“the cut”

As I said in 2013 when I first wrote about Duffy’s Cut,  given the clouds of mystery and intrigue still surrounding Duffy’s Cut, I think the foggy afternoon  I photographed the historical marker was perfect.  You can never truly move forward into the future if you can’t honor the past, or that is just my opinion as a mere mortal and female.

I have written before about Duffy’s Cut and thanks to my friend Dr. Bill Watson at Immaculata, I have been blessed to have been to see  Duffy’s Cut twice.  And no, you can’t just go, you need permission. There is private property of homeowners and AMTRAK involved, and those who show callous disregard for either put the project at risk.  So please, don’t just go exploring.  Dr. Watson and his brother Rev. Watson and their team have worked so hard.

My last Duffy’s Cut adventure was about a year ago.  I was invited to accompany them on a brief dig last summer. I was with the Duffy’s Cut team and teachers attending the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)  Duffy’s Cut Teachers Institute. Everyone was so warm and welcoming to a non-educator. It was an experience I will never, ever forget.

Earlier this year, a new film on Duffy’s Cut was released.  “The Cut”  by Irish American Films. I was originally supposed to attend the premiere of the documentary film at Immaculata, and this was yet another thing my blasted knee at the time did not allow me to do.

But I bought the DVD and it has sat on my desk, haunting me until today.  Amazing.  It is amazing. So very good and true.

In the very beginning of the film they discuss the “Irish Need Not Apply” of it all. I have personal family memories attached to that.  When I was little my maternal grandfather (whom I called Poppy) would tell me stories of how the Irish were persecuted at different times in this country (John Francis Xavier Gallen was Irish and born in the late 19th century) . When he was a little boy, my great grandmother Rebecca Nesbitt Gallen was in service and was the summer housekeeper to the Cassatt Family in Haverford. If I recall correctly, he lost a lot of family during the Spanish Flu Pandemic of the early 20th century, but I digress. Poppy would tell me of anti-Irish sentiment and tales of “Irish need not apply”.

I remember feeling wide eyed and incredulous as a child hearing that.

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child”

~1 Corinthians 13:11 

Yes, it was kind of like that.  Because today I heard that phrase again, in The Cut, as an adult.  And I recall the wonderful (and recent) series by Sam Katz, “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” (which you can watch in it’s entirety online at 6ABC).    Sam Katz also discussed the plight of the Irish immigrant in his series.

Today as I watched this brilliant documentary that is so honest and true, I was struck by it all again.  I was also struck by the parallels  into the world today in which we live. Power, political power, the almost obfuscation  of the law, prejudice, religious persecution.  Here we are, residents of a country where out very forefathers fought and bled and died for our rights, our inalienable rights, and look how we treat one and other? And even in 1832, when the Revolutionary War wouldn’t have been as distant a memory, let alone the War of 1812, right?

This area in 1832 was farming and countryside and rather rural.  These Irish rail workers were discriminated  against, abused, persecuted, and ultimately murdered. And one who was complicit? A fellow Irishman named Philip Duffy.  He was by most accounts a bully who exploited these men and women who had traveled thousands of miles to a different country in the hopes of a better life.  Of course by the very nature of how Duffy treated these workers, he was was also a big coward, wasn’t he? The Philip Duffys of this world persist throughout history, don’t they?

This documentary also delves into the politics and political climate of the time, which seemed somewhat chaotic.  I have to ask have we evolved enough from then? It seems like history is so often doomed to repeat itself unless we take the steps to be part of the change, right?

I am the child of immigrants, including Irish.  I am not related to any of these workers (at least that I know of), but this inconvenient history of Duffy’s Cut hits me at the core of my being every time I read about it.  These dead men could have been my ancestors, or yours, or anyone’s. These men and women mattered. All Americans are the descendants of immigrants. It is how the U.S.A. was founded, remember?

I was struck by an interview of Walt Hunter, Duffy’s Cut Board Member, supporter and long time KYW TV 3 reporter in Philadelphia.  He spoke about having a certain feeling when onsite at Duffy’s Cut.  I totally get it, I have felt it twice.  It’s a feeling, a knowing, an awareness that great evil happened there.

You can buy a copy of “The Cut” through Irish American Films.  I strongly recommend it.

Also Dr. Bill Watson and his brother , Rev. Frank Watson can always use our continued support of this magnificent and historically important archaeological project.  Donate to The Duffy’s Cut Project.   You can donate via the Duffy’s Cut website, just look for the little round button partway down the front page of the website with the PayPal icon. Or click here to see the Duffy’s Cut Donation Page. You can also donate via Square and checks are graciously accepted.

