Thursday, July 20, 2017

Newtown's "Smed" and his bride, a Marine Corp legend


This is an unknown picture I have taken in the mid 1950's in Delco. Looking for a location. Please spread the word.


Note: Marine Corp. legend, Smedley Darlington Butler [1881-1940] was born in West Chester, but lived his retired life in Newtown Square. He is one of the very few military men to be awarded the Medal of Honor twice. He was already considered a rising star when this funny and interesting article was published in the Chester Times in 1905.


 Captain Smedley Darlington Butler and How He Wooed and Won



Quaker Boy Who Won Fame and Honor as a Soldier, But surrendered When He Met the Attractive Young Woman Who is to Become His Wife Some Time About Easter time

            Captain “Smed” Butler, who laughed at bullets in Cuba, in the Philippines said in China, at last has received a wound which he confesses is no laughing matter.
            One little dart let fly by Cupid has pierced him through and through.  For the first time in his youthful but strenuous career he has yielded to the enemy.  Cupid now “marks time” for him, and he marches willingly under the new banner, for the rosy god, mindful of Captain “Smed’s” patriotic services, has added stars and stripes to his useful device.
            The Quaker City of Philadelphia especially rejoices, for it was there that the fatal dart was sped, on behalf of Miss Ethel Conway Peters, there that both the gallant young captain and his bride-to-be live, when at home and are best known.
            But the wedding, which is to occur about Easter, will be quite a national affair, as is natural, considering that President Roosevelt is one of the young war hero’s most ardent admirers.
            Congressman Thomas H. Butler of Pennsylvania, father of the young captain, will be the last to deny that, in this instance, Cupid has covered himself with glory. It is an old Quaker family, to whom the paths of peace are dear.  The recruiting officers of the Pennsylvania National Guard knew this, and when the Spanish-American war became a certainty, and Smedley Darlington Butler, barely more than sixteen years old, applied for enlistment on his way home from school they promptly rejected him.
            TOO MUCH FOR HIS QUAKER, SIRE – Young Butler took his rejection very much to heart, but he was not altogether discouraged.  He saw in a newspaper several days later that there would be a competitive examination at Washington for lieutenants in the marine service.  He announced to his father that he would enter this competition.
            Congressman Butler gazed severely at his sixteen year old son and attempted to remonstrate with him.  Finally, after every argument had failed, he said:
            “Well, Smedley, if thee insists upon taking the examination, I shall use my influence to have thee turned down.”
            “If thee should attempt to do anything like that,” replied the boy, his eyes flashing, “I serve notice on thee that I shall run away and join the regular army.”
            That ended the paternal objection.  Smedley went to Washington, took the examination and in a class of more than two hundred passed second.  He received a second lieutenant’s commission and was assigned to duty on Admiral Sampson’s flagship, the New York.  At Guantanamo he was one of the gallant band of marines that fought to bravely against the Spanish sharpshooters, and he was on the New York when Cervera’s fleet was destroyed.
            This was the sort of stuff – even at the age of sixteen – that Cupid was “up against.”
            But the foundations were laid long before that.  The Quaker strain seemed to have skipped little Smedley altogether.
            When not more than four years old the baby had been transformed into a boy with a passionate love for tin soldiers and toy cannons.  Toys he had of all descriptions, but those suggesting war were the favorites.  He was a manly little fellow.  At six he took a long western trip with his grandfather, and came back more wide-awake than ever.  He developed eager interest in all papers, periodicals and books which contained pictures of battles.  He bought toy pistols and read of war.
            A BASEBALL HERO, TOO – He had a fine opinion of his muscles, and loved to exercise them.  Before he was eight years old he organized a baseball club, with the backyard of his home for a field.  Mrs. Butler preferred to keep her boy with her and so permitted his friends to take possession of the house.  When the little fellows wearied of baseball they had prize fights in the backyard, always with Smedley as the leader – for he never failed to demonstrate his right to that position.
            His first soldering was in the First Presbyterian Church as a member of the Boys’ Brigade.  He enjoyed the drill, but was as yet silent about his ambition to become a real soldier.  It was understood that he would read law with his father.
            He attended the Friends’ School and was captain of the ball team of the school.  They had a high sounding name, and so one day a club of Westtown farmers challenged them to play.  They went to Westtown, and the farmers saw, to their surprise, that the club was composed of youngsters, nine and ten years old.  They were disgusted, and at first declined to play.  Unfortunately for them, they finally consented all unaware that Smedley, as pitcher, was a “curve ball” artist.  Afterwards he declared that the farmers were so tall that he could not throw a ball over their heads; the farmers on the other hand, found it impossible to hit the ball, as thrown by the juvenile pitcher.  Rather than be beaten by children, they chased the boys off the field after losing three innings, and the little fellows did not wait for a train home, but walked the four miles.
