Narberth — A Pictorial History

Author: Judd L. Minick
Published by: unpublished
Year: 1944
PDF (7.9 MB)



J.L. Minick, B.S. E.E.
1942 – 1944

The Story of Narberth.
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

More than ten centuries ago the Lenni-Lenape, "the original people", migrated eastward from the for west and settled along Makeriskitton, "great river of the Mohawks." Their frequent hunting and fishing excursions soon resulted in the formation of well defined paths in many directions. One of these, which probably followed the ancient route by which they originally approached the east, had its beginning at Coaquannock, "the village within a grove of tall pines," between Shackamaxon, "the village of the Chiefs," to the north and Wicacoa, "at the head of a small stream," to the south. It crossed Manaiunk, "where Indians go to drink" and wound its rambling course up hill and down dale, through virgin forests and across sunny plains to the land of the setting sun. Below this ancient path, within a pleasant grove of stately maple and oak and beech, a small spring gave forth cool and refreshing waters to form a tiny brook that sang a song of joy and contentment as it tumbled over the rocks and miniature waterfalls below. Here the red wayfarer was wont to tarry, quench his thirst, and rest his weary limbs.

When white men came to this region, more than three and a quarter centuries ago, they found the land good and made it their own, partially by purchase and partially by conferring upon it new names of their own choosing. Makeriskitton was changed to Delaware River, Shackamaxon to Kensington and Wicacoa to Southwark. Coaquannock now lies buried beneath the heart of the City of Brotherly Love, while Manaiunk is now Schuylkill, "hidden river" of early Dutch traders. The ancient Indian path is best known as Montgomery Pike while the cool, refreshing spring and its tiny musical brook, their Indian names long forgotten, are known today, for want of better names, merely as Indian Spring and Indian Run.

Indian, in all probability, was the name originally given to the cool, refreshing spring by the early whites. Tilling the soil in the vicinity of this spring brought large flocks of crows to rob the farmers of their corn, also the name Crow Hill. One hundred ten years ago the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad built a station here and the name changed to Libertyville. About fifteen years later the West Philadelphia Railroad built a second station some distance to the south and east. This station and the adjacent village were named Elm but the village streets were always muddy and slippery in wet weather and it was more frequently called Slippery Elm. In the meantime a third village, Narberth Park, sprung up to unite the two stations. It occupied swampy lands with small pools, hence, not to be outdone by its neighbor on the other side of the railroad tracks, it soon become known as Ponds Extract. A post office was established in 1889 to serve the three communities in common. Because of conflicts with the names of existing offices a compromise name, Narberth, was eventually agreed upon and this name was established legally on January 21st, 1895 when the community was chartered a Borough. But the desire for a nickname is not dead and East Altoona is frequently applied, because of its relatively large railroad population, to this, one of the oldest and one of the most attractive residential communities in the entire Commonwealth.



The historical information contained within this Album was taken in part from recorded history and in part from statements by persons who lived at a time and under conditions that gave them intimate knowledge and reliable information concerning many past events.

Grateful acknowledgment is made to all those friends and neighbors who, by their kindly interest, helpful suggestions and vivid recollections of long forgotten events and occurrances, contributed much toward making this a true, readable and interesting record of the history of Narberth.

949. The Ancient Indian Path. Entrance to Narberth from the east. 1943 Map

The path, now Montgomery Pike, was probably first used more than a thousand years ago when the Lenni-Lenape migrated eastward to settle in the valley of the Delaware. The Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad entered Narberth though the gasoline station at the left. General Wayne Inn is to the right of the highway with Merion Meeting beyond it.

951. The Ancient Indian Path west of Meetinghouse Lane. 1943 Map

The Georgia Colonials, under command of General Potter, camped near this spot during the night of September 14, 1777, five days before a portion of them were massacred by the British at Paoli. General Washington slept that night at the old tavern, now called General Wayne Inn. Lord Cornwallis marched his troops westward over this road December 11, 1777 to meet decisive defeat at Paoli.

