Strange sounds greet the “old grads” of the Evangelical College when they return to their Alma Mater at Fredericksburg. They hear the chatter, the cackle and the crowing of thousands of hens and roosters reverberating through the halls which once echoed Latin declensions and Greek conjugations.
There are not students, no professors, no textbooks – only broilers, 200 to a classroom. The academic halls were abandoned half a century ago; the college building has become a huge poultry farm.
In 1886 some members of the sect known as the Evangelical Association followers of Jacob Albright, of Kleinfeltersville, Lebanon County, built a seminary on a rising slope at the western edge of Fredericksburg. For ten years the school served as a training center for young men who planned to enter the ministry of the association. In 1896 the Evangelical Association acquired possession of Palatinate College, a Reformed Church institution located in Myerstown. Then some of the faculty and students moved into new quarters and renamed the Myerstown institution Albright College in honor of the founder of the association. Other members of the academic family moved to Reading where Schuykill Seminary was established.
In the course of time the Myerstown buildings were abandoned and Albright College was merged with Schuykill Seminary at Reading. Lebanon Valley College at Annville is now the only institution of higher learning still in Lebanon County.
Into the shell of the building at Fredericksburg moved thousands of chickens. An enterprising young farmer, a native of the region adopted the trade name, College Hill Poultry and in an incredibly short time he was marketing millions of broilers each year. College Hill poultry stores are scattered through New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.
One reason for the great success of the enterprise has been that College Hill poultry is “different”.
No, it is not that the birds had been exposed to the atmosphere of Latin conjugations and theological abstracts but because the Pennsylvania Dutchman who founded the business had hit upon the idea of cutting up his birds in advance of sale, offering such tempting specialties as a dozen drumsticks or two pounds of chicken livers. Restaurants and caterers were glad to avail themselves of the opportunity to purchase only giblets, or only white meat, according to the menus they planned.
Of course it is not possible to house enough chickens in any one building to supply a weekly demand as many as 100,000 birds. Most of the College Hill broilers are purchased from neighboring farmers. The cackling tenants matriculating at the old college constitute the reserve supply.
College Hill Poultry, undated aerial photograph. Image source: http://lclibs.org/matthews/fredericksburg-businesses-photo-gallery/