Ashmead’s History of Delaware County, part 1 – Episcopal Church, Old St. David’s

In 1884 L. H. Everets and Company, Philadelphia publishers, brought out a heavy volume of some 767 pages entitled, “History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania”. Its author was Henry Graham Ashmead, who in his preface explains that his history “has been written with the purpose of presenting, as far as could be done in a single volume, an authentic, exhaustive, and unbiased narrative of the events which have occurred in Delaware County from the period of the early settlements within its territory to the present time.”

Nearly a quarter of a century earlier Dr. George Smith had written his “History of Delaware County”. In the meantime much historical material had been reclaimed from the past in all parts of the country through interest awakened by the National Centennial, according to Mr. Ashmead. And, in consequence much information was available to the later historian to which the earlier one had no access.

The writer of this column has made use of Mr. Ashmead’s book not only in recent articles on Radnor Friends Meeting, but also in an earlier one on the great stone commemorating Washington’s march to Valley Forge which was recently rededicated and placed in front of the Rosemont School. In rereading the portion of the History pertaining to Radnor Township, this same writer finds much more that is of interest concerning the Township, so named because its first settlers were natives of Radnorshire in Wales. Incidentally, Radnorshire is mentioned in Welsh history as early as the year 1196, when it was burned by “an invading foe”.

Among much interesting information is that Radnor Street, or Radnor Road as it is now called, was laid out in 1683 and that probably the first settlements along it were made in that year. Running almost due north and south in its straight course through Radnor Township, it divides the Township into two almost equal parts. Among the first families to settle here were those of John Jarman (or Jerman), Stephen Y. Evan, David Meredith, Richard Miles, John Morgan, Evan Protherak, Richard Ormes, William Davids and Howell James. All were Welsh Friends who were domiciled here in less than four years form the date of William Penn’s first arrival in this province. The first white child born in Radnor was John Jerman whose birth occurred on November 12, 1684. Stephen Evans’ daughter, Sarah, whose birth occurred on May 25, 1686, was “the first female child born of European parents in the Township”.

Although most of the early inhabitants of Radnor were Quakers, there were still others “who could only be satisfied with the dogmas preached by ministers of the established church,–the Church of England”. And so as early as the year 1700 a Rev. Mr. Evans of Philadelphia, the first clergyman of the Episcopal Church to preach in Pennsylvania, occasionally visited certain families residing in Radnor Township and preached to them.

Later the people of Radnor petitioned for a minister of their own. In consequence the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in FOreign Parts appointed the Rev. Mr. Club as missionary to Oxford and Radnor, which were about 20 miles distant form each other. Arriving in 1714 “the inhabitants of both Towns received him with great kindness . . . the people of Radnor especially were very thankful to the Society for having been pleased to consider their wants, and renewed their promise of giving him their best assistance and presently after his arrival, heartily engaged to build a handsome stone Church, which have since performed.” This was the beginning of the church edifice now known as Old St. Davids, begun in 1715 and completed in 1717. In the beginning it was usually designated as the Radnor Church.

Mr. Club’s ministry was a short one and he died in 1715. After his death the Church wardens of the Parish wrote to the Society: ” Mr. Club, our late Minister, was the first that undertook the Care of Oxford and Radnor, and he paid dear for it; for the great Fatigue of riding between the two Churches, in such dismal ways and weather as we generally have for four Months in the Winter, soon put a period to his life.”

Oxford and Radnor had some difficulty in obtaining from the Society a successor to Mr. Club, since the Society urged them to make “sufficient allowance” for a minister to reside permanently with them. In answer to this the two towns assured the Society that “they were heartily disposed to do their best; but at present their circumstances would not do great things. They were at present but poor settlers who had a newly settled Land backwards in the Wilderness, and had not yet so much as their own Habitation free from Debts.” But as the Society was anxious not to disappoint the people of Oxford and Radnor, they did appoint a Rev. Mr. Wayman in 1717, and those of the Episcopal faith in Radnor Township had someone to preach to them in Welsh “because many of them do not understand English.”

Mills of various kinds were among the early business enterprises in Radnor Township. As early as 1710 William Davids owned a grist mill which was located on or near the site of the mills operated many years later by Tryon Lewis. Although it is impossible to trace the history of this ancient mill-privilege down through its successive owners this mill of William Davis is believed to be the first enterprise of its kind established in Radnor Township.

A few worn and faded assessment-rolls provide the only authentic sources of information respecting the manufactories of Radnor Township. These show that there were numerous grist mills and sawmills. Adam Siter had one of the early tan yards while William Bailey had a fulling mill. Records of 1802, ’03 and ’04 show Jesse Brooks as the owner of the grist, saw and plaster mills. Other well-known names of the early days of Radnor Township appear among the mills owners: Levi Lewis, Abram Evans, Daniel Maule, John and William Siter, John Pugh, Samuel Colef, Hannah Lewis, and many others. Sites of these mills were mostly on Ithan Creek and Darby Creek.

Mills in operation when Ashmead’s history of the County was published included the Brooke Mills, owned and operated by Joseph W. Worrell; the Evans mills, owned and operated by David Paxon; the Siter mill, owned and operated by Mahlon Edwards and Tryon Lewis mills occupying the site of a mill operated some 174 years before in 1710.

An earthenware pottery kiln near the fifteenth milestone on the old Lancaster Road was built by Eber James in 1829. With the exception of a few brief years he operated this pottery kiln until his death in 1845. Others who managed the works were Benjamin Jones, L. G. James and Isaac Hooper.

(To be continued)