Old sports in the 1860s and ‘70s

Two recent columns of “Your Town and My Town” have been devoted to a review of a quaint old book, “The Old Main Line,” as written by J.W. Townsend 1919. This week’s column will deal with outdoor sports, although they were practically non-existent then as compared to their present day form.

Back in the 60’s, according to Mr. Townsend, football, basketball, hockey, golf, squash and tennis were still unknown. In the late 60’s, “a so-called bicycle appeared… the rider sat on top of a wheel about five feet high with a little wheel to steady it. Woe to him if he struck a stone, as he took ‘a high header’… a man was indeed killed in this way on Lancaster Pike. When the present form of bicycle came years later, with low wheels and rubber tires, they were called ‘safeties.’

“Tennis did not appear until the late 70’s, and although baseball was played in some places it was little known in the suburbs. Cricket came into existence at about this time… the Merion Cricket Club had just been organized. Quoits were played occasionally.

“But the universal game of the 60’s for adults and children was croquet. Hours were devoted to it, and although there was little exercise in it, at least it kept people out-of-doors… on Sundays the gentle croquet mallets rested peacefully in their box.”

“Playing cards were strictly taboo among the Quakers and Presbyterians, who largely predominated in Philadelphia’s social life. Youngsters played parchesi, jackstraws and lotto, while their elders joined in on checkers and backgammon. Billiards and chess were other popular games.

In the late 70’s, when Louella House, in Wayne, became a summer hotel for Philadelphians under the name of Louella Mansions, its owners issued a little booklet setting forth its attractions. Its Casino contained shuffle-boards, a pool table and gymnasium apparatus. The mansion itself contained library, smoking and music rooms, orchestral music every Saturday evening with extensive room for dancing. So, even in a decade or two, popular summer hotels of the Main Line began to offer more in the way of amusement than did the boarding house of the ’60’s.

“Country summering” was becoming increasingly popular with city folks, as indicated by a small prospectus issued by the railway company in 1874. It listed 54 boarding houses from Overbrook to Downingtown with accommodations for 1,330 “quiet guests,” exclusive of the Bryn Mawr Hotel, which held 250. “The Main Line showed the first symptoms of getting gay,” writes Mr. Townsend, “when the Summit Grove Hotel, in Bryn Mawr, got well under way in the summer of 1873. The Bryn Mawr assemblies were the events of the season, with about 500 people attending each of them.

“Other entertainments of the summer were a magic lantern exhibition by Will Struthers; a comic talk by Benjamin Franklin Duane, a mock trial and an Orpheus Club Concert… It is curious to consider that these functions continued through the whole of hot summers… Philadelphians had not yet acquired the expensive and unnatural habit of seeking distant climes for cold in summer as well as for heat in winter.”

Mr. Townsend’s account continues, “The hotel life was quite similar to that of the old boarding houses, only it was gayer and more formal… In the afternoons nearly everybody drove or rode. Cavalcades of perhaps 25 riders would go out together and explore the country roads for miles around. Women and girls used only sidesaddles… the Radnor Hunt had not started and little hunting or jumping was indulged in. The roads were all dirt roads except Lancaster Pike, which was very rough and ridgey, without any smooth surfacing. The dirt roads were fine for horseback, but became a foot deep in mud when it rained, and in winter were almost impassable. The old Haverford road that ran through the Whitehall district was then a “plank road,” that is, one half of it had boards laid close together, unpleasant to ride on but a great boon in muddy weather.”

When the Bryn Mawr tract was laid out, its avenues were covered with a coarse gravel, which made for very slow travel. These roads exasperated Mr. Cassatt, vice-president of the railroad who was fond of driving his four-in-hand coach. He accepted the position of Township Road Supervisor and was instrumental in obtaining macadamized roadbeds. He also got a company of his friends to buy Lancaster pike as far as Paoli and to make a macadamized road of it. Toll was charged to keep it in order and “it was a boon” to the driving public for many years. In later years the toll gates were abolished, when the State bought the Pike and maintained it by taxes.

Next week’s column continues with more excerpts from Mr. Townsend’s book, in particular concerning the dress of the Main Line men and women in the 60’s. Other matters to be described range from transportation to lightning rods.

Favorite local resorts, entertainment and amusements

The July 5 column of “Your Town and My Town” contained a partial review of an old book from the office library of the late J.M. Fronefield. Today’s column continues with the story of social life along the Main Line 80 years and more ago, as it has been described in “The Old Main Line,” written by Joseph W. Townsend in 1919.

