History of Delaware County Pennsylvania - Chapter 10

Created: Tuesday, 12 April 2011 Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 February 2014 Written by Nathan Zipfel Print Email

CHAPTER X

FROM THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR TO THE ERECTION OF DELAWARE COUNTY

When the storm of war had subsided, Chester County, with the whole country, suffered severely in the process of adjustment from a warlike to a peaceful condition which naturally followed the recognition by the King of England of the independence of the confederate colonies. The period between the cessation of hostilities until the establishment of the present form of Federal government was indeed dark and unpromising, when Washington himself could, expressing the regret he felt at the death of Gen. Greene, pen these words, "I have accompanied it of late with a query whether he would not have preferred such an exit to the scene which it is more than probable many of his compatriots may live to bemoan." This locality had, it is true, recovered greatly from the effects of the pilferings and exactions it had sustained at the hands of the British troops when five years before the invading army overran the territory, but it nevertheless lost heavily in the fluctuation in values and general depression which followed the close of the war. Added to this, the constant manifestations of weakness in the crude system of State and confederated government which had maintained from the period of the Declaration to the conclusion of the struggle, were in nowise calculated to allay public anxiety. The war had for five years been carried on with Continental money, emanating from a body without authority to impose taxes, and absolutely dependent on the several State Legislatures for enactments regulating the lawful value of the currency they put forth; hence, as the confederation was held together by a wisp of straw, necessarily the Continental notes depreciated until, in September, 1779, the aggregate sum of these bills in circulation amounted to two hundred millions of dollars. The discount became so great, and so rapidly did the currency depreciate in value, that further issues of these notes were impracticable, and in the beginning of the year 1781 they ceased to circulate, becoming worthless, dying as a medium of exchange in the hands of their possessors. It was now absolutely essential that some new means should be provided to carry on the war. In 1780, it will be remembered, the Bank of Pennsylvania was established, its purpose being to supply the army of the United States with provisions. On May 17, 1781, Robert Morris proposed the plan for a bank to Congress, which scheme met the approval of that body, and it recommended that the several States should interdict any other banks or bankers from carrying on business within their territory during the war. Congress, Dec. 31, 1781, incorporated the Bank of North America with a capital of two million dollars, most of this being subscribed from abroad through the influence of Morris.* The States of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania also granted charters of a similar character, and the first Bank of Pennsylvania having done its work was discontinued. The immediate effects of the Bank of North America were highly advantageous, and aided materially in furnishing the means to carry on the war to a successful ending, but the exclusive privileges granted it, as well as the manner in which its business was conducted, created considerable dissatisfaction, until, in 1785, a petition, numerously signed by the citizens of Chester County, was presented to the Legislature, and so earnestly did the friends of the measure press the public complaints on that body that it revoked the charter granted by the State to the bank. The institution, however, continued to act under Congressional authority, and in 1787 the Legislature rechartered the bank. While the country was recovering from the extraordinary exertions consequent on the war, many estates changed owners, and the busiest man in the county was the sheriff; yet the pressure was beneficial, inasmuch as it compelled unusual exertion among the people, and the whole system of slovenly farming, which had theretofore been the rule, gave place to careful, intelligent husbandry, while enterprises were projected and carried on so that in a comparatively short time the public recovered from financial depression and made rapid strides in material improvements.

Local matters now exercised in a large degree the attention of the people of the State in all sections. In the county of Chester the project of removing the county-seat from the ancient town of Chester to a more central situation was revived, for the agitation of that question antedated the Revolutionary War, but during the latter struggle so much greater were the issues involved to the public at large, that the scheme was permitted to slumber by its most ardent friends. Seated as the borough was on the extreme southeastern edge of the county of Chester, it was doubtless, a serious matter to those persons residing in such remote townships as Coventry, Honeybrook, or West Nottingham, when, as jurors, suitors, or witnesses, they were compelled to attend at court. It involved considerable labor to go and return in those days, and in winter time, when, in a warm spell, the roads would be wretched beyond expression, it was a journey such as no man of these modern times would contemplate calmly.

