In the fall of 1805, the Meadville Seminary of Learning -- called the Meadville Academy after about 1810 -- was opened in Meadville, Pa. The school set a graduating scale of fees for its students, depending on the type of education they desired: $5.00 per term for those who wished a "first class" education (languages, science, and mathematics), $2.00 for second class (only reading, writing, grammar and mathematics), and $1.25 for third class (spelling and reading only). The school, not to be confused with the famed Meadville Theological Seminary, was an immediate success, with money collected from subscribers invested to good effect. A majority of the teachers employed in the early years appear to have been ministers. Among its better known instructors was Timothy Alden, who at other times served as a missionary for the Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Indians and Others in North America.
By the mid-1830s, the Meadville Academy had established a working relationship with both Allegheny College and the common schools of the city, renting rooms to the latter, and for a brief period in the 1840s, the Academy also rented rooms for holding a "Mechanics' Lyceum." With the growth of the public school system, however, the Academy slowly began to yield to the city. In December, 1863, a motion was presented to transfer the Academy to the school district for use as a public high school, and by January, 1864, the trustees had transferred the balance of real estate remaining in their possession.