Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
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Source: April 1993 Volume 31 Number 2, Pages 43–58

Valley Forge Becomes a State Park

Bob Goshorn

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It was one hundred years ago, in May of 1893, that a bill to establish Valley Forge State Park was passed by the Pennsylvania Legislature and signed into law by Governor Robert E. Pattison.

During the previous 115 years, following the departure of the Continental army on June 19, 1778 after its six-month's winter encampment there, the site was once again primarily farm land. Shortly after the evacuation of the troops, many of the huts that had been built to shelter them were torn down by the local farmers for needed fire wood and timber, and the land was returned to cultivation. In 1787 George Washington stopped at Valley Forge on his return from a fishing trip, it is noted in the museum of the Valley Forge Historical Society, and found a farmer plowing part of the ground where Von Steuben had drilled the Continental troops.

Fortunately, however, the historic significance of the site was not completely forgot during this period.

In 1828, fifty years after the troops' departure, for example, it was estimated that well over 4000 people gathered at Valley Forge "to commemorate the expiration of a half century from the time of Washington's evacuation". It was an occasion that was described, with perhaps some understatement, as "an affair of no small proportion". .(It was originally planned to hold the event on July 4th, but it was postponed until July 26th because on the earlier date the farmers would have been "too busy harvesting to attend".)

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"The day," it was reported in the West Chester Village Record for August 6, 1828, "Saturday, the 26th was, though warm, beautifully clear and tranquil -- the morning was ushered in by firing of cannon, and by 8 o'clock the free and independent farmers of the adjoining counties had already begun to assemble -- and by 12 o'clock their numbers had increased to at least FOUR THOUSAND, and continued to increase during the whole of the afternoon, until the assemblage exceeded the most sanguine calculation. It was indeed a charming spectacle, a proper tribute to the memories of our fathers, and of that 'great and glorious day' [July 4, 1776] established by their virtue and confirmed by their blood.

"At noon the Declaration of Independence was read by Dr. Wm. Harris of Chester County, in a manner worthy of the Document itself, of the occasion, and of the delightful assembly of freemen by which he was surrounded.

"On the stage erected for the occasion, were seated some of the most venerable and distinguished of the surviving heroes of the revolution, all of whom had participated on the very same ground in all the distresses and sufferings of our army in '77-'78.

"When the [reading of the] Declaration was ended, the noble band of music, consisting of 25 respectable musicians from Bethlehem, Northampton county, who had generously volunteered their services for the occasion, struck up the national airs; its fine tones, however, were soon lost amid the thundering of cannon, and the enthusiastic acclamations of the crowd.

"Then was pronounced an eloquent and masterly oration by Col. John G. Watmoyer, which was received with the admiration and applause it so richly merited. In this the orator proved the pre-eminence of civic virtue, and how essentially its principles were blended not only in our own constitution and laws, but had constituted the very living principle of our existence as a nation, from the first landing of the pilgrim fathers, through the whole of our revolution, and of our subsequent career up to the present [1828] crisis in our national affairs [the possible defeat of John Quincy Adams in the presidential election that fall] ...

"Immediately after the oration, the company withdrew to the shade of the adjoining woods, to partake of an excellent cold collation prepared for the occasion by Mr. Abishal T. Woodman of the Valley Forge [Hotel], to whom every degree of praise is due for his skill and perserverance in providing for so large a multitude, and his kind and obliging deportment throughout the day. For this purpose, thirteen tables had been laid ... each containing 1620 plates, and radiating from the periphery of a small circle, whose area was occupied by the band.

"After dinner ... toasts were drunk with the utmost enthusiasm. ..."

(The toasts were generally with political implications: to the president of the United States, John Quincy Adams; to the present administration; to agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, and all who are engaged in them; to the tariff bill and its real advocates burnt in effigy in South Carolina; and so on, some thirty-two toasts in all.)

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In fact, in the 1840s and 1850s Valley Forge was the scene of a number of political rallies.

