will 2018 mark the year of history at risk at the ruins of ebenezer on bacton hill road, frazer in east whiteland?

Veterans at Ebenezer on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer PA in November, 2016

It has already been a year since my friend Al Terrell left this earthly plane. And almost two years sine Ann (A.V.) Christie has died. I am glad both of them are not around to find out what I discovered this morning.

I have been home with the flu, so I have been playing catch-up with municipalities. I started with East Whiteland.  They have a Supervisors’ Meeting this Wednesday, January 10.  

One of the things there of note, is a couple of more resignations from within the township building.  One resignation is the guy who has only been there a short amount of time but came to East Whiteland from the Montgomery County Mall Township known as Upper Merion.  Scott Greenly is leaving.  He was/is East Whiteland’s Planning & Development Director. But I digress.

BACK to the reason for this post, only it actually what worries me was from RIGHT before Christmas (always have to pay attention before major holidays or in the dead of summer or stuff sneaks on it, right?) as in the  Planning Commission December 20, 2017:

Sketch Plans
1. HP Flanagan, Inc.: Sketch plan proposing a 6 lot subdivision and associated improvements. The property is located at 100 N. Bacton Hill Road, is zoned R-1 Single Family Residential and is approximately 6.6 acres in size.

 

(Deep breath)

This is proposed for right on top of and across the road from….wait for it….the ruins of historic Ebenezer AME Church and Cemetery.  When I last wrote about Ebenezer, it was late November, 2017 and it was about an oral history.  Before that, you know all of the posts about the history and the various articles from 2016 (click HERE and click HERE for two of them.)

Well shame on me for not paying closer attention in December 2017.  Here is what it looks like (100 Bacton Hill Road Sketch Plan):

Here is a close-up so you can see (right or wrong) why I am alarmed:

These houses are right on top of Ebenezer on one side.  A  concern I have is a lot of us have always wondered if there were more graves on each side of the fences (See blue arrows). A new development right on top of this site of ANY size puts this historic site at risk, in my humble opinion. Which is why a lot of the conversations concerning this development have to also include protecting this historic site, right?

This is a historic site that East Whiteland has never seemingly wanted to deal with (except for the historic commission as they have wanted it better preserved only how do we get there?), and the AME Church always seemingly wants to pretend it never exists. (I mean remember that promise Bishop Ingram made the Inquirer reporter Kristen Holmes to check this all out? And what do you bet he never, ever did? (Sorry I don’t see slick city bishop walking through the mud at Ebenezer, do you?)

Do we need to worry that if the AME Church finds out about development they will try to sell these old souls to the highest bidder to make a buck or two? (It’s a valid concern, I think.)

Here is a close up of general notes on the plans so the players and potential need for a variance are made plain:

Doug Buettner still owns the land now.  I have met him.  A nice guy. He actually helped with Al’s clean-up of Ebenezer in 2016. I have also been told that owns Malvern Court the mobile home park on the other side of Ebenezer.  The developer is listed above at HP Flanagan in Malvern.  They are an unknown to me.

I have been told that Mr. Buettner has wanted to develop some of this land for years.  I seem to remember he mentioned it to me in conversation the day I met him cleaning up at Ebenezer.

My largest concern is how close this all is to the ruins of Ebenezer. This is not a big plan being proposed, mind you, and it would have escaped my radar except for the fact it is next door to our beloved Ebenezer. And well a development could detrimentally impact this historic site as I feel the site is fragile to begin with. I have fears that once construction vehicles move in to start construction if this plan is approved that it will cause the remains of the church to crumble from vibrations.  When Al Terrell was alive we had wanted to try to get the AME Church to give permission for funds to be raised to stabilize the ruins.

A development of a 6 lot subdivision like this adjacent to a historic resource and a mobile home park is one of the ways Chester County Zoning is so strange to me.  None of the things go together.

I still feel the pace of development is staggering in East Whiteland .

