The forming of Delaware County, part 1 – Chester County

In browsing through the books on local history on the shelves of our Radnor Memorial Library, this columnist found several weighty tomes on “Southeastern Pennsylvania”. Its sub-title indicates that it is “A History of the Counties of Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia and Schuylkill”. Delaware County alone has eight chapters devoted to such aspects as “Organization”, “Industrial Development”, “Professions”, “Educational Developments”, etc. Published in 1943 by the Lewis Historical Publishing Company, and with J. Bennett Nolan as supervising editor, this book is practically an encyclopedia of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Many times the writer of this column has led her readers along the pathways of the past few hundred years in Radnor Township and neighboring sections. She had never even speculated upon Delaware County as it was “a thousand million years ago”, nor does it much concern her now. But it is of passing interest to know that the rock foundation of the county is said to be of the earliest types known. They represent the residue of the first processes of hardening, soon after the earth, a molten, whirling ball of celestial matter, chilled sufficiently to land.

“A thousand million years ago– the county was a part of the sea and then the earth formation was squeezed above sea level. In time it was shoved into high mountain peaks, followed by another sinking era that brought the sea over the county area again. The land reverted to a monotonous plain, then, untouched by the glacial scratchings and plowings of the Ice Sheet, it gradually assumed the rolling surface it has today”.

So much for Delaware County of a thousand million years ago, at least we know how to account for the rolling surface of our fair county of today.

To start at a time now almost 350 years ago, the first white men to come to this section were probably those who sailed with Henry Hudson, English captain of a ship owned by the East India Company of the Chamber of Amsterdam in 1609. Early records show that they sailed off the Capes of the Delaware River on August 28 of that year. A few years later two Dutch captains, one Cornelius Jacobson May and the other Cornelius Hendrickson, sailed up the Delaware River. Early records are hazy as to the exact dates, but it seemed quite certain that the Dutch were the first white settlers. Later came the Swedes.

The Indians, whom the early Dutch and Swedes found along the Delaware River, were the Lenni Lenape groups and the Iroquois. The former were probably the most peaceful of the Indians along the Atlantic seaboard. When the early white settlers arrived they were paying tribute to the more war-like Iroquois. Essentially peaceful themselves, the Lenni Lenapes were naturally suspicious of the early settlers. As a consequence, they wiped out a small settlement made by the Dutch West Indian Company near the present town of Lewes, Del.

After Finns had joined Dutch and Swede settlers, the first seat of government in the present Delaware County area was established on Ti— Island under John —– ——, a former calvary officer in his native Finland. This was in 1643, the same year that the town of Upland, later to become Chester, was settled. With the establishement of Tininleum and Upland the area which is now Delaware County definitely enters the picture.

In 1664, England took over the colony William Penn was made its proprietor. English settlers immediately flocked into the region until the Finns and Swedes were very much in the minority. And from that time on the section became an English colony. William Penn, himself, resided for some time in Upland.

The colony continued to grow in spite of countless quarrels between the government, assembly and the heirs of Penn, who died in 1718 in England, where he had gone a few years earlier to protect his rights. Many citizens of Chester County, together with other colonists, were moving toward a break with England, a movement, which as it became more general, ended in the War of the Revolution.

Even before the war Chester County had become a very important area of Pennsylvania. The fact that the town of Chester was the county seat aroused a good deal of controversy since there were many who thought that official business should be conducted in a more central location. The war temporarily put an end to problems of a local character among the colonists. This particular one arose again, however, as soon as the war was over. It ended in September, 1789, when the Pennsylvania Legislature authorized the division of Chester County into two separate counties,the new one to be called Delaware County. Thus our county became an entity.

The old Chester County area was split as equally as possible, care being taken that farm areas should not be divided. Chester was again a county seat, this time of Delaware County. The first county elections were held in October, 1789, when a sheriff, coroner and five justices of the peace were elected under the State Constitution of 1776. On February 9, 1790. Court was first held in Delaware County and on March 2, the first Orphans Court was seated.

It was not until November, 1845, however, that the first direct step was taken to select a more accessible county seat. At a meeting held then it was decided that each township should hold an election to choose delegates to discuss the relocation of this center of county government. After a number of locations were considered, the delegation petitioned the State Legislature to provide legal means for deciding the issue.

