"Friends are not supposed to be eager for... public life, but those at New Garden by 1815 occupied 75% of all the municipal offices," said Truman Cooper to New Garden Friends Meeting in 1915. Annual general elections were held for all of Chester County in the County Seat. It had been decreed that two judges and four clerks and/or inspectors were to be chosen for the County. An amendment in 1738 directed Court Justices to divide the County into eight nearly equal districts with an election to be held in each township four days before the general election to select a person "acquainted with the estates and circumstances of the inhabitants." The Sheriff then drew lots and selected one person from each district to serve as inspector in the general election on October 1. New Garden was in the Red Clay Creek district. Electors had to own fifty acres of cleared and improved land, or be worth fifty pounds in money.
Because it was so inconvenient to vote in Chester, the County was divided into election districts in 1776. New Garden was then in the second district, and later in the third, with elections in each held at "Chatham, commonly called the Half-way House." When Delaware County was established the districts were known by the name of the voting place, thus we were in Chatham district and remained so until we became separate and known as the 24th district in 1828. Elections were to be "held at Jacob Taylor's inn," later known as the New Garden Inn. Local elections had been held earlier at the Hammer and Trowel Inn when John Allen and Isaac Sharp were elected as Constables in 1789, and John Allen and John Common as Supervisors of the Highways.
William "Sheenes" voted with the Militia at Carlisle in the election of 1794 when he served with troops sent to quell the "Whiskey Insurrection." William Plowman cast his vote in the same election from Camp Shippinsburgh.
Township residents early joined the ranks of those who supported the Republican Party after it was formed in 1854. In 1856, the year of the first Republican Party National Convention in Philadelphia, enthusiasm was great. One newspaper reported:
"August 11 - The citizens of New Garden assembled on the evening of the 7th inst. to form a Fremont and Dayton Club. A large number were in attendance, and a preamble and resolutions condemning the Pierce administration were adopted. A club was formed and a large number signed the Constitution. The following person were elected officers:
President - Joshua Jefferis
Vice President - Wm. T. Hoopes
Recording Secretary - Wm. Brown
Corresponding Secretary - Hamilton Graham
Treasurer - Evan Brown
Executive Committee - Robert L. Walter
John Brown, John Jefferis, Thomas Buckingham,
Thomas Pearson, Isaac Hoopes, Halliday Hoopes,
Jacob Hobson, Gilpin T. Walton.
The meeting was addressed by Joshua Jefferis who gave a clear exposition of the party in power; his felicitious remarks were received with much applause. He was followed by John Walker, Esq., heretofore of the Democratic party, who contended that every real democrat was bound to vote for Freedom and Fremont. New Garden is fairly aroused and will give the largest majority she ever gave for the gallant 'Pathfinder.' "
John C. Fremont, the famous explorer who mapped much of the Oregon Trail among his other achievements, was not opposed to slavery in the South, generally, but against its introduction elsewhere. James Buchanan, Pennsylvania born and educated, was a skilled politician who favored extension of slavery. The next day, on August 12, the "American Republican" wrote:
"Falling Stars In New Garden"
"A correspondent writing to us from New Garden says: 'We had recently a strange occurrence here which I think is deserving of publication, inasmuch as the phenomona was not witnessed outside of New Garden. I allude to a certain exhibition of falling stars.' "
A large pole flying a dark blue cotton flag of the Fremont Party had been erected at the residence of "Mr. J. B." in New Garden. It bore paper stars, and the correspondent further wrote:
" 'The stars being made of paper, the fine generous DEMOCRATIC RAIN washed them off and brought them down to the ground. Just as short-lived will be the glory of those who raised the flag, for the strong breeze of Democracy that is fast swelling must soon bring down the pole, flag and all' "... "We can say to our correspondent that these stars are just the kind the Freemonters deal in. They only place sixteen on their section flag, and they are the men to suffer even these to be washed off... Depend upon it, the old flag, with its 31 stars, not one of which shall be washed out, is the one under which the people will rally at the next State and Presidential elections. Those who follow that banner keep step to the music of the Union, and none others are deserving of success in this or any other campaign."