Donations can be made directly to Duffy’s Cut Project by check or money order and mailed to:
Duffy’s Cut Project
C/O William Watson
21 Faculty Center
Immaculata, PA 19345-0667

 

This history of Duffy’s Cut is so important.  Yes it is ugly and brutal and raw.  It is a true tale of the horrific things human beings do to one and other.  But this was so awful that I totally understand why people literally tried to make this whole part of American history, local Chester County history, disappear. To the descendants of anyone involved, I am truly sorry.  It doesn’t matter that it was 1832, it’s so ugly.  But the dead will not rest until the workers are all discovered and honored.  And that will be a good thing.

Please support Duffy’s Cut.

Recent Duffy’s Cut in the media articles include:

 Promising discovery in 1830s deaths of Irish rail workers on the Main Line
Updated: JULY 13, 2017 — 3:45 PM EDT by Genevieve Glatsky, STAFF WRITER (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Daily Local: Duffy’s Cut: Search continues for 19th-century railroad workers’ graves in Malvern

By Bill Rettew, brettew@dailylocal.com
POSTED: 06/10/17, 5:30 AM EDT

CBS3 KYW: Brothers Work To Recover The Rest Of Duffy’s Cut Remains

Delco (Daily) Times Local filmmakers create Irish-American programs to celebrate culture

By Peg DeGrassa, POSTED: 03/06/17, 9:16 PM EST

an amazing experience

DSC_6606Yesterday, I had the privilege of visiting a Duffy’s Cut archaeological dig site thanks to Dr. William Watson of Immaculata. This is my second Duffy’s Cut tour thanks to the good doctor.13592353_10154326569529313_2829693570295626942_n

I also had the opportunity to meet his team, his brother, and the  teachers attending the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)  Duffy’s Cut Teachers Institute. Everyone was so warm and welcoming to a non-educator.

I have always wanted to see what an archaeological dig was like in real time, so I found it all fascinating!

Thanks Bill for including me!!!

Here is the PBS video of a few years ago. I have watched it a few time now and it still gets me every time – really powerful stuff:


DSC_6512 DSC_6551 DSC_6624 DSC_6651 DSC_6653 DSC_6670 DSC_6676 DSC_6702 DSC_6713 DSC_6741

loch aerie open again tomorrow – last “open house” before auction

Loch Aerie FlyerTomorrow is the last “open house”  or public viewing of Loch Aerie / Lockwood Mansion / Glen Loch Mansion before the auction on April 21st. So that is tomorrow Wednesday, April 6, 12 pm (noon) until 2 pm. If you know of a preservation buyer, tell them!

The auction people are very nice and gracious, but you do have to stop at their registration table and fill out a form so they know who is in the house. It’s no big deal, but it is an old house. Wear sturdy shoes or good sneakers, this is an old house with many rooms and floors and stairs.

Since the signs went up, the news of Chester County’s La Ronda going to the auction block has spread like wildfire, even making the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Properties for Sale List (CLICK HERE)

I would caution people that there is still opportunity here for Loch Aerie to be saved.  This is very different from those of us who watched La Ronda fall in Bryn Mawr .  No one knew what danger La Ronda was in until Lower Merion Township found out about the desired demolition. By then it was too late. And it was insane, the person who purchase dLa Ronda demolished her just because he could.  He even had a preservation buyer prepared to buy the house and move it to another location. La Ronda was replaced by an absurdly pretentious McMansion with a hockey rink and history was lost.

La Ronda was an amazing example of Addison Mizner’s work and was at that time (2009) one of the last remaining examples if not the last example in this area.  His mansions used to dot the East Coast up through New York State if I remember correctly. And in the end with La Ronda even the seller and owner were at odds over salvage rights.

La Ronda was an amazing property. I was lucky to be able to photograph her from outside her gates before she fell. I was  there like like dozens of others on demolition day. I took photos as tears ran down my face at the sheer waste of something so amazing. Even local commissioner were there and crying. It was awful . It was a house that was beloved by her former community, just like Loch Aerie is today. And just as symbolic and recognizable which is why people sometimes call Loch Aerie Chester County’s La Ronda.

The clock is ticking but not all is lost. Loch Aerie just needs a preservation buyer and not a developer who is land greedy who will buy her for the 6 acres in total she comes with and let her rot as opposed as to just lie fallow with a caretaker in residence.

Loch Aerie has stood there on her hill and watched Chester County change.  This mansion has survived Home Depot being built, turnpike and other highway expansions, motorcycle gangs and general ignorance.

