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Charlestown Historical Society manuscripts collection


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.

This collection includes photographs, slides, deeds, maps and atlases, family papers, business records, school and municipal records, scrapbooks and various other materials pertaining to the local people and organizations of Charlestown Township (Chester County, Pennsylvania) and nearby areas.

Several types of school related materials are in this collection, including numerous penmanship and school books; Charlestown School lists of students, teachers, and boards for the years 1925-1985 (lists compiled in the late 1900s and early 2000s); teachers' monthly reports for Amity School, 1895-1909; a decent amount of materials on the history of local schools, including a photo of a racially integrated class, circa 1910; photographs and slides of school classes; class lists; research material and newspaper clippings; and correspondence. The Board of School Director's meeting minutes from 1839-1861 are also present, but in fragile condition. Information on many old schools is organized by school name, but some material is organized by year (late 1920s-early 1990s).

The family papers in the collection include those of the Fisher-Funk-Davis family and the McCurdy family. Materials such as genealogical research, original family papers, 19th century deeds, and more recent family genealogy are present.

There are some photographs organized by name including Gene and Janet Baldwin's photographs and negatives of homes, events, and the local area; Elmer Lacey's photographs of local scenery and buildings; and John Garvin's photographs of unidentified places and buildings. Janet Baldwin's name is also associated with a tray of about 100 color slides of school classes, field trips, clubs, and some landscape and flora, circa 1970s. Some photographs in the collection are oversized.

The collection also contains several rolled maps and late 19th century atlases of local areas, blueprints, and deeds dating between 1791 and 1867.

Municipal records in the collection include Township treasurer's books, 1920-1952 (with gaps), and a court docket book dating from the 1840s.

Additional items in the collection include a 1949 clippings scrapbook on Phoenixville, Pa; a possible doctor's receipt book, circa 1860s; a volume of constitution, by-laws, and early minutes of the Charlestown Society for the Detection of Horse Thieves, 1849-1921; a prothonotary ledger for Berks County dated 1790; and some miscellaneous and unidentified volumes.

Some items in the collection are framed, such as maps and certificates.

Materials collected at various times from various sources by the Charlestown Township Historical Society.

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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