the darkness of politics

Fear mongering and misinformation

Being a Democrat is NOT being Socialist, Marxist, or Communist. They are actually their own individual political belief systems and ideologies.

In this country, many (but not all) people characterize their political beliefs and identify with a particular political party. You know like mainly Republican or Democrat or Libertarian?

However, that being said, there is not complete overlap between political party and political ideology, they are NOT necessarily 100% the same. It tends to be as individualistic as each person doesn’t it?

People used to be able to move about freely in this world, identifying with their particular political persuasions yet remaining individualistic.

People used to be allowed to have their own political views, as well as saying they were part of a political party. Some were more conservative than others, some more liberal. Some were just Malcolm in the Middle, neither one extreme or the other.

And that was OK.

I used to be a Republican and I was in the middle. A moderate. I was for the most part socially liberal and fiscally conservative. That is also what they used to call a New England Democrat.

But then changes, and not for the better in my opinion, began to change the Republican Party. I was still the same person but the party I had considered myself part of since I was able to vote no longer really resonated with me because the rhetoric became so incredibly uncomfortable for lack of a better description.

I realized that what the Republican Party was becoming as soon as Trump became the nominee was not something I could identify with (or live with as an updated skewed ideology.) So I became an Independent. I didn’t feel that I was a true Democrat or what I thought a Democrat was.

But because I live in Pennsylvania, if I wasn’t in one main party or the other I couldn’t vote in a primary. I vote. And then I had friends running for office as Democrats, so I changed my party once again after a couple of years.

Yet still, I didn’t feel like I fit. I was still that person politically in the middle. But what I have learned is that at least the Democrats seem to be more accepting and welcoming of the fact of people are individualistic politically and don’t have to be all of the same. We don’t have to be Stepford Wives on this bus. So I’m still not super liberal, but at least I feel like it’s ok to be me.

But then we go back to the Republican Party as it exists today. This screenshot speaks volumes because this is what made me leave: if you aren’t exactly like them, you are against them. If you aren’t exactly like them you are literally bad and evil people to be destroyed. How is it Godly and Christian of them to just be so damn mean?

Truthfully it makes me sad. But it’s something more than that because it’s just so dark.

We have had enough darkness in this country.

It used to be we could be part of a political party and it didn’t become an all consuming, all identifying thing.

What happened to the theory of the worthy opponent?

I said a few years ago that the politics of extremism would ruin this country, and I believe it is. I think as Americans we have to put this bullshit aside and start to come together. Or the darkness will swallow everyone whole.

Be the peaceful change you want to see.

Just little baby steps within your own world.

Re-learn that just because somebody is a different political party they aren’t necessarily a bad person.

Re-learn being able to have actual political and social issue conversations isn’t a bad thing, it’s a conversation.

Re-learn that our history as a country isn’t all sweetness and light and if we try to change it, we are doomed to make the same awful mistakes over and over.

We all do not have to be the same. We can be different from one and other. That’s what our founding fathers fought for. And that has absolutely nothing to do with being asked to wear a mask sometimes in the short term as we try to ditch a global pandemic once and for all. A global pandemic and valid health risk concerns, including to the most vulnerable among us (kids) is not a “tyrannical government” and to restore balance we need to work together, but that is not what the current Republican playbook calls for. They want to tell us about our purported lost freedoms instead of trying for actual unity in this country, or even camaraderie between different groups (including races and religions) of people. The irony is they simply don’t *get* the damage they continue to do. And if we weren’t free, they wouldn’t be able to spew their anger and vitriol and political misinformation.

The politics of extremism and misinformation are killing all of us. Every. Damn. Day. When will enough be enough?

That’s it.

Angry rhetoric and misinformation disguised as “balance”

bits of history

Bits of history can be as fascinating. I stumbled across this check from 1867 when I was looking for treasures at one of my favorite spots. This was drawn on the National Bank of Chester County.

The National Bank of Chester County was founded around 1814. In 1837 it’s iconic bank building opened at 17 N. High Street in West Chester, PA. And another fun fact? Until 1857 it was the only bank in Chester County. The bank no longer exists, but its location/building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

I found a little about Francis H. Gheen:

So that check was written to him two years before he got married. $300 was a larger sum in those days, I wonder what he was being paid for?

Thanks to a Find a Grave contributor, I can share his obituary from 1921:

📌Francis H. Gheen, son of Edward H. and Phebe J. (Hickman) Gheen, was married to Ann E. Brinton in Philadelphia, Pa. on February 25, 1869.