            At Haverford Smedley was captain of both the baseball and the football teams, and played halfback.  He was selected to play halfback on the interacademic team.  In one of these games there occurred an injury which resulted in remarkable proof of the boy’s pluck.  He broke the muscles of his elbow in a scrimmage.  They set over the joint and held the arm in a V-shape.  The doctor said he would administer chloroform and operate.
            HEROICALLY HIS OWN SURGEON – The boy decided he knew a better way.  As the train came into Haverford station he caught the rear rail and permitted himself to be dragged along the platform.  He said it hurt badly, but it straightened the arm.  After repeating this for two or three weeks the arm gave it up and stayed straight.
            This kind of a boy was a genuine acquisition to the Marine Corps.  He was not yet seventeen when first under fire in Cuba, and not yet nineteen when he won his lieutenant’s regalia as a strategist in the Philippines.
            It was here this his courage was put to the severest of all tests.  It was guerilla warfare, with unseen foes and ambushes – the sort of war that makes cowards of the bravest.  After what he did in the Philippines they were glad to take him to China, where the Boxers were killing missionaries and threatening the legations.
            From China the cables flashed the news that at the storming of Tien Twin, Lieutenant Butler was in the thick of the fight.  In the face of severe fire from the Boxers he rushed forward and rescued a wounded comrade and was himself was severely wounded.  For this act of gallantry young Butler was commended to the British War Department by General Forwood.
            It is reported that when Butler fell, shot through the thigh, his brother lieutenant picked him up from the ground and carried him to a place of safety in the rear.  The two youngsters must have been pretty well to the front on the firing line where Colonel Liscuts fell at the head of his troops.  It was probably his last words, “Don’t retreat, boys.  Keep on firing!” that added to their impetuosity.
            LIKE A STORY FROM KIPLING – When Butler went down in a heap, Leonard was close at his side.  They were chums.  It is not difficult to picture these two, scarcely more than children with the song of the Mauser in their ears sparring them to superhuman effort.
            You remember Kipling’s story, “The Drums of the Fore and Aft?”  Well, this was Jakin and Law were young blackguards, cockney “Tommies” from the London alums, while Butler and Leonard were the sons of gentlemen.
            Leonard, staggering under the weight of his comrade must have presented a fine target for the enemy.  When the two boys reached the rear there were two cases for the surgeon.  Leonard was shot in both arms, and one has since been amputated.
            Notwithstanding his wound, Lieutenant Butler went in with the allied armies to Peking, and participated in all the engagements around that city.  He was again wounded here, but refused to go to the rear and was chosen to carry a message to Minister Conger, a duty which he successfully performed in the face of the greatest danger had difficulty.
            Soon after this he was attached with the dread disease, typhoid, and was in the hospital many weeks.  He was sent home finally from the Philippines, with other convalescents, on the transport Grant.
Having fully recovered his health, when the revolution in Panama broke out he was
ready for active duty and was consequently immediately dispatched to the isthmus, where he did much toward restoring order an inculcating a wholesome fear of the American soldier in the breasts of the natives of that country.
            Since Captain Butler’s return from the Isthmus of Panama he has been stationed at League Island Navy Yard, and here is where Cupid’s dart found him.
            Captain Butler is of the type of hero which women most admire, and being young and handsome as well, it is but natural that despite his youth, there has been more than one rumor of fluttering feminine hearts on his account, but they were all promptly declared without foundation, until Miss Peters appeared on his horizon.  This is said, on good authority to be a case of love at first sight, and a most romantic attachment which is sure to culminate happily.
            SEEN EVERYWHERE TOGETHER – They have been seen much together during the winter at the most exclusive dances, halls, teas and receptions which have been given in Philadelphia, and have everywhere attracted the greatest attention.
             Captain Butler comes from distinguished Quaker stock.  On his mother’s side of the house, the Darlington, the family belonged to the Hicksites branch of the Society of Friends, and he is a grandson of former Congressman Smedley Darlington for whom he was named.  ON the paternal side of the house, which is orthodox, he is descended from Noble Butler, who came to America with Penn in 1682.  Both families have been prominent in Chester County for generations.
            The lucky beauty who has ensnared the “fighting Quaker’s” heart in fatal ambush moves in the most exclusive circles of Philadelphia.  She is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Peters who reside in the center of the fashionable section of the Quaker City, at 1101 Spruce Street.
            Miss Peter’s family has been prominent in the affairs of her native city since Colonial times.  Her grandfather was the late Samuel M. Felton, sometime president of the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad, and her grand-uncle, Cornelius Conway Felton, was at one time president of Harvard University. 
            Miss Peters is pretty and a great favorite in the younger set in society, in fact, in every way a most suitable bride for the young captain.  She has spent some time abroad, where her sister, Miss Edith M. Peters is well known as an artist, whose work in miniatures is greatly admired and usually passes a part of each winter in Atlanta, the home of her father’s family.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Take a visit to Batrams Garden, a Darby son's home