A few days later, the 120 feet high pole had a hole bored into it which was filled with blasting powder and set off. It didn't fall, however, and became known as "an emblem, not only of Liberty and Free Soil, but as a memento of the impotent rage of Buchanan Ruffianism." As time passed, two men attempted to cut the flag ropes but fell from the pole when a load of small shot hit them, "Discharged by a gentlemen who happened to be nearby," and who was indignant that an accomplice of Slavery Extension should seek to dishonor a standard raised in the cause of Liberty.
Mr. Monaghan and Daniel Nields campaigned in Landenberg for the Democratic Party, seeking Buchanan's election. Jacob Taylor visited the "American Republican" office with "some fine specimens of apples. He left word that they were DEMOCRATIC APPLES!" And the paper responded, "Of course they were, for nothing so large and generous could spring from other soil. New Garden democrats are just like these apples - ripe for the contest that comes off on Tuesday next." They won.
The Civil War and its resultant problems took most of the headlines for many years, and little was reported on the political scene in local newspapers. Torchlight Parades were held with mounted delegations from New Garden participating. The riders wore red capes and caps; rode "fine horseflesh"; and were very showy. The meeting he1d at Landenberg during the Blaine and Logan Campaign was "one of the greatest political demonstrations ever witnessed in that little village." People came to gather in front of the hotel from all over the countryside as mounted marshals and their aides arranged the order of march for a parade. Citizens vied with each other in an effort to produce the best effects in illumination. (Illuminations were often a part of political campaigns and local celebrations. Each homeowner lit all his lamps and lanterns and put them in and outside of his house for best effect.) The town was for a time ablaze with light.
Dr. Benjamin Thompson was selected President of the Campaign and various orators delivered their pleas for party support. The West Grove Band played; the Associate Editor of the "Every Evening" newspaper of Wilmington spoke for forty minutes of the tariff and why it was a good government policy. The speakers enjoyed supper at the hotel and then viewed the parade with the citizens as it moved under the direction of Chief Marshal Nelson Woodward and marched and countermarched through the town. Swithin Shortlidge and Maris Hollingsworth were Woodward's aides. The Avondale Blaine and Logan Club participated along with the Kennett Pioneer Corps, London Grove Blaine and Logan Club, and New Garden Blaine and Logan Club. Illuminations were provided by William Alexander, Thomas McGilligan, Ezra Lund, Martin Scullie, James Lund, James Merritt, Samuel Hurd, John Derrickson, William Walker, Thomas Kimble, Michael Burns, and Mrs. Annie Fisher.
The most exciting thing that happened in the elections of 1887 seems to have been a bottle of ink that exploded at the polling place. "The Judge placed a tightly corked bottle on the store to thaw, and a few minutes later a terrific explosion occurred which shook the building, wrecked the stove, and damaged the ceiling and walls." After the excitement subsided, it was discovered that the Judge was missing, but he was found a little later crawling out from behind a box.
Each succeeding year found Republicans very active, with Democrats providing strong and organized opposition. Elections were still held at the Lyceum House. In January 1892, however, a petition was circulated asking for two polling places - one in Landenberg and one in Toughkenamon. R. Jones Monaghan, Esq. heard testimony on the division at Toughkenamon in May, and at Landenberg in June. Those in Landenberg who favored the division were opposed to the polling place being anywhere except Landenberg. A public meeting followed the testimony of the opponents. The general argument prevailed that it was a walk of several miles for people from Landenberg and Toughkenamon to the voting place, and that opposition to the change was from voters who were able to ride there. A rebuttal said that the Lyceum House was in the center of the Township and that a large number of people who lived around it, and in and about New Garden Village, walked to the polls, too. It further stated:
"The division is desired by a few wily politicians, backed by a handful of blind followers whose chief object is to better control the township in the interests of Darlington, Talbot, Snyder & Co."
The writer went on to condemn Lieutenant M. C. Cotton, who petitioned for the division and Colonel Hooten. The latter gentleman was probably Francis C. Hooten, a member of the West Chester Bar who served as District Attorney from 1866 to 1869, and as presidential Elector in 1868. He wrote, among other things, "The Supervisors Guide: A manual of the Road Laws of Pennsylvania..." designed to instruct supervisors and township officers of their duties.
