Landenberg was built on part of a thousand acres of land
owned by one John Evans, Jr., and on part of a thousand acres called "The
Wastelands," owned by William Miller. Once considered a major industrial center
of Chester County, it requires an active imagination to picture it as it once
John Evans, Jr. purchased land from the aforementioned
Lieutenant Governor John Evans, unrelated, who then lived in England. His
father already owned four hundred acres in London Britain Township, and had
erected a mill on it about 1715. This is said to be the one known later as
Yeatman's Mill, located near London Tract Church. When John Evans, Jr. married
Jane Howell, they lived at this mill site until 1734. He purchased his own land
then, "up the Creek" from his father. Upon his death four years later, at age
38, his homestead, mills, and lands were left to his sons. One son, Evan,
received four hundred acres with fulling mills, tenteryards, etc. that were to
become the site of Landenberg. These mills are the earliest reference found to
woolen mills in the area, and the land was located principally in New Garden
Township as it then existed. Later, the southwestern tip of our Township was
lost to London Britain. Landenberg, thus, grew in two townships.
It has been impossible to determine the exact location of
the early mills. One large woolen mill was located on Mercer Mill Road at Penn
Green Road. It no longer stands. The building on the opposite corner, now an
apartment house, was used by the last mill owner as an office and storage
building. Across Penn Green Road, in the Landenberg United Methodist Church
yard, stood another weave mill that was later converted into housing for
employees. Old maps show a grist mill on the eastern bank of the White Clay
Creek, just about where the Seckler residence stands. Newspaper accounts state
that a grist mill in Landenberg was later used as a "wool room," and the
Seckler residence is known to have been used for wool sorting in years past.
The same accounts, however, stated that the grist mill had been used as a
wheelwright shop, and was at that time used as an office. A wheelwright shop appears
on an old map at, or near, the aforementioned apartment house site.
Downstream, on the present Thomas Beach property, stood a
mill last known as the "bone mill." It, or one nearby, was used as a cotton
mill at one time for the manufacture of woolen yarn at another; and at still
another point as a wheelwright shop. On the western bank of the White Clay
above the Methodist Church stood yet another large mill, near the old railroad
track. North of it, immediately to the right of Laurel Bridge was still another,
or maybe even two mills. Other grist and sawmills were situated still further
north on Egypt Run, and southeast of the Village on Broad Run. Some details are
known of early owners and usage, but references are conflicting. Adding to the
confusion is the fact that Landenberg was created from the separate villages of
Laurel and Chandlerville, and, perhaps, a third one called Nobleville.
North and east of John Evans, Jr.'s lands, in the section
known as "The Wastelands," was the village of Laurel. It is no longer an
acknowledged village, but is yet known for its great spring that has provided
cool drinking water for man and beast for as long as anyone can remember.
Ernest Crossan, who is now 85 years old, and his son, "Johnnie," have watched over
it for years, cleaning it and occasionally replacing its pipe as required. It
flowed into a trough made from half a barrel until 1931. When Laurel Bridge was
rebuilt in that year, a stone facing and trough were put around the spring.
Enoch Chandler of New Garden, and Evan Morris and Isaac Pyle
of London Grove purchased 202 acres of land and mill buildings from Cadwalader
Evans in January 1814, part of a larger purchase made in 1809 by Evans from
Thomas and Mary Ellicott. Some of the land was owned by Mary Ellicott, and was
part of the thousand acres of "The Wastelands" that she had inherited from her
father, William Miller. Another portion purchased by Evans was land that Thomas
Ellicott of Baltimore purchased from Marshalls. Chandler and the others sold 98
acres of their purchase to Joseph Johnson, including a mill building, in
September 1814. When Johnson advertised it for public sale four years later, it
included a Cotton Factory, 64 by 24 feet in size, a saw mill, a new stone
dwelling house, a stone barn, and two small stone and frame houses. Twenty
acres of land was cleared; the rest was woodland. All machinery was to be sold,
including 588 spindles and two wool carding engines - a Billy and a Jenny .This
is believed to be the mill called "Laurel Mill" or "Laurel Factory." The
sawmill is believed to be the one later used for manufacturing spokes.
