Captain John G. W Dillin, Dillin’s Store

22_image01Continuing the story of Radnor in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the accompanying picture shows a group assembled on the porch of the General Store on King of Prussia road. The man in the center of the picture is Captain John G.W. Dillin, now a resident or Drexel Hill, who celebrated his 94th birthday on the 28th of July.

Famous for his extensive knowledge of guns, Captain Dillin has published a book widely read by sportmen, called “The Kentucky Rifle.” He was also an authority on rabies in a day when little was known of that disease. He published a 20-page treatise called “Rabies Past and Present.” which contained “the account of 35 cases of rabies in dogs, horses, cattle and swine, beginning 1864 and ending about 1922,” according to an advertisement concerning the pamphlet.

Of himself Captain Dillin has this interesting bit to say in the foreword of the treatise:
“I was born July 28, 1860, near Valley Forge (where my two grandfathers endured the hardships with General Washington) in a log cabin farm where I lived for 25 years. I acquired my three R’s at a little stone school house called Carr’s School, located near what is now the town of Wayne. I can remember that we used pokeberry juice for ink, and I hated school and took every opportunity to evade going. I quit school when I could read in the fourth reader.

“During my life time, I have been a farmer, storekeeper, lumberman, woodsman and big game hunter. I have soldiered with the National Guard of Pennsylvania, and have been both member and coach of many National Military rifle and revolver teams. As a naturalist, I am known as an authority on the extinct Passenger Pigeon. I am the author of the book entitled ‘The KentuckyRifle’ and am a lover of fiddles and firearms.”

The children standing on either side of Captain Dillin in the picture, include Dorothy Wolf, Ethel Morris and Ida Morris, all former residents of Radnor.

In the June 25, 1954 issue of “The Suburban,” an interesting old picture of Dillin’s store was published in this column. At that time it was stated that neither the date of the picture or the identity of the men or boys in it was known to your columnist. Ray Yocom now gives the date as 1898, and in the foreground of the picture are Tryon Lewis from Ithan, and to his left, his horse and buggy in which he made daily trips to Dillin’s store. The boy next to Mr. Lewis is Mr. Yocom. The gentleman with the cane and beard was Peter Pechin who owned a farm on King of Prussia road. His son was Nate Pechin, one time sheriff of Delaware County who passed away not so very long ago.

The picture was taken by Lucy Sampson, of Berwyn, according to Mr. Yocom. This is the first indication of the sex of the “photographic artist” who made several of the pictures already illustrating this column. It is interesting to know that “L.A. Sampson” was a woman in a period when women in any field of business were the rather rare exception. In the early 1900’s this picture of the Old Store made one of the very popular postcards of its time, as shown by the number which were mailed to Mr. Yocom in his California home, and which have been preserved by him all these years.

Another matter of slight confusion has been cleared up by Mr. Yocom’s notes. In the early 1900’s Charles A. Dillin, father of Oscar and John Dillin, operated a grocery store in the lower part of the old Red Lion Inn in Ardmore. Some records have stated that the Old Store in Radnor was once called the Red Lion Inn, an error which could easily be made because of the duplication of the Dillin name in stores in both Radnor and in Ardmore.

(To be continued)

1896 photo of the children of Radnor School on King of Prussia Road

21_image01Among the many fascinating pictures of old Radnor that have been sent to your columnist by Ray Yocom, of Long Beach, Calif., not many will bring back more nostalgic memories than this one of old Radnor School No. 4. The picture, Mr. Yocom writes us, was taken in 1896. It shows Miss Clara Thornbury, the teacher of that school at the time, and about 30 of her pupils.

Such a picture is a real find, since cameras were not the commonplace possession that they are now. When groups like this wanted to have a picture made of themselves, they had to arrange with “a photography artist” to stop by. This particular picture was made by just such an artist, L.A. Sampson, of Berwyn.

In the sedate and orderly crowd with eyes to the front, as “teacher” probably ordered, there seems to have been a sligntly disturbing element in the way of one small boy in the exact center of the picture.

