John Gummere III


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Gummere Family of the USA

John Gummere III

Born in 1784 at Willow Grove, Horsham, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania the son of Samuel Gummere and his wife Rachel James.
Married 17 November 1808 at the Rancocas Meeting House, New Jersey to Elizabeth Buzby.
Died 31 May 1845 at Burlington, Burlington, New Jersey.

Elizabeth Buzby

Born 30 Oct 1789 in Burlington County, New Jersey, the daughter of William Buzby and his wife Susannah Bockius, farmer of Rancocas, Burlington County, New Jersey.
Died 16 November 1865 at Burlington, Burlington, New Jersey.


  1. Susanna (Susan) Buzby born 9 September 1809 Burlington, New Jersey; married 15 December 1845 at Burlington Meeting House, New Jersey to William Dennis, son of Jonathan and Hannah Dennis of Burlington.
  2. Samuel James born 28 April 1811 at Rancocas, New Jersey; first marriage 16 April 1835 at Providence Meeting House, Rhode Island to Abigail Griscom; second marriage 9 January 1845 at Frankford meeting House, Philadelphia to Elizabeth Hooten Barton.
  3. William born 29 January 1814 at Westtown, Chester County, Pennsylvania; married 10 April 1845 at Burlington, New Jersey to Martha Moore Morris; died 14 June 1897 at Burlington, New Jersey.
  4. John Griscom born 17 Aug 1817 at Burlington, New Jersey; never married; died 1899 at Burlington, New Jersey.
  5. George born about July 1819 at Burlington, New Jersey; died 4 January 1820 at Burlington, New Jersey.
  6. Mary born 23 November 1820 at Burlington, New Jersey; died after 1880.
  7. Elizabeth born 1 June 1823 at Burlington, New Jersey; died 16 April 1848 at Burlington, New Jersey.
  8. Frances born 14 June 1825 at Burlington, New Jersey; married 16 October 1851 in Union County, New Jersey to Benjamin Vial Marsh (1818-1882), a dry goods merchant of Burlington, New Jersey and avid meteor spotter.
  9. Rachel born born December 1827 at Burlington, New Jersey; died 6 July 1832 at Burlington, New Jersey.
  10. Martha B. born 8 February 1830 at Burlington, New Jersey; never married; died between 1900 and 1910.
  11. Henry Day born 21 November 1831 at Burlington, New Jersey; never married; died 18 October 1910 at Burlington, New Jersey

John Gummere was educated in country schools, where the standard of education was not high. He had a real love of mathematics and while still a boy obtained the necessary textbooks and taught himself algebra, mensuration, geometry, trigonometry, surveying, and practical astronomy. The family were very hard working and not well off, and it is said that young John would be ploughing a field with a book in one hand, studying. At age nineteen he took charge of the country school at Horsham, Pennsylvania for a few terms, before entering the Friends' Boarding School in Westtown, Pennsylvania under the tuition of Enoch Lewis for six months. He then taught at Rancocas in Burlington County, New Jersey for six years where he met and married Elizabeth Buzby, a farmer's daughter in 1808.

In 1811 he returned to Westtown to teach. While he was a teacher in the Westtown Boarding School in Chester County, he wrote the well-known book A Treatise on Surveying: containing the Theory and Practice to which is prefixed, a Perspicious System of Plane Trigonometry, detailing the theory and practice of surveying with practical examples and illustrations. The treatise was especially for use in schools and the first edition was published by Kimber & Richardson of Philadelphia in 1814. It ran through twenty-two editions, and was the standard surveying text for students and professionals until the time of the Civil War. It remained in print until 1917.

In the spring of 1814 he opened a boarding school for boys, the Gummere Academy at 216-218 East Union Street, Burlington, offering a classical education. This school became famous and drew pupils from all over the country and as far afield as the West Indies. John Gummere was an exceptional teacher who was well respected by his pupils - he loved to learn, and to pass his learning on to others. Also in 1814 he was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society. In 1822 he published a textbook on astronomy, The Elementary Treatise on Astronomy which was popular. To further his education he learnt both French and German. In 1825 a Master of Arts degree was conferred upon him by Princeton University.

In 1833 John Gummere gave up his Burlington school and, together with his brother Samuel R. Gummere, his son Samuel James Gummere, Dr. John Griscom (formerly headmaster of the Burlington Friends' School) and others, founded Haverford College, where he served as its superintendent and taught mathematics and natural philosophy from 1834 to 1843. In 1843 because of differences over the management of Haverford which was in financial difficulties, the Gummere family amicably withdrew from their involvement with the school. John and his son, Samuel James, re-established the old school at Burlington where he served as its president until his death in 1845.

In this excerpt from A History of Haverford College we get a sense of the man: -

"In mathematics, Gummere's Astronomy, the Differential and Integral Calculus, and Omsted's Optics were studied by Seniors. Allusion has been made in another chapter to John Gummere, who occupied this chair. He then held high rank, if not the highest rank, as a mathematician in the United States. Wonderfully learned in these subjects, he was as innocent and as free from suspicion as a child. This was shown, among other instances, in the manner in which the examinations on optics were given by him, and which will never be forgotten by the boys of that era. Preceding each didactic paragraph was the enunciation of the proposition to be discussed. John Gummere's practice was to give, say, one-half of this announcement interrogatively, then to name the pupil, who was expected to reply, and to continue the proposition. This lead to results greatly enjoyed by his pupils, being sometimes very droll, but which never seemed to appear so to him. Boys are good judges of character; and though the eccentricities of genius often amused them, they had a profound admiration for the talents, and a sincere respect for the gunuine worth, of John Gummere. Among the Haverford boys of his time he was always familiarly known as "Agathos" (the good)."

From The Story of a Small College: -

"With all his learning he was a man of great modesty and sweetness of disposition."

From Haverford Colleg: A History and Interpretation:-

"He joined qualities of childlike simplicity and naïvité to his profundity of mind. He was inclined to fall into periods of abstraction, or "brown study" when he was so far lost in thought that he forgot to observe the boys in study-hour, over which he presided. In thses moments of abstraction he was said always to turn down one of his thumbs. The boys counted it safe to indulge in any kind of escapade so long as the thumb was turned down."

If I have something wrong I would greatly appreciate being corrected, or if you have something to add to the story then please email me .

Return to main Gummere page.

Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. viii, edited by Dumas Malone.
A History of Haverford College for the First Sixty Years of its Existence, prepared by a Committee of the Alumni Association, published 1892.
Memorials of the Life & Character of John Gummere, by W.J. Allinson, published 1845.
The Burlington Story 1800-49, by Henry Harold Bisbee, published 1983.
The Story of a Small College, by Isaac Sharpless, published 1918.
Haverford College: A History and Interpretation, by Rufus M. Jones, published 1933.
Encyclopaedia of American Quaker Genealogy, by William Wade Hinshaw.
Bean's History of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, by William J. Buck.
Records from the website.
Last revised: 26 September 2006
© Linda Hansen 2006