Narberth’s Historical Prelude

Author: Carden F. Warner
Published by: Bryn Mawr Record
Year: 1905
PDF (1.6 MB)

(Reprinted from the Bryn Mawr Record)

A Brief Sketch of the Borough of Narberth, and its Vicinity, From the Beginning of the Seventeenth Century to the Close of the Nineteenth, Including an Account of the Aborigines, Early Dutch, Swede and English Settlers. The Colony of Welsh Quakers, and Their Progress, With a Short History of the More Prominent Dwellings, Roads, Meeting Houses, Schools, Inns, Stage Coach Lines, Railroad, Etc. Also Local Events During the Revolutionary War.



NARBERTH, though small geographically, and numerically, and of but minor importance either politically or commercially, can justly claim a significant position in the history of Montgomery county.

As a borough Narberth is young and inexperienced; as a village it is but little older, but as the immediate site of a goodly share of historical incidents it is, to say the least, prominent. For in this vicinity we are told one of the most profitable hunting territories for beaver and otter in the new world existed; a Lenape Indian family, one of the divisions of the tribe under the great chief Wingebone lived and hunted; the first Welsh Quakers purchased land and settled. The Merion Meeting House made it the centre of religious worship to the early colonists. William Penn paid it several visits and George Washington camped his Continental army upon its soil. Ever since colonial days it has been associated with the happenings and progress of the times. On its land ran one of the first railroads. Through its unfenced fields ran two of the most prominent highways of the pioneer days. Within its fields grew, under the experienced cultivation of the Welsh, the best hay and grain within the colonies, and hundreds of other minor events group together to proclaim its prominence.

The name Narberth as applied to this place is of recent origin and can be connected with but few if any events of importance prior to its history as a borough. The name Narberth is said to have been given to the village at the suggestion of one of the railroad officials who with so-called family patriotism desired to perpetuate the old Welsh name of the home of his ancestors. Elm, the name for which so many of our older residents have still a tender feeling, and which was so reluctantly surrendered by our people, was given to the station and village by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company in 1869 and remained its designation until supplanted by that of Narberth in 1893.

But still previous to this—1869—when the village proper was situated somewhat to the east of its present location and consisted of but a tavern, meeting house, a blacksmith shop, and several farms with their various buildings, the place was known as “General Wayne.” It was here that the General Wayne Post Office, one of the three in Lower Merion Twp., was situated (the others being at Merion Square, and Athensville, now Ardmore). The village received its name from the old General Wayne Inn one of the numerous monuments of that distinguished Revolutionary general, Anthony Wayne, who was born and lived at Paoli, not many miles west of here.

To trace back further than this will necessitate the increasing of our area and the including of it in that larger tract then called Merion. To go further and further back briefly and return with more exactness, touching upon minuter details and incidents will be a novel and interesting excursion for those interested in the fascinating subject of local history.

Going back to the Welsh, Swede, and Dutch settlers with their small tilled clearings and log cabin homes; to the Indian wigwams and primitive forests; to the condition of nature in the absence of man is an instructive and interesting reconnoiter for our imaginations.

In the vicinity of Narberth itself but little can be said of interest until after the landing of the Welsh. To be sure the Indians were as numerous here as elsewhere, and they and their habits deserve mentioning.


The native Americans inhabiting this section of the country at the time of its discovery belonged to that great Algonkin family which extended along the Atlantic coast from-Labrador to Florida.

They called themselves the Lenni Lenape, meaning “the men” or “the original people,” to signify their superiority over neighboring tribes. This was a conceit characteristic of many tribe names. By the white men, however, they were universally known as the Delawares.

Their history, as passed down from generation to generation in traditional form, indicate that they originally lived along the Pacific coast and throughout the Rocky Mountains and western plains, and that their eastern hunting grounds were only reached after many years of migration. In this journey across the continent they were joined by the Mengwe Indians, in league with whom they fought and conquered the Allegewi tribes of the Ohio Valley, as they pushed eastward to the land of the rising sun.

Directly contrary to this theory of their migration is the translation, by C. Rafinesque-Schmaltz, of the Walam Olum—a series of Indian records. Walam, meaning painted, especially red paint, and Olum meaning record.

In the translation of this record we find the theory of the world’s formation by the great Manito; the happiness of man until the appearance of the evil Manito among them; the flood destruction by the great spirit of waters and their final migration to a warmer clime. This journey according to the Walam Olum was made from a land far to the northeast, probably Labrador. They journeyed to the southwest, descending it is believed, the St. Lawrence river, crossed northern New York and entered the snake country in the region of the present States of Ohio and Indiana. Here they met and conquered the Snake Indians and took possession of the country. Later, in league with the Hurons, they turned toward the east, defeated the Talegos and continued their journey to the sea.

This explanation of their migration corresponds closely with the theory of their initial geographical location as given by Professor Horatio Hale in his very scientific argument based on the variation in dialect of the different tribes.

When the white man landed in the early seventeenth century the Lenape Indians were living in the valley of the Delaware river throughout its entire course. The three sub-tribes into which the nation was divided, scattered their families from its head waters to the bay.

Among the highlands at the Delaware’s source was found the Minsi tribe, or more properly Minsin, meaning mountaineers. Farther down that beautiful river, throughout the land lying south of the Lehigh river and as far down as the river Chester or Christiana creek, were pitched the wigwams of the Unami tribe (people down the river,) in whose hunting ground was included the little territory Narberth now occupies, while still farther down toward the Atlantic Ocean, upon the banks of the river and the bay lived the remaining division of this haughty and noble race, the Unalachtigas (those who live near the ocean, from wunalawta, to go towards and t’kow meaning waves.)

The government of these tribes was unique and was as rigid in many of its laws as that of any nation of to-day. But the blending of superstition with their not unphilosophic reasoning was always characteristic of their ruling..

Over each tribe there presided a sachem or chief, known as the “Peace Chief,” whose appointment was made by the two remaining chiefs of the other two tribes. There were also many war captains whose titles were gained by bravery and skill in battle. These captains were heads of the many families. It was doubtless from these braves or captains that William Penn purchased his Province.

Here in Lower Merion township and probably throughout the entire Montgomery county, lived and hunted those of the Unami tribe under captain or chief Wingebone. Here the rolling woodland, the numerous streams and meadows afforded such an abundance of game and fish as not to be surpassed as a hunting ground by any other territory of similar size throughout the country.

Even as late as 1744 did game abound in our neighborhood to such an extent as to cause the following notice to be posted by the Schuylkill Fishing Company: “To all other Schuylkillians to whom it may concern. Whereas, great quantities of rabbits, squirrels, pheasants, partridges and others of the game kind have presumed in infesting coasts and territory of the Schuylkill, in a wild, bold and ungovernable manner, these are therefore to authorize and require you or any of you to make diligent search for such rabbits, squirrels, pheasants, partridges and others of the game kind in all suspected place and bring the respective bodies of so many as you shall find before the justice, etc., at a general court to be held on Thursday, the fourth day of October next. There to be proceded against by the said court shall be adjusted and for your or any of your so doing this shall be your sufficient warrant. Witnessed myself, etc., Thomas Stretch, 1744.”

The determination of the Dutch settlers to hold the land here and their persistency in maintaining a fort and colony at the mouth of the Schuylkill, after untold hardships, was wholly and entirely due to the fact of this section producing the most and best beaver skins of any fur trading station in the world. The profits of the West Indian Fur Company, which hunted exclusively in this region, were enormous. Over forty thousand furs were shipped from the mouth of the Schuylkill in one year

To a like appreciation of the district’s wealth in furs and fishes can be attributed the Swedes endeavor to colonize here.

Such was the almost world-wide reputation our neighborhood had, and few appreciated its value more than William Penn, when on June 25th, 1683, he purchased from Chief Wingebone his entire land claim. This tract extended between the Schuylkill and Chester rivers and ran many miles westward.

It is interesting to know that one of the principal Indian trails ran through our little village. It extended from the vicinity now Philadelphia, passed the Pencoyd Iron Works, ran north of the Merion Meeting house and following a course similar to the present Montgomery avenue, continued westward. This was for a long time the only highway known to the early Welsh Quakers. Very little seems to be known to the general public of the manners and custom of the Lenape Indians and a hasty picture of their various habits and forms may tend to correct many erroneous ideas, formed from the accounts in fiction in the present day literature.

