Ashmead’s History of Delaware County, part 2 – Catholic Church, Radnor Methodist, Episcopal, Radnor Baptist, Church of Good Shepherd, Wayne Pres.

In continuing the story of Radnor Township as told by Henry Graham Ashmead in his history published in 1884, it seems that in 1820 many of the citizens of the township wanted to have it annexed to Montgomery County. For one thing it was much closer to Norristown than Chester, which was the county seat of Delaware County. For another, the taxes of Montgomery County were lower than those of Delaware. There was much agitation on the subject throughout the county as Radnor was one of its best townships.

The possible solution to the question seemed to lie in the removal of the seat of justice from Chester to a more centrally located spot. A general meeting of those “both friendly and unfriendly” to this proposal was called for the 8th of June, 1820. The meeting, it seems, “was unusually large and very respectable, and after the subject of removal had been discussed very fully and rather freely, a vote was taken which resulted in favor of the removalists.”

Immediately, removal of the county seat became the leading topic everywhere in Delaware County. All party distinction became merged in the issue–nominations for office were made accordingly. Two anti-removalists were ejected to the Assembly, whereupon the removalists petitioned the Legislature for redress.

This petition, drawn up by Robert Frazer, Esq., a prominent lawyer, was signed by 912 citizens. However, no legislation favorable to the measure was obtained. And while the issue was still discussed from time to time, nothing was done until 1847 when the question of moving the county seat from Chester to Media was submitted to the people.

At that time Radnor polled 152 votes in favor of removal and 40 against it. And in the meantime Radnor Township had relaxed its efforts to become part of Montgomery County, which had been the original issue.

Bits of interest gleaned from the pages of Ashmead’s history concern the Radnor Library and the Radnor Lyceum. The Library was extablished in 1809 with 500 volumes, representing the liberality of 18 subscribers. These were placed in a store near the Radnor Friends Meeting House.

Radnor Lyceum was organized on the 12th of May, 1838, by the election of the following officers: Hugh Jones Brooke, president; John Pechin, recording secretary; Dr. James Jenkins, corresponding secretary; John Mather, treasurer; John Evans, Edward B. Wetherill, WIlliam Haskens, Alexander Kenzie, George Palmer, Mary Kenzie and Adelaide Cornog, managers. Present day readers could wish that our historian had elaborated to a far greater extent on the subject of both the library and the lyceum.

The first authentic reference to schools in Radnor, according to Mr. Ashmead, are found in court records, where it is shown that in 1825, in accordance with an order issued, Abram Lewis, Benjamin Maule and Benjamin David were elected school trustees for the township. They were then called “school men” and were elected to serve one, two and three years, respectively.

These records also show that on May 14, 1827, the school men purchased from Mordecal Lewis land “on which to erect a men’s school”.

In 1834 the free school system was inaugurated. Prior to the adoption of this school law, however, schools had been maintained in the township even from the days of its first settlement. They were subscription schools taught chiefly in the winter. Little else is known of their history, however, since no records were kept.

When the free school system was adopted, the court appointed as inspectors of schools of Radnor John Evans and Jesse Brooks, Jr. They were to act until school directors were elected.

In 1835 Radnor Township received from the State and County $1010.45 for school purposes. Two years later school directors bough from John Evans “a schoolhouse site of 80 square perches”. In 1855 a two-acre lot was added to former school holdings. By 1884 there were seven school buildings scattered throughout the township.

As early as 1842 members of the Order of St. Augustine established themselves in Radnor Township as a branch of the parent house in Philadelphia by founding Villa Nova College. They had then just purchased the estate of John Rudolf whose stone house of two and a half stories was the first college building. The upper stories, consisting of six rooms, were devoted to the use of the students while the lower part was occupied by professors.

In September, 1844, the chapel, the first place of Catholic worship in the neighborhood, was dedicated. In 1849 the new college hall was opened. This large stone edifice was later the east wing of a larger college building. This main college building was erected in 1873 by the superior-general, Rev. Thomas Galberry, O. S. A., at that time president of the college.

A new church, seating some 800 persons, was completed in the middle eighties. This took the place of a frame building used since 1872 and was designed to meet the requirements of a congregation that had increased more than a hundredfold since 1842, when those who assisted at worship numbered seven. Many changes, some the result of two disastrous fires, have marked the growth of this well known Main Line college still existing in Radnor Township more than a hundred years after its founding.

