Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives

Source: July 1996 Volume 34 Number 3, Pages 85–104

The Neilley Family & Their Log Cabin

Alan Kohn

Page 85

"The ground to the north...sloped rapidly toward a ravine abutting on the Valley, in whose ferny recesses the waters flowing from a dozen springs mingled merrily, and tumbled over numberless tiny cascades on their way to Trout Creek and the Schuylkill. One could almost look into the open door of the gleaming white cottage of James and Mary Neilley, near the head of the ravine..."

This scene from Revolutionary War times was painted by Reverend Alden Quimby in his novel Valley Forge. Just twelve years after the book's publication in 1906, the passing of Mary Neilley-great- granddaughter of James and Mary Neilly of Cockletown brought an end to over 135 years of the Neilly clan living in that "gleaming white cottage" which came to be known as "The Neilley Cabin."

This is the story of the Neilley family, of the home they inhabited and perhaps constructed, and of the lives their members led in Tredyffrin Township from Revolutionary War times into the early days of the current century. It is an account of a family of patriotic and freedom-loving weavers from Ireland who reflected much of what was good about life in, and what brought immigrants to, Chester County in the 1700's.

Page 86

(The many ways of spelling the Neilley family name that appear in this essay are an accurate reflection of the fourteen variations found in my research. For example, there is the March 1795 "Petition of James Neilley for Guardians for (his niece and nephews) Mary, William and Mathew Nielly.")

The Neillys settled in what was then known as Cockletown [Note 1], a tiny hamlet of log homes about a mile north of the Lancaster Road between the 16th and 17th mile posts. In a paper compiled in 1962 for Conrad Wilson's American Heritage class at Conestoga High School, Ralph R. Wright Jr. cites an entry in the Neilley Family Bible stating that a James Neilley, Sr. was born in 1750 in County Antrim. James then came to America in 1768, according to his great-granddaughter and family historian Hannah Epright, and set up a handloom for weaving in 1775.



In order to determine where and when the first Neillys resided in Cockletown, I located Arthur P. Reid's Title search #966, which was recorded in West Chester on May 29, 1907. Reference was made therein to "(A) messuage and tract of land in Tredyffiin Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania containing 4 acres and 84 perches." The first person to hold a deed to this parcel of land was John Robinson. The parcel was part of a 100-acre tract inherited in 1753 by Elizabeth Wayne and her husband Isaac from Elizabeth's father Richard Iddings. The Waynes, whose dwelling stood on what is now the northwest corner of Conestoga and Cassatt Roads, "sold small lots north of Lancaster Road, one of which, containing 4-1/2 acres (was) vested in John Robinson."

John Robinson died in 1775, and an unrecorded deed dated November 24th of that year showed his land coming into the possession of several of his relatives (and possibly business associates.) According to Arthur P. Reid, this group—Isaac Connelly and his wife Rebecca Robinson Connelly of New Providence Township, Samuel Garrigues Jr., a merchant of Philadelphia who owned other land in Tredyffiin, and Richard Robinson, an Innkeeper of Willistown—sold "to James Nealy of the Township of Tredyffiin in the County Chester, Weaver" 4-1/2 acres of land for consideration of 1500 pounds, and subject to yearly quit-rent. Neighboring lots were owned by Daniel Watkins, William Sharps, Bascom Ringer, Isaac Van Leer and Abraham Watters or Walters.

Page 87

Nealy's deed was dated March 14, 1780, but was not recorded in West Chester until October 18, 1815, two years after he had purchased an adjoining acre from John Hampton of Radnor.

In the Last Will and Testament of Richard Iddings dated March 15, 1753, a list of lot holders bordering his property included a James Nealy. Obviously, this James Nealy was not born in 1750! Nowhere is there mention in any tax list of any Nealy living in Tredyffiin at that time [Note 2]. In all likelihood, either someone else was living in James' house (and therefore appearing on the tax list), or that person was for some reason omitted from the tax list [Note 3]. This leads credence to the theory that there were two James Nealys-- an older immigrant already arrived from Ireland, and a younger one whose name is the first to be associated with the log cabin on the State Road.



