One of the greatest contributors of New Garden information to books and newspapers was Ellwood Michener, of a Michener family who came
here from Bucks County following the Revolutionary War. His father, Dr. Ezra
Michener, a noted physician and naturalist, was born in London Grove Township, the youngest of four children. Educated in local schools, Ezra Michener even as
a youngster showed an innate fondness for plants and flowers.
At age 24, he turned from surveying for which he had been
trained to the study of medicine and entered the office of Dr. D. J. Davis of Philadelphia. "I was often reminded of some country habit, some vulgar expression," he
wrote, for he felt very out of place in the City, particularly when he entered
the lecture room filled with five hundred students and found himself the only
one dressed in the plain clothes of the Society of Friends. Shunned by
classmates, he shunned them in return. Michener, as a house student at The
Philadelphia Dispensary in 1816, is believed to have been the first there to
use Ergot in cases of threatening abortion. (This is still used today.) After
further study at the Southern Dispensary, and upon completion of anatomy
studies, he returned to his father's home and local practice. There were then
three doctors in the area, and competition was keen. Michener married Sarah
Spencer who bore him four sons. The first died: Ellwood was second, followed by
Jenner and Lea. When Dr. Chamberlain of New Garden quit his practice about
1829, Michener purchased the Chamberlain property and moved here. He had
already fought a severe dysentery epidemic that left sixty dead in New Garden - half the deaths experienced in the two mile wide belt of it that ran from Kennett Square into London Grove and Franklin Townships. New Garden was hardest hit. A
cholera epidemic struck in 1832 that started in Philadelphia, and was,
apparently, carried here by travelers who died at Mermaid Tavern. Most who
contracted this dread disease died within ten hours of its first symptoms, and
local doctors were quite unable to do anything to prevent its spread.
Dr. Ezra Michener was a strong advocate of temperance, for
he had earlier considered himself an intemperate man who had faced this issue,
and overcome the temptation. He wrote many essays on the subject and spoke
frequently at public meetings of the problems caused by over-indulgence. He
publicly chastised Dr. Ross of Toughkenamon for his intemperance.
Throughout the years, Michener collected botanical and
zoological specimens all over the County, and was an elderly member in the
Cabinet of Science in Chester County. His election as correspondent to the Academy of Natural Sciences was an outgrowth of this membership.
His wife, Sarah, died during the Winter of 1843, and he,
himself, fell very ill. During the long recovery period, Dr. Michener indexed
his herbarium of more than one thousand plant species, and made many more
collecting trips. A year later, he married Mary S. Walton of London Grove. His
new mansion, built in 1855 on an open area of two, or three acres of lands, was
planted extensively with a large variety of evergreen and deciduous trees, and
shrubbery. Some of the plant material is yet evident at the home which is on
Newark Rood near Hillendale.
Dr. Michener's contributions of letters, books, etc. to the
religious moral, scientific, and miscellaneous literature of the day total:
Books - 15 Agricultural
Essays - 49
Medical Reports, etc. - 23 Daily Local News - 90
For Friends' Intelligencer and Journal, etc. - 50
At his request, a tree which he had planted - one Pawlownia
Imperialis - was cut down and sawed into boards from which his coffin was made.
When he died at age 92, on June 24, 1887, it was said that "he did not belong
exclusively to Chester County, Pennsylvania, or America, but to the whole
scientific world." His large collection of natural history, including over five
hundred species of birds, animals, and reptiles, was taken to Swarthmore College in 1869 and placed in its museum. It was later lost to fire.
Dr. Michener, himself, wrote the Michener biography for
Futhey and Cope's "History of Chester County." His added note may well explain
why not only the Michener family, but others, too, came to New Garden:
"It is worthy of notice... that soon after the close of the
Revolutionary war a very remarkable emigration took place from Bucks to Chester County. The emigrants appear to have been mostly Friends, and very largely from
Buckingham Monthly Meeting to that of New Garden, as they were then
constituted. If my notes are correct, during the ten years from 1784 to 1795
New Garden Monthly Meeting received certificates of membership for 270 members.
Of this number, 181 were from Buckingham Monthly Meeting alone. About forty of
them were Micheners.
Two suggestions have been offered for this unusual
emigration, - the hope of finding a more fertile soil, and the prosperous condition
of the society of which they were members within the limits of the Western
Quarterly Meeting. These may have been causes; but when I remember the terrible
tragedy of the Doanes, which had very recently occurred in the immediate
vicinity, with the violent excitement, embittered feeling, and suspicion which
prevailed, it looks more like a modern 'hegira' of the lovers of peace and
quietness to escape the confusion and perhaps danger by which they were
The Doanes were several Tory brothers who robbed extensively
throughout Bucks County and surrounding areas, including the Revolutionary
Treasury. They were somewhat known as Robin Hood types, and it is believed that
a split in Buckingham Meeting, and genuine fear of reprisal, occurred when some
members informed on them. Their behavior and physical prowess bears a great
resemblance to that of "Sandy" Flash of Kennett fame.