The forming of Delaware County, part 6 (colleges) – Augustinian College of Villanova in the State of Pennsylvania, Haverford College, Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania Military College

Old churches in Delaware County, and others not so old, have been enumerated in the last two issues of this column, along with a brief listing of many of them. The seven major denominations in the county have been the Lutheran, Quaker, Episcopalian, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist and Catholic. Among the churches of the last-named denomination which have not already been named are two of more than passing interest locally. These are the interesting old St. Thomas of Villanova on Lancaster Pike and St. Katharine of Siena, in Wayne. The latter was established about 60 years ago in 1890, with the cornerstone of the church edifice laid on June 9, 1895.

Two church denominations of these seven have been responsible for the establishment of three of Delaware County’s colleges, one of them in Radnor township. Villanova College history began in 1842 with the purchase of a tract of land by the Augustinian Fathers, a teaching order of the Catholic Church. This tract of more than 200 acres, located on Lancaster avenue, was then known as BElle Atre, on which was located the old Rudolph mansion.  It was here that classes were opened in the fall of 1843. The following year a building program was instituted. In 1848, the Fathers had incorporated by an act of legislature as the “Augustinian College of Villanova in the State of Pennsylvania.” THe institution was then given power to grant and confer degrees.

From 1857 until 1865 the college was closed by a financial depression, followed by the Civil War. After it was reopened, however, it prospered greatly, with several new buildings and an enlargement of the faculty and curriculum. Since 1905 the School of Engineering, the School of Science, Chemical Engineering, Commerce and Finance have been added.

Haverford College and Swarthmore College were both established by the Society of Friends, the former in 1830 and the latter in 1864. Haverford stands as the oldest institution of higher learning in Delaware county and has ranking among the best academic colleges in America. Founders Hall, the first building on the campus, was erected in 1833. The college now has some 25 buildings on a site of 216 acres, with an endowment fund of several million dollars.

Swarthmore College was founded on a site in the community of Westdale, named for one of its famous citizens, Benjamin West, the painter. The town later assumed the name of the College. A co-educational institution, it now has more than 237 acres of land and 32 buildings. Its endowment is more than $7,000,000.

Two other well-known Delaware County colleges are Cheyney State Teachers College in Thornbury township and Pennsylvania Military College, located in Chester. The former is the only state-controlled institution of college status in the county. It was founded in 1832 when Richard Humphreys, a West Indian, left $10,000 to form an institution for the education of Negroes. The money was left to the Society of Friends with the understanding that the Society should have charge of the affairs of the foundation. Started in Philadelphia as the Institute for Colored Youth, it later came to Delaware county, where it functioned as a State Normal School, joining 13 other state teachers’ colleges.

Pennsylvania Military College might be called the oldest college in Delaware county if its beginning is considered as the opening of a boarding school for boys in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1823 by an influential Quaker, John Bullock. In 1853 the equipment and good will of the school were sold to Colonel Theodore Hyatt, who was succeeded by his son, General Charles E. Hyatt in 1888. The college is now conducted as a non-profit institution by the Hyatt Foundation, basing its curriculum and student life on a pattern such as is followed at West Point.

Crozer Theological Seminary, located at Upland, began classes with 20 students in 1868. These classes were held in the old buldings of the Upland Normal Institute. Many additions have since been made to the school, including Bucknell Library.

Outstanding among private educational institutions in the county is Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, with it modern plant of 16 buildings. Here boys may prepare for the United States military and naval academies. Another noteworthy county institution is Ellis College at Newtown Square, a fully-accredited boarding school for the education of fatherless girls.

The forming of Delaware County, part 5 (churches) – Thomas Willcox

Last week’s column told of early Lutheran, Quaker, Episcopalian, Baptist and Presbyterian churches that were established in Delaware County, dating back to the small log cabin church on Tinicum Island, built by Swedish colonists some years before the coming of William Penn. The other two of the seven major denominations, the Methodist Church and the Catholic Church, also established themselves early in the life of our county.