It was in the 80’s, according to Mr. Townsend, that Philadelphians, seeking to escape the heat of the city’s summer, began to come out west of city line. The Wildgoos boarding house near Haverford College was one of the favorite resorts and one of which Mr. Townsend evidently knew a great deal personally. It was probably very much like Wayne’s Louella Mansion and the Bellevue Hotel, though these two did not reach the height of their popularity until a slightly later date.

“Wildgoos boarders were,” according to Mr. Townsend, “a jolly, good-natured crowd, living all summer like one large, happy family. Rooms could be engaged only for the entire summer, and were in such demand that there was always a waiting list.” However, to modern youth, the pleasure of that kind of Main Line summer life would probably seem very dull, with no automobiles, no movies and no sports as young people know them today. Even in Philadelphia itself there were only two or three theatres and these featured neither comic opera nor musical comedies.

Most of the houses in the country had only coal oil lamps and candles for illumination in the evening. Weather permitting, this part of the day was usually spent on the porch or on the lawn. On stormy nights, summer boarders were crowded into the parlor for music or games. Among the latter was one of “Familiar Quotations,” played like “Author.” According to our Main Line historian, “the game consisted of cards having about 100 quotations from both ancient and modern authors and was a liberal education in itself to those who played it, making a lasting impression of the best thoughts of the best authors. Proceeds from the sale of the game went to the “Sanitary Fair,” held in Logan Square during the war… selections were made by a well-known Philadelphian woman, Mrs. Lydia Hunn, the grandmother of Mrs. Charles Baily, of Strafford. Mr. Townsend comments in his book that “Mrs. Hunn must have read everything and remembered the best of it.”

One favorite evening entertainment consisted of charades, rebuses and conundrums. The latter were most frequently derived from the Bible, as most people were familiar with it. Spirit mysteries were very much in vogue then, as witnessed by the popularity of Planchette, predecessor of the Ouija Board.

It was “a small, thin, heart shaped piece of wood standing on little revolving rollers with one leg in the form of a short lead pencil. A large piece of paper was placed on a table, with the Planchette board on top of it. As one or more participants in the game placed the tips of their fingers on the board, it soon began to move.” The skeptical Mr. Townsend adds, “and the pencil naturally traced on the paper the semblance of the words that were in the operator’s mind!”

So much for indoor amusements. As for outdoors, there was driving in the little carriages built for two and designated as “buggies.” In Mr. Townsend’s opinion, “buggy driving was more sociable than modern motoring, as the horse did not require constant or undivided attention, having sense enough to turn when the road turned, which the motor car has not. The horse could also be guided with one hand, when the drivers’ intentions were serious and reciprocated. On long drives, the horses had to be rested frequently and roadside berries, with which the Main Line then abounded, were an agreeable accompaniment.”

Picnics were sometimes organized, occasionally even as far as to Valley Forge, though that was a long, tiresome drive with horses in those days. A popular picnic spot and a more nearby one was the Morris Dam on Roberts road. Wildgoos boarders and neighbors joined in these, some coming from as far as Overbrook. Moonlight hay wagon rides were another form of amusement among the older people as well as the younger. However, all of these pastimes and amusements were for the six days of the week only, for “Sunday in the 60’s was very different from that of today,” according to Mr. Townsend. (This columnist might add that in the 30 years since this book was printed, Sunday pastimes have changed still more!)

On Sundays in the 60’s, “church going, walking and visiting were the order of the day. Those who took long drives were often frowned upon by their more religious neighbors. Sunday evenings were mostly spent in hymn singing. There were, of course, no Sunday newspapers. The Pennsylvania Railroad ran but one train and that was from Philadelphia at eight o’clock in the morning. None went into Philadelphia from the suburbs.” Mr. Townsend tells of an early report of a committee of the railway company’s stockholders which devoted five pages to the iniquity of the company’s doing any business on Sunday.

(Sports in the 60’s, including a reference to “the gentle croquet mallets” will be described in next week’s column.)

Old American Flags

04_image01An editorial in “The Suburban” of June 28 once again called the attention of its readers to the fact that “it is only good citizenship to display the flag on our most important national holidays,” and made a plea for a more noteworthy display in our business area on July 4 than had been shown on Memorial Day and Flag Day.