Daily Local News, West Chester, Chester County, Pa
January 25, 1921

Francis H. Gheen

After an illness lasting about ten days, Francis H. Gheen passed away last evening at his home on North High street. He was in the 85th year of his age.

The deceased was born July 6th, 1836, on the farm of his parents, Edward and Phoebe Hickman Gheen, in East Bradford, on the property purchased by the late Bayard Henry. He received his early education in the public schools of the township, and was then sent to a private school in Vermont, but came back home later, and remained on the farm. When his father ded he took possession of the place, making it a model farm. He afterward purchase a farm of his own.

It was n 1869 that he came to West Chester and started in the banking business, being located where the Farmers & Mechanics Trust Company now stands, the firm being known as Gheen, Morgan & Co. Later, Mr. Gheen decided to open an establishment for making wagons and selling the same, and established himself on East Chestnut street, where he continued in business for along time. Later, when he quit this line, being a fine judge of horses and cattle, he entered into a partnership with the late William Wells, which he continued until the death of Mr. Wells. Mr. Gheen then retired from active usiness life, and has since enjoyed remaining at his home or visiting his children at their homes.

Francis H. Gheen may be truly termed the “dean” of fox hunting in Chester County, for at the early age of ten years he possesed a pony which he rode to the hunts near his home, and later owned a fine pack of hounds. He loved the sport in a sense more than words can express, but any violation of ethics of clean sportsmanship brought his views to light quickly. He attended almost all hunts, and when not in the saddle he was on the hills and could tell nearly all the haunts of the foxes in the county. He believed that the younger foxes should be protected and taught to lead the hounds and as a result, frequently went to their dens and fed the little ones. His recountals of hunts of the past always brought a crowd of young and old listeners, for he know (sic) many incidents of great interest. For several years past he had been preparing for publication a book entitled “seventy Years a Fox Hunter” which will be published. He also enjoyed gunning and frequently went South, always returning with much game.

He was a devoted father and husband and will be sorely missed by those left behind. In 1869, he married Annie E. Brinton, of Thornbury Township, and she survives him, as do the following children: Gertrude (now Mrs. Robinson, of New York); Miss Marion H. Gheen, at home; Francis H. Jr., of New York; Mrs. Helen Hunsicker, at home, and Phoebe (now Mrs. A. H. Howard), of New York. John J. Gheen, Esq., is the only living brother, Admiral Edward Gheen having died two years ago. The only sister living is Mrs. Richard Strode, of West Miner street.

While not a member of any church, Mr. Gheen frequently attended meetings of the Society of Friends.

He was a member of the F. & A. M., of this place, the West Chester Club and the West Chester Golf Club. Summing up the life history of this man, a friend expresses the view: “He was a clean and honest sportsman, a friend to all, and agood citizen.”

Ibid:

GHEEN- On Jan. 24, 1921, Francis H. Gheen, in his 85th year.

Pretty cool, huh? You never know we’re a little slip of historical paper will take you. If there is anyone out there who is a relative of this man and can prove it to me I am happy to give you this quirky bit of history.

Thanks for stopping by and have a good weekend!

4th of july 2021

4th of July. Our country’s annual birthday party. It’s not just about fireworks.

On July 4, 1776, the United States gained independence from Great Britain by the Continental Congress when 12 of the 13 “colonies” voted for the separation from Great Britain.

However, a lot of people don’t have a warm and fuzzy feelings about the 4th of July. Some people are ambivalent. Some people like myself don’t like the overt commercialism that tends to follow American holidays around.

I like and appreciate the history. I think we need to remember and appreciate our history. Is it perfect? Were things like slavery and indentured servitude acceptable during part of our history and world history for that matter? Were most women treated like chattel? Yes and yes and yes. Those things are part of our history and were (again) also part of world history at that time. We need to acknowledge that past as a different time, yet part of what formed this country.

BUT it doesn’t diminish what our founding fathers accomplished because times were different.

Yesterday I celebrated part of my 4th of July weekend at Historic Harriton House in Bryn Mawr. I have loved this magical and historical place since I was introduced to it when I was 12 by a neighbor.

Harriton House was originally known as “Bryn Mawr”, and was once the residence of Charles Thomson, the secretary of the Continental Congress. This was originally built in 1704 by Rowland Ellis, a Welsh Quaker, and was called “Bryn Mawr”, meaning “high hill.”