General Character of the Indians. The Delaware Indian believed himself to have been created by an all powerful, wise and benevolent Manito. All he enjoyed he looked upon as given to him for his use by the Great Spirit and he therefore considered it his duty to acknowledge these favors by devoted worship. The principle of hospitality with him was not a virtue but a strict duty. His welcome was extended to every one without exception and most especially to strangers. He considered the white man as the superior product of the Great Spirit’s handiwork and for a long time held him in much reverence. In shaking hands upon meeting, he was very strict in naming the relationship of the person, such as “good morning, uncle or grandfather or mother,” etc. “I am glad to see you,” was the common way the Indians saluted each other upon meeting after a short absence.

The Indians were in reality not a quarrelsome nation. They were always on their guard not to offend anyone. Fighting they said was only for dogs and beasts. They possessed a rare and genuine wit and many of their synonyms were far cleverer than any the white men used.

Education. “It may justly be a subject of wonder,” says John Heckewelder, one of the greatest authorities on Indian life. In bringing up their children, they impressed upon their young minds their indebtedness for their existence to the Great Spirit, and wonderful kindness in giving them their comfortable homes and abundance of game. The history of their ancestors was then taught the chubby youngsters, and respect and esteem for their elders was the most practical point impressed upon them in this lesson. Following this they were made sensible of good and evil, and carefully told of the ever watchful eye of the Good Manito to take note of their good and bad acts. Thus the whole plan of the Indian education tended to elevate the mind.

Marriage and the Wife. Marriage was made in a very curious manner. When the parents on both sides noticed an attachment between a girl and boy they themselves did the negotiating. The mother of the “bridegroom to be” called upon the young girl’s mother and presented her with some game killed by her son, mentioning the fact of her son’s having killed it. The girl’s mother on the other hand, if she approved the marriage, returned the visit, bringing some vegetables that her daughter had prepared and probably grown and cared for in the garden. The friendship of the two families daily increased. Presents continued to be exchanged and finally they did their domestic and field work jointly, when the young couple had agreed to live together. There were no marriage vows or contracts for life, it being understood by both sides that the parties were not to live together any longer than they were pleased with each other. Should they have become dissatisfied they simply left. But they had very strong convictions as to marriage loyalty and there are but comparatively few instances where separations were recorded.

The woman’s work was really not hard, it only seems hard when we compare it with the work women do at the present day. But we must remember that they were savages and lived a peculiar life in a very different environment from that of the present time. The man’s work was ever so much harder and often called for a great test of strength and ability.

Food and Cooking. The principal food of the Indian was game and fish, but such vegetables as potatoes, beans, pumpkins, squashes, cucumbers, melons, cabbage and turnips were on their daily menu. They also made use of roots, fruit, nuts, etc. They ate but two meals a day. Their bread was made of two kinds, one made of green corn while milky, and baked in white ash bark which retains its heat and is very clean. This bread was very sweet. These Indians were not only clean but very delicate.

Funerals. When a death occurred in an Indian village it was immediately proclaimed broadcast, and the cry of “he is no more” could be heard everywhere. The next day the corpse was attired in his or her best apparel, placed in the coffin and many elaborate and expensive ornaments placed around it. It was then viewed by the many friends and later carried to the grave by six pallbearers. Clothing and various utensils covered the coffin. At the grave the coffin was again opened and the mourners, who were sitting around in a quiet circle, finally rose and viewed for the last time their lost friend. Many cries of “Arise and stay with us” could then be heard. The coffin was then lowered into the grave and quietly covered with earth, after which the friends returned home in quiet and continued their mourning for some time.


Perhaps the first white men to see and set foot upon the land in this vicinity of Pennsylvania were a few sailors and adventurers, who under Captain Hendrickson, of the small vessel Unrest (Restless), sailed from New Amsterdam, now New York, in 1616.

The Dutch, having settled Manhattan Island shortly after its discovery by Henry Hudson, were continually sending out exploring parties, and the discovery of the Schuylkill and the territory upon its banks was the direct result of one of these expeditions. Starting from New Amsterdam in a vessel of but 16 tons, Captain Hendrickson followed the course marked out for him by his employer, Adrien Block. He sailed along the Atlantic coast, inspecting every inlet and stream; rounded Cape May and after successfully passing the shoals of the Delaware Bay recognized the river as a yet unexplored body of water. With considerable enthusiasm his small crew sailed their craft northward, anxious to explore this region yet unknown to their people, though in such close proximity to their principal settlement. Passing along the western shore to the mouth of the Schuylkill river, which as it was hidden among the numerous low islands, thickly covered with trees and shrubbery, they doubtless entered before its presence as a tributary to the Delaware was known to them. Here peculiarly situated was the mouth of an entirely unknown river, a river of considerable size, navigable and picturesque, traversing a beautiful and fertile valley.

Ascending the river a short distance, Hendrickson and his party landed, and under the large linden trees so numerous along its banks, were kindly received by the curious natives. Before their departure, Hendrickson had procured for merchandise several natives held in slavery. Returning to New Amsterdam he made a map of his voyage, which was the first to include the Schuylkill and its bordering country.

This expedition justified the Dutch in their claim to the territory bordering upon the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, to strengthen which, they built a fort on the Delaware’s east shore in 1628 called Fort Nassau, and planted the settlement Hoarekill on its west banks at South Cape.

If, in search of game; these early Dutch roamed through the woodland of Lower Merion, and it is quite probable that they did, they were the first white men to disturb its solitude.

Following up the first settlement, De Vris built Fort Opland in 1631 (Upland, afterwards Chester) and the settlement of Zwanen-dol (Valley of Swans). It appears that the forts were neglected because of their expense, and in a short time but a handful of indifferent, inexperienced men remained in them. This condition of affairs gave the Delaware Indians an excellent opportunity to revenge themselves upon the Dutch, whom they believed had unfairly treated them. They fell upon these unsuspecting settlers and showing no mercy, quickly butchered them. Zwanendol itself was then totally destroyed and in a half-score years a handful of soldiers at Fort Nassau and a few trappers at Fort Beveredge on the Schuylkill were all that remained of the attempted settlements.

During the manoeuvering of the Dutch in the New World, an enterprise of more or less interest to them was receiving much consideration by the Swedes in the Old. For it was in 1625 that William Usselinx, a prominent merchant in Stockholm, advised Gustavus Adolphus, Monarch of Sweden, to found a trading station in the New World. His interest and enthusiasm was caused by the remarkable success of the Dutch West Indian Fur Company, and as a former member of this company he was well able to advocate it.

His project received much attention, and a very extensive settlement was planned, but the outbreak of the German war in which the Monarch was slain, caused its abandonment for the time. The venture thus temporarily checked was renewed in 1637 when Prime Minister Oxensturn under the direction of the Queen Christiana sent two vessels, Bird Grip and Key of Colmar, from Gottenburg, with all necessary equipment to colonize and trade.

Peter Minuet, the former Dutch Governor, was appointed commander of this expedition, which in the spring of 1638 arrived in the Delaware Bay.

In the following year a tract of land was purchased from the Indians, including the country between Cape Henlopen and the Falls of the Delaware. This tract they called New Sweden.

These second European visitors we can more intimately connect with our neighborhood, for giving more attention to colonizing, as they did, farms were scattered here and there throughout the land, and although no clearings were made in the limits of our Borough, it was familiar ground to at least several Swede farmers and especially to the hunters.

That the Swedes intended to colonize and erect permanent settlements as well as trade and barter furs, seems most evident. The companies of Gothart de Rehden, De Harst Fenland and others, with their ship loads of servants, cattle and farming implements; and the grants and privileges given Henry Hockhammer and Swen Gunderson, show every evidence of permanency.

Yet in spite of their commendable motives and methods, they were not given the opportunity to rid the country of much of its wildness, for in 1644 the Dutch disputed their land rights and forced them to relinquish all claim to the territory.

It seemed the Dutch feared their ability, and were jealous of their success and profits, and basing their right to the land on the original discovery by Hendrickson, pleaded their cause in active warfare. The quarrel was at first rather local but the Dutch government itself soon became involved and the few scattered Swedes were quickly conquered. Thus was ended all claim by Sweden to the land from which they had hoped to obtain much financial support.

Many of the Swedes, however, retained possession of their individual plantations and continued to live here under the Dutch reign.

