Among Radnor Township’s quaint landmarks few are as well known as the old Ithan Store standing at the intersection of Conestoga and Radnor-Chester roads. The exact date of its building is not known, but it was probably in the last quarter of the 17th century. For old records show that the first male child to be born in Radnor Township was a son of John Jarman, who purchased this property in 1688 from Richard Daves (or Davis, as it is spelled in some of the records). This little Jarman baby first saw the light of day in that part of the old building in which the store is now located, the eastern section having been erected at a somewhat later date. In 1769, at the ripe old age of eighty-five, Jarman died in this same house.
Present owners of the old store are Mr. and Mrs. Robert M. Curley, who had taken over its management in 1945 for the “co-operative” formed by a number of Ithan residents when the store and Post Office located in this building seemed doomed in 1937. this group was anxious to save not only the little local store itself, but their own fourth class Post Office as well. Then in 1948 Mrs. Edward Meigs, who owned the property, decided to sell and Mr. Curley was willing to buy. But because there was not a clear title to the property he could not at first obtain a mortgage. This was because the state claimed that five feet of the land was part of the Radnor-Chester road. This would mean that four feet and four inches of the roadway actually penetrated the store building’s corner at the intersection of Radnor-Chester and Old Conestoga roads.
This situation was met in an unique manner after Bob Curley had given six months of unsuccessful effort to determine the original boundaries of the property. What information he had uncovered he turned over to Congressman William H. Milliken, who was later responsible for a special act which awarded the five feet of land along the highway to Radnor Township as long as the old building stands. The Radnor Township Commissioners in turn gave the strip of land to the store property. This made it possible for Bob Curley to purchase a property which had long been the community center of the old settlement of Ithan.
Since purchasing the property, the Curleys have had the porch which extended across the front and part of the east side of the building taken down. They have made numerous inside improvements, including the installation of an air-conditioning unit to provent some of the dampness from seeping through the 24-inch thick stone and mud-mortar walls. The building still has fireplaces in every room, including one in the cellar. Rafters are hand-hewn and floor boards are of the wide old-fashioned variety. The downstairs section of the building, which is on the corner, is used for the store and post office, while the eastern downstairs portion and the entire upstairs is used for home quarters by the Curley family.
In trying to clear the title to the property when he decided to purchase it in 1948, Mr. Curley first looked for a hidden cornerstone. After a vain search he decided it might been stolen in the period when there were a number of such thefts. This was at a time when houses seemed to sell better when they had a corner stone. And a thrifty, not to say unscrupulous, real estate dealer sometimes transferred an authentic stone from one old building to another without such a stone to hasten the sale of the latter. Next he turned to old records housed in various historical societies and libraries. In the Philadelphia Public Library he found a number of histories dealing with the early days of Delaware County, among them the “Encyclopaedia of Delaware County”, by Winfield Scott Garner; “The Welsh Settlement of Pennsylvania”, by Browning; “History of Delaware County”, by Dr. George Smith, and many others.
Among the many interesting facts that Mr. Curley uncovered was that in 1681 Richard Daves had obtained from William Penn some 500 acres of the original grant of 5000 acres of the land from Charles II of England to Penn made one year earlier. To the Colony founded by Penn had come the oppressed and persecuted of many lands. The Quakers soon surpassed all others in numbers. Some of these were of Welsh origin, a large colony settling in the “Welsh Barony”, of Montgomery and Delaware Counties.
Richard Daves’ holdings were in what is now the Ithan section of Radnor Township. In 1688 John Jarman purchased 100 of John Daves’ acres on part of which the old property now known as the Ithan Store was built. The exact date of this is unknown. But it was, Mr. Curley says, the first place of worship of the Radnor Friends Meeting, their own Meeting House across the road not having been built until 1695. This was the original edifice, the present one having been erected in 1721 after the first was destroyed by fire. In 1685 the first wedding of the Radnor Friends Meeting took place when services were still held in the little building across the road.
John Jarman was made constable of Radnor Township in 1685 and served until 1721 when he died. he was a celebrated mathematician of his time and the publisher of “The American Almanac” between 1690 and 1700.
The City Council of Philadelphia planned that the Kings Highway should go through the Jarman property soon after it was purchased by the latter. In spite of strong opposition on the part of John Jarman and various of his Welsh neighbors the road was laid in 1691. But legend has it that more than once thereafter Jarman planted his crops on the site of this road. In 1697 the Radnor-Chester Road was put through by the State of Pennsylvania.
There were originally four towns in Radnor Township including Wayne, Radnor, Radnorville and Villa Nova. The first Post Office at what is now Ithan was called Radnorville. Somewhere about 1850 this name was changed to Ithan because of the similarity between Radnor and Radnorville. And so it is to this day, although it has increased to such a size that it is now a third class Post Office instead of the original fourth class one. Mrs. Curley carries on as postmistress, while her husband runs the store.
(For the material used in this article, Mrs. Patterson wishes to acknowledge her indebtedness to Mr. Curley, whose interest in his property has brought to light many fascinating historical facts in regard to it.)