Home : Quarterly Archives : Volume 13
Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
Source: April 1964 Volume 13 Number 1, Pages 2–11
The Swedesford Road
The relative importance of place and time of starting being about equal, we refer first to Scott's Historical Atlas of Montgomery County, of 1877, showing the Schuylkill River at Bridgeport and including Burke's history of the County.
Christ Church - Old Swedes Episcopal Church, dating from 1760, is the landmark by which the west end of the long-gone ferry is usually located by strangers to the vicinity. The usual approach is by the wide street slanting to the right, soon after entry to Bridgeport.
It is much shorter from "Malins," where Conestoga and Swedesford Roads merge, to go by the latter road to Swedesburg, and it would also be the shorter route to Shackamaxon, the old Indian gathering place where Penn made his famous talk to them under the Treaty Elm. However we know of no proof of regular Indian use of this part of the Swedesford Road. Although the Dutch and the Swedes antedated Penn's coming by three or four decades, they are even less likely to have made regular use of any part of it as a road than are the Indians.
The site of the ford is shown on the map by the word "Swedesburg" printed in large type slanting across the river. This appears to be as close as the map-maker cared to come in designating the site of the ford, which, of course, must have varied considerably from time to time. The old "Potts" picture of the ford shows a rowboat fastened by a heavy rope to a dead tree. Add the captain, a pushing pole, oars, or a paddle, and the equipment would be complete, except for skill and nerve when the river was in freshet. The ferry site appears to have been, judging from the Scott map, about seven hundred feet upstream from Swedeland Station on the Reading Railroad. Our old road coming into Bridgeport from King of Prussia, as has been stated, is shown approaching by a long slant pretty much as is the case today. Also the site of the ford on the map is three or four hundred feet south of the borough line. Swedeland is shown as about seven or eight hundred feet to the west.
Reference to the Benjamin H. Smith map of original records of land titles in Upper Merion Township shows Andrew Holstein as first recorded owner of a tract containing four hundred acres as early as January 26, 1741. This tract is identified as nearby Bridgeport. More interesting and convenient to our inquiry, however, is the profusion of Swedish names down the river, to Matson's Ford at Conshohocken. The date of 1697 appears for one of the landowners. The "Sketch of Swedes Ford and Its Surroundings," read by Dr. G. W. Holstein in 1885, to be found on page 73 of "Sketches" published by the Historical Society of Montgomery County, states that the first actual white settler was Matts Eolstein in 1712, who is said to have established the first ferry. Dr. Holstein, who is quoted in Burke's History, supplies information of special interest when he writes that his ancestor, Matts Holstein, laid out a road from the Ford westwardly through his property, which was afterwards continued past the King of Prussia to intersect a similar highway from the Welsh settlement in Tredyffrin. It seems probable that the road between the Ford and the King of Prussia as early as 1713 was due to both Matts Holstein and Lewis Walker.
One of the most prominent of Tredyffrin's early settlers was Lewis Walker, who came there about 1702, and whose home "Rehobeth" stands on the north side of Swedesford Road not far from Valley Friends' Meeting House for which he is said to have given the ground. The records of this prominent man and his descendants comprise a mass of valuable information which will be found in the book "Lewis Walker of Chester Valley" and His Descendants," collected, compiled, and published by Priscilla Walker Streets. In it, on page 30, we find the following:
"On the 26th of May, 1719, Hugh Williams, John Jones, John Morgan, Lewis Rees, Lewis Lewis, and Morgan Jones laid out a road beginning at the grave yard near Lewis Walker's to the 'High Road'. This road went through the lands of James Davids, Morris David and Thomas Simmons to the High Road at Margaret Samuels. The road over the hill to Radnor and that to Swedesford on the Schuylkill were laid out in 1713. There seems to have been some trouble in locating these roads, judging from the petitions found in the Little desk. There were some who wanted the Swedesford Road higher up on the hill than it now is."
Official records of one or more of these road openings are available but are yet to be examined.
Probably the grievously wronged hatter of Tredyffrin mentioned in the following notice in the "Aurora" was one of Lewis Walker's numerous descendants, for the unusual name of "Hananiah" appears in the index in the book relating to his descendants of which mention has been made.
AURORA-GENERAL ADVERTISER - Published (daily) by Wm. J. Duane & Co. in Franklin Court, Market Street, Philadelphia, (Nine Dollars per annum), Friday, December 4, 1807 (Number 5270).
(First page, third column):
"Was broken open, by some villian or villians, on the night of the 22d ult. the house of the subscriber, living in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County, and stolen therefrom, a half dozen Roram hats, (yoman crowns), one old fashioned silver watch, with a china face, (maker's name and number unknown) the outside case dinged and fractured - 2 blankets, one a rose, the other a home made, - 1 fine tow sheet - 2 muslin pillow cases - 1 pair copperas striped linen trowsers much worn - 1 razor, case and shaving box.
