Much has appeared recently in this column concerning Strafford, our neighbor to the west. More will appear in the future concerning that old settlement, including the history of the Old Eagle School and of the large three stories building now known as Spread Eagle Mansion. In this week’s column we turn to Ithan, our neighbor to the east.
Like Wayne, Ithan was once rolling farm land. Unlike Wayne it has never grown into a consolidated and thriving community – on the other hand it has always maintained much of its rural charm, with the Conestoga road running through it and with the old Ithan Store the center of community interest. Conestoga road itself dates back more than two hundred years now, having originally been an Indian trail from the Delaware River to the Susquehanna River.
In the middle and latter part of the 19th century, after the Indians had mostly disappeared from the Pennsylvania scene, but automobiles, telephones and electricity had not yet appeared, a great part of Ithan belonged to the J. Hunter Ewing estate. Radnor was then called Morgan’s Corner, where the Chew family owned most of the land. Among other landowners were the Bories, the McCreas, the Matlacks, the Parks and the Meigs. The houses on Radnor road near the railroad, which are still occupied, were then called “Cork Row”.
Ithan itself was then a group of straggline buildings and huge farms. Going west on Conestoga road, the traveller came to the old Quaker Meeting, still an historic landmark to this day. To the East of the meeting house was the Dr. Blackfan home, while beyond it was the general store, now known as the Ithan Store operated by Robert Curley. Nearby were the saddler’s, the wheelwright’s and the blacksmith’s shops. Homes in this vicinity were those of the Ericksons, the Sloans, the Joyces and the Joseph Childs. Then there were the Sorrel Horse Inn, one of the most historic road houses in the vicinity, and the Odd Fellows Hall, the latter the Isaac Fields property.
Near Five Points was the pottery plant. Swinging from there in a southwesterly direction there were few houses until the Baptist Church was reached. Near there were the homes of the Heagys, the Lawrence Rameys, the Greens, the Litzenbergs, the Charles Pughs and the Dan Abrams. The latter was later purchased by W. Hinckle Smith, while the vast McFadden property was once Joseph Worrell’s grist mill.
The home of Anderson Kirk and that of James J. Beadle were on Ithan avenue. The property that was the blacksmith shop of Samuel McElroy at one time, later belonged to the Brownings. dan Geiger and the Heuves families lived on Lowry’s lane, while the Miller place later became the Cassat estate. On the highway near Villanova College was the McKeown farm, and nearby was the home of Frank Paul. Also on the turnpike were the properties of Peter Penn-Gaskell Hall and the Browns. The corner so long occupied by Brackbills’ farm Market was the home of Mrs. Hayward, a beautiful house built on the ruins of an earlier building destroyed by fire. The Young and Streefer families had been successive inmates of the older house.
Much of this information on Ithan and its general environs in the early seventies was given in an interview with Thomas J. Harkins that was published in The Suburban some years ago. Born in Philadelphia in 1858, Mr. Harkins threw in his lot at an early age with John H. Beadle, whose family were among the first settlers of Ithan. John Beadle at that time owned a large farm at Eagle, near Wayne, later moving to Radnor road.
During a long and useful life Tom Harkins saw many changes in Ithan, the community in which he made his home. Always active in the affairs of that community, he was for many years inspector and later the judge of elections in Ithan. He also served as registry assessor and was road forman for the Township. His business as a truck farmer carried him to all corners of the district and won him a wide circle of friends.
When the Ithan postoffice came into existence he became its first mail carrier, a position which he held until he resigned three years later. For nearly fifty years he was sexton of St. Martin’s chapel, first assuming his duties when the chapel was organized in the School house in 1893. Mr. Harkins was as familiar with the early days of Wayne as he was with that of his own community of Ithan. He remembered the old Lyceum Hall when it was located on the Turnpike near the present site of the Wayne Iron Works. He remembered this Turnpike, too, when it was a straggling, shaded, country lane. What is more, he played a part in the development as it was by J. Henry Askin and carried on by the Wayne Estate.
(Information which may be used in future succeeding articles about the Ithan district will be gratefully received by Mrs. Patterson, Windermere Court, Wayne.)