Home : Quarterly Archives : Volume 33
Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
Source: April 1995 Volume 33 Number 2, Pages 47–60
The Kromer Family and the Livery Stables of Berwyn
[Author's note: The motivation for researching the livery stables of 19th century Berwyn came from viewing an old photograph of a livery stable in a group of nine photographs in the possession of Robert Swayne, a collector of Chester County ephemera in West Chester. Eight of the photographs were readily identifiable as Berwyn landmarks, but the livery stable was a puzzle. The photograph was marked "Sachse photo 1887/88" on the reverse side. (Julius Sachse resided near Leopard and was a Justice of the Peace in Easttown in 1887. He was also an associate editor of the American Journal of Photography in 1890, and it appears that the date and attribution of the photographs to him are correct.)
Ms. Pamela C. Powell, photograph archivist for the Chester County Historical Society, assisted in identifying the location of the livery stable by including the photograph in her "Mystery Photo" column in the newsletter of the Society. Janet Perry, a member of our Tredyffrin Easttown History Club, saw it and provided the help needed to solve the mystery. The clue that led to its identification was the twin house in the background on the left, the "Tobler" house, which still stands on the south side of the 600 block of Berwyn Avenue. (George Tobler had bought the house in 1879, but he was not its first owner; John McLeod had constructed it on a plot on his land "on speculation" and first sold it on October 31, 1874.) The stable in the photograph thus was the livery stable of James F. Kromer, located on the lot on Lancaster Avenue now occupied by Berwyn Hardware.
With identification established, the tale which unfolded turned out to be a real saga of life in the Victorian era of the late 19th century.
The story of the Kromer family, its livery stable, and much early history of Reeseville and Berwyn relating to how we lived when the horse was the agent of mobility is set forth herein.
The iron rails of the Pennsylvania Railroad have tied the village of Berwyn to the city of Philadelphia for many decades. The mobility provided by the railroad played a pivotal role in shaping the growth and development of the local area. After the Civil War railroad building pushed across the continent, and the transcontinental railroad became a reality when the last spike was driven at Promontory Point in Utah in 1869. Travel to almost anywhere by train now became possible, even to California and the Pacific coast.
In our local townships the effects of the enhanced mobility of the populace was seen in an influx of Philadelphians fleeing the city heat by rail to spend a few summer days or weeks in the country. It is recorded that the widow of Mifflin Lewis boarded summer visitors to the area at her place on the old Conestoga Road in Spread Eagle as early as the 1860s. Elizabeth Lobb, the wife of William C. Lobb, similarly entertained summer guests at the Lobb farmhouse south of Berwyn in the 1870s.
But the steady stream from Philadelphia did not become only temporary summer visitors; they also purchased land and built expansive and expensive summer homes to which they had access over the rails of the railroad.
To encourage this summer exodus from Philadelphia to the cooler country-side, in the 1870s and 1880s hotel accommodations were provided with the construction of large luxurious inns where one could spend a day, a week, or the season. The Devon Inn was one such establishment. It initially provided rooms for more than 150 guests when it opened in 1882, and for its second season it was enlarged considerably.
One of the amenities offered by the Inn to its guests was a livery stable, located on the north side of Arlington Avenue [today's Lancaster Avenue] opposite the Dorset Road dead end. It provided 60 stalls for horses belonging to guests and for those belonging to the Inn. An upper story provided sleeping quarters for coachmen, grooms, and hostlers. Guests arrived at the Inn by train at the nearby Devon station of the Pennsylvania Railroad, also opened in 1882, and the convenience of having available a horse and carriage was much appreciated.
This was the era of the livery stable. When a traveler alighted from his train he headed for the livery stable near the station to rent a rig to complete his trip. (The present Hertz and Avis desks at airports have as their antecedents the livery stables of a century ago.) Defined by Webster as an establishment where horses and carriages are kept or let out for hire, and where stabling is provided, a livery stable is essentially a barn and, as such, it is little wonder that those situated in Berwyn and elsewhere did not survive to the present day. But in the last decades of the 19th century and into the 20th, before the age of the automobile, they were an important adjunct to the railroad and provided a needed service to the local community.
