east whiteland do you know your own history?

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It took years, but I finally located a copy of A Brief History of East Whiteland Township by J. Gilmore Wilson from 1965.  It is a slender volume, but it captures the history of a Chester County municipality that has no town center and to most is a place you drive through.

But East Whiteland has historical significance and as I do not wish to damage the spine of my book, I converted photos I took with my phone into a PDF so people can see it.

East Whiteland is one of those places thanks in part to organizations like the Chester County Planning Commission that people think they can just keep dumping development in.  Someone said to me again last week how King of Prussia was once upon a time farms and open space.  They then compare East and West Whiteland to King of Prussia, as in these municipalities are getting WAY over-developed.

I have said it before that I object to the Chester County Planning Commission being head up by a carpetbagger from Lower Merion Township. He doesn’t live in our county, how much of the history of places like East Whiteland does he know?

East Whiteland is a funny place because as much as it use to be farms, it was also equal parts mines and quarries and industrial.  That of course is why there are some astoundingly toxic areas past and present in East Whiteland Township.

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East Whiteland is home to random historical facts and locations.  For example: Dead Horse Hollow. Yes, a lovely name and according to J. Wilson Gilmore was at one time located south of the then PA Railroad, a quarter-mile east of the township line. As the railroad was being built all dead horses and mules were…well…dumped there. Can you imagine how THAT place stunk to high heaven in warmer weather? Gross.

Or how about Cabbagetown? It was a small community on Summit Road. And Barker’s Corners? That was a little village at the intersection of Swedesford and Church Roads.

Or how about the giant Penn Oak that was said to pre-date colonial settlers on Flat Road? Does it still stand somewhere, or was it cut down or did it die years ago?

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What about the Native Americans who once lived and roamed what is East and West Whiteland? Like the Okohocking which were for a while given a 500 acre reservation somewhere in Willistown Township? Do the residents of East Whiteland know the Indians referred to the area as “The Dark Valley” because of all of the woods? Of course today they would not recognize the area given all of the development.

How many know East and West Whiteland used to be one Whiteland? And they split into two areas circa 1764-1765?

Around 1777 do people realize that George Washington and his army after the Battle of the Brandywine marched into the area and encamped near Malin Hall? To quote Mr. Wilson:

With his troops deployed along this ridge from Three Tuns at the junction of King Road and Goshen Road, and west approximately three miles as far as Ship Road, he was in an excellent position with an army of approximately 11,000 men. During his march up the Valley, quite a number of local farmers joined his ranks.

And residents see reference to the Battle of the Clouds in East Whiteland but do they realize this was a battle which didn’t actually ever happen? Why? Inclement weather, apparently. Mr. Wilson states had the battle occurred, “the British army might well have been routed.”

The history goes on and meanders from schools to Duffy’s Cut to all of the inns and taverns and residents and industry and quarries and farms and early schools and churches.  Did you know the Catholic Church tried several times to build a church in various locations in East Whiteland but were never able to complete the task?  Mr. Wilson also talks about Ebenezer AME whose ruin barely stands today on Bacton Hill Road with its abandoned graveyard with a mobile home park to one side, and new development approved last year to spring up and around it.

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This book is fascinating and this is why I wish more local historical societies had really good websites with archives available online. I can tell you East Whiteland does not. Bits of local history continue to get lost and it would behoove the township to give the historical society more resources or help them build a proper website and archives.

Things in this book Mr. Wilson refers to are a mystery to me.  What were the Speakman apartments, for example?  And the Chester County Academy? Where is it?

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And what of a crazy cool log barn ?

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Or a crazy cool log cabin? “South of Conestoga Road, on Bacton Hill”?

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Or what was known as the “Black Maria” ?

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Now Elinor Janney Detterline also wrote a brief history of East Whiteland for the Tredyffrin Easttown Hostorical Society around 1970. It is available in the online archives they have for the public to use.

But Mr Wilson’s book? To me finding a copy was like finding the holy grail.  It’s fascinating.  And I wish more would take an interest in the history of East Whiteland before everything of historical value disappears. Because if this township doesn’t start to have more interest that extends past people like me and members of the historical society, then what?

Until I got this book I had no clue that they totally celebrated East Whiteland’s Bicentennial.  And then I found related to that, this super cool thing from a page about Frazer on Facebook:

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And East Whiteland had a tagline/slogan before “The Heart of the Great Valley” and it was “Land of Limekiln, Plow and Millwheel”.

Enjoy the book, I think I got it all back into order before I converted to a PDF.  East Whiteland has history.  And it’s not just the modern-day history of groaning under development.

Thanks for stopping by.

5 thoughts on “east whiteland do you know your own history?

  1. So much that was originally here to enjoy. Maybe if people knew more, about the original East Whiteland they wouldn’t be so complacent about too much development…

  2. A log cabin barn was located on the south side of King Road between William Henry Apartments and the upper school of Villa Maria Academy. As you are aware we have a log cabin, I was told dated 1740. I was told it was called “The Battle of the Clouds “ because we’re the highest point between Harrisburg and Philadelphia!
    Your picture of Mrs. Caine, my mom used to often speak of her, my mother’s family Arthur and Gertrude March lived on Conestoga Road “Bacton Hill” and she and her 3 siblings often sledged down Bacton Hill. My great paternal aunt was a teacher and principal at the early East Whiteland School, Edna Gill, one of her students was Kathryn D Markley (can’t remember her maiden name)!
    I’ll have to start looking at what I saved from my mom’s to see if there’s anything you would enjoy looking at!!
    Thanks, Diann

  3. My ancestors Adam and Peter Reitenbaugh, owned and operated the White Horse Tavern on Swedesford Road- mostly as a drovers’ stand. I understand that a sign commenmorating the “Battle of the Clouds” is now posted along the road in front of the tavern site- a private home at the present. The barn built by Reitenbaugh is now a beautifully restored/remodeled office building, I love being part of the Whiteland history and hope that those living in the area will learn about the history and appreciate its impact. Doris Reitenbaugh Wills

  4. Battle of the Clouds- the battle that never happend, I have read, and re-read, that it was because weather (clouds and poor visibility) made a “battle” impossible.

  5. Chester Co Academy is next to the D’Ambrosio car lot. It’s still there as apartments . The Frazer School was slightly east close to the highway. It and the Black Maria behind it were demo’d for the shopping center next to D’Ambrosios. The log cabin on Conestoga Road was called the “Hopper House” and donated to Chester Co Historical Society. They sold it and additions were put on. It is beautiful….on the left side going up Bacton Hill.
    The lost log barn on King was known as the Zook Barn, It was a gem and it was so sad to lose it. Hope someone salvaged the logs and perhaps it lived on in some way.
    The bicentennial flyer was a fun read. Giant is in the old Atlantic Thrift store location. Does anyone remember it as “Bargain City?” That’s what we called it “back in the day”…..

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