Now there is the most compelling enigma of all: exactly who built "The Nealy Cabin, and when was it constructed? John Robinson's deed states that a messuage existed in 1775. If the Cabin or any dwelling house did in fact exist on the 4-1/2 acre lot which James Nealy purchased in 1780, the term "messuage" would have been written at the beginning of the description of the property in James' deed of 1780. Upon inspection one finds the term "messuage" mentioned only at the very end of that deed, offering no assurance that the present-day cabin existed there and then. It is possible that Robinson's messuage was torn down prior to Neely's purchase. Or perhaps the cabin stood in Robinson's time, and was not included in Nealy's deed.

The Tredyffrin Township Tax List of 1765-1774 lists a Benjamin Robinson living in a house on 4 acres of land. Could this have been the land sold by the Waynes to John Robinson prior to 1775? Benjamin was listed in the 1768-69 Tredyffrin Tax Records as a weaver. Did his loom sit in the shop in front of what was to become the Nealy Cabin? Perhaps he was a relative of John Robinson, living on the land without owning it. It is likely that John, who owned 160 acres and 2 buildings in Tredyfirin in 1775, would have had no need to live on such a small tract.

Page 88

Other claims for the Cabin's origin have varied widely. An "Historical Map of Easttown and Tredyffrin Townships," drawn in 1948 by Franklin W. Wandless shows "James Neely's Cabin on State Road, 1770." On the front page of the August 2, 1887 edition of The Daily Local News (price: one penny) there appeared an article entitled "Reflections on the Neilly Cabin." Using then-Cabin residents and siblings James and Mary Neilley as sources, the author states that the Cabin

"has been in the possession of the Neilley family for three generations, the first member...James... receiving a deed bearing the date 1781. He had, however, lived in the house quite a number of years previous to this time. The present owner has, together with this deed, one bearing the date 1766, in which reference is made to former owners, dating as far back as 1702, at which time a grant of land of one hundred acres was made by William Perm to Thomas and Cadwallader Jones, by right of their mother. It then changed hands many times, the number of acres gradually diminishing until 1781."

How does one explain that the messuage was not recorded in the 1780 deed, or that a James Nealy lived in the house several years prior to receiving the deed? The "Reflections" piece goes on to say that "The house was (even) then (in 1781) considered very old." For what reason would the Cabin not have been listed in James Nealy's deed?

Franklin Burns, via information obtained from William Doyle in the 1930s, corroborated that a James Nealy "arrived at an earlier date than here recorded (1766), since it appears that he borrowed money from one of the Rees family in 1752, not satisfied of record." This would allow for the theory that an elder James Neilly lived on the land (whether or not in the Cabin) prior to a younger James' arrival and purchase of the four-plus acres.

Grace Doyle Coll, who was born and raised in the Neilley Cabin in the 1920's and 30's, believes her birthplace to be at least 275 years old, which would place its construction on or before 1720.

Perhaps the earliest dating of the Cabin is found in a note on the back of a photograph of the Cabin dated 1917. The note reads "built certainly by 1770 and probably built in the 17th Century by a Welsh immigrant." In accord with this is a rea estate ad in the November 11, 1971 edition of The Suburban and Wayne Times which refers to the Cabin as an "Early American Farmhouse circa 1698...original part constructed of chestnut logs and stone."

Page 89



The 1887 piece "Reflections" mentioned above opened with this descriptive entry:

"Among the old landmarks which lie near the village of Berwyn, none perhaps forms a subject of greater interest as far as age and architecture are concerned than the residence of James and Mary Neilley."

The Neilley Cabin was built in a hollow at the bend in a rough dirt road which jutted east about one-tenth of a mile below the road from Howellton to Newtown. Franklin Burns described it as being "built of stone on the living rock, the rear buried in the side of a hill...the superstructure of logs and original bowed roof ...thatched with rye room in the basement, two on the first floor and an unceiled garret." The unnamed author of the 1887 Daily Local piece admired that "the same rafters and joists remain, and are darkened by time till they seem almost as hard as iron. The joists penetrate and project beyond the outer walls several inches. They are hewed by hand and remarkably true. This was doubtless the work of the original owner, who in all probability cut down the trees as well. The house is built upon a large rock, which may be seen in the cellar."

The U.S. Direct ("Glass") Tax for the 4th District of Chester County in 1798 described "one dwelling unit made of logs of 28 x 18 dimension, one story tall with 3 windows and 8 Lights, no outhouses or appurtenances." Also listed under Niely's ownership was a "Workshop, 24 x 15, adjacent to Ann Lewillin and others." This concurs with William Doyle's remembrance that "the shop for weaving was an abandoned stable 1-1/2 stories high, with earthen floor and no provision for heating (which) stood immediately in front of the house and was demolished about 1880." At that time, a small one-story annex was added to the west side of the cottage, which is where the Neilly's carpet weaving loom was placed.

