Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
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Source: October 2002 Volume 39 Number 4, Pages 139–143

The Woods

Herb Fry

Page 139

The property selected as the Vassar Show House last year was The Woods, a rambling estate house marked by Colonial, Victorian and Tu­dor influences, located at 1560 Sugartown Road in Paoli. Michael Parkin earlier contacted the History Club seeking information about its past. He and his wife Lorie purchased the six-acre property on April 30, 2000 from the estate of Catharine Graff, planning to restore it as their residence. The house stands on the south side of Sugartown Road and the east side of Route 252, behind a dense growth of rhododendron bushes that effectively screen the street view.

The history of this section of Easttown Township is inevitably inter­twined with that of the Wayne family. William Penn's first patent, or deed, to the land is dated September 13 & 14, 1684, signed by him in London to British merchant James Claypoole for 1,050 acres across the western end of Easttown. It states that Claypoole was to pay Penn one shilling a year for each 100 acres. Today that would aggregate about eighty cents.

Claypoole's heirs and administrators on March 25, 1700, granted 1,000 acres to Adam Roads. The northwest portion of 500 acres passed through three more owners before 386 acres of it was deeded

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on May 11, 1724 to Anthony Wayne (originally Wain) late of Wicklow, Ireland (grandfather of Revolutionary War general Anthony Wayne). He is said to have constructed a small stone dwelling on the land which was later incorporated into the larger house still standing today.

Captain Anthony Wayne, born in 1666, originally of the border of Yorkshire and Derbyshire, England, emigrated to County Wicklow, Ireland, about 1688, during the reign of Charles II. He served in the army of William of Orange, and commanded a squadron of dragoons at the Bat­tle of the Boyne in 1690. He lived in Ireland after Boyne, and received from William a tract of confiscated land situated in one of the valleys where the mountains of central Wicklow rise. Here, during a stay of about 32 years, he saved his money and then, with no explanation for departing, suddenly took ship for America in 1722/3 with his Dutch wife, Hannah Faulkner, and a large family of children. He settled in Easttown, where his son Isaac joined him from Ireland in 1724.

Captain Anthony Wayne entered into an agreement of bargain and sale for 360 acres with Isaac dated May 8, 1739, but died December 2 of that year without having executed a deed. Therefore, on May 5, 1744 John Wayne, executor of the will, confirmed the agreement conveying to his brother Isaac the tract of 360 acres. Isaac Wayne married Elizabeth Iddings of neighboring Newtown Township. After his father's death he improved the property. By the early 1740s, Isaac had built the first large addition to the magnificent fieldstone house that has become known as "Historic Waynesborough." It is two and a half stories, measuring 35 x 45 feet. In 1765 a wing was added to the north­east, and in 1812 it was altered again. Isaac's son Anthony (born New Year's Day of 1745) succeeded to the estate when he was 29 years old, upon the death of his father.

Young Anthony Wayne had married Mary (known also as Polly) Penrose at Christ Church, Philadelphia, in 1766. He raised a regiment at the beginning of the Revolutionary War and rose to the rank of general on the strength of his military prowess. After the war, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the U. S. Army by President Washington. In 1793 he was sent to subdue the Indians of the Northwest Territory, and after victory in battle, concluded a treaty with them. While on his

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way home, he took sick at Fort Presque Isle and died there in December of 1796. He was buried at the fort on the shore of Lake Erie, and the now 500-acre estate passed to his son, another Isaac - Polly having died in 1793. In 1809 his remains were reinterred by Isaac at Old St. David's (Radnor) Church. Isaac was 24 years old when his father died, but he had been admitted to the bar in Chester County the previous year. He served as a member of the General Assembly in 1800-01. He married Elizabeth Smith around 1803. They had five children (including twins), but none of them survived their father when he died in 1852. Isaac's wife having died earlier in the year, the property passed to his sister's grandson, William Wayne Evans, who changed his name to William Wayne.

Captain William Wayne, like all the Waynes before him, was active in the military and in local politics. He was commanding officer of Company K of the 97th Pennsylvania Infantry during the Civil War. Later he was elected to the state House for several terms. He married Hannah Jane Zook. When he died in 1901, he was a widower as his wife had predeceased him. Under his will, the Waynesborough property was divided and passed to his two children, William Wayne Jr. and Mary Atlee Wayne Wirgman (wife of John M. Wirgman). Son William received 341 acres and the manor house on the west side of Route 252. Mary Wirgman received 113 acres on the east side of Route 252.