A Daily Local News item on January 28, 1882, under the heading "New Livery Stable", reported that "[P. W.] Lobb, of Berwyn, is making arrangements to build a new stable and start the livery business at that place." The writer continued, "Mr. Lobb is a live man and can make the thing a success if anyone can." Likely the business would have been incorporated into the Fritz coal, lumber and feed business which Lobb was running at that time for the heirs of Henry Fritz, and likely the idea for a stable came from the construction project getting underway in Devon for the new large inn. As that projec unfolded, however, the inclusion of a livery stable at the inn perhaps brought about a change of heart. At any rate, no further information has been found about a Lobb livery stable.
The date that the earliest livery stable in Berwyn came into existence is not known with certainty. Franklin L. Burns has recorded that it occurred not long after Samuel Jackson Randall, a Philadelphian and long-time Democrat Congressman (from 1863 to 1890) who rose to be Speaker of the House of Representatives, rented the furnished Cleaver farm house at Leopard for a summer home sometime after the death of Hiram Cleaver, Isaac Cleaver's father, in 1877. "Randall's summer home," Burns says, "became the Mecca of hordes of office seekers after the election of Cleveland [in November of 1884]. This started the first livery stable [in the village]; it was in Rees Lewis' barn, started by Joseph Rex, the druggist in the old store." The next year, on October 22, 1885 under the headline "Improvements in Berwyn", the Daily Local News informed its readers that "Joseph Rex has built an addition to his livery stable on the corner of Bridge and Lancaster Avenues."
James Franklin Kromer arrived in Berwyn about this time and, according to a document found in the Chester County Archives, took up residence here in July of 1886. Kromer was born February 18, 1846 of Pennsylvania German parents, Andrew and Salome [Fry] Kromer, in the vicinity of the village of Northampton, about 6-1/2 miles northwest of Allentown. (When Lehigh County was set off from Northampton County in 1812, the county line was drawn at the Lehigh River, and the Kromer family seems to have lived around both Northampton, on the east bank in Northampton County, and Coplay, on the west bank in Lehigh County.)
James Kromer was the second child and eldest son in a family of ten children. Very early in life he developed a love for horses, and following completion of his schooling he spent considerable time working with them. At age 23 he married Catherine Bauchman, on May 16, 1869. They had one child, Elwood Franklin, born December 13, 1870.
Gilbert Cope has included a short biographical sketch in his 1904 Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of_ Chester and Delaware Counties. It says, "... with little money he established himself at Berwyn in the livery business. With limited capital this road was anything but a smooth one, but being abundantly endowed with energy and perseverance, he made up his mind to conquer in the struggle to overcome adverse circumstances, step by step he gained the mastery, and within two years he found himself in a position to purchase a desirable site for the location of a larger and more commodious stable in a prominent part of the town, thus increasing the possibilities for handling his rapidly growing trade."
The site purchased by Kromer was the Stetson property on the south side of what was then the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike. In one of John McLeod's early real estate transactions, he had sold the house and lot of about one-third acre to Martha Jane Stetson, a singlewoman, in 1871. It is not clear what role she played in the village; possibly she was a domestic at McLeod's home, kitty-cornered across the street, the old Spring House inn. (She later figured in a case, tried in the Court of Quarter Sessions, involving a prominent Reeseville resident in 1874, and shortly thereafter disappeared from the village.)
Martha Jane Stetson, in turn, deeded the property to her brothr, Charles F. Stetson, and after his death in 1888 James Kromer paid $2,200 for the 80 x 180 feet lot and house. Kromer then proceeded to erect a livery stable on the lot, at the rear but facing the Turnpike. The stable was an imposing structure and provided room for carrying on a large business.
The 1891 Annual Business Review o Chester County described the operation: "James Kromer, Livery, Lancaster Avenue. Four years since, Mr. Kromer assumed control of this established business. A general livery sale and exchange business is conducted; teams kept for hauling, moving, pleasure and business -- horses taken to board and stock sold and exchanged. The stable is 48 x 80 feet in dimension, finely arranged. Another building 20 x 40 feet in dimension is [also] used, while eight head of first class livery are always kept and accommodations are offered for 20 head of boarders, best attention being given to stock left in his care. Mr. Kromer is a native of [Northampton] County and a thorough horseman." (The stable was certainly an imposing structure, and it is understandable that Julius Sachse would be drawn to it when photographing the landmarks of Berwyn.)
