Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives

Source: 1945 Volume 6 Number 2, Pages 25–34

Recollections of Berwyn

Wayne J. Pennell

As Related by him to Members of the Staff.

In the year 1874, when I was five years old, my parents left our home in Philadelphia and came to live at Berwyn, or Reeseville as it was then called, with my grandfather, Jonathan T. Lewis. He was an old man and no longer strong, and someone was needed to help look after him and his little farm. Father had been a heater in the iron works at Thorndale. From there he had gone to Gray's Ferry Iron Works in Philadelphia. I was too small to see how he was to fit into farming, but my mother should have felt at home as she had lived on the old place to the time of her marriage. For my part I have never regretted the move which was to cast my fortunes with my friends and neighbors of Berwyn.

My mother was Hannah Elizabeth, daughter of Jonathan Lewis and his first wife Mary Thomas Lewis; the other children were Abel, who died in infancy, John Howard, Henry Atmore, Thomas Eugene and Mary Thomas, later Mrs. McClure. There wore no children of Grandfather's second marriage, which was to Mary Bones, his wife at the time, we went to live with them. So many persons of our community trace back to Jonathan and Mary Lewis that a description of the old place seems in order.

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The farm which was of only twenty-eight acres, came to something of a point at the intersection of Berwyn and Baptist Road and Contention Lane. Dr. Miller's house is there now. Down the hill, to the north, there was a little patch of woods from which the line runs up back of what is left of the house to the road near Mount Zion Church. From there it comes down the road to the corner at Dr. Killer's. Between the woods and the house there is a good spring which forms a source of Trout Creek. Small as the woods were then, most of the present trees have come up since Grandfather's death.

The house was of stone, and was old when I first saw it. It faced south and was backed against the hill so that the first floor was above the kitchen which was on the south. Across the front there was a porch, and another porch above that, supported on long posts from the kitchen porch. These houses have a quaint look and at times are very convenient. At other times, it is different. It all depends upon where you are, and to where in the house you want to go. The lane went to the road on the east, and from there there is a road through the woods over which we had a short cut to what was later to become Devon. The little barn stood several hundred feet south of the house, and near the house, on the north side of the lane, there was a wagon house. The walls of these buildings are still to be seen.

It will be understood by those familiar with the farm and farming that such a place needed work of the old-fashioned kind. This it got during my grandfather's time and he made his living from it. Later, William Jackson was there and I understand he did well, but afterward the good soil was allowed to wash down off the slate-stone hills so that after a time the only part of the ground which was worked with success was the meadow. I have marked the location of the house on the accompanying plan as (l).

Our main sport in those days seems to have been playing in the creek. We had a dam near the spring and further down another pond in which we swam. From the breast of the first dam a ditch ran through the woods on the adjoining property to cross the road near the steep part of Isinger's Hill as it was called then. Old Mr. and Mrs. Isinger lived in the little house (2) on the west side of the road. The stream from the dam, across the road, furnished their water supply. We thought it great fun to lift the flood gate of the dam and muddy the water but we were quick to disappear afterward.

I understand from Clavius Latch, whose family has been here for a long time, that his father told him that at one time there was a house west of the Isinger house, where the two little valleys come together just over the hill to its rear (3). It must have been the home of an early settler. Below Isinger's on the land of George Washington Lewis, my grandfather's cousin, there were two houses (4), one of logs and now gone. Next came the old iron-mine dam (5) on the west side of the road, and the mine (6). West of the dam breast there had been an old house (7) near the spring, and there was a tenant house (8) which, as I am also informed by Mr. Latch, his father converted from the old barn. The house (9) at the tunnel under the Trenton Cut Off was there, but the railroad did not come for some years later. Next was the home of Abraham Latch (10) which I understand now had been the headquarters cf General Howe, and a short distance beyond was the Dewees farmhouse (11) where General Knyphausen was quartered.

