Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives

Source: October 1993 Volume 31 Number 4, Pages 127–148

They Built Berwyn

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During the last quarter of the nineteenth century Berwyn emerged from the small hamlet of Reeseville, with a population of about 200 and four businesses (three general stores and a miller) and one church, to the bustling village of Berwyn, full of "business animation", with a population of 550 or more, some thirty business establishments, four churches, and two schools.

Here are some of the many people who played an important part in this transition. One of them was a doctor, and his wife, a druggist. Three of them were storekeepers or merchants. One of them was a banker; another, a land conveyancer. One of them was a builder; one, a writer and jornalist; and one, a school teacher. Each of them complemented the other to contribute to provide the various services essential to meet the needs of the population of an emerging village.

Each of them was also involved in the various civic and cultural activities that were also important in the transformation of the village.

In alphabetical order, here are thumbnail sketches of nine people who helped build Berwyn, presented by eight of our club members.

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James Aiken, M. D.

Elizabeth K. Weaver

James Aiken, a successful physician in Berwyn, was a lineal descendant of the old Aiken family of Scotland. His grandfather, John Aiken, was born and raised in Scotland, moved to Ireland, and in 1832 migrated to East Whiteland township in Chester County. John Aiken's son, Thomas Aiken, had six children.

James Aiken was the youngest of the six, born on February 21, 1848 in East Whiteland township. He attended the Howellville School and, later, John W. Lock's Academy in Norristown, before reading medicine with Dr. Jacob Rickabaugh, who lived on the property directly to the east of the Great Valley Presbyterian Church. James Aiken then entered the School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1868 at the age of 20, the youngest ever to graduate from the medical school up to that time.

In 1881 he married Clara Alexander, from North Coventry Township, who had been teaching in the Presbyterian School across from the Great Valley Presbyterian Church. At the time the Aikens were attending the Wayne Presbyterian Church, though they later transferred to the Trinity Church in Berwyn. (James Aiken's brother, the Rev. Thomas J. Aiken, was the pastor of the Berwyn Church from 1869 to 1873, and again from 1885 to 1901.) Both James and Clara Aiken sang in the church choir.

Dr. James Aiken enjoyed a fine practice in Berwyn, and in addition, with his wife, gave attention to a well-stocked drug store he had established there, and also to the Bell Telephone exchange. He was also active in Berwyn Fire Company, the Howellville School Association, and several masonic lodges.

Dr. Aiken was also vitally interested in the Easttown School Board, and was responsible for more than one teacher choosing that profession. (Some of you may have known Carrie Kerr: he visited her home one day and said to her, "Daughter, would you like to be a school teacher?", thus kindling the spark that led her to teach for 40 years in the district.)

He never pushed himself forward, being very reserved; but rich or poor, black or white, all knew they could come to him for advice or help.

The Aikens had seven children, five of whom died in their youth. The two who survived are familiar to many still today: Dr. Thomas G. Aiken and his sister, Daisy Aiken Van Tries. (When the new young minister, William Potter Van Tries, came to Berwyn in 1908, someone asked the doctor what he thought of him, to which Dr. Aiken replied, "Oh, he'll be all right when he gets some of the conceit out of him." Little did he dream that the new minister would become his son-in-law, of whom later on he would become very fond.)

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The Aiken family lived in the J. Edward Stump house on Knox Avenue. The house stood near the corner of Knox and Lancaster avenues, with the frame drug store standing on the corner. Both of these buildings were later moved back from the highway, and in 1889 the brick building that is now on the corner was built. The moving of the house stirred up a lot of interest in the village; not only because it was the first building in the vicinity to be so moved but also because Mrs. Aiken and her mother were in the house at the time! In 1910 a pharmacist, Dr. Frank Walker, his wife Agnes, also a pharmacist, and their family came to live in the brick house -- and thus it became "home" to one of the members of our club, Merle Walker Lee. (Dr. Thomas Aiken lived in the next building to the west on Lancaster Avenue. It was built in 1909, but is no longer standing today.)

From the time of his graduation in 1868 until his retirement in 1919, Dr. James Aiken took only two vacations. When a man drops out of harness, he often goes down very quickly. The Aikens were visiting the Van Tries family in Parkesburg not long afterward when the doctor was stricken; he died on June 11, 1920. Clara Aiken died on February 6, 1923. Both of them are buried in the Great Valley Presbyterian churchyard.


William H. Burns

Betty Ripka

In the era of the budding development of the community called Reesville (or Reeseville by some historians), changed on October 24, 1877 to Berwyn, William Henry Burns was born on November 5, 1856. He was the first child of four boys and four girls in the family of Peter and Ellen Jane [Dyson] Burns, Jr. (The name was originally Burn, but an "s" was added in his great-grandfather's generation.)

William H. Burns' great-great-grandfather, also named William, came to America from County Wicklow in Ireland around 1740. He became a farmer. By 1764 he owned 139 acres of land, four horses, seven cattle, seven sheep, and had hired one manservant. He died November 10, 1791 and is buried in old St. David's cemetery in Radnor. Other ancestors came from Scotland.

William H.'s father, Peter Burns Jr., was a respected stone mason and contractor, specializing in bridge building for the county. He did well financially, even though economic conditions were not good in the Brandy-wine section of Chester County just before the Civil War. He and his son William H. also had an active role in building the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Berwyn, Peter Burns serving as a trustee despite the fact that he never joined the church. (This was a practice also followed by other residents of the community, helping to build and operate the church even though they were not members.) Politically, Peter Burns Jr. was a staunch Republican.

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William H. Burns attended the public schools of Easttown township. At 18 years of age he became an apprentice carpenter, with William H. Webster as his mentor. After three years of training, he left and started his own business. His early work was the building of single, Victorian-type, houses in the area, many of which are still standing.

