Sunbury Academy (1791)

Reverend William McWhir became headmaster of Sun­bury Academy in 1791. He replaced Reverend Reuben Hitch­cock, who remained at the school as a teacher. McWhir was a Presbyterian minister, a native of Ireland, graduated from Belfast College, and was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Belfast. He emigrated to America in 1783, settled in Alex­andria, Virginia, and for ten years was principal of an academy of which George Washington was a trustee, and whose step­children he taught.


Reverend McWhir raised the standards of Sunbury Acade­my until it became one of the best schools in Georgia. He married Mary Lapina Baker, widow of Colonel John Baker, and they had no children


In the early years of the nineteenth century, there was a demand for some sort of public education in all parts of Georgia. The only system of public education approved by the state legislature was privately operated schools. The only such school in Liberty County was Sunbury Academy.


The incorporation of Sunbury Academy was amended by the state legislature on December 10, 1803, to provide for seven rather than five commissioners. Joseph Law and John Stevens were appointed new commissioners for the school, and because John Bettis had died, John Jones was named to the slot. The school at that time owned more than 500 acres of land in Bryan County, Georgia, had bonds worth more than $1,000, and was considered to be one of the few really good schools in the state.


Some of the teachers at Sunbury Academy over the years were James E. Morris, Reverend Thomas Goulding, Uriah Wilcox, Reverend John Boggs, Joseph William Hughes, Sr., G.C. Lee, Reverend A.T. Holmes, Reverend S.G. Hillyer, John Winn, and Oliver W. Stevens.