The Methodist denomination, which has the greatest number of church edifices as well as the largest membership in the county, saw part of its earliest beginnings right in Radnor township. The Radnor Methodist Church on Conestoga road goes back to the primitive days of Methodism in America. As described in a series of articles in this column in November and December, the first meetings were held in “The Mansion House” on Old Lancaster road, the beautiful old James home still standing, and now the property of Mrs. Percival Parrish. In 1784 the first church building was erected on land sold by Evan and Margaret James to Francis Asbury and his assistants. With a steadily increasing membership, both of the Church and the Sunday School, the Radnor Methodist Church has just completed a successful campaign for funds to enlarge the present lovely old edifice, built in 1833 to replace the original structure.

Among other old Methodist churches in Delaware County is the Mt. Hope Methodist-Episcopal Church in Ashton Township, which had its beginning in 1807; the Union Methodist-Episcopal Church in Manoa, organized in 1832. Shortly after the Manoa church was founded, other Methodist churches sprang up throughout the county, including one at Lima, another at Marcus Hook and still another at Upper Darby. The first African Methodist congregation in Delaware county was organized early in the 19th century by a Negro slave, Robert Morris, who met at first with three friends in a private home in Chester. By 1831 they had sufficient funds to build the church now known as Union African Methodist Church. There are now many other African Methodist Churches throughout the entire county with a large aggregate membership.

The first Catholic Masses to be celebrated in Delaware County were those said in the home of Thomas Willcox in Concord in the early 1700’s. The Willcox family is believed to be the oldest Catholic family in all Pennsylvania. Thomas Willcox, who lived in Concord from 1718 until 1779, was the paper manufacturer who established the famous Ivy Mills referred to in a recent article in this column. The number of communicants who met in his home were few in number until about 180, when large immigrations brought more Catholic families.

The chapel which was built in the Willcox mansion and used until 1856, was known as St. Mary’s Church. In that year a new church, St. Thomas the Apostle, was completed and dedicated. Located between Chester Heights and Ivy Mills, it had more than five hundred communicants at this time. However, the very first Catholic edifice to be erected in Delaware county is St. Denis’ Church, built in nearby Haverford township in 1825 and directed by Augustinians since 1853. Chester’s first Catholic Church was St. Michael the Archangel, an imposing edifice built in 1843.

(To be continued)

The forming of Delaware County, part 4 (churches) – Old St. David’s Church, St. Mary’s Episcopal, Radnor Baptist Church

Whatever the different motivating factors behind the coming of the early settlers from Europe to the New World which was America, these people were on the whole extremely religious. William Penn, when he sailed up the Delaware River to land at Upland, found that the Swedes and the Dutch both had established places of worship, humble though they were.

The Swedes, who had made the first European settlement in Pennsylvania of which we have any record, that at Tinicum, in Delaware County, had been given land for the erection of the log church by their governor, John Printz. To this small edifice on Tinicum island members of its congregation came in canoes from their various settlements along the Delaware River. Reverend John Campanius, who had some to America with Governor Printz, was then pastor, a man who has been called Delaware County’s first prominent theologian.

Born in Sweden in 1601, Campanius died in 1683 after spending 40 years of his life as a missionary among the Delaware Indians, and as pastor of that first little Lutheran Church on Tinicum Island. The first leader of a religious denomination in Pennsylvania, he had completed the earliest translation of a European language into an Indian one before returning to his native Sweden in 1649. This translation was that of the Lutheran Catechism into the Delaware Indian tongue.

Of the first little log church on Tinicum Island nothing is left to indicate even the location, or that of the graveyard connected with it. Its congregation transferred its affiliation to other churches, and at about the beginning of the Eighteenth century the small edifice fell into ruin. The second Lutheran congregation in Delaware County was organized in 1878 by —– in Chester. Others sprang up from time to time until now there are a large number of churches of that denomination scattered throughout the county.

The Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, held meetings in Upland as early as 1675. A few years later a group of them purchased a lot on what is now Edgemont Avenue in Chester where they erected a place of worship in 1691. However, the very first meeting house to be built in Delaware County was that in nearby Haverford Township. This was erected in 1688-89. Radnor Meeting was another of the very early structures having been built shortly after Haverford Meeting. The present lovely old edifice, dating back to 1718, is one of the landmarks of Radnor Township, as is the Old Store across Conestoga Road, where the friends who later made up Radnor Meeting congregation met before their own first little church was built.