On July 20, 1881 he married Ximenia M. Wells, known as Minnie, of Berwyn. (Her uncle was Thomas J. Aiken, pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church.) She was an excellent musician, a singer and organist, and an artist. William was also talented in music and played the piccolo, with his brothers Joseph and John, in the Berwyn Brass Band. (The Burns1 children, two girls and five boys, inherited their parent's musical abilities: most of them were active in their church choirs, and Helen, their youngest daughter, was an organist at the Berwyn Theater on Cassatt Avenue as the accompanist for the silent films.) Among Berwyn's cultural assets was the Berwyn Lyceum, which arranged programs at the Old Hall in Berwyn, and the Burns and Wells families were frequent performers.

This was a time of population growth. In 1850 the population of Easttown Township, as reported in the Census of that year, was 710; in 1860 it was 728, but by 1890 it was 1682. Similarly, the population of Tredyffrin grew from 1727 in 1850 and 1938 in 1860 to 2549 in 1890.

As William H. Burns' reputation grew and the population expanded, his work increased from just houses to include large public buildings. He was the builder of several of the Easttown schools, the new Trinity Presbyterian Church, the Berwyn Bank, and sixteen railroad stations, among other public buildings, as well as the mansions on new estates. An outstanding example of his work was the old Tredyffrin-Easttown High School, the first joint high school in Pennsylvania, in 1908. The red brick structure, designed by D. Boyd Knickerbocker, had the appearance of Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia, with four classrooms, a laboratory, and two offices on the first floor, and on the second floor an auditorium. (In the late 1970s the building was torn down during renovation of the adjacent junior high school, now an intermediate school.)

A part of the W. H. Burns business was the Berwyn Planing Mill, which he started in the back yard of his first home in Berwyn. As work increased, he moved to a location north of the Berwyn railroad station, where Mack Oil is now located. The mill prepared the lumber he used for his business -- all kinds of mill work and builder's materials, including window frames and sash, blinds, stairs, and moldings. The building, 30' by 40' and two stories high, contained the most modern machinery then available, a 16-horse power boiler and a 12-horse power steam engine as well as other milling equipment. The operation was considered "second to none", according to the 1891 Annual Business Review of_ Chester County. Between the contract work and the mill, he employed 45 men, with a weekly payroll of $600.

He was also one of 57 members of the Berwyn Odd Fellows Chapter.

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Just two weeks before his 54th birthday, on October 22, 1910 he died. His brief obituary stated that the funeral services were "at his residence, Kromer Avenue, on Tuesday, October 25, at 7:30 p.m." He is buried in the Great Valley Presbyterian Church cemetery.

In the Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Chester County it is stated that William H. Burns was a self-made man with "a relish for hard and persistent labor ... [and a] genius for overcoming obstacles and making circumstances the obedient servant of [his] will. His contemporaries attributed his success to system, energy, and the ability "to read . . . future effects of present cuases in the business world".

As a Berwyn builder, his contributions were twofold -- in buildinq the community physically with homes and public buildings, and, with his wife, in adding to its spiritual and cultural growth.


Isaac A. Cleaver

Bob Goshorn

He was Berwyn's first postmaster. Appointed as postmaster in 1868 by President Andrew Johnson, he was the postmaster when Reeseville became Berwyn, and continued as the postmaster until 1884.

He was a school director for more than 25 years, many of them as secretary of the school board, and served as president of the School Directors Association of Chester County.

He was a deacon of the Baptist Church of the Great Valley, and superintendent of its Sunday School.

He was a captain of the Easttown Republican Club.

He was a director and vice-president of the Berwyn National Bank, and the treasurer of the Berwyn Building & Loan Association. In fact, the first meeting, called on June 5, 1888, to discuss the establishment of a bank in Berwyn was held at his home.

He was president of the Village Improvement Association.

He was the vice-president of the Berwyn Lyceum, and a frequent contributor at its meetings with essays on various subjects.

He was prominent in the affairs of the G.A.R., serving as president of the 97th Regiment Association, and in the Masonic Order.

In short, as was observed in a memorial after his death, he was "a leader in everything leading to the upbuilding of the community" of Berwyn.

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Isaac Abraham Cleaver was born on May 12, 1843 in Radnor Township. Both his father and grandfather were blacksmiths, though his father later "left the anvil to follow the plow" after buying his father-in-law's farm. (An early flag stop on the railroad near the property, near what is now Wayne, was known as Cleaver's Landing.) His father and grandfather were both also quite active in the affairs of the Baptist Church: his father, Hiram Cleaver, was a deacon of the Baptist Church of the Great Valley, as well as a justice of the peace and a two-term representative of the area in the Pennsylvania Legislature; and his grandfather and his wife spent two years as Baptist missionaries among the Cherokee Indians in Tennessee.

After receiving a public school education, at the age of 18 he enlisted in the Paoli Guards (Company G) of the 97th Penna. Volunteers. He was later promoted to the rank of sergeant, and was wounded at the Battle of Bermuda Hundred in Virginia on nay 20, 1864. On September 17th of that year, at the expiration of his three-year enlistment, he was mustered out of the service.

The following January he was married to the former Mary E. Kauffman. He then engaged in farming on the family farm for three years, before "embarking in the mecantile business".

His first store was "an old store stand" in Reeseville, but he soon outgrew its facilities. In 1870 he built a larger store and residence on the Turnpike, at the eastern end of the village. The new store was known briefly as the "Pinafore", and Cleaver, its proprietor, was referred to in the press as "the Admiral". From the early 1880s on, however, the store was called the "Beehive".

In July 1874 his wife Mary died; of their five children only two, Eugene and Jane, lived to adulthood. Two years later, on February 17, 1876, he married Lizzie Groff, and they had four children.

In the spring of 1879 a number of improvements were made to the store, including "a row of substantial sheds for his customers to drive under with their teams while visiting the place". According to the Local in April of that year, the new emporium was "admitted to be as handsome as any in the state".