When does it stop? I have to ask if Mr. Buettner owns clear to the corner as I was told, would it be possible to shift those houses down? Or eliminate one from the plans to create a buffer zone next to the old souls of Ebenezer?  After all, it is not generally considered good karma to disturb a burial ground is it?  Freed slaves, member of a once vibrant early black community and black Civil War Soldiers matter, don’t they? Shouldn’t they?

And you see on the plans they also want setback variances? Bacton Hill Road is a speedy road.  So no new development anything should be perched right on the edge of the road in my humble opinion.

Look, I wish this proposed plan, this sketch plan, wasn’t on top of Ebenezer, but it is.  And Hiram Woodyard, Joshua Johnson, the Reasons and the other dear old souls here deserve respect. (See Daily Local article November 2016)

Bacton Hill is the location of some of the richest black history in Chester County.  It was an early settlement of freed blacks among other things.  This history here just keeps getting erased. I don’t think that is right.

Here is my wish list:

  1. NO development (which I doubt will happen as it is East Whiteland, after all.)
  2. More realistically, REDUCED development to protect the cemetery with a good buffer.
  3. As a condition of approval the developer gets permission to stabilize the church ruin and put up a better and more proper fence with a gate and a couple of pebbled (drainage is a problem over there already, right?) parking spaces in the buffer zone so people can visit Ebenezer.
  4. And developer also helps with maintaining the grass and weeds going forward

Here is hoping if something comes of this, the dead are respected, right? Ebenezer has been around since what? 1831 into 1832?

Ok signing off now.  My thoughts are simple: Ebenezer should be and needs to be preserved.  It is history that matters.  And more people need to care. (For more on East Whiteland history click HERE.) People, this is a sketch plan, but it is under active review.  If you have an opinion, please voice it to East Whiteland (politely.)

Ebenezer AME and her ruins are just something which should be saved, right?

like alice down the rabbit hole

A few weeks ago, one of my friends was telling me how she had discovered family.  Now for her, that is no easy feat, as she was adopted and it was a closed adoption. She did not know where or who she came from, other than she was born in Philadelphia.

So she did one of those Ancestry.com DNA tests.  Through that, family of her birth mother contacted her. She found out where she was from and her mother had traveled to Philadelphia to have her baby, and gave her (my friend) up for adoption.

I am not adopted, but having a curious mind I would love to learn about the melting pot that is my family.  I am Italian, Irish,and Pennsylvania German.

So I have ordered a DNA saliva kit to send away through Ancestry.com.  It’s not here yet, but when you buy it (and it’s on sale right now through the holidays) you get a temporary membership.  I am not sure what I will do after the trial membership is up, but right now I am like Alice falling down the proverbial rabbit hole.

On my husband’s side, I have traced back so far to a third great grandmother on his maternal grandfather’s side.  I even have seen a photograph of her marriage record in 1830 in the Kennett Friends Meeting.  I am assuming it was the meeting house which was founded in the Borough of Kennett Square around 1812 but I am not sure because in the 1820s there was a split into other meetings. Something to do with factions of very liberal Quakers and very conservative Quakers.  Some went to the Old Kennett Meeting House, and others to the Parkersville Friends Meeting House (also apparently known as Kennett Preparitive Meeting of Friends.

My husband’s family on his mother’s side via his maternal grandfather goes back well into the 18th century so far.  His mother was born in New Jersey, but her family has deep roots in Chester County and the State of Delaware I am learning. On his father’s side, I have gotten as far back as his paternal grandparents and turn of the 20th century. I have not so much for his maternal grandmother as of yet.

My family is more of a tale of immigration. On my father’s side, maternal and paternal grand parents (my great grand parents) came to the United States from Italy in the 1870s.  I have been unable thus far to track prior to them arriving in the United States.  It was really cool to see some of them on ship passenger lists! I have discovered some emigrated to the US and were in Alabama for a while of all places!

