Days of Yore
.
as recounted by

Bill Day

 



Reilly's Military academy
Old-timers and younguns alike all their lives have heard vague references to the fact that there once existed a boy's military academy somewhere near the Mountwell Pool section.  Very few, however, have ever take the time to learn anything concerning this interesting item of Haddonfield's history.

There was a St John's Academy in Burlington and it was conducted by two brothers who were Episcopal clergymen - The Reverend Theophilis M. Reilly, and the Reverend William M. Reilly.  In 1871 they moved the school to Haddonfield when they purchased one hundred and ten acres that were part of the high ground at 310 Centre street.

The school was conducted in two buildings that stood there.  One was the original old Collins homestead, which was the most ancient landmark in town, the residence of the first white settler in this area.  It had been built by Francis Collins in 1682.  The other building was a large wooden structure that when built had been intended to serve as a summer boarding house.  A fire destroyed the old homestead in 1872.  The school became a thriving military academy, with both boarding and day pupils.  Reverend Edward M. Reilly had joined his two brothers in the management.

In 1886 the building burned down.  The house that still stands at the corner of Lakeview avenue and Centre street became the Commandant's headquarters, and the houses on Lakeview avenue were the accommodations of the boys for boarding and school rooms.  The aim of the academy was to teach the English language, American ways, and to prepare boys for college.  In 1907 after the death of Theophilis M. Reilly,  the school was discontinued and Reilly's Military Academy became a memory.

An often told tale was how one year on a spring Sunday afternoon, the ice broke up on Evans Pond and many skaters, including a good number of Reilly's cadets, got surprise duckings, but there were no dire results.  It was a way of life here in town for approximately 175 young men to be seen in their natty uniforms prominently strolling the streets.  In 1878 a sister school for girls, St Agnes Academy, was founded.  It was housed opposite to the boys school on Lakeview avenue.

The Reilly College Grounds were the scene of many public meetings and affairs.  The grounds were reached by a lane that ran from Main street up to the campus.  That lane eventually became Centre street.


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