John Bartram's Home a 100 years ago.

Note: Take a day and take a trip back to a hidden gem, visit Bartram's Garden
Bartram's Garden is a 45-acre National Historic Landmark operated by the John Bartram Association in cooperation with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation. ... Visit Us. 5400 Lindbergh Blvd. Philadelphia, PA 19143
  • (215) 729-5281
    “A visitor to Bartram’s Garden, Philadelphia, is promptly ushered into an atmosphere redolent of Colonial days, for the quaint house standing in the midst of this early American botanical garden, is the one built by the botanist himself in 1734.
    “It is of gray stone, and over its northern walls clamber dense ivy vines.  The southern end, freer of vines, is pierced by two large windows, with curiously carven supports.  Forth years after the house was built, a smooth block of stone was inserted between these windows (upper and lower) upon which was carved an inscription:
                “’Tis God alone, Almighty Lord,
                The Holy One by me adored.
                   --John Bartram ”
    “Dormer windows jet out from the roof of the old house and between its two projecting wings is a porch supported by a stone pillar.  From the front of the house, the famous botanic garden, probably the first one in America, slopes gently down to the Schuylkill River.
    “A writer of the day tells us that when Charles Kingsley was in Philadelphia, some years ago, he visited this old garden, which contained rare trees, native and foreign, deciduous and evergreen of many varieties, blossoming shrubs, white and red cedars, spruces, pines, and firs thick with shade and spicy with odor.
    “John Bartram, founder of the garden, was born near Darby Village, which is now an actual part of Philadelphia, although situated in another country.  The date of his birth was March 23, 1699.  He was of English descent, his grandfather having come to America with his sons in 1682, the year Philadelphia was founded.  Only one son, William, married, and John Bartram was his oldest son.  John Bartram inherited his uncle’s farm, and it is said that he turned his attention to botany, by what seemed to be an accident.  While plowing, one day, he sat down to rest and, plucking up a daisy mechanically, began picking it to pieces.  His interest became aroused, and studying its structure, he fell to wondering the purpose of the several parts of the flower.
    “What a shame it is,” he said to himself, “that for so many years I have been employed in filling the earth and destroying as many flowers and plants without being acquainted with their structure and use.”
    “A desire for knowledge along these lines seemed suddenly born within him, full-grown.  In a few days he traveled to Philadelphia, and since the only obtainable book on botany was written in Latin, it is said he also purchased a Latin grammar, and studied the language, in order to read what was written about plant life.  This is the story usually told, but his son indicates that the father had had the rudiments of a classical education and that he had always sought the society of learned men.
    “James Logan sent to England for a copy of Parkinson’s Herbal, which he presented to Bartram.  The latter then began to botanize all over his farm, acquainting himself with every plant, shrub and tree in the entire neighborhood.  As opportunity offered, he made trips through neighboring New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware.  Later he traveled to Virginia, the Carolinas and New York; until, in fact, he was acquainted with the nature and habits of every plant that grew between the Atlantic and the Allegheny range, and had recorded his observations with scientific exactness.”
    “At first he traveled at his own expense and his trips gave him a great variety of new, beautiful or useful trees and plants.  A young Philadelphia merchant carried John Bartram’s botanical notes to England, to Peter Collinson, a rich Quaker and a noted botanist.  The latter at once began a correspondence with Bartram.  “Indeed,” we are told, “it may be said that through John Bartram the vegetable wealth of North America was communicated to Europe.”
    The two botanists, both Friends, not only exchanged long letters on the subject of mutual interest, but seeds, roots, slips and plants by every ship.  Those which John Bartram sent from Philadelphia were tested by Collinson in his own garden and distributed among noblemen, for use in their parks.  To encourage and assist Bartram in his investigations of the flora of a new land, Peter Collinson, the duke of Richmond and Lord Petre subscribed each ten guineas per year, the value of which was to be returned them in American seeds and roots.  Later, John Bartram was made botanist to the king, at a salary of 50 pounds per year.  “This,” says Dr. Harshberger, “was one of the wisest expenditures a king ever made, for it introduced into English parks and gardens every vegetable production of North America which could be of value.”  Among these were bush honeysuckles, fiery lilies, mountain laurel, dog-tooth violets, wild asters, gentian, ginseng, and sweet fern, and such trees as the magnolia, tulips, locust, and witch hazel.  He also sent cones of the spruce, hemlock, red and white cedar, and seeds of the sugar maple, “about which the Englishmen were very curious.”
    “But the introduction of plants was not all one-sided.  In 1735, Collinson sent many shrubs, trees and flowers, which were new to America.  Among these, we are told, were tulips, double sweet briar roses, and twenty varieties of crocus, lilies, narcissus, gladiolus, iris, snapdragon, cyclamens, and carnations.  These were all tested in “Bartram’s Garden,” and thence introduced to America.
    “Bartram was busy continually with his explorations, and he allowed the dangers to stand in the way.  In the course of his journeys in the wilderness, he made accurate drafts and surveys of widths, depths and course of streams and lakes together with observations on the soil, etc.  These were all approved by the Governor, and sent to the Board of Trade, and Plantations in England, which published them.
    “In Bartram’s Garden, side by side with the importations from Europe, there grew the many new and curious American plants he had discovered.  One of these, known as the “giant cypress,” grew to great size, and live to great age.
    “It was while on a trip through Florida that John Bartram lost his riding whip.  Looking about for a switch, he saw a sapling in a swampy spot by the river.  Lifting it by the roots, he carried it home, and planted it, predicting that it would grow to a great size.
    “It is said that Washington and Franklin frequently visited the garden, prior to the Revolution, and sat in converse in the grape arbor.  After the death of Bartram, which occurred just before the Battle of Brandywine, the garden was kept up by his son, William, who inherited the father’s love of plants.  After his death, it passed to Bartram’s daughter, whose husband devoted himself with great care to preserving the collection.  From their hands it passed to another owner, whose sentimental fondness for the place led him to preserve it, but at the outbreak of the civil War his fortunes declined.  As the city had failed to secure the property, it gradually fell into disrepair, and was open to depredation and despoliation.
    “In 1839 it was purchased by the city of Philadelphia, and thus a unique institution has been preserved.