The main room of the Cabin was divided lengthwise in two, and a small kitchen was just behind it. There was a fireplace [Note 4] "which occupies nearly the whole end of a good sized room, and which reaches almost to the ceiling." The back logs used in the fireplace "were of such dimensions as to require a horse to haul them to the door, while the strength of a couple of men was necessary to place them in the fireplace."

Page 90



It was with good reason that the Cabin was built adjacent to Trout Creek, for her pure waters served many purposes throughout the Neillys' tenure, as well as in the years thereafter. Nestled amidst acres of chestnut timber and apple orchards, the headwater of Trout Run (known by the Welsh as Nant Yr Ewig) surfaced from a large springfield [Note 5]. Water for drinking, cooking and washing was plentiful throughout the year, and was also used for the Neilly's small garden. [Note 6] The Neillys owned horses and cattle - who could drink from Trout Creek when not grazing near the Downey's wood lot up the hill to the west. 

The Neillys utilized two springhouses by their Creek. The larger one was built in later years just below the Cabin and had a pump. The smaller one, built over walled-in waters above the Cabin, provided year-round refrigeration for meat and produce. Mildred Shudy recalls going to "the coolhouse" as a child for respite from the summer heat.

Louis and Martha Burns Neilley's Springhouse Spring 1919

Page 91

Natural vegetation flourished near the Cabin and further down in the Hollow. Bob Doyle claims that the best-tasting watercress in the world grew up along the Creek. June Simcoe recalls when the Creek ran across the unpaved State Road further down the Hollow. Her children collected crayfish from the stream, and she once gave her neighbor a fishing pole to use there. [Note 7] Dorothy Burns Pusey and Helen Hayes admired the arbutus which grew by the banks of the Creek as they strolled through Neilly's Hollow on Sunday afternoons in the springtime. Many are the box turtle, garter snake and red fox who have roamed along Trout Run.

Trout Creek, Neilley's Hollow Spring 1919



The North of Ireland was the center of the world's linen industry in the 18th Century. But war and repression led to a wave of immigration by, among others, Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. Although there were Neillys scattered throughout the colonies, James Neilly's family brought along its looms, patterns, flax seed and talents to Chester County. The Neillys utilized the fertile and well-drained soil around Trout Creek to grow their flax. An additional supply came from James' younger brother Matthew, who owned 119 acres of farmland near Diamond Rock.

Page 92

This acreage likely provided a good amount of the Neilley family flax in the late 18th Century. [Note 8] Since contact with Ireland was uncertain, the Neillys had to be as self-sufficient as possible. They provided their own clothing, blankets, and bed and table linens, and in later years, carpets and rugs.

Like their fellow weavers, James, and perhaps sons Robert and John-there were three members of the Neilly household "engaged in manufacture" per the 1820 U. S. Census- traveled as "journeymen", the term journey meaning "a day's work." The Nealys supplied the scattered colonists with merchandise which was otherwise unavailable. In her 1978 book Weaving A Handbook For Fine Craftsmen. Shirley E. Held portrayed the lifestyle:

"Like other itinerant workmen of the day, the wandering weaver was welcomed by the isolated family, for he carried the tattle of the countryside, and the early weaver soon acquired a towering reputation as a gossip...when he came with his pattern book of drafts it was most exciting. There was the task of selecting the design for the coverlet to go into the daughter's hope chest."

After Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin was invented in 1793, cotton slowly replaced flax as material for weaving, for cotton would be cheaper to grow and easier to work with. The process by which linen was produced was time-consuming and relatively expensive. After being harvested the flax was retted, or soaked, to separate the fibers. After the fibers were combed, the linen was spun and woven before being bleached in the sun. The final stage was "beetling," the process whereby the cloth was hammered to give it a sheen.

By the 1850's the Neillys had added wool to their repertoire. Yarn was produced in the woolen mills located in Howellville which were powered by the waters of Trout and Mill Creeks, while the Nealys continued to weave on hand looms in their home shop. Although the first power loom for weaving was designed and constructed in 1815, the practice of home-shop weaving remained prevalent through the mid-19th Century; the 1860 United States Census lists ten other households in Tredyffiin Township containing weavers. Exactly when the Neilleys ceased their trade as weavers is uncertain; the 1900 United States Census lists James Neilley as "unoccupied," and Mary as "keeping house."