On my mother’s side, we have Irish and Pennsylvania German.  I have hit a brick wall with the German side (maternal grandmother’s parents or my great grandparents) because although they have unusual last names for me, in Lancaster County and the coal regions of PA, my maternal great grandmother from the German side is like a German equivalent of Smith.  I only just figured out my maternal grandmother’s maternal grandparents’ names (I think!). I think I have located a 2nd great grandmother born in Germany in 1853. We have miners apparently, tobacco farmers and tobacco shop owners.

On my mother’s side, we also have the Irish.  That would be her paternal grandparents, my great grandparents who died long before my mother’s parents married. I have been able to go back to 2nd great grandparents.Two sets, both from Ireland.  Starting in 1825. And that is as far as I have gotten.  No ship’s passenger lists as of yet to see WHERE my Irish hail from, although I was told long ago some from Northern Ireland, although all were Catholic. I found a blacksmith in my tree!

I know what I am from, but to see it laid out is kind of cool.  I will now wait and see what the DNA test will tell after I take it and send it back.

If you are interested both Ancestry.com and 23andMe are running specials.  You can also buy the kits from either of them right off of Amazon.com.

I will note I am NOT being compensated by any of these DNA/Geneology outfits to write about this.  I have always wanted to do it, so I finally just did.  I should also mention I tried Geni.com a few years ago, but did not find it as easy to use, or as interesting or staisfying.  One of my cousins on my father’s side used that site to compile information.

Back to the Christmas baking. Thanks for stopping by.

restoring architectural history in exton, pa

These are the things that make me so happy to see!

And yes, these farmhouses are indeed part of the architectural history of Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Homeowner photo – see more at https://www.facebook.com/WestWhitelandInn/

thankful. grateful.

I am sitting in my kitchen waiting for my pumpkin pie to finish baking. The simple things, the traditions of Thanksgiving.

As I sit in my cozy kitchen I am also thinking about those less fortunate this Thanksgiving. In particular, the elderly who lost their homes and their memories in the devastating Barclay Friends fire almost a week ago in West Chester.

I am thankful and grateful for my friends,family, and neighbors . I am thankful and grateful more specifically for my husband and stepson. We have a happy home that makes me feel like I am the luckiest woman on the planet.

Thanksgiving has roots in 1621 when the Plymouth colonists shared a harvest feast with Wampanoag Indians. This autumn harvest festival is acknowledged today as the origins of our American Thanksgiving.

In 1863 during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln created in November the national holiday we know today. He proclaimed a national Thanksgiving holiday, and here we are!

A fun historical fact is Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday of November. But during the depression in 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to move the holiday up a week. Something about spurring retail sales. But public outcry caused Roosevelt to sign a bill into law in 1941 making Thanksgiving officially the last Thursday in November.

There are as many ways to make a Thanksgiving dinner as there are ways to set the table. The melting pot that is our country means there quite a lot of different nationalities and races putting their spin on Thanksgiving dinner. Every family has their own traditions.

As we come together tomorrow with either friends or family, remember those who came before us. Remember friends and family.

Say a prayer tomorrow on Thanksgiving for the United States of America. I do not feel the strife and anger from coast to coast is what the founding fathers or even those early Pilgrims had in mind.

We have a great country and the politicians who want to screw everything up be damned. We have a lot to be thankful for and we can’t allow them to define who we are. They work for us. And if they aren’t working for us, we replace them one election at a time. From the smallest Borough all the way to the White House.

Happy Thanksgiving. Be grateful for what you have, don’t expend negative energy coveting what you don’t have. Enjoy the day.

Thanks for stopping by.

a new tale of ebenezer a.m.e. – an oral history

I have not written about the ruins of Ebenezer AME in a long time. But here we are on the eve of Thanksgiving and I have a wonderful story to share. It was sent to me by a former Chester County artist named Claude Bernardin who now lives in Bloomington, Indiana. He also knows my dear friend Catherine Quillman, the historian and artist who has helped me fill in the historical blanks on many an occasion.