Addison Hutton is one of the finest architects that ever worked or lived in Philadelphia. Loch Aerie is fanciful and lyrical in her Swiss Gothic style. Her original gardens were designed by Charles P. Miller, the landscape architect who designed Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. The gardens are all but gone and the difference between this spring and some other springs I have seen Loch Aerie go through seems to be that some of the last remaining foundation plantings are but memories.

You can read the report that the Chester County Historical Society compiled for a Historic Buildings Survey in the 1950s for The Department of the Interior by clicking HERE.

You can read author Thom Nickel’s Huffington Post essay on Loch Aerie by clicking HERE.

I will note that East Whiteland Historical Commission has a meeting tomorrow evening – 4/6/2016 from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm.  Supposedly they will be discussing Loch Aerie although no agenda is posted as per usual. they also never seem to post any meeting minutes. So I can’t tell you what they are doing but they certainly have not gotten out in front of this.  Or if they have it’s a secret they keep from everyone.

We can’t save every old house, barn, mansion, structure but we should save some, right?  The crime here is just like with the Old Conestoga Inn in Tredyffrin, the Strawbridge House next to the boat place on 30 in Malvern, or Linden Hall on Route 30 in Malvern at the base of 352 and countless other structures all over, there is nothing legally keeping any of them from being torn down. The drawback to living in Pennsylvania, which is a heavy private property rights state (which of course given the eminent domain for private gain all over the state for decades is somewhat contrary in and of itself.)

But the thing is this: Pennsylvania needs more meaningful historic preservation. And there need to be more financial incentives available to preservation buyers. Other states in this country have them.

Pennsylvania also needs an overhaul of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (“MPC” or Act of 1968 P.L. 805 no. 245 as Reenacted and Amended).  This weighty tome is the bible which guides zoning and land use on local levels. This what your local elected officials will lament prevents them from preventing development/density and so on and so forth at times.  Legislators will tell you the MPC is flawed, heck they even did a comprehensive report on it around 2002-2004.)

Communities around Pennsylvania desperately need balance and even protections from development. What defined a suburb and exurb in the past may no longer fit and how does historic preservation in communities fit in? The truth is historic preservation is more of a nice option in Pennsylvania rather than the occasional requirement.

Sorry, don’t mean to put you to sleep, but I feel quite passionately about preserving our open spaces and history.

DSC_0145

Loch Aerie is a symbol to us. A symbol of the rich history and past, homage to a time gone by, an example of legendary architecture which has withstood the test of time and is still so beautiful. And Loch Aerie could be a private home again, or an adaptive reuse. It would be a fabulous boutique hotel and there is a need. I could see a small hotel with a chic restaurant on the first floor.

DSC_3010

Even artists have been captivated by Loch Aerie over time.  In a garage sale group I bought a print  done by Chester County artist named  Christopher Schultz.  Schultz used to present the land and wildlife of the Brandywine Valley in his watercolors and prints of his watercolors.  What I got was Loch Aerie. Apparently the print was popular 15 to 20 years ago.  I have never seen anything else by this artist, and I bought this print because it was of Loch Aerie. Not terribly valuable but pretty and spoke to me because of the subject matter.

Loch Aerie speaks to me as she does to so many of you. She needs a preservation buyer. She deserves to be saved. But someone has to want to and be able to afford to do it.  Here is hoping and praying that somewhere preservation buyers are thinking about this. It would be criminal for Pennsylvania to lose this treasure.

#thisplacematters

Thanks for stopping by.

 

our inconvenient history: duffy’s cut

DSC_1297I saw Duffy’s Cut today. It took my breath away. It is such a compelling story, and it is an eerie, silent,  almost sacred place. Yet it is also an inconvenient history, an inconvenient truth.

DSC_1171When I was little my one grandfather whom I called Poppy would tell me stories of how the Irish were persecuted at different times in this country (John Francis Xavier Gallen was Irish and born in the late 19th century) . When he was a little boy, my great grandmother Rebecca Nesbitt Gallen was in service and was the summer housekeeper to the Cassatt Family in Haverford. If I recall correctly, he lost a lot of family during the Spanish Flu Pandemic of the early 20th century, but I digress. Poppy would tell me of anti-Irish sentiment and tales of “Irish need not apply”.

My other grandfather, Pop Pop, would tell me of anti-Italian sentiment. Poppy’s wife, my grandmother (my Mumma), who was Pennsylvania German, would tell me tales of anti- German sentiment during both world wars.  And so did my own mother.  Yes, I am off on a slight tangent here, but for all that the United States was founded as a nation of immigrants, different sets of immigrants have been persecuted at different times throughout our history and even today. Considering the immigrant stock that runs through my veins I identify with this and am basically unapologetic about my views.