Shown in this week’s column is a picture of the great American flag, hung between two old trees in front of the home of Mr. and Mrs. Theodore B. Brooks, on Windermere avenue. Mr. Brooks, with John Brooke, of North Wayne avenue, had put up the 90-year-old flag. Its 34 stars indicate that it was made between 1861 and 1863, since it was in 1861 that Kansas was admitted into the Union as the 34th state, and West Virginia in 1863.

This Flag, with its dimensions of 25 by 13 feet, has been borrowed more than once by John Brooke from his aunt, Mrs. Nathan Pechin. It had been one of the cherished possessions of her husband, “Nate,” one of Wayne’s most widely-known citizens up to the time of his death a few years ago.

The old flag had come to Mr. Pechin from his uncle, Frank Hoy, who many years ago operated the old King of Prussia Hotel. During most of the years that the family owned the old hostelry, this large flag was displayed from the wide front porch on all national holidays.

As the writer watched the old Flag blowing in the breezes on this Fourth, she felt a sense of pleasure that they were gentle ones, for the stars and stripes are frail with age. There are some small holes here and there in the still bright bunting, and it is so transparent that one can see the leaves of the tree beyond it.

The excellent photograph shown above was taken by Bruce Redfield, formerly of Wayne. Of the other two flags, the one farther away from the camera is another interesting one, since it displays but 45 stars. That dates it as between July 4, 1896, and November 4, 1908, the date when Utah and Oklahoma were admitted as the 45th and 46th states. The third flag is a modern one.

(The second installment of a brief review of “The Old Main Line” will be presented in next week’s issue.)

History of 1860s and ‘70s, The Welsh Barony, historical book suggestions

More than eight years ago, when “Your Town and My Town” became a regular weekly feature of “The Suburban,” several of its early columns were based on information assembled by Joseph M. Fronefield, on Wayne as it appeared in the early ’80’s.

Mr. Fronefield first came to Wayne in 1881, and established a small drug store in the old Lyceum building, now remodelled into the Colonial building. After his death, the notes were lent to the writer by his son, Joseph M. Fronefield, 3d, as material for this column.

Mr. Fronefield also left a large number of books of historic interest and value. Among them are “The Wayside Inns on the Lancaster Roadside between Philadelphia and Lancaster,” written in the early 1900’s by Julius F. Sachse; “In old Pennsylvania,” by Anne Hollingsworth Wharton in 1920, and “Old Trails and Roads in Penn’s Land,” by John Faris, 1927.

The book of the greatest local interest is “The Old Main Line,” written by Joseph W. Townsend in 1919, and lent to your columnist in 1950 by Herbert S. Casey, then president of the Radnor Historical Society.

Now that seven years have passed since material from this book was used in this column, it seems timely some of the information concerning the now famous Main Line be repeated, particularly since so many new residents have come to this area in recent years. Many questions asked this columnist by newcomers may be answered in this way.

In the 60’s and 70’s, according to Mr. Townsend, the section from Overbrook to Paoli was not even designated as the “Main Line,” since the Lancaster and Columbia Railroad, predecessor of the Pennsylvania Railroad, had only one line then. The first settlers of this part of Pennsylvania knew the section, then consisting of some 30,000 acres, as “The Welsh Barony.”

Before the Main Line was settled, the Germantown and Chestnut Hill areas had already become favorite places for country residences. Early Philadelphians “who craved country air and more room to breathe” settled north of the city “because the journey by horse or foot to the City from the West and back again involved the sun in the travellers’ eyes both ways.” Indeed it was in the late ’50’s, according to Mr. Townsend, that a “new migration” began beyond the western City Line, and a few city people began to locate along the “Pennsylvania Central Railroad soon after it took over the old Columbia State Road.” The first stop was Mantua, now almost in downtown Philadelphia, while the second was Hestonville, described as a “small village in the midst of farming country.” This was our present 52d street station! Then came City Line Station where the tracks crossed a creek. When a culvert was built for it, the new station was appropriately called “Overbrook.” What remains of the site of the stream parallels the railroad near the station, as the westbound commuter can see.

Mr. Townsend writes, “It is curious to note that the railroad does not cross any sizeable stream until far into Chester Valley, showing that it was laid out on a ridge from which the waters flow in both directions.” In the 60’s, there were only six trains a day each way on the railroad. After 6 P.M., there was nothing from Philadelphia until “The Emigrant” at midnight which stopped only at destinations for which passengers were booked. The cars were “lighted by oil lamps and in cold weather red hot coal stoves stood at each end. A brakeman on each car turned a wheel such as those that the present freight cars have. The city terminal was a small square brick building near the present West Philadelphia Station.”

