. Professor Downing has filled the position he now holds very successfully, and is recognized as one of the ablest educators of the day.

Abington Friends’ School was established by the Monthly Meeting in accordance with the bequest of John Barnes, who by deed dated 2d-mo. 5, 1697, vested 120 acres of land in Abington township, near the present borough of Jenkintown, in trustees for the benefit of a meeting-house, and the maintenance of a school. The meeting house and school afterwards located in a magnificent grove of oaks which still remains. The meeting-house was finished about the close of the seventeenth century, and the school was established later. The school was long a day school, but in 1886 the new building was erected, and later an addition built to it, the two forming the large structure now in use. The school is under the care of a committee appointed by Abington Monthly Meeting. It is the aim of the institution to supply a thorough education at a moderate cost, and to promote the moral as well as the intellectual welfare of the pupils. The main building is of stone, substantial and comfortable, well lighted and ventilated, and heated by steam. On the ground floor are the school rooms, office, reception room, laboratory and gymnasium, and the two upper stories are used as dormitories. The number of resident students is limited to sixty, thirty of each sex. In all the school grounds comprise ten acres. Owing to the endowment already mentioned, the land given by John Barnes, which now composes two fertile and productive farms, the school authorities are able to fix lower rates for board and tuition than are usual in institutions of this character. The income is applied to keeping up the standard of excellence in the school, and no part to the payment of dividends. The school has over a hundred pupils, and under the management of Professor Downing and an able corps of assistants, the whole under the supervision of a committee appointed by the Monthly Meeting, is in a most flourishing condition. The situation of the school is high and healthful, and it is located in a beautiful section of country. There is a valuable library for the use of students, and a series of lectures are given each year to the school and its friends. During the past seven years the students have published a monthly paper, the White and Blue, which is conducted with considerable ability. The course of study is broad and the instruction thorough, so that the school is in every way a model of what such an institution of learning should be.

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This family biography is one of more than 1,000 biographies included in the Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania published in 1904 by T. S. Benham & Company and The Lewis Publishing Company.  For the complete description, click here: Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

View additional Montgomery County, Pennsylvania family biographies here: Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Biographies

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