Although Mr. Yocom cannot identify all of his schoolmates, he can name the following as being in the picture, in addition to himself: Cecilia Hobson, Sylvester Sullivan, Abe Hobson, Frank Quigley, Joe Casey, Eddie Layfield, Johnny Gallagher, Johnny Murray, Cliff Croll, Harold Righter, Dorothy Wolf, Margie Dillin and Emma Lane. (If any of our readers can add to this list, the names they send in will be printed in a column of a later date.)

A map dating back to 1873 that has been lent to your columnist by Paul Thomas, of “Radnor House,” shows that this small stone schoolhouse was in existence then, and probably for some years previous to that time. It is definitely one of the oldest school houses in Radnor township, dating back to a time when the children of the township obtained their education in one room school buildings in seven widely scattered districts.

This particular small school building has been preserved to this day, although in altered form and for other purposes. Standing still on its original site, on King of Prussia road, it is now J.J. Ryan’s gas station, located directly adjacent to St. Martin’s Sunday School building, which is located on the corner of Glenmary lane and King of Prussia road. At the time this picture of the old school was taken, the Shea family lived in a house that stood on the site of the present Sunday School building.

Among his momentos, Mr. Yocom has kept two of his early report cards, one for the school term of 1898, the other undated. It shows that Miss Thornbury taught her pupils a wide range of subjects, from reading to nature study. There was also spelling, writing, arithmetic, geography, grammar, history, physiology, music and drawing. In those days a teacher must needs be versatile, indeed, in her talents!

A note at the bottom of the report card states that “an average below 75 is not satisfactory,” a fact that apparently needed to bother young Ray Yocom not at all, since his average was always many points above that. On the back of the card were spaces for the signature of “parent or guardian.” Young Yocom’s were always signed by his uncle or aunt, Mr. and Mrs O.S. Dillin. Mr. Dillin was owner of the Old Store, with whom Mr Yocom spent all of his younger days.

In regard to the pastimes of a group of young people such a those shown in the picture, Mr. Yocom writes that while they apparently did not have much to do, they still “certainly found lots of fun for themselves… in the spring we could hardly wait until it was warm enough to go in swimming in the old Engine House Dam at Radnor, or the Fenimore Dam at Wayne.

“Then there was fishing in Gulph Creek and jigging for suckers at night with lanterns in the Darby Creek. Duch and Davy was our favorite game in the cattle pen at the railroad station… Fox and Geese in the old Radnor School yard. And we had the old swimming holes at the Gulph Creek… played some baseball, caddied at St. Davids Golf Club … I would trap for’ muskrats in Gulph Creek (never caught one though). All the boys had guns of some kind, we would hunt rabbits… of course, sledding and sleighing and skating on Mott’s Dam . . . shinny on the ice… we always cut our shinny sticks from shapely saplings in the woods… we also tried to ride cows out in the pasture, holding on to their horns for handle bars.”

And so Mr. Yocom’s memory travels back over a happy boyhood in Radnor – centering always round the Old Store, which was his home for some years. Next week’s column will continue with reminisences of the somewhat older boy, and his pictures.

(To be continued)

1898 photo: O.S. and John G. Dillin in The Old Store and delivery wagon

In May and June of this year several columns of “Your Town and My Town” were devoted to the story of Morgan’s Corners, as Radnor was called in days gone by. Following the column of June 25, when a picture of the Old Store was used, your columnist received letters from two old time residents of Radnor.

One was O. Howard Wolfe, now living in Milford, Pa., who, during the course of 65 years’ residence in Radnor Township, served first as president of the Radnor School Board, and later of the Radnor Board of Township Commissioners. Another was Ray Yocom, who left Radnor in 1906 after having spent the first 20 years of his life in Radnor.

Mr. Yocom has recently sent an invaluable collection of old pictures, letters and newspaper clippings. Two of these pictures are shown in today’s column, with more to follow from time to time.

