Private schools in Chester County, Pennsylvania, furnished the pattern for John McCullough's Galveston Seminary, also known for a time as Galveston Female Collegiate Institute. The seminary occupied the half block adjoining the Galveston County Courthouse on Nineteenth Street between Avenues G and H. The buildings designed for the school were erected in 1849 and financed by James McCullough of Washington, D.C., brother of the founder. The main three-story building measured forty by sixty feet and contained thirty-two rooms, most of them dormitories measuring ten by sixteen feet. On one side was the two-story residence of the principal. To the rear were separate buildings for kitchen, laundry, and servant quarters. Back of the main building was a structure enclosing four classrooms.
The seminary opened on the first Monday in September 1849 and in 1850 enrolled about ninety students. Similar classes in the male and female departments recited together, but the studies and recreations of the departments were entirely separate. Board and laundry cost twelve dollars a month. Fees for reading, writing, spelling, elementary geography, and mental arithmetic were ten dollars for a session of five months. Grammar, arithmetic, geography, history, composition, rhetoric, botany, chemistry, philosophy, physiology, logic, and astronomy were listed at fifteen dollars a session. Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, and mathematics were the expensive subjects, at twenty dollars a session. In the fine arts, drawing and painting cost ten dollars a session, and music, with the use of instruments-piano and guitar-was five dollars a month. Among the teachers were two of McCullough's sisters, Ann McCullough and Mrs. Margaret McCullough Riddell.
The institution was successful for five years; the number of students averaged between ninety and 100. The yellow fever epidemic of August 1854, however, forced the seminary to close. The buildings, later used as a hotel, were destroyed in the Galveston fire of 1885.