The “Old Lancaster Road” and “The Lancaster Turnpike” pre-date the railroad by many years. The former, later known as Conestoga road, was originally an Indian trail from the Delaware River to the Susquehanna River. Conestoga road, laid out in the 18th century, had in the early 60’s some 67 taverns on it between Philadelphia and Lancaster, or about one a mile. Among these were “The General Wayne” near Merion; the “Red Lion” at Ardmore; the “Old Buck” at Haverford; “The Eagle” at Strafford, and the “Old Ship” near Exton.

These old turnpike taverns of Revolutionary days were utilized by some of the first Philadelphians to come out to the Main Line for two or three summer months in the 60’s and 70’s. But the largest aggregation of all, according to our historian “summered in the Whitehall Hotel,” the site of which is now occupied by the row of houses opposite the old Bryn Mawr Hospital building on Glenbrook avenue. When the late disreputable old ruins of Whitehall were torn down some years ago “they did not look as if they ever housed a gay crowd of Philadelphia elite.” However, it was “the place for large dances for both city and country people. The railway went by it, and the trains stopped at its door, though later a station was built a few yards further west.”

The original building of this old Lancaster and Columbia Railroad Company now houses the well-known Bryn Mawr Hospital “Thrift Shop.”

Whitehall Hotel held about 80 people. Another popular summer place on the Main Line was the Wildgoss Boarding House near Haverford College, which was kept by an elderly lady of that name. Life in that boarding house, as colorfully described by Mr. Townsend, was probably typical of the many summer hotels in the 60’s and 70’s, such as the old Bellevue Hotel and Louella Mansion in Wayne.

Next week’s column will be largely devoted to a description of the amusements enjoyed by the young people of the Main Line 80 years and more ago.

Gulph Christian Church, built 1835

02_image01The story of the early days of the Gulph Christian Church, located at the intersection of Matson Ford and Old Gulph roads in Gulph Mills, was begun in the column on May 31. Its history was given up to the dedication of the first church building “to the service of God in the year of our Lord 1835.”

Five years previously, Elder Frederick Plummer had begun to preach in the small nearby school house to which he was driven by horse and buggy from his home in Philadelphia each Sunday. It was the enthusiasm of the congregation that made possible the erection of the small but adequate church building, a picture of which appears at the head of this column. The original deed was given by George Stacker and his wife, Eleanor, to George Righter, Isaac DeHaven, Andrew Supplee, John Henderson Supplee and Peter Richards. It was signed and witnessed on September 3, 1835.

This building served the needs of its congregation until the present church was build some 60 years later.

Other milestones along the way of church progress had been the staking out of the cemetery in 1845, when lots in it were sold for seven dollars each. The vault under the church was built in 1849. The wall around the graveyard was built in 1851. At this time the horse sheds were also erected.

Among the important church events of this period were the union of the Gulph Christian Church with the Philadelphia Conference in 1851, and the incorporation of the church itself in 1859. A new deed was given to the Christian Church, at Gulph Mills, by George Righter, Isaac DeHaven, J. Henderson Supplee and Peter Richards, the surviving trustees to whom the first deed had been given. In 1870, nearby ground was purchased for the erection of a parsonage which was built that same year. This served its purpose until 1952, when the new parsonage was built.

Year by year church membership had increased, and with the increase came auxiliary organizations such as the Sunday school, organized in 1843 with J. Henderson Supplee and Joseph Davis as superintendents, and the Christian Endeavor, organized under the guidance of the Rev. Elwood G. Hall in 1891. With Mrs. J.B. Fenwick, wife of the pastor, as its first president, the Ladies’ Aid was organized in 1901 to help with the work of the church. The Men’s Bible class was organized in 1912.

With the inauguration of these increasing activities, more space was needed than the original small church provided. And so on July 29, 1893 – to quote from a church booklet printed in 1953 – “a building committee was appointed, and told to do its best towards the building of a new church for $5,000.” Even more than 60 years ago, this sum was evidently not quite adequate, for it was later raised to $6,000. The church building which was erected by a Mr. Burns, a contractor from Berwyn, was modeled after St. Martin’s Church of Canterbury, England. The cornerstone was laid in 1894 and most remarkable of all, the church was dedicated free of debt in March 1895.

In October 1929, representatives of the church were sent to a meeting in Piqua, O., where they took part in an event that helped make church history in the United States. For it was then that, at a general convention of the Christian Church, this denomination and the Congregationalist merged. These were the first denominations in the United States to form such a merger.