In 1891 Kromer bought the unimproved lot behind and to the south of his property on Lancaster Avenue, extending through to Berwyn Avenue, from John McLeod for $750. There he soon built a new home for himself and his family, fronting on Berwyn Avenue. At about the same time he built a large three-story frame building, a hotel, facing Lancaster Avenue next to the old Stetson house which took up the west half of the lot's frontage. The Pennsylvania Railroad, in its 1894 publication promoting suburban living, credited the Kromer Hotel with accommodations for 50 persons.
James Kromer's wife Catherine died in 1893. He eventually remarried to Elizabeth Shourds, who had two sons, Clarence and Howard Shourds, by a previous marriage. (Interestinqly, the boys each married Lobb girls from the area, cousins. Clarence married Carrie Lobb, daughter of Preston W. Lobb, and Howard married Elizabeth Lobb, daughter of Clayton A. Lobb.)
In 1895 Kromer's own son, Elwood F. Kromer, was married to Emmeline Strohl, of Pottstown. A newspaper report of the ceremony described the groom as "a talented young violinist".
The Kromer family was certainly musically inclined. Elwood Kromer's uncle, Samuel Kromer, was also a violinist of note, and Samuel's youngest son Grover was a violinist who played in theatre orchestras of the day. (Today Bill Kromer, who lives in Wayne and is a grandson of Samuel Kromer, rebuilds and repairs carousel and band organs and player pianos.)
As the 1890s reached mid-decade, James Kromer became the center of a storm of controversy in Berwyn. He filed a petition with the Court of Quarter Sessions of Chester County for a "license to sell vinous, spirituous, malt and brewed liquors, by retail, in quantities not exceeding one quart ...". He described his establishment as a "a hotel situate in the village of Berwyn ... about fifty yards from [the] Pennsylvania Rail Road station, containing twenty-three rooms". Listed on the petition are Edwin Smith and Preston W. Lobb as "reputable freeholders" of Easttown township who "will, if approved by the court, be sureties on the bond which is required by law". Kromer's petition for a license for one year from April first 1896 was affirmed before Justice of the Peace Hergesheimer on January 25th of that year.
Attached to the petition was a "certificate in support of the petition", signed by fifteen "qualified electors" of Easttown township, who certified that they were acquainted with James F. Kromer and that "he is a man of temperate habits and good moral character". The supporters were T. N. Rogers, P. W. Lobb, C. Davis English, William J. Enders, M.D., James Orr, J. R. Worst, James Beale, George W. South, and William B. Bishop, all of Berwyn; D. 0. Sullivan and D. S. Hergesheimer, of Devon; William Wayne Jr., of Paoli; and Thomas C. Smith, Wm. C. Tues [?], and Edwin Smith.
Putting the most favorable light on things, Ruth Moore Styer has written, "He [Kromer] did not want to run a licensed place, but had the opportunity to sell his hotel if he could get a license." But, she continued, "The Judge [Joseph Hemphimm] said [that] if Berwyn was aroused and presented a petition of most of its people he would not grant the license."
The response from the villagers of Berwyn was prompt -- and predictable. Their petition, presented in opposition, read:
"The undersigned citizens of the township of Easttown and vicinity respectfully remonstrate against the granting of any liquor license to James F. Kromer in the village of Berwyn in the said township of Easttown for the reasons:
"That in 1894 the said James F. Kromer made a similar application to this Court and after a full and extended investigation the application was refused.
"That in 1895 the said James F. Kromer also made a like application which after hearing testimony the Court again refused.
"That there has been no change in the conditions since these applications were made rendering such a licensed house necessary at this place.
"That the same is not necessary for the accommodation of the public and the entertainment of strangers and travelers ..."
There are many, many pages of signatures on this petition, now on file at the Chester County Archives. Styer noted, "Eight or nine hundred signed the petition and the license was refused." Eventually, Kromer's attorney filed a notice with the Court, on March 20, 1901, that the petition had been withdrawn.
At this point, as Cope says, "Having compassed the livery question at Berwyn, Mr. Kromer began to look about for fresh fields in which to develop, and this time his business foresight pointed to Wayne, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, as promising good results, for there he found a company engaged in the business which was meeting with scant success."
