Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
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Source: April 1998 Volume 36 Number 2, Pages 47–50

Warren Tavern Post Office

Bob Goshorn

Page 47

Driving through the intersection of Swedesford Road and Morehall Road [or Route 29] today, it is difficult to imagine that this crossroads, known as Valley Store, was 150 years or so ago a hub of commercial activity, and the location of the United States post office for this section of the Great Valley.

Both the roads are old ones, and are shown on the map drawn by a British engineer for Sir Henry Clinton at the time of the British occupation of Philadelphia in the winter of 1777-78. The Swedes Ford Road had been opened as early as 1720, going through the Valley from the Whitelands to the Swedes ford across the Schuylkill River where Bridgeport is located today. Morehall Road, then also known as Longford Road, went over the western end of the North Valley Hill ridge to cross the Schuylkill by a long shallow ford called Longford, at the eastern end of the present day Borough of Phoenixville.

The crossroad, incidentally, also played a part in the late summer, 1777, campaign that led to the British occupation of Philadelphia. It has been alleged that the strategy for the campaign was planned by Major John Andre and others in rooms at the nearby General Warren Inn, then known as the Admiral Warren. It was here at the crossroads that the British regiments under Major General George Grey turned south from the Swedes Ford Road in their march to General Wayne's outpost in what is now Malvern. This movement culminated in an engagement

Page 48

known as "the Paoii Massacre". As a result of this attack, the threat of a harrassing action that might have impeded the British river crossing as they left their camp in Tredyffrin was eliminated, and the British were able to cross the Schuylkill and occupy the capital city without interference.

When the store from which the crossroads took its name was first opened is apparently not known. However, we do know that there was a store there as early as 1817, for in the October 12, 1817 issue of the American Republican, Price & Green advertised that "the subscribers" at Valley Store "inform their friends and the public in general, that they have just received a FRESH AS-SORTMENT OF SEASONABLE GOODS which they offer to sell for cash at very reduced prices".

Two years later Davis Brooke had apparently taken over as storekeeper, and in the November 17, 1819 issue of the West Chester Village Record he advertised that he "respectfully informs his friends and the public in general that he has taken the old established stand for a store, known by the name of Phillips', or Valley Store, where he has on hand a large and well selected assortment of GOODS, suited to the present and approaching season, which will be sold at the most reduced prices, for cash". He also noted that "The highest prices [would be] given, in goods, for clean flax seed and linen rags".

By the early 1850s Isaac Acker was the storekeeper there, and on March 10, 1851 he was also named postmaster of the Warren Tavern Post Office, which at that time was moved to the store from its earlier location at the inn. (Although the post office was to be located at the Valley Store for most of the next 56 years until it was discontinued on March 15, 1907, it continued to be known officially as the Warren Tavern Post Office.)

[Breou's Farm Maps of Chester County, published in 1883, show the post office address for each farm. In Tredyffrin, those living west of the spur railroad line running north to Cedar Hollow in the western part of the township picked up their mail at Warren Tavern Post Office (Valley Store). That included, from north to south, the village of Cedar Hollow along Yellow Springs Road and the Cedar Hollow Lime Co.; Mrs. Samuel Acker (Mr. Acker had died in 1880); David Detwiler; George Fetters (grist and saw mill); George Jacobs; John Dean; Mansfield O'Donnell; Conrad Acker; Thomas Davis; David Craft; and A. K. Eberhart. A few years later, in 1888-89, two new post offices were established in the adjacent areas of western Tredyffrin, one at Henry Curry's store in Cedar Hollow (Tablet), and the other in the railroad station at Cedar Hollow Road (Tredyffrin). By the 1890s most Tredyffrin residents no doubt used these local post offices.]

