I was unable to attend the Main Line Airport marker dedication ceremony yesterday, but my dear friends at the Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society were kind enough to provide this photo.
Support your local and county historical societies wherever you live. They do the good deeds, and trust me, to get even a non-Commonwealth of Pennsylvania historical marker approved, takes some doing!
Learn about the Main Line Airport HERE
Above is the grave of Hiram Woodyard. He was a freed slave and Black Civil War Soldier who resided in the village of Bacton, “Bacton Hisotric District”, AKA “Bacton African American Community”.
In 1991, Jane Davidson, the then Chester County Historic Preservation Officer certified that one of the houses attributed to him on Conestoga Road as a “County Historic Resource”. She said “The events and activities that have occurred in and around the site form a chronological record of past knowledge that portrays a history of the area.”
The historical information listed in some of the paperwork states:
This resource is part of the Bacton Historic District which is a post-Civil War, Afro-American community. This resource is also connected with Hiram Woodyard who was a prominent member of this community….Due to previous development there is an eminent potential to widen Rte. 401,this threat would negatively impact the integrity of this resource.
In other paperwork, the same author continues:
Hiram Woodyard, one of two leaders in the Bacton African-American community, has become a local folk hero in recent years. While part of the timber industry as a fence maker, he also commanded a great deal of respect for his leadership ability, not only in the community, but also in the Union army.
This fascinating information would have been something my friend the late (and missed) Al Terrell, would have loved. He and I shared another soldier (it’s how we both became interested in the site), 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.
Al was so excited this time last year when grave after grave was uncovered, including Hiram Woodyard, whom we knew had started out life as a slave. As a freed slave he did so much, including by all accounts being a revered community leader, and he fought for a country which had originally enslaved him.
This new information (and I will embed everything shortly within this post), did not come to me via Chester County. It came to me all the way from Winner, South Dakota, thousands of miles away!
This information started to arrive on September 12, 2017 from Eleanor Miller, who along with her sister, Grace English, once lived in East Whiteland at 416 Conestoga Road.
In the first packet of information was a letter and here is an excerpt:
Enclosed please find the papers in regards to my grandparents’ home. (Charles and Stella Rost, 418 Conestoga Road.)
I married and moved away from my home, 416 Conestoga Road, in 1967…In 2012, Malvern Patch identified the house on 414 Conestoga Road as Hiram Woodyard’s. I believe they were incorrect….My sister and I try to visit Bacton Hill once a year.
To follow (embedded) is what Eleanor sent to me. It is part of Hiram’s history she gained through personal research. This is such a treasure to receive!
Ebenezer is hanging in there and one of Al’s sons still comes back and cuts the grass and weeds when he has time, but Ebenezer needs ALL of our love. I put out the plea once again if anyone can interest the AME church in their own important history, please do. These old souls belong to us and all of our history in Chester County as well as being crucially important historically to the AME Church and black history in general.
Say a prayer in remembrance for the old souls buried at the ruins of Ebenezer on Bacton Hill road in Frazer, and remember Al Terrell too.
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)
By Bill Rettew, email@example.com
POSTED: 06/10/17, 5:30 AM EDT
By Peg DeGrassa, POSTED: 03/06/17, 9:16 PM EST
Hello Dear Readers,
Earlier this year, I was hit with a Cease and Desist in the form of something known in legal circles as a Writ of Summons. It was issued on behalf of developer Brian O’Neill and Constitution Drive Partners over the Bishop Tube Site in Malvern/Frazer in East Whiteland Township. It was sent to me by the West Chester and Chester County law firm of Lamb McErlane.
This whole thing also involves Maya van Rossum, who is The Delaware Riverkeeper , her non-profit The Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and people thus far referrred to as “John Does 1 -10”
Yes I know Maya. I used to live not too far away from her before I moved to Chester County. She lives in Radnor Township and I once lived in Lower Merion Township. As I have previously stated, Maya van Rossum is one of the most ethical, dedicated, and smart women I have ever met. I am honored to know her.
I actually had not seen Maya van Rossum in a few years in person before I turned around at that February 27, 2017 East Whiteland Zoning Hearing Board Meeting because I heard a familiar voice – hers. Others (unknown as to precisely who) had contacted her about this site. And I also think the folks from Trout Unlimited were there, and have also been at meetings (I never even knew what that non-profit was until all of this.)