So maybe while Duffy’s Cut is one of Chester County’s most astounding and horrific pieces of history, can it also be said cruelty to various sets of immigrants is as much a part of this country’s inconvenient history as slavery and indentured servitude were?

But back to Duffy’s Cut. I heard about that from my Poppy as a little girl, yet we never learned about it in history class in school. Well one history teacher I had knew of it, but it wasn’t taught to us.

duffys cutI first wrote about Duffy’s Cut in 2013. I happened to be passing by the Duffy’s Cut historical marker at the time,  and stopped to photograph it.  Given the clouds of mystery and intrigue still surrounding Duffy’s Cut, I think the foggy afternoon was perfect. I also think that given the development occurring in Malvern (borough and East Whiteland) by developers who don’t truly give a rat’s fanny about the area, the history, or the current residents (they care about building and selling  projects) it is also appropriate to remember the history. You can never truly move forward into the future if you can’t honor the past, or that is just my opinion as a mere mortal and female.

I have always thought the tale of Duffy’s Cut to be a huge part of the history of Malvern. The Duffy’s Cut Project is housed at Immaculata. You can go see it.

The Smithsonian Channel has a special about it – called the Ghosts of Duffy’s Cut.

Duffy’s Cut is a big deal.  What was Duffy’s Cut? Most simplistically the mass murder of Irish rail workers in 1832 around the time of a cholera outbreak they were blamed for but most say in actuality didn’t cause.

 

DSC_1184There had been a cholera outbreak.  People believed the Irish bought the disease with them. They didn’t as the records for the ship would later prove, but it didn’t matter. Those 57 men (and a woman) were immigrants who spoke mostly Gaelic and lived in the shanty town created to house them next to the railroad (Philadelphia and Columbia line) they were helping create in Malvern.DSC_1340

These immigrants were different. They were “dirty Irish” and locals at the time were suspect of them and threatened by them. I am sorry that sounds awful, but it is an unfortunate truth. I think that and the murder of at least some of these Irish rail workers is why this story has taken so long to unfold and is still continuing.

For example did you know that there is an edition of a paper that was a predecessor (I believe) of the Daily Local called the Village Record.

The October 3, 1832 edition of the paper had an accurate telling of what happened down at Duffy’s Cut earlier that year. The edition of the paper disappeared. The only thing that still exists is the November 8th correction article. The more palatable version of events (yet how was any of it ever palatable or acceptable?)

So my friend and I met with Dr. William Watson at Immaculata today, and he took us to the site. I will not disclose the exact location of the site because well, shall we say, Duffy’s Cut still makes people uncomfortable. And modern day residents who live near this piece of history deserve to NOT be pestered by amateur sleuths and ghost chasers.

DSC_1289Dr. Watson and his brother Reverend Frank Watson became intrigued by Duffy’s Cut when they were given a file that had been in the possession of their grandfather, Joseph F. Tripician.  Their grandfather had been a secretary to Martin Clement, the 11th president of The Pennsylvania Railroad. Their grandfather had Clement’s old file on Duffy’s Cut. (And it was Clement who put up the stone monument  at the edge of the tracks.)

Part of the PRR employee Julian Sachse document from the papers of Mr. Tripician from Martin Clement. This image appears many places including where I found it Duffy's Cut: The Murder Mystery of Malvern By William S. Patton III, Spring 2014 (PSU.edu)

Photo courtesy or Rev Frank Watson and Dr William Watson –  Part of the PRR employee Julian Sachse document from the papers of Mr. Tripician from Martin Clement. This image appears many places including where I found it Duffy’s Cut: The Murder Mystery of Malvern By William S. Patton III, Spring 2014 (PSU.edu)

In April 2010 Smithsonian Magazine had this amazing article on Duffy’s Cut. You can read it online today.

And articles keep being written . Especially because Dr. Watson and his brother and their team have actually gotten some of the remains returned to family descendants in Ireland to be buried with other family members.

The world has taken notice of Duffy’s Cut and what happened there. Perhaps more so than around here truth be told. However, in 2012 an Inquirer reporter named Kristin Holmes wrote a wonderful article about the Duffy’s Cut workers remains which were given burial space at West Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Long-forgotten dead of Duffy’s Cut get proper rites

POSTED: March 10, 2012

When the bodies of the 57 Irish immigrants were dumped into a mass grave in 1832, it was a secret, perhaps meant to shroud a violent end.

