Home : Quarterly Archives : Volume 44
Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
Source: Fall 2007 Volume 44 Number 4, Pages 121–141
TREDYFFRIN EASTTOWN HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Editor's Note: References in the following article that are listed in the format
"[M<month>/<day>/<year>]" (e.g. "[M11/29/73]") refer to the Minutes of the History Club.
"Something there is ...” (with due respect to Robert Frost) [Note 1] that resides in human nature causing us to long to know how life was lived before – before we came to inhabit our little corner of the world. And this preternatural longing seems to be especially strong within the heart of the native Pennsylvanian. Consider – more persons of retirement age are said to reside in Pennsylvania than in any other state, save in the balmy climes of Florida. Our natural surroundings must have great allure, or “something there is ...” that keeps us anchored here.
Could it be the bountiful history? We celebrate on these pages the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society, which sprang to life on the porch at S. Paul Teamer's home, at the northwest corner of Conestoga and Howellville Roads, in August of 1936. They named it then “Tredyffrin Easttown History Club,” and for an emblem chose an artistic representation of a Welsh dragon. (The History Club adopted its new name “Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society” in 2005; we will refer to it as “Club” here when referring to its history prior to its recent transformation.)
Why Tredyffrin Easttown? Because the two townships were yoked together in the administration of their schools. They had opened in 1908 the first joint high school in Pennsylvania, and Mr. Teamer was principal of that high school. The history to be studied and preserved was the history of both townships.
Why a Welsh dragon? Because the earliest settlers of the land here were from that part of Britain called Wales. The preaching in our first churches, Anglican, Baptist, and Presbyterian, was in the Welsh tongue.
Three persons seem to be responsible for starting the Club: Mr. Teamer, Mary G. Croasdale (Mrs. John), and Mildred F. Bradley (Mrs. Charles, a widow of three years, later Mrs. LeRoy Fisher). They were joined (Mrs. Croasdale being absent that day) at a meeting on August 4, 1936, by A. Wayne Baugh, Frank Hibberd, and W. Clavius Latch.
Mr. Teamer acted as president. He was a member of the first graduating class of the joint Tredyffrin Easttown High School in 1908 and returned to became its history teacher, as well as its principal, in 1915. He loved his work, but “far and above all, he loved his state, her history, and its telling.” [Note 2]
Mrs. Croasdale was a daughter of the late R. B. Okie, M.D., who practiced medicine at Berwyn 1880-1904. After marriage she lived for many years in the house that at one time was the second Blue Ball Tavern, and so had been greatly attracted to things of the past.
A relative newcomer in the neighborhood, Mrs. Bradley was also interested in local matters, having started a year earlier to study the history of the schools, and she was living in an old house on ground formerly owned by Mad Anthony Wayne's grandmother.
Dr. Baugh, a medical doctor, had grown up in the Valley on the old Baugh farm which was a tannery in the early days, and he had many interesting stories of past years. He had started early in life to collect things of historical interest in this vicinity, and the tales he told made the others anxious to work.
“Clavy” Latch, a school director, was also reared in the Valley, in the old house that had been the quarters of General Howe and which A. W. Quimby had used as a location in his book Valley Forge. Mr. Latch had inherited an interest for local history from his father who, from his early boyhood, had told him the stories of soldiers in the Valley.
(Frank Hibberd was at that time working on County surveys, digging up old history. Not being a local resident here, he did not affiliate with the club.)
The aforementioned five, and the following eleven became charter members:
Charter associate members :
Honorary member — Miss Anna White
[All the officers of the Club between 1937 and 1965 are listed in the Quarterly, vol. 13, no. 4 (October 1965), pp. 83-84.]
A seven-part statement of the aims and objectives of the Club was developed and adopted early in 1937. Slightly paraphrased, they were:
For Paul Teamer, the very best way to experience history was in the field, where events took place. Field trips became a monthly occurrence and one of the most important elements of early Club life. The location of British troops and Officers' quarters, sites of the American Officers' quarters during the Valley Forge encampment, the Brandywine and Paoli battlefields, all were destinations. Members took a seven-mile walk along the Horse-Shoe Trail, just for recreation.
More distant three-day, weekend trips by automobile became an annual feature in 1937 with Historic Williamsburg, Va., the first on June 26-28. A year later, New York and New England, with stops at Stony Point, West Point, Bennington, Cambridge, Lexington, and Washington's Camp at Morristown, N.J., was on the schedule. In 1939, a group visited Cook County Forest in Kane, Pa., and in 1940 another western Pennsylvania venue, Fort Necessity, became the focus. In 1941, World War II put an end to auto touring, but a four-mile walk in Philadelphia starting at 9th and Market streets to view historic places, was accessed by Pennsylvania Railroad commuter service. [Club trips taken between 1936 and 1957 are listed in the Quarterly, vol. 13, no. 4 (October 1965), pp. 89-92.]
Without doubt, the most demanding work undertaken by the Club was the publication of its Quarterly magazine of local history. Seventy years later, this current issue completes Volume 44 and is the 177th issue published.
The Club's first annual banquet was on March 7, 1939 at the Windmill Tea Room —formerly the General Jackson Inn—in Paoli. Originally the Club had these affairs at an historic inn: King of Prussia, Bull Tavern, General Warren, General Jackson. On September 20, 1946 a celebration of its tenth anniversary held at the Monday Afternoon Club in Malvern inaugurated the practice of securing a “name” speaker, in this instance Dr. Francis Harvey Green, former professor at West Chester State College and president of the County Historical Society, who reviewed the “Life of Bayard Taylor.” [Annual banquets held between 1939 and 1964 are listed in the Quarterly, vol. 13, no. 4 (October 1965), pp. 87-89.]