“Removalists” and “Anti-removalists” now opposed each other on this issue. A bill to permit the controversy to gain public action was defeated. However, the Legislature later passed an act permitting the question to come to a vote. The Removalists won on October 12, 1847.

In 1849 the county commissioners bought 48 acres of land in Upper Providence Township. The new tract cost $5760, and because it occupied a central location, the name chosen for the new county seat was Media. The first courthouse was completed in May, 1851, and the first session was held in its halls in August of that year, with Judge Henry Chapman on the bench.

(To be continued)

Main Line School Night, part 4 – “Associated Adult School of Suburban Philadelphia

The Spring term of 1940 was the last which Wayne School Night operated alone. Plans were already well underway for the merger with Lower Merion and by September, 1940, catalogues advertised “The New Radnor-Lower Merion Center of Education, Culture, Fun, The Mecca of the Main Line.” Twenty-nine courses were offered, including one on the “Historic Main Line,” by Harry Emerson Wildes, author of “Valley Forge”, “The Delaware” and “Anthony Wayne.” Another course with a nostalgic backward look was the “Epic of American Transportation.” which featured talks on “Wayside Inns and Conestoga Wagon Days”, “Steamboats on the River,” “From Turnpike to Super Highway” and many others.

In contrast to these two courses one was called “America Looks Ahead”, which attempted to answer some of the questions to be raised by a war that was still only on the horizon as far as our country was concerned. Ten eminent students of world affairs discussed different aspects of America’s future. Among them were Dr. Felix Morley, president of Haverford College; Jesse H. Holmes, professor of Philosophy, Swarthmore College; Dr. Ernest Minor Patterson, president of the American Academy of Political and Social Science and Wilheim Sollman, formerly secretary of the Interior under Chancellor Stresemann of Germany. School Night was attempting to help its students to face the country’s problems squarely.

By this time the “Associated Adult Schools of Suburban Philadelphia” had held several area meetings under the leadership of Mr. Creutzburg, who had been elected president of that group of seven schools. These soon included Upper Darby, Nether Providence, Pitman, N. J., Swarthmore, Cheltenham and Narberth, in addition to the Main Line group. Organized originally as a discussion group when problems common to all the adult schools could be discussed, it had become an invaluable source of information and guidance for new adult schools as they were established.

The school when it went out of existence in 1942 was still operating under Mr. Creutzburg as president; Raymond P. Worrell as vice-president; R. Leland Smaltz as secretary; S. Eugene Kuen, Jr., Philadelphia, as treasurer, and an executive committee composed of Jason L. Fenimore, Wayne; Jacqueline Link, Merion; Wendell B. Stewart, Cynwyd, and Guier S. Wright, Bryn Mawr. These had been chosen from a Board of Directors made up of 15 representatives from Radnor and Lower Merion townships.

In the Spring of 1948, after a silence of almost six years School Night, “by popular request”, was again with us. A short term of six weeks started on March 18 in Lower Merion High School. Its success warranted the resumption of the once-popular adult education program with its Full term held in Radnor High School and its spring term at Lower Merion.

By the Fall term of 1948, the 11th semester for School Night, the even balance between representation from the two townships had again been struck on the Board of Directors. Assisting Mr. Creutzburg as president were R. D. Kreitler as vice-president, Robert W. Trout as secretary and Harry M. Buten as treasurer.

On Monday night of this week, Lincoln’s Birthday, the 16th semester of Main Line School Night inaugurated the first of its ten sessions at Lower Merion. Enrollment was almost 1000 by registration night on February 5, according to Walter Whetstone, Jr., the registrar. This will probably reach about 1300 by the beginning of the second class on February 19. While this does not reach the all-time high of 1612 students of one year ago, it is still an indication of the lasting interest felt in Pennsylvania’s first adult education school, founded in Wayne in February, 1938.

(For the material used in these few articles the writer is indebted to Mr. Creutzburg and to Douglas C. Wendell. The latter kept publicity scrap books concerning School Night which are of increasing value as the years go by.)

Main Line School Night, part 3 – Wayne School Night

From its beginning in the late winter and early spring of 1938 until the fall term of October, 1940, Wayne School Night followed in a general way the original pattern set by its founders when they first conceived the idea in December, 1937. As stated in earlier columns, our local adult school was an adaptation of a highly successful experiment conceived a few years earlier in Maplewood, N. J. Then in the fall of 1940 Lower Merion joined forces with Radnor, thus inaugurating Main Line School Night. Plans called for a fall semester in Wayne each year, and a spring semester in the Lower Merion High School in Ardmore.