In the spring of 1932 church trustees purchased the old school property adjoining the church, thus acquiring the quaint little building in which, almost 100 years before, Elder Plummer preached his first sermon for what is now the historic Gulph Christian Church. This old school house is one of the most historic buildings in the area dating back to pre-revolutionary days. With an added second story, it now serves as an educational building.

Gulph Christian Church, Matson Ford and Old Gulph Roads

One of the most interesting old church edifices in the general vicinity of Wayne is the Gulph Christian Church, located at the intersection of Matson Ford and Old Gulph roads, in Gulph Mills. Standing slightly back from roads that are now traversed by a constant stream of noisy automobile traffic the church, in its quiet dignity, is reminiscent of a far different period. Its history begins 127 years ago when, in 1830, a minister of the Christian denomination from Philadelphia, Elder Frederick Plummer, began preaching at Gulph Mills.

For the following facts concerning the subsequent history of this old church, the writer is indebted to Mrs. A. Irvin Supplee, who prepared a history of it on the commemoration of the 120th anniversary, in July, 1953. This history is filed with the Montgomery County Historical Society records, located in the Society’s building in Norristown. Mrs. Supplee, the former Miss Regina Stiteler, of Gulph Mills, now makes her home in Conshohocken.

According to Mrs. Supplee, there was at first no church in which to hold services. There was a small, one-story school building, where Elder Plummer started to preach on Sundays. For these services he was driven, by horse and buggy, from his home in Philadelphia by George Righter, a resident of Gulph Mills. However, it was not long before the small schoolhouse was so overcrowded by an eager congregation that the services had to be held under the shelter of a large oak tree in the school yard.

During the next two or three years the visits of the Philadelphia minister to his schoolhouse congregation were not regular, but old records show that on June 16, a number of persons were baptized in the Schuylkill River. Among them were Isaac DeHaven, Andrew Supplee, John Henderson Supplee, George Supplee, Jacob Rodenbaugh (who later became pastor of the church), John Sutton (who became a travelling preacher), William S. Wagner, Elizabeth Matson, Sr., Jane Zell, Eliza Supplee, Mary Ann Supplee, Susanna Smith and Jane Matson.

On June 23, William Noblitt was baptized in the river. It was on the afternoon of that day that the church was organized, with 24 members, at a meeting held in the schoolyard, and on November 15 officers were appointed at a special meeting, held at the home of Andrew Supplee.

These officers included William S. Wagner, secretary, and George Righter, treasurer. Deacons were Jacob Rodenbaugh, Andrew Supplee and Isaac DeHaven, while deaconesses were Elizabeth Supplee, Susan J. Wagner and Mary Ann Supplee.

In making her search through the old church archives, Mrs. Irvin Supplee finds records of other baptisms in the Schuylkill River in August, September, October, November and even on December 25, of 1833. And those “who had the faith and courage to be baptized out of doors on Christmas Day,” Mrs. Supplee feels, deserve to have their names mentioned, even this many years later: Edward Parker, Jesse Dickey, Mary Parker, Elmira Righter (Broades), Ann Horn, Elizabeth Matson, Jr., and Ann Jones.

In all, some 63 persons were baptized during Elder Plummer’s pastorate, which is indeed a notable record, considering the severity of the temperatures on some occasions. According to these same old records, there were also many special meetings, some lasting from two to four days.

On October 14, 1834, the members of the church, with “a respectable number of the neighbors, met at the Gulph School House to make up a sum of money to purchase a piece of ground whereon to erect a church.” After the necessary money was found, a deed to the property was secured and the church was built. According to the old records this was called “The Christian Church in Upper Merion, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania,” and was dedicated “to the service of God in the year of our Lord 1835.”

(to be concluded)

Villanova University construction projects

With a quaint old picture of Villanova College as it looked some 60 years ago as its heading, last week’s column told something of the beginnings of one of the best known institutions of learning in the Philadelphia suburban area. Information for the column had come from “Rural Pennsylvania,” a book written by the Rev. S.F. Hotchkin in 1897.

It is a far cry from the college of 60 years ago to the campus of today. Year by year, handsome buildings have been added to those first few, the latest one being Villanova’s million dollar Garey Hall, the University’s new law school building (with two other buildings under construction).

Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States, laid the cornerstone of this newest addition on Saturday, April 27. Assisting Justice Warren was the Very Rev. Henry A. Greenlea, O.S.A., chairman of the University Board of Trustees and provincial of the Augustinian Order.