The town of Bryn Mawr in Lower Merion Township is named after the house, and the National Register of Historic Places has it listed under the original name.

Historic Harriton House yesterday

The history of Harriton is undeniable, as well as the connection to the founding of our country. So it was an absolutely perfect place to celebrate part of the 4th of July weekend! People were invited to picnic (and we made ice cream with an old fashioned and fully functional ice cream machine!) and there was a lovely program and music.

Harriton House around 1919

The program was introduced by a wonderful man I am lucky to know because we have mutual friends. Chef Walter Staib. He was proprietor of The City Tavern for decades, and most of you know him as the host of A Taste of History which you can find streaming or on PBS. A Taste of History is one of my favorite shows. I love cooking, I love history, including the history of cooking. (They are filming a new season now.)

Chef Walter Staib addressing the guests yesterday.

Born in Germany, Chef Staib emigrated to America many years ago. He became a citizen, started his family here. He became a US Citizen a couple of years before the Bicentennial. And as well as loving to cook, he is a perpetual student of history. His love for the United States was the perfect was to kick off yesterday’s program which also featured this truly amazing brass ensemble called Festive Brass. I have included two snippets filmed with a phone. Sorry, not the best but I wanted to share their sound with my readers. Beautiful and festive music.

Yesterday at Historic Harriton House the program was free of charge and they asked for a free-will offering. These beloved historic sites need and deserve our support. Look no further than to the historic sites owned by the National Park Service that are either closed to tours or just closed and moldering.

Closed and moldering would be a lot of the houses in Valley Forge Park like the Kennedy Supplee Mansion which I have written about twice.

Closed to tours would include the houses of my childhood in Society Hill like the Bishop White House and the Todd House, places I actually gave tours of leading up to the Bicentennial as a child. I love those houses and I helped plant the kitchen garden in the Todd House way back when. It was there I learned a deterrent for cabbage worms in the garden were marijuana plants. Seriously. Fun little fact of historical gardening.

Also closed is a place I remember being saved and restored as a child. Thaddeus Kosciuszko’s house on 3rd Street in Society Hill. Most of you probably have no clue this place exists or the historical significance. And I swear that place has been closed more years than it has been open. Also owned by the National Park Service.

The City Tavern for that matter, also owned by the National Park Service. Also shuttered now that Chef Staib is not there. That in particular, is truly prime real estate, so one would think they would be polishing up the tavern and marketing her for a new chef and restaurant in residence, right? But are they? Or will The City Tavern go the way of the Kennedy-Supplee Mansion?

Do you sense a theme? Sorry for the segue, but literally every time I go to Valley Forge I think of all the wasted potential of the historic structures. Not all have to be open for tours, but the National Park Service should be more open to restoration and adaptive reuse. I also feel the last administration in Washington harnessed the red, white, and blue of American patriotism for their own selfish ends (including abject ugliness and tyranny) and did nothing for preservation or true patriotism of any kind. And the current administration should get on the ball with preserving more of our history.

History is not something to be neglected and erased. It should be embraced, even the less savory and inconvenient parts because it is all part of how we got to be quite literally.

History, metaphorically speaking, is a living breathing thing we need to embrace and preserve. Even the parts we don’t like because when people try to erase history like it never happened, we are doomed to repeat past mistakes. Look no further that two world wars for proof of that.

Today on the 4th of July, I hope you all pause and think about our history. Think about our founding fathers who bled and fought and died for us. What they accomplished was no small feat.

Me and some friends, mid 1970s doing a costumed re-enactment in the kitchen at Harriton House.

And remember your favorite historic sites with even a small donation. Like Historic Harriton House in Bryn Mawr. Remember your local historical societies that help preserve our history and keep it alive.

🪶🇺🇸In Congress, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.🪶🇺🇸

what is in a name: bacton hill in frazer, east whiteland

The screenshot is from a photo posted on the East Whiteland Fire Co. website.
It says Bacton Hill Road?

Someone a while back asked me about Bacton Hill. I don’t remember who exactly so I’m putting this in a post and putting it out there.

When we think of Bacton Hill, we think of Bacton Hill Road. But it actually used to be more than just the name of the road. It was an entire community.

Historically speaking, it was a significant an early free black settlement in Chester County. Which is why in my opinion along with Ebeneezer AME it should have always been in a historic district.

