West Delco History Tour

September is History Month in Delaware County -- and this year the West Delco Historical Societies & Sites have created an Eleven-Site "FREEDOM TOUR" that Commemorates the 240th Anniversary of the Battle of Brandywine and the subsequent retreat and pursuit.  

Below is a Calendar of all the exciting history events planned for this month --  followed by details and registration info for the fabulous FREEDOM TOUR scheduled for September 16th!

September History Event Calendar:

Sept 1-17...Leiper House Tours –  521 Avondale Rd, Wallingford from 1 PM to 4 PM, Saturdays & Sundays See many period artifacts plus a copy of a love letter from Thomas Leiper to Elizabeth Gray written in August, 1777. In the letter he mentions the Continental army's concerns about the locaton of British General Howe, spies, and more.  Click for the Thomas-Leiper House Facebook Page

Sept 9 & 10...52nd Annual Chadds Ford Days History Festival – 1736 Creek Rd, Chadds Ford Commemorates the Battle of Brandywine and includes 60+ craftsmen & colonial demonstrators, Rev. War Re-enactors, live music, children’s games, antique cars, & more.   Click for the Chadds Ford Historical Society Website

Sept 14 @7PM...Free Aston Township Historical Society Meeting & Lecture – Aston Township Community Ctr., 3270 Concord Rd, Aston Historian Nancy Webster speaks on the aftermath of the Battle of Brandywine.  Click for the Aston Historical Society Website

Sept 16 & 17…Re-enactments at the Brandywine Battlefield – 1491 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford. See authentic re-enactments of battlefield life throughout the day (Standard Battlefield Admission).   Click for the Brandywine Battlefield Website

Sunday, Sept 17...Middletown Presbyterian Colonial Day Festival starting at 10 AM – Middletown Presbyterian Church, 273 S Old Middletown Rd, Middletown. NO ADMISSION FEE
Noon through 3:00 PM a variety of games and crafts will be offered for both children and adults:
  • The church's Colonial Day worship service begins at 10:30AM, patterned after the style of the 18th Century complete with a“tithingman” armed with his feather and knob to discourage rowdiness and napping. Following the service a meal of typical 18th century fare will be served.
  • Colonial Music & Dance - Colonial Games, Toys and Crafts.  
  • Partake in an 18th Century style noon time meal
  • A sheep will be sheared by hand 
  • See demonstrations of spinning, cooking, wool preparation, sewing, weaving, blacksmithing,
  • Colonial music and dancing
  • Tours of their historic cemetery includes the graves of revolutionary war soldiers, the probable site of the original church building and several first person narrators will portray early prominent community members.  Middletown Presbyterian Colonial Day Web Page

Sept 16 @ 10AM-1PM – Take the FREEDOM TOUR! A historic look back at the retreat from the Battle of Brandywine. (Details below)

Sept 16 @ 8pm…..FREE FIREWORKS SHOW – Glen Mills School, 185 Glen Mills Rd, Glen Mills. Bring a blanket or chair.

Sept 18 @ 7PM….Middletown Township Historical Society's Middletown Mondays lecture by Walt Chiquioine:  “Prelude to Brandywine:  The March of General Sir William Howe and the British Army.”
Lima Estates, 411 N Middletown Rd, Media
Click for Middletown Township Historical Society Website

September 16, 2017 West Delco
Featuring 11 Important Revolutionary Sites!

10am to 1pm - Ride the "Freedom" Bus with Historian Nancy Webster (Tickets are $15 per seat) 
OR drive your own car and follow the bus, caravan-style for FREE!

For tickets call ASAP:  610-517-7962.  THE BUS TOUR & CARAVAN LEAVES FROM the Concord Township Municipal Building, 43 S. Thornton Rd, Concord.  Drivers following, should be in the parking lot by 9:45 am.  NOTE: You can also drive the tour on your own, visiting some or all of the sites listed below, anytime between the hours of 10am and 3pm. 

This tour features sites that were part of, or witness to, events surrounding the Battle of Brandywine. You will tour many of these sites, but there are also several places where only the ghosts remain...and in the case of the Ivy Paper Mill, only a few walls and foundation pieces have survived, and you'll see that even they are merging into the landscape.  But all of these Delaware County places are woven into the history and outcome of a pivotal time in our nation's birth. Covering over ten square miles, the Battle of Brandywine and subsequent events, were as much about character as ideals.  