For four terms this joint program continued in existence, at first a highly successful one enthusiastically backed by the people of the two adjacent townships and participated in by many from neighboring communities. During the fall term of 1941, however, war clouds were darkening the horizon. In December the catastrophe of Pearl Harbor shook America from coast to coast. The fall term was almost over . . . the School Night board hesitated before launching on its plans for a spring term.

Eventually the decision to continue was made . . . the new catalogue invited the public to “take a vacation from trouble and care . . . come to School Night.”. It was a time of unrest and uncertainty . . . the beginning of a year that saw America’s entry into a war that was to last four long years, for her. Citizens of Lower Merion and Radnor townships and all their neighbors were busy with other matters than “School Night”. There were Civil Defense meetings and classes, Red Cross was organizing classes in First Aid and Home Nursing, Nurses Aides, Gray Ladies. The suburbs were buzzing with wartime activities.

Enrollment in “School Night” classes dropped off from their former high level. Attendance in these classes grew less and less. And then came gas rationing . . . With School Night finances at a low level never before experienced, its Board gave up the struggle. There were no more sessions until March, 1948, when the cheery caption on the on the catalogues stated that “By popular request, School Night again brings you an adult Education Program.”

This brief summary, however, passes over far too lightly the story of School Night up to its revival in the Spring of 1948, the School Night as it will go into its 16th semester on Monday evening, February 12, in Lower Merion High School. To go back a bit . . . on March 27, 1939, the very first annual meeting was held, with thirty members of our community sufficiently interested to serve as directors. Following the general meeting, these directors elected an Executive Board composed of Harry C. Creutzburg as president; T. Bayard Beatty as vice-president; Jason L. Fenimore as treasurer, with Mrs. T. Magill Patterson, Douglas C. Wendell and Paul Clark to complete the Board.

The semester just ending has offered 28 courses. Of the 844 registrants at the time of the annual meeting, 454 had come from outside the township while 390 were residents of it. The significance of this was a little difficult to determine. Perhaps it was because the fame of Wayne’s Adult Education program was spreading all the while. At any rate, before the semester was over, the total registration was approximately 1000.

Thirty courses were offered in the fall of 1939, when registration could be made to William L. Caley, of Wayne, registrar, by mail or in person. There were also registration stations in Ardmore and in Norristown. “Marriage and Family Relationships”, with the Rev. John Scott Everton as moderator, was one of the specially featured courses for those “18 years or older”. Mr. Everton was then pastor of the Wayne Baptist Church. A “Last Minute Flash” announced a Current Events Course “covering world news combined, whenever possible, with a critical analysis of the main currents of propaganda flooding into America over the air and on the printed page.” This was given by Joseph H. Forrest, of Radnor High School.

Other Wayne instructors included Leo M. Curtin, then Director of Physical Education at Radnor High School, who kept three games of indoor baseball going every Monday night. T. Bayard Beatty, Jr., taught a class in pencil drawing; Elizabeth B. McCord conducted a course on “Books of the Day”; Franklin F. Trainer, Jr., had a class in photography so popular that there had to be two sections of it while Henry V. Andrews had another two-section class in public speaking. Isabel Jacobs Ruth taught “Dynamic Diction”, O. Howard Wolfe had a lecture course in “Money and Banking”, C. Chauncey Butler, then instructor in Mathematics in Radnor High School taught “Mathematics for Fun!” Charles C. Smith, also of the High School faculty, had a class in “Frontiers of Modern Science”. Mary Jacobs Wright and Edith Wood Atkinson taught “Contract Bridge”, while James Veeder had charge of “Social Dancing”. In short more than half of the 30 courses had local instructors.

(To be continued)

Main Line School Night, part 2 – Upper Darby Adult School, Wayne School Night

(Your columnist stated in last week’s issue of “The Suburban” that “School Night” had its first session in February, 1939. This date should have been February, 1938.)


In inaugurating School Night, Wayne had the distinction of being the first community in Pennsylvania to adopt the informal type of adult school, centered in the public school system. In so doing it followed in the footsteps of Maplewood, N. J., which had started its back-to-school experiment four years before, under the direction of Mr. Keith Torbert. However, it was but a short time after the beginning of School Night in Wayne that two other Philadelphia suburban communities took up the idea.