The new building is but one of the many handsome edifices that make up the University of today, one of several institutions of learning of which the Main Line has just cause to be proud. The 1955-56 Bulletin of the University describes the campus as “among the show places in the Philadelphia district,” adding that these university buildings are “for the most part, large stone structures imposing in appearance and modern in equipment.” In addition, the campus itself offers “every facility for athletic games and interclass contests. Baseball and football fields, tennis courts and running tracks are open for the use of all students.”

One of the most imposing of the more recent buildings is the new University library, which opened in 1949. According to the bulletin it contains a collection of approximately 115,000 volumes in addition to pamphlets, government publications and bound volumes of periodicals. The library stacks, with an eventual capacity of 400,000 volumes, are open to all students. The main reference room provides the current issues of more than 500 publications. “Special use” rooms in the library include a music and television room and a browsing room for recreational reading. The Villanova Room itself houses an extensive collection of historical material relative to the early history of the college.

Among the many other buildings is Mendel Hall, erected in 1929, which houses executive offices, classrooms and laboratories for liberal arts, sciences and engineering. The Commerce and Finance Building, completed in 1931, has executive offices as well as classrooms for students in the above subjects.

The University Chapel, which serves also as the Church of the St. Thomas of Villanova parish, is one of the older buildings, having been erected in 1888. It is the center of the religious activities of the university. St. Thomas of Villanova Monastery, erected in 1902, was rebuilt in 1933 and now houses the clerical faculty. Commodore John Barry Hall, erected in 1948, provides classrooms, laboratories, offices, and rifle range for the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps, and the chemical engineering laboratories, classrooms and offices.

St. Mary’s Hall, built in 1912, is for the use of the Seminary department of the University. Austin Hall, Fedigan Hall and St. Rita’s Hall are all modern dormitory buildings, housing a total of about 220 students.

The Field House, adjoining the stadium and athletic field, is a large, fireproof structure, built in 1932. Providing ample opportunity for indoor sports, it seats some 1,800 spectators in the balcony. A separate wing of the building houses a modern swimming pool. The main floor of the gymnasium seats more than 1,500 spectators, and there is a large stage suitable for plays and other student entertainments.

Galberry Hall, a former residence fronting on Lancaster avenue, is occupied by the Department of Research and Development. A new dormitory, Sullivan Hall, opened for the final term of 1954 for the accommmodation of 400 students. Dougherty Hall, a Student Union building, with housing and dining facilities, barber shop, student offices and lounges, was completed in 1955.

The introduction to the recent university bulletin states that during the first 50 years of the college’s history, a total of 1,599 students were taught there. During the past 20 years, the enrollment in any one year has exceeded this 50 year total. The student body is drawn from all states and from foreign countries, especially the Latin American republics.

Villanova College in the 1890s

57_image01At first glance the reader may not immediately recognize the picture, shown above, as one of our nearby Villanova University. But time makes many changes, and it is at least 60 years since this picture was taken, when Villanova was only a college. It appears in “Rural Pennsylvania in the Vicinity of Philadelphia,” written by the Rev. S.F. Hotchkin and published by George W. Jacobs and Company, Philadelphia, in 1897.

In his book, Mr. Hotchkin quotes from the Rev. Thomas C. Middleton, D.D., O.S.A., at that time prefect of studies and professor of moral theology, church history, canon law and homiletics in the ecclesiastical department at Villanova College:
“Slightly less than a mile west of Rosemont, with its buildings crowning a gently sloping hill, stands Villanova, the mother house in the United States of the Roman Catholic Order of religious known as Augustinians. Their first establishment in this country was made at Philadelphia towards the close of the last century when, in 1776, the Rev. Dr. Matthew Carr, a member of the Irish Province of their Order, founded the Church and Convent of St. Augustine.

“Villanova, an offshoot of this Philadelphia venture, was planted in 1842, chiefly through the agency of the Rev. John P. O’Dwyer, on the estate of the late John Rudolph, a well known Catholic merchant of Burlington, N.J., and Philadelphia, who there, at his country seat, known as ‘Belle-Air,’ set up a station, or meeting-place for the Catholics of the neighborhood when occasionally they gathered for Mass and the service of religion. This was about 1806.