Very early the Club showed signs of taking an active part in community activities. Today's buzz word for such involvement is “civic engagement.” In 1937, the Chester County Horticultural Society came into being, with Club member, Howard S. Okie, Esq., as its president.
On August 2, 1939, the Club's third anniversary, it erected an historic marker at the site of the Revolutionary War stone chimney picket post, or guard house, at New Centerville, near the intersection of what was then Swedesford and Baptist Roads. The picket post formed a link in a chain of similar posts which surrounded the main camp of the American Army at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-78. (The marker was later a casualty of a road-widening project and found lying in a field near Valley Forge. It was rehabilitated and reinstalled by the Club at a ceremony on April 27, 1980.)
Three early items worthy of remembrance to the Club seem to have vanished through the years. This is unfortunate in an organization devoted to preserving history. Perhaps the group can be forgiven because they had no home and their possessions were moved around so much. As late as 1973 “Mrs. Wandless reported that she has boxes of memorabilia belonging to the Club, such as an old flag [perhaps this is the 38-star flag which is in the closet in 2007] and other items which should not be thrown away. She asked what to do with them, but no solution was proposed” [M11/29/73].
When the Club moved everything from Bob Goshorn's home in 1996 Barbara Fry made a detailed inventory of everything found there and neither a banner nor any pins are on her list. J. B. and Joyce Post looked at all the artifacts in the little closet in the summer of 2007 and these 3 items were not found.
On the occasion of TEHC's first banquet on March 7, 1939, “Mrs. John F. Heagy, chairman of the Heraldry Committee, presented an emblem of original design — a dragon embroidered in purple on white satin between bands of green (green and white being the Club colors), which was accepted by Ruth J. Moore” [“Club Events – Annual Banquet.” Quarterly, vol. 2, no. 2 (April 1939), p. 37]. A black and white photograph taken at this banquet shows a banner with a dragon hanging on the wall that could possibly match this description.
A Club banner was moved to the little Club House in Daylesford in1952 but was reported stolen when the building was vandalized in 1956. Later in 1965, the Minutes report that “Mrs. Fisher reported that she had found the History Club Banner in her attic, the colors have faded” [M9/23/65]. It is lost again in 2007.
Past President's Pin
The first mention of a Past President's pin is in 1950 when “The President then presented the Past President's pin to our recent Past President, Mrs. Alfred Prime, who thanked the club” [M4/27/50]. Mrs. Prime was a leading expert on silver items. The next time is in 1952 when “Mrs. Fisher, as Charter Member and past president of the History Club, then presented the Dragon Emblem Pin to the retiring president Mrs. Emily J. Peirce” [M2/24/52]. This pin is thought to have been made of silver.
In 1952 it was “Moved and seconded that the Secretary be instructed to order 6 Past President's pins” [M3/27/52]. One last mention is in 1954 when “Mrs. Peirce presented Mr. Wandless with the Past President's pin” [M1/28/54]. There doesn't appear to be any further mentions of this pin in the Minutes. One wonders if the 6 pins were ever ordered or what happened to any remaining pins. They might have been rather attractive.
“Mr. Wandless presented a beautiful gavel made by her husband from the wood
of the signal chestnut and appropriately marked by a plate” [M12/27/44]. The
Club's gavel was “repaired” by Ed TenBroeck [M6/24/79]. The gavel was
last seen in 2003 when “Skip” Eichner turned the presidency over to Roger
Mr. Teamer died in June of 1940. Mr. Burns followed Mr. Teamer as president. Frank Burns, native son, locally educated, and best informed authority on local history, had already sketched out an unpublished manuscript, “History of Berwyn.” In addition, he was a regular contributor to the Picket Post quarterly of the Valley Forge Historical Society. Burns worked as a house painter, but was also a self-taught ornithologist, having published a 122-page book. [Note 4]
Hilda E. Heagy (Mrs. John F.) followed Mr. Burns as president in 1943. At that time Mr. Burns was named honorary president. Officers then were elected for a term of one year, but later elections took place every two years until the recent organizational changes of 2005. Mrs. Heagy and her husband, a retired Pennsylvania Railroad employee, lived on Conestoga Road along with most of the other early Club members. In August, 1943, it was decided to send postcards each month to remind members of meetings.
With the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, world events intruded upon the study of local history and greatly complicated the lives of all citizens. In the Quarterly we read, “The year 1942 will long be remembered as a history-making epoch... Our great country was at war... It was in February that our community had its first blackout and registration day for Selective Service for men 20 to 44.” [Note 5]
The Club decided to dispense with the annual banquet until after the war. In its stead, a picnic was held on the lawn at the Heagy home in the month of August, an appropriate way to mark the origin of the Club. Picnics have been routinely held every August since then and have been at the home of Bill and Sue Andrews since 1996.
“... the members of the Club met at six thirty of that evening to partake of the well planned and well prepared menu. This consisted of baked ham, deviled eggs, tomatoes, cheese, potato chips, pickles, with watermelon, the first as the dessert—this followed by coffee as the beverage [M8/4/42]."
In addition to the death of Mr. Teamer, the Club lost three other founding members in the first decade, Dr. Baugh (1938), Brognard Okie (1945), and Frank Burns (1946).
One of the first things Dr. Mason did as president in 1944 was to create five committees: Publications [changed to the Quarterly Committee in 1946], Program, Membership, Field trips, and Hospitality. Each committee had 8 members; this means 40 positions filled by 22 different people. There was also a chaplain, a curator, and a roll call-recorder [M3/13/44]. It is astounding to look at all these committees and positions and compare this with the difficulty in 2007 in finding enough members willing to do even the most basic work of the organization.