In 1840, for example, it was reported in the September 15th issue of the Village Record that the "Valley Forge Encampment ground is once again to benefit with life and patriotism" as a Whig meeting was to be held there on the first of October next. "The Valley Forge," it was noted, "is Revolutionary ground -- it is consecrated by recollections poignant to every true American. Thousands," it was predicted, "will make a pilgrimage to it -- as an altar, like that of Brandywine and Bunker Hill, consecrated by the toils, the tears, and the blood of the most gallant, and noble, band of patriots, that the world ever saw." The affair, incidentally, was presided over by Isaac Wayne, the son of the general.

Similarly, twelve years later, in October 1852, a "great Whig Ox Roast" was held at the site of the encampment. The gathering was again a large one, "estimated by some Whigs," it was reported in the American Republican of November 2d, "at 4,000, by others at 30,000 -- but composed principally of persons from Philadelphia, and from points along the Reading Railroad, most of whom were brought by free tickets". (The ox, it was also reported, was more than a little spoiled!)

The convenience of travel on the Reading Railroad, which had built a station at Valley Forge, made the site readily accessible to many visitors and helped keep alive the heritage of Valley Forge, particularly after the Civil War. In the early 1870s the Reading rented a part of the campsite for picnic purposes and excursions.

In the April 3, 1871 issue of the Daily Local News, for example, it was reported that "the old Revolutionary camp ground at Valley Forge, has been leased by Charles H. Rogers, Esq. to the Reading Railroad Company for two years for a picnic ground". Later that summer, on July 3d, it was noted, "Valley Forge has become quite a resort for picnic parties", and in the August 6th issue it was observed, "The largest party that visited the favorite picnic grounds at Valley Forge this year, was that of the Bethel Colored Church of Philadelphia, which arrived last Wednesday. Upwards of 1,200 tickets, we are informed, were sold for this excursion."

It was also suggested by some that the annual military encampment that had been held for many years at the Paoli Parade Ground be moved to Valley Forge, "decidedly a more suitable place for the annual encampment than Paoli". "The latter," it was pointed out by the Norristown Herald, "in a historical point of view, has but a local name, while that of Valley Forge is national, and the Revolutionary associations connected therewith are of greater import."

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As the centennial of the encampment approached, a movement was started to give more formal recognition to Valley Forge and the preservation of the campsite. In the Phoenixville Messenger in July of 1875, for example, it was observed, "Just as much as Ticonderoga, Bunker Hill, Stony Point, Brandywine, or any of the places celebrated on account of Revolutionary reminiscences, whose fame is being celebrated, [Valley Forge] is entitled to recognition and remembrance. To be sure, men did not charge the cannon's mouth there, but they spilled their blood nevertheless if history can be believed, while treading their way over those historic hills, leaving the crimson blood upon the virgin snow. ... Not only should there be a demonstration of a centennial character, .but there should be a centennial monument erected as a memorial of the event. ..."

In December 1877 a group of thirteen men met at the home of Isaac W. Smith in the village of Valley Forge and organized the "Centennial Association of Valley Forge". Its purposes were "to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the occupation and evacuation of the hills of Valley Forge by the Continental Army" and, rather than erecting a centennial monument, "to secure to the nation Washington's Headquarters at Valley Forge, as a memorial for all time".

The commemoration of the centennial anniversary on June 19, 1878, was described as a "memorable event" as the centennial was "befittingly celebrated", and was a tremendous success. It was estimated that some 50,000 people were in attendance, about 30,000 of whom had arrived by train, with the railroads offering special excursion rates.

"The day turned out in all the beauty of summer loveliness," it was reported the next day in the Daily Local News, "... [and] by every avenue and approach crowds of eager and interested people on foot and by every conceivable mode of conveyance flocked to the grounds, and ere the sun had reached his quarter pole in the heavens the assemblage had grown to a mass, and the fulfillment of the program arranged for the day was entered upon. . ..

"Still the crowd increased and still there appeared to be no lessening in the tide as it rolled into the historic arena.

"The residences of citizens were decorated with the American colors, in many instances in an elaborate manner. Flags were floating everywhere and joyousness was manifested on every countenance. ..."

