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"Staying in the home of the first Penn State President made the weekend especially meaningful!" ~ W.A. 


A Little Bit of History

Dr. Evan Pugh was the first president of Penn State, serving from 1859 - 1864. As an agricultural chemist, he secured Penn State’s Land Grant institution designation in 1863.  Dr. Pugh, a world renowned chemist, came by carriage to talk with Rebecca’s father, Abram Valentine, who was an ironworks master, to discuss mineral composition of the Nittany Valley. He stopped visiting her father and started courting her! Rebecca was considered to be the “Belle of Bellefonte.” They discussed books, German language, and news during their many visits and were engaged in early 1863. Evan began to design and build the home, hauling stone, which was to later become the President’s residence.


After a visiting William Shortlidge, near Bellefonte, Evan and Rebecca’s carriage went over an embankment, and they were both injured. Evan broke his arm and had treatments for an improper setting of the limb during the summer and fall of 1863 in Philadelphia hospitals. This injury and the stress from General Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania, the workload for Penn State, and the construction of their house, all contributed to his weakened immune system, and he was unable to fend off an attack of typhoid fever.  Dr. Pugh collapsed at his desk as he was writing a statement for the Legislature. He died a week later on April 29, 1864.


In February 04, 1864, Evan and Rebecca were married at Willowbank, the Valentine family home, and were deeply in love and happy for three months. Rebecca could have married anyone, but she never remarried. She visited Penn State twice after Even’s death. She presented the first graduating class with his portrait during an alumni  reunion, and she attended a semi-centennial celebration of Penn State’s founding.


Rebecca and Evan are buried in Union Cemetery between High, Wilson, and Hoard streets in Bellefonte. There are iron gates around their graves, at the cemetery, as the Valentines were iron workers.  The Union Cemetery is 19.6 acres and was created in 1795. The founders set aside public grounds behind the court house for the cemetery. In 1856 there was a merger of two areas into the cemetery, and a cemetery association was created. It was the common name for Protestants. Additionally, three Bellefonte Governors are buried there; Hastings, Beaver, and Curtin.

 ~ History written by Matt Marris, 

     Local Historia

Rebecca and Evan Pugh's Gravesites

Valentine - cemtery.jpg
Valentine and Pugh - cemetery.jpg
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