It is a theme for wonder now that previous to Jan. 28, 1766, no earnest effort was made to procure legislation looking to a proposed removal of the county-seat to a more central location. At the date mentioned a petition was presented to the Legislature, setting forth the grievances of a large number of people of the county because of the location of the court; they were so far removed from the public offices that that fact alone increased the fees charged for mileage by the officials. A class of cases of peculiar hardship they stated were, "that many poor widows are obliged to travel thirty or forty miles for letters of administration, and are put to much trouble in attending Orphans’ Court at so great a distance." In consideration of these and other reasons, the petitioners urged the enactment of a law providing for the erection of a courthouse, and the holding of court therein, as near the centre of the county as could possibly be done. This was supplemented on May 7th by nine other petitions of a like tenor, and on the following day the anti-removalists submitted twelve petitions, which, after calling the attention of the Legislature to the establishment of Chester as the shire-town during the first visit of William Penn to his province, in 1682,** as a further reason why the location of the county-seat should not be changed, they set forth "it is notorious" that those persons residing in the near neighborhood of the court attended its’ sessions three times as frequently as those living at a distance, while the deputy register, in the discharge of the duties of his office, had no connection with the courts of justice at all.

The war caused an absolute cessation of the movement until fourteen years had elapsed, when the inhabitants of the ancient shire-town stood aghast, in the face of an act of Assembly, passed March 20, 1780, which authorized William Clingan, Thomas Bull, John Kinhead, Roger Kirk, John Sellers, John Wilson, and Joseph Davis, or any four or more of them to build a new court-house and prison in the county of Chester, and when the proposed buildings should be ready for public use to sell the old court-house and prison in the borough of Chester. It is believed that the majority of the commissioners named were adverse to the proposed change, - hence the law remained a dead letter on the statute-book. But in 1784, the representatives in Assembly from Chester County being largely composed of removalists, a supplement to the former act was passed on March 22, 1784, which empowered John Hannum, Esq., Isaac Taylor, Esq., and John Jacobs, or any two of them, to put the law into execution. As all of the persons named were uncompromising removalists, they immediately set about enforcing its provisions. By the wording of the act they were restrained from erecting the new county buildings at a greater distance than one mile and a half from the Turk’s Head Tavern in the township of Goshen. This location tradition asserts - a statement which Judge Futhey and Gilbert Cope say may reasonably be questioned - was inserted in this bill through the influence of Col. John Hannum, an adroit politician who, with an eye to his personal advantage, desired to bring a tract of land he owned within the site designated. In this, however, he made an error, for his premises subsequently proved to be more than two miles from the Turk’s Head. The commissioners, notwithstanding Hannum’s mistake, diligently began the erection of a court-house and prison adjacent, connected by a jailyard. After the buildings had progressed until the walls were nearly completed, and while work was suspended thereon by reason of the severe winter and before the spring permitted its resumption, the people of old Chester succeeded, March 30, 1785, in having an act passed suspending the supplemental act under which the new structures were being erected.

To render themselves absolutely assured of retaining the county-seat in the ancient borough, a number of the anti-removalists gathered in Chester under command of Maj. John Harper, then landlord of the present City Hotel, and provided with arms, a fieldpiece, a barrel of whiskey, and other necessary munitions of war, took up the line of march for the Turk’s Head, intent on razing the walls of the proposed court-house and jail to the earth. In the mean while Col. Hannum, learning of the hostile designs of the Chester people, dispatched couriers in all directions, calling on the friends of removal to rally to the protection of the half-completed buildings, and Thomas Beaumont is said to have ridden all night from farmhouse to farmhouse in Goshen and Bradford townships, summoning the clan. The forces under command of Maj. Harper marched toward the Turk’s Head, and at night were camped at the General Greene Tavern, a few miles east of West Chester, when Col. Hannum was first apprised of their approach. The latter collected his men within the building, the windows boarded on the out as well as the inside and the space between filled in with stones, loop-holes being arranged at convenient intervals through which the defenders could thrust their muskets, and each man had his place assigned him where, under designated officers, they remained awaiting the approach of the enemy. The next morning the Chester people came in sight of the fortification, when Maj. Harper planted his artillery on an eminence known as Quaker Hill, commanding the court-house. The absurdity of the matter dawning on the minds of some of the men in the ranks of Harper’s troops, they contrived to bring about a cessation of hostilities, and the whole affair ended in a jollification, during which the cannon was repeatedly discharged in rejoicing over peace restored. The invaders were thereupon invited to inspect the unfinished structure. During the time the troops from old Chester were in the building, one of the latter, seeing the banner of the removalists floating from the flag-staff, struck it down, which so angered the defenders that it was with much difficulty their officers could restrain them from resenting the insult by immediately opening fire on their opponents.