Committees and positions changed over time. There are two that reflect the changing nature of the Club. A Library Committee was created in 1946 [M2/11/46] and began its work as a liaison for placing copies of the Quarterly in local public libraries. Later it dealt with the Club's own ever-growing collection of books. A very detailed 3-page “Report of the Special Library Committee, May 26, 1966” signed by Henry J. Weller, J. Alden Mason, and Conrad Wilson gives a good background to the problem and recommends that TEHC “Turn over all of its collections, with the exception of current record books, to the Chester County Historical Society.” The Club ignored the report and the number of volumes scattered around in members' houses continued to grow.
It seems as though they never disposed of any of the books, pamphlets, etc. given to them even when they had no bearing on local history or the authors were less than credible. In late 1972 or early 1973 the Committee coordinated donating the entire TEHC collection of about 200 books to the Freedoms Foundation. In the end the Foundation only wanted about one third of the books [M5/24/73]; they disposed of the others. The Club continues to receive and store books—although more selectively and not as aggressively—and by 2007 it has still another group of about 200 books in its collection.
In 1964, as TEHC members aged and started getting sick and dying, a Sunshine
Committee was created [M12/3/64] and for a time was one of the busiest of all
the committees. Decisions needing to be made—what the menu was going to be
at the annual banquets; where the picnics were going to be held—by the ongoing
Hospitality Committee seem to have always taken up much time at monthly meetings.
As one reads the reports of these committees in the Minutes and looks at all
the trips taken in the early years, it is obvious that the Club provided its
members with a social organization—where they could do historical research
In 1948, Club member (later president) Franklin Wandless, a mechanical engineer by training and profession, prepared a colored and illustrated map of Easttown and Tredyffrin Townships, size 28 by 35 inches, drawn to scale and showing many points of historic interest in the two townships. A number of copies of the map, suitable for framing, were reproduced and made available for sale by the Club just before Christmas at a price of $3.50 each. The map was popular and added $36.00 to the Club Treasury in 1948 [M3/24/49]. This is a substantial amount at this time. Framed copies of the map may still be found on sale in antiques shops and galleries in the area and are considered quite collectible.
Until the death of Mr. Teamer, the Club held most of its meetings at his home. For the next eight and a half years it met at the home of W. C. Latch a few doors down Conestoga Road to the east. For an interval, from 1950 to 1956, the Club also rented, for one dollar a year, a small one-room building from Mary Croasdale, known as “Dr. Hannah Croasdale's school,” for meetings and to store its various artifacts and books. After the building had been broken into and vandalized, papers scattered about, and some of the artifacts taken, meetings generally were held in member's homes, or at a local church, or at a local historic site. (continued on p. 130)
The Need for Space
As far back as 1937, before any quarterlies had been published and back issues had started to accumulate, the Club Minutes report “a discussion took place as to an available room to keep such gifts as might from time to time be presented to the Club” and space at the North Berwyn School was suggested [M3/10/37]. Naturally, TEHC appointed a committee but there was no move. Three months later the Club curator was authorized to “order 25 large and 100 small boxes to store away the materials of the Club” [M6/14/37]. Through the years there are many reports in the Club Minutes of different members who are storing Club material in their own attics, garages, and home offices and that inventories need to be made of who has what. Club members frequently discuss this unsatisfactory situation where their materials and memorabilia are widely scattered and reflect on the ongoing need for their own location with sufficient centralized storage and work space.
This is an ongoing concern to this day. As late as September 2007 Herb Frey passionately said that TEHS needs an Archives Committee and that “we've got to inventory our archives—indexing and listing [so we] know what we have, so when we move... ” [Interview of Herb Fry by Joyce Post, September 28, 2007].
At the July 27, 1950 Club meeting, after still another discussion of “what to do with the things the Club has on hand . . . Mrs. Croasdale offered the use of a building on her property in Daylesford which might be used for storing the books.” In true fashion a committee was appointed “to investigate the building to determine its acceptability for storing the archives of the club” [M7/27/50]. By the next meeting the committee “had gone to see the building which had been offered and they felt the building would be acceptable” [M8/25/50]. It seemed like the answer to their space problems. The 1904 building has a varied history. Mrs. Croasdale, who lived in the second Blue Ball Inn in Daylesford, describes its many uses in a report at the 1950 annual meeting, including its beginning as a garage for their Stanley Steamer [M10/26/50]. Both Mrs. Croasdale, in the annual meeting report, and Louise H. Kneass, in a 1955 history of Daylesford [Louise Kneass. “Notes on Daylesford. “ Quarterly, vol. 8, no. 3 (April 1955), pp. 71-77], refer to the years between 1915 and 1920, when it was used by Agnes Okie, Mrs. Croasdale's sister, as a school for children of the neighborhood. It is Mrs. Kneass who supplies the name of the school: Mt. Airy School.
One senses TEHC really wanted this building. They'd never had a place of their own before. They moved fast.
Déjà Vu All Over Again
The Building Today
The little building sits on the grounds of the old Wetherby-Hampton Log House at 251 Irish Road. Conrad Wilson purchased and restored it around 1954 [M1/27/55]. The next owner was Mildred Erdman, TEHC Treasurer for 9 years between 1975 and 1984, when it was the scene of many Club picnics and a 1976 Bicentennial open house.
The current owner is Mrs. Helen Pancoast.