But 180 years later, in a ceremony to commemorate the railroad workers’ deaths, there was pomp and fanfare.

Bagpipes, a procession, and a regal, 10-foot high Celtic cross grave marker were part of a funeral service Friday meant to give five of the 57 the proper burial they never had.

The observance at West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd was the culmination of a 10-year research project, known as Duffy’s Cut, to determine the fate of the workers who stepped off a boat from Ireland in June 1832 and were dead eight weeks later.

While most died of cholera in an epidemic that swept the region, researchers say some may have been slain in an act rooted in fear and prejudice….The investigation began in 2002 when the Watson brothers, 49, read a secret file that mentioned the workers and a mass grave. The papers were left to them by their grandfather, who worked as a secretary to the president of what was then the Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad, and is now part of SEPTA.

The brothers began research that would eventually involve geophysicist Timothy Bechtel; the Chester County Coroner’s Office; Earl Schandelmeier, an adjunct professor at Immaculata; Janet Monge, the keeper of skeletal collections at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology; and others. Project researcher John Ahtes died of a heart attack in the midst of the investigation….

The men from Donegal, Tyrone, and Derry Counties sailed to the United States and were promptly hired by railroad man Philip Duffy of Willistown. The mass of workers lived in a shanty near the tracks. The washerwoman served them. Within eight weeks, they were dead – of cholera and other causes.

Four skulls unearthed at the shanty site show signs of blunt trauma, investigators said. One has a hole that might be from a bullet.

The men probably were the victims of anti-Irish sentiment, the fear of cholera, and prejudice against immigrants, researchers say.

“Their sacrifice has been our motivation,” Frank Watson said.

“Their sacrifice has been our motivation.” How beautiful a sentiment is that?

In the spring of 2013, the New York Times continued with another part of the story: they covered the remains of young John Ruddy being returned to his descendants in Ireland:

With Shovels and Science, a Grim Story Is Told

The New York Times

Decades ago, just before the Pennsylvania Railroad was auctioned off, Watson’s grandfather — who worked for the company — saved key company records before they were destroyed. Among them were documents that hypothesized the location of the mass grave and reported the deaths of 57 workers.

The documents also clearly stated that the information was intended to remain a secret.

It was a “crazy coincidence” that the railroad company’s records survived through his family, Watson said.

The papers confirmed fears of a cover up. If the men’s deaths were due to cholera, why weren’t they recorded in a local paper, like most cholera deaths were at that time? And why would some of the bodies have been brutalized?

The answers remain elusive.

 

Have you noticed when you mention Duffy’s Cut you get many reactions/opinions?  Ok I get it. Some day the entire truth will come out….and I wouldn’t want to be related to people who either took part in making these workers disappear or the cover up which ensued. It will be like saying you are related to Benedict Arnold. Or a slave owner. And it is something else historically wonky that basically happened in East Whiteland. (Dare I say it? Has the East Whiteland Historical Commission ever opined on this? Participated in research in any way? Or just erected a slightly historically inaccurate sign?)

But it is part of our history around here.  And for those of us with at least partial Irish lineage, well, don’t you just want to know? Will finally learning the truth be so bad? John Ruddy from Donegal and the woman Catherine Burns from Tyrone have been returned to their modern descendants and buried in Ireland. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to identify the remains of more workers so that they could be sent home to their modern day descendants and rest in peace?

Fresh research and searching for the truth is underway. That has gotten a lot of coverage the past few months in Ireland, incidentally:

Derry Journal: Duffy’s Cut: Hopes that the mass grave of Irish dead have been uncovered

IrishCentral.com: Further testing underway at Duffy’s Cut mass grave of 57 murdered Irish

Irish Echo:Work begins on Duffy’s Cut mass grave

And I can’t forget to mention the television piece done by CBS3’s Walt Hunter this fall as well: EXCLUSIVE: New Search Begins For Secret Main Line Grave Holding Irish Rail Workers

EW DCYou will notice in the Walt Hunter report the incorrect verbiage on the Duffy’s Cut sign by the stone monument – by the East Whiteland Historical Commission. I mean I guess they tried but they state the wrong year (1834 when the incidents occurred in 1832) and the well wrong cause of death – black diphtheria, and the disease was cholera. The text of the sign is “Burial Plot of Irish Railroad Workers. Died Summer of 1834 of Black Diptheria- East Whiteland Historical Commission.”

Core samples are being taken.  Amtrak seems to be cooperating a little more (I call that a true Christmas miracle – hopefully that continues.)