Ebenezer AME in 1976 – photo was sent to me by Claude Bernardin who took it. This was from the side of Ebenezer that faces the mobile home park today.  None of us had seen this side until Al Terrell cleaned up the graveyard last fall.  

What I am about to post are the words of Mr. Bernardin, and the lovely green bottle and the photo of Ebenezer in 1976 are photos he sent to me. Oral histories like his are priceless. I wish my friend Al Terrell was alive to talk to Claude Bernardin!

From Claude Bernardin, his words (bold and italics):

Hiram Woodyard:

Died 12/20/1900 I believe. But certificate of death says 1/04/01.

 

He lived on an odd L shaped acre of land he was willed by Thomas Quay just below the corner of Conestoga Road and Bacton Hill Road. His parcel of land consisted ( I personally now believe… ) of a driveway easement that ran across Conestoga Road and up into the Church from the. Church rear.

His parcel of land would have been on the left side of Conestoga Road, after you turned right on Conestoga Road, heading downhill off Bacton Hill. You would first pass the old Peter Manning-smith Property ( pine trees ) a drive way and bridge on left.

Set of small woods separating the next larger Estate ( what we knew in the 1960’s and 1970’s as The Merith’s ).

That small stretch of woods used to be a long cart path heading up into the higher hills and woods between both Larger farms in the 1890’s.

Directly behind the white and green Meridith Victorian stucco farm house, back in the woods maybe 50 feet, along a little creek, on a hillside, over looking the Meriths, sits the stone foundation of an old One Room cabin. It had a small porch at one time over looking the stream and a circular well.

I grew up a stones throw away from it.

Today I think it belongs to whoever owns the Manning-Smith property and it is labeled a wild bird sanctuary.

Bobcat on Daniel P. Mannix farm, June 1971 – Claude Bernardin photo

My research suggests that this was the property of Hiram Woodyard. I dug antique bottles behind the foundation, by the big tree up stream, and even out in front of the ruins and down in that stream. That property clearly dates to 1880 – 1900.

About a decade ago an old high school friend of mine sent me some newspaper article that may have appeared in the daily local news about that region, and it mentioned some information that led me to believe that that was his property. I have since lost that information. However while working for an auctioneer I was able to get my hands on in the old 1800s map book of Chester County. Within it it showed the land parcels of that particular area and it clearly showed that property with a Cabin and I think an out house. I also own the Catherine Quillman book on the history of the Conestoga Pike, and I believe there is more information pertainingto that property within it. Putting all this information together, I have now come to the conclusion that that must be his property, and that the bottles that I dug belonged to him.

Elwood’s greenhouse and tool shed. 1970s?
Claude Bernardin photo

The last time I attempted to dig in that area I tried to dig out the cabin foundation from inside. It was just too much work for my friend and I. But I believe that there are bottles and other things down inside there. One of the things that we found was an old bedframe. The problem is that the foundation walls are collapsing into itself.

The hill beyond the cabin and down to the stream is some of the hardest clay soil I have ever dug!! If anyone was to try to do any digging in the future I would suggest using pitchforks. There are glass bottles on that hillside under the dirt, there is all kinds of barbed wire in the old wire as well.

Directly behind the cabin and in the woods further up the hill is an odd formation of land man made. I have never been able to quite figure out what it is. It is perhaps either the foundations of an old barn, or it was a man made ice pond.

Elwood’s two room shack. Claude Bernardin submitted photo. All of these old photos in this post are from his personal collection.

 In other words a deliberate formation to collect rainwater and to collect blocks of ice in the winter, a common practice back in those early days. If you are standing between the cabin and that formation, off to your far left is the Manning Smith pond, where there used to be a stone Spring house. Off to your right back in the woods further up the hill there is the ruins of an old Spring house as well.

This of course would be where they would need the ice.

This is a brief listing of the bottles that were found at this site:

Kickapoo Indian Sagwa

Dr. Chamberlain’s diarrhea cure

Ball and patent fruit mason jars

Ka-tonka, the Great Indian Remedy.