952. The Ancient Indian Path east of Essex Ave. 1943 Map

Montgomery Pike, called the Lancaster Road during colonial days, was turnpiked in 1791, probably the first turnpike in America. This section of the Pike passes westward through Crow Hill, later called Libertyville. It is now a most attractive drive passing through numerous Main Line suburban communities.

See Addendum

963. The Ancient Indian Path west of Essex Ave. 1943 Map

Beyond the hedge at the left, Shady Lane takes off to Libertyville Station of the old Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad, a very active and world famous institution a century ago. Charles Dickens and his wife rode over it in 1842 on their way to St. Louis and subsequently mentioned it in his American Notes.

See Addendum

953. The Ancient Indian Path west of Wynnewood House. 1943 Map

To the left, beyond the sign, is the Super residence, one of the very early homes in Narberth. It stands within the limits of the pleasant grove of stately maple and oak and beech that once surrounded Indian Spring, site of an early white settlement, ancestor of Libertyville, Elm and Narberth.

964. The Ancient Indian Path east of Wynnewood Avenue. 1943 Map

This ancient Indian Path to the land of the setting sun bids farewell to Narberth at Wynnewood Avenue near the western edge of Crow Hill and Libertyville. All Saints Episcopal Church is concealed by the trees at the right. The old Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad crossed from the left to the right of the Pike at this point.

937. Indian Spring. 1943 Map

This spring, directly back of the Super home on Montgomery Pike, was a favorite resting place for Indians traveling over the Ancient Lenni-Lenape path to and from the far west. Here early Dutch explorers, and later early Swedish settlers, are presumed to have traded with the Indians probably before 1630.

933. Indian Spring. 1943 Map

Many well know personages traveled over the ancient Lenni-Lenape path nearby and probably quenched their thirst at this spring. Shikellamy, Vice-Gerent of the Six Nations, his sons Thackneckdaorus (John Logan) and Taghgahjute (Chief Logan), Conrad Weiser, Colonial Indian Agent, George Croghan, trader, and John Harris, founder of Harrisburg undoubtedly traveled over this route many times.

914. Ancient Narberth. 1942 Map

Merion Meeting, the oldest house of worship in the Commonwealth, was erected by the Merion Society of Friends between 1690 and 1695 on the site of an earlier log building erected in 1683, about a year after the original settlers landed. Services have been held regularly in this structure every "first day" for nearly two hundred fifty years.

950. Ancient Narberth. 1943 Map

The driveway entrance to Merion Meeting is both modest and pleasing. The sheds of either side of the church were built to shelter saddle horses long before the advent of carriages. Now they perform the same function for modern automobiles. The land on which these structures stand was purchased from Edward ap Rees for two and one-half dollars.

1029. Ancient Narberth. 1944 Map

This ancient horseblock, with its flagstone top, provided a ready means for demure Quaker maids to dismount from their horses to attend services at Merion Meeting more than two hundred years ago. Stone horseblocks and side saddles are relics of the past to modern youth.

982. Ancient Narberth. 1943 Map

This modest cemetary, adjacent to Merion Meeting, received its first guest, tenth month, twenty-third day, 1682, only ten weeks after the landing of the Welsh immigrants. She was the infant daughter of Edward ap Rees and his wife Mabby. Ancestors of many well known and honored citizens rest here.

983. Ancient Narberth. 1943 Map

This bountiful war garden, on Conway Avenue above Price, occupies the site of a quarry, opened presumably by Robert Owen in 1695, from which stone was taken to build many of the early homes in Narberth and vicinity. Stone from this quarry was used to build the Mowrer home on Montgomery Pike, and it is claimed Merion Meeting as well.

1027. Ancient Narberth. 1944 Map

Old Gulph Road, one of the oldest highways in Pennsylvania, was laid out by William Penn in person to connect Montgomery Pike with his daughters, Letitia’s, Manor of Mount Joy at Valley Forge. Old Gulph Road is an extension of Narberth Ave. beyond the Pike and passes the site of the Kettle Mill, the oldest rolling mill in America, where copper kettles once were made.