And oh yeah, thanks to the latest Walt Hunter story Duffy’s Cut has even made People Magazine.  So what of other local media? Since it was the paper that possibly eventually became the Daily Local (Village Record, West Chester, PA) had that article that disappeared from October 3rd, 1832 how about an in-depth update from our local paper or any of the other Chester County newspapers?

Dr. Watson took us to the little museum at Immaculata where we saw the artifacts and heard the tale.  I also find it fascinating how many songs and musical tributes to Duffy’s Cut exist. (You can buy a CD of songs on the Duffy’s Cut Project Website.) But it was when he took us to the site where it hit home ten days before Christmas.

DSC_1336The site feels almost sacred and is so quiet except for the occasional piercing whistle of a passing train or a hawk overhead. Dr. Watson told us not only the tale of the workers but his tale of his grandfather’s file and all the twists and turns it has taken to get this far.

DSC_1248And as his words floated in the air around us and I gazed at a stone monument and surrounding woods, could I heard in my imagination the sounds of the workers? Did they just sort of float in the air outside of our normal consciousness? I am not being fey or deliberately dotty but when you stand there and you hear what happened to them, you can almost see and hear the past…and feel it.

We need to put this right. We need to support this ongoing project as a community. It is part of our history on so many levels, like it or not. We can’t undo what happened, but we can help correct it on some level by finally getting the entire story told.

DSC_1246And finally we can learn from this. Every generation in this country founded by immigrants fleeing persecution, we somehow as a nation seem to persecute over and over different sets of NEW  immigrants to this country. How is that showing the religious and cultural tolerance on which this country was founded?

As a society, we can do better. We need to honor our dead locally whether at Duffy’s Cut or  the ruins of Ebenezer AME Church on Bacton Hill Road, or farther out towards Kennett Square and elsewhere where other bits of our history is disappearing whether it takes the form of old houses involved in the Underground Railroad, to all the abandoned graveyards that dot Chester County and the rest of the state.

We shouldn’t whitewash our history or pretend uncomfortable and horrific things didn’t happen. We learn from those mistakes. If you cover them up, as human beings we are then doomed to repeat them unless we break the cycle and face the past.

I have a bunch of photos from today from the site and the museum. I will get to them over the next day or so. You can visit the Duffy’s Cut Museum in the Library at Immaculata when the library is open. The actual Duffy’s Cut site is NOT open to the public it is impossibly located to do that, so kindly respect that fact because so many over the years have not.  People folly hunting for Duffy’s Cut only jeopardize the work that archeologists, geologists, and historians are trying to accomplish and that is not right.

Before I sign off, a big thank you to Dr. William Watson. He is kind of a big deal history professor and he took the time for us to show us Duffy’s Cut and tell us all about their work surrounding that. Educators like him make all the difference in how you learn and I think his students are so very lucky to have a professor with a passion for history like he has.

This has been a very long post….so thanks for reading through until the end and for stopping by.

DSC_1229

crumbling colonial next to clews and strawbridge in frazer

next to clews and strawbridge

Look at it crumble. Astounding.  Soon the vines that twist and cover will own what I believe to be an 18th century house next to Clews & Strawbridge on Route 30 in Frazer, PA.  Does anyone know anything about this? And is this the ultimate historic preservation in what I assume is East Whiteland? Structures just molder until they completely rot away? So if I am say, “Getting on Board With Bill”, is this what I am signing up for? Should things like this that rot (Loch Aerie, Linden House, Ebenezer AME just to name a few in East Whiteland) be considered accomplishments during his tenure? I am a realist, and I know that not every old house can be saved, nor every truly historic structure, but wow, it just seems like East Whiteland Supervisors need to kick it up a notch, don’t they?  Why can’t they ask all these deep pocketed developers in the Township to assist?

Where is historic preservation in East Whiteland? I mean other than what Immaculata has accomplished for Duffy’s Cut that is?

on good friday, remember the churches abandoned by time and man

DSC_0053Sounds a bit dramatic, but it got your attention, didn’t it? On Good friday, one of the holiest of holy days, I ask you to remember a small but historically significant church that is rotting in Frazer in East Whiteland Township, Chester County.  It is on Bacton Hill Road and it is Ebenezer AME Church.DSC_0006

It started as a fascination of a ruined structure that I later received more information on.  Ebenezer AME in Frazer was built in 1835.