See Battlefield Re-enactments Sept. 16th & 17th at the Brandywine Battlefield.  
Robert Bardsley, (shown above on the right) is one of the county's fine history re-enactors.
The character of our army, in both defeat and retreat, gave rise, in the end, to victory.  But the residents living here were also part of that story...trying to survive bullets flying and cannons firing, while caring for wounded continental soldiers and trying to stave off the seemingly endless army of advancing red coats, bent on pillaging their food and fields.  Our community was on the front lines in the national battle for freedom, and this tour is their story...

Baltimore Pike and Concord Road starts the beginning of the British Encampment after the Battle of Brandywine which stretched to Village Green in Aston..the largest British Encampment during the Revolutionary War.
Sept. 16th BUS TOUR includes historian, Nancy Webster

Nancy Webster (pictured in the photo right) will be the 'on-board' historian for the Bus Tour.  She is well known for her thrilling lectures on early Quaker Families in the Brandywine area and how they were impacted by the American Revolutionary War. Currently, she is the Curator of the Friends Historical Association based at Haverford College, and is an Honorary Curator of the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College.

#1  Concord Meeting – 827 Concord Road, Concord, PA.   Originally built in 1728, it was used as a hospital after the Battle of Brandywine.  There are an unknown number of Brandywine casualties said to have been buried here.

 The meeting was first organized sometime before 1697, as the sixth Quaker meeting in what was then Chester County. In 1697 the meeting leased its current location for "one peppercorn yearly forever" from John Mendenhall. A log structure was built in 1710. The current brick edifice structure was built in 1728. After a fire which completely destroyed the interior, the meetinghouse was rebuilt and enlarged in 1788. During the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777, which was fought a few miles to the west, wounded American soldiers took refuge in the meetinghouse. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.  Concord-Friends-Meetinghouse Facebook Page

St. John's Cemetery
#2  St. John's Episcopal Church, 576 Concord Rd, Concord.   
Founded in 1702, St. John's was a log house of worship at the time of the battle. It was used as a hospital by the British army and was a burial spot for an unknown number of their dead.

Tradition says at least 12 British army officers were buried adjacent to St. John's, but the wooden markers did not survive.  The foundations of the original church are just below grade here, (pictured left) on the plateau in the center of the cemetery.   The current church was built in 1844 of blue Avondale stone in Greek Revival style and may be toured by those doing the self-guided tour. 

#3  Former Blacksmith Shop (now demolished) – located at the northeast corner of Valleybrook Rd and Foulk Rd.
Though the building itself is gone, legend has it that the troops stopped here for repairs during the retreat.

Here is the story of the man called "The Blacksmith of the Revolution" -- William Denning. Click to Read the Full Story

During the War blacksmiths (known as artificers) were
assigned to Ordnance Depots and tasked with making
muskets and cannon.  Denning developed a new process
of making the molds...enabling the production of larger
cannon balls.
Raised in Chester County, Denning was probably born in 1736 (though his monument says 1737). He took up blacksmithing, the art of making useful things from iron, as a young man and became known as the Brandywine Blacksmith.
     Property records show that he and his wife owned land in Willistown Township. After the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, William joined the Continental army. It is thought he may have even been at the Battle of Brandywine in September 1777.
     But later in 1777 the Continental Congress established 'ordnance depots' to manufacture muskets and cannons, one of them being in Carlisle, where the army post was known as Washingtonburg. Denning served here for at least 3 years, supervising production of iron cannon there.

What was so special about the cannons that Denning helped make for the Continental Army? 
Most cannon of the time, and for thousands of years, had been cast in molds, usually of iron or brass. Denning's skills at forging iron pieces and welding them together led him to a new idea - making them of long strips of wrought iron, refined from the cast iron chunks or "pigs" that came from the iron furnace. These strips, called "gads," were the length of the cannon to be made. Formed around an iron mandrel which was the diameter of the cannon's bore, these gads were heat welded together by the time honored practice of hammering the heated iron until the pieces fused. To strengthen the cannon and keep it from exploding when fired, iron bands encircled the fused gads. At least three bands were used - one at the muzzle end, one in the middle, and one at the breech end of the cannon tube. Denning's cannons were four and six pounders, so named for he weight of the solid iron ball that they fired.