The dimensions of the present building are 17 feet long and 13 feet wide, or
a total of 221 square feet. This hardly seems large enough to have held all
the furnishings the Club moved into it between 1950 and 1952 plus the members
who attended meetings there. A possible clue to this can be found by comparing
the contemporary photograph of the building and a drawing of the Mt. Airy School
on page 74 of Mrs. Kneass' April 1955 Quarterly article. The 2 buildings look
similar, but with a number of differences including that the older building
has 3 windows on each side and the contemporary one has 2 windows on each side
and a shorter length. It was probably the larger building that the Club was
meeting in—that would explain the problem of its size. It was the vandalized
building Conrad Wilson purchased in 1959. Perhaps he removed a portion of the
back of it when he moved it from the Daylesford location to his house in this
location on Irish Road.
Sensitive to its aim of civic engagement, the Club joined the community each October following the war, until 1952, in observing Pennsylvania Week and presenting an interesting display, usually in the window of the Berwyn Library at the southwest corner of Knox and Lancaster Avenues. A committee headed by Fannie Wandless had curatorial responsibility for the displays. In 1951, for example, the theme was “Pennsylvania—Home of Freedom” depicting the Spirit of 1776; Gettysburg Address; Flag raising at Iwo Jima; Creed of the Freedoms Foundation; and, in the center, a replica of Independence Hall. [Pennsylvania Week displays between 1946 and 1952 are listed in the Quarterly, vol. 13, no. 4 (October 1965), p. 86.]
Also in 1952, the Club assisted the Berwyn Business Men's Association with planning the 75th anniversary celebration on June 26-29 of the naming of Berwyn. Howard Okie prepared a paper on “The Early History of Berwyn” and an adaptation was used in a souvenir program of 32 pages of historical information and advertising issued by the businessmen for the event. Also included was a listing of seventeen “historic sites” within a few miles of Berwyn, believed to be the first ever such tabulation. During the celebration, the Club placed an historical display in the window of Josephine Latch's shop at the southeast corner of Main and Lancaster Avenues. The diamond jubilee began with a parade headed by the Tredyffrin Easttown High School Band and included, not only the modern trucks and floats of various businesses, but a covered wagon and horse drawn buggy. Long time residents were transported in fancy autos.
A large increase in the school district population motivated planning for a new high school in 1953 and led to the creation of a “Paoli Area High School Authority,” to build and operate the school. Naming the new school became a contentious issue. Conestoga High School won out, but one critic was Dr. J. Alden Mason, head of the American section of the Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology of the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the History Club. He suggested that the name should more properly be Conestoga Road High School, pointing out that the Conestoga Indians had, in fact, been mortal enemies of the Lenni-Lenape who had earlier inhabited this area. The new school opened in September of 1955.
The annual dinner in 1956, celebrating the Club's twentieth anniversary, was held at Martini's Restaurant in Devon. After dinner, C. A. Weslager, author of Red Men on the Brandywine published in 1953, spoke on the subject of “Log Cabins.” It seems prescient that the members were sensitive to the fact that on the grounds of the new high school stood an unoccupied log cabin which would soon become a community issue.
Large credit must be given for the leadership Franklin Wandless supplied during the 1950s. Dr. Mason wrote a tribute to Mr. Wandless, “For almost fifteen years he was one of the most prominent and hardworking members of the History Club... He will be long remembered for his constant kind-liness, cheerfulness, helpfulness, ability, and reliability” (Quarterly, April 1961, p. 49).
Mr. Wandless was born on May 17, 1882. In 1903 at the age of 21 he married Fannie Read of Philadelphia. They moved to Berwyn in 1918, lived at 218 Warren Avenue, and had 3 children: one died in infancy, one died as a child, and then Myrtle, who also became very active in TEHC activities. He founded Boy Scout Troop No. 1 and was the scoutmaster.
It was said Franklin “could make or repair anything.” In addition to illustrating the Quarterly for 9 years and publishing his 1948 “Historical Map of Easttown & Tredyffrin Township Chester County Pennsylvania,” he made a gavel for the Club from the wood of a local signal tree and with a metal commemoration plate. It was presented to the Club in December 1944 by his wife, Fannie [M12/27/44].
He died suddenly after a short illness on September 1, 1960 at the age of 78. [Sources: (1) Daily Local News, September 2, 1960; (2) J. Alden Mason. “Franklin Wiseman Wandless” Quarterly, vol. 11, no. 3 (April 1961), pp. 48-49.]
Conrad Wilson, teenage charter member, returned to Berwyn and reaffirmed his love for history. He contributed enormously to the growth and scope of Club activities. Reared on the Wilson Farm in the Valley that later became the crown jewel of Tredyffrin Township parks when dedicated in 2004, Conrad, his wife, and eldest child, bought in 1952, and restored over the ensuing years, the Wetherby-Hampton log house located at 251 Irish Road, now on the National Register of Historic Places.
He served as Club vice president from 1958 to 1963 and as president 1964-1965. In the summer of 1960, he proposed to the local school board a special experimental course for students at Conestoga High School in the American Cultural Background, which included a project centered around the restoration of the old Van Leer log cabin on the grounds of the high school. Several of his students wrote papers, 2 of which were published in the Quarterly; a history of Malvern in the October 1961 issue and a history of Mt. Pleasant in the October 1966 issue.
Also in 1960, Mrs. Fisher took the lead in organizing a Log Cabin Committee consisting of representatives of the Tredyffrin Easttown History Club, the Valley Forge Historical Society, the King of Prussia Historical Society, and the Chester County Historical Society.
A 1965 brochure in the Club files discloses that noted architect G. Edwin Brumbaugh, who had restored Independence Hall in Philadelphia, had been employed to make a complete report of the worth of the log cabin. He recommended preservation of the building. A fundraising goal of $2500 was disclosed. The History Club contributed $100 and organized a “Log Cabin Tour” to raise additional funds.
