Monthly Archives: June 2011

by

The Smallest Kind of Farmer

No comments yet

Categories: Plumstead

The Plumstead census in 1870 includes the following listing for Patrick Conaulty, a 50-year-old widower:

He was an Irish immigrant living on his own with no wife and no family. The enumerator manifests his pity for Mr. Conaulty in the “occupation” column, recording that he is not just a farmer, but the smallest kind of farmer–alone.

As luck would have it, Patrick was eventually joined by his son Hugh, who appears with Patrick on the census in 1880:

Hugh, however, was not so lucky. By 1910 he was working as a farmhand on someone else’s land. In 1920 he appears again, a 71-year-old man, renting his house, working as a laborer, still single and living alone:

The census shows that he immigrated with his father in 1863 and was naturalized in 1880. I wonder if the lonely life they found in Bucks County was an improvement over the one they left in Ireland.

by

Stolen: The Restless Headstone of Lizzy M. Aingle

No comments yet

Categories: Crime, Graves, Point Pleasant, Tinicum

image

In the winter of 2003, some hooligan stole this headstone from a cemetery in the Point Pleasant area and threw it in a ditch on the side of River Road in Tinicum Township. Bill Moser found it there and had to pour boiling water on it to release it from the frozen mud. He tried to track down its rightful home, researching county death records and contacting local churches, but hit a dead end. Today, it sits in the office of his auto repair shop in Point Pleasant, but he’d like to return it to the grave site if he can find it. It reads:

The Resting Place

of

Lizzie M. Aingl[e]

daughter of

Alice Otto

Born [illegible date] 1869

Died August 18, 1870

Aged 1 Year

[?] Months And [?] Days

It’s followed by a long inscription, mostly illegible. Bill told me I could come back and do a grave rubbing, so hopefully we can reveal enough to find what it says. So far I’ve checked the 1870 US Census and Mortality Schedules for the Plumstead, Tinicum, and Kingwood Township searching for Lizzie and her mother Alice, but haven’t found anything. Bill thinks it stood against the graveyard wall because the back of the stone is clean and unworn, while the front was eaten away over the 130 years it stood outside. He also suggested that Lizzie may have been born out of wedlock, since her mother has a different surname.

by

The Lenape Building

No comments yet

Categories: Doylestown, Inns & Taverns

Dominating the intersection of State Street and Main Street, Lenape Hall is one of the most distinctive buildings in Doylestown. The building was dedicated on November 17th, 1874, and according to the late Doylestown historian Wilma Brown Rezer in her book Doylestown And How It Came to Be, it was originally designed to provide Doylestown with a town hall, a concentrated store area, and a much-needed indoor market. Before the construction of the indoor market, farmers came to town at 4am and lined the streets with their wagons, selling produce outside regardless of weather. The addition of an indoor market presumeably alleviated wagon traffic and protected the vendors and customers from inclement weather.

The construction cost was $50,0000, and it was built using a half million locally pressed bricks and trimmed with stone from Milwaulke and Ohio. It’s grand staircase was eight feet wide, made of ash planks two inches thick, with hand-carved railings and walnut balusters. Local jeweler Lewis Spellier built the gold-lettered clock at its peak. A wood awning was installed in 1876 and replaced with tin in 1898. The corner store was occupied by a drug store from its construction in 1874 until at least 1980, when Rezer wrote her history of Doylestown.

Writing in 1876, shortly after the Lenape building first opened, W.W.H. Davis reports:

The handsomest improvement, as well as one of the most useful, in the borough is the Lenape building… Its features are a market-house and six stores on the first story, a handsome and convenient hall that seats nearly eight hundred persons, and a stage equipped with beautiful scenery, four offices and dressing-room, on the second, and a beautiful lodge-room on the third. The building is brick, with stone trimmings, and is surpassed in beauty and convenience by but a few of the kind in the state.

The Lenape building remains a fixture of downtown Doylestown. The first floor still contains a number of shops, but the upper floors have been converted into apartments. It’s served different functions over the years, and it once even contained a bowling alley, as pictured below:

A child looks on as workers remove the Doylestown trolley line.

The Ship Tavern

The site of the Lenape building was originally the home of the Ship Tavern. In 1774, Samuel Flask purchased property south of present day East State Street and built the Ship Tavern at the crossroads. It stood for a century until it was demolished to make way for Lenape Hall in 1874.

The Ship Tavern

The crossroads brought a lot of business to Doylestown, and The Ship Tavern competed for tipplers with two other bars at the intersection: Doyle’s Tavern (built 1752), now the Fountainhouse, and Magill’s Tavern (1805), now partially incorporated into building that houses the Paper Unicorn.

The cornerstone of the Ship Tavern was incorporated into the rear wall of Lenape Hall, and is still visible. The words “Doylstown 26 Miles to Philadelphia” are still visible on its surface. If you look up the alley between the Lenape Building and Finney’s Tavern, you’ll find the old milestone on the back of the Lenape Building where the stone foundation meets the brick, about eye level.