The "Beehive" supplied the inhabitants of the growing town of Berwyn with many of their material needs. Its inventory included general merchandise, grocery products, flour, vegetables, fruit, fish, dry goods and notions, horse blankets, clothing, boots and shoes, drugs and medicines, coal oil, plants, glass, hardware, cigars and chewing tobacco, farm and garden tools, wheel barrows, plows and harrows, garden and flower seeds, and even pianos, organs, and sewing machines. (In June he also opened "an ice cream, fruit and confectionary saloon in the meeting room of the public hall" to augment the offerings of his store.)

By 1888 it was again necessary to enlarge the store. At that time the old store was simply "bodily moved" to the rear lot, adjacent to Berwyn Avenue, and converted into a dwelling for school teachers and clerks in the store, and a new building, 44' by 60', was erected on the Lancaster Turnpike for the store.

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(One Sunday, while its construction was underway, a fire broke out on the premises. Learning of the blaze, Cleaver hurriedly left the church service he was attending, and, it was reported in the Local, the pastor, "learning the cause of the commotion in Mr. Cleaver's pew informed the congregation of the cause, and, telling them they could do much better service by helping to save a brother's property when in danger, the congregation soon emptied the church and were swarming around Mr. Cleaver's large store warehouse and residence two blocks away". Despite their assistance, about half the store's contents were destroyed, but the Beehive was nevertheless open for business again the following Wednesday.)

The store was described in the Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Chester County "carefully revised and edited" by Winfield Scott Garner in 1893, as being "supplied with all modern improvements", with a stock that "embraces a greater diversity of lines and more complete assortments than are ordinarily found in general stores ... systematically arranged in different departments, and twelve polite clerks are employed to see that the wants of the public are promptly and courteously attended".

It was also noted that "he "sought but reasonable profits on legitimate transactions" and that he enjoyed "an extensive and highly remunerative patronage".

Unfortunately, the business did not continue to prosper. It has been suggested that perhaps Cleaver's many and diverse community activities may have interfered with his business, that it may have been in part due to competition from newer stores, or that his liberal credit policies were at fault. (It was reported by Franklin Burns that "credit was easy with all" at the Beehive and that he had "about $36,000 in uncollectable accounts on his books".)

Whatever the cause, as a result, in 1896 the business was sold for $500 at a sheriff's sale.

The Cleavers then moved from the village to whose development he had contributed so much to a house at 125 Argyle Avenue in Ardmore, and he became a buyer of farm produce for the Acme Tea Company of Philadelphia, working not only on a salary but also earning a small commission on the butter he purchased for the chain. From this income, Burns also noted, he was eventually able to pay back all his creditors in full, including the indebtednesses that had been legally cancelled or written off -- his ultimate ambition after the failure of his store.

Isaac A. Cleaver died at the age of 66 on May 10, 1909. With "appropriate and impressive ceremonies" he was interred in the cemetery of the Baptist Church of the Great Valley. "His life was spent in doing good."

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Hannah Epright

Bob Goshorn

The contributions made by Hannah Epright to the building of Berwyn are reflected in the resolutions adopted by the Easttown Board of School Directors in October 1891 on the occasion of her leaving Berwyn to accept the position of principal of the Malvern School.

"Whereas Miss Hannah Epright, who for nearly a quarter of a century, has been associated with the public schools of our township, has seen fit to sever her connection therewith, therefore be it

"Resolved, that after so long an experience with her as a teacher in our District, we most cheerfully bear testimony to her conspicuously successful career, and her recognized ability to impart instruction, and also to her deep interest in the educational work of our Township, County, and State, which has not been measured by the amount of her salary,

"Resolved, that the thanks, and gratitude of the Board be conveyed to Miss Epright for her labors as an educator in our Township, for the history of our public schools by her, and for the many other works she has performed for us without compensation,

"Resolved, that these resolutions be published in the Malvern Item, and Berwyn Herald and that a copy be forwarded by the Sec'y to Miss Epright with our best wishes and the hope, that, in the future as well as in the past, we may still have the benefit of her valuable counsel in our educational work."

Hannah Epright was born on July 23, 1841 at Gulph Mills, the eighth child (of ten) and third daughter (of five) of Samuel and Hannah [Neilley] Epright. Both her parents, incidentally, had been pupils in the first class of the Glassley School in Easttown Township when it opened in 1808. (Her grandfather, James Neilley, was the linen weaver who helped bury the American dead following the so-called Paoli Massacre, and boasted that he had captured four British soldiers who were stealing his chickens when the armies were in this area before the capture of Philadelphia.)

She attended the local common schools and an academy in Chester County for her schooling. At the age of 19 she then began a teaching career of her own at the Ship School in West Whiteland Township, after receiving the first teacher's certificate issued by County Superintendent W. W. Woodruff on June 9, 1860.

In 1875 she came to Easttown to teach at the Ogden School, also known as School No. 1. (The Leopard School was School No. 2 in Easttown, and the Glassley School, School No. 3.) The following year she received her permanent teacher's certificate. In 1883 she became the "school marm" at the Glassley School.

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Her ability as a successful teacher is reflected in the accomplishments of some of her pupils at Glassley. When the Daily Local News, for example, offered a 24-volume library for the best history and map of Chester County, it was won by the pupils of the Glassley School. And in 1887 one of her pupils, Howard Huffington, won an appointment to the U. S. Naval Academy. As noted in the minutes of the Easttown School Board, two students from Glassley were "induced" to enter a "competitive examination, open to all of its [Chester County's] citizens between the age of 14 and 18 years", including pupils of "select" as well as public schools, conducted at the request of Congressman Smedley Darlington to select a candidate for a scholarship to the Academy. In the examination, Huffington finished first, earning the appointment; the other pupil from Glassley, Howard E. Pennell, was third.