Apparently the oldest grave stones in the cemetery date back to the 1830s. An Eagle Scout named Matthew Nehring had been working on uncovering the gravestones. (Have no idea if his project is finished.) DSC_0041According to the photos it appears some of the dead buried here are soldiers and veterans. One gravestone is for a Joshua Johnson  (Pvt., Co. K, 45th Reg., United States Colored Troops (USCT) (Civil War). I find this to be incredibly historically significant as the army began to organize African Americans into regimental units known as the United States Colored Troops (USCT) in 1863.

DSC_0022According to the East Whiteland Historical Society (which I am not sure what they do because all I see are historic structures rotting in East Whiteland) this church used to serve as a “hub” of African American society in Frazer.  So again on Good Friday I ask again why isn’t any of it being protected?

In any Christian religion, Easter is a very big deal.  Imagine Easters of the past in this little church.  Ladies and gents in their Sunday best, the ladies sporting spring hats.  The laughter and joyful sounds of children outside after services have concluded? The pastor standing outside wishing his congregation well and God speed?

DSC_0007A reader of my blog tells me County records indicate that the lot is owned by the “African Methodist Episcopal Church”.  This online directory shows the a church in Malvern – St. Paul’s.

The headquarters of the AMEC church are as follows:

500 8th Avenue South Nashville, TN 37203 Phone:(615)254-0911 Fax:(615)254-0912 Email:cio@ame-church.com

I am going to e-mail these posts to AMEC and see if they will care.  Certainly no one else I have e-mailed to date has appeared to care.

East Whiteland always seems to be Johnny on the Spot for historical data yet all thisDSC_0051 stuff just rots.  Peter H. Spengeman, a member of the East Whiteland Township Historical Commission wrote to me recently in part:

I appreciate the writer’s interest and concern about the considerable historical resources in the Township , and the ongoing need for protection of structures such as the Ebenezer AME Church, a recent focus of beginning conservation planning.   All of us shudder when we pass a formerly stately structure crying for help.

He continues with what East Whiteland has done in the past, and well, the past is the past.  What is going on today? I am going to not try to sound harsh, but what is it they do besides bemoan the fact that a heck of a lot of history in East Whiteland is rotting?  Loch Aerie, Linden House, and more?  For example (I do not know all the municipal boundaries so feel free to correct me) but isn’t part of Duffy’s Cut that Amtrak won’t allow any more archeological digs on in East Whiteland?  Is the mass grave important enough that maybe another marker closer to the actual site is in order?DSC_0093

I get that part of the problem is East Whiteland has probably more commercial zones than residential so why not get smart with zoning and planning?  Is it possible to write into ordinances and make conditions of approval that not only include  these developers to improve the roads and infrastructure, but to kick in towards the preservation?  I mean seriously they have developers with huge, deep pockets like DSC_0072Brian O’Neill and Eli Kahn, right? I mean Brian O’Neill is Catholic with a sense of religion, right?  Why couldn’t they ask someone like him to save a church?  Help get another historical marker closer to the actual location of Duffy’s Cut mass grave (Where AMTRAK halted archeological digging) ? Or help find a conservation minded buyer for say Linden Hall or Loch Aerie?

Both developers and their partners have made noises out here and elsewhere about how their developments add to the character of an area, so why not have them put their money where there mouths are on historic sites? Paoli Battlefield and Battle of the Clouds are important, but why is it I see neighboring municipalities succeeding with preservation efforts? Historic Sugartown, Historic Goshenville, and even though sometimes I think they need to do more, Historic Yellow Springs?

DSC_0095

And again, when you go to East Whiteland’s really poorly designed website and pull up the historical commission you get a big bowl of nothing.

This church meant something to residents of Chester County for generation upon generation.  I was also told (and I quote) “Some of the family names on the gravestones are the same as families still living in Malvern Borough.  I can’t blame the Township when the church and the families don’t seem to care.”

DSC_0029I will tell you what, if some of my people were buried in an abandoned churchyard I sure would care.

So here is wishing on Good Friday that apathy dies an untimely death and people remember this site before my photos are the only things left standing.

Again, I am happy to share the photos I have taken to date.  If the African Methodist Episcopal Church were to roll up with East Whiteland to save it, I would continue to offer my photographic skills as a donation as well as my PR talents.  But someone other than I has to care, first.

Blessed Easter all.

 DSC_0100

 

 

it’s palm sunday, so why not post about an abandoned church?

DSC_0049So yesterday, I went out and photographed an abandoned church that had historical importance to the area: Ebenezer AME Church.  I had taken a couple of photos a while back and then Pete Kennedy from Malvern Patch told me what I was looking at so I wrote the post ebenezer ame church – bacton hill road.

