Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
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Source: April 1940 Volume 3 Number 2, Pages 27–30

The invasion of Tredyffrin : a local cross-section of British aggression during the American Revolution

Franklin L. Burns

Page 27

Headquarters of Sir William Howe, later home of W.C. Latch from photo taken in 1899


Early in the Pennsylvania Campaign, Washington complained of the difficulty in securing reliable information in the region in which he operated, because it was disaffected to a man; while Howe, near the close of his inglorious career in America, intimated that all the inhabitants in the vicinity of Philadelphia were inveterate rebels.

Right or wrong, the Great Valley, in which the greater part of Tredyffrin lies, had the name of being Tory, or Conservative. There are several reasons advanced for this reputation.

1. Pennsylvanians at large had always opposed a war tax, or indeed a tax for any other purpose, for which they did not receive an immediate benefit. During the French and Indian war, Braddock, through his quartermaster general, threatened to march through the Province with fire and sword, before he received the aid demanded.

Page 28

2. Although the Quaker settlements were mostly confined to the eastern part of the Great Valley in Tredyffrin, both this township and Easttown were surrounded by numerous Quaker settlements in Upper Merion, Radnor, Newtown, Willistown and Whiteland, all in the great Welsh tract. It is well known that one of the foremost tenets of the Society of Friends is that of non-resistance, in consequence of which the members refused to turn out with the township militia or to pay fines for not so doing. Their influence extended to the Mennonites and occasionally to individuals of other denominations.

Unfortunately the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, after a session lasting well into the night, decided to give their moral support to the Crown. This gave rise to the supposition that Quaker was only another name for Tory.

The Valley Friends' Meeting, however, assumed a neutral position, yet there were few, if any, members of this Meeting who were not disposed to favor the cause of freedom, or who were not secretly or openly opposed to the Royalist cause. There were several local Quaker families who had sons in the American army.

It has been clearly established that the popular sentiment of the Baptists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians was unmistakably for, and the Friends, Mennonites, and Lutherans in quiet sympathy with, the Revolutionists.

The minister of the Great Valley Presbyterian and the pastor of the Great Valley Baptist meetinghouses militantly supported the popular cause. The rector of St. David's and St. Peter's Episcopal Church, was not a Tory; he had three sons in the American army. While his Scottish obstinacy demanded the ritual in full, his congregation refused him permission to pray for a king they no longer recognized.

3. During the August-September campaign, many of the local inhabitants were said to have been apathetic. The reason shall be shown at length.

Anthony Wayne had been made chairman of the Chester County Association, December 20, 1774. The best known local members included Lewis Gronow of Tredyffrin in the Valley, Joshua Evans of the Paoli Inn, and Dr. Bronson Van Leer, proprietor of the Blue Ball Tavern, but then resident of Marple. Thus the English, German, Welsh, and Dutch Episcopalians were represented.

Joseph Bartholomew of Tredyffrin was made a lieutenant, and later, Benjamin Bartholomew, a captain in the Continental army, and John Bartholomew, a major in Mercer's flying camp in New Jersey. All of this name were of French descent.

The militia company of Easttown had Israel Moore as captain, Christopher Rue, lieutenant, and David Llewellyn, ensign. The muster roll of Tredyffrin included Jonathan Rowland, captain, and Joseph Griffith, lieutenant; so the Welsh were well represented in the militia.

Page 29

Anthony Wayne was commissioned colonel in September, 1775, with Richard Thomas of Whiteland, lieutenant colonel, of the first volunteer regiment raised in Chester County. Thomas was of a Welsh Quaker family.

Colonel Atlee's musketry battalion was recruited mainly among the Presbyterians of the Great and Pequa valleys. Caleb Parry, landlord of the Leopard Tavern in Easttown, was made lieutenant colonel; Patrick Anderson of Charlestown, senior captain, and. Dr. John Davis of Tredyffrin, surgeon.

In the battle of Long Island, Parry was shot through the head while endeavoring to rally his men, and Dr. Davis captured. Captain Anderson became so frantic with rage on the death of a friend that he could scarcely be induced to retreat, while Colonel Bull, of another local battalion, broke his sword in rage when his superior surrendered. Space forbids mention of more of our local men, some of whom were lost during the Canadian expedition, or of those at Port Washington when the British and Hessians stormed the works with an overpowering force and Col. Magraw hid to surrender to prevent the slaughter of his fine troops.

Quarters of Lieut. Gen. Knyphausen, now the home of Wm. McCullum

The garrison of almost 3,000 men, nearly all Pennsylvanians, were confined in the wretched prison hulks and sugarhouses of New York harbor, where some 1,800 prisoners died of disease induced by insanitation, nakedness, and starvation.

Page 30

Many of those men were of the better class, some from our own community. When the survivors returned (Lieut. Phillips of the Black Bear Tavern was one of those exchanged), they related their terrible experiences to their friends and neighbors, who became dismayed and disheartened. They doubted that the British could be beaten.

4. The failure of the local militia to turn out strongly when the American army marched to oppose the invaders, was partly due to local conditions. Between 1765 and the beginning of the war, there had been a large immigration of German-speaking people in Tredyffrin.

They had purchased partly cleared farms in practically unbroken settlements from the (Old) Lancaster road to the North Valley hills. They appeared unlettered, spoke English imperfectly or not at all, and brought strange customs and an unfamiliar religion.

Naturally there were grave doubts of their good behavior in the presence of the Hessian mercenaries. Potentially there was an experienced military leader in the person of Col. Christian Workizer of near Howell's Tavern. He was one who had repeatedly refused to turn out with the militia, because he once held a commission in the British army and retained a sincere regard for General Wolfe, under whom he had served at Quebec. That the German element proved loyal to the soil of their adopted country and became trustworthy citizens is now known to all.

A few miles on either side of an imaginary line drawn through the Leopard to the Bear Tavern, thence to the Great Valley Presbyterian Meetinghouse and beyond into Charlestown, would have included the homes of most of our Revolutionary leaders who were mostly of Welsh origin.

In the vicinity of the Leopard there were Chaplain David Jones and Lt. Col. Caleb Parry; near the Bear, General Wayne (Welsh on the distaff side), Lt. John Phillips, and Joshua Evans; Capt. John Harris of Willistown; and of the Valley, Capt. John Davis, Surgeon John Davis, Lt. Hezekiah Davis, Ensign Llewellyn Davis and Col. Richard Thomas. Charlestown contributed Capt. Patrick Anderson (Welsh on his mother's side), Capt. David Phillips, Capt. John Pugh, Lt. Joshua Phillips and Lt. of Artillery Ezekiah Howell.

Some commissioned offices and the ranks were mainly filled by the Scotch-Irish of the hills, of whom it has been said that their philosophy recognized resistance as the first law of nature and warfare as the natural state of man. They loved a good fight, had little property to lose, and often made soldiering their trade, as did some of the German-Americans--the very people whom the Welsh- Americans suspected of disloyalty.

Therefore, the historian Lossing notwithstanding, our community was mainly Whig and in the final analysis no one may consistently reproach our countryside with disloyalty to the ideals of America.


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