Peace, however, was maintained. The armistice was based on the agreement of the removalists that they would desist from further work on the building until the Legislature should take action in the matter. Although the removalists suspended labor only until the anti-removalists were out of hearing,*** they would not, had they preserved faith, been long delayed, for, at the next session, March 18, 1786, the following curiously-entitled act became a law: "An act to repeal an act entitled an act to suspend an act of the General Assembly of this Commonwealth, entitled an act to enable Wm. Clingan, etc.," and under its provisions the buildings at the new county-seat were finished. On the 25th of September, 1786, William Gibbon, the then sheriff of Chester County, by law was empowered to remove the "prisoners from the old jail in the town of Chester to the new jail in Goshen township, in the said county, and to indemnify him for the same."

The old court-house and county buildings in Chester were sold on the 18th of March, 1788, to William Kerlin for four hundred and fifteen pounds.

A struggle which had arrayed in bitter feeling one section of the county of Chester against the other, and culminated in the erection of the eastern townships into the new county of Delaware, naturally drew forth many sarcastic articles on both sides of the controversy. The press of that day, however, did not furnish the same facilities for epistolary discussion as the present, hence the following address to the Legislature written by David Bevan,(4*) an acrimonious anti-removalist, for the first time is given to the public:

"To the Honor Representatives of the freemen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania:
     "Through the chanell of the press I make free to address your honor body, not choosing to petition in the usual mode, as I am too well acquainted with the manner pursued by some parts of Chester county, mustering scribes and getting poor-rate duplicates, and inserting names without asking consent. You, gentlemen, will no doubt receive a number of petitions from those who have already got every request they wanted from the Legislature, the removal of the seat of Justice or Court of Jurisprudence from the ancient borough of Chester to that elegant and notorious place called the Turk’s Head (by some called West Chester), a place as unfit for the general convenience, and much more so, that any one spot that might be pointed out within ten miles square of the above-described place, except towards New Castle line.
     "We have no doubt of petitions fabricated for this purpose, that Mr. T--s, the greatest advocate for this spot of any member of Chester county, might vociferate, as he often does, in the house, more for the display of his Talents than any universal good. Let us, therefore, beg, if we have sent one noisey member, that he may be heard, and, altho’ he does stammer sometimes, perhaps, with the assistance of a few pebblestones, he may become a prodigee of the age, and (may he) exceed Demothenes to convince you of his superior abilities. I have a petition of his fabricating for the purpose of the Township of Edgmont, which shall be handed to the publick for their perusal as a pattern that any body politic corporate, &c., may have a form to fabricate petitions for such purposes, if ever any such may be needed."

On the other side the removalists were not deficient in scribes who presented the ludicrous aspect of the contest in rude derisive jests wherein their adversaries were burlesqued in sarcastic jingling verses, many of which in lapse of years have been entirely forgotten. One, however, has been preserved by Dr. William Darlington, in a sketch of West Chester prepared by him for the Directory of that borough, published in 1857. The author of the "Pasquinade" was Joseph Hickman, and, as we are told by Dr. Darlington, an old English wool-comber, Marmaduke Wyvil, about the beginning of this century "used to ramble about the country like an ancient Troubadour," and a glass of cider or whiskey "would at any time procure its recital with emphatic intonation and peculiar unction."

The ditty was known as "Chester’s Mother," and designed to give expression to the woe of the prominent anti-removalists, who were dependent on the public for a livelihood at the county-seat, and their lamentation consequent on the prospective loss of "a nursing mother."

"LAMENT OVER CHESTER’S MOTHER.

"Poor Chester’s Mother’s very sick;
  Her breath is almost gone;
Her children throng around her thick,
  And bitterly do moan.

"Cries little ’Lisha(5*) the first born -
  ‘What will become of I,
A little orphan, held in scorn,
  If Mama she should die?

"‘Not only I will be opprest; -
  I younger brothers have
Who cannot do without the breast
  When Mama’s in her grave.’