In 1889, the Pennsylvania Legislature approved the sum of $1000.00 for a monument to mark his grave. This monument, of Vermont granite, (with a granite version of one of his wrought iron cannon on top) was unveiled in 1890, amid much pomp and ceremony.


#4  The Hannum House (A DRIVE-BY SITE) – 547 Concord Rd, Glen Mills
The main part of the house was built in c1695. Colonel John Hannum fought in the Revolution.

#5  Mt. Hope Methodist Church –  4020 Concord Rd, Aston, PA. 
This was the site of a large part of the British Encampment.  A cannon ball found here is on display at Aston Historical Society offices.

#6  Seven Stars Inn – at 5 Points in Village Green, Aston (where the Zac's is now)
….where Concord, Knowlton & Pennell Roads meet.  This was the headquarters of General Cornwallis.

Seven Stars Inn became a stage coach stop in the late 1700's.
The first licensed house in Aston was the Seven Stars Hotel, built about 1738. In 1740, Thomas Vernon presented a petition to the court for a license for a house of entertainment, alleging that there was no tavern for twelve to fourteen miles from where his house was located. The petition was denied by the court. However, in 1762, James Johnson was licensed to keep a public house at Village Green. The location is believed to be the Seven Stars Hotel which became a stage coach stop for for travelers to refresh and for watering and changing horses. 

 #7  The Jonathan Martin House (A DRIVE BY SITE) – 767 Chester Creek Rd, Middletown.
This is a private residence, so please just drive past.  This is where several British soldiers stole household goods and molested 18 year-old Mary Martin & another young woman. The girls reported the assault to General Howe who paraded his army past them - and they identified the three offenders. The British command made the guilty soldiers draw lots & two of the men, a Grenadier & a Light Infantryman, were hanged by the third. Their bodies were left dangling from an apple tree on George Neild's property at Village Green as a warning to the rest of the army.

# 8  Chichester Meeting –  611 Meetinghouse Rd, Upper Chichester.  
The site of a skirmish after the Battle of Brandywine….see where bullets grazed the stone wall and building.  It was also used as a hospital and for burials of soldiers.

BONUS: see a demonstration of hewing logs for the replacement flooring of the meetinghouse.

Click for the Chichester Meeting House Website

#9  Newlin Gristmill – 219 Cheyney Rd, Concord.
Discover the history beneath your feet during the Mill's Public Archaeology Project, a free festival day with hands-on activities for adults and kids! Work with professional archaeologists and assist with three different excavations; sift, clean and process artifacts; plus see artifact displays from around the County.

Who knows what will be discovered during the dig!  Click for the Newlin Grist Mill Website

#10 Ivy Paper Mill – DRIVE BY SITE – NW corner of the intersection of Ivy Mills Rd & Pole Cat Rd, in Concord.
The remains of the Ivy Paper Mill are camouflaged by the lush greens
of the Brandywine Valley.

These stone walls are the remains of the famed Ivy Paper Mill, owned by the Wilcox family. It produced the paper used by the Continental Congress for its records and our first national currency. The mill was raided and burned by the British troops, but was rebuilt and produced quality paper throughout the 19th century.

#11  Walnut Hill – DRIVE BY SITE – (renamed in the 20th century to Hill of Skye) –  126 (officially 130) Walnut Hill Lane, Chester Heights. This 18th century farmhouse was taken over as the command center for the lst and 2nd British brigades under Major General Grant after the Battle of Brandywine

And While Exploring the Brandywine Battlefield...
Take a Cell Phone Tour of two Battlefield Sites:
The Friends of Brandywine Battlefield prepared a cell phone tour for these two structures that saw action in the Battle of the Brandywine.  Follow the instructions below at each individual stop to hear a short recording about each:                

Dial 383-396-1018 – Enter #215 – Listen & enjoy

Dial 282-296-1018 – Enter #216 – Listen & enjoy

This Calendar of Events and Freedom Tour was created and developed by these Western Delaware County Historical Societies & Sites:
  • Aston Township Historical Society
  • Brandywine Battlefield Park
  • Chadds Ford Historical Society
  • Concord Township Historical Society
  • The Leiper House
  • Middletown Presbyterian Church
  • Middletown Township Historical Society
  • Newlin Grist Mill
  • St. John’s Episcapal Church
  • Upper Chichester Historical Society
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree  without roots.”
– Marcus Garvey