Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives

Source: July 1997 Volume 35 Number 3, Pages 97–107

What Do We Have In the Archives?

Barbara Fry

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When Robert M. Goshorn died in November of 1995, the Tredyffrin Easttown History Club was faced with the question of what to do with the Club archives which had been stored at the Goshorn home for over 25 years. In addition to material from early club years, Bob had kept files relating to work he had done, and intended to do. Other material had been given to him as keeper of the Tredyffrin Easttown History Club archives, and some had been acquired by him personally.

The Club was given most of the month of December to pack and remove its possessions from the Goshorn home. Fortunately, the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District agreed to transport and store them in a basement storeroom of the district's Education Services Center on First Avenue in Berwyn. In March of 1996, the boxed material was moved to a closet on the second floor of the build­ing, and to file cabinets donated to the club which were placed in the hall outside the room used for public meetings. Club members were allowed to use a small room adjoining the meeting room to sort, index and preserve the collection.

The materials making up the archives have been unboxed and sorted into ap­proximately twenty categories as follows:

General file
Newspaper clipping file
Robert M. Goshorn file
Files of early Club researchers Frank Burns, Howard Okie and Dr. Baugh

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Club records
Back issues of the Quarterly

Antique books
Scrap books
Photographs and glass negatives

Drawings and art
Local newsletters: Berwyn Post, Eastfrin, etc.
Audio tapes, video tapes



General file

The general file contains materials on history subjects that were not in Bob Goshorn's working file. It holds materials handed down from the earlier years of the History Club. In addition, loose papers and folders that were on open shelves in the Goshorn home were placed in the general file. We have made an index on 3" x 5" cards, and have placed the materials in acid free file folders.

Examples of what is in the general file would include township government records, letters, zoning and drainage records, farm records from Chesterbrook Farm, and minutes of Citizens' Associations. As can be seen, there is ample primary source material here.

Secondary source material will also be found in this file. Examples would be xeroxed pages of a magazine article on the work of architect Brognard Okie, and an advertising booklet from the American Non-Gran Bronze Company.


Newspaper clipping file

The Chester County Historical Society tells us that the newspaper clipping file is the most used part of their library. We have far more loose clippings than we have been able to care for as yet, but the more the file takes shape, the more exciting it becomes. The newspaper clippings are pasted up on light boards. The boards are stored in large manila folders in our legal-sized storage cabinet.

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The clipping file has been separated into three separate sections: family file, geographical file and subject file. We are making an effort to follow in a simplified fashion the system used at the county historical society in West Chester.

The Family clipping file has been placed in alphabetical sequence by family surname. Both newspaper articles and photographs are filed here. Obituary notices are most important to our records. Many of them have been handed down from early Club days. Xerox copies from the clipping file at Chester County Historical Society also go here. Other supportive information, such as a geneal­ogy prepared by Clarence Staats, has been placed in this file. Copies of bio­graphical sketches taken from Wylie or Heathcote should find their way here. We encourage anyone with family history information to come in and help us estab­lish a file.

In the Geographical clipping file material is separated by locality: Tredyffrin, Easttown, Devon, Paoli, Berwyn, Valley Forge Park and such.

Categories in the Subject file are formed as they arise: schools, transportation, art and wars are some examples. Under schools we have newspaper articles on the efforts of Conrad Wilson's class at Conestoga High School in restoring the Van Leer Log Cabin. Under transportation we have Ed Buck's series of articles about the Lincoln Highway from the Wayne Suburban.

Bob Ward has contributed most generously to our clipping file by giving us a very large stack of xerox copies of clippings on Tredyffrin and Easttown schools that he made at the History Center in West Chester when he did his work on the schools of our two townships.

We have stacks of clippings waiting to go into this file. Some are decades old. Clippings pasted into scrap books will stay there, at least temporarily. Anything loose will be secured with archival glue to legal-sized boards and stored in legal­sized file folders. Newsprint is highly acidic. If these clippings begin to deterio­rate, they can be xeroxed for preservation. This is the approved way to con­serve such materials.

The clipping file is alphabetized by category so no card file is needed to access it. This is the way it is handled at the History Center.