Other interesting old churches in Radnor Township in addition to Radnor Friends Meeting and Old St. Davids, whose origins have already been described in this column, are the Radnor Methodist Episcopal Church, Radnor Baptist Church, Church of the Good Shepherd and the Wayne Presbyterian Church.

The history of Radnor Methodist Church dates back to the primitive days of Methodism when such men as Bishop Coke, Richard Whatcoat and Francis Asbury officiated on this ground. The Radnor Baptist Church was organized February 20, 1841. It originated in the agitation of the question of anti-slavery in the Great Valley Baptist Church when those members who were greatly opposed to slavery asked for letters to form a new church.

The first meetings of the Church of the Good Shepherd were held in Wayne Hall in 1869. The corner stone of the church was laid in 1871 and the church itself was completed in 1872. The Wayne Presbyterian Church also had its origin in religious services held in the Wayne Hall in 1870. This was in June of that year, and by the December following the completed church building was dedicated.

Later issues of this column will contain full accounts of the histories of these four churches and of others in Radnor Township.

Ashmead’s History of Delaware County, part 1 – Episcopal Church, Old St. David’s

In 1884 L. H. Everets and Company, Philadelphia publishers, brought out a heavy volume of some 767 pages entitled, “History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania”. Its author was Henry Graham Ashmead, who in his preface explains that his history “has been written with the purpose of presenting, as far as could be done in a single volume, an authentic, exhaustive, and unbiased narrative of the events which have occurred in Delaware County from the period of the early settlements within its territory to the present time.”

Nearly a quarter of a century earlier Dr. George Smith had written his “History of Delaware County”. In the meantime much historical material had been reclaimed from the past in all parts of the country through interest awakened by the National Centennial, according to Mr. Ashmead. And, in consequence much information was available to the later historian to which the earlier one had no access.

The writer of this column has made use of Mr. Ashmead’s book not only in recent articles on Radnor Friends Meeting, but also in an earlier one on the great stone commemorating Washington’s march to Valley Forge which was recently rededicated and placed in front of the Rosemont School. In rereading the portion of the History pertaining to Radnor Township, this same writer finds much more that is of interest concerning the Township, so named because its first settlers were natives of Radnorshire in Wales. Incidentally, Radnorshire is mentioned in Welsh history as early as the year 1196, when it was burned by “an invading foe”.

Among much interesting information is that Radnor Street, or Radnor Road as it is now called, was laid out in 1683 and that probably the first settlements along it were made in that year. Running almost due north and south in its straight course through Radnor Township, it divides the Township into two almost equal parts. Among the first families to settle here were those of John Jarman (or Jerman), Stephen Y. Evan, David Meredith, Richard Miles, John Morgan, Evan Protherak, Richard Ormes, William Davids and Howell James. All were Welsh Friends who were domiciled here in less than four years form the date of William Penn’s first arrival in this province. The first white child born in Radnor was John Jerman whose birth occurred on November 12, 1684. Stephen Evans’ daughter, Sarah, whose birth occurred on May 25, 1686, was “the first female child born of European parents in the Township”.

Although most of the early inhabitants of Radnor were Quakers, there were still others “who could only be satisfied with the dogmas preached by ministers of the established church,–the Church of England”. And so as early as the year 1700 a Rev. Mr. Evans of Philadelphia, the first clergyman of the Episcopal Church to preach in Pennsylvania, occasionally visited certain families residing in Radnor Township and preached to them.

Later the people of Radnor petitioned for a minister of their own. In consequence the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in FOreign Parts appointed the Rev. Mr. Club as missionary to Oxford and Radnor, which were about 20 miles distant form each other. Arriving in 1714 “the inhabitants of both Towns received him with great kindness . . . the people of Radnor especially were very thankful to the Society for having been pleased to consider their wants, and renewed their promise of giving him their best assistance and presently after his arrival, heartily engaged to build a handsome stone Church, which have since performed.” This was the beginning of the church edifice now known as Old St. Davids, begun in 1715 and completed in 1717. In the beginning it was usually designated as the Radnor Church.

Mr. Club’s ministry was a short one and he died in 1715. After his death the Church wardens of the Parish wrote to the Society: ” Mr. Club, our late Minister, was the first that undertook the Care of Oxford and Radnor, and he paid dear for it; for the great Fatigue of riding between the two Churches, in such dismal ways and weather as we generally have for four Months in the Winter, soon put a period to his life.”