As the Swedes were compelled to give up their land to the Dutch in 1644, so were the Dutch in 1664 compelled to acknowledge England’s claim, for that year the conquering of the Netherlands added the Dutch possessions in the New World to the British territory. From then until the close of the Revolution, our neighborhood was possessed by England. It had changed owners four times and each change helped to bring it from its obscure hiding place.


The conditions associated with the securing and establishing of a province in the new world by William Penn are too well known to need but passing mention.

It was sixteen years alter the Dutch had surrendered their claim to the country along the Delaware River, that William Penn came to possess the same. The death of his father, Admiral Penn, made William heir to estates in both England and Ireland, and the recipient of a yearly income of 1500 pounds. Moreover, the British government was obliged to pay him 15,000 dollars, an amount owed the Admiral for many years.

This debt made it easily possible for Penn to mature a plan he had, it is claimed, harbored for some time. The possibility of offering a sorely persecuted people a home free from restriction, had long been his ambition, and Penn was not slow to take advantage of the government’s obligation to him.

His proposition for a tract of land in the western continent as payment of this amount, offered the British crown a convenient and altogether satisfactory means of ridding the government of an annoying debt, and was promptly accepted.

Having obtained the land thereafter known as Pennsylvania (Penn’s woods), Penn at once commissioned William Markham his deputy, and this gentleman immediately sailed for the Province. A general invitation was then sent to the followers of the numerous religious sects in such marked disfavor at that time, to make their homes in this land of religious freedom.

Upon hearing of Penn’s land grant, in the New World, many hundred followers of the then comparatively new religious sect—the Quakers—rejoiced. It was indeed glorious news to the restricted and repressed Friends, who for a score or more years had endured the severest persecution because of their religious beliefs. Their outward defiance of the English authorities and their refusal to recognize the Church of England brought upon them merciless harassment. Pines were continuously levied upon them and collected with impunity by constables and sheriffs, who, recognizing the prejudice and bitter feeling against the sect, did not hestitate to increase their own worldly stores by taking merchandise and farming stock which far exceeded in value the amount of the levied fine. Yet notwithstanding these trials, their convictions were so sincere that they met as publicly, and as conspicuously upheld their doctrine, as did the adherents of the English Church themselves. That their ardor and religious enthusiasm was unquenchable even under such adverse circumstances, we cannot doubt. But reasonable it is to suppose, that a renewed energy came to all upon hearing of the opportunity to settle in a land of religious freedom; a land so generous in its products, so mild in climate and so free in its entirety. To settle in such a country with their relatives and friends, under conditions which they themselves could largely govern; and to be rid of the persecutions, which they, as the advocates and followers of a special doctrine, had endured for so many years, was like the realization of a cherished dream.

Among those to see the advantage of settling in this new land were the Cymric Welsh, a people of great intelligence, very industrious and very persevering, a people familiar with farming and most practical in their methods of living and who in every sense of the word, we believe, were best fitted to endure and quickly overcome the necessary hardships encountered in a new and strange land. In their Welsh homes they were mostly gentlemen farmers, prosperous in their occupation and plain in their habits. They derived this name—Cymric Welsh—from Cyn or Cym, meaning “first” and Welsh a Teutonic word, meaning “stranger.” To this people we can now direct and limit our attention, for they were the first white men to settle upon the land of Narberth and its vicinity. As owners of the country we now know as Lower Merion township, they were the direct successors to chief Wingebone and his Indian braves.

As far back as we can trace their lineage we find them to have always been a bold and hardy people. Being the direct descendants of the Celtic nation, which in ancient time inhabited Europe, they were particularly endowed with many superior qualities rarely found in the natives of northern central Europe at that early period. For even then, although a partly barbaric nation, these Celts recognized and lived under a unique and just form of government.

From such a persistent, bold and hardy people, a nation with whom never dying patriotism was a cardinal characteristic, the Cymric Welsh sprang. Can we doubt their efficiency or question their loyalty? Can we think of a people better able to prosper or more able to advance intelligence?

When Penn’s general invitation to the Quakers reached the scattered hamlets of the Welsh, it immediately brought together those who were Quakers in faith, and the arguments, which were all in favor of going to the New World, quickly terminated in the purchase of a large tract of land in Penn’s Province. They had scarcely settled here and completed their homes, when their ability to accustom themselves to a strange environment became evident. Indeed their preparation in Wales, prior to their sailing for the Province, was characteristic of their foresight. Understanding the character of Penn’s asylum their desire was to purchase a tract of land from him especially for their own party, and form themselves into an independent colony or barony. Their plans were all carefully laid in Wales. Special meetings were held in their Welsh houses and every step and decision was freely and thoroughly discussed, and preparations were made for the many contingencies that would, of necessity, arise.

The title of barony for this enterprise was probably poorly taken as it immediately suggests a form of government that was the furthest from their plans and ideas. Freedom and equal personal right was to be most prominent in their new plan of government. This system which was adopted before leaving Wales was most unique and corresponded with true baronial system of government so slightly that we can easily appreciate that the title of barony was used for legal reasons only. Their plan was to elect from their midst a number of men to act as justices, over whom would preside a chief justice or foreman. Within the hands of this body of justices or council was placed the ruling of the barony. They were to levy and collect taxes, punish for criminal offense, decide all disputes and controversies, look to the welfare of the barony and perform such duties as would befall the burgess and council of a modern borough. These plans they presented to William Penn through a committee consisting of Charles Lloyd, John ap John, Dr. Thomas Wynne, Dr. Griffith Owen, Dr. Edward Jones, John ap Thomas, Edward Prichard and several others; than which a more eminent and intelligent body of men could scarcely have been selected from among them. Their meeting with Penn was most definite and satisfactory, he approved and praised their methods and gave them every reason to trust him and expect his assistance. It is not strange that Penn should have taken this special interest in the plans of these Welsh Quakers, for many of the men who waited upon him, as members of the committee, were very close friends of his, and besides, Watson tells us in his Annals, that the promoter was himself of Cymric origin. With such encouragement and under such favorable circumstances, the Welsh in the year 1682 began to sail to the New World. They did not come in one large body or company as so many of the early expeditions, but appointed a few of their number to represent them before Penn’s agent in Philadelphia. These trustees, as they were called, were to secure the land and have it surveyed and then as it suited the convenience of the various members of the several companies, they came over and relieved the trustee of the amount of land they had previously agreed to take. The whole Welsh company purchased 40.000 acres, and because this tract comprises much of the present site of Lower Merion township as well as the neighboring township we feel a particular interest in it.

The tract as described by Penn in his instruction to his surveyor, Thomas Holmes, was situated, to use his own words, “On the west side of the Skoolkill river, running three miles upon the same two miles backward then extending ye parallel Wth ye river six miles and to run westward so far as this quantity of land be completely surveyed into tracts.”

There were six or seven companies all told, consisting of about seventy Welshmen and their families.

The Merion Company, which consisted of seventeen men and their families, occupied that portion of the district which Lower Merion township now covers.

Merion Company.*

* "Merion in the Welsh Tract"—By Thos. A. Glenn

Trustees—Dr. Edward Jones and John ap Thomas.
Tract of 5,000 acres.

  • 1250 to John Thomas, yoeman.
  • 650 to Hugh Roberts, yoeman.
  • 312½ to Edd. Jones, chyrurgeon.
  •   " " Robt. David, yoeman.
  •   " " Evan Rees, grover.
  •   " " John Edwards, yoeman.
  •   " " Edd. Owens, gentleman.
  •   " to William Edward, yoeman.
  •   " " Edd. Rees, yoeman.
  •   " " William Jones, yoeman.
  •   " " Tho. Rich, yoeman.
  •   " " Rees John Williams, yoeman.
  •   " " Tho. Lloyd, yoeman.
  •   " " Cadd. Morgan, yoeman.
  •   " " John Watkins, bachelor.
  •   " " Hugh John, yoeman.
  •   " " Gainor Roberts, spinster.


We need now but follow the Merion Company to obtain the early history of our neighborhood. The trustees of this company, Dr. Edward Jones and John ap Thomas were the first members of the Welsh Barony to apply for their land grant. In fact Dr. Jones in company with W. Edwards and E. Reese were the first Welsh, excepting Simon Evans, who arrived in April, 1682, to land in Pennsylvania. These three with their families and servants landed from the ship Lyon, at Upland in the fall of 1682, and shortly after arrived in the young city of Philadelphia, where they immediately entered a claim for their already purchased land. Here they met with the first reverse, for in some unexplainable manner their agreement with William Penn had not been made known to his Philadelphia agent, and no argument could induce him to survey for them a tract of 40,000 acres in any close proximity to the city. He gave them their choice of the country near New Castle, or that west of the Schuylkill river. The latter district they finally decided upon, though with considerable reluctance, believing it to be an unreasonable distance from Philadelphia.