    Thursday, July 13, 2017

    Oyster Shells, Stones, Water or Oil what worked for your town? Chester Pike 125 years ago, OUCH!!!


    Chester Pike at Hook Rd. looking toward Darby about 1890. The tank truck in the middle is putting water down on the pike to keep dust down and keep local ladies happy!


    NOTE; Before local roads began to be paved in the 1920's road repair was a major problem. While oyster shells and stones filled in holes, oil and water was used to keep the dust down to keep local ladies dresses clean. The article below from 125 years ago gives an idea on how bad it was.



                For years the Chester Turnpike and its tollgates have been thorns in the sides of Delaware contains.  Protest after protest has been lodged officially and unofficially, yet no step looking either to its improvement or abolition of the tollgates, which line it like mushrooms on a swampy bank, has been taken.
                Throughout its snakish length it is a menace to pedestrian and driver alike.  For a full decade practically nothing has been done for the amelioration of the discomforts of those who are compelled to use it.
                Every borough and township along its line has passed resolutions condemning it, but still the tolls and miserable roadway exist to depreciate property value to keep away desirable would-be residents, and to tax the purse and temper of all of Delaware County.
                The stockholders of the corporation want to be rid of it, the people are equally anxious for that end, and so the responsibility for its presence rests upon a Board of Viewers appointed some months ago as a result of legal steps taken by the residents of Sharon Hill.
                It is their business to view it and to condemn it, but this has not been done, according to the Turnpike’s President, George C. Hetzel.  Their duty completed, the matter should be referred to the Master appointed.  John T. Reynolds of Media, and then it will be up to the County Commissioners, C. Harry Marshall of Lanwellyn; A.A. Sellers of Radnor; and John C. Rhoads of Chester Heights to purchase the road.
                “The Evening Telegraph” takes up the fight in order to expedite the work of the Board of Viewers and to urge upon the County Commissioners the wisdom of purchasing the miserable stone and mud heap that masquerades under the name of a turnpike.  The cooperation of the people of Delaware County is solicited and expressions of opinion or protests from them will be gladly received and published, along with the findings of staff men and legal advisers.
                The following description, the result of a walk from Darby to Chester, will show the fearful conditions which obtain throughout the turnpike’s length of six miles.
                PEN PICTURE OF THE PIKE – To take the Chester and Darby telford road mud hole by mud hole, rut by rut, and jolt by jolt; to review it throughout its miserable length is to realize in all its distress that it is the worst turnpike in the State.
                Beginning at Darby Bridge, pedestrians, automobiles, carriage drivers, and trolley patrons alike are confronted with either a mud puddle or a dust heap, according to the vagaries of the weather, extending from the bridge to Quarry Street.
                To those compelled to use the Chester Traction Company especially, the place is a nightmare.  One car every fifteen minutes to Chester and one every half hour to Wilmington is the schedule of this transportation company.
                All cars for months past have stopped on the south side of the bridge right in the heart of the spot described.  No shelter from wind or weather is there provided, and the hundreds of people who daily use the line must stand in either the boiling sun or pouring rain waiting at times as long as thirty-five minutes for long-delayed cars.
                If it has been dry they are smothered and choked by dense clouds of dust, which rise to nearly suffocate them at the least breath of wind or in the wake of passing vehicles.  IN order to make the connection with Philadelphia cars, they must first walk a full square, wading through the dust or mud, as the Case may be, and crossing the bridge.
                To essay that dust pile or mud in low-cut shoes is to fill them with one or the other, which uniformly varies in depth from two to three and a half inches.
                WILL NOT PAY THE BOROUGH – All this must be endured because of the joint dereliction of the trolley and turnpike companies.  The condition of the void may be laid to the latter, while the lack of shelter and the walk across Darby Bridge is imposed by the refusal of the Traction Company to hear half of the expense for the erection of the new bridge which has been in course of construction for months.