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We were only at the farm for two years, a little longer than Grandfather lived after we went to stay with him. During his illness the Negroes of the neighborhood often came in to sit up with him and let my parents and grandmother get some needed rest. I recall among these kind people Simon Tittle, Peter Mullin, Nelson Hughes, and Henry Roach. They were all associated with the nearby church whose members seen to think that Grandfather gave them the land on which it stands; I do not think he did. He and George Washington Lewis had been prominent in the local anti-slavery society among the Baptists, and it is more likely that this was the cause of any special feeling of gratitude they had toward him.

Following Grandfather's death we moved to the large stone house in back of the Garber store (12). Not long afterward the railroad was changed and the turnpike moved further to the south. The large house and the smaller stone house (13) to the east were moved bodily back to their present positions. Enoch Wells lived in one of the houses while it was being moved. We went to Pinchtown, however, which is the little settlement along Newtown or Waterloo Road, south of Darby Creek. As soon as we could, we moved back to Reeseville and in 1878 were in the Esther Lewis house (14) on Berwyn and Baptist Road. The next building along the road was Mount Zion Church (15) at the top of the hill, and well down the hill was the Beaumont log house (16). There was no Quigleytown at that time.

Our main roads were the Old Lancaster or Conestoga Road and the Lancaster Pike. Most of the houses were along these two roads, and there were so few of them compared with today that I think I can name about all between Strafford and Daylesford, and most of the houses then standing along the other roads. Beginning at Eagle School Road and the Gulph Road which joins Conestoga Road half a mile to the west, the old Fritz house (17) where William H. Fritz' grandmother lived was just below the corner. The Old Eagle School (18) was a quarter of a mile to the south. The Tredyffrin School (19) and the Pechin place (20) were west of Eagle School Road, and Colket's house (21) came next. Then came the house (22) at the junction of Gulph and Conestoga Roads. On Baptist or Old Valley Forge Road a little further on there was, first, the old stone house and barn (23) on the John Quigley place. Then came the Levi Cutler house (24). Mr. Cutler was a butcher. Neither the Cathcart Home (25), nor the Richardson Home (26) which burned down, had been built. Cundy's house (27) and the dam in Hammer Hollow were there, however. We often went to the dam to skate.

Continuing along Conestoga Road, the next place was the old Beaumont farm house (28) where Theodore Beaumont lived. The large old-fashioned barn and the great horse-operated cider press which stood for years after the barn burned down were nearby, a little to the west of the present Fairfield Road. Next was the Jones house, (29) also on the north side of the road where most of the older houses were to be found. Near the entrance to the Dr. Okie place there was a small house (30) in which Jane Smith lived, and across the road from it there was a double house (31). Phineas Gibson lived in one side and Sallie White in the other. Across the road a little further on there was a dry creek and a wooden bridge. South of the bridge there was a small stone house (32) owned by Frank Wallace and formerly occupied by a member of the Lewis family who was a cabinet maker. Brooke Longaker has some of the furniture made by him. Next was the old Joseph Williams country store (33) where the family still lives, but in a newer house. Beyond this little cross-roads settlement there was first the house where Mrs. Dane lived (34); Mrs. Wharton has it now. Abel Reese's house, now Mr. Richardson's home (35), was next. This is a two-story log house with a stone kitchen part.

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Barn on Jonathan T. Lewis Farm drawn in 1945 by R. Brognard Okie from memory

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Peter Burns' new house (36) was next, and well back from the road there was the old Peter Burns farm house (37). Mr. Orr is there now. About opposite, on the south side of the road, was the stone house (38) where the Rumrills live. Just west of the Burns farm, on Old State Road, was the Neeley's log house (39), and down the road a short distance, on the west side, there were two or three frame houses, now gone. Ben Ross, a former colored soldier, had one of them (40). Mr. Hogentogler lived and had his nursery (41) just up the hill from the Neeleys and Dickie Evans had the Doyle place (42). The old Michael Morrison log and stone house (43) was just west of Howellville Road, where Mr. Teamer lived. There was nothing but open farm land on either side of the road until Peter Tompkins' house (44) on the tobacco farm was reached. Along the road through the tobacco farm, also known as the Howellville Road, there was the old Van Leer log house (45) which is just north of Mr. Curwen's house, and beyond, in the hollow, there was the log house (46) in which the Kuglers lived. On the opposite side of the road there was the Lawless house (47) and down the hollow from the Kugler house there were probably several other houses, one or more of them of logs.