Note: both katonka and kickapoo came from a local traveling Penna. snake oil salesman wagon show.

Beer bottles: hollmans of Phoenixville, pa.

J. Harley of West Chester, Pa. and an apple green Chas. Jolly Blob beer from Philadelphia.

Numerous unmarked clear whisky’ and medicines

Horlock malted milk

Heinz ketchup

Food product jars varying sizes

The Church:

First of all, my name is Claude Bernardin

I used to live at 425 Conestoga Road, east white land township.

My father: Charles, my mother : Elizabeth ( Betty )

They had 9 children.

We are all still alive.

In the 1960s I was between 5 to 12 years old. That neighborhood had a tremendous group of children of similar age. In fact at times we had little gangs.

We were quite adventurous, inventive, and curious. Many of us got to know every single character, and adult at that corner on a personal basis. We would do chores for them, many of us even took care of them in their old age. A specific legendary character that lived right at the crossroads in a two room hand built shack, was L with Michael. Mr. Michael was kind of a hobo subsistence farmer of legendary status in the community.

As I recall, the inside of the church was lined in cherry wood paneling the pews we’re still in it and what color cherry wood so was the podium.

He used to drive up and down Bacton Hill Road and Conestoga Road at all hours of the day but mostly at sunrise and the sunset on his silver gray Ford tractor to doing his bugle for all the kids to come running to say hello. He often left families with the gifts from the fields.

He was a welcome guest at our house, and in his very old age we took care of him and would bring dinner to him at his bedside. To us he was like our quirky uncle. I knew Elwood so closely that I can still hear the singsong high-pitched slangy twang of his voice. He actually talked in some sort of meter. He was a lovely man, who cared for his community.

As far as I know he never graduated from high school, and yet was one of the most intelligent man I ever knew. He read books all the time. He could recite hundreds of poems from memory, and often did while sitting on the edges of our beds to wake us up to come down and join him for breakfast.

He used to give us a ride up and down Conestoga Road and Bacton Hill.

To repay his kindness, we did our chores for him around his property, including chopping wood for his woodstove. We rode with him to the old Kane form across from the trailer court, and would help fix up his hay wagons and the old barn.

To him I was always “Claudey”.

My brother is Richard, and Peter were the mechanics and engineers in our family, also sometimes brother guy. They would help Elwood and others in the region with all kinds of mechanical needs.

Back in the mid-1960s the church was abandoned. Two children that stood out in the neighborhood from the trailer park, Doug Buettner, and George Berry.

Slightly up the street towards the corner was Bruce McNaughton. Bruce was my brother Peter is my brothers closest childhood friend, also a character.

The old church was a wonderful place. Back then it still had a roof , a wooden floor, and altar, a podium, and even church pews.

The windows were huge, with deep inset windowsills and very large wooden shutters. The floor was beginning to show signs of wear, and rot.

If my memory serves me correctly there wasn’t one broken glass window. However the roof did have holes in it.

When you walked in the front door off BactonHill Road, to your far right against the wall in the corner, was a ladder that ran to the top of the wall, it was quite rickety back then. I climbed it on several occasions trying to reach the attic, but I was afraid of heights and so I never made it. But the church must have had in the attic that ran the entire ceiling.

I can actually remember one of the older children standing at the podium to court order to our meeting, a little bit like the dead-end gang in those James Cagney movies I think. 🙂

We loved that church, and we never told anybody that we would have meetings in there and just hang out in there. By the time I was heading into college in 1976, all those children had grown up and moved away or gone their separate ways.

I had become a much more brooding artist type, so it became one of my favorite places to go to for privacy. Every now and again I would run into a raccoon.

Unfortunately by 1980 I became so busy in my life and my career I never got back there until the place had fallen in.