Oxford and Radnor had some difficulty in obtaining from the Society a successor to Mr. Club, since the Society urged them to make “sufficient allowance” for a minister to reside permanently with them. In answer to this the two towns assured the Society that “they were heartily disposed to do their best; but at present their circumstances would not do great things. They were at present but poor settlers who had a newly settled Land backwards in the Wilderness, and had not yet so much as their own Habitation free from Debts.” But as the Society was anxious not to disappoint the people of Oxford and Radnor, they did appoint a Rev. Mr. Wayman in 1717, and those of the Episcopal faith in Radnor Township had someone to preach to them in Welsh “because many of them do not understand English.”

Mills of various kinds were among the early business enterprises in Radnor Township. As early as 1710 William Davids owned a grist mill which was located on or near the site of the mills operated many years later by Tryon Lewis. Although it is impossible to trace the history of this ancient mill-privilege down through its successive owners this mill of William Davis is believed to be the first enterprise of its kind established in Radnor Township.

A few worn and faded assessment-rolls provide the only authentic sources of information respecting the manufactories of Radnor Township. These show that there were numerous grist mills and sawmills. Adam Siter had one of the early tan yards while William Bailey had a fulling mill. Records of 1802, ’03 and ’04 show Jesse Brooks as the owner of the grist, saw and plaster mills. Other well-known names of the early days of Radnor Township appear among the mills owners: Levi Lewis, Abram Evans, Daniel Maule, John and William Siter, John Pugh, Samuel Colef, Hannah Lewis, and many others. Sites of these mills were mostly on Ithan Creek and Darby Creek.

Mills in operation when Ashmead’s history of the County was published included the Brooke Mills, owned and operated by Joseph W. Worrell; the Evans mills, owned and operated by David Paxon; the Siter mill, owned and operated by Mahlon Edwards and Tryon Lewis mills occupying the site of a mill operated some 174 years before in 1710.

An earthenware pottery kiln near the fifteenth milestone on the old Lancaster Road was built by Eber James in 1829. With the exception of a few brief years he operated this pottery kiln until his death in 1845. Others who managed the works were Benjamin Jones, L. G. James and Isaac Hooper.

(To be continued)

The Radnor Friends Meeting House, part 4

During the French and Indian Wars which lasted from 1754 to 1763, a number of the able-bodied men from Radnor Township joined the provincial forces, according to Henry Graham Ashmead in his “History of Delaware County.” Among those who served in the armies commanded by Braddock, Forbes, Stanwix and Boquet were eight young Friends who “were disowned by the Quaker fraternity, and prohibited from enjoying any benefits within the society for evermore”. Presumably, however, the Revolutionary War found these same men enrolled, perhaps as commissioned officers in the Pennsylvania Line. According to Ashmead, Colonel Evan Evans, one of the most prominent American officers in Chester County during the Revolutionary War, was a resident of Radnor. And since he was a son of a Friend, he was probably among the disowned ones above mentioned.

Soon after the disastrous battle of the Brandywine, General Washington, with his army, marched out from Germantown over the old Conestoga Road for the purpose of again engaging the invaders of this region. However, a heavy rainstorm compelled the General to countermarch his forces and return without a conflict with the enemy. But after the British obtained possession of Philadelphia, soldiers under orders from General Howe and Lord Cornwallis commited many depredations in Radnor Township and the adjoining districts. Many families were left wholly destitute after their livestock, provisions, clothing and household goods had been carried away.

This was, indeed, a trying period for Radnor Friends as shown in a Minute of the 9th Month 10th, 1778: “The Minute of the Meeting for sufferings was read here and Friends Considering that the time of Difficulty is now amongst us more especially on those who Endeavor to keep to the Testimony we as a People have Maintained from the beginning, and suffering for the same have been felt by some; which may probably increase more & more, the committee . . . are desired to meet at Haverford Meeting House the 21st Instant at 10 o’clock”.

In the winter of 1777-78, General Potter, with a considerable body of American militia, was assigned to guard the country between the Schuylkill and Chester, to prevent supplies reaching the enemy and also to protect the inhabitants from foraging parties sent out from Philadelphia by the British. Numerous skirmishes took place in Radnor and its vicinity between Potter’s men and the British invaders.

Radnor Friends Meeting House was occupied both as officers’ quarters and as a hospital early in the year 1778. Indeed it could not be used for meetings until 1780 because of the necessity of repairs occasioned by this use of the building. Radnor Friends supplied the food and fuel for the hospital. Many suffered for their testimony and in one of the old record books is a list entitled, “An account of sundry Effects taken from Friends of Radnor Preparation Meeting by the Contending Armies, Substitute & Non-Attendance in the Militia, Demands, Taxes, etc.” SOme of the names included in this list are those of Daniel Maule, Evan Lewis, Jesse Meredith, Abijah Richard, John Jones, James Espen, Jacob Walker, Abel Thomas and Samuel Richards.

