Main content

West Caln Township Historical Commission local history collection


Held at: West Caln Township Historical Commission [Contact Us]P.O. Box 175, Wagontown, PA, 19376

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the West Caln Township Historical Commission. 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

"Caln Township [Chester County, Pennsylvania], whose name came from a community in England, was first designated in 1714: Caln was divided into East Caln and West Caln in 1728 and in 1733, shortly after this division, the land area of West Caln was surveyed for sale. The boundaries were then formalized, and West Caln was officially recognized as a Township in 1744.

"An important physical feature that affected the development of West Caln Township was the Indian trail that became Old Peter's Road, named for Peter Bezellon, and is now known as Route 340. In the early 1700's, it was the main road between Philadelphia and Lancaster and named Kings Highway. Because it was frequently traveled, there were a number of inns and taverns that developed along this route, and several of these structures still exist.

"One of the oldest [inns] was constructed in 1736, and was first known as the Farmers' and Mechanic's Inn. In later years it was purchased and expanded by a member of the Way family, one of the first families to settle in West Caln. The name changed to "Sign of the Waggon" or "The Waggon". Caverns beneath the structure have led historians to believe that this building was once a stop on the under-ground railroad. Still standing, this building is one of the oldest structures in West Caln Township.

"West Caln Township developed slowly throughout the early to mid 1900's. The industry that developed in the area eventually declined due to changes in technology. Automobiles allowed more mobility and residents were able to work outside the Township. The influence of the Amish in West Caln Township heightened the awareness of the prime agricultural lands and helped to moderate development.

"West Caln Township slowly evolved into a bedroom community with the commercial and industrial focus on agriculture and recreation."


Quoted text from: West Caln Township Historical Commission. "West Caln Township History." Accessed October 29, 2013.

This collection is organized by document type and subject into eleven groupings: "I. Subject files," "II. Obituaries," "III. Genealogy reference," "IV. Census records," "V. Deeds," "VI. Tax records," "VII. House histories," "VIII. Audiovisual materials," "IX. Photographs," "X. Maps," and "XI. Local manuscripts." The first seven groupings, which make up the bulk of the collection, consist almost entirely of secondary-source materials such as newspaper clippings, computer print-outs, photocopies of academic articles and of original documents, research notes, and transcriptions. Some original documents such as maps, photographs, letters, oral histories, and deeds are also in the collection, concentrated in the latter five groupings.

The first grouping, Subject files, consists of various secondary-source materials, including newspaper clippings, computer print-outs, photocopies of academic articles and original documents, and research notes, relating to various West Caln local history topics. There is a partial inventory of contents for these files available on site.

The second grouping, Obituaries, consists solely of newspaper clippings, circa 1990-2013.

Genealogy reference, the third grouping, includes similar materials as subject files, but focuses on local families and individuals.

The fourth grouping, Census records, consists of photocopies of original documents, computer print-outs, transcripts, and abstracts of U.S. Federal census records, as well as a 1927 farm census and 1936 school census.

The fifth grouping, Deeds, consists mostly of newspaper clippings, photocopies of clippings and of original documents, transcripts, abstracts, and computer print-outs relating to deed searches, land sales, public sales, and sheriff's sales. There also three original deeds (circa 1860) on display in the adjacent West Caln Township building.

The sixth grouping, Tax records, includes computer print-outs, recent maps, will abstracts for West Caln Township 1713-1825, copies of original documents, and transcripts or abstracts of dental and medical patient registers, occupation lists from directories, and tax lists.

The seventh grouping, House histories, consists of research files on buildings in West Caln Township over 100 years old, with copies of maps, copies of historic documents, copies of academic articles, narrative histories, genealogy research, research-related correspondence, and research notes. The files are active and added to on added to on a regular basis. Research on about 150 houses is already complete, mostly for buildings over 150 years old.

Audiovisual materials, which consist of VHS, VHSc, and audiocassette tapes and date from circa 2000-2010, make up the eighth grouping. There are recordings of programs on local history and general history subjects, such as Hibernia, Amish funerals, Lewis and Clark, and other topics, as well as some oral histories (some of which have been transcribed).

The ninth grouping, Photographs, consists of mostly copies with some original photographs of local historic buildings, individuals, street scenery, families, and other subjects. Some photographs are on display.

The tenth grouping, Maps, dates from 1873-2013, although most maps are from the 20th century. Many of the maps are copies though there are some originals, including several from the late 19th century. The maps are of West Caln Township and Chester County as well as Philadelphia and other parts of the country; there are maps for census, U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps, road maps, flight path maps, railroad maps, and others. Some maps are on display. There is a partial inventory available on site.

Finally, the collection includes a small amount of Local manuscripts, consisting of original documents relating to West Caln Township individuals, families, and organizations. Of special interest are: a packet of letters from Pvt. Marvin W. Rauck, mostly to Mrs. John L. Holt in Coatesville, with some other letters, clippings, and funeral/memorial cards, circa 1943-1944; a few letters relating to Samuel Hatfield, 1851; and some records of Wagontown Chapel, including Golden Rule Bible Class member lists and receipts/expenditures, 1932-1957, and Wagontown Sunday School bank records.

Materials collected at various times from various sources by the West Caln Township Historical Commission.

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 West Caln Township Historical Commission directly for more information.

West Caln Township Historical Commission
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Faith Charlton 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.
Access Restrictions

Contact West Caln Township Historical Commission for information about accessing this collection.

Collection Inventory

Print, Suggest