                Leaving Quarry Street and beginning the steep ascent of the Darby Heights Hill, which attains its highest point at Cherry Street, the jolting stones hold undisputed sway.  Throughout, the rise is fraught with danger to all who climb no matter by what means of locomotion. 
                Twisted ankles, unstrung nerves, damaged vehicles, and lamed horses are the result of anything other than the most careful picking of the way.  An accident lurks in every square of its disgraceful length.
                Just beyond Cherry Street a full 100 yards of backbreaking nerve-destroying stones form in themselves a declivity that would mean certain damage if unavoided in the remaining few feet of clear road at that point.
                At Pine Street a partially exposed sere of perhaps eight inches diameter extends across the intersecting road plainly visible from end to end.  To take it in a quick turn with horses or motor would mean a spavin for the former and a broken machine for the latter.
                In Sharon Hill Proper a large square block of stone measuring 6 1/2 by 7 ¼ inches lies unblushingly in the center of the road.  What would it mean to the axle, tire, or hoof that strikes it?
                At Ridley Avenue in Sharon Hill, an unbroken succession of exposed cobbles lurk four inches above the ground for the demoralization of unwary drivers.  Throughout that section between Darby and Sharon Hill piles of earth, and heaps of ties placed along the roadside by the Traction Company combine with the unvarying uncomfortableness of the road to augment the discomfort of its users.
                CUTTERS HILLS; ROAD A GUTTER – Between Sharon Hill and Glenolden the track belies the designation given it in its charter specifications. “artificial road.”  A succession of timber cards passing through paths of primeval forests could eventually create a road with more pretensions to the name than the undiluted apology known as the Chester Turnpike.
                Here to place the eight feet of beaten track occupying the center of the right of way is flush with what should be the gutters at each side, and is often lower, sharp stones with sharp edges protruding everywhere, to permanently injure hoofs. 
    Large stones, lying flagrantly in the road are numerous; weeds three feet high line its neglected edges, and the road itself is as flat as pancake except where ruts disturb – it is not wholly unlike the surface of the rolling, rollicking sea.
                Immediately on the north side of Glenolden Bridge a full twelve feet of large stones appear above the ground on a declivity which, if swerved into by an automobile moving at the regulation speed, would mean a wrecked car and certain injury to its occupants.
                Just on the south side of the bridge there nestles in the bosom of the roadway a germ-disseminating, disease-laden stagnant pool.  By actual measurement its dimensions were a day or two ago 3 feet 2 inches by 7 feet 8 inches.  The rule used as a stick and held perpendicularly, recorded a depth of 5 ½ inches of mud and water when pushed down as far as it would go, with only the moderate impetus imparted by one hand.
                PROMISE AND PROBABILITY – Hard by this artificial lake in an “artificial” road stands a shanty.  It is tollgate No. 4.  You must stop and enrich the coffers of the Chester & Darby Telford Road Company to the amount of one cent for the pleasure of contemplating the pool’s murky water, and for the inconvenience of steering carefully past it, with one hand held sedulonaly to the nose.  Your ruffled temper impels you to declare it an outrage, but that doesn’t matter.  Your protests are met with prophecy, promise and probability.
                This over you proceed a scant mile further, stop again, and repeat the performance.  Isn’t it a beautifully obsolete yet compensating game for the company?
                Farther on you find grass on both sides of the route, caked mud, large stones and unbroken line of ruts.  From Norwood to Prospect Park the same conditions obtain.  Sticks, grass, weeds and ashes obstruct the path – a fitting name; sewers at cross streets exposed, and the inevitable ruts and refuse.
                At the White Horse Hotel and Lincoln Avenue the worst conditions on the whole apology – hereinafter designated “the snake” appear.  Worn down to the original telford paving of years ago, every stone flares out boldly, utterly guiltless either of earth or gravel to mitigate its brazen bareness.
                Imagine this steep incline immediately after a rain with every stone presenting a treacherous slimy surface.  Horses slip and slide as though with the blind staggers, and drive wheels on motor cars whirl and fly around like buzz saws.  To attempt the climb on anything more than second speed means to get out and push or go to the garage for repairs.