Page 93



The Neilleys were well known for their love of the American cause, and they spread the patriotic fervor throughout Chester County in their travels.

The story for which they are most famous took place, of course, in the aftermath of the "Paoli Massacre" in September of 1777. Perhaps because they were known to the Waynes as neighbors Elizabeth Wayne was Anthony's mother James and Mary were involved in burying the slain soldiers. Sixty-one victims in all were, according to Franklin L. Burns

"wound in their blankets, with squares of linen over their faces. The linen weaver James Neilley of Old Cockletown...claimed to have furnished the sheets from which his wife cut the squares for that purpose."

There are a number of other anecdotes relating to the Neily family's loyalty to the American cause. Several tell of General Washington's hungry soldiers, traveling to and from their Valley Forge encampment, stopping at the Cabin and receiving comestibles. Boiled mush, potatoes, cider and milk were the normal fare which Grandpa and Grandma Neilly served the hungry servicemen from their basement door. James boasted that he singlehandedly captured four British soldiers who were stealing his chickens.

"A Muster Role of the Melitary (sic) Inhabitants of Tredyffrin Township Chester County Commanded by Captain David Wilson May 23th 1782" lists Privates Mathew Neily and James Neily. Both are also shown in the Roll "For the Year 1780 taking in all persons between the ages of 53 and 18," and James appears in 1783's Roll of "The 4th Battalion of the Chester County Militia, 6th Class." The Neillys likely marched under the Weaver's Flag with its motto "May Government Protect Us" in Philadelphia's celebration of the Adoption of the Constitution on July 4, 1788.

Another tale of patriotism appeared in the April 14, 1893 edition of The Ledger:

"A copper cent with an interesting history will soon be a part of the new Liberty bell. The Neilley family (was) intense in their hatred to Britain, and in their love for America and did all that was in their power for the American cause in the time of the American Revolution. A few years (after 1770) a Scotch family of the name of Downey, who were (linen weavers and) just as patriotic, settled in (Berwyn).

Page 94

A son of the Neilley's (John) married a daughter of the Downey's (Esther) and they became the grandparents of Hannah Epright, of Berwyn. Her great uncle, William Downey [Note 9], was much exercised in mind over the coinage of our new money, being much afraid that it would be modeled after England's money. When our copper was called by the Democratic name of cent, instead of the aristocratic penny, his joy was so great that he had shanks made to a set of them and sewed on his coat for burtons. One of these buttons has been Hannah Epright."



James Nealy of Cockletown had two brothers: William was born in 1751, and Matthew in 1754. William's flame was a brief one, and information about him is scarce. Discharged from the service of the King of England in 1775, he made his way from New York to Cockletown. After staying one night in the Cabin, William set out for Diamond Rock. He never arrived, having been found dead under a tree in Howellville. Hannah Epright reported that he was the victim of either a personal attack or alcohol-induced seizures. His attacker(s), if any, may have found his politics distasteful.

Matthew was listed for the first time on Tredyffrin Township Tax Records in 1775 as a freeman. He married Jane, the daughter of Reverend and Mrs. John Simonton of the Great Valley Presbyterian Church, in about 1778. Matthew was one of the incorporators of the Church, and he had purchased the Simonton's 119-acre farm just below Diamond Rock that same year. Matthew and Jane died within six weeks of each other in 1794, leaving behind five children Sarah, Mary, and minors William, Matthew, Jr. and Martha. Their Uncle James successfully petitioned the Court to appoint him as guardian to the three minor children.

James Nealy married Mary Roberts of Lower Merion, younger than he by eight years, and she bore him three sons and one daughter. Their eldest was John, born with the sound of cannon fire from The Battle of Brandywine resounding through Cockletown. John was a weaver, a fifer in General Wayne's funeral procession, and a private in the 3rd Company, 65th Regiment in the War of 1812. John married Esther Downey, and they had four daughters-Hannah, Priscilla, Hester and Ann.

Page 95

Samuel, the next Nealy child, was listed in The History of Chester County. PA. with Genealogical and Biographical Sketches by J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope as "a worthy citizen of St. Peter's, well known and much respected by his townsmen." (He was, however, enrolled on the Tredyffrin Tax Transcript in 1826 as a "Hatter.") Samuel and his wife had six sons Robert, Joseph M., William, Washington, James and John E. Nealy.

