Newton Observatory: A Gift of Love

Don Carlos Newton and his family faced many hardships, from fires that destroyed their company not once, but twice, to the pain of losing children in infancy. However, even with life’s adversities, the family prospered, and passed on their good fortune to Allegheny College.

Don Carlos Newton, pictured in his Union Captain’s uniform, circa 1863.
Courtesy of the Batavia Historical Society




Captain D. C. Newton attended Allegheny for only a year, but considered his education here important to being well-rounded. After fighting in the Civil War, it was his responsibility to take over control of his father’s wagon company in Batavia, Illinois.

Newton covered wagon. Harley D. Troyers Auctioneers. Courtesy of the Batavia Historical Society




A Newton Covered Wagon might have been the method of transportation settlers chose when moving west, guided by Manifest Destiny and the promise of free and fertile new land. The Newton’s became very wealthy, as their company produced thousands of wagons at a time when they were highly desired for westward expansion.

Mary and May Newton, circa 1864. Courtesy Batavia Historical Society



Mary Prindle married Don Carlos Newton in 1853. None of their children, including the daughter pictured here, lived to adulthood. This may be the reason why she was so fond of her niece, Jennie Foote. When Jennie and President William Crawford of Allegheny College became a couple, Mrs. Newton saw it as an opportunity to honor her husband, since passed, by presenting a wedding gift to the newly-weds. In 1899 she donated the necessary funds to construct the Newton Observatory. The building was completed in 1901.




Newton Observatory telescope, David L. Smith photography, circa 1960. Courtesy of the Merrick Archives Digital Image Collection, Allegheny College


A 9 inch telescope of high quality was the centerpiece of the Newton observatory. The necessary pieces of the astronomical equipment were donated by trustees of the college. The telescope was considered impressive for such a small school to possess. It was instrumental in determining the mass/luminosity relationship among stars. Researchers did this by using the telescope to examine dual star systems.

Newton Memorial Observatory, Allegheny College


Newton Observatory served as the heart of the astronomy department at Allegheny College. The building was designed by M. H. Church, and constructed of Cleveland sandstone.In addition to the astronomy department, the observatory has also held a large IBM computer and, briefly, an art studio. Today the building houses the College’s Office of Public Safety.

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