In 2017 I wrote about a gift of history sent to me by way of South Dakota. It was concerning 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.

Here are these documents again:

Bacton Hill is fascinating and rapidly disappearing. That is why it would’ve been important to have had this preserved decades ago as it’s own little historic district.

Anyway people always have many things to say when it comes to how an area gets it’s name. And my friend historian an artist and author Catherine Quillman gave me some answers, I would like to share:

📌”Hey, finally got into the Chester County History Center. Bacton was formerly known as Valley View.

In 1871, a branch of the Reading Rail Co. was proposed and a stockbroker complained it was an unnecessary expense (though the rail line would connect to west Chester and Phoenixville). He complained it would just go through “back towns”.

I think Anselma was on that run, and that had a large creamery so it could hardly be a “back town” and the name stuck for Valley View – it officially became Bacton when the little post office which was once there opened in 1887.”📌

So Bacton came out of “back town“ and not “black town” which someone wrote to me once upon a time that I found a little bit offensive, but almost would’ve been understandable for certain times a century and longer ago.

Catherine also reminded me that this area also may have probably seen activity during the Revolutionary War. After all part of the Battle of the Clouds took place near where they have that “Ship Road Park” (West Whiteland), and other battles and encampments occurred close enough by in other municipalities which border East Whiteland like Tredyffrin.

The African American community at Bacton Hill was definitely significant once upon a time. They worked in the local quarries and worked for the railroad and even farmed where they could (A lot of the land there as you know is both scrubby, wet, rocky.)

So yes the little post office back then was renamed Bacton from Valley View. But people also speak of Pickering Valley railroad, but I am told it didn’t climb the “hill” of Bacton Hill. The story of conductor saying “Blacktown” instead of Bacton is probably more local lore and misremembering than fact.

Another aspect of this area that has never really been adequately studied was its relationship to the Underground Railroad. Because there was one, as some homeowners of historic homes alone 401 can attest.

Anyway that is what I have to share with all of you today about this fascinating topic and I do think it’s fascinating. If any of you have other recollections of the area of Bacton Hill or Ebenezer, I love to hear about these things so leave me a comment and write into the blog. I am also always happy to share old photos of the area.

Someone said to me that the greater Philadelphia region spends an inordinate amount of time focusing on the Revolutionary War and not other parts of our region’s history. To an extent, that is true. I think that’s why things like Duffy’s Cut got buried forever as well. It’s not fun for a lot of people to talk about the inconvenient or even uncomfortable aspects of our own history. And I think as complete a picture as it’s available helps all of us.

I was close with what the screenshot is you see at the top of this post. While I was looking for my things on Bacton Hill and Ebenezer I came across this marvelous photo that came out of the East Whiteland Fire Company archives. I don’t have an exact date, but it is always been common practice for fire companies to get their squad practice in by burning dilapidated structures. Is this Ebenezer? I want it to be. It’s just interesting to note that if hindsight was 20/20, would they have chosen to do that knowing the history of the area? I don’t think so.

A reader sent the next screenshot with the following note:

“This is Bacton Hill chapel. The fire was set to provide a drill for the Upper Main Line firefighters association. Summer 1961. My family attended Bacton Hill Chapel in the 1950’s. The new Bacton Hill Church was on Yellow Springs Road. I believe It was destroyed by fire in the late 60’s early 70’s.”

So was there another church or chapel on Bacton Hill Road
and if so where?

Thanks for stopping by! This chapel that looks like Ebenezer adds another layer to the community of Bacton Hill, doesn’t it?

more tales of bacton hill

The farmhouse demolished a couple of years ago on Bacton Hill Road for development of houses yet to be built.

One of my favorite bits of Chester County, which is in my opinion completely under recorded and insufficiently remembered for what it represents is the area in Frazer, East Whiteland, Chester County known as Bacton Hill. That is where my favorite ruin, Ebenezer AME is located on Bacton Hill Road. Ebenezer was a very early AME church, and Bishop Richard Allen was still alive when the Quaker, James Malin, deeded the land to the AME Church so Ebenezer could be built. The origins of the AME Church go back to the Free African Society which Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and others established in Philadelphia in 1787. Richard Allen was born a slave in 1760. He was owned and then freed by Benjamin Chew.

Ebenezer on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer (East Whiteland) is a sacred and historic place. It’s no secret I have written about this place for years.

