The old “Wayne Gazette,” part 3

In one cursory glance over the front page headlines of “The Suburban”, the reader of today obtains a quick overall picture of the local news of Radnor township for the week. not so with the “Wayne Weekly Gazette” of 80 years ago. He had to turn to the fourth and last page, where under the general heading of “Local News” there was a short paragraph or two on some of the more important happenings of the week. As stated before in this column, the front page was devoted to poems, essays and short stories, each of the latter with its very obvious moral. Indeed, so well hidden away were the local news items that this columnist did not at first discover what a valuable record they presented of life in our community in the very early seventies.

Under date of August 3, 1871, there is a very brief story of “our new post office,” a news item that would make the large headlines and a picture on the front page of any current local weekly. The “Wayne Weekly Gazette” merely states (and in very small print): “Thanks to our most excellent representation in Congress from this district, Honorable Washington Townsend, our new postoffice has been established and named agreeable with the wishes of the members of the Wayne Lyceum and other residents of Wayne. Mr. Robert H. McCormick has been appointed postmaster. The correct name of the office is Louella Post Office, Delaware County, Pennsylvania.”

(In this connection it is interesting to note that while the postoffice was officially “Louella”, the “Gazette” always refers to the community as “Wayne.”)

The last two issues of “The Suburban” have carried front page stories with prominent headlines on recent fires in the center of the town. A fire that must have been of equal importance 80 years ago is described in a few words and under a small heading of “Destructive Fire” in the “Gazette”:

“We regret to say the barn which was formerly known as the ‘Cleaver Barn’, now on the plan of Louella farm as No. 6, the property of Mr. J. Henry Askin, was burned to the ground on Thursday morning, between 10 and 12 o’clock. It contained about 50 tons of hay, and the products of about 10 acres of rye. The superintendent of Louella, Mr. George E. Askin, and his assistant, R. H. McCormick, believe it was set on fire. It was insured in the Delaware County Mutual Insurance Company.”

(It would be interesting to know what fire-fighting methods were used in a period so far ante-dating our efficient Radnor Fire Company. There is no mention of this, however.)

In connection with the destructive storm that swept this general section and states farther west in December, our readers might like to hear of the tornado of August, 1872, as recorded under the heading of “Heavy Storm.” “The storm and tornado of Tuesday night was very considerable about the neighborhood of Eagle and Wayne. At the Eagle, things generally have been very lively for some time. Two cows belonging to Mr. Floyd were killed and many trees blown down, etc., but no lives were lost that we heard of. At Wayne nothing very serious occurred, save some flowers and vases went over and down. No buildings, however, were in the least injured. We should be thankful that it was no worse.”

However, the section to the northeast of Wayne did not fare so well in this storm, as Charles Lyle, a gate keeper on the turnpike between King of Prussia and Norristown, was struck by lightning while sitting on his piazza talking to a neighbor. “Mrs. Lyle,” according to the “Gazette”, “found her husband upon his face, quite dead, while Mr. Bernhard recovered, but is still suffering from the shock.”

A small item of interest in the “Local News” column was that in the month of August, 1871, “20,000 quarts of pure milk were sent in all from Wayne to the City.” Just how “pure would that milk be considered now by our Radnor Township Board of Health?

Your columnist was much puzzled by the following item in an August, 1871, “Gazette”: “Kauffman Avenue is this week being graded, preparatory to digging the cellars for the ten cottages to be built by Messrs. Duncan and Richardson for the President of the Wayne Lyceum.” She knew that Mr. Askin was the Lyceum president. But where was “Kauffman avenue”, a name so entirely foreign to Wayne of today? In a “Gazette” of a slightly later date she obtained a clue in a piece about “New Reservoir” which stated that “Mr. Isaac S. Cassin, former Engineer of the Philadelphia Water Department, is now engaged in building a large reservoir, capable of holding about 150,000 gallons of water, on the high ground immediately west of the new cottages on Kauffman avenue. This point is about the highest ground on ‘Louella’ and the basin in the course of erection is intended to supply the entire plan with water.”

As this reservoir of a bygone Wayne was located at what is now approximately the intersection of West Wayne and Bloomingdale avenues, it was “immediately west” of what is now the first block of West Wayne avenue. It would seem that the latter was once Kauffman avenue! And speaking of Bloomingdale avenue it is interesting to know that “Mr. Martien and family were the first residents on this new and beautiful avenue. The family occupy the first house on the west side of the avenue, above Lancaster Pike. Mr. Martien occupies a position on the Pennsylvania Railroad; is a most worthy and excellent young man, and it affords us great pleasure to extend to him and his family a hearty welcome to Wayne.” (From the “Gazette” of August 3, 1871.)

Going a little farther afield in Delaware County the editor of the “Local News” column says of Swarthmore College: “Any one that has not seen this handsome college should take a trip that way as soon as they can. We cannot give the dimensions of the building nor rightly describe the grounds by merely driving by them. We know that it is a school for boys and girls and we think it is a Friends School. Some one that knows more about it will please favor us with a better local. This is another of the adornments of Delaware County. The building is massive.”

(If someone later favored the editor with “a better local” you columnist has not as yet found it. The above seems a little inadequate as the description of the beginning of one of the best known colleges in Delaware County, indeed, in this whole section of the country.)

That “Local News” was not without its humor is evidenced by the story under the title “A Man Forgets his Child.” It seems that “a gentleman, accompanied by two ladies and four children, got off at Villanova, on the Pennsylvania Railroad, with the ladies and three of the little ones, while the other remained quite forgotten and fast asleep on one of the seats. The father was apprised of his neglect by one of the passengers as the train was leaving the station. The bell was pulled and we stopped again, and ye forgetful parent rushed frantically into the car, seized the little slumberer in his arms amid roars of laughter.”