Francis Meson (1761-1806), an Irishman and "wandering schoolteacher," became a rich merchant in Lexington. He bequeathed $8,000.00 for an academy building and valuable property for an endowment, "the income to be used forever for the benefit of the teachers." His executors erected a building, excelled among Georgia educational structures only by Franklin College, the sole building at the University of Georgia at that time.
In 1825 a Female Department was added under the direction of the Rev. Thomas Goulding. The income from the endowment was liquidated when a new building was constructed in 1896. In 1917, Lexington voted a school tax and Meson Academy became a free school. In 1920 it became the Oglethorpe County High School.
The first rector or principal of the academy was the Rev. Francis Cummins. Of the outstanding educators who followed him, Thomas Britton Moss served from 1849 through the difficult War and Reconstruction periods until 1889. Some of Georgia's most eminent men were on the Meson Academy Board of Trustees: William H. Crawford, George R. Gilmer, Joseph Henry Lumpkin, Thomas W. Cobb.