Along the Lancaster Turnpike it was about the same except that as a rule the houses were not as old. On the south side, near the tunnel at the foot of the Old Devon hill, there is the old stone house (48) where Thomas Campbell lived. Across the pike from it there was the old stone house (49) which was destroyed by the explosion some years ago. At the top of the hill there was, first, the old Ado Latch place (50), and across from it, on the north side of the pike, the Dallett house (51). Patrick Williams' log house (52) was later the Devon Tea Room, Tommy Scott had the place (53) where the Pattons were later. Across from where the new Valley Forge Road comes into the pike there were two or three small houses (54). The Stewarts and McGaeghys lived there. Next, with the house on the north and the barn on the south side of the pike, there was the large house (55) occupied by Eber Beaumont, father of Theodore and Rush Beaumont. Here I shall supply a story which I have just heard over fifty years after the occurrence but of which I have no doubt. Theodore Beaumont was up an apple tree along the road to which I have just referred as coming into the pike near the Williams house, engaged in sawing off a limb. Mrs. Williams, on whose ground the tree stood, and who could talk quite freely and forcefully, engaged him in conversation over the matter with such effect that "Dory", continuing to cut the limb without watching his saw, came crashing to the ground with the limb and broke his arm.

The Glassley School (56) came next. Then, near the top of the hill, the stone house (57) in which Mr. Wallace and his family lived. Beyond it there was the Peter Gamble log house (58) near where Mrs. Skelton is now. Mr. Gamble had two daughters, Seby, and Martha; the latter married Rush Beaumont who had a coal yard at Wayne. Mrs. Taylor's old house (59) which is still standing was to the south, across the railroad. Further on there was the Smith farm house (60) which is now Mr, Acker's home. The barn was made into the Wynburne Inn which burned down some years ago.

The turnpike crossed the railroad at grade a short distance east of the Bronze Plant, and the short piece of road coming in from Berwyn and Baptist Road to the north crossed with it. There was no Warren Avenue. Where the former James G. Francis house stands was the Thomas Matthews farm house (61). Next on the pike was the pretty McLeod place (62). The house was what remains of the white house now used by the Bronze Works.

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Mr. McLeod was minister of Trinity Presbyterian Church of Reeseville. Across the pike was McLeod's dam, another place for skating. Then or later the turnpike company had wooden tanks there which were filled with water from the dam. The water sprinklers for the pike filled up here and went east and west spraying vigorously to keep the dust down. This was a stone road. Other roads were dirt. They needed sprinkling more than the pike but did not get it. Continuing into the little village of Reeseville, there were on the north side of the pike the little house (63) where Samuel Bewloy lived. He carried the mail from Reeseville to the Leopard. Next there was a saddler's shop (64) kept by Ingram Bloom, a former soldier. George and Frank Krider's blacksmith and wheelwright shop (65) was next. It was to burn down later. A little beyond was Maurice Lewis' house (66), now a tap room.

On the opposite side of the pike, about where the hotel is, there was a house (67) in which a Mr. Stetson lived. Next was Cleaver's house, store and post office combined (67a), east of the alley at the present post office. After the Cleaver house burned down a large store building was built on the west side of the alley. It stood back from the pike but was later extended to the sidewalk. John F. Kauffman, a surveyor and former soldier, had his office (68) about where the present post office is. He laid out the Devon tract for Coffin and Altemus. I carried stakes for him and drove them in along the lines as directed. The Fritz lumber and coal yard (69) was in its present location. After the death of Henry Fritz at Eagle crossing, the business was carried on by Preston Lobb until the son, William H. Fritz, was old enough to take it over. Reeseville Station was a very small frame building (70) a little to the east of the present station. Every week the market and milk cars stood where the coal bins now are. Cassatt Avenue on the north side of the railroad had not been opened and there was no crossing at the station and no Baptist Chapel.