Most of the mill properties were sold under the Sheriff's
hammer at one time or another and that may have happened here. In any case,
Deed passed to Benjamin Johnson, a Philadelphia bookseller, for $10,000.00.When
he died, his son, Caleb, received it, subject to an $8000.00 mortgage. Caleb
and Susanne Johnson sold it to George Washington Sargent, a "gentleman" of
Philadelphia, who kept it until 1848, when it was sold to Mary Harlan of New
Garden for $9500.00. She left it to Rebecca Lukens of Valley Township when she
died in 1854, and Rebecca Lukens sold it to Joseph Fisher of East Brandywine
"county" who retained it for ten years. He sold it to Martin Landenberger in
When Chandler sold to Johnson, the agreement included the
right of Chandler to "pen or dam the water up the stream on the premises of
Johnson to within fifty feet of a rock called the Cave Rock, standing on the
southeast side of Creek, marked with the date 1814. Maybe this is the year in
which the mill was built. The Cave Rock seems to be the one now known as
"Sandy" Flash's cave of which more is written further along.
Laurel Factories were offered for sale in 1829, along with
the woolen machinery, but the offer was withdrawn because of low bids. No owner
of the property except the Johnsons is recorded from 1818 to 1841, but a
newspaper account reports it was sold in 1831 to settle the estate of Stephen
B. Cochran. Perhaps only the machinery and an unexpired lease were sold, but
this is not made clear. One Aaron Osmond operated a cotton mill from 1829 to
the 1840s, but he doesn't appear as an owner, either. A picture labeled
"Osborne's Mill" has been identified as the one located just to the right of
Laurel Bridge, and the road back into it was called Osmond's Road. Christopher
West rented at least one mill there in 1834 that burned, but it seems to have
been rebuilt, for the tract, plantation, factories, and houses were all listed
in subsequent sales. All "For Sale" ads noted there was "a good supply of hands
on the bank." There were many houses in Laurel of undetermined ownership, and
at least one row of "mill houses" that sheltered five or six families who all
shared the same pump. One mill in Laurel supposedly made blankets during the
Enoch Chandler owned, and seems to have operated, a grist
and sawmill within the Village of Chandlerville, perhaps the same one for which
Thomas Evans was taxed in 1802 that included 340 acres of land. Such a mill was
operated by Casimer Missimer from 1822 to 1828, and Chandler did make a
purchase from Casimer Missimer, but one not identified as to mill usage. When
Chandler died, his executors, Abner Chalfant and John W. Thomas, sold this
particular property along with all remaining properties to satisfy the terms of
Chandler's Will dated January 1, 1832. The property went to Abraham Palmer, a
County Miller, who died intestate. It was sold then in 1833 to John W. and
Susan Thatcher of Aston Township to pay Palmer's debts. The Thatcher's kept it
for three years, and sold to Phebe Kimble of Sadsbury Township who, also, kept
it for three years. She sold to Thomas and Mary Wollaston of Kennett Township
who retained it until March 24, 1845, when it went to Joseph Ripka.
Twelve years before his death, Enoch Chandler advertised for
a "Fuller" to work in the new woolen mill he expected to open in June 1820, at
"newgarden, Chester County." This is believed to be the one located at the
Methodist Churchyard. Deeds refer to lands beginning the middle of, or at, the
"upper dam" or the "lower dam" of Enoch Chandler, but there were many dams on
the White Clay Creek. The three closest to Landenberg were the one in Laurel
Woods; one just at the edge of Landenberg United Methodist Church parking lot;
and one downstream, below the store and below the present dam.
Chandler built a cotton mill (or converted a standing mill)
about 1825. An agreement was made in 1831 between Enoch Chandler and Thomas
Walker to sell Walker a cotton mill located below the lower dam, and the sale
was completed by Chandler's executors on September 16, 1836. The agreement
included the right to use two-thirds of the water from the upper dam if there
was a deficiency for Chandler's grist mill and Walker's cotton mill. Eight
hours per day was allotted to Chandler for operating the grist mill; twelve
hours to Walker for the cotton mill; and four hours for the fulling mill.