“Shortly after Mr. Rudolph’s death in 1838, a large part of his property was purchased by the Augustinians, who purposed to establish there, the headquarters of their Order, in the country, a complete religious and education center, with convent, novice and study-house for their own members, and college for the instruction of the laity in classics, scientific and polite learning. Under the protection of one of the famous saints of their Order, Thomas of Villanova, Father O’Dwyer opened the convent and college at ‘Belle-Air,’ henceforth to be known as Villanova, in 1824.

“Their choice of titular saint for their institution seems appropriate, as the name Thomas recalls the holy superior of their Province of Castile in the 16th century, under whom first Augustinian missionaries to the new world founded in the City of Mexico, in 1551, the first school of learning on a large scale in America.

“At Villanova, besides the charge of the brotherhood and college, the Augustinians had care also of the Catholics as far around as ten and 15 miles. In 1843, Fr. O’Dwyer, the leading spirit of the new venture, numbered in all about a half-dozen families in his congregation. In 1844, Bishop Kenrick dedicated Villanova Chapel, and in this building divine services were held until 1872, when a frame structure, now used as college gymnasium, was erected to meet the growing needs of the faithful. A few years later in 1883, was begun the Gothic church which, with sitting room for 700 persons, seven altars, and its noble apsidal choir, gives ample scope for the accommodation of the laity, and the observance of ritual in all its fullness. Offshoots of the Villanova mission, but now independent churches, are the congregations at Berwyn, Bryn Mawr and Wayne.

“The year after the opening of the monastery in 1843, by sanction of Gregory XVI, Villanova was created a novice-house of the Order. And in this same year, the habit of religion was first given to two aspirants of the Order, one of these, Brother John, a veteran of some 85 years of age, dying in 1894. In 1843, the the college course was opened to the laity – 13 youths being enrolled on the first day – for their education in sacred and profane studies, philosophy, the classics, humanities, music, drawing and the modern languages.

“In 1848 the college was empowered by the State to ‘educate persons in the various branches of science, literature,’ etc., and ‘to confer such degrees as are granted in other colleges and universities of the United States.’ In 1849 was erected the east college hall, and in 1874 the main building – since burned down – with a frontage of 174 feet, with halls and rooms sufficient for the residence and instruction of 150 students.”

(A brief description of Villanova College as it is today, in its most recent “Bulletin” will appear in next week’s column.)

Memories of By-gone Days

56_image01From time to time, the writer of this weekly column receives letters from various parts of the United States, from former residents of Radnor township who remain subscribers to “The Suburban.” A number are in a nostalgic vein, since the column often arouses memories of late happenings of bygone days.

Such a letter was recently received from O. Howard Wolfe, well-known former resident of the township, from Naples, Fla.

Since leaving Radnor some years ago, Mr. Wolfe has been making his permanent home in Milford, Pa. The letter was written following the appearance in this column, on February 22, of the picture of the old Pechin spring house, in Radnor. Mr. Wolfe says:
“Your picture of the old spring house in Radnor gave me a sort of double dose of nostalgia, first because of the mention of two well-loved childhood friends, Bessie Frame and Mary Brooke, although Mary may object if I include her name as belonging to my generation. And then the old spring house – old even as I so well remember it, 70 years ago. We always went in for a drink of cold, pure water as we passed it on the way to visit my grandfather’s farm, half-a-mlle away.

“The overflow ran parallel to the King of Prussia road, then rippled across Eagle road into the Pechin meadow. Wonderful mint and water cress grew along the banks of the little stream, which flowed into Gulf Creek.

“Jim Donaldson was indeed a well known character. He looked like General Grant, and he was always held in awe by us youngsters… It is my recollection that it was Jamaica ginger he used as a substitute for stronger liquor.”

In a letter sent to this columnist about three years ago, Mr. Wolfe gave other interesting data about the Radnor of his youth. At that time he wrote:
“Tryon Steele is probably one of the very few of us now living who knew intimately such old timers as Pete Pechin, Jim Donaldson and Oscar Dillon – just to name a few. Oscar Dillon was an unusual character in his own right, and deserves a column of his own. He was the last of the old-time country store keepers who took keen delight, not in being able to advertise the endless list of merchandise he had for sale, but in producing articles which you didn’t know he had.” He was a unique and remarkable man in many ways.

“Did you know how Morgan’s Corner got its name? If you look at a map of Delaware county, you will note the shape of the northeast section which is Radnor township, and see that it is a straight line right angle. This, I was told many years ago by George Righter, another old time character, was Morgan’s Corner, and the name did not derive, as many think, from any road meetings or intersections.

