Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives


Source: July 1980 Volume 18 Number 3, Pages 96–100


Notes and Comments

Page 96

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Club Again Marks Site of Stone Chimney Picket Post

On April 27th the Tredyffrin Easttown History Club held ceremonies to mark the re-installation of its historic marker for the Revolutionary War Stone Chimney Picket Post, near the intersection of what was Swedesford Road and Baptist or Welsh Line Road (now the intersection of Anthony Wayne Drive and Valley Forge Road or State Route 252). The marker was originally installed and dedicated in December 1939, but was later a casualty of a road-widening project.

The invocation at the ceremony was given by club member R. Leighton Haney:

May this marker remind us, as well as others who will see it in the future, of those who wintered here at Valley Forge and contributed in their way that their and future generations would enjoy the fruits of freedom.

We realize the fight for freedom is never ended, and pray for the hostages in Iran and the families of those who died in the aborted attempt to gain their release.

The club president then thanked the Fox Companies, and in particular Robert Purdy and William Connor, for putting the marker in place, and introduced Bill Connor, who was present.

Gilbert Lusk, superintendent of the Valley Forge National Park, then made a few remarks:

Page 97

I appreciate being asked to come here and make a few remarks. (I'11 leave the history to the person who knows it best.)

I would like to talk a little about the present and the future. To me, history is very much like the snail darter in Tennessee, an endangered species. If we, as people, choose to neglect history or choose to put it aside, it will be forgotten. It will simply go away and never be seen again. A person who dies and is buried in a cemetery soon becomes a part of the lost heritage of the nation after all his family dies.

What you are doing today is an important part of preserving our past. Through activities like this, future generations will understand some of the suffering, some of the activities, which occurred — and which will occur again as our nation grows and prospers.

So history is very much like an endangered species. And it's not possible for one organization or one group to do it all. A good thing about this is that it is a cooperative activity, involving groups concerned with history, private organizations, non-profit organizations, the community.

This is very important. We see it happening here. We see it happening at Waynesborough. We see it ultimately happening at the DuPortail house and barn, and in other historical complexes. It is all very important to our remembering the past.

And when we do it with that spirit of cooperation, we carry forward the theme of Valley Forge, and we carry forward its message.

Conrad Wilson, a charter member of the History Club and one of those present at the original dedication of the marker forty years ago, then commented on the history of the property on which the picket post was located:

I grew up on a farm adjacent to this farm; it was then owned by a Mr. Hunt. It had been Cousin Jesse Walker's farm before that.

This whole tract was originally purchased by one John Havard, from Pembrokeshire, Wales. It was a huge tract, the most fertile tract in the center of the valley. When John Havard died, around 1750, the property was divided into four farms, one for each of his three sons and a separate tract of 100 acres, on which this site is located, for the three daughters.

John Havard junior inherited the farm that was later used as DuPortail's headquarters, on this road. Samuel, the second son, had what is now known as the Lafayette Quarters Farm; it extended all the way through from Yellow Springs Road to Swedesford Road. The youngest son, David, had the westernmost part, more recently the Chesterbrook Farm proper, where the spy who led the troops to the Paoli Massacre was captured in the springhouse. The three daughters, Anne, Hannah, and Sarah, all lived with their bachelor brother, Samuel.

Page 98

So it's historic property here.

In this field, just beyond the fence, there stood a house. We don't know whose house it was, whether it belonged to John Havard, the father, or was a tenant house, or what. The house had been burned just prior to the American encampment at Valley Forge, but the chimney remained, with a huge walk-in fire place. Members of the American encampment at Valley Forge used this chimney as a shelter. They put logs up against it and branches over it, and they could build a fire in there. The old chimney became a signal post, one of many surrounding the encampment at Valley Forge.

When I was a student at Tredyffrin-Easttown High School I joined the Tredyffrin Easttown History Club — I think as its youngest member — I was only 16. I was at Middlebury College, home for vacation, in the year that this monument was first dedicated.

(Years later, Joe Read called me when I was director of the Chester County Historical Society-and told me that he had seen the marker lying in a field near Valley Forge. I went over to Valley Forge and picked it up and put it in the back of my car, after which I went over to the headquarters and told them that I had it and was going to take it into the Historical Society. I then called Joe Read, and he came over and recovered it and brought it back to the Tredyffrin Easttown History Club which had erected it originally. I congratulate you and the History Club for reinstalling it here where it was originally located. It's oast iron and should last a long time.)