Mrs. Mildred Fisher, a past president of the Club, served as chairman of the restoration committee for the Log Cabin to within a few hours of her death in April 1966. She was succeeded by Conrad Wilson as head of the committee.
Completion of the restoration was celebrated at a Club meeting held at the cabin on June 23, 1966, Tour Tredyffrin Day. Later, it was opened to the public as part of the Chester County Day tour on October 3, 1970. Subsequently, the adjacent high school has been expanded several times, and construction has edged ever closer to the old log building—a continuing concern.
About this time, the supervisors of Tredyffrin Township took what was described as “a bold stride forward.” Route 202 was being widened and realigned, and in the process, parts of the Valley and the village of New Centerville all but disappeared. Plans for a strip shopping center nearby were unveiled. In the spring of 1964 the Township Planning Commission established a Committee on Tredyffrin Historic Sites. The History Club also decided to stress the area along Swedesford Road in its research, programs, and publications that year.
Club members Conrad Wilson, Molly TenBroeck, and Anne Cook served on the Sites Committee. It listed fifty-five sites of historic importance in the township. Attorney Robert L. Ward, a member of the History Club, was later appointed a member of Tredyffrin's Historic Architecture Review Board.
The Club's thirtieth annual dinner was on October 20, 1966 in the Fellowship Hall of Trinity Church, Berwyn and was catered by ladies of the church. The speaker was Thomas R. Thompson; the topic: “Old West Chester.”
These were hard times. Within five years the Club had lost seven of its leaders: Mrs. Phoebe Prime, Mrs. Mary Croasdale, Mrs. Mildred Fisher, Dr. J. Alden Mason, Miss Myrtle Wandless, Henry Weller, and Miss Katharine Stroh. Mrs. Fannie Wandless and Sara Nuzum seem to have labored almost alone. The Quarterly was not published between 1974 and 1978 causing Bob Goshorn to muse that it had become a “neverly.” [Note 6]
A statewide reorganization of school districts in 1969 divided the six-district Paoli Area jointure, formed in 1953, into separate Great Valley and Tredyffrin Easttown school districts. Bob
Goshorn was a Tredyffrin member of the School Board, and his connection with the schools was definitely a plus for the Club in subsequent years.
The Bicentennial celebration of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1976, brought a vast crowd of people, including Club members, to Valley Forge Park. A Pennsylvania Bicentennial Commission brainstorm had organized a Bicentennial Wagon Train Pilgrimage leaving from Blaine, Washington on June 8, 1975 to Valley Forge. After 15 months and 17,000 miles on the road, the Pilgrimage ended on July 3, 1976, at 2 p.m. as it rode into Valley Forge Park. There it encamped until September 30.
The Club celebrated the Bicentennial with a special event on Sunday, July 25, at “CockleBurr,” the home of Club member Mrs. Mildred Erdman, at 251 Irish Road, Berwyn. Conrad Wilson, Executive Director of Chester County Historical Society and previous owner of the house, gave a short talk. Also on Irish Road, near Mrs. Erdman's house, the Van Leer log cabin on the grounds of Conestoga High School, partially restored by the History Club, was open that afternoon to the guests.
The Club held its annual dinner on October 21, 1976 at the Berwyn Methodist Church fellowship hall. It was the eve of the presidential election between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. Bob Goshorn gave a presentation, “Come Let Us Sing of the Hero Bold,” replete with a quartet accompanied by tin whistle and bass drum, highlighting presidential campaign songs from the 19th century. The talk was later printed in the October 1992 Quarterly.
The Berwyn-Devon Business Association led the celebration of the Centennial of Berwyn in 1977.
The souvenir program carried 48 pages of condensed Quarterly articles and business advertisements.
Bob Goshorn was a friend of the History Club. He had retired from a position with Curtis Publishing Company in 1977 and was elected Club president for two years commencing in 1978 and reelected for two additional years.
At the time of the six-district school jointure which built the new high school, Bob Goshorn had been elected to the local school board. In all, he served for 27 years from 1956 to 1983. His schools involvement promoted interest in History Club projects like the Van Leer log cabin restoration and availability of the school's print shop on a cost reimbursement basis.
The good people of Chester County began to get serious about identifying historic sites in late 1978. Armed with a federal grant via the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and matched by county funds, the Chester County Historical Society and the Brandywine Conservancy coordinated an inventory of historic sites. Tredyffrin Township had been through this process in 1964-1966 when it adopted its HARB ordinance. Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships were joined with East Whiteland and Willistown Townships and the Borough of Malvern as Region II for the county survey.
Since Tredyffrin's (and the History Club's) Anne Cook was experienced, she was given responsibility as coordinator for Region II in 1979. The process took three years, and before it was finished, a Frank Furness designed barn had been found on the Cassatt lands of old Chesterbrook farm and two houses, “Hillcrest” in Berwyn, and “Deepdale” in Strafford, also had been linked to a Furness background.
TEHC took part in celebrating Pennsylvania's (and Chester County's) tricentennial during 1981–1983. The weeks of February 8 and February 22, 1982, designated Easttown Township and Tredyffrin Township Week, respectively, permitted exhibits to be showcased in the window of the Court House Annex on Church Street in West Chester. Among the topics featured in the display for Easttown Township were General Anthony Wayne and Waynesborough, the famed Devon Horse Show, the old Devon Inn, the Berwyn Fire Company, and the old Berwyn Bronze Works. In the Tredyffrin Township exhibit, Valley Forge, the British camp in Tredyffrin, education and the Diamond Rock Octagonal School, early churches, Wharton Esherick's studio, General Pasquale Paoli, and the Paoli Local were highlighted. Maps showing township growth and old photographs taken around 1908 by Lucy Sampson were displayed. Bob Goshorn also made a few comments on the history of each township during presentation ceremonies.