“I believe it was the Penna. R.R. which named Radnor and St. Davids and other stations along the line (Perhaps Wayne, too, instead of Louella as it was formerly called). In my early days it was “Ithan,” which was known as Radnor and, after the railroad came, as “Old Radnor.”

So much for Mr. Wolfe’s informative letter of several years ago. To return to his recent one of a few weeks ago, he tells of his pleasure in meeting an old time Wayne friend, still remembered by many in this community as the first woman member of the Radnor School Board, Mrs. Humbert B. Powell.

“She served with me on the board some 40 years ago,” he writes. “You can imagine how glad I was to find her living in Naples. We have had many interesting visits, talking over those difficult and dramatic days when the community was bitterly divided. If I am not mistaken, all of our colleagues of that period have passed on.”

Mr. Wolfe is remembered by all of Wayne’s old timers as the only resident of Radnor, and a graduate of its high school, who served both as president of the school board, an office which he held for 11 years, and also as president of the Board of Commissioners, where he was for eight years a member and for another eight, its president.

* * *

Such letters as Mr. Wolfe’s are always gratefully received by the writer of “Your Town and My Town.” All such letters will be published in the column when possible. – E.C.P.

Early ads: Edgar C. Humphrey’s Tin & Sheet Iron Worker, L.K. Burket & Brother, T. T. Worrall & Sons

55_image01In last week’s issue, your columnist described some of the advertisements which appeared in the cook book put out in 1892, by the Ladies’ Aid Society of The Wayne Methodist Church. The picture in this week’s column shows the stove on which the lady of the house could try out the delectable recipes. It could be purchased right on Wayne avenue, at Edgar E. Humphreys, Tin and Sheet Iron Worker. Such a stove, as illustrated in this article, was called the “Valley Novelty Range.” It could be kept “brilliant and black” with “Solar Paste” for which the housewife was “to ask her grocer and take no other.”

L.K. Burket and Brothers, now operating more than 60 years later under the same firm name, could sell the housewife “the best Lehigh and Susquehanna Coal at the lowest market rates” as well as “the best Virginia pine kindling wood, two or three sticks of which will be of service in getting up a quick fire, at a trifling cost, for an early breakfast or hurried meal.” C.B. Walton and Company, with offices in both Wayne and Devon, would also sell coal, as well as lumber and feed.

In Wayne, T.T. Worrall and Sons, whose specialization was “fine teas, coffees and spice” would supply the housewife with “fancy and staple groceries.” From Philadelphia, Showell and Fryer sent a salesman every Saturday to solicit orders for their “fine groceries,” which would be delivered by wagon the following Monday. E. Bradford Clarke, “family grocers,” located at Chestnut and 15th streets, had “free deliveries by wagon every Thursday of the year, at all points on the line of the railroad from Philadelphia to Devon.” Woodman, Gillette and Company, Grocers, at 13th and Market streets, advertised that “every barrel of our Red Seal Flour is guaranteed to make 300 pounds of bread.” (At that time there was no “bread man” making his daily rounds.)

Among the small dealers in meat and groceries in Wayne, was C. Pugh, with his store at the corner or West Wayne avenue and Conestoga road. Apparently, the only milkman to advertise in the Methodist Church cook book was Joseph H. Childs, of Wayne, by whom milk was served daily. (This was still in the period when the milk man poured milk from his own big pail into the smaller one placed at the back door by the housewife.)

Two advertisers, whose work was as vital 60 years ago as it is outdated now, were William P. Sassaman, harness and harness supplies, and Joseph K. Lentz, proprietor of the Wayne Wagon Works. The former was “manufacturer of Fine Harness and Harness Supplies” located on Lancaster avenue, while the latter always had “new carts and wagons on hand” and “attended to all kinds of jobbing in his line at the shortest notice.” Their places have been taken long since by the automobile dealer and the automobile repair man.

In the 1890’s the Wayne Title and Trust Company was in a small and picturesque building, on the same site on which the present modern building now stands. It is now known as the Wayne office of the First Pennsylvania Banking and Trust Company.

J. M. Fronefield, Jr.’s Wayne Pharmacy was just across the street, on the corner now occupied by the Sun Ray Drug store. Its proprietor was a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy who advertised his “stock of medicines as equalled by but few city stores.” But to one small girl of the 1890’s, now one of Wayne’s “old timers,” the store is still remembered for its soda fountain, where delicious ice cream sodas were dispersed for ten cents.