Penn’s apparent neglect in this matter caused considerable dissatisfaction among them, which they harbored for many years, making the relationship considerably strained between the Proprietor and themselves. Visiting their land shortly after their arrival, they became markedly impressed with its resemblance to the country in Wales. Its rolling woodland and meadows, with its numerous streams, was certainly not unlike the farm land from which they came, and the momentary gloom rapidly passed from over their cherished dream. The distance to Philadelphia, however, they looked upon as long, and it probably was of sufficient length, considering the lack of facilities, to greatly handicap the ready sale of vegetable products and interfere with the prompt disposal of their grains.

The securing of the land by the trustees was quickly followed by the arrival of the rest of the Merion Company and in a few years its families were living side by side on their various plantations. We can readily picture their first year here, even attempt to accompany them upon their first visit from Philadelphia to the site of their future home. Westward from the river bank stretched 5,000 acres of crude unkept wilderness, and in this land their future possibilities lay.

These Welsh lived at first with the Swedes and English, or as was so common a manner of living then, they built for themselves, in the soft river banks, cave houses, and while thus obtaining sufficient shelter, they spent their days at work upon their land. Before their energetic labor the first evidence of habitation quickly appeared, roads leading from the river ran through the forest to furthermost bounds of their settlement, and huge and dense underbrush was supplanted by fertile farm land. Then came the homes, placed with the rarest judgment in the most suitable localities. A few immediately gave their attention to building, using the convenient logs to erect a hasty yet comfortable cabin, while others continued to occupy their cave dwellings and upon their plantations spent more time building large substantial stone mansions.

As early as 1700 the barony could boast of not a few of these large stone dwellings, the quiet dignity of which the Welsh so keenly felt and so truly loved. And these good old homesteads, we learn were appreciated not alone by their owners. Their comforts were manifold and the hospitality of the master let none be wasted. Every nook and corner, every board and chamber extended to the wayfarer a cordiality well nigh unknown now. Many of these dwellings are still in our midst. With their masonry so massive and architecture so noble and stately, they stand self-asserting, once the prominent homestead of these early Welsh, now the almost unnoticed and unappreciated dwellings of their descendants. These homes so majestic and grand in their lives are so sad and pathetic in their decline, that they deserve our reverence.

The early lives of the Welsh were spent much the same as those of all the early settlers. Farming was their principal occupation, and their experience in Wales in this pursuit went far to aid them in their early struggles. Following the completion of their houses, the clearing of the land and the planting of their first crops, the less important needs, though none the less beneficial, were given prompt consideration. Helpful as was the diminutive assistance of the children it was vastly more essential that they should be properly instructed. Schools must be supplied and instructors secured.

Then there was felt the need of a place to worship. Conducting service each week in the various homes had hitherto supplied its absence, but the settler was anxious to see in their midst a special structure solemnly set aside for sacred meditation[.]

Merion Meeting House:—Thus it was not long before the Merion Meeting House was built. The accurate records kept by the early Friends speak of the first formal meeting being held early in the year 1864, at the home of Thomas Ducket, on the east side of the Schuylkill river; shortly after, John Bevan’s home in Haverford, was used; and on the fifth day of the fourth month they all gathered to worship at the home of Hugh Roberts in Merion.

This is the first recorded meeting held in the little settlement of Merion. It was then but a short time before a temporary log structure was erected upon a plot of land given the society by Edward Reese. In this crude cabin we have reason to believe, regular service was held by the few scattered families in the Merion colony. It was in this temporary structure moreover that the first public marriage was held, it having occurred on the 10th day of May, 1693.

In 1695 Robert Owen began quarrying on his land for stone to erect a residence and it is claimed that he immediately donated all the stone used in the erection of the present meeting house. Under the united labor of the settlers the structure was soon completed and remained for several years the only meeting house in the Welsh tract. Were it not for its present smooth, plaster coating, the masonry would be identical with that of Robert Owens’ home, which still stands in excellent condition on Montgomery avenue, but a short distance west of the meeting house. In 1695, there is the record of Edward Reese’s giving a half acre of land to the meeting for a grave yard. This plot was added to in 1763 by Joseph Tunis and later, in 1801 and 1804 by John Dickenson, on whose land was erected the house for the care taker of the meeting and its grounds. In 1713 the meeting house was repaired and more thoroughly completed. Since this early time it has been the place of worship of many generations and the platform of numerous speakers. Among the more prominent of these speakers we find Robert Owen, Ellis Pugh, Edward Reese, John Fothergill, Thomas Chalkley, Job Scott, John Woolman, Annie Jackson, Stephen Paschall, Josiah Hoops, Aaron Roberts, George Truman, several of the George family and many others. Recently the services have been conducted principally in silence, there being but a handful of worshipers.

School:—During the week, the Merion Meeting House was used as a school. It is probable that children of the vicinity received instructions here almost as soon as the building was completed, for these early Welsh were eager to obtain for their children a most thorough education. It is not unlikely that their efforts brought to their little village John Cadwalader, who though but a young man was a very apt scholar and a most able instructor. Whether the meeting house sheltered his little class of bright eager Welsh we cannot definitely say, but it seems quite plausible that it did. If our surmise is correct then Cadwalader had the unique distinction of having been married in his own school room. In 1705 he moved to Philadelphia, leaving the instruction of the school in other hands, but whose we do not know.

In 1780 permission was given by the Price family to erect a separate school house on their estate. This building was about sixteen by twenty feet in size and but one story high. It was made of pointed stone with neat sloping roof and remained a prominent institute of learning throughout the district, despite its meager size, until 1830. Inside there were but several rows of long, crude wooden benches and an elevated platform and desk. Upon the establishing of The Academy at Academyville, this little sober seat of learning seemed to have outlived its usefulness and it was torn down by Isaac Price.

The handful of pupils who lived too far to conveniently go to The Academy were collected and teaching was again conducted in the Meeting House.

in the memories of not a few people still prominent in our midst, their school days in the Meeting House stand out strongly and one well known citizen, Isaac Lewis, recalls with interesting detail, many incidents associated with school life at the little stone school house.

Among those who taught at the meeting house were Mr. Walters, Miss Hannah Hoops, and a Miss Paschall.

Grist Mills—The work in the fields was speedily rewarded by most profitable harvests and each farmer found his crude sheltering insufficient for his gains. In farming, these Welsh Quakers early became prominent, not only throughout the province, but among the colonies. Many of the early travelers wrote in most glowing terms of their agricultural ability and made their farming and cattle raising industries widely renowned.

The fertile fields had yielded but few harvests, when they were able to meet another need by erecting their own grist mills. On the banks of Mill Creek, as it swiftly ran through its narrow valley to the river, these mills were built. John Roberts, the grandfather of the noted loyalist of the same name, was probably the first to grind the corn of Merion settlers. His mill he erected, shortly after his arrival in 1683. on Mill Creek not far north of Ardmore. This he speedily followed with other mills as necessary as the first, and in a very short time the creek’s perpetual power was distributed to a number of saw and grist mills.

The little settlement of the Merion company was so rapidly overcoming the obstacles of the wilderness that they were looked upon with awe by the numerous visitors to their unique barony.

Highways.—The highways were the next to be considered. The narrow emergency roads were gradually widened and lengthened and for several centuries it was acknowledged that no township had better roads than Lower Merion. Prior to 1700, the various highways were few indeed and not a few of these roads were but little more than a series of ruts through unfenced fields, taking a course most convenient to the few who traversed them. The mills and the meeting houses were probably the termination of them all at this early time. In the year 1703 we have the first evidence of systematic road making. In this year a public highway was surveyed and completed between the Haverford Meeting House and Philadelphia. A year later a highway was built connecting Merion Meeting house with Powell’s ferry. In 1713 the Merion settlement was connected with Radnor by a public road, and in 1741 the widely known Lancaster road was laid out. Several years later the Gulf road was built and those less known and less important were gradually constructed as their need became urgent. A very prominent and convenient road for the Merion settlers was built in 1785. It ran from the Lancaster road at Merion Meeting house to Levering’s Ford on the Schuylkill. This road still exists but there is comparatively little travel over it now.