It remains one of my fondest memories of my childhood. I always found peace of mind in that place. The interior paneling was beaded wood paneling color of mahogany, it ran just under the windowsills. There were louvered shutters inside. Windows on outside had heavy 1890’s era double hung shutters. And deep sills. There was an attic crawl space the height of the church roof rafters with a floor, that ran full length of the church. When one entered the church door off Bacton Hill Road. The ladder up to it, It was in the front right corner. I climbed it twice – it seemed very high up to young boys.

Today I am a very well-known artist of the Chester County, in 2010, I was featured in a Catherine Quillman book called the 100 artists of the Brandywine Valley. I have done many many many paintings of that entire area. But my greatest joy was knowing all those people, and growing up in that specific spot. All of us still say we were lucky to have grown up in that region. Between the woods, the streams, the wildlife, the history you just couldn’t have asked for a better place to grow up.

My brother Richard took much care and concern throughout the 1970’s to try and cut the grass. More than most. We just got busy with our own lives.

Back in the late 60s, 1966 – 1971 my brother Richard and I, Jeffrey Manning Smith, Doug Buettner, Bruce McNaughton, we all periodically would go over to the church and cut the lawn and try to keep the weeds back. None of us really knew any history about the place, may be a bit of information came from L with Michael. But mostly no one really understood what the place was, and who once used it.

But I can recall numerous occasions we would take the lawnmowers there and cut the grass and grass with the tombstones. On several occasions we picked up the tombstones and had the wedge them up because they would have fallen.

We were aware of some bad kids in the neighborhood that had done some damage to the markers. They were scolded and warned.

We love the place and did as much work as we could after school when we would come off the school bus at that corner.

But as we grew from teenagers into young adults we became far too busy with our own lives to keep up with it.

It was also at this time that the rain water washing off Bacton Hill had become so severe that it was starting to cause erosion down through the graveyard. I can recall on several occasions complaining to my mother about it and saying I wish we could get someone to do something about this. My brother Richard and I on several occasions went there with shovels and buckets and did whatever we could to fix it back up. I do recall several graves being eroded enough that one could see down into them.

There was a specific grave that got hit the hardest every year we would have to go and fix it up. That grave was behind the church down maybe 6 feet, down the hill and behind a couple large trees off to the left. On one occasion I recall actually seeing skeletal remains. My brother and I did everything we could to cover them up and to keep the place sacred.

I had no idea the linkage of history between the church and the cabin off in the woods that I would go to to dig antique bottles. From 1970 to 1985, I spent much time campus seeing those hillsides, those woods and studying every inch of that as I could to preserve and try to find any artifacts and old bottles.

Behind the Meriths’ house and perhaps connected to woodyards cabin, I found another bottle dump. Out of that dump came many blob top beers, medicines, old jugs.

One of the bottles that made me laugh, was a mosquito bite cure, with a picture of a mosquito on it.

That area really hadn’t changed much in 100 years, as kids growing up there it could be awful at times with the mosquitoes!

Bottle I dug in stream probably used by Hiram Woodyard, dating 1895 -1889. Very rare color variant.

In my 30s, I was busy carrying on an art career, teaching art, and starting my own family. However I never forgot that place, and researched it when ever possible. One of my favorite places to research Montgomery and Chester County was the pottstown public library.

Back in the early 90s probably 1993 or 94 I checked out a book on the history of both counties.

It was a small book, and in fact now maybe it was two books I checked out. Hard for me to remember. Anyway within those books there was some documents written by soldiers in George Washington’s troops, I suppose taken from some sort of diary that they kept or reports giving back to the general.

In those reports, there was quite a lot of detailed information from soldiers in charge of their encampments. After the winter at Valley Forge, I suppose that Washington was still concerned with British troops. And so they needed to keep look out on the major roads, coming in and out of the area.

They wound up camping on that ridge, I truly believe that.

How very cool. So awesome to learn even more about the area. And this re-affirms my belief the area is history worth saving and preserving for future generations. He also tells me that the Lenape Indians used to camp near there as well. I think Al Terrell and Ann Christie would have loved to have learned about what Claude Bernardin has so generously shared with all of us!  I have been blessed to meet the most interesting and nice people because of Ebenezer.