An important figure in the History Club in its early days was S. Paul Teamer — Samuel Paul Teamer — who was principal of the high school. He was a great influence on my life. He was a history teacher at a time when history was still being taught by principals rather than by coaches! And he was terribly excited about local history, and he always wanted to document everything he said. He taught class with a series of maps on which he followed the various battles — it was a terribly boring course, one battle after another! Times have changed.

He also gave the talk at the original dedication of this monument. I have been asked to read parts of it to you today.

Conrad Wilson then read these excerpts from the remarks made by S. Paul Teamer at the original ceremony:

On this spot ... was established one of the picket posts, or guard houses, which formed a link in a chain of similar posts which surrounded the main camp of the American Army at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-78. The two roads that intersected at this place ... were the Swedesford Road, running east and west, and the Baptist or Welsh Line Road, running north and south. Both of these roads had been in use for over 75 years before the encampment. The sentinels patrolled Swedesford Road... A sentinel would patrol, from his post, to a point one-half the distance to the next post, where he would meet a sentinel from that post.

Page 99

After meeting, they would about-face and then each patrol his post, then back to the meeting place. The patrolling was continuous, night and day, along the chain of sentinel posts surrounding the main camp...

Many years before the encampment there had been a house here. It had burned down and only a stone chimney and fire place were left standing when the troops wintered at Valley Forge. The men used fence posts, boughs, and corn fodder to make a lean-to against the old chimney. Fires were built in the fire place. This makeshift served as a shelter for sentinels off duty.

Also this post was used as a market place by the country peo­ple to sell their produce to the soldiers at the encampment. From General Weedon's Orderly Book, which was a record of events at Valley Forge, we quote as follows under date of February 8, 1778:

"Tomorrow being the day appointed for opening the market at the Stone Chimney Pickett, the army is desired to take notice of the same. Markets will be held at the same place every Monday and Thursday; on the east side of the Sehuylkill, near the North Bridge, every Tuesday and Friday; near the Adj. Gen'l office every Wednesday and Saturday."

So we may picture in our minds the activity here during the six months of the encampment from December 1777 to June 1778. Always back and forth the sentinels paced through the long winter, which fortunately was a mild one... Back and forth the sentinels paced as the winter retreated and the warmth and magic of spring spread over the Great Valley of the Welsh Tract. Pacing back and forth, the sentinels watched the great apple orchards covering the hill sides to the south burst forth in a glory of flower and perfume. And no doubt their hearts lifted up in the joy and ever- renewing courage of spring. And the renewed hope was not based only on the inspiration of the season, but upon the knowledge of what had been accomplished in the camp they were guarding. There ... great hearted, far-sighted men, overcoming their obstacles, were welding themselves into a well-organized, well-supplied, mobile and effective army which was to be the instrument to set a crown of freedom on this land.

That is the real message of Valley Forge. "We can never for­get what they did here." "They set a crown of Freedom on this new land."

Valley Forge was the center of the American lines. As the sen­tinels paced back and forth here, other men, far-flung, kept watch for any attempt by the British to march out of Philadelphia. At Rebel Hill, at Gulph Mills, at Camp Hill, at Ithan, at Signal Hill, at the Bryn Mawr Hills, at Darby, and at Wilmington were the outposts of the American Army. They watched and watched for a chance to "Burgoyne Howe", as General Wayne said.

Page 100

As back and forth the sentinels paced here, one day in June word came in ... that the enemy was likely to evacuate the city and retreat to New York. So probably the Stone Chimney Picket Post was abandoned about June 8. The American Army then moved out of camp and maneuvered for ten days; then on the 18th and 19th of June word came that the English were retreating across New Jersey. The American Army marched across Sullivan's Bridge and away in pursuit.

On a monument at Ticonderoga, the very heart of the great eastern gateway, dedicated to the memory of the soldiers and sailors of the Revolutionary War, are these words:

"And here were men co-equal with their fate
Who did great things unconscious they were great."

Well could these words be inscribed here. Back and forth the sentinel paced. Dull, monotonous work, no doubt he thought at times. Perhaps he grumbled, quarreled with his comrades — just human — cold and wet sometimes — just an ordinary man, unconscious he was great... Just a sentinel pacing his post, but "co-equal with his fate, doing great things, unconscious he was great."

The re-installed marker was then uncovered by the president, assisted by Conrad Wilson and Bill Connor:

SITE OF THE
STONE CHIMNEY PICKET
100 FEET WEST

THIS MARKER ERECTED BY THE
TREDYFFRIN EASTTOWN HISTORY CLUB
1939

Following the ceremonies, members of the Club visited the museum at Valley Forge Park and enjoyed refreshments in the west wing of the museum building.

 
 

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