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The Warren Tavern Post Office was established on December 20, 1820, and was the first post office in this section. Like a number of our earlier post offices, it was established at the Inn -- the early 19th century post offices at the Spread Eagle, the White Horse, or the Paoli, are other examples -- with the innkeeper, in this case Casper Fahnestock, named the first postmaster. (Fahnestock's father, also named Casper, had bought the property, which included the hostelry and about 300 acres of land, on March 21, 1786 for 2000 pounds. About a quarter of a mile up the road from the Inn, now abandoned, is the Fahnestock family burial ground, a plot 46 by 143 feet. In it are a number of burials, the most recent apparently in 1832, and all the persons buried there, save one, (according to Duke Wilson, historian of East Whiteland township) were members of the Fahnestock family. The lone exception was a Thomas Bradley, "a very faithful servant of the innkeeper for many years".)

In 1829 the inn and the post office, along with a nearby livery stable, burned to the ground, but they were immediately rebuilt. Casper Fahnestock continued as postmaster and innkeeper until July 24, 1837, when his son William succeeded him in both capacities. Prominent in the Great Valley Presbyterian Church, William was also an ardent advocate of temperance, and soon afterwards the inn became the "Warren Temperance Hotel". With this change in policy, the popularity of the inn soon declined sharply.

William Fahnestock was succeeded as postmaster by Abraham P. Temple on March 20, 1848. Three years later, on March 20, 1851, he resigned and Isaac Acker was appointed to the position. At that time, it was reported in the West Chester Village Record that "the Warren [Tavern} Post Office, Chester County, has been removed to the Valley Store, and Isaac Acker appointed Postmaster, since Abraham Temple, resigned".

When Acker left in April of 1856, he was replaced by Charles E. Brown on April 22. Brown, however, served as postmaster for less than three months.

It was at about this time that the Chester Valley Rail Road was completed, and in 1854 a small railroad station was established a few hundred yards south of the crossroads and store/post office where the railroad crossed Morehall Road. The new station was also called Valley Store, and shortly after it was opened the post office was again moved and located there. In the Village Record for July 8, 1856 it was reported, "Warren Tavern P. O. -- This post office, which was removed from the Valley Store to a point on the railroad, some time ago, has been changed back to the Store, and Isaac G. King, Esq., appointed Post Master." (That it had been moved to the station "some time ago" suggests that the change was probably made when Acker was still postmaster, though it may have been at the depot for only the two and a half months while Brown was in charge.)

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Isaac King continued as postmaster until November 6, 1872. On March 25 of the following year, it was noted in the American Republican that "Isaac King, Esq., has sold his Valley Store property to Judson Ruth, who has been appointed Postmaster at that place and will also carry on the store".

An attempt to move the office back to the railroad depot was made again in the early 1880s. In the Daily Local News on November 22, 1881 it was reported, "A movement is on foot to have the Warren Tavern Post Office removed from the store of Levi Cutler [who apparently had replaced Ruth as storekeeper] to the Valley Store station, but the politicians that stand in with 'the powers that be " say it will not come to pass. They claim that this would be a great inconvenience to the mass of people who get their mail matter at Warren Tavern". They were right in their prediction -- and, in fact, on September 14, 1885. Matilda V. Cutler was named postmistress for the post office.

She, in turn, was succeeded on February 12, 1891 by Abijah Stevens, of Phila­delphia, who, it was reported in the Local for March 31, "is moving to Warren Tavern P. O., of which he has been appointed Postmaster, and will engage in business at the Valley Store at that point.".

Ten years later, on April 16, 1901, Chester T Biddison was named to the position, holding it until the office was discontinued on March 15, 1907. (During a brief reincarnation, from March 14, 1908 to March 15, 1910, the postmaster was Hyman Ricklin.)

The building still standing at the northeast corner at the intersection of Swedesford and Morehail Roads, incidentally, is not the original Valley Store where the post office was located for more than half a century and from which the crossroads settlement took its name. That building apparently was destroyed by fire early in this century; writing in 1965, Duke Wilson noted that the original Valley Store "burned 50 years ago".

And despite its convenience "to the mass of people" who got their mail there, for all the time the post office was located at Valley Store it was always officially the Warren Tavern Post Office.

Since this article was originally published in 1992, the building which housed Valley Store has been torn down. Today a modern retailer of gasoline and food occupies the spot.

reprinted from Looking Back column in the June 1992 issue of the Great Valley Business News


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