It is my wish for Thanksgiving that the AME Church of today has an epiphany about this site and recognizes it’s importance and the wonderful people who have shown an interest and cared for the grounds over the years.  We are all but temporary stewards for the souls of Ebenezer, but I still want it to live on long after we have left.

Photo submitted by artist Claude Bernardin

letters home (continued)

My post yesterday letters home has sparked interest in Chester County genealogy buffs and thanks to Tina S. of West Chester, we have some pieces to the puzzle of my soldier letter writer, William Rapp of New Tripoli, Lehigh Couny PA.

But before then a note: I got them from a friend who purchased them at auction.

Tina first messaged me when she found more on William’s mother, Florence. This is what she said:

Hi. I have found that Florence divorced her husband and raised her son herself before 1940. …lHer parents were John A Kuntz 1854-1938 and Mary Alice Rex 1858-1945.

Florence must have been one plucky lady. Divorce for women at that time was extraordinarily difficult.

Here is her obituary:

She was a teacher, and obviously a very independent lady for her time. She lived with her son until her passing at 92. She was a teacher for 43 years!

Tina is looking for relatives we can contact. Much like Finding Your Roots on PBS. What Tina has learned via Ancestry.com is no one seems to be looking for William. Perhaps his descendants and relatives did not know he existed? Only more research will tell.

Tina discovered an article written about William in 2006 in the Morning Call.

Man’s lifetime home dates to a 1770s log cabin

HOUSE DETECTIVE

April 30, 2006|By Frank Whelan Of The Morning Call

There is a house on the edge of New Tripoli out on Decatur Road about a stone’s throw from the 19th century brick Ebenezer UCC church. A simple white shingled little place, it began its life as a log cabin. There is history here and that is my beat. They call me the house detective.

On a certain bright April morning I found myself bouncing west with the home’s owner, Jayson Boushell, 28 year old real estate guy who works with his wife, Jessica, at Countrywide Home Loans.

As the country opens up before us Boushell is telling me about the house and the unique fellow who lives there.

His name is William Rapp, and it is his story about the house I had come to hear. Although he has purchased the house, Boushell says that it was part of the agreement that Rapp would live there as long as he wanted to.

History is made rich by the people who occupy the buildings, so I was pleased for the opportunity to learn about Rapp’s life while he was an occupant of the house.

We pull up to the house and Rapp is there to greet us. He is 83 and does not get around as much as he use to. But his mind is sharp.

Rapp has lived here almost all of his life, at least since the early 1930s, in this old building. Most of that time was spent living with his mother, a school teacher who once taught him in a one room schoolhouse….Rapp had been in the service in World War II in both Europe and Asia, crossing the Rhine and waiting for that invasion of Japan that never to happened. He went to Muhlenberg College, later got a degree in industrial engineering and worked at Bethlehem Steel…..

William’s father’s name was Louis Rapp. He is a bit of a mystery.

Tina through her genealogy research discovered Louis Rapp (William’s father) was born in 1888 but was living with an Aunt & Uncle in 1900 at age 15 in Brooklyn, NY and in 1910 he is with a different family member of his mother’s. He is 22 and still in Brooklyn.

Tina is looking for 1920 to see what turns up.

Tina also through her genealogy research has NOT found the divorce of William’s parents Florence and Louis Rapp yet but they were together in 1923.

Florence then reportedly gets ill in January 1928 through April 1929. It says an attack of jaundice. We don’t see him with her after that time in 1923.

In 1930 Louis Rapp is living in Philadelphia- or Chester Pa (not sure). The WWII registration says he’s staying in Washington DC in 1942.

Louis , like the son he seems to have abandoned, also apparently signs up for WWII. Were they in Washington DC and surrounding area at the same time we wonder?

Stay tuned! I will also post more when I get through more of the letters! Initial research indicates that family members may have the surname Rex, and some quite possibly either live or used to live in Chester County.