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Radnor Historical Society manuscript collection


Held at: Radnor Historical Society [Contact Us]113 West Beech Tree Lane, Wayne, PA, 19087

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Radnor 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

"Once home to the Lenni Lenape Indians, the land [that is now Radnor Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania] was first a group of 40 Quakers from Radnorshire, Wales. Seeking religious freedom, the settlers emigrated to a 5,000 acre section purchased from William Penn, granted him by the Crown, in 1681.

"Radnor Township was officially founded a year later in 1682. Penn laid out the township in an elongated rectangle...parallel to the Schuylkill River. The parcels of land contained within were oblongs parallel to the township boundaries. The land then sold at a rate of one British pound per 50-acre parcel.

"In 1717 the Welsh Friends erected a meetinghouse on a trail made by the Conestoga (Susquehanna) Indians, connecting the Schuylkill and Susquehanna Rivers. Later this trail became the Old Lancaster Road, then the Conestoga Road. [The village of] Radnorville (now called Ithan) grew naturally around the meetinghouse and remained the center of population of [Radnor] Township for 200 years. The exact geographical center of Radnor's rectangular border is a point less than 100 yards south of the original Quaker meetinghouse.

"Besides clearing and tilling fields for farmland, the Welsh established grist mills, sawmills, and tanneries using the power of Ithan and Darby creeks. What is now open space at the Willows Park was once the Township's busiest commercial area.

"The influence of the Welsh, some of whom were forced by heavy taxation to sell their land, waned in the latter half of the 18th century. A hint of Radnor's beginning's remains, however, in the names of streets and places evident throughout the community.

"In 1741, the westward extension of the Conestoga Road, which ultimately connected Philadelphia and Lancaster, began for Radnor the enduring legacy of a place through which travelers passed. Traffic supported four inns in the town, one of which, the "Sorrel Horse," is said to have sheltered George Washington and General Lafayette during the encampment at Valley Forge; the inn still stands as the Agnes Irwin Lower School.

"On September 15, 1777, George Washington, then General of the Continental Armies, which had been disastrously defeated four days previously on the banks of the Brandywine, saved the morale of his troops by marching from Germantown out the Conestoga Road beyond what is now Paoli to "engage again" (according to the words on the monument) "the British invader."

"During the encampment at Valley Forge, Washington's picket post on the heights behind the Friends Meeting House could survey movements from all directions, thanks to thoroughly cleared land. A no-man's land between Valley Forge and Philadelphia during the Revolution, Radnor was raided twice by British armies.

"More traffic and development came with the opening of the macadam toll road, the Lancaster Turnpike, the first toll road in America, in 1794. The Columbia (later Pennsylvania) Railroad, which came through the Township in 1832, made Radnor more accessible to the city and dominated development here for more than a century. Its monopoly was strengthened later in the 1800's when its president, A. J. Cassatt, brother of impressionist artist Mary Cassatt, bought the turnpike from Philadelphia to Paoli to prevent it from being tracked for streetcars.

"New hotels and settlements arose beside railroad stations at Morgan's Corner (adjacent to today's Radnor train station) and White Hall (the Radnor section of Bryn Mawr). The first of many great country estates in Radnor to be converted to institutional use came when the Brothers of the Order of Hermits of St. Augustine established the Catholic College of St. Thomas of Villanova [now Villanova University] in 1842...

"In 1865, 300 acres surrounding Cleaver's Landing, a milk stop of the railroad, were bought by banker J. Henry Askin, who named "Louella" for two of his three daughters and built a mansion there for his family and a small supporting village, with a Presbyterian church, Lyceum hall, and an avenue (Bloomingdale) of mansard-roofed villas.

"In the 1880's, George W. Childs, owner of [the] Drexel Estate on Bryn Mawr Avenue, and his partner A. J. Drexel, bought Askin's land holdings in Louella, and turned the mansion into a hotel. Louella was renamed ["Wayne" for] Anthony Wayne (who had been born nearby) and [was] one of the country's first planned suburban developments (served by electricity, sewers, a central heating system, and a public water supply). Wayne was promoted for its "salubrious air." Its development doubled the township's population to 3,800 between 1880 and 1890, and Wayne remains the population center of the township today.

"The new households brought service trades, caused quarries for building stone to be opened and men imported to work in them, and a brickyard to flourish in Garretville (now Garrett Hill). In outlying areas, wealthy industrialists from Philadelphia turned farms into the country estates for which the Main Line was known.

"It was a natural step for Radnor Township to assume on March 12, 1901, the more elaborate governmental structure of a first class township. This form of government provided for representation of the viewpoints of both the suburban areas of Wayne and the Rosemont outskirts of Bryn Mawr, as well as the more leisurely country districts.

"Since World War II, tremendous increases in population (from about 13,000 in 1950 to about 29,000 in 1996), taxation, and other factors have forced all but a few of the grand estates (A[r]drossan Farm being the largest) to be subdivided for housing developments. Exceptions remain in those areas that have been turned into commercial centers, schools, colleges, country clubs, or religious institutions.


Quoted text from: Radnor Township, Pennsylvania. "History of the Township." Accessed March 26, 2014.

This collection consists of a variety of original manuscript materials relating to the people, businesses, and organizations of Radnor Township and its vicinity. It includes photographs (prints, albums, and glass plate and film negatives), scrapbooks, financial records, property records and deeds, and other materials.

Business records of note include: Builder's daybook, 1835-1854; General store daybook (Lower Merion, PA), 1839-1881; and Walter Bassett Smith builder's ledgers, circa 1900-1920

Some organizational records of note are: minutes, account books, and other records of the Protective Society of Radnor and Haverford for the Detection and Prosecution of Horse Thieves and the Recovery of Stolen Horses, 1837-1945; Euterpean Society ledger books, programs, and scrapbook (1891-1904); American Legion Anthony Wayne Post No. 418 records; and Radnor Overseers of the Poor account book, 1765-1807.

Highlights among the family and personal papers include: Alan Smith papers, American Friends Service Committee, reconstruction in France, 1917-1919; 18th century deeds, including a 1702 William Penn deed; Rev. J. Cowpland sermons, (St. Johns, Concord) circa 1900; Ewing family letters, 1870s; and Margaret Wendell writings/memoirs, circa 1830.

Some notable photograph albums and scrapbooks are: a photograph album of Quaker meeting houses in the Philadelphia area, circa 1910; a Civil War clippings scrapbook; and a Finley family photo album.

The collection also includes clippings of Emma C. Patterson's column, "Your Town and My Town," which appeared in the Suburban & Wayne Times from 1949 to 1958. Written during a time when Wayne's founders were still around to reminisce about the area, the articles are a wealth of information, with many names and places listed. The articles have been transcribed online on the Radnor Historical Society's website,

Materials collected from various sources at various times by the Radnor 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 Radnor Historical Society directly for more information.

Radnor 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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