The ceremonies started at sunrise with the firing of the morning gun, after which the Griffen Battery of Phoenixville "sent forth a sonorous welcome" to Governor John F. Hartranft, General Winfield Scott Hancock, General Daniel M. Gregg, and other distinguished guests. The morning program included a memorial service, music by the Phoenix Military Band, selections by a chorus of 350 voices, recruited from a wide area, and a procession of military and civic organizations, with at least 5000 men in the line of march, on what is now the Grand Parade grounds. Following Gov. Hartranft's brief remarks, the afternoon's exercises included more musical numbers, including band music by the "magnificent" Ringgold Band of Reading; the reading of several poems, among them Mary E. Thropp Cone's "Lines" to Valley Forge; an historical address by Col. Theodore W. Bean, of Norristown, later known for his History of Montgomery County; and culminated with the lengthy and "splendid" oration of Henry Armitt Brown, Esq., which, it was noted in the Local, was "listened to with profound respect".

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(It was later described as "the last and most brilliant of Mr. Brown's public efforts"; shortly afterwards he fell ill, and two months and two days after this appearance, on August 21, 1878, he died.)

But perhaps the spirit of the occasion, and certainly the spirit that was to lead to the establishment of Valley Forge State Park fifteen years later, was best reflected in the brief introductory comments of Governor Hartranft. They were included in the Local's account of the festivities on the next day:

"Fellow Citizens: We have come to commemorate the darkest hour of the Revolution. Yet, they were the hours of triumph also, and it was at Valley Forge that American Independence was won. [Cheers] In the rude huts of the dreary encampment was born the unconquerable will, the courage never to submit or yield, that proved to England and the world that although the country might be overrun the people would not be subdued. And during these weary months the Continental army received the training and discipline which afterwards enabled it to meet the soldiers and mercenaries of Great Britain in equal fight without ever suffering a defeat. [Great applause] Therefore, on this sacred spot, hallowed by hunger and cold, disease and destitution, we meet in gladness to commemorate a fortitude in camp superior to courage in battle, a steadfastness more powerful than enthusiasm, and a devotion to a cause and chieftan utterly forgetful of self. And if it is possible to draw from the past a lesson for the present, or seek in war an example for peace, we can find it in the loyalty and devotion that preserved the sacred fires of freedom amid the frosts and snows of the winter encampment at Valley Forge. [Loud cheers]"

The project of the Centennial Association "to secure to the nation Washington's Headquarters" was by that time already underway. On February 22, 1878 "the matter was placed in the hands of the ladies", and shortly afterwards Anna M. Holstein was named "lady regent" in charge of the project.

An 1895 sketch of Washington's Headquarters

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By March her committee and the owner of the property, Mrs. Hannah Dewees, had agreed to a price of $6,000 for the headquarters and about an acre and a half of ground around it, with $500 towards the purchase price immediately advanced by Isaac W. Smith. To accept title to the property, the Centennial and Memorial Association of Valley Forge was formally chartered on July 6, 1878.

Funds to pay for the property were raised in a number of ways. A dinner in a tent at Valley Forge in June raised $410. In August a "parlor concert" at the residence of Charles Pennypacker in Philadelphia featured "readings and recitations by Miss Fannie M. Boise" and "vocal and instrumental music by several ladies and gentlemen", with about 75 persons in attendance, in spite of a severe storm, at $.50 each. In September a picnic and moonlight hop, with a specially built dance floor, was held at Valley Forge. A grand ball in Reading, attended by Governor Hoyt and former Governor Hartranft, among others, the following April raised another $575.25. In early June a catfish supper was held at Homing's hotel at Pawling's Dam, where enough fish had been "captured to feed hundreds, if not thousands", the fish being "of the white variety" that were "only abundant at that point, which is known as Cat Fish Dam". Souvenir histories of the centennial celebration were published and sold, and shares of capital stock in the corporation were sold for one dollar each. With these, and similar, efforts the Association was able to repay the initial loan of $500 before the centennial celebration and also to make additional payments of $2500 by May 10th of the following year, at which time the deed was executed and the Association took possession of the property. The balance of $3000, which had been secured by a mortgage, plus $478.91 in interest and back taxes, was finally paid in November of 1886 when contributions from various subordinate camps of the Patriotic Order Sons of America throughout Pennsylvania provided sufficient funds to cancel the indebtedness.