DSC_0042Ironically and as life might have it, as I was out yesterday taking photos, someone from the East Whiteland Historical Society popped by to leave a comment on my post.  His name is Peter H. Spengeman and this is what he had to say:

As a member of the East Whiteland Township Historical Commission, I appreciate the writer’s interest and concern about the considerable historical resources in the Township , and the ongoing need for protection of structures such as the Ebenezer AME Church, a recent focus of beginning conservation planning.   All of us shudder when we pass a formerly stately structure crying for help.   To mount preservation efforts , it does require committment, time and often public advocacy and substantive funds to ensure that bricks and mortar are added to create stability of these structures as well as interest in publicizing our rich history.  We are pleased that the Supervisors of the Township have supported the Historical Commission over the years, as well as past and recent efforts by the County of Chester and private societies to catalog all resources and provide new and excellent research into the Paoli Battlefield  and Battle of the Clouds.  The Township Historical Commission now has openings, and those in the community who feel strongly about historical preservation are welcome to come to a meeting, held the second Tuesday of each month, and see if they would be interested in contributing.  Thank you,

Peter H. Spengeman, Member, EWTHC

I am going to not try to sound harsh, but what is it they do besides bemoan the fact that a heck of a lot of history in East Whiteland is rotting?  Loch Aerie, Linden House, and more?  For example (I do not know all the municipal boundaries so feel free to correct me) but isn’t part of Duffy’s Cut that Amtrak won’t allow any more archeological digs on in East Whiteland?  Is the mass grave important enough that maybe another marker closer to the actual site is in order?

DSC_0037Or Linden Hall or Lock Aerie?  Have they sought commercial conservation minded buyers or donations from the developers getting rich off of East Whiteland?

I get that part of the problem is East Whiteland has probably more commercial zones than residential so why not get smart with zoning and planning?  Is it possible to write into ordinances and make conditions of approval that not only include  these developers to improve the roads and infrastructure, but to kick in towards the preservation?  I mean seriously they have developers with huge, deep pockets like Brian O’Neill and Eli Kahn, right?

Both developers and their partners have made noises out here and elsewhere about how their developments add to the character of an area, so why not have them put their money where there mouths are on historic sites?  I would even say welcome them making corporate offices out of a historic structure in a commercial zone – we all know it is not going to go back to residential so why not encourage a developer to preserve the facade and do an adaptive reuse of the interior?

Paoli Battlefield and Battle of the Clouds are important, but why is it I see neighboring municipalities succeeding with preservation efforts? Historic Sugartown, Historic Goshenville, and even though sometimes I think they need to do more, Historic Yellow Springs?

DSC_0023I note that East Whiteland’s Historic Commission has openings, but I am a writer, not a board person.  I have little patience for boards where not much has changed in decades and trust me, they would not like my impatience.  I am doing them a favor by raising awareness, what I do not get is how they seem unable to think outside the box here.  Why not go to their supervisors and ask for more public and private partnerships?  After all, Chester County has great wealth in it, and it is win-win for those who have those beautiful estates and properties to have what lies around them look nice too.  Preservation and adaptive reuse can do that.

Also to be commented upon is that I sent out my initial post to historical groups who keep records of the black soldiers who served in the Civil War and others interested in local history and preservation and not one acknowledged receipt of the e-mail or commented on the post.  I also sent to media outlets and did not hear anything.  But that part doesn’t surprise me because history, crumbling history, and historic preservation aren’t sexy to the masses that feed off local and regional media.  I will remind the print and t.v. media that you used to cover stuff like this.

DSC_0027So on Palm Sunday I offer you photos of Ebeneezer AME, or should I say her ruins in Frazer.  This church meant a lot to a lot of people for a lot of years, right?  Is this how we honor her dead buried in her church yard, or what was her church yard?  I wondered as I took my photos yesterday if descendants of the dead buried there even know they have people in this old abandoned churchyard?

DSC_0078I have no idea who owns this, maybe the state, but I know from paying attention to other cases involving abandoned churches and grave yards, local municipalities like East Whiteland can take them over.  And seriously what would it cost to put a little fence and marker up and to cut the weeds?  You could probably interest more boy scout troops  and archeological types to help right the graves.  All it would take would be a little effort on the part of say, East Whiteland Historical Society.

EWTHC I have started something here for you, am happy to share my photos.  Am happy to volunteer in as much as trying to raise awareness and take photos of preservation efforts should they actually occur.    But you have to actually want to care about this stuff and again, not trying to be mean, it is a little hard to decide what it is you care about – on East Whiteland’s website there are no current agendas or meeting minutes since 2009.