916. Ancient Narberth. 1942 Map

This building, now called General Wayne Inn, was built in part as a dwelling by Robert Lloyd about 1704. It has changed ownership many times. It was a "post-house" from the time of Franklin until about 1889 when the Narberth post office was created. General Wayne stopped over night here when he was on his way to the Northwest Territory in 1733, hence its present name.

915. Ancient Narberth. 1942 Map

The ganite marker to the left commemorates the encampment of a portion of the Continental Army in this vicinity during the night of September, 14, 1777, five days before their massacre by the British at Paoli. General Washington and some of his officers are said to have stopped that night at the post house nearby.

1030. Ancient Narberth. 1944 Map

Old Lancaster Road, now Montgomery Avenue, was improved in 1791 as a turnpike, probably the first in America. Toll house No. 4 stood in the southeast angle of the intersection of Meeting House Lane and the turnpike. It subsequently was moved to Meeting House Ave. near Lantwyn Lane and remodeled to be an attractive, comfortable residence.

1021. Ancient Narberth. 1944 Map

This beautiful old house, one of the oldest stone houses in the Borough, and now the home of Mr John A. Mowrer, was built by the ap Reese (Price) family about 1803. It was built of stone taken from the old quarry on Conway Avenue above Price.

1022. Ancient Narberth. 1944 Map

This old horse block, in front of the Mowrer home on Montgomery Pike, was built during or shortly after the building of the house and barn. Since the house was built several years after General Washington's death the legend that he, General Lafayette and many other notables of Colonial times used it frequently cannot be true.

1025. Crow Hill and Libertyville. 1944 Map

The house at the left is the Super home, in the rear of which is Indian Spring, meeting place of Red Men and White more than three hundred years ago. This meeting place was the ancestor of Libertyville, Elm, Narberth Park and Narberth. The old brick building at the right was formerly the village store of Libertyville.

941. [Wynnewood House] 1944 Map
1026. [Shady Lane] 1944 Map
800. 1944 Map

See Addendum

985. [North Essex Avenue] 1944 Map

See Addendum

991. 1943 Map

See Addendum

990. 1943 Map

See Addendum

797. Community Called Elm. 1941 Map

William Thomas contributed land about 1850, for the construction of the West Philadelphia Railroad across his farm on the condition that the local passenger station be named Elm because the huge native elm trees, of which this is one, constantly reminded him of those in Narberth, Wales, the town of his nativity.

The local post office was established about 1890 and named Narberth because there was an existing office named Elm. The name of the passenger station was changed to correspond with the post office by formal action of the Board of Directors of the Railroad May 15, 1892.

See Addendum

994. Borough of Narberth. 1944 Map

Narberth Passenger Station, like all other main line stations, has commodious shelters over a portion of each platform, as well as a wide driveway and ample parking space for automobiles. The underground passage, or "tunnel", connecting the platforms was constructed about fifty-five years ago.

997. Borough of Narberth. 1944 Map

This building is probably the original passenger station built when the West Philadelphia Railroad was constructed on lands contributed for that purpose by William Thomas in 1850. The first Post Office named Narberth was housed in this structure. The ticket office and waiting room were transferred to the south platform four or five years ago.

957. Borough of Narberth. 1943 Map

Haverford Avenue looking east from Forrest. Great White Way and business center of the Borough. The building at the right with the bell tower is the borough's original fire house.

979. Borough of Narberth. 1943 Map

Elm Hall, Narberth's present fire house, stands on Forrest Avenue north of Haverford Avenue. It serves also as Borough Hall, Council Hall and office quarters for various Borough boards and officers.

925. Borough of Narberth. 1942 Map

Haverford Avenue eastward from Forrest Avenue, Elm Hall, the Borough's Municipal Building and fire house stands on Forrest Avenue at the left edge of this picture.