The second oldest church structure in the county is one as familiar to most of Wayne’s citizens as any of its own churches, picturesque Old St. Davids, located in Newtown Township. This small ivy covered Episcopalian Church on the slope of a hill amid towering trees dates back to a period prior to 1700, when its congregation was first organized. For one half century after the original small structure was built, no floor was laid and no pews built. The congregation sat on benches, originally furnished by the occupants. The old graveyard with its crumbling headstones surrounds the church on three sides. Among the graves is that of “Mad” Anthony Wayne of Revolutionary fame.

Among other very old Episcopal churches in the county are St. Paul’s in Chester, completed in 1702, and St. John’s in Concord Township, built only slightly later. In about 1725 “the Chapel” at Marcus Hook was built. It remained nameless until 1760 when the brick structure which replaced the original small frame one was called St. Martin’s. In our own township, the Church of the Good Shepherd, in Rosemont, was organized in 1869 after meetings had been held for several years at Woodfield, and at the residence of Mrs. Supplee in Radnor. The corner stone for the church building was laid in 1871. Since then the chapel, the parish house and the rectory have been added.

St. Mary’s Memorial Episcopal Church in Wayne was erected in 1890, after eight years of preliminary meetings, while St. Martin’s in Radnor has been active since 1887.

The Baptist Church in Birmingham Township, Delaware County, was the third of that denomination in the state of Pennsylvania. A log meeting house was built in 1718 after a period of years in which meetings were held in private homes. In 1770 the log structure was replaced by a stone building which sufficed until the present church was built a hundred years later.

Radnor Baptist Church originated over the anti-slavery agitation in Great Valley Baptist Church, when Rev. Leonard Fletcher and his followers, who were opposed to slavery, asked for letters to form a new church. These letters were granted to 79 persons, who formed Radnor Baptist Church in 1841. They purchased the “Radnor Scientific and Musical Hall” which they used for a church building until 1890. Later the Central Baptist Church of Wayne was organized with the original building still standing between Lancaster Pike and West Wayne avenues, near the center of Wayne.

As early as the beginning of the 18th Century there were log cabin Presbyterian Churches in Delaware County, with thier congregations made up principally of Scotch-Irish immigrants. The first Presbyterian Church in Delaware County was organized in Middletown Township in about 1728. In 1762 the log cabin was replaced by a stone building to which the congregation brought their own charcoal foot-stoves. In 1879 this building was destroyed by fire. But before the year was out a new edifice had been dedicated, and quite recently a new church wing built on colonial lines has been added to the older structure.

In 1818, the Philadelphia Presbytery ordered two churches established, one in Springfield and the other in Aston Township. The former never even reached the point of organization. Of the latter, which was known as the Blue Church, or Mount Gilead, nothing now remains of the building which became inactive after a few years of existence.

Among other Delaware County Presbyterian Churches that were organized a hundred years or more ago are the Marple Church near Broomall, built in 1835; the Darby Presbyterian Church, originally started along Congregational principles in 1845; the Presbyterian Church of Darby Borough, founded by twenty people in 1851; a Presbyterian’s chapel in Todmorton, originally built for employees of Crookville Mills in 1850, and Leeper’s Church in Ridley Township, built before 1850.

The Wayne Presbyterian Church was organized almost 51 years ago in June, 1870. The first church building, still standing to the East of the present one, was built by J. Henry Askin on land which he had donated. He also built the first manse, the large white house facing South on Lancaster avenue, several blocks from the church. This old Manse is now the home of Mr. Walter Lister.

(To be continued)

The forming of Delaware County, part 3 (industries) – William Penn

In last week’s column we wrote of the many mills in Delaware County in the early days, the first one of which there is record being the grist mill established on Chester Creek in 1683 by a partnership of ten men, of whom William Penn was one. Among later mills of this type was the one operated in Radnor Township by William Davis in the early 1700’s. On the whole, however, Radnor Township had fewer mills and tanneries than most of its neighbors. This was due, according tot he historians who compiled the comprehensive volume on “Southeastern Pennsylvania”, to the fact that the creeks in the Township “were not large enough to produce a large quantity of power, and transportation difficulties discouraged 19th century industrialists.”

