Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives

Source: July 1994 Volume 32 Number 3, Pages 85–97

The Joseph W. Thomas & Sons Nursery

Herb Fry

Page 85

The Joseph W. Thomas & Sons Nursery, also known as Chester Valley Nursery, came into being about the year 1853, on a 100 acre tract of land in the Chester Valley between Valley Road [now Old Eagle School Road] and County Line Road, at the easternmost limits of Tredyffrin Township. The last chapter of the story of this 140-year old institution will have been written before the end of this year.

The nursery which started there in the early 1850s provided fruit and ornamental trees, vines, plants and other growing things which decorated the lawns and grounds of many homes and institutions in our local neighborhood and as far away as the mid-west and Canada. It is not unreasonable to speculate that some of the plantings which beautified the grounds of the new Devon Inn in 1882 came from the Chester Valley Nursery.

Earlier the property was the Thomas family farm, known as Maple Farm. The Thomas family established itself in Tredyffrin when Charles Thomas bought from John Bell a farm consisting of 103 acres and seven perches of land, a messuage (house), and related structures. It lay at the eastern boundary of Tredyffrin, at the foot of the north slope of the South Valley hill. The land, which had been owned by Henry Zook as early as 1797, later had been deeded to his son David, the father of Civil War General Samuel K. Zook, and then had come into the hands of John Bell when it had been sold by the sheriff following litigation among Zook family members.

Charles Thomas was a sixth generation direct lineal descendant of Evan Thomas, of Pembrokeshire, one of the original Welsh Quaker purchasers of land in the Haverford area of the Welsh Tract.

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According to George P Donehoo, "On May 10 and 11, 1682, Lewis David ... by deeds of lease and release, conveyed [to Evan Thomas] 250 acres in the Welsh tract (near Radnor) which constituted a part of the 3000 acres purchased by him from William Penn." Evan Thomas apparently died at about the time the Welsh settlers arrived in Pennsylvania; history has recorded the marriage of his widow, Mary Thomas, on November 1, 1687, in the house of John Bevan, also an early settler in Haverford, to William Howell. The descendants of Evan Thomas found their way into Philadelphia county [now eastern Montgomery County], and it was at Horsham Friends Meeting that, several generations later, Charles Thomas wed Ruth Kirk on November 26, 1823.

The farm in Tredyffrin was deeded to Charles Thomas on March 22, 1828, just in time to prepare for the new planting season. He and his wife must have resided in Tredyffrin for some time prior to that, however, as Donehoo identifies the Chester Valley as the birthplace of their eldest son, Elwood, in 1826. In time five more children were born: Rebecca, in 1829; Joseph, in 1831; William, in 1834 (he died the same year); Charles, in 1837; and Sarah, in 1840.

Valley Friends Meeting stood a little over a mile to the north on Valley Road. The Thomas family would be counted important members of Valley Meeting over the years. When the new meeting house was built in 1871, both Elwood and Joseph Thomas, the two older sons of Charles Thomas, were members of a committee appointed "to procure a site and erect a meeting house and suitable improvements thereon".

An interesting document in the archives of Chester County is an 1848 petition of residents of the Chester Valley, addressed to the Senate and the House of Representatives of Pennsylvania, deploring an act passed at the previous session of the legislature to make a state road from West Chester to Phoenixville. Among the many exceptions presented, the petitioners argued "The route designated ... will not make as good a road as the present one, while the distance will be shortened very inconsiderably, if any, which is not considered a satisfactory reason for laying out of State roads." The petition was signed by 34 persons, among them Charles Thomas and Thomas U. Walker, his neighbor to the north.

Agriculture as practiced on the farms of the Chester Valley of Tredyffrin during the early 19th century was largely of a subsistence nature, with only an occasional bumper harvest providing an excess of produce for sale or barter. J. Smith Futhey has commented that the "farmers [in the early 1800s], and later, seldom went to market more than once a year, with some pork, poultry, butter, eggs, etc. In the early days, the trip ... was [often] made by [the] women, on horseback with butter pails suspended at the horse's sides". With the coming of improved roads, the railroad, and better marketing facilities, however, commerce between the country and the city diversified and increased greatly. Soon farmers rose early to drive their wagons to the city, loaded with produce for the weekly market day, or to have it transported to the city on the "market cars" of the train.