"And then poor helpless Billy(6*) cries -
  ‘Oh! how shall I be fed?
What shall I do, if Mama dies?
  I cannot work for bread.

"‘These little hands have never wrought
  Oh! how I am opprest!
For I have never yet done aught
  But hang on Mama’s breast.’

"Little Davis(7*) he comes next
  A puling, silly boy;
His countenance appeared perplex‘d
  And destitute of joy.

"‘How is our dear Mama?’ he cried:
  ‘Think you we can her save?
How is the wound that’s in her side
  Which cursed Hannum(8*) gave?’

"Says little Ned,(9*) - ‘Upon my word,
  Poor Mama will be slain; -
Though cursed Hannum lost his sword(10*)
  He’s got it back again.

"‘What shall I do, if Mama dies?
  What will become of Ned?’
The tears came trickling from his eyes
  And straight he took his bed.

"Then Caley,(11*) he came next in view, -
  His mouth was all awry;
Says he - ‘Oh! what will Caley do,
  If dear Mama should die?

"‘She might have liv’d for many a year,
  And all her children fed,
If Hannum hadn’t poisoned her -
  Curse on his frizzled head!’

"Cries little John,(12*) the youngest son,
  Who just began to crawl -
‘If Mama lives, I soon shall run;
  If not, I soon shall fall.

"‘Oh! may Jack Hannum quickly die -
  And die in grievous pain; -
Be sent into eternity
  That Mama may remain.

"‘May all his projects fail, likewise -
  That we may live again!’
Then, every one roll’d up his eyes
  And cried aloud, ‘Amen!’"

The ancient borough of Chester had been shorn of its chief glory; the little hamlet of sixty houses(13*) was no longer the place where the weary suitor waited on the law’s delays, or the culprit cringed in the dock; no longer did the court-house ring to the eloquent sentences of Wilson, Bradford, Chew, Levy, Sergeant, Reed, Rush, Laurence, and a score or more of noted lawyers, who, in that early day, rode circuit with the Supreme Justices, nor yet of Elisha Price and Henry Hale Graham, who made the old town their place of residence. The staffs of office had fallen from the tipstaves’ clutch, the crier’s often repeated admonition of "Silence in the court-room!" had become a verity; the jangling bell ceased to announce that the justices had taken their places on the bench, and the innkeepers would no longer mark with anxious longings the time for holding the quarterly courts, when their hospitalities should be taxed to the utmost, and money flow to their coffers. Now the vacant jail stared at the occasional passer-by with its barred windows, and the empty building returned a hollow echo to the blow of the reckless urchin who could summon courage to rap on its iron-bossed door. The very town seemed to stagnate, and the twinkle of triumph in the eyes of the Goshen and Western township people when in the spring of the year they journeyed hither to buy fish, was aggravating to the people of Chester beyond endurance. It was too much for the residents of the eclipsed county-seat to bear, hence they earnestly bestirred themselves in manufacturing public opinion looking to the erection of a new county, and, so earnestly did they labor to that end that on Sept. 26, 1789, the following act was approved, authorizing a division of the county of Chester and the erection of a part thereof into a new county:
     "WHEREAS, The inhabitants of the borough of Chester, and the southeastern part of the county of Chester, having by their petitions set forth to the General Assembly of the State, that they labor under many and great inconveniences from the seat of justice being removed to a great distance from them, and have prayed that they may be relieved from the said inconveniences by erecting the said borough and southeastern parts of the said county into a separate county; and as it appears but just and reasonable that they should be relieved in the premises,
     "2. Be it enacted, etc., That all that part of Chester County lying within the bounds and limits hereinafter described shall be, and the same is hereby erected into a separate county, that is to say, Beginning in the middle of Brandywine River, where the same crosses the circular line of New Castle County; thence up the middle of the said river to the line dividing the lands of Elizabeth Chads and Caleb Brinton, at or near the ford commonly known or called by the name of Chads’ Ford; and from thence on a line, as nearly straight as may be, so as not to split or divide plantations, to the great road leading from Goshen to Chester, where the Westown line intersects or crosses the said road; and from thence along the line of Edgmont, Newtown, and Radnor, so as to include these townships, to the line of Montgomery County, and along the same to Philadelphia County line, and along the same to the river Delaware, and down the same to the circular line aforesaid, and along the same to the place of beginning, to be henceforth known and called by the name of ‘Delaware County.’
     "3. All that part of the township of Birmingham, which, by the line of division aforesaid, shall fall within the county of Chester, shall be one township, and retain the name of Birmingham; and all that part of the said township, which, by the division-line aforesaid, shall fall within the county of Delaware, shall be one township, and shall retain the name of Birmingham; and all, such part of the township of Thornbury, which, by the division-line aforesaid, shall fall within the county of Chester, shall be one township, and shall retain the name of Thornbury, until the same shall be altered by the Courts of General Quarter Sessions of the said counties respectively.
     "4. The inhabitants of the said county of Delaware shall, at all times hereafter, enjoy all and singular the jurisdictions, powers, rights, liber-ties, and privileges, whatsoever, which the inhabitants of any other county of this State do, may, or ought to enjoy by the constitution and laws of this State.
     "5. The elections for the said county of Delaware shall be held at the old court-house, in the borough of Chester, where the Freemen of the said county shall elect, at the times and under the regulations directed by the constitution and laws of this State, a councillor, representatives to serve them in General Assembly, censors, sheriffs, coroners, and commissioners, which said officers, when duly elected and qualified, shall have and enjoy, all and singular, such powers, authorities, and privileges, with respect to their county, as such officers elected in and for any other county may, can, or ought to have, and the said elections shall be conducted in the same manner and form, and agreeably to the same rules and regulations as now are or hereafter may be in force in the other counties of this State.
     "The justices of the Courts of Quarter Sessions and Common Pleas, now commissioned within the limits of the county of Delaware, and those that may hereafter be commissioned, or any three of them, shall and may hold Courts of General Quarter Sessions of the Peace and Gaol Delivery, and County Courts of Common Pleas, for the said county of Delaware, and shall have all and singular such powers, rights, jurisdictions, and authorities, to all intents and purposes, as other justices of the Courts of General Quarter Sessions and justices of the County Court of Common Pleas, in the other counties of this State, may, can, or ought to have in their respective counties.
     "The sheriffs, coroners, treasurers, and collectors of excise hereafter to be appointed or elected in the said county of Delaware, before they, or any of them, shall enter upon the execution of their respective offices, shall give security for the faithful execution of their respective offices.’"