Robert M. Goshorn file

Bob Goshorn's files are rich, generous and exciting. He was a master at making history come alive. Much work needs to be done to physically conserve Bob's

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research. As yet very little has been placed in acid-free folders. His files have been broadly indexed by subject on 3" x 5" cards.

Bob's work, as well as the work of three significant early Club researchers and writers, we are keeping intact. This seems worthwhile. We want to guard against losing material, and confusing future research.The Goshorn files contain xerox copies of material from the Chester County Historical Society Library (today's History Center). These photo copies will be of continuous value to us.

Many files in Bob's file cabinets were the basis for his writings for the Quarterly. Bob wrote at least 81 such articles, and many more not expressly attributed to him. Other files contain collections of material he made for articles he hoped someday to write.

Some of Bob's files are easy to work with. Others will require a vast amount of time and knowledge of local history to be successfully interpreted fully. We have a plan whereby anyone who works long and hard on a file leaves an index in the front on what is in there.

One of Bob's files was of such charm that I removed part of it and made a loose­leaf notebook of it for the bookshelves. I thought it wise to preserve it immedi­ately. This was his file on "Springhouses." Bob wrote about Springhouses in the Quarterly [Vol. 28, No.3] in 1989. His writing was only one page. It was followed by his daughter Megan's drawings of the buildings. In the file were the original photographs of springhouses used by Megan when she made her drawings. They were most likely taken in the summer of 1988. The springhouses range from Buttonwood Road in Easttown, to Yellow Springs Road in Tredyffrin. Meg's original drawings on sheer paper were in the file, along with finished drawings and xeroxes of the photographs. I left the copies of the pictures in Bob's file with a note telling where to find the preserved work.

Whatever we come upon, we try to keep in mind that this material may be a totally new experience for someone viewing it generations from now. We try to present it as clearly as possible.


Files of early Club researchers

For now, we are keeping the work of Frank Burns, Howard Okie and Dr. Anthony Wayne Baugh in three separate files. Much of this material has been previously published in the Quarterly, but we have already found some that has not been seen in print.

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What we have from Dr. Baugh are Xerox copies of some pages of his notebooks that can be found in more detail elsewhere. Art work and photographs preserved by his daughter Marion also came in the Baugh box we inherited. In another box, we found the results of research by attorney Howard Okie, who published much information in early issues of the Quarterly about local land titles. The Okie and Baugh files will not be a great quantity of paper.

On the other hand, Frank Burns' files are the ground work for our local history. His research has been the starting point for the writings of many others. I know of nothing more valuable in our collection than his history of Berwyn. We judge that Frank Burns wrote this history in the early 1920s. Much of the material, but far from all, has been published sporadically (and perhaps incompletely) over the years in the Quarterly.

We found this history tightly packed into one black loose-leaf notebook. Pages were tearing loose. We immediately separated it into two binders. The material was too delicate to Xerox by machine feed. We began the long process of copy­ing a few pages at a time. The material is typewritten. It is basically unedited. Attempts to edit it were made by Burns himself and, at some time, others. Burns' additions are helpful. We have found some of the amendments made by others to be less helpful and even incorrect.

A professional historian has told me that about a year of editing by someone who knows what they are doing, who knows local history, and has the patience of a true researcher, needs to take place if it were to be published as an entity. The pages are numbered, but unfortunately some pages are missing, and in "blocks" rather than single pages. We may come upon more, but that is unlikely at this point.

The first chapter of this work, which we now call Frank Burns' "History of Berwyn," is titled the Legendary Period 1320 -1681; the last chapter is the Centennial and Cistern Period 1876 - 1885. Burns was born in 1868. He died in 1946. He lived through the post-Civil War era, and he knew people whose parents fought in the American Revolution.

We were not far along with copying the pages of this history when, this year, Peggy Egertson took over and completed the job. We have had the copies bound at Sir Speedy. The text comprises three separate volumes. So even though it is still rough, badly in need of editing, it is available for all of us to use.

In addition to the "History," we have a box of writing tablets filled with Burns' unique handwriting. The topics are assorted: The Quakers, Valley Forge Park,

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Baseball, Men and their Horses, etc. The Library at the Chester County Histori­cal Society has, in its collection, one of these Burns tablets. It is on early houses in Berwyn; to read it one is required to wear white gloves! Copies may only be made by taking pencil in hand. Our tablets are being transcribed by Peggy Egertson and Nancy Pusey. When this work is completed, we will make a bound volume to be filed with the "History" in our archives.