In the meantime, on December 18, 1882 a Valley Forge Monument Association was formed through the efforts of Mary Thropp Cone and her sister, Amelia Thropp. (A. J. Drexel jr. and George W. Chi Ids were among the charter members.) At its first meeting it was resolved "that Valley Forge should have a monument to perpetuate the memories of the Continental heroes who suffered here, the names of the commanders and the states they were from, and to that end is entitled to Congressional recognition." It too tried to raise funds, including an effort to get a Congressional appropriation, to obtain money for the project.

It was, however, just one of several organizations that had become interested in the recognition and preservation of the historic encampment.

Having acquired Washington's headquarters, the Centennial Association now directed its efforts more towards restoration of the building, in part through an appropriation of $5000 it received from the State Legislature. At the same time, however, over the next few years it also added to the property, with the purchase of an additional acre and a half, including the site of the camp spring, in 1889 and, several years later, of two more acres, including a stone barn said to have been used as a hospital during the encampment.

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In January 1888, "having in view the extension of the property line to include other historic plots of the Revolutionary Camp ground", it appointed a committee to assist in drafting a bill for a Congressional appropriation of $25,000; the bill passed in the Senate, but failed to pass in the House.

In the meantime, the Patriotic Order Sons of America also continued to show interest in the site, and purchased several small tracts of land in the vicinity of the headquarters, as well as making contributions from time to time towards its restoration and maintenance.

And by 1891, through circumstances that will be discussed later, the Daughters of the American Revolution, of which Mrs. Benjamin Harrison was then president, became involved. (In fact, in the Local for November 3d of that year it was reported, "It is stated on the authority of her [Mrs. Harrison's] representatives that so deeply imbued is she with the purpose to preserve Valley Forge from all future vandalism that she will endeavor to interest the President himself in the movement, and it is not unlikely that both will pay a visit to the place before the winter becomes too cold."

But with the splintering of the effort among so many organizations, the project was simply too large an undertaking for any one of them. In March of 1890, for example, a special meeting of the Board of Directors of the Centennial and Memorial Association of Valley Forge was held "to consider a plan proposed by Colonel Theodore W. Bean to purchase the entire encampment ground for about $100,000", working closely with the Patriotic Order Sons of America. After considerable discussion at this and the next meeting of the Board, however, "no decisive action was taken" and the "grandiose scheme", as Harlan D. Unrau described it in his Administrative History of Valley Forge Park, was never implemented.

As early as in 1883 consideration was given in the United States Congress to making Valley Forge a national park.

In October of that year such a proposal was made by Senator Daniel W. Vorhees of Indiana. As reported in the Local for October 12, 1883, "Senator Vorhees paid a visit to Valley Forge after lecturing at Norristown recently and promised to bring the matter of purchasing the sacred spot before Congress. On Monday he made his promise good by offering a resolution, which was agreed to, authorizing the Committee on Military Affairs to inquire into the expediency and feasibility of purchasing the encampment grounds at Valley Forge to be made into a national park." But apparently at that time it was either not expedient or not feasible, or both.

Similarly, a bill in 1884 to provide matching funds for improvements to Washington's headquarters; a similar bill in 1885, introduced by Congressman Samuel S. Cox of New York; the previously mentioned bill in 1888; and similar bills in 1889 and 1890, the latter introduced by Senator Donald Cameron of Pennsylvania, all failed to pass.

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(After the defeat of the bill in 1890 Chester County's Congressman, Smedley Darlington, was quoted in the Local of February 21, 1890 as observing, "To pay a big sum for the old headquarters would be putting an elephant on the hands of the Government. It would cost $25,000 a year to keep it up. Still, the idea is a patriotic one," he also observed, "and I like to see such in the people.")

When a similar measure was introduced in the state legislature it too met opposition, the Harrisburg Morning Telegraph, for example, pointing out "that if it was wise and patriotic to perpetuate the memory of the Valley Forge of the Revolution, as none will question, it ought to be done by the United States and not by a State. It was a nation's battle ground,"it contended, "and the nation ought to preserve it."

In early 1890, however, new impetus was given to the project when it was learned that negotiations were underway for the sale of the so-called Carter tract, on the south side of Gulph Road a few hundred yards from Washington's headquarters, to a brewery that was planning to establish "an immense plant for the manufacture of beer" there.