Of Katherine Neilley very little has been documented. A pencil notation written on the back of a Trinity Presbyterian Church program of 1895 lists a "Katherine Neilley, b. May 27, 1796." Her school copy book from 1811 shows 1798 as her birth year. In that book she penned the following poem:

"Lord of the worlds above/How pleasant and how fair/
The dwellings of thy love/Thine Earthly temples are."

James and Mary's youngest son, Robert, was born sometime between 1796 and 1800. He, too, practiced the weaving trade throughout his life. On July 4, 1833 he married Margaretta Tschudy. They had five daughters and one son-the aforementioned James and Mary, Francis Lavinia (Fannie), twins Sarah Catherine (Kate) and Anne Elizabeth (Annie), and Isabella. For the last twenty years of his life Robert was, along with David Wilson and David Havard, one of Tredyffrin Township's tax assessors. Robert was one of the first trustees of the Trinity Presbyterian Church of Reeseville, which was incorporated in 1862.

Margaretta Neilley passed away on December 4, 1851. It was said that "She lived a life of faith...many neighbors and friends lament her death, and deeply sympathize with her husband and children." Among her mourners would have been the Burns family [Note 10], Dickie Evans, Canby Smith, Abel Reese, and Lewis L. Worrell from the Carpet Mill in Howellville. Robert's death took place on April 17, 1863.



Bound in the Neilley Family Bible, in the 29th Chapter of Genesis, is recorded "James Neilley ... departed this life March 31st 1825." He was buried in the Great Valley Presbyterian Church, as was his wife Mary after her passing in 1841.

Page 96

His brother Mathew and sister-in-law Jane had been laid to rest there some thirty years earlier, and this was to be the final resting place for many Nealy family members into the 20th Century.

James died intestate, leaving no will to direct the contents of his estate. His heirs, sons John, Samuel, and Robert, were to share the estate equally. This arrangement apparently did not go over smoothly over nineteen years passed until the estate was in fact settled. Court-appointed administrator John Wilson appraised James' estate in May 1844 at $350. However, Samuel petitioned all interested parties to appear at Orphans' Court for a final decision.

On September 9, 1844, John Neilley "appear(ed) in open court and elect(ed) to take the real estate the sum of $350...(Whereas) the same is adjudged to him his heirs and assigns upon his entering into Recognizance in the sum of $700." Bonds were given to Samuel and Robert-they never showed up for the hearing-for the payment of their shares. [Note 11] One week later, John and his wife Esther deeded to Robert the Cabin and 4-1/2 acres for the sum of $113.33. The following year, Isaac Burns was to build a house at the southern edge of the property for John Neilly and his family. The shingles for the roof of that house were hauled in a wheelbarrow all the way from Spread Eagle by Parsons the carpenter. [Note 12]



A number of descendants and in-laws of Cockletown's James and Mary Neily have made a mark in the history of Chester Gounty.

The previously mentioned Miss Hannah Epright, the eighth of ten children of Samuel and Hannah Neilly Epright and the great-granddaughter of Cockletown's James and Mary Nealy, was the self-appointed family historian. Hannah excelled as a school teacher and administrator. The Reverend Carroll H. Yerkes, a student of Miss Epright, reminisced that

"she taught everything from 'A to Z' to the 1st thru 8th grades. I believe her salary was $45 a month. She kept to the rule that if a pin were dropped anywhere in the room it should be heard hitting the floor."

Page 97

Hannah Epright taught at the Ogden School in Easttown from 1875 until 1883, when she came to the Glassley School. Her parents and her Uncle Robert Niely had been students in Glassley's first class in 1808. Hannah Epright was the last grammar school teacher in the second Glassley School, which closed in 1888, living but a short distance away on the Lancaster Turnpike. She later became the principal of several schools in Malvern. [Note 13]

In her will, Hannah Epright requested "the teachers of schools in Chester county to erect to my memory a plain headstone over my grave. This I ask because I love the schools and teachers of Chester county." The white marble pedestal can be seen adjoining similar stones of other Epright family members at the Great Valley Presbyterian Church.

George MacFarland was the grandson of Matthew and Jane Neily of Diamond Rock. George's mother Mary married Dr. James MacFarland of Morgantown, Berks County in 1803. George was only nine years old by the time both of his parents had died in 1820. He was then raised in Norristown by the Potter family, attended college, and went on to found and run the successful woolen and cotton mill in the town of Gulf Mills.