Walker was prohibited from converting the cotton mill into a grist or merchant
mill. He, also, had to pay for two-thirds of the dam repairs. Considering this,
and the longer time allotted for operating, it would appear that the cotton
mill was largest. If so, it was the one located on Mercer Mill Road at Penn
Green. The grist mill was probably the one located near the railroad track
above the Methodist Church, for it was used in later years for the purpose.
The cotton mill owner, Thomas Walker, came from England when
quite young with his brother, William, a machinist by trade. William settled on
the Brandywine before coming to Landenberg. He married Elizabeth Harper,
"mother of Jacob Chandler of Kennett Square," and operated a blacksmith shop
and store. His name appears frequently in Landenberg events. Thomas Walker, "a
thorough manufacturer," is known for having invented a self-acting spinning
mule about 1828. This invention enabled mills to operate with less workers and
caused great anger among employees. Walker, eventually, went to South America
where he was assassinated.
By now, the village was known as "Chandlerville" or
"Chandlersville," but until a post office was established, mail was sent to
Stone Bridge (Avondale). Joseph Thompson, father of Dr. Benjamin Thompson who
lived for many years in Landenberg in what is now the Amberg residence, was
Postmaster at Stone Bridge. Mail was sent down by messenger and received by the
storekeeper, at that time Aaron Osmond, who distributed letters and papers
around the mills in Laurel and Chandlerville. The recipient paid postage, for
letters were mailed without stamps. Postage was sometimes collected quarterly
from the recipient of the bundle, often with difficulty. A Post Office was
established in Chandlerville in 1848. Jacob Hobson served as the first
Postmaster for two years. Dr. D. Hayes Agnew hung out his sign here, but soon
abandoned his career and went into business at Pleasant Grove Forge. When that
business went on the rocks, he went to Philadelphia where he eventually served
as President of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, The American
Surgical Association, Philadelphia Academy of Surgery, Philadelphia County
Medical Society and the Pennsylvania State Medical Society. Samuel Jackson of
New Garden was the first President of Philadelphia County Medical Society.
A road from the "race bridge to Laurel" was built about
1840, but there was to be no bridge over the White Clay Creek on what is now
Penn Green Road for many years. In 1847, Landenberg Road turned from Newark
Road much as it does today and followed almost the same westerly course to Saw
Mill Road, but began again below Saw Mill Road after a "dog leg" or irregular
intersection. Saw Mill Road crossed Landenberg Road and followed a course
through Laurel where it intersected with another road that went north to Laurel
Heights Road. The only way to get from Chandlerville to Laurel was over the old
Saw Mill Road route, and explains why the two villages retained separate
identities. The course of the White Clay Creek from Laurel Heights Road to the
London Britain Township line has changed dramatically through the years, and
now includes many more curves and bends than earlier. This was probably caused
by all of the dams and races that had been built through the years.
Still another mill was sold by Enoch Chandler's executors on
March 31, 1838, to Samuel Strahorn, Jr. of "Newlondon Township." It, too, was
listed as a cotton mill at the time of sale, but the word "cotton" was deleted
before the Deed was signed. The location was also changed at the same time to
read "in London Britain Township." This is the building that was later known as
the "bone mill." A space of six rods square that had originally been designated
for a school was sold with it, along with the privilege of "damming water to
such a height to raise it to a chisel mark cut in a rock on the east side of
the creek near the head of the dam." It was destroyed by fire in 1864, and sold
to Joseph Fisher in 1865. Maps show that Fisher owned a woolen yarn mill at
this location. More information regarding Samuel Strahorn appears in the
section entitled "Toughkenamon," for he moved there after leaving Landenberg.