Likewise, was taken at the same time, a number of keys.
Whoever apprehends, or gives information so that the thief or thieves may be brought to justice, shall receive ten dollars reward, and five dollars for the goods, or in proportion to the goods found and returned," Hananiah Walker, Hatter.
On the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike Road, near the Spread Eagle. Dec. 2.
The Dutch seem to have strayed scarcely at all from the confines of their riverside settlements. In this respect the Swedes, though conservative too, were less so. In time some of the latter owned choice farms, mostly toward the east end of the Valley. The descendants of these Swedes are numerous, and well and favorably known throughout Pennsylvania.
Thus the road at its eastern end got off to a start through lands of conservative Swedes, succeeded as it pushed westward by less conservative but equally self satisfied welsh and English Quaker stock, with all the push and drive of the Penn government, of themselves and of others, behind them. Toward the western end of the Swedesford, where the Conestoga fell in, would soon appear the manifestations of progress and power emanating from the growing town of Philadelphia, the most important city of the colony.
In 1724 or 1725 David Llewellyn, by order of the Provincial Council, laid out the Swedesford Road "beginning at a remarkable stone in the said Conestoga Rd. between the houses of the said William Paschall and Isaac Malin near a corner of the said Isaac Malin's field." After the lapse of nearly two centuries and a half, amidst the confusion of other roads influenced to a great extent by the pulling power of the Warren Tavern, and without aid of a surveyor, the stone in question
has been difficult to locate, and to distinguish from others. Another question of interest was raised by Llewellyn's statement that in the selected course of the road the southern rather than the northern route was adopted for the convenience of the Baptists. This confirms a similar statement in the Walker Book, as appears above.
Both the report by Llewellyn and a draft of his map of the route of the Swedesford Road are included herein. Location on the ground, however, will not be attempted now for the beginning point, between the houses of Isaac Malin and William Paschal. There is no doubt that a single road bed carried the names of both Conestoga and Swedesford Road, nor that, except between Howellvilie and Bridgeport where the name Route 202 is often applied, the road is known today as the Swedesford Road. A sign board at Ship Road intersection in West Whiteland Township, applies the name West Swedesford to the part of the road extending to present Route 100. Just east of the Ship Road intersection a handsome mile stone gives the distance as 28 miles to Philadelphia, which shows it to be a Conestoga mile stone. Below, on this stone is given the distance to Lancaster, 38 miles.
The next milestone to the one at Ship Road is at the entrance to Swedesford Farms. It is marked as being 27 miles from Philadelphia. We know of no other Conestoga milestone nearer to the east, except the one between Devon and Strafford. Paxtang or Paxton Road, from the region of the John Harris Ferry at what is now Harrisburg, falls into Conestoga-Swedesford at White Horse, as does the road leading to Conestoga Turnpike at Bacton Hill, and as do milestone Route 29 and the road from Chester. Commanding the scene at this important colonial road center is famous old White Horse Inn, which dates from the early days of the colony. Once it was a courier stop and drew its custom from New England and as far west as public business demanded.
Washington's was one of the proud names in its records, and here were his headquarters during the drenched-out Battle of the Clouds. The way of this was - defeated at the Brandywine by Howe, who came on from the direction of West Chester, by way of Hershey's Mill and what is now Immaculata, Washington planned to lead Howe into the North Valley Hills where the odds would be more even. A terrific thunderstorm opening upon the two armies drenched their powder and prevented further hostilities, but the British, who remembered Braddock's defeat, were too wary to be entrapped. General Knox, having warned his chief that the cannon must be moved from the soggy ground without delay or be lost, fell back over Paxtang Road toward Reading.
The region ahead along Conestoga-Swedesford Road is of surpassing beauty including several deep road cuts and sharp bends to several fast moving streams quite close together from the last of which the road climbs a steep hill near the top, on the north side, is the site of the private burial ground of the Clloyd family. A little further on and Conestoga Turnpike comes in on the left, with an old house said to have been a tavern, at the apex of the triangle where the turnpike and Conestoga-Swedesford Road join. Malin Hall, where Washington stopped, is also close by, and nearby the Conestoga Turnpike passes southwardly to old Warren Tavern half a mile away, still doing business as an inn, which its old rival, the White Horse, has long ceased to do.