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A trend towards specialization in agriculture also became apparent, and the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and ornamental trees led to the establishment of commercial horticulture. For many years fruit growing was by far the most important phase of Pennsylvania horticulture, largely because of its use in making beverages.

Stevenson Whitcomb Fletcher dates the start of the era of horticulture as about the mid-nineteenth century. He states, "The first nursery in the Philadelphia area devoted eclusively to the production of ornamental trees and shrubs was established near Morrisville, Bucks County, by Mahlon Moon in 1849." Futhey notes the names of four early Chester County nursery ventures; two of them apparently did not endure, and the other two -- Paschal Morris in West Chester, c. 1849, and Josiah and Abner Hoopes and George B. Thomas, also in West Chester, c. 1853 -- appear to have been directed toward growing flowers under glass.

Evidence of the change taking place on the farms can be seen in the formation of the Tredyffrin Agricultural Society on January 3, 1853, for the purpose of the advancement of agriculture and horticulture. (A Chester County Horticultural Society had been incorporated five years earlier, in 1848.) The Society's resources were used to establish a library of books on farming subjects. It met at its hall in Centreville periodically to hear speakers on farm-related topics.

Even as the good citizens met at Centreville, a development was underway which would forever change the face of the countryside in the valley: the Chester Valley Railroad was under construction, and would be opened to public travel -- and to carry freight -- on September 12, 1853.

Joseph Williams Thomas, the second son of Charles Thomas, chose this time to begin his Chester Valley Nursery. The date "about 1853", is given in an old catalogue listing nursery stock, and some say it ranks among the four oldest nurseries in the state. Family tradition as to its beginnings relate the story that Joseph came home from market in Philadelphia one day with some silver maple seedlings. Asking what may have been intended as a rhetorical question about what to do with them, he received an answer -- "Start a nursery". His father, the story goes, alloted him one acre of the farm for a start.

Joseph Thomas and Mary Phillips Williamson were married on December 3, 1857. She came from a family in Newtown Square; four earlier generations of Williamsons are buried at Newtown Square Friends Meeting. (Elizabeth, a sister of Mary, had married Casper Garrett in 1853. Garrett, later, in 1865 bought the old Crosley woolen mill on Darby creek, below the Easttown township line; he erected a paper mill on the site and the Garrett family became active in the wholesale paper business in Philadelphia and Upper Darby. Casper Garrett was to be a life-long friend of his brother-in-law Joseph Thomas,)

The newlyweds returned to Maple Farm and took up life there. Joseph's mother Ruth had died the year before, and his father Charles was approaching 64 years of age. (His father married again, in 1861, to Mary Stephens, and died in 1875 at the age of 80.) Since his older brother Elwood had married seven years earlier and had his own place nearby in Upper Merion township, Joseph would have to carry an increasing burden of the work.

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At the same time, the Civil War was about to disrupt the lives of many. Family tradition records that Jacob Dannaker, a hired hand at the farm, was paid to substitute for Joseph Thomas in the Civil War. (The conscription law had a provision that allowed a drafted man to hire a substitute to take his place.) It is also recorded that during Dannaker's service he was wounded, and that later he returned to work at the farm again.

Through the tumultuous Civil War years and later a family of five children was born to Joseph and Mary Thomas: Edwin W., in 1859; Ruth Kirk, in 1863; Charles Lincoln, in 1867; Caroline Williams, in 1871; and Sara Phillips, in 1872. The boys would join their father in the nursery business when they came of age, and the company name would change from Joseph W. Thomas & Co. to Joseph W. Thomas & Sons.