Miss Epright was also an early advocate of the graded course of study in the schools of the District. After an examination was held in May of 1888 in each school to determine each student's "grade of scholarship preparatory to entering upon the next term", in the fall the program was given a one-month trial before being adopted that October. She was also one of the first teachers to incorporate the study of civil government into the school curriculum.

When the new Easttown School was opened in Berwyn in 1888 to replace the old Glassley School, Hannah Epright was transferred to the Berwyn School, where she was both a teacher and the principal of the school.

In the following year the District initiated a course in manual training, one of the first rural schools in the county to do so. In the summer of 1890 she and other teachers "during the vacation [period] examined a number of textbooks, by different authors, upon the branches of study" in the schools, and recommended several changes they thought "advisable" and which were subsequently adopted by the Board.

In 1891, as noted earlier, she left the district to become the principal of the Malvern School, where she continued as a teacher and administrator for twelve years, until her death on September 13, 1903.

In addition to her teaching career in public schools for more than forty years, she was active in the Baptist Church in the Great Valley for many years, and for twenty-one years taught a Sunday School class there, as well as being active with the Junior Mission Band and in mission work both at home and abroad.

Her graciousness and continuing consideration for others is also reflected in a letter she wrote in early March of 1902 in answer to an inquiry she had received in a letter two weeks earlier. She explained that the "very bad walking" since she received the inquiry had prevented her from seeing a person she felt could help answer the question but who lived three-quarters of a mile away, adding, "I hope you will pardon what under more favorable circumstances would be a great breach of courtesy".

Hannah Epright was truly one of the people who helped build Berwyn in the last quarter of the 19th century.

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William H. Fritz

Peggy Egertson

William H. Fritz contributed to the building of Berwyn through his lumber business, which provided building supplies for the construction and expansion of homes and businesses, and through his leadership in establishing services that were needed in a growing community.

He was born in Reeseville, later Berwyn, on December 21, 1864, the son of Henry and Mary Lobb Fritz. After attending the public and private schools of the village, he completed his studies in Philadelphia.

In 1885, at the age of 21, he began his career in the coal and lumber company which his father had founded in Reeseville in 1863. (His father had been killed in a tragic accident at the Eagle [Strafford] station when his son William was but six years old, but the business was carried on by William's maternal grandfather and several of his uncles until young William Fritz was ready to take the reins. [See also p. 140].)

Judging from a newspaper advertisement three years later, William Fritz believed in aggressive marketing. He claimed to have "one of the largest and best assorted stocks of lumber along the line of the Pennsylvania Railroad". The advertisement listed various types of boards, flooring, and fencing. It also announced that Fritz was the agent for the Lister Brothers' and Planet Bone Phosphates -- "well worth the money and useful for all crops"; that the firm carried all kinds of feed, with a car of No. 1 Seed Oats expected to arrive soon; that a lot of prime Clover Seed was available "at lowest prices"; that he carried all sizes of the best coal in the market, "2240 pounds to the ton", also cements and plasters, sand, hay, straw, tera cotta pipe, nails and hardware, and mill work; and that the Best brands of roller flour were always on hand. The advertisement ended with a personal note: "Give me a call before you buy elsewhere, and be convinced that my prices are as low, if not lower, than any for the quality of the goods. Thanking you all for your many past favors, and soliciting your future patronage, I am yours truly Wm. H. Fritz, Berwyn, Pa. Telephone No. 2."

In the 1891 Annual Business Review of Chester County it was reported that the company had excellent facilities for receiving goods, with a side track of the Pennsylvania Railroad running directly into the yards. Eight competent sales assistants were employed, it was also noted, and three teams were available for delivery. The establishment included a "commodious" warehouse, and a yard "of good dimension" for coal, lumber, etc.

We have a couple of examples of the prices charged at that time by the Fritz Lumber Company. One shows that coal delivered to the Berwyn Presbyterian Church in the winter of 1891-92 was invoiced at $5.75 per ton, measuring, as previously noted, 2240 pounds to the ton. And on a bill of sale for two bushels of oats, the price totaled $.90.

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William Fritz was described as being energetic and carefully looking after every detail of his growing business which served Berwyn and the surrounding area. He took pride in stocking quality products and pleasing his customers, attributes which contributed to his being described as "a model businessman".

He also took an active interest in all public questions, and kept himself posted on the "march of progress". We have several examples of his community service.

He was instrumental in the establishment of the Berwyn National Bank in 1889, joining other community leaders who subscribed to the initial issue of capital stock. He served as a director of the bank for many years, and was its president from 1929 until his death in 1938.

In 1891 William Fritz was serving as town clerk, and was "highly respected by the citizens generally". The first meeting to discuss forming a fire company was held in the Fritz living room in 1892, and the Berwyn Fire Company was chartered two years later.

William Fritz was also a prominent member of Trinity Presbyterian Church, following the lead of his parents, who were among the early supporters of the church. For many years he was president of the Board of Trustees, and in 1916 he presented the church with a pipe organ, still in use today, in memory of his parents.

He was a Republican, and active and influential in the local councils of the party.

His wife was the former Mabel Thompson, daughter of a Tredyffrin Township farmer who later became a veterinarian in Berwyn. Their home was located where the Main Line-Berwyn Apartments now stand.

The William H. Fritz Lumber Yard is still in business in Berwyn after 130 years, now under William and Mabel Fritz's grandson, William 3rd, and his two sons.


John F. Kauffman

Skip Eichner

John F. Kauffman, a native of Easttown Township, was an intelligent and respected member of the community.

He was born on January 7, 1831. His paternal great-grandfather was one of three brothers who emigrated to America from Germany in the latter part of the 18th century, settling in East Whiteland Township. His grandfather, also named John, was a miller in East Whiteland, but later moved to Easttown Township and became a farmer.