Among the many other types of mills that flourished generally throughout Delaware County were fulling mills. These were for the preparation of felt, for which there must have been extensive use in those early days since there are records of so many of these mills, particularly on “the famous Darby River”. One advertisement tells of a fulling mill in this vicinity where one could have “woolen cloth or druggets, milled, dyed, sheared and pressed; tammies and duroys scoured and pressed, and cloth or yarn dyed blue”.

Other types of mills which seemed to have been productive were those for the manufacture of such varied commodities as paper, leather, blades, snuff, powder, cotton yarn, flour, carpets, silk yarn and woolen goods.

Tanneries were not one of the very early industrial developments of Delaware County, although by the middle of the 18th Century there were a number of flourishing ones. Among these was a tan yard operated in Radnor in 1766 and 1767 by Adam Siter. There were apparently no forges or furnaces in Delaware County until about the same time as when tanneries became an important industry. This absence of early furnaces and forges was due in part to the lack of the iron ore which is so plentiful in some other parts of Pennsylvania. One of the earliest forges was one at Leiperville on Crum Creek while another was at the present Glen Mills.

Among the most interesting of these old time mills were those for the manufacture of paper. As early as 1729 the famous Willcox Paper Mills, then called the Ivy Mills, prepared paper for the United States Treasury Department, as well as for the governments of South America and for certain of the European countries.

During the 20th Century innumerable new industries have made their appearance in Delaware County. Few of these, however, are in Radnor Township. For the most part they center in the Chester district, the city of Chester itself being one of the outstanding ports and centers of industry along the Atlantic seaboard. Among the businesses with national and sometimes international fame are the Scott Paper Company, the Viscose Company, Congoleum, Nairn, Inc., Sun Shipbuilding Company, Sun Oil, Pure Oil, and Sinclair Refining Companies. Still others are Baldwin Locomotive Works, Westinghouse Electric, Aberfoyle Manufacturing Company for making cotton materials, General Steel Castings Corporation and Ford Motor Company.

From that first Delaware County grist mill established by William Penn and his partners in 1683 until now, when the County is a veritable center of all sorts of industries, is after all but a matter of a little more than 250 years.  IN that comparatively short time our county has become a “vital workshop . . . of which America can be proud”, to quote once more from our history of “Southeastern Penn-eastern Pennsylvania”.

With the growth of machine-operated industries came problems of labor. Early in the 19th Century a movement for a shorter day’s work began in both England and America. In February, 1836, a meeting to oppose the long hour system was held by employees of cotton mills on Chester Creek. In May of the same year the group demanded higher wages or less hours of labor. These were among the first “labor meetings” in the country, since they presented the demands of the employees as a unit.

Soon meetings similar to the one held by the employees of the Chester County cotton-mills were held throughout all Delaware County. With the aid of the press, these groups compelled the State to pass a ten hour law in July, 1848, with the Delaware County representative in the Legislature strongly advocating the measure. Many persons contended, however, that the government could not determine by law how long a man should work. But by 1855 the law was really effective. It is interesting to note that this statute also prohibited the employment of children under thirteen years of age. A fine of fifty dollars was to be imposed for non-observance of this new statute.

Even as early as 1836 the employees of Crozer’s West Branch Mills called a strike to protest the discharge of one of its group. Later they held another strike to obtain higher wages. Though records do not show to what extent these strikers obtained their ends, they do indicate the birth of groups of employees working together for a common benefit. Now some hundred and more years later labor unions are so strong in Delaware County that the employees of every large industry are affiliated with the CIO, the AFL or a local company union.

(To be continued)

The forming of Delaware County, part 2 Conestoga Road

In the early days of the colonization of Pennsylvania, Delaware County had the unique experience of a crown appointed proprietor in the person of William Penn. His advanced ideals and social theories gave the people of this section their first experience in real democratic government.

