Old documents found, Martin’s Dam occupants, Colonial Village swimming pool

In the course of writing this series of historic sketches, many quaint old records and documents have come into the temporary possession of your columnist. Of the documents, none has proved more interesting than an insurance policy of 1863, found in the old Martin family Bible, now the property of Mrs. Emily Siter Wellcome and her brother, George Siter, of West Wayne avenue.

The policy was issued to their grandfather, Richard Martin, to cover the machinery in Croton Mill, where Mr. Martin manufactured woolen and cotton material. The mill, located near Martin’s Dam, had been sold in 1841 by James Patterson to Mr. Martin, a former mill owner of Kensington.

The policy was issued by the Fame Insurance Company, an old Philadelphia firm now long out of business. The $60.00 premium covered insurance for one year on “machinery generally, shafting, belting, fixtures, tools, implements and utensils, all contained in the stone and frame mill occupied as a cotton and woolen mill, situated on Croton Creek, Upper Merion Township, Montgomery Co., Pa.” These were valued at $2,700, while “water wheel, drum, gearing and connections contained therein” were insured for $300.

This old mill belonging to Richard Martin was located just across the dam abreast of Martin’s Dam after Croton road takes its turn to the right. At one time there was quite a fall of water at this spot to turn the mill wheel. A small stone house which backed onto Croton road, somewhat to the left of the large house now occupied by Oliver Pepper, stood close to the mill. Like the Pepper house, it was owned at one time by the Richard Martin family. Both the mill and the small stone house have been destroyed.

Another landmark in the Martin’s Dam section was the old Hughes saw mill, owned by William Carver and Abner Hughes, the latter a Welshman who founded the large family of Hughes which later settled all along Croton road.

Abner Hughes’ house, built in 1820, is now occupied by Mrs. DeWitt P. Pugh. Other Hughes homes include the large residence at the corner of Upper Gulph and Croton roads, occupied by the William F. Machold family; the house on Croton and Knox roads, owned by Robert A. Apple, and the home next to it, now occupied by A. McKnight Sykes. Another Hughes house was the one beyond Martin’s Dam, on the left hand side of Croton road, in which A. Lincoln Castle lived for many years.

The lovely, old stone house, now owned by Mrs. Pugh, was the second home of Abner Hughes, the first being a log cabin located on the rear of the same lot. The second home has its rafters pegged together, floors made of heavy oak timber and hand carved mantles. There are fireplaces in nearly every room, with a bake oven in the big fireplace of the former kitchen.

It was in this house that Abner Hughes died in March 1844, leaving the mill and all its appurtenances, as well as the family homestead, to his only son, William. To each of his three daughters, who were all married, he left a house and grounds on Croton road, formerly called Reeseville road, which leads from Reeseville–now Berwyn–to the Schuylkill at Old Swedes Church.

Several years before his father’s death, William Hughes had married Hannah Maris, of Chester County. They had five children, two sons and three daughters. William, Jr., born in 1848 and Frank born in 1857, attended Treemount Seminary. The former worked later in the sawmill with his father, hauling logs, sawing, and delivering lumber.

Frank Hughes learned his trade as a miller at the Arcoln mills, and for many years afterwards operated the grist mill, which, by now was operated in conjunction with the old saw mill. When his father died in 1899, Frank inherited the house and the land, including the mill and the nearby quarry. In 1929, he sold about 40 acres of his holdings to J. Howard Mecke, who was responsible for the development of Colonial Village. He also sold the dam, by the old saw mill, which is now Colonial Village swimming pool. On March 9, 1938, Frank Hughes died in his 83rd year, in the old home built on Croton road 119 years before by Abner Hughes, founder of the family.

In 1927, Mrs. William Z. Hill, a niece of Frank Hughes, and her husband, Dr. Hill, bought from Mr. Hughes an acre of ground on the hilltop across the road from Martin’s Dam. Later they purchased another two acres from Mr. Mecke. Here they have built a home overlooking not only the vast Chester Valley, but the hills beyond – the famous “Forty Mile View.” From their beautifully landscaped hilltop with its many flower gardens, Dr. and Mrs. Hill also look out over Martin’s Dam and Colonial Village swimming pool.

Although the old saw mill was long known as the Hughes Mill, it antedated the Carver and Hughes ownership by some years. Indeed, at one time the primitive method of sawing wood by hand was probably used here. Water power was used, however, by 1800, the date of the Carver and Hughes purchase.

The terms of the sale are interesting in many details, among them that “it is mutually agreed on by the said partners to these presents that the water shall not be confined by the said William Carver and Abner Hughes or any other person acting under them … from falling into its natural course leading to the said Henry Zook’s Mill Dam more than 48 hours at any time; but should the water be longer detained, the said Henry Zook, his heirs or assigns shall have free liberty to enter on the hereby conveyed premises and draw or open any flood gate or gates that may be erected thereon and give the water full liberty to flow into the said course …”

This Henry Zook dam is now Martin’s Dam, named after the Richard Martin family, and the property of the Martin’s Dam Club. The Club was formed in 1924 by a small group of public spirited men in the Wayne area for the benefit of their children and their friends, and is now enjoyed by a second generation of children, as well as their parents.

(To be continued)

(For information in this article, Mrs. Patterson is indebted to Mrs. W. Z. Hill and to Mrs. John Henry. The latter, who is the granddaughter of Mrs. Phoebe Hughes, has lent her the April 1940 “Bulletin of the Historical Society of Montgomery County,” in which Annie Brooke Simpson, daughter of William Hughes, has written an article on “The Old Hughes Mill.” Any further information on the Martin’s Dam neighborhood will be welcomed by Mrs. Patterson.)