Within a couple of days of that February 27 meeting, I injured my knee seriously enough to require surgery. My injury was to my right knee which meant I did not drive or even truly walk again until quite recently and even now the distances are brief. As I sat on the sidelines (which included NOT attending public or other meetings), many more public meetings happened. The whole debate of the Bishop Tube site in East Whiteland raged on (and continues to do so seemingly.) The DEP has been weighing in, along with State Representative Duane Milne, State Senator Andy Dinniman, even East Whiteland Township Supervisors.
The residents of General Warren Village also banded together and began to advocate for themselves as they live adjacent to this site. People from neighboring areas seemed to have joined them based on replays of public meetings I have watched over the past few months. And the Delaware Riverkeeper has persisted. (See this section on their website.)
This is democracy in action. When people take an interest in where they live, it is a powerful force. It is not easy for the residents involved, and it does take great courage, I applaud them.
As I have sat on the sidelines watching, this whole SLAPP thing has persisted. At its most basic, things like this are an affront to our inalienable rights to protest and speak. Our very rights are at risk, including that thing called the First Amendment:
First Amendment (As reprinted by the ACLU)
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
I am not the only one experiencing this (even on this topic) but when you are faced with this it feels so very and truly personal. Because in a way, it is. It is a challenge to those aforementioned freedoms we as Americans (regardless of political and religious persuasion) hold dear and even at times…take for granted.
It is because of situations like this I believe municipalities need to do better by us as residents. It is because of this that those we elect to the most basic of municipal levels, including the State House, State Senate, U.S. House and U.S. Senate need to do better by us.
As a perennial student of history, I have faith that the truth will indeed out. And I do indeed have representation. Mr. Samuel Stretton. A gentleman whose career I have followed off and on for many years and now have the privilege of knowing. Any questions may be directed to him.
I just thought it fair to let you my readers, neighbors, friends, and family know what was going on.
Thanks for stopping by
And I am confused because this developer refers to his neighbors in General Warren so I have to ask does he no longer live in Lower Merion Township?
As a “newcomer” resident of Chester County, am I supposed to be the perfect Victorian woman and be seen and not heard?
No, I haven’t written lovely large checks to the wonderful and deserving East Whiteland Fire Company, does that make me a bad person?
I do not write the flyers going out. I have expressed my opinions on my blog. Opinion is not against the law is it? The First Amendment still exists right?
Maya van Rossum is one of the most ethical and dedicated and smart women I have ever met, I am honored to know her. She is the Delaware Riverkeeper and it is her job to know about these sites like Bishop Tube.
The ultimate irony for me is I am a cancer survivor. I do not wish cancer treatment on anyone. Ever. That is why TCE terrifies me. So is that making me a bad person for caring?
The other thing is I have never said don’t develop the Bishop Tube site. I have said do lots and lots of clean-up based on past news articles and other documents and things like first hand accounts from former Bishop Tube employees and why is that bad? I have said I thought it was too much proposed density and why not an alternate, non-residential use but that is my opinion, yes?
So I am sorry the developer thinks I am being unfair, I think I am being justifiably concerned, and is that bad?
Also see this:
The Delaware Riverkeeper is keeping up the pressure on the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Hot off the presses find these two letters:
Bishop Tube is a crazy tale that just keeps getting more interesting, doesn’t it? Trichloroethylene (TCE) is so damn toxic. Yet you have to wonder why is seems the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) seems to play dodge ball on it at Bishop Tube, right? (Here is something the EPA put out around 2015 *I think* and something else from Arizona and how NASA deals with TCE.)
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is the agency that is supposed to protect residents from toxic hazards, yet who is supposed to protect residents from them? I hear State Senator Dinniman’s office is starting to feel the pinch of Bishop Tube phone calls but what is he actually doing? (keep calling Phone: 610.692.2112 Fax: 610.436.1721 for West Chester PA and Phone: 717.787.5709 • Fax: 717.787.4384 for Harrisburg )
Hey Erin Brocavitch can we interest you in a little good old PA TCE????