On the south side of the pike, just west of the American Store, there was a double house (71) in one side of which a man named Clark lived, I think that this house was moved around to Main Avenue and is now in back of the store. The Frank H. Stauffer house (72) was next along the pike. Frank Mattson has it now. Mr. Stauffer was a writer. James Kelly's home and tin shop were in the building (73) at the east corner of Waterloo Road and the pike. This building was torn down recently. After Mr. Kelly's death, Mrs. Kelly and her family moved up the pike to where George Derrickson later had his auction room. Here she had a small shop. Opposite to whore Knox Avenue now is the pike crossed the railroad by a bridge (74), the two old houses (12 and 13) having been moved to their present positions when the railroad was changed, as I have related.

The village as it is now did not extend westward along the south side of the pike beyond the old bridge. It was mainly apple orchard and pasture land. Leopard Road came into Reeseville by crossing the railroad at grade several hundred feet west of tho upper bridge and joining the pike at a point about opposite P.Irs. Bradley's garage (75). It was here that Mrs. Kelly later had her shop (76). Paoli Road, now a part of the Lincoln Highway past Miss Atkinson's home, had not been opened. The old Fritz house (77) where George Cattern lives had been built recently, and west of it there was an old house (78) at the Howellville Road corner occupied by James Smith. Reese and Charlie Moore lived to the west, across the road in the house (79) which is now Mrs. Bradley's. They farmed the property now largely occupied by the High School. The old Carter house (80) stood near the railroad tracks about where they were crossed by Leopard Road. The Calverts were there for a time. Red Row (81) on the south of the pike had been built. Beyond it was the Glenn house (82), and back of the latter the old house (83) by the railroad.

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There was a toll gate (84) about opposite the Glenn house. Next, on the north side at Daylesford, was the Henry Heyburn log house (85), and then Mount Airy, Tredyffrin School (86) at the entrance to the Heyburn farm. It is now a house. Prissy Robinson's old tavern (87) came next, Mr. Croasdale has the house now. Opposite, across the railroad, was Wils Wharton who had the house (88) near the spring.

There were fewer houses right in Reeseville than along the roads I have mentioned. On the east side of Main Avenue there was the Doran house (89) where Mr. Doran had his school. Miss Nuzum is there now. It faced the pike. Mrs. Belle Anderson's house (90) had just been built. On the west side of the road, Dr. Adams lived in the house (91) Mrs. Lawrence has now. He married Miss Knight whose father had the farm and who lived in the house (92) which is now a private hospital near Devon Station. The Thompson house (93) across from the Presbyterian Church (94) was next. Further along the avenue was the house (95) in which William Smurthwaite lives. It was built by a man named Clark who also built the Belle Anderson house. The Rachel Davis house (96) faced Berwyn Avenue at the corner of Main. Next to it was the Tobler house (97), and then the Preston Lobb home (98). Dick Dawson lived in a very old house (99) back of the Doyle stables, west of the spring. On Waterloo Road, Samuel Kromer lived where Theodore Morrison is now (100). The Presbyterian manse (101) had been built and John Potter had the old William Coates house (102). The Frank Sharpless house (103) at the corner of Walnut and First Avenues had also been built. The Lewis house (104.) opposite the Fire House had been built recently, and where Powell's restaurant is now (105) G. G. Hickman lived. He made explosive caps for use on the railroad. Miss Atkinson now has the Atlee Potter house (106) on the west side of Leopard Road. Miss Hayman's house (107) was at what is now the corner of Berwyn and Bridge Avenues and the Thomas Aiken house (108) south of the present public library.