A history of Wayne published in 1975 tells us that Wayne founder J. Henry Askin's granary and carriage house, built about the time he constructed his Louella mansion on the north side of the Lancaster Turnpike, became a livery stable under William Siter. This occurred, no doubt, after the Louella mansion had been enlarged as the Louella Hotel in 1890.
Cope continues, "This company he [Kromer] bought out, and immediately began to improve the property and put into execution his many practical ideas, acquired through years of experience and careful study. A livery stable is not generally considered a desirable acquisition, so far as appearance goes, in any community, but the property under the improved conditions is now greeted as a benefit in that it adds greatly to the beauty of the town. He anticipates that the property will be ready for business this sring , and everything points to future success under his capable management. Being so fond of horses, it is not to be wondered at that among the many, Mr. Kromer has selected three of his finest stock in which he takes particular pride. He has experienced keen enjoyment in driving them about through the counties of Chester and Delaware, and has had the gratification as well of leaving many race tracks the proud possessor of the highest honors they had to dispense."
Having established himself in Wayne, James Kromer eventually turned over the operation of his Berwyn establishment to his brother Samuel A. Kromer. Eight years younger than James, he had actually preceded him to Berwyn, and no doubt influenced his brother's original decision to locate there. Samuel Kromer was born January 15, 1854, the sixth child and third son in the family. He grew up in Lehigh County and became a railroad telegrapher at an early age -- Cope says "when almost eighteen".
On March 31, 1871 the Central Railroad Co. of New Jersey leased the Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad in Pennsylvania from the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, thus gaining direct access to the Pennsylvania anthracite coal regions.
It was about this time or shortly thereafter that Samuel Kromer was called to a position with the Central of New Jersey, whose tracks ran along the east bank of the Lehigh River through Northampton, the area where he had grown up.
He married Ellen Jane Peters, of Egypt in Lehigh County, around 1873, and a son, Calvin A., was born the next year.
In our area, the Pennsylvania Railroad was engaged in upgrading its main line tracks, and somehow young Kromer wound up as telegrapher for the PRR in Berwyn in about 1876. He moved his family here and took an active interest in village affairs. He was a subscriber to shares in the new Berwyn Savings & Loan in 1877, joined the village church, Trinity Presbyterian, in 1878, and was almost immediately elected a Trustee there, serving on the board for twelve years and acting as president from 1884 through 1888. In the 1884 Boyd's Chester County Business Directory he was listed as the "railroad and express agent" at Berwyn.
Three more sons were born to Samuel and Ellen Kromer: Howard S., c. 1877, Frank P., c. 1878, and Will H., c. 1879, He purchased a lot on the west side of Waterloo Avenue from Thomas Aiken, on which Harry Burns built a house for him. The growing family moved into their new home in 1880.
Being of Pennsylvania-German stock, it was little wonder that Kromer was an adherent of the Democrat party. The election of Grover Cleveland to the presidency eventually brought Kromer the appointment as postmaster in Berwyn, succeeding Isaac A. Cleaver. (For the first two years of Cleveland's term Cleaver had clung to the postmastership, but Kromer ascended to the coveted position on October 14, 1887.) His fifth, and last, child, born about this time, incidentally, was named Grover Cleveland Kromer.
It was during the summer of 1887 that Kromer purchased a parcel of ground from John Keller, across from the station, north of the railroad tracks on the south side of what was to become Kromer Avenue. He then sold his house on Waterloo Avenue, and while the new house was being built the family lived upstairs in the Berwyn station.
At this time Samuel Kromer had an abrupt change in career path. He left the railroad and went into business for himself as a watchmaker, selling watches, jewelry, cigars and tobacco. What precipitated this change is not known; it is one of the mysteries of Samuel Kromer's life. It is, of course, possible that his being postmaster interfered with his duties with the railroad. At any event, the change took place in early 1889, as evidenced by a second mortgage loan of $1500 on his new house by the Philadelphia Optical & Watch Co. Ltd. for what must have been his initial stock of merchandise. (Perhaps ironically, the election of Benjamin Harrison to the presidency in the 1888 election meant that Kromer's days as postmaster were numbered. His appointment expired on September 27, 1889, and the post office was moved to Dr. Aiken's drug store.)