By the provisions of the act, John Sellers, Thomas Tucker, and Charles Dilworth were appointed commissioners "to run and mark the line dividing the counties of Chester and Delaware," and they scrupulously performed their duty. The act, probably hastily drawn, provided that the western boundary of Delaware County should begin in the middle of Brandywine River, where it crosses the circular line of New Castle County. Strictly following this direction, the result was a severing of a fraction of territory from the rest of the county of Chester. An examination of the map(14*) shows that a short distance above Smith’s bridge the circular line separating Pennsylvania from Delaware is crossed by the Brandywine, and that stream then makes a bend northward, and returning touches the circular line about half a mile northwest of the point where the river first enters the State. Delaware being erected out of Chester County, only that territory expressly coming within the designated lines of the new county could be included within it, hence this small tract of land lying between the circular line, and the bend of the river remained a part of Chester County. The commissioners were directed to run the "line as nearly straight as may be, so as not to split or divide plantations," and while they fully carried out the latter instruction, the former seems to have been entirely overlooked, for a more crooked boundary-line could not have been surveyed had that been the intention of the persons making the division. Certain it is more obliging commissioners would have been difficult of selection, if tradition be accepted, for the latter states that the owners of farms in the townships of Birmingham and Thornbury were permitted to choose in which of the two counties their plantations should be placed.