Tredyffrin had its own township celebration of the County tricentennial with a “Tour Tredyffrin” event sponsored by the Board of Supervisors. Club member Anne Cook helped as a coordinator. A self-guided automobile tour of historic sites took place on Sunday afternoon, May 16, 1982, which included DuPortail's Quarters and Federal Barn in Chesterbrook, and the Wetherby-Hampton Log House (CockleBurr) at 251 Irish Road, among others. The day concluded with a picnic on the Conestoga High School grounds.
The Club participated in the Chester County Tricentennial “Roundup” in early October 1983 at the Exton Mall with an exhibit featuring the history and growth of Tredyffrin and Easttown. More than twenty-five townships and boroughs took part in the event which was also held in conjunction with the Mall's 10th anniversary.
Great Valley News began publication, with volume 1, number 1 in September 1984, out of The Farmhouse in Willard Rouse's then under construction Great Valley Corporate Center. The masthead read ”Published monthly by the Business Development and Training Center for the benefit and information of Great Valley and the High Tech 202 Corridor.”
Two months later, in November, Bob Goshorn signed on as the history department columnist, when he authored his first column under the “Looking Back” banner on the subject, “The Great Valley and the Welsh Tract.” At the foot of his column was this inscription, “Bob Goshorn is a past-president of the Chester County Historical Society and the Tredyffrin Easttown History Club and is currently the editor of the latter's Quarterly publication. The material for this article was taken from back issues of the Quarterly and other sources.”
The paper added the word “Business” to its name with the March 1990 issue, when it became the Great Valley Business News. Apparently Rouse sold the paper, but Bob continued his column with the new owners until March 1994, when another ownership change took place. The Goshorn columns ceased just shy of ten years - 115 columns in all - enough to fill a book.
In 1986, Tredyffrin Easttown History Club marked its 50th anniversary with two events: an August 24 lawn party at the historic DuPortail House in Chesterbrook, and the Club's annual banquet on October 29 in the Fellowship Hall of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Berwyn.
A special guest at the August meeting was Ruth Moore Styer, one of the sixteen charter members of the Club. Also present at DuPortail house was State Representative Peter Vroon and his wife Isabelle; Dr. George Garwood, Superintendent of Schools, and his wife Norma; Jane
Davidson, Chester County Preservation officer, representing the County Commissioners; John Kane, chairman of the Easttown Township Planning Commission; William Phair, chairman of the Willistown Township Historical Committee; and representatives from the Radnor Historical Society and the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area.
On behalf of the County Commissioners, Jane Davidson presented a proclamation, signed by each of the Commissioners—Robert J. Thompson, Earl M. Baker, and Patricia M. Baldwin—noting that “the Tredyffrin Easttown History Club has made significant and meaningful contributions to the body of knowledge of local history and has enhanced an appreciation of the two townships for everyone who lives there” and saluting its “fifty years of commitment and accomplishment.”
Through its president, Leighton Haney, the Club also expressed its appreciation to Bob Goshorn “for his outstanding service to the Tredyffrin Easttown History Club on the occasion of its 50th anniversary,” and presented a suitably inscribed copy of the book on Chester County post cards to him.
The speaker at the October annual dinner was Nancy Kolb, Assistant Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission whose presentation was titled “Making Sure our Past has a Future.” Appropriately, there were fifty-one advance reservations for the annual banquet, or, as Leighton Haney observed, “one for each year, and one to grow on.”
Bob Goshorn had one other history enterprise take root in 1986. Main Line School Night was also celebrating its 50th year. Eva Noll, Club past president and then School Night president, announced in the Fall 1986 catalog a new ten-week course offering, “Looking Back : The Development of the Upper Main Line,” at Conestoga High School. The course description stated, “Coordinated by the Tredyffrin Easttown History Club, along with Bob Goshorn, local historian and former president of the Chester County Historical Society, a number of guest experts and authorities will guide us through the 300 years of our growth and development.” It is likely that Bob Goshorn continued with the course into the 1990s.
It was a busy decade.
Grace Winthrop, 20-year Club member, Chester County Historical Society volunteer, and many-time contributor to the Quarterly, also privately published, in 1988 a monograph titled Early Chester County Roads, 1675-1830, which included a foreword by Bob Goshorn. She relinquished the president's office on August 1, 1989, when she and her husband, George, moved from Malvern to Charleston, South Carolina, to reside near their daughter.
The 1893 Chapel/Library in Paoli—moved in 1986 from Darby Road to the grounds of the Paoli Presbyterian Church on South Valley Road—was the site of a Club meeting on September 24, 1989. The meeting included presentations on the origins of the Chapel by Club member Barbara Fry, Mimi Lang librarian at the Paoli Library, and Bill Riggs chairman of the committee that arranged for the move and restoration of the structure.
Congress chartered the National Constitution Center, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, in 1988, the year of the bicentennial of the U. S. Constitution. Located in Philadelphia, its mission was to promote a national conversation on democracy, freedom, and the Constitution. The Club was involved in a now forgotten preliminary to the construction of the NCC. In the fall of 1989 a “hot” subject was the demolition of the Judge Edwin O. Lewis Fountain on the Independence Hall Quadrangle to make way for the Center. At its November 26, 1989 meeting, the Club went on record as opposing demolition of the fountain and directed a letter to the Superintendent of Independence National Historical Park telling him so. The Club got a response but no action. The Center was dedicated on July 4, 2003, a while in the making.