As referenced above, the AME Church grew out of the Free African Society in the late 1700s, but the church became it’s own entity founded in Philadelphia around 1816. So you can see given the age of Ebenezer AME in East Whiteland, Chester County, PA that it is truly part of the early days of a church and religion founded in Philadelphia. Bishop Richard Allen died in 1831, just months before Ebenezer came to be after Joseph Malin deeded the land.

Hiram Woodyard was a Township resident and former slave who served in the Union Army as a teamster. He was a leader in the African American community and is buried at the Ebenezer AME Church. His home still stands on Congestoga Road. Other homes he built still stand. He was an inhabitant of Bacton Hill.

Without active preservation there will come a time that all which will be left of the area will be my blog posts including this one from 2017 which is an oral history complete with some really cool photos courtesy of Claude Bernadin, or this one from 2015, this one from 2016, this one from 2017, the ceremony November 2016, a post from October 2016, another one from October 2016, when for brief moment people stopped to visit the old souls now covered by weeds and brush once more, 2015 post which had links to earlier posts. Also what will survive will be the occasional newspaper article from every newspaper reporter who tried to raise awareness to this area and to Ebenezer.

Once upon a time people tried to get a Bacton Hill Historic District or something like that. It’s a shame it never happened. Because at least then there would have been a more organized history of the place. (See Juneteenth post for more.)

Bacton Hill was an early freed black settlement and not just important in Frazer, East Whiteland, but Chester County. It has always been of historic import, yet it never made it to a historic district.

Today I am sharing some memories of Bacton Hill from former resident, Mark Lanser. He grew up with artist Claude Bernadin, whose memories and photos I shared before.

Here is Mark in his own words:

📌Just wanted to share a bit of my memories growing up on Bacton Hill. I am not sure of what be of interest. I have memories which some may be bit fuzzy but I believe they are mostly intact.

We : my parents Richard & Norma and my 4 brothers Rick, Chris, Scott & Elliott. I was number two son between Rick & Chris. The area before Rt. 202 was built was relatively quiet. I traveled around the area with Claude Bernardin collecting bottles.

I also had a paper route for the daily local news when I was 12 (1967). One of my customers was Mary Cain. Their original home was their farm at the intersection of Bacton Hill & Spring Valley roads. I remember when Mrs. Cain turned 100. She eventually lived to be 108. I think her son was named John (?) Don’t remember her daughter in law’s name. Her son died in his 80’s before his mom. They told me that she was the last proprietor of the Bacton General Store. That was the residence of Barry & Judy Love at the time. It is located on Bacton Hill (401) almost directly across from Bacton Hill Rd. It is literally just several feet off the road. They told me of a time in the late 1920’s when 5 people froze to death in a blizzard out side the farm in a snow drift. At the time they were telling me this they were living on Spring Valley Road a few hundred yards west of Bacton Hill Rd.

I think that the town itself lasted until the Second World War and then lost the post office. My recollection was the general store was built in 1810. Our house midway up the hill was supposedly built in 1732 but the date stone had been removed from the second floor so I never confirmed that.

I was told by Miss Hopper who lived in the log cabin next to us to our west that it was built in 1704. Then was the tavern the next house up just above Spring Valley Road. My recollection was the date stone there was 1765. In regards to the tavern Mr. Cain said the “colored folk” (Mr. Cain’s description back then no offense meant) had some gatherings that went late into the night and were quite lively.

Please let me know if this is of any interest. I am obviously not a writer but I could share some more details about Elwood that Claude wrote about , Miss Hopper, & the cave among others as I can recall them.📌

The oral histories of an area are as important as the historical facts and recorded historical activities. For example, I heard at one time it was rumored adjacent to the trail where there are office suites at Swedesford Road and Bacton Hill Road there were possibly remains of Revolutionary War Soldiers at one time. But there is nothing documented that I can find so it might not be true. But given the age of the area and the documented historical sites all around, could it be possible? Sure. And that’s another thing where I wonder if people have memories of finding arrowheads, or other little relics?

Bacton Hill today is nothing like people remember even only back to the 1960s and 1970s. Because it’s not a preservation area, structures come down. Like what I knew as the old green farmhouse which will be the last photo here on this post today, as well as the first photo. A lot of the road feels industrial today, which were not the origins, it’s just how it evolved .