From a draft in the possession of Dr. Smith, which was probably prepared from the surveys made by the commissioners, that author was enabled to glean the following interesting particulars of the manner in which the line was finally adjusted, as well as some of the representations made to the Legislature when the act was pending before that body:
     "A straight line was run from the starting-point on the Brandywine to the intersection of the Goshen road by the western line, which is six miles three-quarters and fifty-four perches in length, whereas the crooked line between the same points, passing along the boundaries of the farm, cut by the straight line, and now forming the division-line between the two counties, has a length of eleven miles one quarter and nineteen perches. On a line perpendicular to the above-mentioned straight line, the court-house at West Chester is only three miles three-quarters and fifty-eight perches distant. The bearing of this perpendicular line is N. 46° W. It is charged in a note on the draft, that a member of the Legislature, while the act for a division of the county was under consideration, asserted that no part of the straight line run by the commissioners would come nearer West Chester than six miles. The court-house at West Chester lies nearly due north from the commencement of the division-line on the Brandywine, and is a little over five miles distant from that point, whereas it was alleged at the session of Legislature at which the act was passed that the distance was nine miles. From the intersection of the Goshen road and the county line to West Chester the distance in a direct line is four miles three-quarters and sixty perches, nearly, and the course N. 85° W. The shortest distance from the Street road to West Chester is nine hundred and thirty-five perches. It also appears from the draft that another division-line had been proposed. This commenced at the mouth of Davis’ or Harvey’s Run, on the Brandywine, and ran so as to include the whole of Thornbury township, in Chester County."(15*)

That the people of the original township of Thornbury, who, by the division-line, were included within the limits of Delaware County, were dissatisfied therewith, we learn from the proceeding of the Legislature, for, on Nov. 30, 1789, a petition was presented to that body from "the inhabitants and freeholders of the township of Thornbury, Delaware County, remonstrating against the act for erecting the said county, and praying they may be re-annexed to the county of Chester." The Legislature, it seems, had at last become weary of the constant wrangling growing out of the efforts for the removal to or retention of the seat of justice at designated localities in Chester County, which had extended over twenty years, and had now culminated in a division of the territory; they refused to further hearken to complaints, and the petition was therefore ordered to lie on the table.

After the passage of the act of Sept. 26, 1789, creating the county of Delaware, Kerlin sold the old court and jail building Nov. 3, 1789, to the county for £693 3s. 8d.

The first election in the new county took place in October, 1789, all voters coming to Chester, where the poll for the entire territory was held. On the 12th of October, President Mifflin and the Supreme Executive Council appointed John Pearson, Thomas Levis, Richard Hill Morris, and George Pearce to be justices of the peace, and on November 7th Henry Hale Graham was commissioned president judge of the courts of Delaware County. Almost immediately thereafter it was discovered that this appointment was irregular, Graham at the time not having been commissioned as a justice of the peace, which was requisite to make him legally eligible to the position. Thereupon President Mifflin desired Graham to return his commission, which he did, and on the 9th day of the same month he was appointed a justice of the peace, and the following day, president judge in and for the county of Delaware.

The first constitution of Pennsylvania, framed by the convention which met early in July, 1776, aroused considerable opposition even at the time of its adoption, but when its crude and cumbersome provisions, after nearly fifteen years’ trial, were found to bear unequally on the people, and legislative and executive authority was discovered to be sadly jumbled, the opinions became prevalent that the fraudulent law of the State required general revision. When, on March 20, 1789, Representative Wynkoop offered a resolution in the General Assembly, providing for the calling of a Constitutional Convention, there was some opposition manifested, but the measure was finally adopted March 24, 1789, the six representatives from Chester County voting in the affirmative. On September 15th the Assembly ordered the convention to assemble at Philadelphia on the fourth Tuesday of November following, and likewise directed at the next election that the several counties should select delegates thereto. Two days subsequent to the adoption of these resolutions the county of Delaware was erected; hence, at the election in October, the people of the county selected John Sellers and Henry Hale Graham to represent them in the convention. While attending the sessions of that body in Philadelphia, on Saturday, Jan. 23, 1790, Henry Hale Graham died, and on Monday following the convention appointed Messrs. Roberts, Gray, Gibbons, Thomas Ross, and Sellers a committee to attend the funeral of Judge Graham the next morning, January 26th, at eleven o’clock. On Wednesday, Mr. Roberts reported "they had performed that service," and the same day the county of Delaware was directed to hold a special election on Wednesday, 3d of February, to fill the vacancy occasioned by Graham’s death. On Friday, Feb. 5, 1790, the return of the special election was presented to the convention, and Nathaniel Newlin, who had been chosen a member of that body, was duly qualified and took his place therein.

The last member of the Supreme Executive Council from Chester County was Col. Richard Willing, of Haverford township. When Delaware was erected Chester County discovered that the division had left the old territory without a member in Council, hence at the election in October, 1789, Dr. Thomas Ruston was chosen to represent that county.