The nursery was noted for a variety of black walnut discovered growing on the nursery land by Joseph Thomas some time before 1884. An advertising piece put out by the Northern Nut Growers Association of Ontario, Canada in 1884 describes the Thomas black walnut: "Note the smooth, clean pockets that hold the kernels. The absence of hooks and grooves makes easy the extraction of the meat," Joseph Thomas was a member of the Walnut Council in America in the early 1890s, and the Thomas walnut is still propagated for its ease in shelling.

The nursery did considerable business, using the Maple station on the Chester Valley Railroad to ship and receive boxes of seedlings. (The station at County Line Road was named by the Railroad for the name of the farm.) On market day, produce from the farm was taken to Philadelphia by train. Joseph Thomas would attend to business at the market, and then would walk out the Lancaster Pike selling fruit at various inns along the way. Later, his son Charles Lincoln would use the Chester Valley Railroad to attend Friends Central School in Philadelphia; his cousin had married David Wilson, a director of the railroad, and so convenient service was maintained for his use.

The farm house standing just west of County Line Road, into which the family had moved in 1828, was torn down after 1845 and rebuilt on the same site. (A date stone in the structure reads "C & R Thomas, 1848".) Still later, in 1876, it was remodeled and a wing added, with bay windows on both floors at the west gable end. A well and a hand pump supplied the water, but when it became polluted water from a spring in the woods above Pugh Road was piped down, to a large barrel located in the second floor hall of the house. Stored there, it was then used in the house, with an overflow going across the road to the barn.

Further overflow went on to the ice pond. In the winter, the ice was harvested and stored in the ice house, layered with straw for insulation. It was then put into the "cave", or root cellar, for use on the farm during the spring and early summer, well into July. In later years, peonies cut early and put in the cave were perfectly arrayed for the Devon Horse Show.

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During the time the nursery was maturing a dairy farm was also operated, with the barn directly across from the house. The old farm road that ran between the house and the barn was one which came from Martin's dam, where there earlier had been a grist mill, then an iron mine. It passed by Martin's house, over the hill to the west, and down diagonally to meet the dirt road which ran north from Pugh Road between the two structures.

The Tredyffrin Association, a so-called "horse company" organized to protect its members from horse thievery, existed in the Chester Valley from 1848 to about 1900. It met quarterly at Kendall's hotel in New Centreville; when it published a booklet containing a revised constitution and by-laws in 1870 it also listed the names of its members. At that time, Joseph W. Thomas was the vice-president of the organization, and J. Leedom Worrell, his brother-in-law, was secretary. The name of Elwood Thomas was also listed as a member. By about 1886 there were 18 horses housed in the Thomas barn.

The Witmer maps of Chester County, published in 1874, identify the Thomas property as "Joseph W. Thomas & Co., proprietors of the Chester Valley Nursery, Farmers and Dairymen, Kinq of Prussia P. O.". (This was before the two sons joined the business.) Over the years the emphasis on the farm changed from dairy to cash crops, to meat slaughter, to fruit growing, to poultry, but always, well into the 20th century, it was a "working farm" teamed with the nursery, a perfect blend of agriculture and horticulture.

In 1888 the Pennsylvania Railroad began construction of its Trenton Cut-off to bypass freight trains around Philadelphia. The line diverged from the New York-Philadelphia line at Morrisville, just west of the Delaware River at Trenton, passed well north and west of Philadelphia, and came into the main line again at Glen Loch, west of Paoli. With this line, the busy tracks and yards in the neighborhood of Philadelphia were relieved of all the freight traffic between New York and the west, with the route for such traffic shortened by seven miles and with lower grades than the main line. The new line bisected the Thomas farm, leaving 71+ acres, including the house, barn, and other buildings south of the railroad, with 28 acres to the north of the tracks. Work crews camped along the right-of-way, and local people were fearful of being mugqed and robbed. Joseph Thomas meticulously preserved a chronology of this development on a typed sheet of advertising note paper tucked under the blotter on his desk:

"1889 - Started construction Glen Loch to Morrisville - 45 miles
1891 - Single track opened Morrisville to Earnest - 31-1/2 miles
1892 - January 11; completed and hooked in to main line at Glen Loch
1893 - Double-tracked entire line"

Today the road has been reduced to just one track, and is little used.