Exactly when Kromer set up his shop is not clear, but in the 1891 Annual Business Review it is described as "S. A. Kromer, Watches and Jewelry, Cigars and Tobacco, Lancaster Avenue. One year ago this gentleman established here and carries a good assortment of watches, clocks and jewelry. Repairing of all kinds is done in the best manner, and watches are sold on easy weekly or monthly payments.
He also keeps and sells the very best brands of cigars, tobaccos, cigarettes, snuff, pipes of every variety and smokers supplies generally. The proprietor is a native of [Lehigh] county, a member of the I. 0. 0. F. and a past grand [master]. He belongs to the Junior American Mechanics, and was [the] representative of the Ansonia Lodge of the Knights of the Golden Eagle at the last meeting of the Grand Lodge at Allentown." Possibly the shop was located in the old Stetson house, in front of his brother's livery stable, after James Kromer had moved out of the house and into his new home on Berwyn Avenue.
The Daily Local News carried an astonishing report on Tuesday afternoon, December 15, 1891. "Samuel Kromer, of Berwyn," it read, "was arrested and had a hearing Monday morning and was held for court, for keeping a pool room in which minors were allowed to play and to gamble by throwing dice for cigars." The story continued, "Kromer is a member of the local school board and was one time trustee in the Presbyterian Church." Apparently he had stepped over the line of propriety subscribed to by one or more of the villagers of Berwyn, and he had been called to task for it in a rather pointed fashion!
Following this confrontation, it appears that Kromer left Berwyn for Philadelphia: only once during the period from 1892 to 1904 was his presence in Berwyn noted, when his name appeared as one of the subscribers on the charter granted to the Odd Fellows Hall Association of Berwyn, filed with the court on February 22, 1892. (A new hall was built on Waterloo Avenue that year, and Kromer was, as noted, a long term member of the I.O.O.F.) He sold his house on Kromer Avenue on January 28, 1899, and at that date he was identified on the deed as "of the city of Philadelphia".
As a result, when James Kromer left Berwyn to take over the livery stable on what was to become known as Kromer Road in Wayne, he apparently first rented the Berwyn stable to Walter D. Craft, who also ran a livery stable in Malvern. Boyd's Chester County Business Directory of 1902-1903 lists "Craft & Hill, Lancaster Avenue, near depot" as the operator of a livery stable in Berwyn.
It must have been a humbling experience, then, for Samuel Kromer to return to Berwyn around 1904 to run his brother's livery stable and hotel. It is certain that e was in Berwyn in 1905, as his will, dated August 3 of that year, was written on stationery headed "Berwyn Livery and Boarding Stables, S. A. Kromer".
On September 25, 1909 James Kromer sold the land and buildings on Lancaster Avenue in Berwyn to his brother Samuel, though he retained in his own name the house on the western side of the rear lot facing Berwyn Avenue. Five years earlier, on May 16, 1904, he had sold the house on the eastern side of the rear lot on Berwyn Avenue to another brother, Alfred E. Kromer, and his wife Sedena. Alfred Kromer, born in 1857, was also a telegraph operator for the Pennsylvania Railroad, at Paoli and at Haverford. He had come to live in Berwyn in about 1890. He and his wife had a son, A. Edwin (Eddie) Kromer, born about 1888, who was living in Berwyn as late as 1917, Samuel Kromer died on April 23, 1911, at age 57.
By his will all his property, real and personal, was left to his wife Ellen Jane. She operated the business for a few years, but sometime around 1914 she turned over the operation of the livery stable to John E. (Jack) Fitzgerald, who lived, according to Styer, "in the next to the last house on [the east side of] Warren Avenue, across from Kriebel's". She also noted that Fitzgerald had "moving vans -- horse drawn, of course". In an interview in 1991 J. Clavius Woodward, a Berwyn resident born in 1907, confirmed that Fitzgerald had horses that he might rent out and also a freight and hauling business in Philadelphia. Woodward also said that the Fitzgerald women made nuns' habits and came into the Berwyn post office to mail them.
