Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
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Source: October 1998 Volume 36 Number 4, Pages 126–128


History of the Paper Mill House and the Mills on the Darby Creek

Betty Povey

Page 126

The large stone building known as the Paper Mill house, and the 4-1/2 acres on which it stands, are located at the southeast corner of St. David's and Paper Mill Roads in Newtown Township. The post office address is Newtown Square, Pa. It was restored by the Tricentennial Commission, and the Township of Newtown Board of Supervisors, as a major Tricentennial and Historical Society project commencing in 1981, as part of the celebration of the township's 300th year.

This unusual building was made into a museum of the history of Newtown Township - as a record for contemporary and future visitors of all ages to see and enjoy. The exterior has been completed under the direction of Restoration Architect John Dickey (AIA), with the assistance of general contractor, David Abel. The restoration of the interior has been an on going project.

Page 127

A vital part of the Museum (one in which Questers groups, national, Pennsylvania and local, will have a particular interest because of their fund raising assistance) is the restoration of one of the four residences for mill workers and their families which were in the section farthest from St. David's Road. Each unit had a separate entrance, and there was no communication between them within the interior. The rooms were built one above the other -- basement, first, second floor and attic - connected by staircases. Corner fireplaces in each unit had flues leading into a central chimney. The restored rooms have been furnished with authentic Pennsylvania country pieces of the general 1828-1860 period, the type used by the mill-worker families.

Architectural details, such as quoins and stonework, give evidence that the section closest to St. David's Road was built in the 18th century, before the section with the residences.

Originally not as high as it is today, the earlier part of the structure was changed in the 19th century; the windows, doors and interior having undergone extensive alterations. In the downstairs part of this section there was a general store for the mill-worker families, which has been reconstructed, restored and stocked. Other sections of the Museum depict the history of Newtown Township from its earliest days to the present time, giving a visual presentation of how the people lived, historical events and appearance of the town through the years. Graphics, small models of extant buildings, large photos, reproductions of paintings and artifacts of all kinds are used.

Definite information about the early history of the land on which the Paper Mill House was built has been confused by the fact that the early maps were not kept with the original deeds. Therefore, the specific locations cannot be determined. The purchase in 1716 by Richard Iddings of land in the vicinity may or may not have included the Paper Mill House property. Iddings was the father of Elizabeth Iddings, who married Isaac Wayne of Easttown. General Anthony Wayne was the son of Isaac and Elizabeth Wayne.

However, it has been established that the eight acres of land on Darby Creek south of St. David's Road, purchased in 1786 from Iddings by William Hayman (a Captain in the Revolutionary navy and brother-in-law of General Wayne), did include the Paper Mill House land. It is possible that William Hayman built the original 18th century stone structure closest to St. David's Road soon after he purchased the land.

Page 128

William Hayman died August 8, 1816. In Delaware county Deed Book R, Page 394, a deed of February 1828 records the purchase by William Crosley, a woolen manufacturer, of the 187 acres of land on the Darby Creek from the estate of William Hayman. A description in this deed mentions the "store and tenement houses," indicating that both were in existence on this date and quite possibly before.

John Grant, in a manuscript paper written especially for the book, "Historic Newtown Township (Newtown Square, Delaware County, Pa.) 1 6811 981," states that Mr. Crosley's woolen mill was constructed at this time (February 1 828). In the 1 850 U. S. Census, William Crosley is listed as a 63-year old "woolen manufacturer" and store owner. Jackson Bevan is named as the 30-year old "store tender." The Crosleys still owned the property ten years later in 1860, but the mill was run by the I. & R. S. Griffith Woolen Factory at that time. In February of 1861, the mill burned.

Casper S. Garrett purchased 4.78 acres of the property, including store and tenements, in 1865, and in 1866 Casper Garrett's brother Edwin supervised the erection of a paper mill near the old woolen mill site. The new mill was named the "Union Paper Mill". This mill, too, was destroyed by fire in 1887.

Eventually, in 1891, Charles Custis Harrison purchased the former mill area along Darby Creek, and several hundred adjoining acres in Newtown and Easttown Townships. C. C. Harrison commissioned the then-prominent Philadelphia architect Frank Furness to design and build a large estate residence on a high hill overlooking the scenic countryside -which he named "Happy Creek Farm".

Harrison had been president of the Franklin Sugar Refining Company in Philadelphia, and a member of the brokerage firm of Harrison, Frazier and Company. He also was a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania and had served as provost. The Furness mansion was torn down in 1937.

In 1976 Roberts Harrison, now deceased, the grandson of C. C Harrison, generously deeded the Paper Mill House, and 4-1/2 acres of land from this tract, to the Township of Newtown for a modest token payment.

*Editor's note: The site of the mills on the Darby Creek, and the Paper Mill House Museum itself, lie a scant mile south of the border of Easttown township. They were well known to our local residents during the 19th century era for their importance, and they supplied a livelihood to some. The mills have been silent for over 110 years since the last of them burned, but the mill house, converted into a museum, remains to remind us of this former seat of industry.

 
 

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