Edmund Brown was bom and raised in East Whiteland Township on the South Valley Hill. He found the sound of the railroad whistle "the sweetest sound on earth," and started working for the railroad "as soon as he was old enough to swing an ax." Brown served in the United States Military Service under General William Tecumseh Sherman during the War Between The States. Immediately thereafter he began his fifty-two year career with the Pennsylvania Railroad as repairman and engineer. His service as Councilman of West Chester won him many accolades and friends.

How Edmund Brown first came to know the Neilleys is uncertain. What is known is that he resided in Willistown when he married Robert and Margaretta's daughter Kate on December 29, 1868; there is no record of them ever living in the Cabin. Kate and Edmund had one child, Annie Ettie, who died at the age of nineteen months. What is most idiosyncratic is that three years after Kate died in January1 870, Mr. Brown married her twin sister Annie. Their childless marriage was also doomed to be short-lived, as Annie passed away in 1875 at the age of thirty-one.

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Hannah Epright's brother William was a blacksmith and member of the 124th Pennsylvania Regiment in the Civil War. Leonard Rambo, caretaker for the Bodine estate and longtime employee of the Easttown Township School System, was married to Anna May Epright, who was Hannah's niece. Phineas Pyott, local baseball aficionado and friend of Connie Mack, was the brother-in-law of John Niely's great-grandson, Harry M. Lawrence. William Morgan, a founding member of the Malvern Fire Company, was also a brother-in-law of Harry M. Lawrence.



The twelfth of sixteen grandchildren of James and Mary Niely of Cockletown, Miss Mary was born on October 8, 1837. She likely attended Mount Airy School when not helping with the family's weaving business, In later years she was one of the scholars of the Trinity Presbyterian Church, and a teacher of their Primary School for two months in 1894.

Based on what is recorded in her estate in 1918, we know that Mary heated the Cabin and cooked her meals with two coal stoves (with the coal being purchased from Mr. Fritz.) She owned, among other possessions, a walnut table, a cameo, silver spoons, four rocking chairs, a cider press, one rag carpet probably a family heirloom-and a sweeper to clean it. There was a bench on the front porch where Mary might sit, wearing her gold framed glasses and working on her sampler while listening to a robin's song on a warm spring afternoon.

After her brother James passed away in 1906, Mary was said to live the rest of her years alone. [Note 14] David Wilson and Mrs. J. P. Dunwoody recall that C. Colket Wilson (David Wilson's father and Mrs. Dunwoody's cousin) would bring "Miss Neiley" to church for services and suppers. According to David Wilson, Mary was "a feisty little old gal, who wanted things going her way." Colket Wilson "took care of her because he admired that she was still there and coping by herself."

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In the last days of her life, when Mary was too ill to be alone, she stayed at the Main Street home of her cousin Harry M. Lawrence. There she received nursing care from Harry's wife, Laura Pyott Lawrence. Mary's obituary was published in The Ledger on July 29,1918:

"In Berwyn this morning Marly (sic) Neilley died in her 81st year...she was a daughter of the late Robert Neilley and was born in Tredyffrin township, her birthplace being a log house wherein several of her relatives were born and died, leaving her the last of her family."

Services were held at the Lawrence home on July 31, with further services and burial at Great Valley Presbyterian Church. Mary Neilly's will was executed by her friend C. Colket Wilson. William H. Doyle purchased the Cabin and the accompanying one and a half acres in 1919, the proceeds of the real estate being $2,250. [Note 15] Various members of the Doyle family, and their cousins the Redmonds, resided in the Cabin until 1944.



Additions to the Nealy Cabin by the Doyles in 1932 and the Laytons in 1956 enlarged the dwelling to its present size, while maintaining the integrity of the original structure. The Cabin roof remains swayed, though no longer thatched. Mortar has replaced horsehair as insulation between the chestnut beams. The weaver's shed became a root cellar, and later a kitchen and then a library. The white picket fence was taken down.

Despite the coming of home mail delivery and a numbered address, the paving of and renaming to "Old State Road", and the building of modern homes all around it, Neilly's Cabin has maintained its uniqueness in late twentieth century Berwyn. One can sense what Annie Neilley meant when she wrote in her 1852 copy book that "the dearest spot on earth to me is home." Though there may have been brief periods of time after Mary Neilley's passing when the Nealy Cabin was unoccupied, there is no argument to her claim that she had "never seen or heard of the house being empty."