Club records

We have a drawer set aside for the minutes, by-laws, treasurer's reports, trip records, etc., covering the earliest years of the Club up to the present. These records are very necessary. When we learned that the early Club book collection had been given to Freedom's Foundation, we were able to read about the circumstances leading up to that action. We learned here of early locations where the Club archives had been stored.


Back issues of the Quarterly

The Quarterly is the one thing that sets our Club apart from all of the other local history groups in Chester County. Even the county society does not publish.

The 34 volumes of the Quarterly, put together since 1939, a total of 137 issues, make up a shelf of local history of Tredyffrin and Easttown townships that is second to none. Its breadth of coverage is a unique community asset. It is not only available at all the local public libraries, but it is handsomely bound as well.

The Club itself keeps a bound set of the Quarterly, a loose-leaf set filed in three­ring binders for ease of use in making photo copies of pages for researchers, and two other complete files. In addition, there are 22 boxes of back issues of the Quarterly available for sale, a valuable Club asset.

The cumulative index issued in 1995 permits easy reference, making Quarterly information readily accessable. Probably some time next year we should update the index, as 12 more issues of the Quarterly will have been completed.



Bob Goshorn kept a large number of pamphlets on various subjects in file cabi­net drawers. They are separated into local pamphlets, far-away pamphlets and pamphlets on historical subjects. We have begun to index them. Ida Hardester is heading up this effort.

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Local pamphlets would be, for example, on Valley Forge Park, the T/E Intermedi­ate School 1989 -1990, the Picket Post publication of Valley Forge Historical Society, and the Paoli Massacre.

Pamphlets of historical interest are these:

Women of the 1960s
The Civil War at Richmond
The Civil War at Petersburg
The U. S. Patent Office
Alexander Graham Bell
Berks County, Pennsylvania

We had thought we might sell some of the pamphlets not of direct interest to us, (for example, "The Arctic and Tropic Moon" or "Sea Shells in Florida"), but such are not a large part of the collection, and they are there to explore.



The books that came from the Goshorn home were largely from Bob's own col­lection. Some had been given to the History Club itself. As noted above, most of the Club's earlier book collection had been given away some years ago.

Books have been loosely grouped into categories for now. Book name and author have been entered on 3" x 5" cards, placed in the books to be further indexed with added information at some future time. Book shelves are labeled. We have for now grouped the books under these categories:

Quarterlies in loose leaf binders
Bound volumes of Quarterly
Indexes to Quarterly
Local history in loose leaf binders -- Goshorn work
Early industry
Early times

Tredyffrin and Easttown
Valley Forge
Chester County
Nearby localities

The number of books in the collection totals over 200.

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A sampling of book titles in the collection includes:

Under Pennsylvania -- former governor Samuel W. Pennypacker's book Pennsylvania in American History: Cornelius Weygant's The Plenty of Pennsylvania

Nearby localities -- A Century in Malvern and Lower Merion in History

Local -- A Week in Devon. The Episcopal Academy, The Old Eagle School by Henry Pleasants; and Valley Forge, a novel by A. W. Quimby, an early minister at the Berwyn Methodist Church

Thanks to Bob Ward, we have shelved among the books in the archives a copy of the 1798 Federal Direct Tax Assessment for Tredyffrin and East Whiteland Town-ships (the "glass tax"), and of the 1800 Federal Census for Tredyffrin, East Whiteland and Easttown. The tax and census lists were transcribed by Bob from microfilm records of the National Archives. They give us a wonderful snapshot of exactly who inhabited our local area two hundred years ago. This has to be one of the most useful research tools in our archives.

The glass tax was assessed on the number of panes of window glass, not just on windows. The tax lists are especially helpful, because they record names of actual residents as well as owners. The record is divided into five schedules. Schedule A describes each individual house, and describes its construction materials (log, brick, stone, etc.), dimensions, number of "lights" or panes of glass, and also provides data on outbuildings, location by township, owner and/or occupant, and the name of an adjoining owner of land.