Just how long Fitzgerald persevered in the business is not known, but on March 1, 1915 Mrs. Kromer sold the entire property to Theodore L. Van Meter, who lived on Leopard Road. Four years later, in 1919, Van Meter lost the property at a sheriff sale.
The Main Line Residential & Business Directory of 1911 records that Calvin A. Kromer, Samuel Kromer's eldest son, sold oysters and confectionery items from a place of business on Lancaster Avenue, likely the Kromer Hotel or the old Stetson house next door. In the 1914 Farm and Business Directory of Chester County he is listed as selling cigars and tobacco in Berwyn. Nora Kromer, his wife, died suddenly on a holiday visit to Pottstown on May 30, 1914.
Alfred Kromer, the younger brother of James and Samuel, residing on Berwyn Avenue,died on November 8, 1914. His widow Sedena continued to live in the home until 1917.
In Wayne, James Kromer retired about this time. Emma C. Patterson, who wrote a weekly history column for the Suburban, has preserved for us an advertisement which appeared early in 1915 establishing that Howard S. Kromer, Samuel Kromer's second son, was at that time operating the Wayne Livery and Boarding Stables as the successor to James Kromer. In the advertisement it was also noted that "special attention" was given "to the care of horses", that "conveyances" were "furnished on short notice", car- riages were stored, and that "particular attention was given to weddings and funerals". The 1913 Atlas of the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Rail- road shows that Howard Kromer was living on the south side of Lancaster Avenue in Wayne, across from the livery stable, at that time.
The last of the Kromer properties in Berwyn was the former home of James Kromer on Berwyn Avenue. On January 21, 1920 it was sold by James Kromer; joining him in signing the deed was Katherine D. Kromer, his third wife. (His second wife, Elizabeth Shourds Kromer, had died in 1915.) With this sale the Kromer family disappeared from Berwyn except for the name given to the street on the north side of the railroad tracks that Samuel Kromer had opened for development when he constructed his first house there in 1887-88.
We can only speculate about the reasons why James Kromer moved his livery stable business to Wayne in 1903. Perhaps he was smarting from the turn down given his petition for a liquor license for the hotel, or it may have been the increased competition in Berwyn.
On April 1, 1893 Owen H.McClure and his wife Mary T. purchased a house and lot of slightly over one-quarter of an acre, on the west side of Waterloo Avenue one property removed from the corner of Waterloo and First avenues, from Dr. Richardson B. Okie. (Ethelbert Lobb owned the corner house.) Behind the McClure house, on the back of his lot, stood a barn-like structure where he operated a livery stable, accessible from a twenty-foot wide unnamed street or alley running north from First Avenue.
"McClure kept six or seven horses," Woodward recalled, "and also operated a moving van business." He also noted, "Behind the corner [Lobb] house on the rear alley there was also a smaller barn which housed the buggies and wagons for rent at the stable."
McClure lived there until his death on February 18, 1917. Three years later his widow transferred the property to Frank and Anna M. Eckman, her son-in-law and daughter. Some who resided in Berwyn in the 1950s and 1960s recall that there was a vast thicket of weeds, vines, and crumbling wooden buildings off First Avenue at this location.
A small insight into McClure's life before he moved to Berwyn is revealed in the recollections of Wayne J. Pennell recorded in 1945 by Styer. "Athletic sports as we know them now," he recalled, "did not come along until later, but there [was] ... fox hunting for those who had horses. I was fortunate in this ... 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."
Owen McClure's arrival in Berwyn coincided roughly with the formation of the Berwyn Fire Company. In 1906 it purchased a horse-drawn pumper which was housed at the fire house on the north side of Berwyn Avenue just west of the corner house at Berwyn and Knox avenues. Since the fire company did not keep horses, the first team from the neighborhood to answer the alarm to draw the pumper received a small bounty. According to Woodward, "At the sound of the fire bell, McClure would turn a team of horses loose, and they would race to the fire house wearing only their collars. The fire company kept harness ready to go with the pumper."
Styer records that Ig Bloom, who earlier had a saddler's shop and worked for Yerkes, "was handyman about the McClure stables. He and his wife lived in the present Grubb house, and Ig was a town legend for years." According to Woodward, Bloom built the house on the south end of Knox Avenue where two sisters, Amanda Grubb and Eleanor Grubb Zane, later lived for years. (Amanda, now 97, never married; her younger sister is now a widow.)