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In 1893, the year of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Joseph Thomas, his wife Mary, and his daughter Caroline traveled to the west coast and returned through Chicago to see the Fair. There was an extensive correspondence between the travelers and those at home, and many of these letters from the spring and early summer of 1893 have been preserved. They provide a unique picture of life on the farm at that time. (The terms of address "thee" and "thy" were still in use.)

During their absence, for example, Ed celebrated his 34th birthday and thanked the writers for their letters; "I have no doubt received three letters which otherwise would have not been written." At the farm, he reported, they had "... picked about 140 boxes of strawberries ... and a good many cherries, too." Oxhart cherries brought $.15 a pound in Wayne.

Sarah attended the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in Race Street and wrote a lengthy report of the proceedings to her sister. She also wrote about the farm: "Charlie comes in and says they have the corn planted ... the garden is looking nice ... we have a little sorrel colt with four white feet and white face ... it does not look much like Kate."

(Speaking of letter writing, in one Ruth wrote, "I have often noticed that some things are so much more duties for girls than for boys; might get some 'womens rights' people to tell me why it is; I feel as if Ihad nearly all the rights and privileges, that I have time to look after." That the depression (the Panic of 1893) was placing stress on the country's banking system is also evident when Ruth comments further, "A check has come to thee ... with Uncle Will as authority, we have signed it ... & Ed will deposit it in the morning. Mr. Watson, Pres. of a Phila. bank, was Uncle Will's authority. He thinks he would hold no checks in the present financial condition.")

Joseph and Mary's younger son, Charles Lincoln Thomas, married Amy Chambers Thompson on May 25, 1898 at the bride's home in New Garden Township, near Kennett Square. A description of the setting for the ceremony has been preserved in the pages of the Daily Local News: "The woods offered its choicest blossoms for the marriage bower, and boughs of dogwood and locust, with a background of ferns, framed the lovely group. Above the heads of the party swung ropes of smilax vine and garlands of Blanche Ferry sweet peas. From the center of the festoons hung a sphere of fragrant sweet peas over the bride and groom. A profusion of myrtle entwined the railing about the stairway, and the upper chambers were prettily decorated with flowers and blossoms." A listing of the guests, numbering about one hundred, was included in the newspaper report.

In that same year their older son, Edwin Thomas, built "Eithercoe" [#856 Pugh Road today] at the head of County Line Road, the boundary between Chester and Montgomery counties. (Its name reflected the fact that it straddled the county line, hence "Either Co.".) Constructed of imposing grey granite on a hillside bare of trees, it looked down over the valley, with the nursery house readily in view. Edwin, together with his parents and sister Sarah, moved into the new home.

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With the parents and siblings out of the nursery house, Charles and Amy Thomas moved into it to start their own family. In the ensuing years four offspring joined them: Charles Edwin, born in 1899; Raymond Moore, born in 1903; Martha Moore, born in 1909; and Joseph Williams, born in 1912.

The family patriarch and founder of the nursery, Joseph W. Thomas, died suddenly on September 19, 1904, just two days before his 73d birthday. He had devoted his entire life to the nursery and, following the death of his brother Elwood Thomas in 1888 had taken his two sons, Edwin and Charles Lincoln, into partnership with him, with the name of the firm changed to Joseph W.. Thomas & Sons. The Daily Local News said of him, "[He] was a man greatly esteemed and respected in the community ... a kind father and faithful husband, a good neighbor, upright and conscientious in business and his [death] is cause for regret to all who knew him." His widow Mary died in 1909.

Edwin W. Thomas was in his late-40s when he married, after his father's death. He married twice, in fact -- his first wife, Martha Tyson Amoss, died in 1927 and he later married Mary Virginia Muse. He had no children. Although he suffered from a hearing impairment and was deaf, he was a director of the Wayne Title & Trust Company. (The bank gave him a handsome grandfather clock as a wedding gift.)