It was from the Wirgmans that Louis Graff bought a house and 16+ acres of land in 1906. (The deed, interestingly, was made out not to Graff, but to his wife, Nellie M. Graff.) By this time, the house, originally built about mid-19th century, had been renovated at least twice to include some Victorian features. Almost immediately after his purchase, Louis Graff changed the house further, adding a Tudor facade and the front veranda, which was completed in 1918.

Graffs renovations continued through the family's long residence in the house. He restored the solarium and added a greenhouse, pergola, an elaborate rose garden, five heated concrete pools stocked with exotic fish, lush plantings and an irrigated vegetable garden. The white pillars marking the entrance to the estate still stand on Sugartown

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Road. At that time Waynesborough Road was an unpaved service road. Louis Graff was a dealer in grain commodities, buying grain from Lancaster County farmers and selling it abroad. Dealing first out of the Philadelphia Corn Exchange and then from the Commercial Exchange in the Bourse, he made and lost huge fortunes. He was elected president of the Commercial Exchange in 1925, and served in that capacity for at least eight years.

A 135-acre tract of land across the street (Sugartown Road), extending north to Lancaster Avenue in Paoli became the Tredyffrin Country Club in 1918. The fairways and greens for the 15th through 18th holes were on the west side of Route 252, and the clubhouse stood where the eastern edge of Paoli Shopping Center is located today. The rest of the course was on the east side of Route 252, and extended to the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Longecorse Lane. Bobby Jones is said to have set the course record of 66 in 1930, the same year he won the U. S. Amateur at the Merion Cricket Club.

The Graffs joined the the golf club along with other local residents such as A. E. Newton, Utley Wedge, Clarence W. Wagar and Capt. E. B. Cassatt of Chesterbrook Farm. The Depression of the 1930s followed by the war caused the membership to dwindle and the club closed in 1943. Two years later, the property was sold for development, and the contents of the clubhouse put up for auction.

Nellie Graff died in the early 1950s, followed by her husband on April 16, 1955. His obituary in The Philadelphia Inquirer read:

Louis G. Graff, former president of the Commercial Exchange and for many years a leading authority on grain exportation, died Saturday in Bryn Mawr Hospital. He was 88.

Mr. Graff, who lived in Paoli, was a native of Philadelphia and was edu­cated at Hastings Academy in West Philadelphia. After working two years as a bank clerk, he entered the grain trade and became an exporter on a large scale.

In an interview in 1916 he was widely quoted on the needs of the Port of Philadelphia to meet the competition of other ports in the grain trade. He was a former member of the Chicago Board of Trade.

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Surviving are a son, Walter; two daughters, Mrs. Allan Young and Catha­rine Ann Graff, and a brother, Filson Graff, of Riverton, N. J.

Funeral services will be held at 11 A.M. Wednesday at St. Mary's Memorial Church, Wayne.

Catharine Ann Graff, who never married, lived in the house from the age of three until her death in 1999, just short of her 100th birthday. She nursed her parents until they died and then lived in the house alone with a faithful housekeeper.

She was an avid golfer, many time women's champion at the Tredyffrin Country Club, and an accomplished horsewoman, competing successfully at the Devon Horse Show. As she grew older she did not go out often or very far, but in 1955 she bought a Buick Century Riviera hardtop automobile, which she drove on her infrequent trips to Paoli until failing eyesight prevented her driving. At the time of her death in 1999, the car had 18,000 miles on its odometer. She remained sharp of mind until she died and was, by all accounts, a remarkably opinion­ated woman and very lively company.

On her death, she bequeathed $1 million to Paoli Memorial Hospital, ear­marked for its Cancer Center, since both of her parents had died of cancer. In her will she also remembered the Royer-Greaves School for the Blind in Paoli and, although not of the Catholic faith, she also bequeathed a substantial sum to St. Norbert Church located nearby on the old country club property.

Accordingly, the estate known as The Woods, named for the stately trees that surround the house, was once owned by Anthony Wayne's grandfather and his descendants from 1724 until 1906, and then by the Graff family from 1906 until just two years ago. It is a remarkable record on the part of both families.



Beever, Jane Alles, "A Brief History of The Woods" in Vassar Show House 2001 Catalog.

Burns, Frank, manuscript, "Waynesborough, The Home of the Waynes," December 1936

Deed, Wirgman to Nellie Graff, Chester County Deed Book E-13, Page 301, 1906.

Dittmann, Stephen, "A Brief Look at the History of Waynesborough and .. . its Barn" in Tredyffrin Easttown History Club Quarterly, Vol. 39, No. 2, April 2001.


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