1914 “Reminiscence Evening” of the “Old Settlers” with Henry Pleasants, Esq., Historian of Radnor Township; history (roads & buildings)

Under title of “With the Old Settlers”, “The Suburban”, of December 4, 1914, reported on a “Reminiscence Evening” held by the Men’s Club in the Saturday Club House earlier that week. Apparently this meeting was a success worth of repetition, for on January 7, 1915, “The Suburban” told of a second such meeting.

Now some 37 years later these personal recollections of an earlier Wayne are of even greater value and interest than they were at the time they were given by men who then remembered personally the times and events of which they spoke.

At the first of these meetings, Henry Pleasants, Esq., was introduced by Township Commissioner Henry P. Conner as “Historian of Radnor Township”, a fitting title since Mr. Pleasants had recorded many of the happenings of Radnor Township where he and his family had already lived for some 50 years. At that time Wayne was, according to Mr. Pleasants, “a very narrow country road about 15 feet in width, crossed by a stream about where the Saturday Club House stands”.

West Wayne avenue was one of the oldest highways in Delaware County, having been opened in 1808. In those days it ran straight through back of where Lienhardt’s bakery was later built, joining the Pike where the old Presbyterian Chapel now stands. In connection with the latter, Mr. Pleasants recalled the magnificent walnut trees which once surrounded it. Beautiful meadows were also part of this early scene. There was no road to North Wayne in those days, only “a little lane that ran from the Pike to the railroad.” There was not even a railroad station at first, Morgans Corner (now Radnor), and Spread Eagle (now Strafford) being the nearest stops.

Wayne’s first station was “a mere platform” back of where the old William Wood property stands on West Lancaster avenue. Used as a shipping place for milk from this section to Philadelphia, it was called Cleavers Landing. This was Wayne in 1865, as Henry Pleasants personally recalled it in this meeting in December, 1914.

In a talk following that of Mr. Pleasants, A. M. Ware, who came to live in this community in 1885, gave the former the credit for having preserved, against some odds, the name of Wayne for the post-office. Because there was another Wayne in the Western part of the state, this postoffice was known as “General Wayne” for a short time. A number of residents in the community then wished to change it to Ithan because of the nearby creek of that name. Mr. Pleasants led the fight against this change. And then when the issue was at its height, the Wayne in the Western part of the state changed its name to Ovid! And Wayne has remained Wayne to this day.

“Sidewalk stages” in Wayne were described in an amusing vein by Mr. Ware. “First mud, mud, mud where overshoes were lost in the Fall and found in the Spring when frost came out of the ground . . . then board walks, then cinder walks, then stone slabs, and then last and best concrete . . . And a little of each of these stages is still with us.”

Herman Wendell as one of the speakers of the evening described the Drexel-Childs building operation of the 1880’s, when Mr. Childs gave carte-blanche to those who were working with him “to go ahead and make this an ideal suburban community”. Frederick P. Hallowell, a member of the Board of Education, told of his first visit to Wayne in the 70’s when “there was no Wayne really”. When he moved here later with his family, the fact that Wayne had electric lights was one of the deciding factors in his making this his choice for a home. Wayne, he recalled, was the second town in the whole country to have a electric light.

At the second of these “Old Settlers” meetings, which was held in January 1915, Colonel WIlliam Henry Sayen was introduced as the “Daddy of the Township Commissioners”. When he came to Wayne in 1880, he rented for his temporary home the Theodore Ramsey house for the sum of $200 yearly, and this he considered high! At that time there were only two churches in the community, the Wayne Presbyterian and the Radnor Baptist. By 1915 this number had grown to eight.

Touching on politics in the early ’80’s, Mr. Sayen listed the Republican “warhorses” as Joseph Childs, Henry Pleasants, Barclay Hall and Tom Jones. Democratic hosts were marshaled by Tryon Lewis, Matthew Wolfe and Dolph Kirk. Polling places for Radnor township were at the Old Sorrell Horse Inn and at the “Old Store” on Conestoga road in Ithan. The old “vest pocket ticket” was used, Mr. Sayen said, but elections were always on the level and nobody ever dared to “set up” a ticket.

The Radnor Library, early predecessor of our present Memorial Library of Radnor Township, was described by Mr. Sayen as the community’s “pioneer enterprise”, meeting in those first days in a room over the Wayne Estate office. T. Stewart Wood, a later speaker in the program, told of the formation of the original Merryvale Athletic Association which was started in the old Lyceum Hall. Among its early projects were boxing and wrestling, although later it included many other sports. Going farther afield, he described Radnor Hunt as a “Hunt without formality”, with John L. Mather as Master of Hounds, adding that “the hunts often came through the village streets.”

Again in reminiscent vein, the speaker told of the large number of fine horses seen along the highways before the turn of the century, adding that “the musical echo of the tallyho horn was surely more pleasant than the hon-honk of the automobile.”

A speaker of real eloquence, Mr. Wood described Wayne of an earlier day as “a country village without stagnation, a happy blend of bucolic innocence and urban sophistication”. He spoke too, of “the high civic spirit of the residents and of an active public opinion” and in a more nostalgic vein of “the natural healthfulness and general hospitality when we were all one happy family.”

No one topic developed at these two meetings was of quite such vital interest to Wayne audiences of that day, as well as to those of the present, as the part played by Mr. Wood in the development of our present Radnor Township School system. This development will be described in a subsequent article in this column.