The land he owned north of the Trenton Cut-off and the Chester Valley Railroad, once owned by his Uncle Elwood, was rented to the nursery. (Although the original Thomas farm was 103+ acres, through subsequent purchases and rentals the area under family control in time reached 200 acres. A brother-in-law, Frederic J. Smith, also owned adjoining land and had an interest in the nurser for a time after the death of Joseph Thomas.)

Edwin's cousin Leidy Worrell worked as his secretary, and lived at Eithercoe while she worked for the company. She was followed as secretary by Virginia Francis in about 1937.

The orchards were producing well, and fruit was in demand. Land was also rented up the South Valley Hill, now the General Washington Road area, for additional orchards. They produced cherries, peaches, pears and apples.

Wagons of fruit would be taken to the inns, to be canned for use in the winter months. (The Lancaster Pike was a toll road then.)

Budding all those fruit trees, pruning, picking, sorting, and delivering the fruit took many hands. (Even Charles' youngest son Joseph was outfitted with an oil cloth apron so he could help sort peaches.) Three houses were built on Pugh Road to provide housing for workers who helped with the picking and other nursery work.

The work day started at 7 a.m. with the ringing of the bell on top of the packing shed. Charles Thomas rang it again at noon, for lunch, and then at one o'clock to start work again and at 6 p.m. to end the day's work. He supervised the workers on horseback, and much of the ploughing and other major tasks were done with horses.

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The workers often walked to work; some came from as far away as Norristown, a distance of five miles, adding to the length of their work day. Others, who lived in Malvern, took the train and walked to and from Strafford.

Although much of the work was done by horses, threshing was done, after the wheat was cut and brought into the barn, by a steam engine running a pulley on machinery on the barn floor. The work was labor intensive, and always meant extra men to be fed at the farm table.

Slaughtering lambs was also a way by which Charles Lincoln Thomas helped pay the bills. It is said that he taught Billy Walker how to butcher!

Charles Edwin and Raymond Thomas, Charles and Amy's two older sons, went to the New Centreville school, also known as Fairview school, on Swedesford Road, and then to George School in Bucks County. After he graduated, Charles Edwin, the older of the two, married Ann Elizabeth Saurman on March 4, 1922. For a time they lived and farmed at "Farmfields", an estate situated north of Pugh Road and west of Old Eagle School Road, across from the nursery, but after the English house was built on the southwest corner of Pugh and Warner roads they moved into it. Unfortunately, his wife of but four years died in 1926. Not long afterwards, sometime before 1929, he joined his father and uncle and worked at the nursery.

Raymond also graduated from George School, in 1921, from Haverford College in 1925, and from Harvard University, where he earned a master's degree in landscape architecture, in 1928. He married Lydia Eliza Hollingsworth, a native of Maryland, at the Race Street Meeting House in Philadelphia on June 2, 1928. The three small Sears Roebuck houses, originally built on Thomas land on Swedesford Road to house nursery workers, were moved to the east side of Old Eagle School Road, south of the Trenton Cut-off, sometime around 1927; Raymond and Lydia Thomas moved into the largest one and raised their family: Anne Hollingsworth, born in 1929, and Amy Moore, born in 1932. In 1947 they moved up to Eithercoe when Mary Muse Thomas, Edwin's widow, took an apartment in Wayne. 

Raymond Thomas' first job was working for a landscape architect, Sears, in Philadelphia. In 1931, with a Mr. Huber, he designed and built the stone house on Pugh Road known as "Robin Hill" [now #790 Pugh Road] for his brother Charles, who married Lida Larrimore Turner, his second wife, on February 27th of that year. (A studio was included over the garage, where "Larry" could do her writing. Her novels were published by Macrae Smith Publishing Company under the name Lida Larrimore.) Their marriage was blessed with two daughters: Lida Larrimore, born in 1932, and Nancy Lee, born in 1938.

Charles Lincoln Thomas died in 1932. At this time Raymond Thomas joined his uncle Edwin and brother Charles at the nursery. It was the depths of the Depression, and business was at a standstill. Over the years little had been done in the way of advertising, and it was suggested that advertising sign boards might be helpful. Two large signs, displaying the Thomas name, were put up, one at Pugh and Old Eagle School roads and the other at Swedesford and Old Eagle School roads. They stood there for many years.