Dr. Ruston, on October 26th, addressed a petition to President Mifflin, claiming a seat in Council, because, as he argued, every county by law was entitled to one representative, and no councillor could represent more than one county; that by the erection of Delaware Col. Willing virtually became its representative, for in that county his property and residence was located, and that Chester, believing a vacancy existed in Council, had, in accordance with law, filled the vacancies at the ensuing election. The Supreme Executive Council, however, was unmoved by his reasoning, for on Oct. 29, 1789, it was unanimously
     "Resolved, That Dr. Thomas Ruston cannot be admitted to take his seat as councillor for the county of Chester, that county being represented in Council by Col. Richard Willing, who was elected on the fifteenth day of October, 1788."

With the adoption of the Constitution of 1790 the Supreme Executive Council ceased to be, and the last cause of contention between the two counties was laid at rest by the new and better order of things which was ushered into being when the republic of Pennsylvania gave place to the great commonwealth of the like name.

* Judge Peters’ account of Morris, published in Brotherhead’s "Sketch of Robert Morris" in "Lives of Eminent Philadelphians now Deceased," p. 708.

** "That in the first regulation of the said county, in the year One Thousand Six Hundred and Eighty-two, the Honorable William Penn, Esq., Proprietary and Governor of the Province of Pennsylvania, by virtue of the Royal Charter, did order that the Townsted or Village, then bearing the name of Upland, should be called Chester, and thereupon constituted it the Shire-Town of the County of Chester, and ordained and appointed all the Courts of Judicature for the Affairs of the County to be there held and kept, and the County Goal or prison to be and remain there forever; that the said William Penn, Esq., afterwards, to wit, on the Thirty-first day of October, One Thousand Seven Hundred and One, did grant, by charter, unto the Freeholders and Inhabitants of the said Borough, that the Sheriff and Clerk of the Courts of the said County for the time being, if not Residents in the said Borough should appoint and constitute sufficient Deputies, who should from Time to Time reside, or constantly attend, in the said Town of Chester, to perform the duties of their respective offices; which said Privileges (with respect to the holding of the Courts of Judicature at Chester), were afterwards established by John Evans, Esq., Lieutenant-Governor of the said Province, by an Ordinance issued by him, under the Great Seal, bearing Date the Twenty-second Day of February, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seven and afterwards confirmed by an act of General Assembly, made perpetual, and passed in the Year One thousand Seven Hundred and Twenty-one." This interesting paper, so far as I have been able to ascertain, was first recovered from the dust of nearly a century by Messrs. Futhey and Cope, and published by them in their

** "History of Chester County," p. 116.

*** Dr. Smith’s "History of Delaware County," p. 342, says, "It has come to the author traditionally that the attack of the Chester people was instigated by the removalists proceeding with the building after the passage of the Suspension Act....The fact that they were allowed to escape with impunity is rather corroborative of the idea that the attack was not altogether unprovoked, and rendered it probable that the cause for it assigned by tradition is the true one."

(4*) In the receipt-book of David Bevan, in the Delaware County Institute of Science at Media, will be found the draft of the above address. If it ever, as a whole, was published before its insertion in this work, I fail to find it in the files of the newspapers of that period.

(5*) Elisha Price, a nephew of Elisha Gatchell, who became so noted in the controversy between Penn and Lord Baltimore, was a lawyer of prominence in the last century, having been a student in the office of Joseph Parker. He frequently represented Chester County in the Colonial Legislature, and in the troublous times preceding the active outbreak of hostilities in the war of Independence, he was an unflinching Whig. When the merchants of Philadelphia and New York adopted their noted non-importation agreement and asked the support therein of the people in the outlying districts, he was one of three to whom was addressed the circular sent to Chester County, and was one of the committee selected by the Convention, July 15, 1774, held in this borough to consider the matter. The following day he, with his associates, met similar committees from the other counties in Philadelphia. In 1775 he was appointed one of the committeemen of correspondence from Chester County. After the erection of Delaware County he was appointed an associate judge. He was an earnest Episcopalian, and from 1767 to 1798 his name appears among the vestrymen and wardens of St. Paul’s Church. His wife was descended from James Barton, a minister of Friends, and "an early settler," says Deborah Logan, "a gentleman and a person of excellent character." Elisha Price died in 1798, a victim of the yellow fever. His two sons who survived him both lost their lives in the service of the government, Maj. Price being one of the American invaders of Canada, during the war of 1812, and died there.

