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Charlestown Historical Society subject files


Held at: Charlestown Historical Society [Contact Us]PO Box 344, Devault, PA, 19432

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Charlestown Historical Society. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Charlestown Township is a township in northeastern Chester County, Pennsylvania.

"The name 'Charlestown' honors Charles Pickering, the [Quaker] [F]riend to whom William Penn granted 5,385 acres along the creek where Pickering and his friend, John Tinker, believed (mistakenly) that they had found silver. The two men dug a cave into the side of 'Tinker Hill,' thus creating the first non-Indian residence in the township. Drowned on a voyage back to England before 1700, Pickering willed his land to sixteen [Quaker] [F]riends. The acreage was combined with lands of John Grey and of Penn's sister, Margaret Lawther, to become Charlestown Township in the first official survey of 1738. This included what is now Schuylkill Township and the borough of Phoenixville; both areas were removed from Charlestown before 1850."

In the early 1800s commercial mining began in Charlestown. In addition to the mines, farming and various types of mills built along the local creeks were important sources of income for the township during this century. The early 1900s brought ice harvesting companies to the area. First came the Knickerbocker Ice Company, which converted an old mill dam into the Pickering Ice Dam. In 1901 Knickerbocker sold the dam to the American Ice Company of Philadelphia, which continued to harvest ice until the 1920s.

During World War II a military hospital was constructed in Charlestown because of its proximity to ports in New York and Philadelphia. In 1943 Valley Forge General Hospital opened and though slated to only be in operation for approximately ten years, remained active until the early 1970s. Today, the land that was used for the hospital is part of the campus of the Valley Forge Christian College.

The Charlestown Nature Center, now known as the Great Valley Nature Center, was established in 1974 as an organization that would encourage and provide environmental education to a wide ranging audience. Today, the Nature Center offers school, adult, and summer camp programs that reach over 40,000 people each year.

Many of the industries that sustained Charlestown in its early years are no longer prevalent today. Many of the farms have closed or their land has been sold. The last dairy farm closed in the late 1990s after being in operation for over 100 years. However, commercial mining still takes place, as of 2014, at the Independence Quarry on Route 29.


Quoted text from: Pittock, John. "Welcome to Charlestown." In Historical Sketches of Charlestown Township by Harman D. Rees, 314. Malvern, Pa.: Charlestown Historical Society, 2011.

The Charlestown Historical Society subject files, circa 1900-2014 (bulk 1976-2014), contain materials that relate to Charlestown Township's history and residents; local historic districts, buildings, and organizations; other Chester County historic sites and organizations; and other topics of local interest. Although there are a small number of scattered primary source documents in the collection, materials are largely secondary-source, such as newspaper clippings, research notes, scholarly articles, photocopies of primary documents, and printed materials and ephemera. The collection is organized into three series: I. Subject files; II. Family files; and III. Scrapbooks.

The Subject series contains information on various history topics, organizations, and buildings and lands associated with Charlestown Township including Great Valley Nature Center, Valley Forge General Hospital, churches and cemeteries, schools, and local artists and architects. There are also files on historic and preservation organizations and sites not located in Charlestown such as the Green Valleys Association and French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust. The series is organized roughly in alphabetical order by topic (some items have not been sorted yet).

The Family series is mostly newspaper clippings and photocopies of clippings pertaining to particular families who are from or associated with Charlestown, including the Eadline and Markley families. Information on most families is limited, but there are occasional primary documents, such as photographs, present in some of the folders. The series is organized alphabetically by family surname.

The Scrapbooks series consists of binders with newspaper clippings about Charlestown and local happenings. The binders are organized chronologically from 1960 to 2005.

Finding aids to the collection that are available on site include a set of catalog cards organized alphabetically, a folder listing for most boxes, and a series outline document. (Note that the arrangement on the series outline may be out of date since the collection has been re-organized since it was created.)

Materials collected by Charlestown Historical Society over time.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2012-2014 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Charlestown Historical Society directly for more information.

Charlestown Historical Society
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Sarah Leu through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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Collection Inventory

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