Thomas Walker seems to have lost the Cotton factory, now
known as "Chandlerville Factory," and through various sales seemingly arranged
to protect the mortgagor, it was purchased by Joseph Ripka in 1841. Ripka, as
stated earlier, also purchased the grist mill property. This enterprising
gentleman was born in Wigstadel, Austria, in 1788, the third son of one Johann
Ripka. He studied in Vienna and Lyons, France, then considered the greatest
manufacturers of silk fabrics. He learned of the Jacquard loom in Switzerland
that was used for weaving irregular patterns and designs. In 1815, he came to
America and upon arriving in Philadelphia, established a business of weaving on
hand looms a fine fabric called rouen Cassimere. He built the first large
weaving and spinning mill on the Schuylkill River in the section of
Phi1adelphia known as Manayunk in 1828, and owned several other mills together
with a larger number of houses for operatives. He owned the one at
Chandlerville at the same time. Known as "The Father of Cotton," his worth
eighteen years later was $1,500,000.00. He married Katherine Geiger who bore
him four sons and four daughters. A later relative reported that all the money
he had made was lost by Ripka's sons after his death.
Information is sketchy for these early years. We know that a
Lyceum House was built in 1858 for $300.00, and sold the following year to John
Harper for $8.00 by the Sheriff, David McNutt. It stood at the end of Saw Mill
Road and was built through the efforts of Dr. J. R. McClurg and the
Chandlerville Band. Joseph Beggs was Director of this fine band; John Lovell
was the Leader; Joseph Lemon the Drummer; and Joseph Fisher beat the cymbals.
It was cold the day the Lyceum House was sold and all the expectant buyers and
spectators trooped about half-way down Landenberg Hill to Thomas Brown's store
to complete the sale. Samuel Pugh's Bottling Establishment was located near the
Lyceum House, along with a tavern. He petitioned in 1854 to sell ale and
porter, and to keep an eating house. James McCormick kept store near or in
Chandlerville during 1857-1858; William; H. Greenwalt was a wheelwright,
followed by David Webb, then by Isaac M. Pierson who moved on to the "Wheel and
Spoke Works" in Toughkenamon with Samuel Strahorn. Isaac Pierson, Sr. had
operated a blacksmith shop in 1815, and was said to have done most of the
blacksmith work in the area, and much work in building the mills.
There were two requirements at the time for a successful
mill. One was a good supply of water power; the other a lot of "hands" to do
the work. The first need was supplied by the White Clay Creek, and the second
by many of the children in and around Chandlerville. There were no Child Labor
Laws and community leaders generally held the idea that idleness among children
was an evil. They cooperated with employers who recruited factory hands from
poor, needy families. Many uneducated, sometimes crippled and diseased children
"graduated" from conditions that would be more than intolerable today. In 1848,
Pennsylvania restricted the age levels of young people employed in silk,
cotton, or woolen mills, and the minimum age of twelve years was established.
Many states followed Rhode Island ten years later and stipulated that children
from twelve to fifteen years of age had to attend school for three months each
year, but the period of industrial expansion that resulted from the Civil War
found about 20% of all American children between ages ten and sixteen employed.
This continued for at least another decade, and explains why mills in
Chandlerville and elsewhere could continue operating so efficiently when so
many men were with the Civil War troops.
The first "hotel" in Landenberg was located on the hill,
opened by David Brown about 1858 and maintained as such until a new one was
built in 1872. Dr. J. R. McClurg was the practicing physician until 1859 when
he sold his practice to Dr. Benjamin Thompson for $125.00 and moved to
Philadelphia. He agreed not to resume practice within twelve miles of the
village, but returned five years later and did so. An Injunction was obtained
by Dr. Thompson restraining him from practicing or establishing within the
limits. Nathaniel Gregg petitioned the Courts in 1861 to be allowed to sell
domestic wines, malt, and brewed liquors.
The fictional character, "Sandy" Flash, immortalized by
Bayard Taylor, supposedly left his mark on Chandlerville about this time.
Together with his "wife," Debbie, he waylaid wagons and robbed drivers and
passengers as they travelled Penn Green Road. His hideout was a house that
stood on the high bank at Penn Green and Laurel Woods Roads, later known as the
residence of Dr. Pearson. He could enter a cave that was under his cellar and
travel under the road to the edge of the Creek or to the edge of the road where
he did his dirty work! There really was such a cave, but it was filled with
stone when Laurel Bridge was built, and the passageway was sealed. The house
burned later and collapsed walls have filled the cellar. Honeysuckle and
brambles hide any remains from all but the most perceptive eyes.
