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Thornbury Historical Society local history collection


Held at: Thornbury Historical Society [Contact Us]PO Box 155, Cheyney, PA, 19319

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

The area now known as Thornbury Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania was populated by Lenni-Lenape Native Americans when Europeans began to settle there in the 17th century. George Pearce was the "First Purchaser" of the land, purchasing a tract from William Penn in 1681. Thornbury Township, likely named after the hometown of Pearce's wife in Gloucestershire, England, was officially incorporated in 1687.

In the 18th century, saw and grist mills and ironworks powered by Chester Creek were at the center of Thornbury Township's economy. Several Thornbury residents aided the American Revolutionary forces as they fought at the Battle of Brandywine, encamped at Valley Forge, and struggled in other areas nearby. Until the late 18th century, Thornbury Township was located in Chester County. In 1789, Delaware County split from Chester County, which resulted in there being a Thornbury Township in each county.

Historically, Thornbury was a tolerant community, influenced in part by its Quaker roots. This attitude made it possible for African Americans to prosper in this area much earlier than in other areas of the United States: Thornbury African Methodist Church was established in 1834; Thornbury elected a black judge, Squire Hazzard, in the late 1800s; and the Institute for Colored Youth, founded in Philadelphia in 1837 and today the oldest historically black college in the United States under its appellation Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, moved to George Cheyney's Farm in Thornbury in 1902. The House of Refuge, the first facility for court-referred young men in the country (founded in 1828), also relocated to Thornbury Township, in 1892.

For most of its history, Thornbury was a largely rural community. Commercial and residential development in Thornbury expanded throughout the 20th century, especially after World War II. The township grew to encompass three post offices: Cheyney, Glen Mills, and Thornton. Amidst this development, there has also been a move to preserve local historic assets. The Chester Creek Historic District and Thornton Village Historic District are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


"Thornbury's Past at Thornbury Park." 2011. Accessed June 19, 2014.

The collection consists of various primary-source and secondary-source materials documenting people, places, organizations, and other topics relating to Thornbury Township in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and nearby areas.

The collection includes a large amount of newspaper clippings; ephemera, such as pamphlets, newsletters, and event programs; photocopies of primary-source documents; and narrative histories and personal memoirs, some of which are available on data CDs. Amongst these materials is a small accumulation of mailings, newsletters, and other printed matter from Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. There is also a sizeable quantity of historic property research materials, including photocopies of primary source documents, newspaper clippings, printed materials, and correspondence. Included in the collection is research on Persifor Frazer's life and property.

There is also a substantial amount of original, primary-source material in the collection. Of special interest are: a small quantity Murphy family materials including Inez Murphy school records from Disston School in Tacony (1930s), and letters and postcards to Mrs. James J. Murphy from her oldest son James Jr., who worked abroad for the State Department as a United States Consul, as well as from her youngest son John Murphy and relation Sgt. Jim O'Brien (both were soldiers in World War I); Improved Order of Red Men, Yemassee Tribe #134 (Downingtown, Pa.) cash book with member names, 1886-1891; and records from the Thornbury School District Board of Directors, including minute books (1881-1932, with gaps), treasurer's book (1885-1923), and Central School teacher's monthly reports (1914-1920). Additional primary-source materials include a Thornbury Young Friends Association minute book, 1921-1933; Jacob B. Cheyney tax receipts for Thornton, 1906-1907; Road Master's reports, circa 1914-1915; Glen Mills station ticket agent reports, 2003-2004; and Thornbury Ecological Association incorporating materials, circa 1974.

The collection features a variety of original and reproduction photographs, some of which are framed, as well as slides, maps, and VHS tapes.

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

Thornbury 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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