Straight over South Valley Hill, two or three miles southward from Warren Tavern, near what is now Malvern, lies Wayne's old camp ground, where his sleeping soldiers were awakened and put to flight in the so-called 'Paoli Massacre.' The result probably of news carried to the British by Tories of the vicinity, insufficient precautions by high officers of the Colonial army, and skillful operations by the British, but improperly termed a "Massacre." No matter how it seemed to the relatives and friends of the considerable number of soldiers killed, the British could scarcely be expected deliberately to announce their coming.
From Howellville, two miles north of Berwyn, which will soon be reached in our tour, the British general, Grey, marched part of his men by Bear Road to the Conestoga at Paoli, to prevent flight that way by the Colonials, and the bulk of his army west along Swedesford-Conestoga Road to Longford, now Moore Hall Road, Pickets fled or were driven in, and at The Warren, the old landlord was dragged from his bed to the roadside to direct the way to the camp. For years the finger of scorn was pointed at old Peter Mather by nearby residents no more patriotic than he, for there were many such, and the old man's guilt was never proved. Wayne's home was at Paoli in Easttown Township. Two miles eastward, Light Horse Harry Lee later distinguished himself at Signal Kill at Reeseville, now Berwyn. His skirmish was one of the few successes for the Colonials during the bleak days at Valley Forge.
Leaving Conestoga Road at Malin's, the Swedesford intersects near the East Whiteland-Tredyffrin Township line, the road coming in from the Episcopal Church of Saint Peter in the Great Valley, not far to the north. The present building is said to be over two hundred years old and the church contemporary in foundation with the four others to be mentioned presently.
The Valley Presbyterian Church on the north side of the road is next. Its extensive graveyard includes many marked graves of early residents. Nearby at Howellville was old King George Tavern from which General Grey marched to Paoli. In about five or six hundred feet from the point where Swedesford Road crosses Chester Valley Railroad by the bridge, is the house occupied by Cornwallis and about a mile eastward across the fields, were Howe's quarters, later occupied by the patriot General Scott. Across Contention Lane from Howe was Knyphausen, the Hessian general. A handsome state monument between Wilson Road and Contention Lane informs us that Howe's quarters are nearby.
It is worthy of note that the region through which we have passed, in mind and memory at least, is a link in a longer line that extends all the way to the lost field of Brandywine, and that although our fancied trip will end at the Schuylkill, the historical scene extends eastward all the way to Germantown and beyond. It may be doubted that its equal in historic interest is to be found in America. The encampment at Valley Forge with, the Park and Headquarters are the principal features for the thousands upon thousands of visitors each year from the West and South. Yet so far, except for the monument advising that a British general once camped nearby as has been mentioned, no effort has been made to inform tourists and others, of the historic interest of the country they may be passing through, much less of its inherent association with the Park, nor to capitalize upon the magnificent approach to it and the regions beyond.
At New Centreville, half a mile eastward, there is the Stone Chimney Picket Marker erected by this organization and beyond to the north, the monument advising that Wayne's quarters were nearby. Half a mile south of New Centreville is the old Great Valley Baptist Church and cemetery on the road leading to Devon. As has been stated, Rehobeth, the former home of Lewis Walker, is on the north side of Swedesford Road and a mile east of New Centreville, and a quarter of a mile further east, the Valley Friends' Meeting and Cemetery. Original Old Saint David's Episcopal Church several miles away at the joint corners of Easttown, Radnor and Newtown Townships is contemporaneous with the other churches west of King of Prussia which have been mentioned, all about the first decade of the eighteenth century.
Old King of Prussia Tavern perhaps of about the same era is next and then Swedesburg again.
Increasing heavy traffic, both long distance and local, require more road space along the Swedesford both east and west of New Centreville. In some places there will be unavoidable application of the heavy hand of the Commonwealth. It is to be hoped that this will be as sparing as practicable and that opportunity will be availed of for visibly integrating Colonial and Revolutionary scenes west of Contention Lane with the Valley Forge Park area.
Taylor Papers, Vol. 16 #3347, at Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Swedesford Road as reported 15 April, 1725.