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His father, Henry Kauffman, was born on October 26, 1805,in a,house near what was then Reeseville, and died in the same house on April 24, 1864, at the age of 58. He was a cooper for many years, making and repairing barrels and casks, and also nail kegs, but at the age of 39 he gave up coopering to become a full-time farmer. The farm was located on the west side of Darby-Paoli Road, between Grubbs Mill Road and Waynesborough Road, and contained 128 acres. His wife, the former Sarah Campbell, outlived him by 23 years, dying at the age of 87 in 1887. They had seven children, all but one of whom lived to majority: one died in infancy at the age of one, two lived into their late 30s, one died at the age of 56, and the other three lived into their late 60s, one to 70. Three of the children attended Lewisburg University, now Bucknell University.

One of these three children was John F. Kauffman. After attending local elementary common schools he enrolled in a special course at Lewisburg, but left school to work on the farm with his father. In 1857, at the age of 26, he then left the farm to take up real estate conveyancing, drawing up documents for the transfer of property from one person to another, and surveying, professions in which he engaged for the rest of his life.

The previous year he had married Hannah Evans; they had one daughter, Rena. In 1869 his wife died, and seven years later he married again, at the age of 45, to Mary Beaumont, who was 21 years old. (This may be an indication of his intelligence: at the aqe of 45 he was also lookinq for someone to take care of him as he approached his later years!) They had three children, Frank, who died in infancy, Bessie, and Henry Alan.

There were two interruptions in his business career. The first occurred when he left Reeseville briefly to mine for gold, but apparently without too much success, in Colorado after gold had been discovered there. The second was during the Civil War, when he enlisted and served for six weeks as a private in the militia to defend the state in 1863 during the emergency following the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania and the Battle of Gettysburg.

In addition to his conveyancing business, Kauffman was also a justice of the peace for many years, and in the 1880 census his occupation was shown as "clerk in lumber yard".

In the late 1870s he also organized a "singing school" in the village each winter, and was accordingly known as "Professor" Kauffman. When the Lyceum was held in the Berwyn Hall in 1879 "Professor" Kauffman always led the singing. He was also involved with a six-piece string orchestra that included two violins, a cello, two cornets, and a piccolo.

Although he was not a lawyer, as a conveyancer he was very knowledgeable about real estate law. As the conveyancer for the Berwyn Building & Loan Association when it was formed in 1887, he obviously was deeply involved in drawing up many of the deeds and documents of the growing villaqe in the late 1880s and early 1890s.

In the early 1880s, as a surveyor, he also laid out the town of Devon for Coffin and Altemus.

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For his wife and himself he bought a lot on the west side of Church Avenue [now Main Avenue], adjacent to the future site of the Berwyn Hall and Library Association, and in May of 1887 he bought several buildings and lots on a tract west of Central Avenue, with the properties listed in his wife Mary's name only.

He continued in the real estate business until as late as 1894, at which time he was also listed as a notary public. Four years later, on July 26, 1898, he died, at the age of 67. A staunch Republican and an active member of the Baptist Church of the Great Valley, he led a full and productive life.

His wife Mary survived him by more than 50 years. She lived in Tredyffrin Township near where Howellville Road comes into Old Lancaster Road, south of the present Tredyffrin-Easttown Intermediate School, but died in the home of a granddaughter in Wayne on November 16, 1948, at the age of 93.


Preston W. Lobb

Herb Fry

One of the leaders of the Berwyn community in the last quarter of the 19th century was Preston W. Lobb. (An indication of his standing is the inclusion of an illustration of his new home in Berwyn in the Futhey and Cope History of Chester County, Pennsylvania published in 1881. His fine mansion "Montebello", which stood at Berwyn and Woodside avenues, is one of seven residences in Easttown pictured, and one of two in the village of Berwyn, the other being that of Isaac A. Cleaver.)

The Lobb family emigrated from Scotland to America in the latter part of the 18th century, and five Lobbs, all brothers, served in the Revolution. Some of them settled in what is now Delaware County, amonq them Preston Lobb's grandfather, Asher Lobb, a Quaker. He acquired real estate at Clifton, on Darby Creek, on which he erected a cotton factory in 1826; it was a stone building, four stories high, with a capacity to spin 3300 pounds of cotton thread a week. Its operation was leased to a Charles Kelly, who, following the death of Asher Lobb in 1842, purchased it from Lobb's estate.

In that same year William C. Lobb, a son of Asher Lobb and the father of Preston Lobb, purchased a 100-acre farm in Easttown Township, located on both sides of the Eagle Road [now Sugartown Road] and stretching north to the Carter farm. [It is today the site of Melgram Farm on Sugartown Road and is one of the last remaining tracts of open space in the township.] Eleven years earlier, on September 11, 1831, he had married Elizabeth G. Levis, of a prominent Delaware County family, and had started a family and served as a teacher for a time in Upper Darby before moving to Easttown.

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Preston W. Lobb was born on March 1, 1844 in Darby Township in Delaware County. He was the fourth born of eleven children, and was educated in the public schools of Easttown. Some of his schooling no doubt was in the Leopard School, which opened around 1854.

At the young age of 17 he enlisted, on August 9, 1861, for service in the Civil War. He was a private with the Ayres1 Battery (Battery F) of the Fifth United States Artillery. (During the Civil War the artillery was a special branch and held attraction for a recruit: generally artillerymen got to ride in wagons and avoided the long marches that infantrymen made, and they were not assigned to arduous and dangerous picket duty.) Nonetheless, Lobb saw action in some of the fiercest fighting of the war: at Ball's Bluff; in the Peninsula campaign; at Antietam; and at Gettysburg. In all, he participated in seventeen general engagements, and was honorably discharged at Petersburg, Virginia on August 9, 1864, one of only five of the original company of 295 men who had not been killed or wounded at some time during the war.