The laying out of a road at that early period meant but little more than grading a wide dirt path. The luxuries of the present stone pike were then unknown and the manifold troubles of the spring mud considered inevitable.

It was in 1792 that piking the roads was first started in Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia and Lancaster turnpike was the first example. It was two years before the road was completed and this at a cost of $7500 per mile.

The original Lancaster pike or Conestoga road known as Montgomery avenue, is generally conceded to have been built in 1741. This undoubtedly is correct as regards its completion but a considerable distance was opened many years prior to this. In fact there seems to be evidence to show that a portion of this road is the very oldest in the district, being, it is considered by some, but the widening of an old and prominent Indian trail; by others, the original Swede path which connected the Delaware settlements and the Schuylkill river. The locations of the earliest homes, the General Wayne Inn and the Merion meeting house substantiate its early existence.

Along its course, until a short distance past Narberth, can still be seen the old Penn mile-stones, upon one side of which are still plainly visible the Penn coat of arms. From here the stones leave the avenue and can be traced to Roberts’ mills and from thence to Gulf mills. So that at least a small portion of Montgomery avenue lies upon the original bed of the oldest highways in the country cannot be denied.

In 1721 it was confirmed as far as Brandywine and in 1741 as far as Lancaster. During most of the time, especially in the spring and fall, this road was in poor condition, and it was not until 1850 that active steps were taken to improve it. At this time there was constructed upon it an eight-foot wide plank driveway. This plank road was about five miles in length and ran from city line to White Hall. Within the past twenty years Montgomery avenue has been macadamized.

General Wayne Inn—With the increase in roads came the increase in travel and the steady growth in population. Upon the more frequented highways were erected the various blacksmith and wheelwright shops, and more important than all else came the pompous, welcome wayside inns. In the village of Merion the “General Wayne” was the first and foremost. This renow[n]ed old hostelry, still standing in best of condition, was built in the spring of 1704 by Richard Jones, and for two hundred years has been the village’s center of activity.

During the Revolutionary War it was brought most forcibly into public notice, especially in the winter of 1777 and ’78, when it lay half way between the two large armies, a most enviable center for foraging and scouting parties from each side. Throughout the war it was owned by Abraham Streeper, an officer in the American army, and since then has been run by Mr. Taylor, Mr. Titus Yerkes, Major William Mathey, Mr. Jacob Castner, Mr. David Young, Mr. James Baird and Mr. Edward Odell.

This inn was indeed appreciated by the quiet Welsh, who gathered there so frequently to discuss the topics of the times with their neighbors or receiving the news of the colonies from the wayfarers.

Stage Coach Line—The Wayne was for many years the stopping place of travelers on their way to the west, and with the rapid increase in travel, upon the opening of the Lancaster road, it became quite famous as a “stopping off” place. Later when the Philadelphia-Lancaster stage coach line was established it was made an important station.

This stage line which ran from King of Prussia Tavern on Market street, Philadelphia, to the Beach Haven House in Lancaster, was founded in 1785. It offered a then seemingly rapid and convenient mode of traveling and for many years the stage line business was most flourishing and profitable.

This line which ran through Merion was owned by Frederick Doersh and Adam Weaver, and every Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, with one or the other of these men driving, the lumbering four-horse coach swung up to the porch of General Wayne Inn. It was the custom for the drivers of these coaches to blow several long blasts while at considerable distance from the inn. This gave the host and servants time to make such preparations as were necessary for a short stop and prompt departure.

Railroads—With the establishment of the steam railroad the popularity of the stage coaches quickly decreased, and it was not many years before they were considered a curiosity. The Philadelphia and Lancaster stage line was the first to be affected by the steam cars, for it was in April of 1834 that a railroad was completed from Philadelphia to Columbia. This new mode of accommodation catered to all the traffic in the vicinity forcing the stage coaches to soon abandon their trips.

This railroad which was built by the State at a cost of $3,983,302 was one of the first attempts of its kind in America. Its 82 miles of track connected it with the famous canal that ran to Pittsburg and the State of Ohio, and its completion was cited as a wonderful achievement. It passed through Lower Merion township for a distance of four and a half miles, and though this primary route has long been abandoned, we can still follow its original course quite accurately. After leaving the incline plane at Belmont it crossed the property now within the city limits and entering Merion ran through the Roberts estate and the country now known as Bala and Cynwyd. Passing through the village of Merionville, over the little triangular plot just west of the toll gate, it crossed the old Lancaster road on Bowman’s bridge and running parallel with this road it entered the village of General Wayne. Here it had a prominent stopping place just opposite the inn, and the little stone bridge over which it ran at this point is still in excellent condition. Now passing over the fields of the Price estate for nearly a mile, it entered the village, which up to 1895, when it became part of the borough of Narberth. was called Libertyville. It is claimed by many that this little settlement’s unique name was the result of the Columbia railroad. It appears the residents thereof appreciating the value of this wonderful mode of accommodation willingly donated the land over which it ran.

The writer has also recently heard of the tradition that during the Revolution a liberty pole was planted here by the French soldiers, the village since then being known as Libertyville. Leaving this settlement the railroad again crossed Lancaster road and traversed the estates of Col. Owen Jones and Mr. Wistar, and taking a large S-shaped course passed through White Hall at Rosemont took the same course as that of the present Pennsylvania Railroad. In May, 1849, the State sold it to a corporation known as the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, to whom it still belongs. Among the numerous improvements immediately made by this company was the changing of the roadbed to its present course. It is interesting to note that while digging this roadbed a large vat was entered between Merion and Overbrook, in which was found a large number of hides put there to tan fifty years before by the George brothers, well known tanners at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

Social Life—Leading primarily the same lives—tillers of the soil—the little Merion colony remained a quiet, peaceful settlement for many years. Year by year the various hardships were overcome, the needs of their labors supplied and the genuine comforts of home life secured. Beautiful fields of fertile farm land had taken the place of the early wilds, wide, convenient roads the place of the narrow woodland paths and Indian trails. Homes and churches, schools and mills were picturesquely scattered throughout the district and leading the lives of contentment these Welsh grew forgetful of the land they left with many, heart-pains. In their social and political lives they present the same features that characterized them as a people. Quiet, calm natures, sincere and just, with wholehearted generosity and broadminded simplicity, their lives appeal to ns as bordering upon the ideal. They were not given the opportunity of frequent visiting between neighbor and friends, there was too much to occupy them at home, and the distance from house to house was often too great for convenient calls. On Sunday, however, they all gathered at the little Merion meeting house, and before and after each service they found the opportunity to discuss the subjects of the time.

It was not at all uncommon for various families to journey to the homes of friends at the close of the meeting, and thus have ample time for conversation. While the successes and reverses of farming and cattle raising, milling and building were talked of by the men, their industrious wives were discussing in the spacious, cozy kitchen, their own results of persistent occupation. The spinning wheel products were shown with pride by the housewife and the knitting exhibited time and time again of an afternoon. In the fields or by the meadow brook the children ran and played and gave every evidence in their joyous frolics of the infrequency of such a visit.

There were, however, social gatherings planned in the homes of these early Welsh, in which the bygone games and customs excited more interest and gave more enjoyment than many of the games of our modern parties. These functions, moreover, were most informal. It was simply made known to all by a hasty visit or a second-handed invitation that one of them would entertain. It caused much gossip, to be sure, and was prepared for with much commotion, yet there was a freeness about it that was characteristic of the time and people.

Politics—In their political life their system of government as planned and adopted in the old world was carried out for several years. To the officers of the Barony was taken every grievance and complaint. There was probably but little in the way of quarrel and crime to call for the sentence of their judges and magistrates or the verdicts of their juries. But much attention was given by these public officers, chosen from their midst, to the improvement of the Barony. In planning the comforts of all, and supplying the poor and needy was found much of their official duty, and there are still many records of not a little such commendable work having been done. But it was not long before the exclusiveness of their district and government was interfered with. The promises of protection were soon forgotten by the authorities in Philadelphia and the city council took desperate steps to annihilate this Barony. In 1685 this body ordered that the county dividing line should pass through this Barony, forcing a portion thereof to be included in the county of Chester, while the remainder, that of Lower Merion, was still in the county of Philadelphia. This action of the Governor’s council aroused the most intense indignation that stimulated the peace-loving Welsh almost to righteous rebellion. For several years they refused to recognize the political division of their tract and continued to cast their votes in Philadelphia with the rest of Philadelphia county. These votes were declared invalid in 1689. Following this act a number of Welshmen met and declared their position and made known their dissatisfaction in a statement which was sent to the commissioners in 1690. The statement read as follows: “We, the inhabitants of the Welsh tract in the Province of Pennsylvania, in America, being descended of ancient Britons, who always in the land of our nativity, under the crown of England, have enjoyed that liberty and privilege as to have our bounds and limits by ourselves, within which all causes, quarrels, crimes and titles were tried and wholly determined by officers, magistrates, juries of our own language, which were our equals. Having our faces towards these countries, made motion to our Governor that we might enjoy the same here, which thing was soon granted by him before he or they were ever come to these parts, and when he came over he gave forth his warrant to lay out 40,000 acres of land to the intent we might live together here, and enjoy our liberty and devotion in our own language as before in our country, and the 40,000 acres was surveyed out and his warrant confirmed by several orders from the commissioners of ye proprietor, and settled upon already with near four score settlements.”