796. Borough of Narberth. 1941 Map

Haverford Avenue eastward from Essex Avenue. The Ricklin Building, which housed several stores, was destroyed by fire Sunday afternoon […] one of the most disastrous conflagrations in the history of the Borough.

See Addendum

992. Borough of Narberth. 1943 Map

The Narberth National Bank was founded in […] It failed in […] and was immediately reorganized under the name of the National Bank of Narberth. The building stands at the intersection of Haverford and Essex Avenues.

See Addendum

966. Borough of Narberth. 1943 Map

Narberth Post Office, one of the most profitable offices in the Main Line area, was moved from the Narberth Passenger Station building to this building in 1902.

See Addendum

976. The Big Willow. 1943 Map

This beautiful cluster of eleven willow trees, growing from a common root, is one of Narberth's most outstanding landmarks. More than one hundred feet high it dominates the view of the Community baseball diamond from the railroad and conceals much of the railroad embankment when viewed from Windsor Avenue.

644. Community Baseball Diamond. 1938 Map

Many hotly contested, exciting games are staged on this field by the teams comprising the Main Line Twilight League. The Narberth team has been a consistent pennant winner for many years. Visiting spectators are attracted to these contests from many nearby communities.

987. Playground. 1943 Map

A well equipped playground furnishes entertainment for the younger generation, during summer months, with swings, seesaws, slides, may-poles, sand boxes, and roller coasters. Croquet and basketball are provided for teen age children.

955. Tennis Courts. 1943 Map

These Courts, the Community Building, Playground and Baseball Diamond occupy lands purchased with funds given to the people of Narberth by the YMCA when that institution disbanded in […] Several tournaments are played on these courts during each season by local talent.

See Addendum

954. Community Club-house. 1943 Map

This single story structure houses the Women's Community Club, the Community Library, and the American Legion. It also serves as a voting place and as a place for holding public meetings of general interest. It is comfortably furnished and well equipped with cooking facilities, rest rooms, etc.

917. Public Schools. 1942 Map

The Public Schools of Narberth consist of two large well equipped stone buildings on Sabine Avenue east of Essex. They accommodate an enrollment of about […] children between the first and eighth grades. Children in the higher grades attend the Township Schools near Wynnewood.

977. Borough of Narberth. 1943 Map

[Monument constructed of stone ties removed from old Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad]

920. Narberth Churches. 1943 Map

[Merion Meeting only Friends Meeting in existence constructed in the form of a cross]

942. Narberth Churches. 1943 Map
794. Narberth Churches. 1941 Map

formal photography studio portrait of a young man in a striped suit and a starched collar shirt Judd Lupfer Minick (1877–1963) moved in the 1920s from Altoona PA to Narberth. Many of these photographs appeared in 1945 in Our Borough, A 50th Anniversary Report, in which Narberth Borough Council praised "Mr. J. L. Minick, whose scholarly researches into Narberth's early history set the Committee a stern standard to follow."

Victoria Donohoe preserved this work by photcopying the original assembled in a loose-leaf binder belonging to Minick's granddaughter Phyllis Mairs Scharf, now deceased. In turn, this and so much of Vicky's collection was saved by her Narbrook neighbor Nancy Greene, after Vicky had to leave her home in her final months.

There's a lot more we'd like to know about this project. Why did Minick undertake it? Was it completed? Was it connected to the 50th Anniversary report? Some images are missing descriptions, and a couple of descriptions are missing details. Is the numbering scheme significant? (He was an engineer, after all.) Are there more photos? Is this the order that the author intended? (We have preserved it in the order of Victoria's her photocopies.) And did anyone really refer to Narberth as "Ponds Extract" or "East Altoona"?

What we do know is that it's a fascinating portrait of 1940s Narberth, unusual for its emphasis on images. It's a gift from Judd Minick to his adopted home town, modestly described by its author as a "readable and interesting record of the history of Narberth."