Notice the omitted "e," an old alternate spelling of "Doylestown."

by

Slobbery Run

No comments yet

Categories: Black History, Inns & Taverns, Lower Black Eddy, Places, Plumstead, Racism

The other day I paid a visit to Slobbery Run, a small stream that cuts down from the hillside on River Road and flows into the canal. It wasn’t very slobbery when I came to visit, but I imagine after a hard rain the water flows a bit more impressively through this rocky valley.

From MacReynolds’ Place Names in Bucks County:

Slobbery Run – Small short steam in southeastern Plumstead Township, tumbling through a rocky ravine about a quarter mile east of Lower Black Eddy and emptying into Delaware Division Canal. The water foams over the rough boulders, hence its name. It is a venturesome climb from Delaware River Road up this steep valley, to be paid upon reaching the top with magnificent waves of river scenery.

It’s located just north of Devil’s Half Acre, an unlicensed distillery that operated along the canal in its early days and acquired a raucous reputation. One of the reasons I visited Slobbery Run was to try to pinpoint the plot of land on the boulder-covered hill that a black farmer cleared and cultivated, which I read about in this article by Cyrus Livezy, published in the Doylestown Democrat on November 28th, 1876, and reprinted by MacReynolds in Place Names:

 On the hillside after leaving the old Devils Half Acre house is a modest dwelling erected many years ago by ‘Old Black John,’ who by a vast amount of labor and with more patience and perseverance than is often found in the African race succeeded in rendering a small stony patch susceptible to cultivation, and just beyond this we come to the famous high rocks towering grandly at least eight feet above them. The sun is not visible here and the wintry atmosphere that prevades [sic] this place gives us a taste of that season, and we remember finding a block of winter ice here late April, 1830. Advancing a few rods we pass Rattling Run Cascade and are opposite Moss Giel Rock, which rises from the side of the hill some distance above the road. The ascent is very steep and the distance from the road to the summit of the rock is about three hundred feet. Our fraternal guide offers to lead us up by a circuitous route without difficulty, but climbing steep hills was a favorite amusement fifty years ago, and we resolve to have a taste of it now and in a few minutes, panting for breath, the summit of the rock is reached. Here after resting awhile we contemplate the scenery below, around and far away. On the eastern side is the cascade, so called from a small steam of water flowing through a wildwood glen and over a ledge of rocks. The run formerly bore a name that was rather uncongenial to modern refinement and was changed a few years ago to suit the taste of some Philadelphia ladies; and, although we are generally disposed to accept names as we find them, beg leave to demur on this case (as the steam flows through a thickly wooded glen) to call it Sylvan Run and Sylvan Run Cascade. Moss Giel Rock was dedicated by an ederly [sic] gentleman and some schoolboy companions in 1865, the ceremony consisting of reading Bayard Taylor’s account of the great Burns Festival at Moss Giel in Scotland in 1845. The Broad surface of the rock is smooth and pretty well covered with inscriptions by numerous visitors. Although many years of our life were passed within two miles of this place, we never stood upon the rock before and knew not of its sublimity. To the eastward the head of the Delaware and Raritan Canal feeder, Readings Hollow, Bulls Island and Raven Rock are visible.

It’s amazing to me that, following the rules of politeness in that era, Livezey dances around the word “slobbery” but doesn’t think twice before dropping offensive racial stereotypes.

I didn’t have much luck, and I have no idea if any evidence remains of this old homestead. I looked at an 1876 map of Plumstead, and it seems like the land at the top of the ridge was one large plot, while there were a couple thin strips of separately owned land running between the hill and the canal, one including Devil’s Half Acre and the other with one building shown across the road. It’s possible that John lived there, and that before River Road was widened he had enough cultivatable land to subsist on. I also haven’t been able to identify any African Amercian named John on the Plumstead census records from this era.

UPDATE: I met the owner of what is probably John’s homestead. The old house is gone, but until the 1930′s, it was an old wooden shack raised up on stilts. When the homeowner tore down the house that replaced it (a confused jumble of additions and alterations cobbled together as a residence) to build a new home, the bases of the old wooden stilts were still visible. There’s a small flat area adjacent to the house big enough for a garden.  The other houses immediately past Devil’s Half Acre weren’t built until after World War II, and are therefore unlikely candidates for John’s home site.

The owner of John’s plot also told me that, rather than Slobbery Run, the old-timers used the name Sloppy Gulch.

by

Sawmill Road Ruins

No comments yet

Categories: Solebury

These ruins stand on the edge of an empty field on Sawmill Road between Street and Aquetong Roads. The house has partially collapsed but the spring house and retaining wall appear to be in good shape. The next time I’m at the Solebury Historical Society I’ll look into the property records and see if I can learn more.