According to Miss Dorothy Harris, whose paper of Radnor Friends Meeting contains so much valuable information, it was during the period preceding and during the Revolutionary War that Radnor Friends were also struggling with the problem of slave-holding. In 1774 the Minutes record “That we have done but little in Respect to treating with Possessors of Negroes as Friends here appear against further Purchases, and think the Testimony against Slavery will be Continued.” Later minutes state “The Friends sometime past appointed to treat with the Possessor of Slaves are Continued, and to bring an account to next Meeting of such who appear averse to the Measure.”

By 1775 “The Friends appointed report they have visited those possessed of Slaves, and found most of them in a Complying Disposition, One being set free, and others Intended when of age.” By 1779 the holding of slaves was no longer countenanced by Radnor Friends. Members who persisted in holding them were disowned.

With the close of the Revolutionary war more prosperity came to Radnor and its surroundings. New highways were laid out and many additional settlers established themselves. In 1792 the construction of the Lancaster Turnpike was begun, to be completed a few years later. This was the means of increasing travel through the central part of the township, and as a consequence numerous wayside inns were established.

Radnor Monthly Meeting entered upon a new period of growth. Farls in “Old Roads Out of Philadelphia” speaks of the time when large numbers of carriages, as many even as 200, gathered at the meeting house on First Days. This book also tells of the beautiful sycamore tree that stood until a few years ago at the end of the carriage sheds.

With the separation in 1827, the Meeting House at Radnor went to Race Street Friends. With the migration of Friends westward and an increasingly exacting discipline that disowned many members for marriage outside of the Society, their numbers gradually began to dwindle. By 1882 the Preparation Meeting at Radnor had so declined that it was found advisable to lay it down. on 12th month 13th, 1882, “The Committee appointed . . . met together and were united in proposing that Radnor Preparation Meeting be discontinued, and its members joined to Valley Preparation Meeting.”

But even after the Radnor Preparation Meeting had ceased to exist, Merion, Valley and Haverford Preparation Meetings, which still formed Radnor Monthly meeting, came together for their monthly meetings in the present Radnor Meeting House. And occasionally meetings for worship were held there on First Days.

In 1931, according to Miss Harris’ historical sketch, a group of Friends from both branches of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting began gathering regularly for meeting for worship in Radnor Meeting House. A forum period before meeting was started and gradually the little meeting began to take on new life, gathering strength from a varied group of students, visitors and faithful concerned Friends, many of whom found the quick meeting a source of spiritual power in their daily lives.

For a period of six years, regular meetings for worship continued to be held at Radnor on First Days. Then as a need for more permanent organization was felt, application was made to the two Philadelphia Quarterly Meetings for the setting up of a united meeting.

On 2nd Month 13th, 1937, the first session of Radnor United Monthly Meeting was held in the meeting house at Ithan with the approval of the two Philadelphia Quarterly Meetings. The meeting itself was a constituent of both Race and Arch Street Yearly Meetings. However, the property continued to be held by Radnor Monthly Meeting and is under the care of the trustees of Radnor Meeting.

At the first monthly meeting seven members were received on certificate to form a nucleus from which the meeting grew to a membership of 78 in six years. This membership is now 125. To quote Miss Harris’ closing paragraph: “To nurture a new meeting on the ground where devoted Friends for over two hundred and fifty years have gathered to renew their faith in worship has been not only a great privilege, but also a source of deep inspiration to the members of the new meeting.”


(The writer is indebted to Mrs. Ralph Unkefer for her copy of Miss Harris’ historical sketch on Radnor Friends Meetings and to Richard W. Barringer for his copy of Ashmead’s “History of Delaware County.”)

The Radnor Friends Meeting House, part 3

As stated in last week’s column, business meetings of the four distinct worship groups of Friends in this general area began in 1684. And from that time on careful minutes of these monthly meetings were kept, many of them in existence to this day. Those for the period 1686 to 1693 are unfortunately lost. These are the ones that might have told of the building of the first Radnor Meeting House, that small structure possibly built of logs, which preceded by some years the present stone building erected in about 1718.