The appeals of the Welsh were probably not even seriously considered by the commissioners, and despite every effort of those who appeared before this body in person, showing to all the justice of their claim, their unique little Barony was overthrown and their privileges of self-government taken away. From this time until 1784 the Lower Merion district was included in the county of Philadelphia.


Every strife and struggle of the United Colonies and States involved, to a greater or less extent, the Merion settlement. Whether their loss was in men or property it was none the less keen, and especially in the Revolution was their suffering exceptionally severe. It must be remembered that as a people the Quakers could not, in accordance with their faith, conscientiously take active part in warfare. However, in the Merion settlement general sympathy was felt for the colonies, and the people of this little village ultimately gave considerable aid to the American cause.

The numerous taxes and restrictions imposed upon the colonies by the over severe mother country, affected the lives and limited the freedom of the quiet Welsh as profoundly as it did the lives of the more impetuous New Englanders. In the Merion settlement the principle topic of conversation prior to the war, was England’s austere ruling; and it was with marked interest and excitement that any news pertaining to this subject was received by them. News traveled slowly those days and it was with great respect that a person from a distant town was received in their midst. For this was the most accurate means of learning the happenings of the far away towns. While the site of England’s invasion and closely following active warfare remained in the New England district, the Welsh kept well versed upon the condition of affairs by meeting several nights a week at the William Penn Inn, now the General Wayne, where The Pennsylvania Post and several other papers were read aloud.

In the autumn of 1777 when the scene of activity was shifted to Philadelphia and vicinity, the Merion settlement was forced to share with their neighbors the consequent hardship and suffering. With the British in the city of Philadelphia and the American camp at Valley Forge, their little village became a “half-way house” for both armies. All that winter they were exposed to the raids of the numerous foraging parties sent from each camp and their loss from these raids was enormous. It was estimated to have amounted to £3413 and 11 shillings, which was far in excess of the loss of any other township except Norriton. When Washington marched his army south of Philadelphia in his attempt to head off the British and prevent the capture of Philadelphia, Lower Merion became, for the first time in the war, a site of active operation.

The various manoeuvers of the American army brought, more than once during the Battle of Brandywine, a company or regiment past the farms of the Merion Quakers, and foraging parties and recruiting officers were continually in this vicinity. The retreat of the defeated army brought the soldiers and farmers in more intimate touch. Here in the Welsh Barony wounded were cared for and not a few worn out soldiers sheltered and fed.

Again during the battle of Germantown was the district involved by the manoeuvers of the Continental Army. Then followed th[e] long winter months of comparative inactivity for both armies, the one in camp at Valley Forge the other in Philadelphia. It was during this time that the numerous individual encounters and personal adventures we so often hear of, occurred. Inasmuch as the prominent General Wayne Inn (at that time the William Penn) was in the center of the Welsh colony and was so enviable a stopping place for the officers and soldiers of both armies, most of the adventures were centered about it. During the war it was owned by Abraham Streeper, an officer of the American Army. While at Valley Forge, Streeper paid many a secret visit to his family, several of which were made dangerous by British troops occupying the Inn. On one occasion he was captured and taken to the Walnut street prison. Another American officer, Alan McLane, one of Washington’s best scouts and most daring cavalry leader, was prominent in several small encounters at the Wayne. On one of his many visits there his men were met by a British foraging party, and a skirmish ensued. The British were routed and left behind one slain and several wounded comrades. Upon the body of the dead soldier was found a miniature of a very beautiful young lady. This miniature was given to the Streeper family in whose possession it still remains, Mr. Joel Cook, a great-grandson of Abraham Streeper, now having it.

It is also claimed that during this winter of 1777 and ’78 two British soldiers were put to the most inhuman death by one of the women of the Merion settlement. Having been captured at the General Wayne by a party of American soldiers, these two Britishers were put in charge of a family living opposite the Inn on corner of Montgomery and Haverford avenues, the present Thomas estate now occupied by the Hansells. The prisoners being securely bound, several of the older sons were selected to keep guard over them until the troops returned. During the afternoon, for some unknown reason, the mother of the boys on guard became very angry and excited, and exclaiming the prisoners would do less harm dead than alive she grasped their own musket and before she could be prevented had run its bayonet through their bodies. The dead soldiers were quickly buried near the house and the incident kept secret as possible. During the past century, however, when the present Montgomery avenue was improved and straightened the remains of their bodies were unearthed. In the house in which the pitiless deed was done there is still, it is claimed, a portion of their skeletons.


Following the war the people in the district of Lower Merion continued in their principal occupation as farmers. The worn and crippled soldiers who had enlisted from this district returned but to resume their former work and it was not until a century had passed that the extensive farms were divided and sub-divided, to become the suburban homes of city merchants. Now but comparatively little of the land is tilled and sown, the once renowned agricultural district presents a lavish expanse of lawn and grove. Hundreds of dwellings lie dotted over the territory that was, but a few years back, the free outlook of a half dozen homes.

Narberth’s growth is a conspicuous example of this rapid change. In less than a year a large farm became a large village. In less than ten years it became a borough, a political power in the township and county, and its growth at the present time is probably more rapid than any other village in the vicinity. In 1682 the site that Narberth now occupies, was purchased from William Penn by Edward Reese (Price) for 3£ 20z. 60d. This plot consisted of 156¼ acres, to which was added in 1701, 205¼ acres more.

The history of this branch of the Price family seems to have been given but little prominence in former works on local history. Notwithstanding this fact, they were of the very first to advocate the establishment of the Welsh Barony; they were most active in perfecting the plans for migration, being among the very first to land and take up their homes in the new world (Edward Price being one of the first three Welshmen to enter Pennsylvania); and all during the Barony’s existence they were one of the most influential and respected families.

Edward ap Reese (Price) the head of the Price family in the Barony was born, in 1646, in Wales. Being an enthusiastic supporter of the baronial movement, he sailed for the new world immediately following the purchase of the land from Penn. He arrived in Philadelphia, August 18, 1682, with his wife, Mary, and son, Reese, and a daughter, who died shortly after their arrival. His tract of 156¼ acres was surveyed for him in the locality now occupied by the Belmont Race Course, the General Wayne Inn, the Merion Meeting House and a large portion of the borough of Narberth. To this he added by purchase in 1701, 205¼ acres, his estate thus comprising all of Narberth and the greater part of Wynnewood. It joined the Jones estate here and ran south on Lancaster avenue for considerable distance. It also included much of the land north of the present Montgomery avenue. It was not long after his arrival that the site was largely cleared and its fertile soil yielding enormous crops. In 1690 he erected his house, a small severe stone dwelling a story and a half high, and though as compared with modern dwellings it would seem small and cheerless, it was in those pioneer days a structure demanding respect, giving innumerable comforts with its superior shelter and remaining for not a few years an enviable homestead. This house stood for almost one hundred years in what is now the center of our borough. Using the avenues to locate it, it can be said to have stood on the south east corner of Forest and Windsor avenues or upon the site that Mr. A. H. Mu[e]ller’s home now occupies.