Nine months after the petition for division was presented, Master Monaghan reported against it in a very lengthy statement. Another petition wag presented immediately, again seeking division, and was said to have borne signatures of nearly all the residents of the Township. It was denied, too. The division was not made until about 1906 when Route 41 became the dividing line between the North and South precincts, with polling places at New Garden and Toughkenamon. Landenberg had by then lost most of its political clout.
Records on hand of Township Supervisors' meetings date from 1851 when we find:
"At a meeting of the Supervisors of Newgarden Township held at the 8th day of december 1851 at the office of the towns Clerk we have and hereby do assess and levy upon the taxible inhabitants of said Township the sum of $599.14 to pay the expences incured by us in executing the duties appertaining to us as Supervisors aforesaid for the said year in the proportion and rates as folios (to wit):"
and then the property owners, property valuation, rate of tax, and amount of tax due from each were listed. There were 197 property owners in that year, with a tax rate of 1-3/5 mills per dollar. The names of 43 Inmates (renters of property) followed, plus 56 Single Freemen (men not indentured in any way.) The tax varied with personal property as well as real estate levied upon.
Caleb Hoopes, Sharpless Moore, and Isaac Walton, Supervisors for that year, also stated:
"We do hereby in virtue of the power invested in us appoint Joseph Chamberlain and we require him to demand and receive from each and every person named in the preceding duplicate the Tax assessed and Levied upon each person according to Law and pay the same over to us."
Meetings were recorded only once yearly thereafter when the new tax rate was set. In 1852 the rate was set at two mills in the meeting held in May. John Lamborn had replaced Caleb Hoopes, and James T. Chambers was the Towns Clerk. The tax rate increased to three mills in 1857, but dropped to 1-3/4 and did not rise again to three mills unti11900. There are no record books for the years from 1884 to 1891.
James Bramberry had served as Supervisor from 1876 to 1883 under the auspices of the Republican Party, but was dropped by the Party in that last year and the name of Sharpless Moore substituted. Friends of Bramberry, "the well known auctioneer of New Garden," ran him as an Independent and he was elected by a majority of more than forty votes. This was probably a good majority, for ten years or so later, it was reported that a big vote of 106 turned out for the election held on Saturday night. Samuel Wickersham was elected Supervisor in 1885, and "positively refused to serve," but since we only have little tidbits from newspaper reports, we don't know the "whys or wherefores" of these incidents. William Pratt, the new Assessor in 1893, had a big fight on his hands when Spencer and Sons at Kaolin raised cain over a tax increase. The matter was settled in court.
When a new telegraph line was strung through New Garden in 1880, the company was threatened with prosecution for putting poles in gutters. After the Township was divided into two voting districts, Minutes reflect more of the business that occurred. It became necessary to have two Roadmasters. Atley Jackson and Benjamin Reinhardt filled those positions at $1.25 per day wages with 25¢ additional paid for their horses, but not including time going to and from work. Thompson Richards and George Reardon were Supervisors, and the Treasurer, Samuel Lacklen, received 20¢ an hour for duties performed. Automobiles appeared and presented their own particular problems. The Supervisors had to obtain copies of laws governing them and had to make certain structural changes in bridges so they could safely pass over. Toughkenamon got too tough and the Courts were petitioned for special Constables to serve there.
The Electric Light Company wired the Lyceum House and furnished light free of charge; permission was granted to Pure Oil Company to lay its pipeline through part of the Township; and Roadmasters Jackson and Sheehan prepared a surprise supper - stewed oysters, rolls, cheese, pickles, coffee and cigars - and served it to show the good will that existed between the Supervisors and the Roadmasters. The attorney's bill for a year was $15.00 and Roadmasters stopped work for harvest. Temperance Street in Toughkenamon was to be stoned (at least "'as much as we felt we could afford") along with Landenberg hill. The latter took 185 loads of stone and cost $30.00.
As time passed the State Authority took over maintenance of some of the roads, but the Supervisors faced many other problems as we "progressed." Many loyal men have served as Supervisors, Roadmasters, Treasurers, Secretaries, etc. through the intervening years, and only a lack of space prevents mention of each and everyone.