George Moran, whose recollections of Berwyn in the 1920s are in an earlier issue of the Quarterly also recalled Ig Bloom at the Hayes blacksmith shop on Walnut Avenue . . . he rode a beautiful horse. The teen-age sport was to see Ig in the distance and call out, 'Hi, Ig! He would then charge with his horse and the kids would disperse to a safe place. He never hurt any one, but his horse would rear back, kicking its front feet."
In addition to the function of the livery stable in a society which was dependent on the horse for local mobility, there was a whole panoply of artisans and others who performed the special services needed to maintain the horse and all the paraphanelia related to it.
There was, for example, a blacksmith and wheelwright shop in the village even when it was known as Reeseville. Franklin Burns, writing about the "centennial period", c. 1876, identifies it as "McLeod's ..., occupied about this time by William Epright", likely Hannah Epright's brother. In a sketch of Berwyn in 1879 (shortly after the name had been changed from Reeseville) in the Daily Local News, it was reported that "the [blacksmith] of Berwyn is James Milson. It is he that strikes while the iron is hot and loves to hear the bellows roar. He is a good mechanic, and it is said has the trade to such a nicety that he not only makes the thing, but even the thing that makes it."
The 1880 Census confirms that James Milson, blacksmith, age 38, was a resident in the village, and also that Edward Griswold, wheelwright, age 56, lived there. They likely shared McLeod's shop. The Griswolds had some interesting boarders: Ingram P. Bloom, age 35, saddler; Joseph Rex, age 29, druggist's clerk (and, as noted earlier, credited by Burns with starting the first livery stable in town a few vears later); and Richard Perry, age 25, blacksmith (perhaps an apprentice).
Pennell locates the "saddler's shop kept by Ingram Bloom" on the north side of the pike just east of McLeod's blacksmith and wheelwright shop. Breou's map of Berwyn in 1883 also shows McLeod's shop on the north side of Lancaster Avenue, opposite the house of C. F. Stetson, together with an inscription "M. Lobb". (Who "M. Lobb" might be has yet to be discovered as none of the sons of the various Lobb families had the initial "M.")
The next occupants of the McLeod shop were the Krider (sometimes Crider or Kreider) brothers. George Krider was the blacksmith and Frank Krider, the wheelwright. The shop burned down in 1891, but the following year the two brothers bought from McLeod the vacant lot to the west, between the Morris Lewis house and the old, now fire-destroyed, location. There they erected the Berwyn Carriage works, where the Kriders built and repaired wagons, painted them, and did blacksmith work until around the end of the first World War. They were joined in the enterprise by a third brother, Frederick, the painter. (Frank Krider Jones, a long-time resident of Berwyn -- his mother was a sister of the Krider boys and he married Mildred Walker, a daughter of the proprietor of the Berwyn Drug Store -- was known to say that "as a youngster, I chased the flies from the horses, using a real horse's tail flick".)
George Krider died in 1922 and Frank Krider died two years later. In the meantime, their second shop also burned down, in 1923. (At that time it was occupied by Keystone Motors as a garage.)
Martin V. Yerkes, a harnessmaker, arrived in Berwyn on April 1, 1887 from northern Montgomery County. He bought a lot on the south side of Lancaster Avenue adjoining the Stetson property on the east. There he built his home and shop about the same time James Kromer was getting into the livery stable business next door. Eventually Yerkes built a brick home on the rear of his lot, facing Berwyn Avenue.
The 1891 Annual Business Review notes that Yerkes "over three years ago ... assumed control of this old business". Apparently Yerkes bought out Ingram Bloom's location across the street, as Styer says, "Ig Bloom ... had been a harnessmaker of Yerkes". The sales room was 22' x 25', and, according to the Business Review, "well fitted and containing a full stock of light and heavy single and double harness, whips, saddle blankets, fly nets, harness and axle oil and horse furnishing goods, generally". It was further reported that "a specialty is made of repairing harness, trunks, valises, etc.". Yerkes was described as a native of Bucks County who had started the trade in 1859, a member of the Encampment of the I.O.O.F at Jenkintown, and owner of a shoe store business in Berwyn.