By Virtue etc. (sic J. M. Okie) In pursuance of a Warrant from Sir Wm. Keith Bart. Governor of the Province of Pensilvania and Counties of New Castle Kent and Sussex upon Delaware dated the eighteenth day of March last past - we whose Names are Subscribed have carefully examined the Courses of a road Layd out from a Rock in Conestogee road between the houses of Wm. Paschall and Isaac Malin to the Swedes Ford over Schulkill and Comparing the Same with a Copy of the Original return thereof do find that the Courses Described in the Sd. return are not the True Courses of the Sd. road But that the Sd. Road was Layd out and opened agreeable to the following Courses---
(Vizt.) Beginning at a remarkable Stone in the Sd. Conestogoe Rd. Between ye Houses of the Sd. Wm. Paschall and Isaac Malin near a corner of the Sd. Isaac Malin's ffield thence South 87d, East three Pches and a quarter to. a marked White Oak thence crossing the Land of Isaac
Malin N.46d. East 55 Pches N. 78d. East 46 Pches to a Black Oak marked thence N. 55d. East 35 Pches. to a Black Oak by Owen Thomas's ffence thence N. 5&d. East 8 Pches. to another Black Oak thence North 73d. Eastnear the 3d. ffence of the Sd. Owen Thomas SB Pches to a Black Oak thence N. 75. East on ye land of the Sd. Owen Thomas 55 Pches. to a post in a line of Richd. 0wen's Land thence crossing a corner of ye sd. Richd Owen. N. 63d. East 28 1/4 Pches to a Black Oak near his line thence N. 66d. East 25 Pches. to a Black Oak N. 71d. East 44g Pches to a White Oak North 80d. East 65 1/4 Pens to a Marked B. Oak by John Martin's ffence Thence crossing the Sd. Martin*s ffield North 64d. East 47 Pches to a post in a Line of ye Land late of John Langworthy thence crossing the Land Late of the 3d. John Langworthy and Land of Thomas Martin North 73d. last 52 Pches to a Black Oak North 78d. East 37 Pches to a post North 80d. East 21 1/4 Pches to a marked Black Oak by the Sd. Thomas Martin's ffence thence North 72d. East on ye Land of the Sd. Thomas Martin 80 Pches to a Post. Thence near the Line of the Land of Thomas Hubbard and James Parry North 71d. East 38 Pches. North 76d. East 35 Pches. to a White Oak stump Near a Corner of the Presbyterian Meetinghouse Land Thence crossing Land of Thomas Garman and Thomas James. North 86d. East 192 Pches to a Marked White Oak Standing by Radnor Road Thence along the Sd. Road Crossing Ye Land of the Sd. Thomas James South 63d. East 115 to a Hickory South 66d. East 24 Pches. to a marked Spanish Oak by a Run South 88d. East 16 Pchs. and South 75d. East 49 Pches South 73d. East 40 Pches. South 66d. East 28 Pches. to a marked White Walnut by a run thence North 88d. East Crossing ye Land late of Llewellin David. decfd 92 Pches to a White Oak Tree thence along a line between the Lands of John David Griffith, John Richd. Samuel Richard and John Havard. North 69d. East 250 Pches N. 65D East 80 Pches. East North East 126 Pchs. to a marked White Oak thence Crossing a Corner of the land of the Sd. Saml, Richard South 73d. East 63 Pches to a Hickory thence Crossing a corner of the land of Lewis Walker South 68d. East 35 Pches to a Chestnut Tree near a line of the Land of the Sd. Dd. John James David and Lewis Walker North 68d. East 424 Pches to a marked Black Oak thence Crossing a corner of the Sd. James David's land North 83d. East 193 p. to a post thence crossing the Land of Evan Jones and Morris Thomas North 88d. East 65Pches. North 83d. East 36 Pches. North 79d. East 32 Pches to a Walnut Tree near a line of the Land of the Sd. Morris Thomas thence along a line between the Lands of the Sd. Morris Thomas, William Rees, John Rees, and Mathew Roberts East North East 344 Pches. to a Hickory being a corner of the Sd. Mathew Roberts' Land thence crossing part of the Wm. and Letitia Aubrey's Manor of Mount Joy North 76d. East 40 Pohes. North 72d. East 77 Pches North 71d. East 40 Pches. North 74d. East 30 Pches. N. 75d. East 150 Pches. N. 64d. East 34 Pches to a post by an old Road thence North 53d. East 52 Pches. North 59d. East 32 Pches North 65d» East 47 Pches. North 62d. East 26 Pches. North 74d. East 80 Pches. North 79d. East 40 Pches. North 67d. East 34 Pches North 52d. E. 64 Pches. North 55d. East 18 Pches. to a Marked White Hickory Standing by the River Schoolkill near ye Swedes fford - Witness our hands the 15th day of April 1725.
For about three-quarters of a century the Swedesford Road in conjunction with the Conestoga played their great part in the opening of the nation to the west. With the coming of the turnpike from Philadelphia to Lancaster, however, these two roads merged from Strafford to Downingtown and development continued in ever increasing volume. Meanwhile the Swedesford, slumbering a little, and relatively, of course, took up again its staid and placid course through the Great Valley of Chester. Caught again by the march of time it appears that an associate road will take over the major part of its burdens.
"Old roads that wind around the hill With here a church and there a mill; And wind and wind as old roads will." Author Unknown.
Page last updated: 2011-08-14 at 20:14 EDT