Articles on Local History
Doug Humes, former President of the Society, has written on matters of local history for the Marple Newtown Patch, and community magazines such as Aronimink & Green Countrie Living and Springton Life. Some of his stories, and the stories researched and written by others, are also available here:
How did Newtown township come by its name? And why is there a second Newtown in Bucks County? Blame William Penn.
At this crossroads tavern, a young boy with artistic talent began to sketch, and was taught by local Indians how to use items found in nature to make colors with which to paint. The boy, son of the tavern keeper, went on to become the Father of American Painting.
One of Newtown Township’s five National Register sites is the Paper Mill House &Museum overlooking Darby Creek at St. David’s & Paper Mill roads. The site has been a center of activity in the community for 4 centuries. If only those walls could talk!
The last covered bridge in Delaware County, carrying Goshen Road over Crum Creek, is a story of survival, and also a lesson in why we preserve spaces where community members have been gathering for over 150 years.
I’ve seen and felt the ghosts at the Newtown Square Friends Meeting House. And why wouldn’t this building, first erected in 1711, have its share of ghosts when people have been coming there for over 300 years?
In 1857, when it was proposed to tear out the east wall and provide a vestry room, the church divided again, between those who supported the change, and those who wanted to preserve the church, Mark Brooke, casting the decisive vote for preservation, was challenged on his loyalties, and responded, “I am a St. David’s man, not an Episcopalian!”
In 1810, Newtown farmer Thomas Walsh left money in his will to build a bridge for the community. It’s a gift that continues to give, more than 200 years later.
There are some people who leave big footprints as they march through history. Local hero “Mad” Anthony Wayne is one of those people, and the traces of his life survive in our part of Delaware and Chester counties, if you know where to look. Let me help you find them.
The true life Sandy Flash … “at a farmhouse in Edgmont (now the Edgmont Shopping Center), Captain McFee and his maidservant, Rachel Walker, tackled Fitz, tied him up and turned him over to the authorities. He was promptly tried, convicted, and “hung by the neck until dead.”
In October of 2012, a monster storm, nicknamed “Frankenstorm”, blasted through the area. But it was more accurately called “Son of Frankenstorm”. A much more severe Frankenstorm arrived in 1843, and caused death and destruction in Delaware County.
By the mid 1850’s, a small village had sprung up by the Y -Wyola -with a blacksmith, wheelwright, and general store and Wyola post office on the Lewis property, operated by Reuben, and then brother Joseph Lewis.
Former resident, 90 year old Harriet Gray, writes about memories of growing up in and around Newtown Square.
“When I hesitated for a moment,” said Patterson, in telling the story, “the man brought his gun closer to my breast and I naturally decided the best thing to do was to obey him.”
If it takes a village to raise a child, what does it take to raise a village? The Davis family, and families like theirs, who build the foundations of local communities.
The beautiful 18 year old Lydia Hollingsworth thought she was spending the day in the country with her fiance. Neither of them anticipated the horror that awaited them that January day.
There was no Sandy Flash – other than the character invented for a 1920’s children’s book. But there was a “Notorious Captain Fitz”, on whom the fictitious character was based. Society member Jack Lear went searching for the real character, and then wrote a wonderful paper on what he found.
“… seeing the youngest daughter of the one of the greatest Russian authors was a novelty. A Countess! In Newtown Square! Why was she here?”
“When the adult child returns, with their spouse and the next generation of children, they show off the rooms and share their memories of growing up in that space. And they return again, to clean out the house and get it ready to sell, when mother and father are no longer there. And then a new family moves in, new wine in old skins, and begins the process anew.”
Most of our neighboring townships have their own high schools for township residents. Marple and Newtown, separate townships, have one joint high school, built close to the township line between them. In 2014 we celebrated 100 years of that joint high school. One man, Dr. John G. Thomas, a Civil War veteran, the community’s doctor, and a school board member for 40 years, was the moving force behind the idea. We remember and honor him for a life of service to the community.
“We took for granted that every community has these events, and this energy level of involved residents. And of course as I grew up I found out … they don’t. It was something special that only certain communities have.”
From General Washington: “… It appears to me, however, that NEWTOWN SQUARE would be a good general place of rendezvous, from which he might send out his detachments …”
The coffin was unloaded from the front parlor, again, and onto the horse drawn hearse, again, and the funeral party made its way north on the Newtown and Marple line road, again, …and then 31-year-old Joseph Courtney
Jr. was laid to rest besides his mother Nancy, and his father Joseph C. Courtney, Sr.
Tim McKee looked up from the pool at the 1972 Olympics in Munich and saw on the scoreboard the number “1” next to his name. He had just won the 400 I.M. race in a time of 4:31:98. After a lifetime of training, the gold medal was his. Or was it?
In this election season, I wondered “what were elections like in Delaware County at the beginning of our independence, and for the next 100 years?” And then I went looking and found out.
Germany had its Brothers Grimm and Newtown had the Sisters Grim: two local girls who taught in the Newtown schools for a combined 79 years, and influenced generations of children along the way.
After over 100 years as a community destination, it appears that Earle’s Lake is soon to be no more. … And we as a community will have lost something of value in the process.
Dr. M.P. Dickeson dropped by the Newtown Square Hotel in his new horseless carriage in 1903, perhaps the first one ever seen in Newtown Square, and drew quite a crowd.
When delivery driver George Lee woke up that morning in 1916, he had no idea that he was going to drag the sleepy crossroads town of Newtown Square into the 20th century. But by the end of that day, we had the beginning of a Fire Department. And we celebrate that fact and the 100th anniversary of our Fire Department in 2016.
“If I kill the witness to a will, does that invalidate it?” In one of the earliest reported murders in Newtown Square, John Craig asked that question, and found his answer at the wrong end of a rope in a field outside the city of Chester.
George H. Earle Jr. and his son George III purchased land in Newtown and Radnor townships in the early 20th century and the father created his country estate there, called Broad Acres. George Jr. passed away in 1928, and the country home sat unused for most of the next 35 years, until destroyed by arson in the 1960’s. The son fared better – he went on to be elected Governor of Pennsylvania in 1934, and was featured in this Time Magazine article in its July 5, 1937 edition. And see additional information on the Earle family here.
As the Township announces its plans for expanding the Township’s offices, we look back on the two buildings that have served the Township since the time of the Civil War: the 1868 Town Hall and the 1957 Newtown Township Building.
In 2010 we celebrated the 150th birthday of the Bartram’s Covered Bridge by writing a history of the bridge. The bridge was built in the turbulent election year of 1860. In setting the scene for the chapters on the bridge, we followed the census taker around that year and wrote this chapter on the world of 1860 in Newtown and Willistown. If you like this chapter, try the whole book, on sale at our store. All proceeds go to the upkeep of the Bartram Bridge.