My first schooling was at the Glassley School, at which Enoch Wells was the teacher, in 1876. Then came Miss Ruth Worrell. After her was Miss Abbie Eyre, a sister of State Senator T. Lawrence Eyre, and then Miss Lizzie Criley. If there were attendance rules in those days, they were not enforced. Some of the boys from the farms went to school during the three of four winter months and some of the pupils continued at school until they were twenty-one. Mr. Wells was a nice old man, a little strict, but his eyesight had gotten poor. He used to stop near McLeod's dam on his way to school to cut a supply of switches. The older boys were careful to notch them so that if he used them too hard they would break. When I lived at Pinchtown, I went to the old Ogden School (109) which stood at the top of Hickory Hill where the McCarthy place is now. The Ogden School on Church Road, which is now a house, was built later. I went to the old Ogden School for a short time only, but among the pupils whom I recall were Retta and Addie Shank, Robert and James Peoples, Fannie and Belle Nixon, and Sally Stout. We had few sports or advantages such as children have now. The boys' principal game was townball, something like baseball, but not as snappy. We caught the ball on the bounce. There were no gloves, masks or other protectors, but the way the game was played they were not needed.

I went to Glassley School until I was twelve. Before that I had been practicing telegraphy through the kindness of Samuel Kromer, the Berwyn Station Agent. My father sent me to Mr. Doran's school for a year and, as I wanted to go to work and Mr. Kromer recommended me as a qualified operator, the railroad took me on, first in the tower at Wynnewood. No examination was required and no complaint that I heard of was made as to my ability. Later I was in the tower above the upper bridge at Berwyn. I had charge of train signals and I mention this only to show how different things were in those days. Later, I went to work as assistant agent at the old Devon Station where old Valley Forge Road crosses the tracks. My duties were very general, including taking the mail to the first Devon Inn.

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Berwyn and vicinity in the early eighties

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I recall taking the telegraph returns of the Cleveland election in 1884, at Berwyn Station. I reported the returns as showing the election going Democratic. There were few Democrats here in those days and some of the people just would not believe it. They said, "0h, Wayne is just a kid. He has it wrong." I offered to bet them that I was right, and some took me up to their misfortune, as they found next morning. The railroad was four-tracked from Bryn Mawr to Philadelphia. Some of the trains from Philadelphia came out only as far as Bryn Mawr where there was a turntable for the engines. From Devon to Bryn Mawr there were three tracks and from Paoli to Devon two, with an extra track down the middle which was used as a kind of siding.

Later I went with the Union News Company and was with them until my retirement on age in 1939. During part of this time I was at Bryn Mawr and came to know Mr. Quimby who was then the Methodist minister at Garrett Hill, and later at Berwyn for so long. He was also a telegraph operator and we had many long conversations over the wires. It was while my work was at Bryn Mawr that I was held up in Philadelphia all night by the great snow storm of 1898. During the blizzard of 1888, I had been able to get home every day by train.

Trinity Presbyterian was the only church in Berwyn at the time of which I write, I used to go to Sunday School at the Presbyterian Church in the morning and in the afternoon to the Sunday School conducted by Mrs. Preston Lobb in the old hall, There were no other church services at Berwyn. The Methodists, however, had a church at Tommy Scott's place at Devon, and the Great Valley Baptist Church had the Sunday School in tho old hall.

Athletic sports as we now know them did not come along until later, but there were skating and coasting in winter, gunning and fishing for those who had the time, and fox hunting for those who had horses. I was fortunate in this latter respect as my uncle, Owen McClure, who did butchering and lived on White Horse Road where Walter Ripka is now, was a great fox hunter and always had horses to ride.

There were not many evening entertainments as I recall it now. What there were, usually were held in the old hall on the west side of Main Avenue. It is now the Luther Treen house (110). It was here that the Building Association used to meet. The first library was in this hall; Mr. Henry T. Coates used to send it books from his store. It was popular with the children and it is hard to see why it did not continue. The persons who organized the present library and who with their successors, have carried it on for forty years, have shown the need for this work and what can be done.

I have written these recollections as I recall them without effort to give an earlier history of the neighborhood. After I was fourteen I was away from Berwyn every day, only coming home at night, or I should have fuller reminiscences to offer. As it is, however, I believe that there are still a good many old residents who will recall with considerable interest the days when Berwyn had not become a suburban community, as it has been for the past sixty years.


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