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Pine Forge Historical Society

Our Mission

The mission of the Pine Forge Historical Society (PFHS) in partnership with other dedicated preservationists is to preserve and enhance the Thomas Rutter Industrial Site which include: The Thomas Rutter Mansion, Caretaker’s Cottage, Grist Mill, Commissary, Iron Forge, and Underground Railroad Tunnels on the campus of Pine Forge Academy, Pine Forge, Pennsylvania for historic preservation as a matter of public interest so that it’s local and state significance in American history, architecture, economics, educational and social benefits will be maintained and enriched to present and future generations. The Manor House Industrial Site has been recognized as an American Treasurer by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.


On April 27, 1946, Allegheny Conference officials and the Pioneer Forge
administration celebrated the purchase of the campus upon which Pine Forge
Academy andAllegheny East Conference of Seventh Day Adventists stands today.

Pine Forge Academy Land Purchase – 1946                    

In 1946, Pine Forge Academy, then Pine Forge Institute, was founded by the late Elder John H. Wagner, Sr., former President of Allegheny Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Elder Wagner envisioned a boarding school in the North where African-American high school students could attend without the racial issues of schools in the South. Mr. Caution, a member of the Ebenezer Seventh-day Adventist Church in Philadelphia, alerted his pastor about 575 acres of land for sale near Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Upon hearing about the property for sale, President Wagner, a small entourage of preachers, and Dr. Grace Kimbrough visited the Rutter Estate. Immediately upon seeing the property for the first time, they knew their prayers had been answered. It was put to a vote and it was unanimous – they had found the site for the school in the North. The 575 acre Rutter Estate was purchased for $46,000.

The boarding school for African-Americans students would be called Pine Forge Institute. It opened its doors on September 9, 1946, with an enrollment of 90 high school students.


Pine Forge Land History – 1715                                                     

In 1715, Thomas Rutter purchased land where he would build his first forge, on or near the present campus of Pine Forge Academy. This forge, although crude and short lived, was the first forge in the colony, and would stimulate many other forges that would allow Pennsylvania to become, in time, the “Birmingham of modern civilization.”

The campus resides on the historical property once owned by Thomas Rutter, an abolitionist iron miller, which was deeded to him by William Penn in the early 1700’s. Several of the original buildings still remain on the campus including the Manor House in which it is said that George Washington once rested. Additionally, the property was used during the closing days of slavery as a terminal for the Underground Railroad. These sites have been designated as official projects of Save America’s Treasures and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.



Pine Forge Academy’s male vocal group sings Black spirituals
of the underground era at the 2nd Annual Berks County
Underground Railroad Tour on April 26, 2009.

Click below to learn more.

Preserving The Past by Ron Devlin

 Pine Forge Historical Society Gazette News

Contact us for further information:

Phyllis Mitchell
Pine Forge Historical Society
205 North Tulpehocken Street
Pine Forge, PA 19548
Email: [email protected]