Bob Goshorn received recognition due him in 1991, when he was named “Citizen of the Year” by the Berwyn-Devon Business and Professional Association. Described as “well known in the area as the local historian,” he was honored “for his many contributions to education and the community at large.” A local school board member, Bob served for many years as a director of the Chester County Intermediate Unit, an educational service agency, which oversees “instructional, remedial and enrichment services for regular, occupational and special education staff and students” to the 12 Chester County public school districts [2007 Chester County School Directory, prepared by the Chester County Intermediate Unit. Downingtown]. In 1991 he was inducted into the IU's “Hall of Fame,” established “to acknowledge those whose outstanding qualities have contributed to the IU and the children of Chester County.”
Herb Fry, who joined the Club in 1981, retired in 1990 from a long career in accounting and took office as Club president in 1992. His wife Barbara had a strong interest in local history, also, and was a volunteer at Chester County Historical Society. They generally spent a morning a week at either the County Archives or the County Society in West Chester and turned out a lengthy list of research projects.
One of the Club's most respected members, Frances Hammond Ligget, died in 1992. She was an honorary life member and, as best can be determined, only two others were ever shown such esteem: Boyle Irwin in 1942 and Phoebe Prime in 1963. Mrs. Ligget, at her home, Stirling's Quarters in Valley Forge, recorded a series of “neighborhood reminiscences, both fact and folklore” which she compiled in the 1960s. Under the titles, “Great Valley Days” and “Distant Drums,” typewritten transcripts of the various recollections were placed in the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester and the Paoli Library. The original tapes were deposited in the Oral History Division of the Chester County Library, Exton, in 1981. Mrs. Ligget received recognition for these works, including the Girl Scout Women of Achievement Award in 1987. Stirling's Quarters was purchased by the National Park Service in 1978.
Bob Goshorn did not look well the night of the Club's annual dinner on October 25, 1995. He was accompanied by his daughter, Meg Fruchter, who looked out for him after the death of his wife, Elizabeth, on December 22 the previous year. Bob suffered a stroke in mid-November that took his life on the 21st at the age of 76. The membership of the History Club was astonished and saddened. A service of remembrance for Bob was held at the County History Center in West Chester to give thanks for all he had done to advance the standing of the history community. And the memorial tribute printed in the Quarterly read, “The History Club has lost its guiding light.” [Note 7]
With leaden feet members faced the task of retrieving the Club belongings which Bob sheltered at his residence, 1475 Russell Road, for over 25 years. Actually, they had no inkling they were as extensive as they turned out to be. Someone, perhaps Leighton Haney, Bob's good friend, called upon the Tredyffrin Easttown School District which Bob had served so long, for help. They supplied a truck and promised a temporary storage place. So, on a snowy morning in early December, 1995, Barbara and Herb Fry, Mildred Kirkner, Leighton Haney, and others proceeded to pack boxes and load the truck which then deposited the contents in the unused coal bin in the basement furnace room of the School District Educational Services Center—the old Elementary School—on First Avenue in Berwyn.
The first order of business in 1996—the 60th anniversary year—was filling the void left by Bob Goshorn's passing, which came as the Club prepared for its biannual election of officers. Skip Eichner had already agreed to succeed Herb Fry as president. Herb consented to take Bob's positions as vice president and meeting program arranger and Quarterly editor.
Fortunately, Bob had almost all the information for the principal article of the January issue of the Quarterly ready. This was the story of the first forty years of Conestoga High School history and had been presented by him at the Club's September meeting the previous year. As the January issue “foreword” explained, “writing about Conestoga was a labor of love for Bob, who had served as school director for 27 of the school's 40 years.” [Note 8]
A new Quarterly would be expected in April, and the need grew to refer to the material stored in the coal bin in the basement. Herb Fry visited with Ted Foot, Superintendent of Schools, and convinced him of the need for space upstairs in the School District Educational Services Center to catalog, index, and file what we began to call the Club archives that had come out of Bob's residence. Dr. Foot found space, not much, but a very small room - now called the “closet” - off the back of the employee lunch room, which could be locked to safeguard our treasures. There was space for filing cabinets - some courtesy of the School District - in the hallway outside the lunch room. It was a place to hang our hat, and the work began.
In March of 1996, the boxes were moved upstairs to the second floor space. Barbara Fry purchased archival supplies for conservation and recruited a group of workers to open boxes, sort the contents, prepare index cards, paste newspaper clippings, safeguard photographs in page protectors and loose leaf albums, and, in general, make order out of chaos. Some names from Barbara's archives sign-in book the first month are Mildred Kirkner, Helen Hayes, Libby Weaver, Sue and Bill Andrews, Leighton and Betty Haney, Mary Ives, and Herb Fry. The unpacking took the rest of the year. Barbara produced a listing of what is in the archives published in the July 1997 Quarterly. A listing of books on the library shelves followed in the July 2000 Quarterly.
Bob Goshorn was remembered by our good neighbor, the Radnor Historical Society, with a special ceremony on October 19, 1996, at its headquarters in Wayne. The Society dedicated a new memorial flagpole on the Finley House lawn, marked by a bronze plaque at its base which reads, “Robert M. Goshorn, 1919-1995, board member, good friend.” RHS president Bennett Hill Jr. presided at the ceremony. L. G. “Skip” Eichner represented the Club at the dedication event.
The Friends of the Easttown Library had sponsored a walking tour of historic Berwyn led by Bob Goshorn in October 1992 and May 1993. Later, Jane Davidson, County Heritage Preservation Coordinator, and the County Tourist Bureau, developed a program called “Town Tours & Village Walks” held on Thursday evenings during the summer.