The reaction was immediate, and widespread, as shown by items from various newspapers that were reprinted in the Local. "It is related elsewhere," it was noted in the New York Herald, for example, "that the historic tract of land known as Valley Forge is in danger of being sold as the site of a brewery or distillery. We don't profess to have overmuch reverence, but that spot has so many sacred associations that it should be bought by the Government and preserved to time immemorial as a park." Similarly, in the Philadelphia Inquirer it was observed, "Even if there were no Revolutionary entrenchments which it was desirable should be preserved, the Government would not be amiss in acquiring title to the most famous spot in the country. It will be more than a year before the Pennsylvania Legislature can step in to save the encampment grounds from the brewers; besides it is more fitting that the property should be cared for by the [federal] Government." An item reprinted from the Washington Post added, "The proposed desecration of Washington's camping ground very naturally calls forth a strong protest from the temperance people ...[but the] preservation of Valley Forge can be placed on much broader grounds than our temperance friends have outlined." Or, as the Local itself commented, "No effort should be spared to secure Valley Forge from the molestations of trade. It is one of the most historic spots in our whole land, and if the faintest spark of patriotism is still burning amongst us the nation should rise and protest against its desecration."

Although the suggested action by the State Legislature or the Congress did not immediately materialize, the outcry did stay the sale of the property to the brewery. More than a year and a half later, on November 3, 1891, it was reported in the Local,

"'We are [still] very anxious to sell,' said Mr. Carter, the husband of the owner of Valley Forge yesterday, 'and the price we ask is not an exhorbitant one. We own a hundred and ninety acres, and I have fixed $60,000 as the amount. ... I don't think that is asking too much.

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Some time ago I had an offer from a distillery for the place, and could have received more money for it, but when the fact was made public that whisky was going to be manufactured on the spot where our Revolutionary sires starved and froze and suffered, a howl went up all over the country and I received bushels of letters from patriotic people and patriotic societies, protesting against such desecration. The protests didnot take practical shape, however, and we have been holding the property ever since in hope that something would be done.

'"I would prefer to see the old camp grounds preserved, and would rather sell to one of the numerous patriotic societies that have a national interest in keeping these historic spots in as nearly their primitive state as possible. Still, we are determined to sell. ...A New York concern wants it to put a big business hotel and a Philadelphia syndicate wants it to cut up into building lots. ...'"

(It was at this time that the Daughters of the American Revolution were mentioned as a possible purchaser of the property, as noted earlier. Although Mrs. Harrison was unable to join them, "a distinguished party of ladies" of the organization later that month "made the trip from Washington ... as guests of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company ... [traveling in] a special train consisting of a locomotive and the Pullman car,'Geraldine'". Following their visit it was reported in the Local that "it was strongly indicated" that at the next session of the Congress an appropriation would be made "for carrying out the object referred to". But, as we have alreay noted, it did not happen.)

Finally, in early 1893 Francis Brooke, a representative in the State Legislature from Philadelphia, introduced a bill to make Valley Forge a state park.

His proposal was immediately endorsed "by the public press of the city and state, and by the arguments of influential citizens". On February 8th the Local reprinted this item from the Philadelphia Inquirer:

"The legislative bill making an appropriation of $30,000 for the acquisition by the State of 250 acres of land, comprising the campgrounds of General Washington's army at Valley Forge has been drawn with unusual care, and, as proper, protects both the interests of the present owners of the property and of the State. . . .

"Already a number of organizations and individuals have signified their approval of this eminently proper measure. It has been endorsed by ex-Governor Beaver, General Hartranft, Senators Quay and Cameron, and such representative organizations as the Commercial Exchange and Produce Exchange, of Philadelphia, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Society of Cincinnati, the Netherlands Society, of Philadelphia have adopted resolutions in favor of the bill. It is expected at the first opportunity the Union League, the Loyal Legion, the Grand Army, the Society of the War of 1812, the Carpenters' Company, the Philadelphia Board of Trade, the Colonial Dames, the Hibernian Society and similar patriotic or business organizations will take similar action.

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"In order that the undoubted wish of the people of the State, that the Valley Forge camp grounds shall be preserved, may be made plain it is desirable that the counties outside of Philadelphia interest themselves in the matter and that organizations and individuals communicate to their representatives in the State Senate and House of Representatives their approval of the plan. ..."