When Preston Lobb returned home to Reeseville he took up the trade of a machinist as an apprentice in Philadelphia. In the meantime, his sister Mary had married Henry Fritz in 1863. Fritz had started a lumber, feed and coal business on the Lancaster Turnpike, assisted, some say, by his wife's father. Following the war her brother Clayton joined Fritz in the venture, and in 1869 Preston Lobb also started working in Fritz's lumber business. Unfortunately, as noted earlier, Henry Fritz was fatally injured in a tragic accident which occurred at the Eagle railroad station on October 28, 1870. He died two days later, leaving a widow and two infant sons. The lumber business was then leased by Mary Lobb Fritz to her brothers, who commenced business on April 1, 1871 as "C. A. Lobb and Brother", though it really was Clayton Lobb's business. On April 1, 1875 Preston Lobb joined in a partnership venture with his brother, but one year later the firm dissolved in acrimony and litigation, and the brothers were estranged.

Clayton Lobb then purchased property on the Lancaster Turnpike to the east, in the village of Spread Eagle, and established his residence and a lumber business there, while Preston Lobb remained in Berwyn and took up the lease at the Fritz location. Evidence of the close family ties he held with his sister Mary is the fact that he roomed in the Fritz household at about this time. He successfully operated the lumber yard from 1876 to 1886, when William H. Fritz, the eldest son of Henry and Mary Fritz, became of age and took over the business.

Just before the split with his brother, Preston Lobb married Priscilla L. Barton, on February 22, 1876. She was the daughter of Alfred and Ruth Barton, of Philadelphia. (Her father, a newspaper correspondent, had been killed at the Battle of Antietam, and although Preston Lobb fought in that battle it is not known whether or not he was acquainted with his future father-in-law at that time.) In December of 1876 Preston Lobb bought from John McLeod the lot on which he constructed "Montebello", which the newlyweds occupied shortly thereafter.

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Their joy was quickly tempered by sorrow, however, when their first child, Howard Barton Lobb, died that same year. They later had five more children: Carrie, Arthur, Ole, Corinne, and Morris.

As the lumber business prospered, Preston Lobb took an increasingly active part in the civic, cultural and religious life of the village. Although not a member of the church, from 1874 to 1880 he served on the Board of Trustees of the village church, Trinity Presbyterian. (It was not unusual at that time for village leaders to serve as church trustees. The other church board, the Session, had charge of doctrinal matters, and it was limited to church members.)

He was also prominently associated with the formation of the Berwyn Building and Loan Association in 1877 and the Berwyn Hall and Library Association in 1878, and a member of the board of directors of both organizations. He also made occasional presentations at the Berwyn Lyceum which met in the new hall during its 1879 season. Later, in 1888, with the formation of the Berwyn National Bank, he was a subscriber to its capital stock, served on the board of directors, and as secretary to the board. He also served in various township offices, most notably as auditor, a position he filled for many years. He was a 32d degree Mason, a member of the Berwyn Fire Company, and a member of the Berwyn Social Club.

Although not a speculator in real estate, in 1879 he purchased from Enos and Mary Lewis three lots on the west side of Waterloo Avenue, opposite John Kauffman's home. Eight years later he sold them to Dr. R. B. Okie.

It would appear that Preston Lobb stayed at the lumber yard for a few years after 1886 to guide young William Fritz. It has been written that receipts dated May 4, 1886 and December 30, 1887, headed "Lumber, Coal, Plaster, Cement, Feed, Etc., Wm. H. Fritz and P. W. Lobb, Reeseville, Pa.", exist, though by that time Reeseville had been known as Berwyn for almost ten years. In any event, on June 3, 1892 Mary Lobb Fritz Steen (she had remarried to Hugh J. Steen on June 6, 1877) sold the lumber yard and real estate outright to her son.

While the exact date when he left the lumber business of William Fritz is not known, in the spring of 1892 he purchased P. J. Trego's plumbing, stove, tinware and roofing business, located at the corner of Lancaster and Waterloo avenues [where more recently Alleva's Coffee Shop was located for many years]. By the last decade of the century Berwyn had developed to the point where public water and indoor plumbing were now a necessity, and Lobb built up an extensive and profitable trade.

The corner property was leased from Trego, but the second floor space over the shop soon became known as Lobb' s Hall. It was here, on September 30, 1896, that the meeting to organize a new Baptist Church was held. Two weeks later 52 members withdrew from the Great Valley Baptist Church and voted to form the First Baptist Church of Berwyn. Among the charter members were Preston and Priscilla Lobb and their oldest daughter, Carrie.

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Preston Lobb served as a trustee of the new church during the organizational period, and his name appears, along with the other trustees, on the August 8, 1903 deed vesting ownership of the church property at Berwyn and Waterloo avenues in the church corporation.

He did not live to see the new church building dedicated the next year, however. On November 25, 1903, the day before Thanksgiving Day, he passed away. Despite the split in the church, he was buried in the churchyard at the Baptist Church in the Great Valley. A memorial window in the new church in Berwyn is dedicated in his name.

At the regular meeting of the Berwyn Fire Company on January 6, 1904 the following resolution was, adopted:

"Whereas, God, in His all-wise providence, has seen fit to remove from our midst our esteemed fellow member, Preston W. Lobb,

"Resolved, That in his death the Company lost a faithful member, the members a sterling companion, the community a good citizen, and the family a loving husband and kind father,

"Resolved, That we extend to the family our tenderest sympathy and earnest wishes for their welfare,

"Resolved, that these resolutions be spread upon the records of the Company and published in the daily papers,

"Resolved, That the fire house be draped in mourning for a period of ninety days.

"Henry O. Garber, Samuel C. Davis, Harry G. Hill, Committee."


