A school was established at Plymouth Meeting about 1780 under the supervision of a committee appointed by the Preparative Meeting.
Members of the Williams family left 100 pounds for this purpose, and the money was used to build an addition to the Northeast end of the Meeting House, which was used as a school for many years. Mention is made of a log stable being built to accommodate the horses of pupils, who rode to school from neighboring villages. This was the only school in Plymouth Township until many years after the Revolution. David Rittenhouse, the astronomer, was among the first scholars.
It is evident from the minutes of the Meeting that the school was discontinued from time to time and opened again when there was a sufficient number of applicants.
In 1813, a lot of 90 perches of land was deeded to the Meeting “for the benevolent purpose of educating children in school learning.” Soon after this, an eight-square building was erected behind the Meeting House. Alan W. Corson, one of the best known scholars and scientists in this part of the country, was a teacher here; and a number of persons, who later became prominent, attended this school.
In 1856, another tract of 90 perches of land was given for school purposes, and what is now the primary room, was built. The records show an average attendance of 25 pupils and one teacher for quite a few years. Then the attendance dwindled, and the school was closed. It was reopened in 1881 and has not been closed since.
In 1891, the Yearly Meeting’s Committee on Education became interested in the school and visited the institution with the objective of making a graded school with primary, intermediate, and high school departments. This change was made, the building enlarged, and the school opened under the new management in the Fall of 1892. The course of study adopted was modeled after that of the Friends Central School, at 15th and Race Streets, Philadelphia; and the school grew rapidly with three teachers in charge.
In 1895 Benjamin Smith, a graduate of Yale University, became Principal; and under his able administration the standard of the school was raised and the number of pupils applying for admission became so great that it was again necessary to enlarge the school. For nearly 16 years, Professor Smith held the office of Principal, during which time, by the stately dignity of his bearing and the high ideals which he followed, he won the love and admiration not only of the pupils and teachers under his direction, but of the entire community; and the atmosphere of culture which he created at Plymouth Meeting Friends School has been far-reaching in its scope.