In 1997, the Berwyn-Devon Business and Professional Association opted to join the county schedule and hold a walk in Berwyn on Thursday, August 7. They called on the History Club for support in providing historical research and 12 volunteer guides for the walk. Nearly two hundred walkers attended. Many were unaware of Berwyn's origins and how it developed over the years. Skip Eichner prepared slide photographs for each location on the tour, which he and Herb Fry used in presenting a slide show at the Berwyn Methodist Church the following February 7. Later Barbara Fry used the same slides for a presentation at the Easttown Library on April 30. The Berwyn Walk, jointly hosted by the Association and the Club, was repeated on five additional occasions: 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004 (Easttown's Tricentennial), and 2006.
Club members took a key role in a program presented for the Open Land Conservancy Annual Meeting on March 31, 1998 at the Great Valley Presbyterian Church about the history of the Great Valley. Eva Noll, Sue Andrews, Herb Fry, and Dave Wilson, among others, made presentations.
The largest attendance at a Club meeting in its then 62 years occurred on November 22, 1998. Scheduled in conjunction with the Easttown Library fall series of Chester County History programs, it drew a crowd of upwards 180 persons to see and hear noted lecturer and professional artist, Ted Xaras, present a slide-illustrated lecture about the “Pennsylvania Railroad's Main Line—Then and Now.” Skip Eichner acted as meeting chairman. The Philadelphia Chapter of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society, also joined in co-sponsoring the affair and honored Mr. Xaras, Chairman of the Art Department at Ursinus College. The meeting was held in the large basement room of the Education Building of Trinity Church in Berwyn. Herb Fry is reported to have carried all of the chairs downstairs to set up for the meeting, and he was thankful many attendees carried them back upstairs as they were leaving, when invited to do so by Mr. Eichner.
The sign-in book shows that August 16, 1999, was the last day Barbara Fry worked at the Club archives. She had joined the editorial board of the Quarterly with the July 1997 issue and served through the April 2001 issue. She wrote 19 articles for the Quarterly, five of which were about Trinity Presbyterian Church in Berwyn or other local Presbyterians. In 1999 Barbara had to curtail her activities due to failing health that would eventually take her life on January 16, 2003. Her husband, Herb, didn't publish any quarterlies between the April 2001 issue and the July 2002 issue. Barbara contributed much to the life of the Club through her research, writing, organizational skills, and service as an officer.
The last annual dinner of the Club was on October 27, 1999, at the Fellowship Hall of Trinity Church in Berwyn. Morrison Coulter, president of Philadelphia Suburban Water Company, spoke about the history of water distribution in the area.
When the year 2000 arrived, the Club voted to hold a first annual Sunday afternoon tea - with tea sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, and lemon curd - on October 29, at Trinity Church. Eva Noll, a past president, spoke to the group about the history of Duffryn Mawr - the Great Valley. The new tradition lasted only four years; the last tea was held in 2004. Arranging hospitality functions seemed to be something no one wanted to do anymore.
When officers were elected for 2000-2001, Messrs. Eichner and Fry expressed a desire to relinquish their offices as president and vice president, respectively, and “agreed to continue their present duties only until such time as a replacement [was] identified and placed before the membership for a vote.” [Note 9] No candidates said yes, but two years later, when officers were elected for 2002-2003, Messrs. Eichner and Fry retired. It was agreed that the Club would proceed for an interim period until an election could be held, with the practice of designating volunteer meeting organizers for the monthly meetings.
Help was on the way. At its March 30, 2003 meeting the Club elected officers to fill all existing vacancies. Roger D. Thorne became the 23rd president in the long line extending from Paul Teamer. In addition, the Club accepted the generous offer made by the Easttown Library and Information Center of meeting room space in their new building that had opened that year.
Roger Thorne, the first president to reside in Tredyffrin's Great Valley, had been a member only a short time when, in September of 2002, he made an outstanding presentation to the Club on the Main Line Airport [Roger D. Thorne. “A History of the Main Line Airport, Paoli, Pennsylvania.” Quarterly, vol. 40, no. 2 (April 2003), pp. 41-62]. Under his guidance many changes have been made to strengthen the Club and prepare it to thrive. Some changes are immediately evident:
Other changes, equally impressive but sometimes not as obvious, have produced a solid platform for future growth:
To celebrate Tredyffrin Township's tricentennial in 2007, the Society published “The History of Tredyffrin Township: 1707-2007,” guest edited by Mike Bertram, as a double issue of the Quarterly. [Note 10] This is the first history of the township and has been an acclaimed best seller.
At its March 26, 2004 meeting, the Society expressed its gratitude to the Easttown Library and Information Center for making their meeting room available for its meetings by presenting Peggy Mahan, Library Director, with a framed copy of the 1948 Historical Map designed by Franklin Wandless.
A second presentation that day was made to John Herd and the History Department at Conestoga High School of a complete run - 1937 to date - of the History Quarterly owned by Society member Mildred Kirkner, a 1939 Tredyffrin-Easttown High School graduate, who passed away less than a year later. The Society also honored her by holding a Memorial Essay Contest, open to juniors and seniors at Conestoga High School during the 2005-06 school year. Twenty-three junior students submitted essays, the winner being written by Caroline Hagar who received the $250 gold award. She presented her paper at a Society meeting in the fall of 2006. Philip Gibson won the $150 silver award.
The Society has matured into a powerful force for the preservation of our local history. Having participated in the tricentennial celebrations in Easttown Township in 2004 and Tredyffrin Township in 2007, it has become widely known in the community and has compiled a significant body of work which will become the foundation for future study and research. Its prospects for the future look bright.
Page last updated: 2015-01-09 at 17:08 EST