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The accountant claims credits as follows:-

By cash p'd Digging and sodding grave, 10.00
Daily Local News, estate notice, 2.00
Register of Wills, Letters Testamentary, 11.85
Road Tax, 1918, 4.10
School tax,1918, 5.98
County tax, 1918, 1.98
Road tax, 1919, 9.75
J . Packard Laird, medical services, 38.00
B. R. Hickman, Undertaker, 116.90
Laura P. Lawrence, nursing and care, 175.00
H. W. Davis, com. on sale of property 90.00
W. Colton Smith, in full for claim 25.00
A. M. Holding, prof, services 50.00

from "The first and final account of C. Colket Wilson. Executor of the last will of Mary Neilley, late of Tredyfrnn township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, deceased."

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1. The name "Cockletown" apparently derived from the flower called Cora Cockle (Agrostemma githago). which is closely related to the campion. These flowers grew profusely both in Ireland and in Chester County in the 1700's as a garden escape and near grain fields.

2. There has been some thought that a John Neily was the patriarch of the Tredyffiin Neilleys. On October 1, 1743 he was listed as the administrator of the will of a Robert Neely of Chester County, whose inventory included flax and a loom. John was well-known as the innkeeper and resident of the Upper White Horse Tavern in East Whiteland from 1752 to 1762. However, John's last appearance in the Chester County Tax Records was in 1763. While he very well may have been related to James Nealy, John has never been shown to live or own land in Tredyffiin Township. It is likely that soon after 1763 he passed away, or perhaps moved to Philadelphia or points south or west to ply his trade as a tavern keeper.

3. The 1780-81 Chester County Tax Record showed there to be four kinds of taxpayer: a "householder," which included landowners and tenants; an "inmate," who resided within the household of another, either in the same building or on the premises, usually married or widowed and the head of a family; a "freeman," a single, free man over 21 years old; and a "non-resident landowner."

4. The current dimensions of the fireplace are 68 inches by 66 inches by 58 inches. It had been boarded up during the 1940's and early 1950's, when a coal stove in the basement and a gas range in the kitchen made the practice of burning firewood for cooking and heating obsolete. The fireplace was restored to its original magnitude by the Laytons in 1958.

5. Trout Creek, or Trout Run, was placed on Tredyffrin Township's Register of Historic Watercourses in 1966. It appears on area maps dating back into the nineteenth century, and its existence was first documented in 1722. In his excellent recent book titled Guide to Pennsylvania's Limestone Streams, Mr. A. Joseph Armstrong explains how Trout Creek, like other limestone streams in the Great Valley, is made up of flow from ample springs yielding large amounts of constant-temperature, mineral-rich waters. The dissolved minerals in the Creek are nutrients for a wide variety of life forms, including the trout which gave the Creek its name. Pioneers knew that the presence of limestone meant arable land and potable water.

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6. An amusing anecdote tells of the Neillys planting a part of their garden in the middle of the State Road, and how a considrate traveler would circumnavigate the tomato plants on their voyage.

7. The waters of Trout Creek along Neilley's Hollow found other uses as well. In the early years, Nathaniel Jones lived in a small log cabin above the springs. He owned and sold liquor from the Black Swan Distillery, which was located at the source of Trout Run. During the last years of the 19th Century, Norristown industrialist William Rennyson ran his Tredyffrin Lithia Water Company by pumping Creek water up the hill to his water wheel on what is now Cassatt Road. A late 19th Century newspaper advertisement claimed that "Nearly One Thousand Philadelphia Physicians Are Now Using Tredyffrin Water in Their Practice & Their Homes...Does cure Rheumatism, Indigestion, Dyspepsia, and all diseases caused by Uric Acid Poisoning." Mr. C. Miller Hoskins recalls drinking the water from the springs as a youth in about 1920, and confirms that the "lithia water" therein had claims of curative powers. Andrew Long, who worked for the Doyle family for over 40 years, cites the presence of a well and a four-foot deep, twenty five-foot wide basin that was brimming with water year-round. Located just above Trout Creek's headwater, the Doyles utilized this abundance for many years to irrigate their luxuriant acreage of trees. All this makes for a powerful testament to the longstanding and healthy flow of Trout Creek!