Joseph W. Sharp

Frank Moorshead

One of the more prominent families in Berwyn during the period of its greatest growth was the Sharp family: Joseph W. Sharp, Joseph W. Sharp Jr. and Joseph W. Sharp III. In fact, in the obituary for Joseph W. Sharp Sr. in the Local it was noted that he was "active in all public interests" in the neighborhood of Berwyn and was "regarded in many ways as the father of that town".

He was perhaps best known for his part in the founding of the Berwyn National Bank.

Joseph W. Sharp was born in Philadelphia in 1828, the son of an English immigrant, and was a well-known business man in the city. For many years he was the head of Sharp, Haines & Co., now known as HAJOCA, or Haines, Jones & Cadbury. Originally manufacturers of plumbing supplies, the company today is probably one of the leading plumbing supply distributors in the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

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Home of Isaac A. Cleaver

"Hawthorne" : Home of Joseph W. Sharp

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In 1852, at the age of 25, he purchased a farm of several hundred acres, straddling South Leopard Road south of Sugartown Road in Easttown Township. Three years later he erected a large stone residence, in which his great-granddaughter, Mrs. Richard Alcorn, now lives. It took over a year to build "Hawthorne", an illustration of which is also included in the Futhey and Cope History.

For several summers he drove daily from his Easttown home to his business in Philadelphia, but after a few years, according to his obituary, he became the first regular commuter from Berwyn on the Pennsylvania Railroad. (Driving from Berwyn to Philadelphia and back each day must have been quite a task in the late 1850s!)

A distinguished business man, he served as auditor for Easttown Township for many years, and "most efficiently managed the township's finances during the drafting period of the Civil War". He also presented to the township a piece of ground for a public school, on which shortly afterward the Leopard School was built.

Although born a Friend, he married an Episcopalian, Sidney Bunting, and attended Old St. David's of Radnor, serving as its accounting warden for many years.

In the 1880s he realized that the growing village of Berwyn should have its own bank. When it became known that Joseph W. Sharp was interested in the movement to have it founded little time and effort were needed to complete the subscription to its capital stock. The bank opened in 1888, with Sharp as the president; Isaac A. Cleaver, vice president; and J. Comly Hall as the cashier.

He was also one of the originators of the Berwyn Building & Loan Association, and for over ten years its treasurer. When, earlier, the Lyceum was held in Berwyn Hall, he served as president of it.

He died in his home at Hawthorne in 1908, in his 80th year, and is buried at Old St. David's.


Frank H. Stauffer

Barbara Fry

Frank H. Stauffer was a gentleman of means and. a writer of national importance when he moved to Reeseville in 1874. He was forty-two years old at the time, and was working in Philadelphia as literary editor for Saturday Night, a weekly literary journal. He would live the rest of his life here as a leader in the political, economic, religious, and cultural institutions in the emerging village of Berwyn.

He was born in Philadelphia on October 3, 1832, and was a fourth-generation American, his great-grandfather having come from Switzerland at an early age.

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Fortune was good to the Stauffers. Jacob Stauffer, Frank's father, was a man of considerable means and a brilliant scientist, known both here and abroad, and able to publish his discoveries in plant, insect, and fish life, drawing and printing the material himself. When Frank was a boy, the family moved to Mt. Joy, Pennsylvania.

Frank Stauffer's mother, Sarah Birch Stauffer, was from Eastwood in Nottingham, England, and a direct descendant of the Earl of Moreland. She bore three sons, of which Frank was the oldest. She died at an early age in 1843, but her husband lived until 1880, remaining in Mt. Joy.

Frank Stauffer was liberally, but not formally, educated: he would say his university was "the school of daily journalism". At the age of 16 he was nationally recognized for a poem, "To the Stars", and on his 20th birthday he founded the Mt. Joy Herald. Later he held positions on newspapers in Lancaster, Philadelphia, and Woonsocket, Rhode Island. During the Civil War he also served as the assistant federal tax assessor at Lancaster.

His association with Saturday Night began while he was working on the Patriot in Woonsocket. Saturday Night had first been issued in Philadelphia, and one of its features was the serial story. From Rhode Island he sent the magazine some beginning chapters of a tale about a young woman working in a New England mill; at the end of each chapter she was left in frightening circumstances. So popular was this story that the fortunes of Saturday Night rose in meteor-like fashion, and Frank Stauffer was very soon employed full-time for the publication, at a good salary. By 1880 it kept eight presses operating and ten million copies of each issue were distributed to some 7000 dealers.

By this time Frank Stauffer was established as both a serious and popular writer. He contributed to scores of magazines, and he continued writing poetry that was later published, in a well-received volume called Toward Sunset, by Lippincott in 1876.

In 1861 he married Etta Marshall, a grand-niece of Humphrey Marshall, the noted Chester County botanist. When they came to Reeseville thirteen years later they brought with them their son Marshall, their daughter Etta, and Mrs. Stauffer's sister, Maggie Marshall. Family servants included a serving girl and a driver, as the Stauffers kept five horses.

They purchased a small plot on the old Stephen Hunter tract, near but not at the corner of Lancaster and Waterloo avenues. In 1879 they increased the size of their property by buying the land in the back that extended up Waterloo Avenue. (In 1878 they had also bought a lot on Woodside Avenue, across from Preston Lobb.)

Their home was a large wooden structure, at one time used as a store but which had been transformed with a coat of plaster, sanded and sculptured to look like stone, into a dwelling. The grounds were well planted to shelter the building from the Turnpike, and the property was bright and attractive, with a beautiful flower garden. Townspeople soon were accustomed to seeing the writer walking and forming in his mind his next story.

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On coming to Reeseville the family made an immediate effort to transfer their church membership from the Cohocksink Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia to the now eleven-year old Trinity Presbyterian Church of Reeseville, but ran headlong into a growing dissension among the members of the new church. Some of its founding members were distraught over the changes taking place in the church and the community. Two issues had come to the fore: first was that the amount of business being carried on on Sunday was growing rapidly, and second was that the church was being used more and more for secular purposes as there was no other meeting hall in the village.