By March 15th it was reported in the Local, "It is stated that every assurance has been given that the appropriation asked for the Valley Forge Revolutionary Buildings will be granted and [that] the property will then pass into the hands of the State forever." In May the bill was passed in both branches of the State Legislature, and on May 30,1893 it was signed into law by Governor Robert E. Pattison. (Commenting on the date that the bill became law, an item from the New York Press, reprinted in the Local, noted, "Instead of shouldering a fish pole and turning his back on the Union veterans on Memorial Day, Governor Pattison, of Pennsylvania, seized the occasion to sign the bill which provides for the purchase and preservation of the Valley Forge grounds. The patriotic character of the bill and day imparts a particular gracefulness to the act.")

The Act contained five sections.

The first section provided for the purchase of up to 250 acres of the site "on which the Continental Army under General George Washington was encamped in winter quarters at Valley Forge" during the winter of 1777-1778, "including Forts Washington and Huntingdon [sic], and the entrenchments adjacent thereto, and the adjoining grounds ... but not including the property known as Washington's headquarters[,] ... to be laid out, preserved, and maintained, forever, as a public place or park by the name of Valley Forge, so that the same and the fortifications thereon may be maintained as nearly as possible in their original condition as a military camp" for the enjoyment of the people of Pennsylvania. (The exclusion of Washington's headquarters, it was explained in the Coatesville Weekly Times, was because "it was not necessary to purchase the latter part, as it is already devoted to suitable purposes and is controlled by a board of lady regents who take great pride in keeping [it] in good repairs and preserving it as near as possible in its original state.")

The second section of the Act provided that "ten citizens of the state be appointed by the Governor for the term of five years, who are hereby constituted commissioners of said park".

In the third section provision was made for payment to the owners of the ground included in the park "by the State of Pennsylvania according to the value which shall be ascertained by a jury of disinterested freeholders to be appointed by the court of quarter sessions of the county in which said ground lie, upon petition of said commissioners", with further provision that under certain circumstances the owner could be the petitioner. It was also provided that the commissioners and land owners could negotiate and agree to a price, subject to its approval and confirmation by the court of quarter sessions.

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An amount of $25,000 was appropriated for the purchase of land, for making the forts and entrenchments accessible to the public, and for "the necessary expenses incidental thereto".

In Section 4 the Commissioners were directed, after having secured the ground, to "adopt plans for the improvement, preservation, and maintenance thereof", and given the power "to carry the same into execution" within the limits of the appropriation made by the Legislature.

And finally, in the last section, it was provided that the park could "at any time or times thereafter be used as a camping ground for the National Guard of Pennsylvania".

William Wayne, a direct descendant of General Anthony Wayne and the owner of Waynesborough in Easttown, and also the president of the Order of Cincinnati, was one of the ten commissioners named by Governor Pattison. The others were Francis Brooke, Joel J. Bailey, John Cadwallader, Frederick W. Stone, and Charles Custis Harrison, all of Philadelphia; I. Heston Todd, of Port Kennedy; Samuel Hartranft, of Fort Washington; Daniel W. Howard, of West Chester; and Henry A. Muhlenberg, of Reading.

Their first order of business, after organization, was to make a survey of the ground and determine the boundaries of the park. In July William P. Houpt, a graduate from West Point, was appointed to do the survey work and to plat the grounds. (His work was facilitated, it was noted in the Local, by the fact that "the wheat crop is out of the way and the corn is not [yet] big enough to interfere".) The work was completed by August; in the Local of August 23d it was reported, "The survey of Valley Forge has been completed, and the engineers in charge will make their report to the Valley Forge Park Commission in a few days. Five hundred acres have been surveyed, and half this number will be required by the state, from twenty property owners." A total of 217.582 acres was finally approved by the Commission, 211.669 acres in Montgomery County and 5.913 acres in Chester County.

The first land purchase was a tract of a little more than an acre and a third, bought from Edwin Moore at a negotiated price of $105. The price was approved by the court, and the deed for the property was recorded in Norristown on December 23, 1893.