The successor to Martin V. Yerkes as the village harnessmaker was William E. Gallagher. The Main Line Residential & Business Directory of 1911 indicates that Gallagher was operating this business at that time.
Another Berwyn blacksmith of note was Thomas N. Rogers. He was one of the group that met in 1892 preliminary to the formation of the Berwyn Fire Company. (The fire which burned out the Kriders at their shop the year before was no doubt a motivator of these talks.) Styer tells us that "Tom Rogers had a blacksmith shop on Waterloo Avenue", across from the former First Baptist Church now converted into an office building. In 1914 his billhead promised "common sense horse shoeing".
Styer continues, "Jim Hayes worked for Tom [Rogers], and later had his own blacksmith shop at Leopard, and still later on Walnut Avenue", across from the new Lincoln Highway School which opened in 1912. (James Hayes was the father of club member Ed Hayes and a grandfather of club member Mildred Kirkner.) Before World War II Hayes had moved again, to the south side of Berwyn Avenue, one door west of the corner of Waterloo and Berwyn avenues. There is still today a garage-like building which could have been used as a shop on the back of the lot, though by that time Hayes was working farm to farm off the back of his truck.
One other blacksmith merits notice here, although he did not operate in the village of Berwyn. He is Anderson Golder, who died in 1917. He operated in a blacksmith and wheelwright shop located on the northeast corner of Yellow Springs and Mill roads in the Valley. (According to the Witmer map of 1874 the shop had earlier been worked by Jesse H. Dice.) Golder was the grandfather of another club member, Libby Weaver, who also remembers, at age 15, driving a horse to be shod to a blacksmith shop near the corner of Swedesford and Church roads. But the blacksmith shops in the Valley catered primarily to the farms of the countryside, and will have to await further research on another day.
By about the time of the first World War the economy of the "horse" was rapidly replaced by the economy of the "automobile". The enterprises and artisans remembered here quickly disappeared from the scene and have been largely forgotten. Tey once contributed significantly to the life of our community, however, and deserve their due place of recognition in our local history.Top
Annual Business Review of Chester County. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Publishing Co. 1891
Atlas of Chester County, Pennsylvania. Safe Harbor, Lancaster County, Pa.: A. R. Witmer 1874
Boyd's Chester County Business Directory, 1884-1885; 1902-1903.
Breou's Farm Maps, Chester County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: W. H. Kirk & Co. 1883
Burns, Franklin L., "A History of Berwyn at the Time of the Centennial". Unpublished manuscript in the Chester County Historical Society n.d.
Chester County Archives: Corporation books, deed records, mortgage records, tavern licenses, wills
Chester County Historical Society: Newspaper clipping file
Cope, Gilbert and Henry G. Ashmead, Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of Chester and Delaware Counties, Pennsylvania, Volume II. New York: Lewis Publishing Co. 1904
Farm and Business Directory of Chester County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Wilmer Atkinson Company 1914
Hall, Karyl Lee Kibler and Peter Dobkin Hall, The Lehigh Valley: An Illustrated History. Woodland Hills, California: Windsor Publications, Inc. 1982
Historic Wayne [Bicentennial Issue]. Wayne, Pa.: The Graphic Center -- Argus Printing Company 1975
Main Line Residential & Business Directory, The. Ardmore, Pa.: Hawkins Ad Agency 1911
Ordine, Bill, "He's Carved a Niche in the World of Carousel Organs", [in the Philadelphia Inquirer, July 4, 1993]
Patterson, Emma C., "Segments of Local History", [columns in The Suburban and Wayne Times in scrapbooks in the Radnor Historical Society]
Tredyffrin Easttown History Club: Quarterly [various issues]
Trinity Presbyterian Church, Berwyn: Trustees Book, Vol. I, 1861-1892; Session Minute Book, Vol. II, 1879-1897
U. S. Census [of Easttown Township] 1880
Woodward, J. Clavius, Interview, February 28, 1991. [Mr. Woodward was born in 1907 and is a life-long resident of Berwyn, most of the time in the house on Waterloo Avenue built in 1888 by his grandfather, Jonathan R. Holland]
Page last updated: 2014-07-22 at 20:43 EDT