8. "An Inventory of the Goods and Chattels Rights and Credits of Matthew Neily...appraised this Thirty first Day of October 1794" includes "a Flax Break, 3 Bushels of Flax Seed, Sythe, Cradle, Sickles, 3 Spinning Wheels, a Spinning Wheel and Reel"

9. William Downey played an important role in Neilley family life in Tredyffiin Township at the turn of the 18th Century. Apprenticed to James Nealy (his brother-in-law's father,) Downey appeared in the Tredyffrin tax lists as a freeman, weaver, and the tenant in James' house between 1796 and 1804. Downey became a United States citizen and purchased an adjoining 30 acres of land during that period. James may have spent those eight years with family in West Caln and West Nantmeal Townships-tax records show that he did not occupy the Cabin during those eight years. Another possibility is that the senior James Nealy resided in the Cabin from 1780 until his death in 1796, and that William Downey resided there until 1804, when the younger James Nealy took over as tenant, allowing Downey to move to his own 30-acre plot.

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10. Robert Neily and his neighbor, Peter Burns Sr. carried on business between 1847 and 1862. While logging careful records in a notebook, Burns supplied the Neilys with food (beef, veal and mutton, butter and lard, squash, and bushels of wheat and oats), fuel (cords of hickory and oak wood and tons of coal), and building materials (shingles, lath, timber and panels of fence.) He also kept a gardening journal with weather observations in April and May of 1835, during which months- despite snowfall on the morning of April 16- oats, potatoes, corn, millet, flax, pumpkins and beans were sowed.

11. A local newspaper advertisement ran for two weeks in 1944, a century later, asking that Samuel and Robert Neilley come forth to collect the $700 which they were due. This was cited in the petition of Anthony A. Doyle and Robert J. Doyle, Co-Executors and Trustees of their father, William H. Doyle.

12. John Niely died in 1848, but after 32 years his heirs could not agree upon how to divide his estate. Once again, the Court was forced to appoint an administrator. Ironically, William Wayne-descendant of the Waynes who had sold the 4-1/2 acres to John Robinson which were later purchased by James Neally-was appointed executor of John Niely's estate.

13. Hannah Epright shared her love of nature with her students. She led them in Arbor Day festivities in 1885 which included the planting of seven trees (pines, maples, plums and an apple) and shrubs (Virginia Creeper and honeysuckle), and in the recitation of poems and prose, including Oliver Wendell Holmes' "Woodman, Spare That Tree."

14. The 1900 and 1910 United States Censuses list a W. Colton Smith as a boarder in the Cabin. He was born in August of 1861, a carpenter by trade, and he had a half-brother named Parke who lived in Rosemont at the time of Smith's death in July 1921. Colton was named a beneficiary in Mary Neilly's Last Will and Testament, as was her cousin Annie Byrne of Philadelphia, and her friend Lydia Daniel of Media.

15. Through a number of land sales and transfers over the years, the original 4 acre and 84 perches tract was reduced to one and a half acres.

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My heartfelt thanks go to those persons cited within the text and listed below, as well as to everyone in the institutions named, for their time and energy. But for them this project would not have been possible:

-Tredyffrin Easttown History Club members, past and present
-Tredyffrin Easttown History Club Archives
-Interviews with Mrs. J.P. Dunwoody and Mrs. Eleanor Chworowsky, Mr. Leonard Dewees, Mr. Horace Downing Jr., Mr. C. Miller Hoskins, Mrs. Jane Peters Layton, Mr. Andrew Long, Mrs. Esther Ann MacFarland, Mrs. Dorothy Burns Pusey, Miss Dorothy Reed, Mr. Conrad Wilson and Mr. David Wilson, conducted between June 1995 and February 1996
-Chester County Historical Society Library and Photo Archives
-Chester County Archives and Records Services
-Chester County Register of Wills
-Chester County Recorder of Deeds
-Delaware County Historical Society
-Montgomery County Historical Society
-Records of the Great Valley Presbyterian Church, Paoli
-Records of the Trinity Presbyterian Church, Berwyn
-Mrs. Jane Davidson
-Mr. Richard Laird
-Mr. Frank Rippel
-Mrs. Helen Hayes, Mrs. Jane Peters Layton, Mrs. Dorothy Burns Pusey, Mr. William Phineas Pyott, Mr. Joseph E. Redmond Jr., Mrs. Charlotte Townsend and Mr. Conrad Wilson for their generous gifts of personal and family photographs and paintings
-and to all of you who provided connections, seen and unseen, for the journey

Ed Redmond and daughter Rosemary 1924


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