                Yet for a full decade this hill has thus deteriorated to its present depth of dilapidation.  Never a spade or pick or a bushel of dirt for its improvement.  To go either up or down means clenched teeth, a determined hand and a few or maybe a few more violations of the Decalogue.
                On the ascent of another grade – or precipice – the cobbles are not only bare, but ruts, not of mud, but of hard paved rocks that would mean certain diameter to any one essaying them.
                From thence to Ridley Park on the second descent, the same thin holds good.  Then are encountered the usual mild puddles, ruts, weeds and grass in the abyss between and clear to Ridley Park until South Ridley is reached, where the corporation, after being compelled to make improvements by that borough, is doing a little desultory work on “the snake.”  And this needs comment.  On one day of last week the ten men alleged to be employed on this operation, together with two carts, were kept under careful scrutiny by the writer.  Throughout the forenoon careful counts and recounts failed to reveal more than nine men.
                A DAY JOB CINCH – Their manner of working was of that character usually encountered in “day jobs.”  From their placid, leisurely, carefree movements it was evident that they regarded their work in the light of what is termed, in questionable English, “a cinch.”  Two worked with picks, two with shovels, three sprawled full-length along the wayside, while two others, the cart drivers, stood idly by.  But none overworked.
                This continued at intervals throughout the morning.  In the afternoon the number mounted to ten, and their inactivity increased proportionately with the course of the sun.  The circumstances compelled the mental suggestion of that arithmetical bugbear to the average schoolboy:  “If it requires ten years for 100 men to build a turnpike 6 miles long, how long will it take 10 men to construct the same road?”
                The answer is obtainable, but unsatisfactory to Delaware countians.  It might come under the head of the mathematical theory of chance, yet ultimately inevitable accidents.
                Thence through Crum Lynne to Leiperville the undulating thoroughfare winds its uneven course with not a single saving mark of grace to warrant the leniency of a long-suffering public.
                Thence to Saville Avenue, where the tracks of the crack Chester Traction Company desert it for Chester, its winds in snakiest contortion to its unkempt end.
                NOT FORGETTING TOLLS – But here comes the chiefest outrage – the toll gate question.  The possible purchaser of property in Delaware County determines to take a spin or a drive by way of the Chester Pike to look it over.  He finds handsome suburban residences in many of the townships and boroughs it crosses.  But his appreciation of their beauty is somewhat befogged by being held up at its beginning for either a cent or a through ticket – ten cents.  Every mile of its length is punctuated by a ramshackle shanty called by courtesy a toll gate.
                At each of these he must slack up or stop and pay his penny, or flourish before the eyes of the inhabitant money-grabber his ticket.  He must actually pay to have his throat clogged with dust, his eyes blinded, and for the privilege, not of a pleasant drive, but of a sort of “bumpy bump” performance, calculated to bring him to the dentist, the blacksmith shop, the garage or the veterinary surgeon.
                By the time he reaches the third toll gate his choler is up and what with tolls, ruts, mud puddles and the cobblestone rattle, his one aim in life is to get off.  His purchase is forgotten, and when he ordinarily emerges from the grasp of the octopus, Chester Pike is deserted forever.
                Hundreds of disgusted people daily condemn this past century fogyism indulged and endured by the people of Delaware County.  And it undoubtedly means a pecuniary loss through making the towns unpopular and unsought as places of suburban residence.  “I myself,” declares G. C. Hetzel, president and chief stockholder of the pike, “am opposed to the tollgate.  It is obsolete and should be abolished.  I would be gladly rid of it.”  And this is the sentiment of all the stockholders.  It is obsolete and should be abolished.  I would gladly rid of it.”  And this is the sentiment of all the stockholders.  It is not a paying proposition for those who control it, so what is the logical conclusion.  With no opposition from this source it should be easy to have them abolished.