Schedule B contains, among other data, information on barns, total acreage of the property, construction materials, window information and owner and/or occupant. Schedule C has data on slaves, and is omitted in our copy, perhaps because slavery was phased out in Pennsylvania beginning in 1780. Schedules D and E contain much of the information noted above but in alphabetical array.


Antique books

Three handwritten hardback books are in very poor condition, but their contents are extremely valuable primary source material. One is an upper school math course; another is a surveying course. These are early nineteenth century.

The third is a record of accounts of the Havard Walker farm in Tredyffrin's Great Valley about mid-nineteenth century, with a diary kept by his daughter, Annie

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Potts Walker, during the last years of the nineteenth century in the back. This book has been completely transcribed by Nancy Pusey. She has also taken time to correct information on a card that was presented with the book. This kind of work is most important and helpful. We do not need information that will be forever wrong.


Scrap books

We have a few scrap books containing newspaper clippings pasted down. We will leave them "as is" for the time being. Examples of content: The Paoli Post Office, Home Rule for Tredyffrin, The Van Leer Cabin.


Photographs and glass negatives

Photographs number somewhere in the thousands. Several months before he died, Bob Goshorn had given the photograph albums, and a carton of loose pictures, to Alan Kohn to work on. Alan grouped and identified these pictures, so they came back to the archives in good form.

The contents of Dorothy Reed's photo albums are identified well, as are Marion Baugh's pictures. We have started a photograph and post card album to pre­serve other pictures. Some photographs are still loose in cartons.

We have three archival boxes to protect preserved photographs. Most of the conservation efforts to date have been on large pictures. One box contains Lucy Sampson photographs, another holds schools and school children, and the third is on Paoli.

Mary Lamborn has given the Club a large collection of glass negatives taken in the Berwyn area by Joshua Lamborn, her husband's grandfather, early this century. Conserving and printing them will be a sizeable and expensive project which is still ahead.



Items such as old school report cards, commencement programs from the early twentieth century, and work books used by the Neilley children in the nineteenth century, are part of this collection. They have been put in acid-free envelopes and labeled. This is immediate protection but not the final solution.

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Drawing and Art

We have a very good collection of drawings of Pennsylvania Railroad stations in the nearby vicinity (although not all inclusive), by Jane Curtis, stored in a file drawer. A large framed drawing by Linda McNeil is on the top of the book shelves. Some note card drawings by Sue Andrews are with the pictures. Our art pieces are in need of preservation.



We have a dozen or more large atlases showing properties along the Main Line, for various dates between 1909 and 1963. They are stored on top of the file cabinets in the hall. Book-size atlases are on the book shelves. Wall maps are rolled and small maps are in the files.


Local newsletters: Berwyn Post. Eastfrin. etc.

A complete set of all issues of the Berwyn Post, bound in four volumes, is a gift of Mary Lamborn to the Club. We also have, in the files, some loose, uncounted issues of the Berwyn Post, and a few issues of the Eastfrin.


Audio tapes, video tapes

We have just begun to listen to our collection of audio tapes. Two have been superb: Lidie Matthews on her recollections of Paoli, and Bertha Neiman on her 48 years working in the high school office. Some tapes recorded at club meet­ings are proving to be difficult to understand, and may have to be discarded. Mary Lamborn has given the Club some reel to reel tapes which contain music of the Big Bands recorded by her late husband Ted. They will need to be converted to cassette, or some more useful format.



We found deeds filed in metal boxes. They are closely packed and will need study, indexing, and preservation.



Artifacts are few but in variety. Like everything else, they need preservation. We have a framed shipping ticket for Indian corn from 1787 -- and:

# a key to the Berwyn National Bank, very old, very large

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# a piece of a Stratford signal tree
# a piece of wooden water pipe taken up from the street in Philadelphia along the Ridge Road
# Berwyn Fire Company ribbons
# Club memorabilia, a gavel, ashtray, flags
# Two tattered old American flags, one with 38 stars

Looking after the archives is a never ending project. The more work we do, the more appears to be done. Only a small amount of unboxed material still needs to find a location. Much has been accomplished in the past year.

We are in a position now to really use our archives -while we continue to pre­serve, identify, classify and clarify more precisely what we have. Even after all these months, new discoveries and understandings of what is there are made regularly.


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