Naming this location as the site of the original homestead contradicts previous writers, but the writer has excellent proof as to the accuracy of his statement and is glad to be able to make this correction. Quite a few recently examined papers substantiate the claims and the diary of a descendant of the Price family, who spent much of his time at the Price plantation, proves it beyond question. From the observations of this man, Mr. Sharpless, and from his close study into the families’ history in America we learn, in reference to the homestead, that, having been built in 1690 it stood in excellent condition, at the site above mentioned, until 1770, when, because of its small size, it was abandoned and a larger structure built immediately east of it. The impression is given in some of his notes that the original home and this new structure adjoined, the east wall of the old house being a portion of the west wall of the new. It is, however, definitely known that the original house was not immediately destroyed for it was not until 1840 that its corner stone, a large brick bearing the date of 1690, was removed from its walls and set in the wall of a new kitchen which was, in that year added to the “1770 house.” This new or “1770 house,” as we may call it, has not been so long torn down, but that it is well remembered by many people in the vicinity. For 118 years it stood a prominent farm house, one of the few in the township to which age had given dignity. Standing several hundred feet back from the old Haverford and Merion road, and but a short distance further from the railroad, it was a conspicuous dwelling to passers by, especially in the later years when it was annually whitewashed from top to bottom. It was a massive structure, a source of great pride to its first owners, John and Mary Price. It was constructed entirely of stone, plain and formal in appearance but with large and comfortable rooms and halls. Several heavy, spacious chimneys with their giant fireplaces added their cheery comfort, and a long, slanting roof covered its two and a half stories and reached far out beyond the walls. The front door was also a curious selection of its builder. This thick structure was modeled after the still common barn door, having been divided in half from side to side and remaining almost entirely throughout the days of the summer months, open above and closed beneath.

The rest of the farm also had its interesting features; the large stone barn stood on the hill just in the rear of the house, the home of Mr. F. H. Harjes occupied practically its immediate site. From this barn ran to the meadows now west of Dudley avenue and south of the railroad, a dirt lane. The large maple trees which bordered this lane are still the shade trees in the lawns of Messrs. Kreamer, Suplee, Haws and Gannon. Upon this lane between the present Dudley and Conway avenues was situated the farmer’s dwelling and spring house. Below or to the west of this, for many years, was a large dam, upon which the farm depended for its water supply. From the house itself ran through quite a beautiful grove, the main entrance or driveway, following a course similar to Forest avenue. To the east of this drive was another small dwelling and spring house in which dwelt for a considerable length of time one of our oldest citizens, Mr. Joseph Mullineaux, Jr.

The orchard in which there was an abundance of fruit ran from Narberth to Essex avenue just north of the barn. A structure not to be soon forgotten by any one who saw it was the large old-fashioned, water wheel which stood in the creek just north of Haverford avenue. This faithful servant supplied the house with water for many years. For several months after the farm was sold, this wheel lay idle in its accustomed place, but one night it took a speedy and unexpected journey and may even now be the cherished trophy of some collector of antiquated relics.

The Price family continued to live on the original plantation for almost two hundred years and during this time there was no marked change in the farm. The land was added to from time to time, but it was not until the latter part of the last century that sales made any perceptible inroad into this old estate.

Edward Price and his family, by energetic labor, moulded the crude wilderness they had chosen for their home, into a beautiful expanse of fertile farmland. In unison with other farms of these thrifty Welsh, this plantation became an enviable site. These early members of the family were most happy in their pioneer life. The freedom which they craved was here found and in a plain and simple manner they continued to live, happy in their enthusiasm to perfect this baronial project. Edward Price spent most of the earlier days in the field with his servants but he was not neglectful of his mission as minister among Friends. He was an eloquent speaker and early gained the love and reverence of his neighbors.

Upon the death of Edward Price in 1726, the then large and well cleared farm became the property of his son, Rees Price. This head of the second generation made marked advances in the further development of the estate. The plantation was divided by miles of fence into large fields of farm and pasture land. Additional buildings were erected to meet the demands of the increased crops, and a large amount of woodland was cleared for additional cultivation.

The road that ran through the Barony traversed the Price estate, giving so favorable a location that few other farms were as well known and as frequently visited.

John Price was the next to fall heir to the estate and it was while he owned it that its location, which had previously so added to its convenience, now resulted in its suffering the most severe destruction and the heaviest losses. The American Revolution was without question the cause of much suffering and hardship in all sections of the colonies. But during the winter of 1777 and 1778 the farms in the vicinity of Philadelphia where the British were encamped were continually plundered. The neutral Quakers in the Barony had reason to fear both armies for, to the bold raids of the Continental foraging parties, can also be attributed much of this loss.

The peril to the Price farm can be easily imagined when it is remembered that it was situated on Old Lancaster Road, the most prominent highway leading to and from both Philadelphia and Valley Forge. Several letters still in the possession of the descendants of the Price family, tell of the constant anxiety of the people at this time and the severe hardships these foraging parties caused.

Before John Price’s death the farm was restored to much of its former excellent condition. In 1792 the owner died and his son, John, Jr., became its proud possessor. Shortly after falling heir to the property John, Jr., died; it was not long before his children also passed away, leaving but a grief stricken widow to occupy the homestead. Though Mrs. Price continued to live on the estate for many years her interest in the homestead seemed entirely lost. During the latter years of her life the property was so utterly neglected that every thing went to ruin. The fences, barns, springhouses, orchards and lanes were one and all in a dilapidated condition and offered no resemblance to their former beauty.

After Mrs. Price’s death the property became a subject of litigation among the descendants of John Price, Sr., and the heirs of the widow of John Price, Jr. For many years the struggle for the estate was a most severe and expensive one. The controversy was eventually settled, however, by Stephen Paschall purchasing the conflicting claims. Stephen Paschall was the son of Ann Price Jackson and it was because of her great love for the old homestead that the purchase was made. During this family controversy the property became even more desolate and it was a wretched and forlorn picture of its former self that Stephen Paschall presented to his mother. It was about the year 1838 that this purchase was made and Mrs. Jackson or Ann Jackson as she was almost invariably called, continued to live there until May of 1871. Afterward the farm was renewed to a cheerful and comfortable home, but its restoration was only partial; it never regained the prominence and dignity it had prior to the war.

Of the conditions associated with the place during Mrs. Jackson’s life, much could be said to reawaken in the minds of many of the older residents a volume of fond memories. The kind old lady herself was a character not easily or soon forgotten. Every mention of her name by those who knew her, is associated with the deepest reverence. She was a prominent and influential member of the community, an earnest worker among the poor and in the Merion meeting, and a most cordial and never tiring hostess. Her comfortable home was always open to welcome the guests, of whom there were many, and not a few still living remember when as boys they were made happy with numerous wholesome relishes as they sat before her spacious fire-place.

Stephen Paschall, himself, was a man of prominence and eminence. Like his ancestor, Edward Price, he was a minister among the Friends. He lived with his mother in the old homestead which he purchased for her and there were few, if any, in the vicinity who did not know and respect him. In stature as well as personality he was a man to excite admiration. He stood several inches over six feet and was of immense frame, weighing close on to two hundred and fifty pounds. In middle life he met with a fatal accident and though he lingered for quite a number of years he gradually but steadily failed in physical health, and after many months of hardship and suffering passed away at his home. His early and untimely death was the result of but an apparently trivial accident which befell him while riding. He was a most enthusiastic horseman and nothing gave so much pleasure as riding. At the end of the driveway which led from the house there had been erected a unique gate which was so constructed as to close and open upon the approach and departure of a horse or carriage. The failure of this gate to close upon one occasion led Stephen Paschall to attempt to adjust it while in the saddle and during his efforts his thumb became severely crushed. Emergency treatment was all that it ever received, the condition not having been considered serious. But shortly after its occurrence the first symptoms of paralysis in the member showed themselves and from that time on, the condition advanced from one member to another until he was utterly helpless. During all his illness, however, his mental faculties were never impaired. Every week he was carried to a carriage, taken to the Merion Meeting House, and, while lying prone and helpless upon a bench, preached some of the most eloquent sermons ever heard within this old and honorable place of worship.

It was not long after Stephen Paschall’s death that his mother, Ann Jackson, sold her farm to Mrs. Maria Furey, of Philadelphia. This sale did not, however, deprive the Price family of their entire estate. It appears that the property Stephen Paschall purchased, though including the family homestead, was but a portion of the original estate, the rest having fallen into possession of several male members of earlier generations. One of these farms was north of the Old Lancaster Road and extended quite a distance westward, where it joined the St. Mary’s farm of the Jones family. From this farm large strips of land were purchased from time to time. Mr. William McDowell purchased the site upon which the old farm house stood. This farm house was enlarged and remodeled and stands to-day as the front half of the lower story of what we know as Maplewood or Brookhurst Inn. The other farm directly opposite it on Montgomery avenue stands as the only substantial remains of the one time large and elegant Price plantation. To this farm there are still many acres of land but the anxious buyers have gained not a little of its land and the remaining portion will be profitable only as building lots.