For the balance of the land, however, the Commissioners reported in their first report on December 6, 1894, they were unable to negotiate and agree on a price "because the prices asked were in excess of the values that were fixed on them by those, who in the opinion of the Commissioners, were competent to estimate their value". Accordingly, in mid-December of 1893 Henry Freedley, Esq., counsel for the Commission, presented petitions to both the Chester County and Montgomery Count courts of quarter sessions, asking the appointment of jurors to assess the damages to the property owners. The reports of the juries were received on March 27, 1894 and October 12, 1894, respectively, with the almost six acres in Chester County valued at $1000, or $169.12 an acre, and the land in Montgomery County, including the Moore tract, at $28,578, or $135.01 an acre.

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The total of $29,578 obviously exceeded the original appropriation of $25,000 by the Legislature, and the Commission estimated that after incidental expenses and interest were also considered an additional appropriation of $10,000 would be needed. On July 8, 1895 the Legislature passed a bill for an additional appropriation in this amount.

Over the years, as the Legislature from time to time approved increases in the size of the park the acreage included in Valley Forge State Park increased ten-fold, from the original 217.582 acres of 1893 to a total of 2253.289 acres.

By 1976 the park lands also included 68 buildings; four major monuments, including the equestrian statue of General Anthony Wayne authorized by the Legislature in 1905 and dedicated on June 20, 1908; two other statues and 35 minor memorials, tablets, or markers; 28 reconstructed huts; five major earthen works and five redans; three miles of entrenchments; an observation tower; one major limekiln and two earthen limekilns; six miles of historic roads, and two bridges.

Originally set up in 1893 as "an independent commonwealth agency", thirty years later, in June 1923, the Valley Forge Park Commission was made a part of the Department of Forests and Waters for fiscal purposes. In another reorganization in December 1970 it became a part of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, with increased emphasis on research and education and interpretive programs.



On July 4, 1976 President Gerald R. Ford flew into Valley Forge by helicopter for a special ceremony to sign into law a bill "to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to establish Valley Forge National Historical Park", in effect making Valley Forge State Park a national park, although the official transfer wes not final until November 1982.

Just as in the early 1890s the possibility that a brewery or distillery might impinge on these historic grounds, so in the early 1970s there was concern that developments in the vicinity of the park and other proposals would do harm to the park's integrity.

The principal development causing concern was, of course, the proposed development of the 865-acre Chesterbrook Farm property by the Fox Companies. In September of 1971 the proposed construction on the tract of some 4300 dwelling units, including townhouses, garden apartments, and single family detached homes, with a potential population of 10,000 persons, was announced under the "unified plan development" that had been recently approved by the Tredyffrin Township Supervisors.

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Even though the property was completely separated from Valley Forge Park by the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the proposal was opposed by the Park Commission on the basis that it would increase vehicular traffic "in and around" the park; that it would increase the hazard and likelihood of flooding along Valley Creek; that the construction of the proposed sewer lines would disrupt park operations; and that the increase in the population would similarly increase the need and demand for additional recreational areas in the park. It was also pointed out that three historic buildings, the quarters during the encampment of Generals Bradford and Lee, General DuPortail, and Captain John Davis, were located on the property. (Despite the concern of the Commission, however, the Museum and Historical Commission did not recommend acquisition of the property by the State, and bills authorizing its purchase, introduced in the State Senate by Senator John Stauffer and in the House of Representatives by Representative Samuel Morris, were not passed.)

A second threat, and one involving the park more directly, was a proposal by the Veterans Administration in early 1975 to take over 500 acres of the park for a national cemetery for veterans from Pennsylvania and four neighboring states. It too was opposed by the Park Commission, which, unsuccessfully, even sought to prevent test diggings for the project. (The chairman of the Commission, Annamarie Malloy, of Paoli, predicted, it was reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer on June 8th, that if the proposal were approved "in 50 years this will be Valley Forge National Cemetery, not [Valley Forge] State Park".)

There was also continuing dissatisfaction by the Park Commission over the adequacy of the appropriations authorized by the State Legislature for the maintenance and improvement of the park. Mrs. Malloy later observed, "It is sad but true that Valley Forge has been permitted to lie fallow, and yet the very name swells within us pride of nationality. ... [P]rojects which will provide the experiences for future growth are nonexistent. Activities which will add to the enjoyment and understanding of Valley Forge are underdeveloped. ..."