    Saturday, July 8, 2017

    Philadelphia and Darby Horse racing. And upcoming history events


    The Blue Ball Tavern just across Cobbs Creek from Darby Boro about 1910. The small section on the far left is the only part standing today.


    Early Horse Racing

      The plank road, a stretch of  Main St. Darby or Woodland Avenue from what is now Sixtieth Street to Seventy-fourth Street and Island Road, where stands the historic Blue Bell Tavern, was used as a driving course from Colonial days until the middle of the 19th century.
                There was occasional horse racing from the early history of the city and Main St. was chosen as a course for the reason that it passed by Blue Bell Tavern, which was the resort for fashionable Philadelphians in those days.  It was the French residents, who were owners of Arabian horses of great speed that gave life to racing along the Darby Road and brought the plank road course into the limelight.
                There were no trotting races until after the American Revolution.  Main St. Darby, aka the Plank Road was used by great numbers of riders who dashed up and down when spending the summer at the Blue Bell Tavern.
                LAYING OF THE PLANK ROAD – The road was a muddy one, extending originally through slumps and hollows, and to admit of it being used for heavy traffic and transportation, it was covered with planks and boards.  The planks were not visible when it was converted into race course, for those of them that had decayed were removed so as to make a modern track and to eliminate all risk to life and limb.
                Later, when the trotting became a feature of racing, the jockey rode astride as he did in running or galloping, for that was the custom before the advent of the high-wheeled sulky that afterwards so humanely helped to lessen the burdens of the horse and added to his trotting speed and record by removing the human weight from his back.      
        Island Road, running south from the Blue Bell Tavern to old Ropes Ferry Bridge, where the Cannon Ball House bridge, the brick walls of which pierced by a cannon ball during the bombardment of Fort Mifflin by Admiral Howe, was a scoring track for horses that participated in the plank road races.  No charge was made to witness the races.  No incorporated boy had turned the highway into a race course.  Though regular programs were followed closely, the races often developed into a free-for-all by enthusiasts carried away by the excitement, who with their nags followed the races after the judge gave the word, “go.”
                At the races in 1843 two jockeys were killed, another was seriously injured and one horse’s neck broken when horses of outsiders collided with the regulars during a running match.  The nearest thing to a trotting club then was the Philadelphia, many of the members of which patronized the course and are said to have been prime movers in the organization of the Point Breeze Park Association in after years.
                Every race, whether in spring, summer or autumn, was followed by a ball at the Blue Bell Tavern.  The structure, which was erected in 1764, was in a sense a country club.  One writer says it was a tavern “for the gentility of the city.”  It contained eight large rooms on the second floor that could be thrown into one to make room for the festivities.
                PLENTY OF GAME – Darby Creek, a few feet away, abounded with fish and along its banks for miles there was plenty of game, pheasants, partridges, rabbits and squirrels – until the Civil War broke out.
                In the early days of the old tavern Democrats and Whigs went there to get inspiration, drink their mugs of ale and decide upon their plans of campaign.  It is chronicled that Washington was a guest more than once and especially when he marched from Neshaminy Falls through the city to “Darby” Creek, where he camped on his way to Wilmington to await the arrival of General Howe.
                Governor Mifflin, General Knox, Blair McClenahan and other noted men are credited with being entertained by Lewis Davis, one of the tavern’s proprietors.  General Lafayette during his visit in 1824, while making a tour of the suburbs with the committee having charge of his reception, “was entertained at a dinner of beef steak and oysters.”
                It is claimed that in 1809 when Thomas Leiper connected his stone quarries on Crum Creek with Ridley Park by railroad, said to be the first in the country, the plans were decided upon by him and Reading Howell a civil engineer, in the Blue Bell Tavern.