(6*) William Kerlin, then owner and landlord of the Washington House, Chester, a strong anti-removalist.

(7*) Davis Bevan, captain of the schooner "Polly," captured by the "Roebuck" man-of-war; appointed mustering-master of Chester County, was captain of marines on privateer "Holker," and afterwards a retail merchant in Chester. He, of course, was a strong anti-removalist.

(8*) Col. John Hannum, a militia officer of the Revolution. He was a native of Concord township, but purchasing a large farm in East Bradford, he became an earnest removalist. During the Revolutionary war he was one of the Committee of Seventy, appointed at the county meeting held at Chester Dec. 20, 1774. Col. Hannum was present with Wayne during the latter part of the day of Brandywine battle, and during the winter of 1777 was captured one night asleep in his bed by some British light-horse, who were conducted to his house by a loyalist neighbor. He was taken to Philadelphia, where he was retained as a prisoner of war until the following spring, when he made his escape. In 1778 he was appointed one of the five commissioners of Chester County under the act of attainder. He was one of the justices of the peace, but resigned that office as well as commissioner of forfeited estates when, in 1781, he was elected to the General Assembly. He was a member of that body until and including 1785, during which time he steadily fought the battle of removal to a successful conclusion. He was very active in bringing about the repeal of the test law, and after the erection of the county of Delaware he filled many important offices in the county of Chester. Col. Hannum died Feb. 7, 1799.

(9*) This reference, the late Dr. Darlington, of West Chester, stated, is either to Edward Vernon or to Edward Richards, but which is now uncertain.

(10*) This allusion is to the capture of Col. Hannum, as heretofore mentioned.

(11*) Caleb Davis, who was prothonotary from 1777 to 1789, when Delaware County was erected, and was a strong opponent of removal.

(12*) Mayor John Harper was a stanch Whig and a brave soldier. On Feb. 9, 1776, he was appointed quartermaster of the Fourth Pennsylvania Battalion, commanded by Col. Anthony Wayne; on Oct. 12, 1776, he was commissioned ensign in Capt. Taylor’s company of the same battalion; Jan. 1, 1777, he was appointed first lieutenant of the Fifth Pennsylvania Line, and was brigade major of Second Brigade at battle of Brandywine. A few days subsequent to that engagement Maj. Harper, in company with Lieut.-Col. Persifor Frazer, was on a reconnoissance, when the whole party was captured by some of Gen. Grant’s command, and taken to Philadelphia. Col. Frazer succeeded in making his escape, but Harper, after the evacuation of the former city, was sent to the prison hulk at New York, where he was detained as a prisoner for over three years. He was exchanged Nov. 4, 1780. Towards the end or after the Revolution Maj. Harper took the tavern now known as the City Hotel, and became mine host of the inn. Of course he was opposed to removal. On March 5, 1785, Harper, who was then coroner of the county, purchased the tavern property, doubtless well knowing that the Suspension Act of March 30, 1785, would be passed. His action when the forces of old Chester moved against those at West Chester has been narrated in the text. After the county-seat was removed to the latter place, Maj. Harper, believing that the sun of Chester’s prosperity had set never to rise again, emigrated to the new local capital, and became the landlord of the Turk’s Head Inn there. He died at Dilworthtown shortly after the beginning of this century, and was buried at the graveyard at Cheyney Shops, Thornbury.

(13*) Article "Chester, borough of," in Joseph Scott’s "United States Gazetteer," first gazetteer published in the United States (Philadelphia) 1795. Israel Acrelius, however, in his "History of New Sweden," published in 1758, tells us that "Chester, the County-town on the Delaware, is sixteen miles below Philadelphia and has one hundred and twenty houses." Reynolds’ Translation, p. 143.

(14*) Dr. Joshua W. Ash’s map of Delaware County, published in 1848, shows plainly this little part of Chester County which wedges itself into Birmingham, Delaware Co., and yet owes allegiance to and pays taxes in another jurisdiction.

(15*) Smith’s "History of Delaware County," p. 345.


Source:  Page(s) 77-83, History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, by Henry Graham Ashmead, Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Co. 1884