In Upper Darby the Father’s Association of the high school sponsored a short term school beginning two weeks before the spring term of Wayne School Night ended. Then by Fall, Swarthmore had opened its “Adult Night at School” with an enrollment of over 200 in its eleven courses.

At the November meeting of the Lower Merion School Board, its members considered establishment of classes similar to those in operation in Radnor and Upper Darby. Superintendent S. W. Downs was authorized to make an investigation and report back to the Board at a later meeting. However, it was not until October 1940 that such a plan was put into operation when Lower Merion, joining forces with Radnor, formed the Main Line School Night Association.

From its small beginning in the Spring of 1938, the Upper Darby Adult School became a flourishing institution by October of that year. At that time it was offering 22 courses, registering about 1200 by its opening night. May prospective students were turned away from those classes which had limited registration. Additional members in classes with unlimited registration soon brought the total number of students to well past the 1200 mark.

At the same time enrollment in Wayne School Night reached the 700 mark and more with the beginning of its second semester, with registrants coming from 51 other communities. These ranged from points as far away as Camden, Philadelphia, Whitford, Downingtown, Ambler, Chatham Village, Conshohocken, Uwchian and even Claymont, Delaware! Public interest and community support were rapidly growing. Other members were added to the original Board of Directors of 19, as listed in last week’s column. Among these were Mrs. Ruth W. Cady, Dr. A. J. Culver, R. T. Eichelberger, Hubert F. Ellson, Mrs. Charles B. Finley, Dr. Henry G. Fischer, Oliver H. Jackson, Stanton C. Kelton, Hermna Lengel, Mrs. Alex Makarov, John S. Renwick, T. Griffiths Roberts, Mrs. Edwin A. Schoen, Robert Trent and L. M. Wilson.

The Fall program was inagurated with a series of three forum lectures on successive Monday evenings before the formal beginning of the School Night program on Monday, October 10. The first was a talk on “The Crisis in American Civilizaiton”, by Dr. Will Durant, author of a number of thought-challenging books. The second told “What the G-Men are Doing,” a lecture by Major W. H. Drane Lester, an aide to J. Edgar Hoover in the F. B. I. On the third Monday evening Harrison Forman, traveler, explorer, writer and photographer, discussed “The Far East Aflame.”

A special feature article written by H. W. Fry in the evening “Bulletin”, under date of September 30, 1938, had the heading “Fathers and Mothers Go to School” and in further explanation “He Learns Fishing and She Studies Exercises.” The article combined comments on both Wayne’s School Night and Upper Darby’s Adult School, stating among other things that “the courses in both schools represent a blending of the old academic and practical recreational desires of the grown-ups.”

On its editorial page the Main Line “Times” of September 14, 1938 (it was then a daily) said that “School Night is a project worthy of enthusiastic support by all who are interested in the world about them and who seek worthwhile recreation. In addition to the lecture program, bringing some of the nation’s best minds to the Main Line in discussions of problems in the world of today, School Night offers a wide variety of courses in subjects, ranging from basket-weaving to history. It is one of the best examples we have seen of the current widespread movement in adult education.”

“The Suburban” generously supported the hometown project, both on its editorial page and in its news columns. In the former it predicted that “School Night” is here to stay and that in years to come it will seem as indispensable as the public library.” In an edition of later date it urges support for the forum idea instituted in the second semester of School Night. “An ambitious venture for a suburban community?” it asks, and then replies, “No, rather a sane and logical development. Living in the shadow of a great metropolis, we have been too prone to look to the city for cultural and educational entertainment. The Main Line can and should support a forum.”

Even “The Banker” had an article of interest on “School Night in the Schools”, written by Jason L. Fenimore, treasurer of the Wayne Title and Trust Company, and a director of School Night. He writes in particular of two classes of especial importance in banking circles, “Money and Banking”, taught by O. Howard Wolfe, of the Philadelphia National Bank and a resident of Radnor, and “The Anatomy of American Capitalism”, taught by Dr. Karl Anderson of the Economics Department at Bryn Mawr College.

In all some 700 to 800 people enjoyed this first Fall of School Night, which ended with an old-time song-fest to which all were welcome. There were exhibits of the work of various classes, a one-act play by the Dramatic Art group and singing by the choir of men’s and women’s voices, led by Dr. Henry Gordon Thunder. And then everyone joined in the singing of familiar Christmas carols, a happy ending to a good ten weeks of School Night.