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A few years later, in 1937, the first caterpillar tractor appeared at the nursery. At that time there were only three cows and three horses in the barn.

Charles Lincoln Thomas' widow Amy continued to live at the nursery house until her death in 1967, at age 93. To earn "pin money" she grew asparagus and kept chickens. She was also a member of a neighborhood sewing group. Her only daughter, Martha, returned to the nursery house to live with her mother in 1947. She too had graduated from George School, and then attended Hood College. In 1938 she had married Henry Spangler Rich Jr., of Marietta, Pa., but he died in 1946. She continued to live at the nursery house for the rest of her life, and in 1977 married a second time, to Dr. J. Clifford Scott. She had no children by either marriage.

In 1940 Edwin Thomas died, and the nursery work was now left to his two nephews, Charles and Raymond. The manpower drain during the Second World War put them at a disadvantage. During this period Raymond and his wife Lydia raised turkeys and sold honey to supplement the income from the nursery business. (Their younger brother Joseph had gone to George School and then on to Penn State to earn a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture in 1935. In 1941 he married Sue Vogel Duncan in New York City. Shortly afterwards he did alternative service in a World War II civilian public service camp. After the war, he continued in the field of landscape architecture and worked for thirty-one years with a New York engineering firm. They lived in Upper Montclair, N. J., where they raised their two daughters: Sue Vogel, born in 1945, and Katherine Duncan, born in 1948.)

Following the war, agriculture in this area was definitely on the wane, but the nursery work continued. By about 1954, though, besides the two Thomas brothers, only two others were employed. Later the farming activities were discontinued altogether, and the business became a wholesale nursery only, selling to landscape companies, garden centers, and rewholesalers. Thomas' Nursery continued to maintain its memberships in both the American Association of Nurserymen and the Pennsylvania Nurserymen's Association, and several years later Raymond Thomas was given recognition as a long-time member by the Pennsylvania Association.

Lida Larrimore Thomas passed away in 1960, and Charles Thomas married for a third time, to Doris  Saurman Musgrave, his first wife's younger sister.

When Charles Thomas died in 1974, his brother Raymond carried on alone. He bought out his brother's share of the business from the estate, but the years were taking their toll. In the years following his brother's death he faced the perplexing problem faced by many others who had followed agricultural or horticultural pursuits that require large tracts of land -- what ultimately to do with it. The land was owned in common by the heirs of Charles Lincoln Thomas, and Raymond was simply buying time by just hanging on to his lease. No viable alternatives were to be found. At age 86, in mid-1990 Raymond Thomas officially closed the nursery and in October of 1990 the Thomas Nursery lands were put under an agreement of sale with Bentley Developers of West Chester.

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A years and a half later Raymond Thomas died, followed by his sister Martha within a year. Only their younger brother Joseph survives, and he will oversee the dismantling of the enterprise started by his grandfather, whose name he bears,

Bentley Developers will build 78 single family dwellings on the property. Construction at the development, called Treyburn, commenced in July of 1993. Many of the old trees and plants, including 70-year old beech trees lining the back lane, which were planted by Charles Lincoln Thomas and his son Raymond in about 1924, and the sycamore with a 46-inch diameter, will be preserved.

The 62- by 84-foot nursery barn, built in 1905 and rebuilt after a fire ten years later, had to come down, however. (An Amish family, the Fishers of Rawlinsville in Lancaster County, dismantled the 88-year old structure; the process began in February 1993 and was completed by April. They then salvaged the sound timbers and boards for use in the construction of a new dairy barn in Lancaster county.) It was during the dismantling of the barn that a four-page handwritten history of the Thomas family, written by Sarah Phillips Thomas in 1905, was found under the barn's date stone.

(Customer demand for the new houses, incidentally, has been exceptional. Several would-be buyers spent the night of October 22, 1993 camping in a sample house, and 15 were lined up waiting when the sales office opened at noon the next day. The occasion was the opening of a new phase of Treyburn, with the buyers trying to get the best building lots.)