These first monthly meetings of the four groups were still held in the homes of members in the various localities since none of the Meeting houses were built. The very first monthly meeting was at Thomas Duckett’s farm, which was on the site later occupied by the former West Philadelphia Station. This was on the “Second Month, 10th”, 1684. But as the western settlements grew, monthly Meetings came to be held more frequently at Haverford, Merion or Radnor, until in 1698, the Meeting at the Schuylkill had ceased to be connected with Radnor Monthly Meeting, the members probably finding it more convenient to meet with Philadelphia Friends. (This early Schuylkill Meeting should not be confused with the later Schuylkill Meeting near Phoenixville.)

The westward movement is indicated by an excerpt from the monthly meeting records of 1686 which state, “At our Monethly Meeting at John Bevan’s home in Haverford ye 8th day of ye second month, it’s ordered . . . that whereas every Generall Monethly Meeting was formerly ordered to be kept at Thomas Duckett’s house in Schoolkill, It is ordered by this meeting that every other Monethly Meeting be kept at Havford for ye conveniency of Radnor friends and them who may settle upwards.”

It is interesting to note that in “the book of marriages”, Radnor marriages up to and including one on the 9th Month 17th, 1692, are recorded as having taken place in the homes of Friends. However, the next recorded Radnor marriage in 4th Month, 1693, that of Philip Philip and Phebe Evans, took place in “the meeting house in Radnor and in a publike assembly of friends then met together”. This would indicate that the first Radnor Meeting was completed sometime between 9th Month, 1692, and 4th Month, 1693, nine years after the earliest recorded monthly Meeting. The very first marriage known to have taken place at Radnor was that of Richard Ormes and Mary Tyder who were married 7th Month 3rd, 1686, in the house of John Evans, of Radnor.

According to Miss Dorothy Harris’s noteworthy article on Radnor Meeting House which has given us so much information for this series “The minutes of the monthly meeting furnish a wealth of material from which to reconstruct a picture of the early life of Radnor. In some ways the minutes are very much like those of today with frequent appointments of representatives to Quarterly Meeting, Certificates received and sent, and business relating to the care of the meeting house . . .

“In the early days the Monthly Meeting was a body of considerable authority in civil matters. It settled disputes among its members, saw to it that debts were properly paid, and administered legacies . . . Sometimes, too, the exigencies of farm life affected the time of holding meetings, as when in 1717 ‘In Consideration yt (that) ye next monthly (meeting) hapening SO in ye harvest Time Its thought convenient yt It be removed to ye 3rd 5th day in ye next mo (month) and frds (Friends) are Desired that they remember It So Agreed on In this meeting.'”

Only a few years after the building of the first meeting house, a meeting-library for the “service of Truth” was established there. The first minutes in regard to it state: “It is ordered that friends booke belongeing to this Monethly Meeting be brought . . . once a moneth In order that they may be dispersed among ffriends & that they may have ye Service of them.” One David Maurie was ordered “to mke a Chest for to keep” these books.

Even in those faraway days there were visiting committees whose mission it was to go to see families “Within the verge” of the meeting in order to arouse their interest in coming to the meeting house more regularly. Their reception was evidently a friendly one on the whole, since it is recorded in some of the Minutes that “The friends appointed to visit friends families brings an acc’t that they have visited most of friends’ families and that friends generally Received them in Love, and were very ready to put by their work and Come with their families to wait upon the Lord”.

Specially appointed meetings were often called for “Publick Friends” who were visitors in the vicinity, sometimes even coming from as far away as the Mother Country. For in spite of the difficulties of travel there was some intervisitation between Friends in Wales and those in the new “Welsh Tract”. However, Friends in the ministry who visited Radnor sometimes met with a strange custom, according to Miss Harris, who quotes the following from the Minutes of 1703: “It is the desire & advice of this meeting, that friends do not stand up, and turn their backs to Publick freinds when they are ministering, and be not Restless, & go forth out of Ye Meetings when they can avoid it, and that friends should advise their family as to it.”

There was evidently a warm spirit of neighborly helpfulness among these newcomers to a strange land that extended to others not of their own religious faith. In 1699 when Radnor Friends learned that assistance was needed by a contingent arriving on “Ye Last Leverpoole Ship” a goodly sum of money was raised for them. Even the distress of “Friends and others” in the New England conolny was alleviated by a fund to which members of Radnor, Havrford and Merion Meetings subscribed. Closer to home was the need of one Jonas Potts and his wife who “being poore, and haveing divers small children want assistance to buy a Cow”. Another member of the Meeting who wanted a horse to plow also received one.

The building of the present Radnor Friends Meeting, begun in about 1717 and completed in about 1722, was described in the first article of this series. The trying years of the Revolution, as it affected Radnor Meeting Friends will be told in next week’s column.