Archaeological Mysteries – Ithan Store

One of the most delightful afternoons that we have spent in many a day was that of Saturday, October 21, when the tour of eight of the historic old houses of Wayne was made under the sponsorship of the Radnor Historical Society. We sincerely hope that many of the readers of this column were also able to go, for these old homes could not fail to interest any who were privileged to see them. The response to our request for a repeat visit and for further information was so graciously received from all who were asked that we hope from time to time to devote a column to this history of each of these houses.

In the meantime, several bits of information came to light. Among the visitors to “Kinterra”, the home of the Misses Watson, on Church road, was Helen Richards Sellers (Mrs. Edwin F. Sellers), of Radnor Inn, a direct descendant of John Richards, Penn grantee 1682, who from point of view of still having the same Richards name can claim to be of the “oldest family” in Radnor Township with the Pugh family the only rivals. Mrs. Sellers was particularly interested in the Watson homestead since it was the Richards family who built the original part of this old stone house in 1718.

Mrs. Robert Dornan, of the Wesley apartments, gives the interesting information that her three nephews, Franklin F. Trainer and Henry C. Trainer, both of Wayne, and Richard D. Trainer, of Strafford Village are the direct descendants of the first male white child to be born in Radnor Township, as told in this column when the history of the Old Ithan Store was given. He was the son of John Jarman and first saw the light of day in that part of the present building at the intersection of Conestoga road and Radnor-Chester road which now houses the Store. In 1769 at the ripe old age of eighty-five, Jarman died in this same house. Mrs. Dornan did the research entailed in establishing the family descent of her nephews from Jarman.

Many requests for information come to “Your Town and My Town”. Some can be answered, some cannot, even after considerable research and some questioning of old-time residents in Radnor Township. Here is the most interesting one to date, and one to which the writer has found no answer as yet. Mr. Leslie Geer, who has recently purchased a home near the intersection of Brookside avenue and Conestoga road, decided to make a garden in his back yard this summer. His property extends from Brookside avenue in an irregular line to a point on Conestoga road just west of the old spring house, from which water was pumped and sold at one time. People are said to have come from miles around in order to obtain water of such purity.

In digging for his garden Mr. Geer struck rock well under the surface of the ground which upon further investigation proved to be part of the foundation of a building of some sort. It is, according to Mr. Geer, an excellent foundation with stones laid one upon another with much exactitude and care. He did not dig extensively enough at the time to discover the dimensions or the shape of the foundation. But he did unearth old horseshoes, long, heavy nails, and iron door hinges, all of them frail with age and rust.

No one in the neighborhood can offer any solution to the question of what sort of building once stood on this foundation, nor has the present writer been able to find any answer. Some one has suggested that i might have been an Inn, since certain old records show that there was one between the Old Sorrel Horse on Conestoga road and the Old Eagle on Lancaster Highway, at a distance of about a mile west of the former. If not an Inn, might it have been a blacksmith shop? Or was it one of the small stone houses along Conestoga built by some early Welshman about the time that the Ithan Store and the original old Radnor Friends meeting was built?

There is one of these little stone houses on Conestoga road not far west of this spot, as the writer well knows, since she lived there herself some years ago. This is the house just to the east of Five Points, now occupied by Mrs. Frank B. Johnston. Originally this house, with its thick stone walls contained two rooms downstairs each with a large fireplace with two bedrooms above as well as an attic, the old stairway to which still remains as it was so many years ago. Alterations made to this simple structure by Mr. and Mrs. R. C. Ware in 1912 converted it into the pleasant white house by the side of the road still dear to the heart of the writer, though it has been many years since she lived there with her family.

Whatever its history, for the present Mr. Geer has covered the excavation with earth again. Later he intends to excavate more thoroughly. In the meantime this column would be glad to pass on to him any information its readers may give on the subject.

(Editor’s Note: Another “discovery” arousing much local interest is a well of considerable depth found by workmen excavating at the old Opera House. Bricked in and more than 20 feet deep, who built it?)