Once again there was a movement to make Valley Forge a national park.

In early 1975 Congressman Dick Schulze introduced three identical bills in the House of Representatives in Washington to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to establish Valley Forge National Historical Park: the first was introduced on January 28th; the second, with 16 co-sponsors, all from Pennsylvania, on March 26th; and the third, with 19 co-sponsors 'from other states, on June 17th. In the Senate an identical bill, appropriately numbered S. 1776, was introduced by Senator Hugh Scott on May 20th. (To pave the way, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a bill, strongly backed by Representative Peter Vroon of Tredyffrin and Representative Morris, authorizing the transfer of Valley Forge State Park to the federal government for "recreational and historic purposes only, specifically excluding use as a National Cemetery". On July 30th it was signed by Governor Milton Shapp.)

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In addition to the authorization to establish a Valley Forge National Historical Park "to preserve and commemorate for the people of the United States the area associated with the heroic suffering, hardship and determination and resolve of General George Washington's Continental Army during the winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge", the bills introduced by Congressman Schulze and Senator Scott provided for a park "not to exceed three thousand five hundred acres consisting of the existing Valley Forge State Park together with such additional lands" as the Secretary of the Interior deemed "necessary for the proper interpretation, protection and administration" of the park. The bills also authorized the appropriation of "such sums as may be necessary" to carry out these provisions.

At the committee hearings on the bill the Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Nathaniel Reed, pointed out that in authorizing 3500 acres for the park it was obviously "the intent of the bills that the park include Chesterbrook", adding that "Acquisition of this property ... would cost $22,000,000". "Because the Pennsylvania Turnpike effectively separates Chesterbrook from the core area of Valley Forge," he continued, "it is difficult to perceive it [Chesterbrook] as an integral part of the park . . . [and] its price tag is simply too high for the benefit its purchase would return."

(In fact, during the hearings the Department of the Interior expressed considerable reservation about taking over full responsibility for Valley Forge as a national park, with or without the Chesterbrook property. "In responding to this legislative proposal," it pointed out, "it was our initial view that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should be encouraged to continue its long administration of Valley Forge. ... The state of Pennsylvania is to be commended for its efforts in the preservation of Valley Forge.")

Nonetheless, after lengthy committee hearings, in both the Senate, on April 28, 1975, and the House of Representatives, on May 8th, the bills were reported out favorably, but with amendments, specifically excluding Chesterbrook from the area designated for the park and limiting the amount of the authorized appropriation to "not more than $8,662,000 [the estimated costs of purchaing ten specific properties, including the Keene property, land on the east side of Mount Misery, and Stirling's Quarters] for the acquisition of lands and interest in lands", with an additional $500,000 for "the establishment of essential public facilities". (It was also provided that any property owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or any political subdivisions thereof would not be donated to the federal government for the national park prior to October 1, 1976.)

The bill passed in the House of Representatives on June 8, 1976, and in the Senate three days later. As noted earlier, it was signed by President Ford at Valley Forge on July 4th and became Public Law 94-933.

On March 30, 1977 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania entered into an interim agreement and lease "for the purpose of providing for the administration, operation, preservation and interpretation of Valley Forge Park by the National Park Service until such time as clear title to all lands within the boundary of said park is transferred by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the United States Government". Five and a half years later, on November 30, 1982, the official transfer of the last parcels of land took place.

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And thus Valley Forge, established as Valley Forge State Park 100 years ago this year on May 30, 1893, became Valley Forge National Historical Park.



Chester County Historical Society : Miscellaneous newspaper clippings from its newspaper clipping file

Chester County Law Library

Congressional office of Congressman Dick Schulze

Stager, H. J. : History of the Centennial and Memorial Association of Valley Forge, 1911

Unrau, Harlan D. : Administrative History, Valley Forge National Historical Park. U. S. Department of the Interior, n.d.

Valley Forge Park Commission : Biennial Reports

A special "thank you" is extended to Joan Dutcher, of the Valley Forge National Historical Park, for supplying a copy of Mr. Unrau's voluminous and most helpful administrative history of the park, and to Phyliss Ewing, also of the Valley Forge National Historical Park, for filling gaps in our collection of the biennial reports of the State Park Commission.


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