There are a smattering of homes on and off Bacton Hill Road up near the intersection with Conestoga Road or Route 401 which still exist. Most of the truly old homes that have stood since the 18th and 19th century are on Conestoga Road. And they are lovely. I love that they endure in spite of all that is torn down around them.

As a blogger, if there is something I can give to this area, it’s bits of the history of individuals who lived there. I am also interested in the history of the black settlement which once existed because that’s so historically important vis a vis Ebenezer AME. If you have anything to add, or tales to tell, historical photos, old area photos, either on Bacton Hill, what was once the village (general store, post office, etc), or close by on 401/Conestoga Road, I am happy to listen and view the photos.

Thanks for rambling with me today.

the end of the decade, new year’s eve 2019

Lovely Loch Aerie, Frazer, PA

It has been a crazy decade chock-full of so much. I wasn’t sure what my last post of the year was going to look like until I started looking at some of my photos of houses that had captured my interest and fancy in the past decade.

So in all of the houses I have looked at in this decade I have decided to remain true to Chester County today and give you my three favorites.

Ironically my three house picks for the decade are not traditional 18th century Chester County Farmhouses, but three 19th-century stone houses of a certain era.

You see the first house above. My ultimate old house love, beautiful and lovely Loch Aerie mansion. I have written about her enough that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel and restate her history.

Loch Aerie on Lancaster Avenue in Frazer in East Whiteland Township enters the next decade with a guaranteed and brilliant new lease on life. She is being restored to her former glory, and will have an adaptive reuse that will ensure her place in architectural history for decades to come.

Old stone house Francis Ave, Berwyn, Easttown.

Next on my list is a house I was reminded of this morning. I know nothing of her pedigree. It is the great stone house on Francis Avenue in Berwyn.

My great friend (and Chester County historian and artist) Catherine Quillman and I stumbled upon this beauty in 2016 one fall afternoon.

We took a wrong turn somewhere after leaving Jenkins Arboretum and all of a sudden we were on Francis Avenue in front of this house. And before anyone flips out, we did not trespass. I had a camera with a zoom lens with me and I took photos from the street. This house captured my fancy for a number of reasons, including the fact that the stonework reminded me a lot of Loch Aerie.

I know absolutely nothing of the history of this house other than its 19th century and in Easttown Township . I think it probably has a name (possibly according to a 1912 atlas it appears it was maybe called “Rhydlyn” home of James G. Francis, whose sister in law I believe was famed local photographer Lucy Sampson according to census records from the early 20th century and according to the census she lived there for a while!) I don’t know if it is listed on any national registries or even a state or local registry. I couldn’t find it listed anywhere. (I am told it is mentioned HERE.)

It strikes me as a similar vintage to Loch Aerie. I also do not know the current ownership of the home but I am told it is being preserved as part of some kind of a development. I am also told that the glorious slate roof is no longer which I can’t say surprises me because old slate roofs are incredibly expensive to maintain and it’s a lost art of the craftsmanship of roof building. There are very few slaters left.

My last house which captured my fancy a great deal in this last decade is the Joseph Price house in West Whiteland Township.

This house is on S.Whitford and Clover Mill Roads in Exton. The Joseph Price House in West Whiteland Township.

Here is a wonderful little slide show presentation on prezi. This house is historically listed. It was built in 1878 and altered in 1894 by the house namesake inhabitant at the time. It was altered from a Gothic style to a Queen Anne style.

I was also told in the 1990s it was separate apartments inside and there were also cottages around it which were rented out as well.

In the 1950s and 60s there was a large barn there that was a sale barn for cattle run by Bayard Taylor —a blog reader told me that. He knew because his mother did bookkeeping for that business while she was in college.

This house is not completely deserted I am told there is a caretaker who still lives there. However, this house has an uncertain future at best and nobody seems to know what will happen to it. Which is a shame because it’s very cool.

So as we lift a glass one last time to toast a crazy tumultuous decade everywhere, let us think of our future and historic preservation. There are so many cool houses like this throughout Chester County from all eras of time.

Less development. More land and structure preservation and adaptive reuse. That’s my final wish for Chester County for 2019.

Please do not trespass on these properties. Either get permission to wander around or look from the street.

Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve!

Joseph Price House. West Whiteland Township.

what is really going on in caln township with lloyd farm?

Many thanks to Abandoned Steve Explorations for the use of his gorgeous photo of Lloyd Farm in Caln Township.