When the late Edward Price, the last member of the family to occupy this farm, was first approached to sell his land for suburban houses he hesitated a long while and finally only consented with the understanding, that no more than one house could be built on a two acre site. It was with this understanding that he sold property to Messrs. Belfield, Richard and Young.

The farm purchased by Mrs. Furey is the one to which particular attention is called, the adjacent land having been added to the original village from time to time in its rapid growth. In Mrs. Furey’s possession the farm stayed from 1871 until 1887, when it was purchased by the Commonwealth Title Insurance Company. Mrs. Furey made no marked improvements in the farm though it was quite profitably cultivated by her for many years. For many summers the homestead was used as a boarding house and became quite well know[n] as such. Several people still remember a small frame structure which Mrs. Furey erected opposite the station and from which could be purchased soft drinks and light eatables. In 1887 Mrs. Furey sold her farm to Edwin W. Simpson, the attorney for the Commonwealth Title Insurance Company.

Immediately following the purchase of Mrs. Furey’s farm, the company commenced the task of modeling a village. The strip of land upon which they had to work ran from the property of Mr. Joseph Mullineaux on the east, to Wynnewood Avenue on the west, and from the farm of Edward Price on the north, to Haverford and Merion Avenue on the south. The eastern half of this strip, being higher and more suitable ground, was the portion first built upon, and in a surprisingly short time a dozen beautiful houses were seen announcing the obliteration of the Price plantation. The plan of Narberth Park, as the village was denominated, was a very simple one. A large avenue now known as Windsor, was cut parallel to the Haverford and Merion road, while running north and south, seven similar thoroughfares were constructed. These are now familiar as Iona, Hampden, Grayling. Forest, Essex. Dudley and Conway. Narberth Avenue was built many years before. These several avenues divided the land into uniform "squares” or blocks of 250 by 500 feet, and each square was surveyed into building lots varying from 200 by 250 feet to 50 by 125 feet. The rapidity with which this transformation was made, allowed but little opportunity for consideration to be given to the preservation of anything pertaining to the old plantation. The stone of the homestead and barn with that of the various smaller dwellings upon the place were used as foundation stone for the avenues, a quite undignified sepulchre for such an old and stately building.

The 1690 corner stone, because of its advertising possibilities, received more consideration, however, and for almost a year remained a curiosity at 18 South Broad street. What has since been its fate no one seems to know. The avenues having been opened and the numerous lots surveyed, a very attractive office was built opposite the north station and the new-born village widely advertised. The full page “bird’s-eye-view” of the park in The Philadelphia Record brought numerous visitors and the lots were speedily sold.

Many of the borough’s residents take pride in the fact that they were among its earliest settlers. Thus it will interest not a few to note the order in which these suburban pioneers arrived and made their homes here. Mr. Marmaduke Moore and Mr. Joseph Mullineaux, Jr., were sons-in-law of Mrs. Furey and lived here long before it became a village, and may correctly be called the borough’s oldest residents.

The first person to purchase a lot in Narberth Park, however, was Mr. Harry J. Ketcham. This lot was on Narberth Avenue, just south of the Railroad estate, and was purchased by him through his friend, Mr. Simpson, even before the village was laid out. As well as being the first property owner in the village, he had the additional distinction of being the father of the first child born in Narberth. Mr. Alexander Lowry was the next to purchase and the first to build and inasmuch as he moved into his new house August, 1888, he became the first resident of Narberth Park proper. Mr. Lowry’s house stands on Narberth Avenue north of Windsor and is one of the borough’s largest residences.

Following Mr. Lowry, in quick succession, came Mr. W. L. Owens, Mr. C. E. Shoemaker, Mr. Townsend, Mr. D. J. Hunter and Mr. C. E. Kreamer. It was about this time also, Mr. H. J. Ketcham built upon his early purchased lot and became a resident.

Lot after lot was rapidly sold; in less than a year the village consisted of a happy, congenial body of enthusiastic suburbanites. This increase in the growth of the village brought about conditions that required unison of effort on the part of its citizens and in consequence of the unanimous appreciation of this fact, an association, to meet these demands for local governmental consonance, was organized. So on October 9th, 1889, twelve men and one woman met in the shop of William L. Owens’ stable and planted the village’s political nucleus by organizing the Narberth Park Association. This united political body consisted of Charles E. Kreamer, Charles E. Shoemaker, Charles Fritz, David J. Hunter, George Christy, William R. Wright, J. W. Bender, William L. Owens, T. J. Bewley, Alexander A. Lowrey, Harry J. Ketcham, Mrs. Townsend and George Goodman, who represented Mrs. Cloud and Mrs. Bacon. The association met at stated intervals each month, and the welfare of the village was thus quite ably handled.

The progress of the village can be quite accurately shown by glancing over the detailed minutes kept by this association. These records, at that time so seriously and accurately kept, are so uniquely puerile as to be amusing, now that the mature age of a corporated town has been reached.

Trivial preliminaries characterized the first two meetings, though some weight must have been laid upon the subject of taxation, when at the first meeting a committee of three: Messrs. Kreamer, Christy and Owens, was appointed and instructed to visit Norristown and investigate the high tax assessment.

The serio-fanciful subject of burglars was discussed with much vigor in practically all of the remaining meetings of ’89. The adoption of shrill whistles was the early sequence of burglarious oratory. Following closely upon the wake of this precaution came the offer of $200 for the arrest and conviction of burglars—a reward which, fortunately for the association, it was never called upon to pay.

During the fall of ’89, Messrs. Von Williamson, Moore and Mullineaux were added to the roll, and at the first meetings of the new year Messrs. Davis, Douglass and W. G. McDowell became members.

It was at this time that the collection of garbage and ashes was discussed with such longevity, Chas. Draper, the sole bidder, eventually getting the contract. There was a symptom of lack of harmony even at this early date, in the resignation of Mr. Bewley, which was promptly accepted with no recorded comment. Instinctively the topic of fire fighting found its way into the disquisition of the association, and stimulated by the calamity of actual conflagration as well as the peculiar infatuation the subject itself has for mankind, the theme held full sway for no short time. The prompt inconsiderate motion to purchase a truck was abolished and the more economic hand extinguishers recommended as scarcely less efficacious substitutes. In the early spring we find among the new members Messrs. Fussell, Frotscher, Locker, McFarland, Bowers, Patterson, Johnson and Maxwell. Robberies in the houses of Messrs. Owens and Redifer re-awakened the burglary question in the November meeting of ’91, and caused the association to employ a detective.

The village system of lighting, which prior to the fall of ’91, depended on the charity and convenience of the individual resident, appears to have been next to receive the association’s attention, and developed into a commendable system of large oil lamps, the illuminating possibilities of which were indeed excellent. These lamps were placed close to the sidewalks on the properties of members of the association and were filled and lighted at the expense of the association. In April, 1893, twenty-four 16-candle power electric lights were placed advantageously throughout the village as substitutes for the oil lamps.

The remaining two years of the association’s active career were principally occupied by the discussion and preliminary steps of forming the village into a borough. In June of 1893, it was moved that a committee be appointed to look into the advisability of obtaining a borough charter. This committee was composed of Messrs. Mueller, Kreamer, Baker, Hunter and L’Etang, and their prompt and energetic endeavors met with as prompt reward. In October of the same year the Grand Jury approved the borough petition, by a vote of 7 to 4.

The opposition to the borough project proved to be more obstinate than anyone had at first anticipated, and for the remaining months of 1893 the decision hung fire in the Court. The borough committee was in the meantime increased to fifteen members Messrs. Fussell, Harjes, Owens, Warner, Lowry, Simpson, Stewart, Bender, Shoemaker and Justice, having been added. This body worked with renewed vigor and a second petition was approved by the Grand Jury on the 7th of June, 1904 [1894], by a vote of 22 to 1.

The exceptions to the borough were disposed of by the Court and a decree incorporating the borough was granted in December of the same year.

With this step in the progress of local government the little suburban village may be considered to have entered upon a new epoch.

outdoor family portrait; young man, child, mother, father Author Carden F. Warner (1882–1946), mother Julia, Frederick, father Carden (L to R) in their front yard at 214 N. Essex, ca. 1898. Courtesy Lynn Warner Wood enlargement: a young man in a straw boater hat