    Monday, July 3, 2017

    Independence Day as John Adams saw it


    A PMC Parade in Chester about 1964

    To all my readers, have a wonderful and safe July 4th!!

    John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail in early July of 1776 describing his thoughts on the founding of our nation and the celebrations to come.
    “But the Day is past.  The Independence Day, will be the most memorable Epochal, in the History of America.
    I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.  It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty.  It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shows, Games, Sports, Guns. Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one end of this Continent to the other from this Time Forward forever more.
    You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not.-- I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. - Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory.  I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means.  And that Posterity will triumph in that Days Transaction, even although we should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”
      The funny thing is Adams was talking about July 2, 1776. On that day the majority of the delegates signed the Declaration of Independence that day, making that day, so Adams thought our Independence Day. Other delegates would sign later but Adams thought for a number of years that July 2nd, would always be our Independence Day.

    Friday, June 30, 2017

    Breaking the tie, John Morton


    John Morton's home in todays Ridley Park. Morton built this house in 1764 when he married Anne Justis. The house burned to the ground in the 1870's. A historical marker on E. Ridley Ave. marks the spot.


    Breaking the tie

     Pennsylvania's vote on July 4, 1776

                On the Fourth of July, 1776, the day of the great crisis came.  Eleven colonies had already voted for the Declaration of Independence, but Pennsylvania and Delaware came last, and both were doubtful.  The active opposition of a single State at this trying moment would have defeated the immortal resolution and possibly changed the trend of our whole national life.  Delaware had three delegates and Delaware came first.  Thomas McKean, true as the dial to the sun, voted “aye”, but Read hesitated, and then voted “no” and Caesar Rodney, the third delegate, was absent.  There was a tie and the clerk was about to call the roll for Pennsylvania.
                At this juncture the clatter of horses’ hoofs were heard in front of the State House.  Booted, spurred and breathless, Caesar Rodney, having ridden eighty miles from the county of Kent and the arms of his sweetheart, through swamp and marsh, rushed into the Assembly and voted “aye” just in time to save little Delaware for the Declaration.
                Now Pennsylvania was called upon to record her important but doubtful vote.  Her delegation was composed of seven members.  They were Benjamin Franklin John Morton, John Dickinson, Robert Morris, James Wilson, Thomas Willing and Charles Humphries.  Dickinson and Morris were not in their official places at roll call and did not vote, one of the other members was absent, but for what reason no one seemed to know.  President Hancock anxiously awaited his coming, but he came not, and delay was no longer possible.  Once again the sound of the President’s gavel rang through the Assembly Hall and Pennsylvania, the Queen of the Colonies, was called upon to record her vote.    The muteness of the tomb reigned in Independence Hall.  In an instant all eyes were turned toward Pennsylvania’s delegation, and the pulsation of anxious hearts could almost be heard in the profound quiet of the place.  The roll call began.  Franklin voted “aye,” Willing voted “no,” Wilson voted “aye,” Humphries voted “no.”  There was a tie and for an instant the Declaration of Independence seemed lost.
                But at this decisive moment, a moment that may prove to be the mother of ages of freedom, John Morton, of Delaware County, entered the hall.  With agitated face and pallid lips and clenched fists he sank nervously into his chair.  All the influence of a Tory lobby, all the bribes of an intriguing diplomacy, all the ostracizing threats of family, relatives and neighbors had been brought to bear upon him to control his vote.  The time had now come to test the courage of this Christian patriot.  The clerk called the name of John Morton.  He arose slowly from his chair.  His face was no longer pallid, his lips quivered no more, but his clenched hands still remained clenched, and with a strong and steady voice he answered “aye,” and that word broke the tie and confirmed the Declaration of Independence and kingly tyranny on the Western Continent was practically and forever dethroned.
                This is the story of “breaking the tie,” and no historian has ever been able to disprove it, although many attempts have been and will be made to accomplish that result, but none will be successful.
                Morton now rests in a dilapidated old cemetery at Chester under a monument that would give the dead deacon of a small church the qualms if he had any just claims to the gratitude of posterity