The request of the Stauffers added fuel to the fire. Thomas Aiken Sr. and Joseph Williams had been ruling elders for ten years, and were two-thirds of the Session. They refused Frank Stauffer and his family membership on the grounds that he had bought milk for his family on Sunday. The elders were then called before the Presbytery of Chester and asked if they had any other reason to refuse the transfer; when they said that they did not, they were ordered to admit the Stauffer family. (At this point, Aiken and Williams took their families to the newly-formed Wayne Presbyterian Church where they were to stay for the next eleven years!)

Stauffer, upon his admission to membership in the Reeseville church, soon was given all its important offices: he was elected a ruling elder; he was voted Clerk of the Session; he was elected superintendent of the Sabbath School; he was voted a member of the Board of Trustees. He would hold all these offices until his death in 1895.

In 1877 Reeseville became Berwyn, and the village began to grow rapidly with new housing badly needed. Recognizing this, 45 businessmen got together to set about chartering the Berwyn Building & Loan Association. Frank Stauffer was one of the top three investors in the enterprise, and accordingly was invited to serve on the Board of Directors and elected president, positions he would hold for the rest of his life.

The problem at the church over secular meetings was still an issue until Frank Stauffer and eleven others resolved it by chartering the Berwyn Hall and Library Association. The building, located next to the church, opened in December 1878. The first floor had a large reading room, with current periodicals and a number of books, and the second floor provided space for meetings. It not only served as a place for lectures and musicals and other meetings, but was also used to organize the new churches that were to be formed in the village. (In 1892 it was supplanted by the larger Odd Fellow Hall.)

One of the first activities in the new Berwyn Hall was the Berwyn Lyceum in the winter months of 1879. Stauffer contributed lectures, monologues, and readings to the endeavor, and often took responsibility for the part of the program called "Answers to Referred Questions", in which a wide variety of odd material was brought forth. Very likely this was the beginning of the book he published in 1882, The Queer, the Quaint, and the Quizzical, subtitled a Cabinet for the Curious.

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The book was for the intellectually adventurous and has been reprinted in this century; it can frequently be found on the library shelves of good colleges even today.

In 1883 Robert Davis, one of the partners at Saturday Night, established the Evening Call, a daily newspaper, in Philadelphia, and Stauffer went to work for it. He also continued to write for other magazines, however, Among the magazines he wrote for that we might still recognize today were Harper's Weekly, The_ Ladies Home Journal, St. Nicholas, and Youth's Companion. His moralistic books for youth had descriptive titles: three were Dark Daryll, Missionary Madge, and Dorian the Scout. His work was also included in the volume Poets and Poetry of Chester County, published in 1890. (His wit was recognized and enjoyed, frank Burns wrote that the "high-brow" types in Berwyn would not admit to reading Frank Stauffer's popular stories -- but were suspected of reading them secretly.)

In 1885, when the pulpit at Trinity became vacant, the church session, under Stauffer, made a remarkable move to reconcile old differences and called back to the pulpit Thomas J. Aiken Jr., who had served as pastor of the church from 1869 to 1873. (The younger Aiken was to remark, "No one was more surprised than I when this happened.") With Aiken again in the pulpit, the Aiken and Williams families also returned to the church.

Rev. Thomas Aiken and Frank Stauffer also became quite a team in the Temperance movement, and in their time were credited with keeping saloons out of the village.

Stauffer's years of commuting to Philadelphia were soon over. He opened a real estate and insurance office in the Turnpike property, and rented the Presbyterian manse for his residence. (Thomas Aiken jr. had built his own home in Berwyn on a part of the Aiken property.)

He had been active as a Republican all his adult life; three times he had been elected a Justice of the Peace in Easttown, but three times he had had to refuse the position. Now that he was centering his work in the village, he finally accepted the post. He was also nominated for Township Auditor in 1894.

On February 15, 1895 he awoke in the manse and went down to the cellar to tend the furnace. Upon coming upstairs, he suffered a heart attack. Dr. James Aiken was summoned from his home nearby, but nothing could be done. Frank Stauffer was dead in fifteen minutes, at the age of 62.

The village had lost one of its kindest and most effective citizens.

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Annual Business Review of Chester County, 1891

Boyd, W. Andrew [comp.]: Boyd's Chester County Business Directory, 1873-74 Pottsville : Robert H. Ramse

Boyd's Chester County Business Directory, 1900-01 Philadelphia : C. F. Howe Co.

Burns, Franklin L.: "A History of Berwyn at the Time of the Centennial" [unpublished manuscript] in Chester County Historical Society

Chester County Archives: Corporation books and deed records; records of Court of Common Pleas [Case #170]

Chester County Historical Society: Newspaper clipping file; manuscript records

Cope, Gilbert and Ashmead, Henry G.: Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of Chester and Delaware Counties, Pennsylvania [2 vols.] New York: Lewis Publishing Co. 1904

Futhey, J. Smith and Cope, Gilbert: History of Chester County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts 1881

Harper, Douglas R.: If Thee Must Fight. West Chester, Pa.: Chester County Historical Society 1990

Johnston, George [ed.]: Poets and Poetry of Chester County, Penna. Philadelphia: J. P. Lippincott & Co. 1890

Scharff, Thomas and Westcott, Thompson: History of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & Co. 1884 [Vol. Ill]

Tredyffrin Easttown History Club: Quarterly [various issues]

Trinity Presbyterian Church, Berwyn: Trustees Book, Vol. I, 1861-1892; Session Minute Book, Vol. II, 1879-1897

Tyson, John H. et. al.: A History of Upper Darby, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Clark Printing House, Inc. 1972

Wiley, Samuel T. and Gardiner, Winfield Scott: Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Chester County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Gresham Publishing Co. 1893


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