Abandoned Steve Explorations took the glorious photo I am opening this post with. I am positively obsessed with the cool structures he covers. He was nice enough to lend us the use of this photo it’s part of an upcoming project. You can find him on Facebook , his website, and YouTube.

Lloyd Farm is haunting me. Part of a Penn Land Grant, dating its origins to the 1600s.

(See this history by Edward C. Lendrat)

Then there is the 18th Century farmhouse with an equally historic 1901 addition.

What am I talking about? 1757 was when the farmhouse was originally built and 1910 when the Lloyd family commissioned Gilbert McIlvaine the Philadelphia architect to build a “modern” addition that paid homage and melded with the original farmhouse. Mr. McIlvaine maintained a home in Downingtown for many years and was also active in the Boy Scouts founding several troops I am told in Chester County.

Back to Lloyd Farm…except the people who have called it home or who had something to do with it are important to the very fabric of Lloyd Farm’s history.

Yesterday I learned surprising news when a copy of an old historic preservation application was unearthed from the early 1980s – possibly 1982. Yes – seriously – Lloyd Farm Application for Historic Designation: PA Historic Resource Form Circa 1982.

From this form we learned quite a few things including that Lloyd Farm around or before the Civil War was a freaking stop on the Underground Railroad!

It’s just crazy and you have to ask what in the heck is going on in Caln Township? How long have these commissioners known the history of Lloyd Farm and why didn’t that historic designation proceed? Why wasn’t it pursued for a national historical status?

Did I mention the demolition permit? There is one. And what is with the date mismatch in that letter thing?

I don’t live in Caln. I do know amusingly enough like Lower Merion Township , it’s a First Class Township. But who runs the Township? Because it surely doesn’t seem like the elected commissioners does it? I know in Lower Merion Township years ago because I was part of it when the residents rose up after having had enough over the threat of eminent domain for private gain in Ardmore that we flipped half of the board of commissioners in one election.

And Caln residents are upset about this.

Really upset.

I want to know why the developer wants to tear down the house don’t you? Is this going to be like the death of Addison Mizner’s La Ronda in Bryn Mawr, PA? A case where a magnificent home was torn down for salvage just because someone could?

Caln resident submitted photo.

Look at the historic comparables in Chester County that are actually getting saved and restored: West Whiteland Inn, Exton. Benjamin Jacobs House, Exton. Fox Chase Inn and Barn, Exton. Linden Hall, Malvern (even if I don’t like some of what is being done it’s being saved, finally.) Loch Aerie, Malvern. The Jenny Lind House, Yellow Springs Village.

Also to be considered? Several Toll Brothers projects including in Chester County where similar vintage farmhouses and/or barns have been or are being saved. Now it is no secret how I feel about Toll Brothers developments, but if even they can preserve historic structures on properties they are developing why couldn’t the developer for Lloyd Farm do that? Or why couldn’t they contemplate something like selling off the farmhouse with a small plot of land around it to someone who might want to preserve it and live in it or something like that?

Caln resident submitted photo.

I don’t have the answers and every day I have more and more questions. This is one of those situations I just don’t get it. I just don’t get what is going on here. I don’t understand why this property isn’t more valued for the centuries of history involved here?

Our history should not always belong to the wrecking ball.

That’s all I have got.

#SaveLloydFarm #ThisPlaceMatters

Caln resident submitted photo.

100 artists of the brandywine valley by catherine quillman

Recently my friend Catherine Quillman gifted me a copy of this glorious book she wrote, 100 Artists of the Brandywine Valley.

I love it! I think everyone should own it 😊 and you can read an excerpt HERE.

Catherine is very talented and just a wonderful human being!

You can read more about Catherine and what she has been up to on her website. (Catherine is always on the go, so her website is not updated often . She is also a regular contributor to West Chester FIG .

In addition to being a writer and author of many wonderful books (some of which I own!), Catherine is a working artist. You can often find her work at The Chester County Art Association . As a complete segue but related, the Chester County Art Association ofersterrific classes for children and adults and some classes are even free.

Catherine’s book 100 Artists of the Brandywine Valley joins my copy of Eugene D’Orio’s Chester County: A Traveler’s Album on my coffee table.

Chester County is home to so many talented artists and writers!

a gift of chester county history from south dakota: learning about hiram woodyard

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.

Pax

 

 


 

 


 

 

 

Hiram Woodyard Chester County Paperwork

Hiram Woodyards House

The House That Hiram Built

 

“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