Very early in its political existence Delaware County gave its support to the Republican Party. Indirectly, this was due in a great measure to the large Quaker residency in the county. Always interested in matters of justice and humanitarianism, Quaker sympathy was with the freedom of the slaves from the time their freedom became an issue. Even as early as the American Revolution citizens of Delaware COunty went on record as opposing slavery.

So although political opinion was generally Federalistic before the Civil War, the majority of voters of Delaware and Chester Counties naturally agreed with teh political philosophy of the Republican Party when it was organized-and to this day Delaware County has, generally speaking, remained a bulwark of Republicanism.

It was in October 1682 that Penn first set foot upon his property in Upland, which in about 1700 was to be re-named Chester. A memorial shaft at the corner of Front and Penn Streets marks the place of his landing as he came up the Delaware River. A little more than a year earlier Deputy Governor William Markham, representing his cousin, Penn, had established Upland as the seat of the Colonial Government of Pennsylvania. Penn chartered it as a borough on October 13, 1701. The courthouse, built in 1724 near what is now Fifth and Market Streets, is said to be the oldest consecutively used public building in the entire country.

Chester is the only city in Delaware County, having been incorporated by an Act of Assembly on February 13, 1866. It belongs in the third class group. In addition to this one city, there are 25 boroughs and 21 townships, Radnor and Concord, each with an area of 13.80 square miles are the largest in the county.

Townships are divided into two groups, first class and second class, according to their “needs, development, and density of population” rather than population itself. Those having a population of 300 or more persons per square mile are first class and all others are second class.  Radnor will this month celebrate its 50th anniversary as a first class township.

Strictly speaking, Pennsylvania’s settlers were not pioneers. Some others had preceded them along the Delaware River. When they arrived they found other white men as well as an Indian population. In the most part, the latter were friendly and already accustomed to trading food and materials for warm clothing. However, to the newcomers was to fall the work of clearing, since the greater part of what is now Delaware County was then virgin forest.

Most of these settlers arrived in the late summer or early fall since summer is the least hazardous season in which to cross the Atlantic in a small craft. Their first task was to build a shelter against the elements. Since timber was plentiful and lime was available these shelters usually took the form of crude log houses. When the snows of winter melted, the work of clearing was resumed. For the most stumps were left in the ground, and these with the field stones which also remained, meant that the lot which the farmer ploughed was a very rough one.

However, the soil was not really rocky, and the crops were mostly good from the wheat, corn, rye, oats, flax and tobacco which were sown. Prior to the Revolutionary was livestock belonging to the settlers of Delaware COunty roamed at large. According tot he laws of the Duke of York all cattle, sheep, goats, hogs and horses were to be branded by their owners as a means of identification. For all parts of the county domestic fowls such as we have today were common. These included chickens, geese, ducks and turkeys.

Of some of the earliest roads there is no exact record. Conestoga Road, which was originally an Indian trail from the Delaware to the Susquehanna River, divides Radnor Township almost diagonally. It was opened as a series of links in the chain of communication between Philadelphia and the West. The section extending from Merion Meetinghouse to Radnor was first laid out. This was later extended from Radnor to Moore’s Mill, as Downingtown was then called. The entire route was resurveyed in 1741. From these records we learn that among the stations were Radnor Meeting House and Jerman’s Run. Another early road, the old Lancaster Turnpike, has been frequently described in this column.

All of these early roads, as petitions show, were intended to provide ways “to mill, to market and to meeting”. The mills played an important part in the lives of Pennsylvania’s early settlers. Grist mills and sawmills were often established together for seasonal reasons, just as the ice and coal business were combined at a later time. Even before Penn’s settlers had arrived, Swedes had established a gristmill on the early bank of Cobbs Creek. The earliest mill known to have been in Delaware County was established in 1683 on Chester Creek near Upland, by a partnership of ten men, of whom one was William Penn himself. It was “brought ready-framed from London, and served for grinding corn and sawing boards”. From this beginning many other mills sprang up all over Delaware County, among them a gristmill operated in Radnor in 1710 by one William Davis.

(To be continued)