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.