19_image01A notation on the back of this picture shows that it was taken “about 1898” by L.A. Sampson, photographic artist, of Berwyn. To the left is O.S. Dillin, proprietor of the Old Store and to the right is John G. Dillin, his brother. The latter was an authority on rifles of that period, and had himself designed one.

The shelves and cases back of the counter, with the gas chandelier above, will doubtless stir the curiosity or our readers, just as they do that of your columnist. One resident of Radnor, whose memory goes back to the time of this picture, says that among the merchandise sold by Mr. Dillin were such staples as flour, sugar, syrup and molasses. Kerosene was also a staple, since lamps and candles were then the only means of home illumination. Calico by the yard was sold, and articles of clothing, including shoes.

19_image02 19_image02In Mr. Yocom’s collection of old time pictures are several of this delivery wagon and of “Frank,” the whlte horse. Of the vehicle Mr. Yocom has written, “this was a beautiful wagon for those days… I remember so well when Uncle got it.” And be adds, “I loved to go along with the driver to deliver groceries.”

Reading from left to right, the men in the picture are Louis Goebel (now living in Berwyn), Charley Ryan, Ray Yocom, Tom Lane, Peter Pechln (with beard and Straw hat), Walter Campton and Harry Lienhardt. Peter Pechin was the father of the late “Nate” Pechin, sheriff of Delaware County, who died only a few years ago. Walter Campton’s father was at one time ticket agent at Radnor Station.

And of Harry Lienhardt, Mr. Yocom writes, “he delivered bread to us from their bakery in Wayne,”
and then he adds, “and they had good bread!” Founded in the ’80’s the original Lienhardt store remained in business in the middle of Wayne’s business block until few years ago, when it passed into new ownership, although still retaining the old name.

(To be Continued)

Zook’s Dam (later Martin’s Dam), woolen mill, house photos

A little more than two years ago, in the summer of 1952, a long series of articles appeared in this column, tracing the history of Martin’s Dam, back to the time long before it was a popular swimming club. Naturally enough, the history of the dam developed into the story of that neighborhood and of the old mills and houses in that particular section of Chester Valley. However, it was some time after that series was published that three interesting pictures came into the possession of your columnist. Unfortunately only two are sufficiently clear to be reproduced.

On the back of the one that is too faded to include in today’s column is written “Swimming at the ’Old Cat Hole’, Martins Dam.” It shows the rope, the predecessor many times removed, of the one that now hangs from a branch of the tall tree in front of the bath houses, near the picnic table and fireplaces. But how different the background then from now! There seems to have been a crude platform, and there is a rowboat tied up to the platform. But there are no sturdily built docks, no lifeguard stands, no sliding boards, no floats. The background looks bare, indeed, to the eyes of a generation accustomed to all that has been done to “the old cat hole” in the last 30 years.

17_image01The other two pictures, shown above, are of the house across the from the dam breast, the first taken about 1906, when it was first purchased by George R. Park.

17_image02The second picture was taken a few years later, after Mr. Park had remodelled the house. It is now the property of Mr. and Mrs. C.B. Basinger, who acquired it recently.

In 1841, Richard Martin and his wife, Hannah, acquired the woolen mill near Zook’s Dam, as Martin’s Dam was originally called. The Martins moved their young family from Kensington into what was the original part of this house, the center part as it now stands. As the Martin family grew in numbers, Mr. Martin added first one wing, and then the other. It was this Martin family that gave its name to Martin’s Dam.

The original part of the house undoubtedly dates back to pre-Revolutionary days, with its great fireplace and wide triple doors, and with a huge baking oven in the basement under this fireplace. An old mill, once directly opposite the entrance to Martin’s Dam Club, was torn down by Mr. Park when he acquired the property in 1906.

The mill stone was used at the entrance to the house, to which Mr. Park added still a third wing.

After Mr. Park sold the historic old house, it was occupied for some years by Miss Isabel Maddison. As the present property of Mr. and Mrs. Basinger, it will be one of the historic homes to be visited by the Historical Society on October 16.