The fine old nursery house built in 1848 and remodeled in 1876 was the scene of an estate auction on April 16, 1994. Martha Thomas Scott, the daughter of Charles Lincoln Thomas, had been its most recent resident, until her death last year. The house will be renovated and become one of the homes in the new development, thereby linking the past with the future.

Record books of the nursery, dating back into the 19th century, have been given to the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester. And so, by year end, the nursery conceived by Joseph Williams Thomas back in 1853 and operated by three generations of the Thomas family will be consigned to history.


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A History of her Family

written on the 24th day of June 1905 by Sara Phillips Thomas

The stone of which this barn is built came out of the old barn which stood a few feet S.E. of the present site and was torn down to build the new one.

The exact date of the erection of the old barn was not known, but when Charles Thomas purchased the place from the Zook's prior to 1829 the barn was two separate buildings and the said Charles Thomas moved the frame part, making it part of the stone barn. There was one date of 1776 carved on one side of the stable doors but nothing authentic is known about it. The columns which supported the old strawhouse were left remaining to use as a pergola. Charles Thomas moved from Byberry to this place and all his children except Elwood were born here and Joseph lived on Maple Farm until June 4th, 1898 when he removed to Eithercoe nearby, his son Charles having married May 25th 1898 and brought his wife to reside at the Thomas homestead which was the birthplace of Gen. Samuel Zook who lost his life in the Civil War 1861-65 and whose body lay in state at his later residence on the Port Kennedy road which in 1905 is the property of Joseph Poulterer.

Charles Edwin Thomas is the fourth generation bearing the name of Charles who have lived in this place.

The house which was on the property when Charles Thomas came to it was torn down and a new one built on the same site in 1845 which was greatly remodeled in 1876 by Joseph Thomas who successfully conducted the nursery business from 1854 to the time of his death Sept. 19th 1904. When his sons Edwin and Charles were ready to go into business they were taken into the firm, and after his death his son-in-law Frederic J. Smith became a partner.

For thirty years the doors of this hospitable mansion were swung wide open to entertain the Friends of Philada. Quarterly Meeting which was held at the Valley Meeting House in August from the time of its erection in 1872 until 1902 when the Valley Friends asked that the place of meeting should be in Philada. as formerly there being but two families left that entertained Friends. The guests for the day frequently numbered about one hundred and those of the preceding night who attended Select Meeting more than filled the spacious house and among the number who were accustomed to coming were Lucretia Mott, Caleb and Annie Clothier, Deborah Wharton, Lydia Price, Margaretta Walton, George Truman, Elizabeth Cooper, Samuel Ash, Samuel Levick, and upon one occasion John William Graham of Manchester England.

Joseph Thomas was three times drafted to go to the Civil War, the first time paying $600 to be excused, the second time sending a man as substitute whom he paid $1000 and the last time being excused, the draft being recalled. All the children of Joseph and Mary Thomas were born at the homestead and two daughters Ruth K. and Caroline W. were married from there June 12th 1894 and Oct. 7th 1897 respectively.

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Austin, Gene, "Home Builders Enjoy Boom" in Philadelphia Inquirer, January 4, 1994

Burgess, George H. and Kenndey, Miles, Centennial History of the Pennsylvania Railroad, 1846-1946. Philadelphia: The Pennsylvania Railroad Company 1949

Chester County Archives, Deed Records. West Chester, Pa.

Chester County Historical Society, Newspaper clipping file, manuscript records, letter collection. West Chester, Pa.

Fletcher, Stevenson Whitcomb, Pennsylvania Agriculture and Country Life, 1840-1940. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1955

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

Moore, Anne H. T., Interviews. November 3, 1993 and April 20, 1994 [Mrs. Moore is the great, great granddaughter of Charles Thomas, who purchased land in Tredyffrin township in 1828]

Peace, William, "Dismantling History and Transporting It -- Amish Style" in the Suburban and Wayne Times, March 18, 1993

Tredyffrin Easttown History Club, Quarterlies, [various issues]


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