According to Futhey and Cope in their "History of Chester County,"
the characters of "Sandy" F1ash and Debbie may have been based on the lives of
James Fitzpatrick and Mordecai Dougherty who roamed throughout Chester County
in 1777-1778, supposedly the terror of Whig citizens of the County. James
Fitzpatrick, known as Captain Fitch or Fitz served his apprenticeship with John
Passmore of Doe Run as a "bound boy." He went to work at his trade,
blacksmithing. After several years passed, he joined a militia company and
served in the Revolutionary War, but deserted and returned to Chester County.
Arrested and taken to Philadelphia for imprisonment, he was freed when he
agreed to return to the militia. He used this only as a means to obtain freedom
and soon deserted again, once more reappearing in Chester County where he
chased off would-be captors with a gun, and continued mowing a field he had
Fitzpatrick joined General Howe when he landed at Head of
Elk, either to get revenge for being arrested, or because he was a Tory at
heart. He continued with the Army to Philadelphia and, sometimes, captured
Whigs and took them within British lines. Mordecai Dougherty, probably a
boyhood friend, for he had also been brought up near Doe Run, assisted him.
"Cap'n Fitz" stayed behind when the British left Philadelphia and carried on
his own war with Chester County - Whigs being his prey. Stories of his
escapades are many. Supposedly not a covetous man, he never wronged the weak or
helpless, and frequently gave to the poor what he removed from the rich. He was
eventually captured and imprisoned in Chester, but filed off his irons and
escaped. He had been due to hang. Caught once more, he was taken to
Philadelphia where he broke his handcuffs twice in one night. He is described
as an "uncommonly fine-looking man, of tall and commanding appearance, very
strong and athletic and swift of foot. His hair was red; his complextion
florid." His escape attempts in Philadelphia were thwarted and he was duly
hung. Mordecai Dougherty disappeared, his fate unknown.
Sixty-three years after the Methodist Episcopal Church
organized in America, a small group of people met in the home of one Peter Hart
in the village of Chandlerville in 1847 to plan construction of a church
building. They had been meeting as a Methodist Society in the old weave mill, a
property the church would eventually own. These first church members raised
$112.75 toward the expected cost of the building, $800.00. Just who contributed
the money for the first church building, and the manner in which it was raised
is outlined in a notebook which belonged to Nathan McCormick:
"We the members of the M Episcopal Church at Chandlerville
feeling the need of a place of Publick and Religious Worship would call upon a
Generous and Benevolent Publick to aid us in Erecting a place of Worship at the
village of Chandlersville for the said purpo(se). Also pledging ourselves to
Give the sum or sums affixed to our Respective names to be applied for said
purpose at the named place."
The signers were: Peter Hart, Nathan McCormick, Joseph A.
Orr, John Westley Wyltbank (or perhaps John Westley and Mr. Wyltbank whose
first name is unrecorded) , E. A. Ingeal, S. Wyltbank, H. McCormick, M.
Buckingham, L. McCormick, Wm. A. Carlile, R. R. Buckingham, Samuel Lloyd,
Deidamia Ann Walter, William Harkness, James Woods, Lewis Hanna, Benj.
Covington, Lewis Thmpson, A. G. Orr, W. Runover, George Smith, Thomas Higgins,
Joseph Worrall, G. Higgins, E. Wallis, C. McLaughlin, John McDaniel, Thomas
Harkness, and P. Wilson.
Earlier, a certain "Father" Townsend who lived three miles
west of the village held meetings for prayer and exhortation in a small
building on his farm. Peter Hart was not long in finding this good old man and
became an active member of the little flock, conducting services, himself, when
his turn arose. He took fifteen or twenty mill hands with him. Prayer meetings
were new to the people in the neighborhood, and many attended to hear the
singing and praying.
Hart collected money and helped the other men quarry stone
for the church building. They often worked at night by moonlight at the Kennedy
Crossan farm on Good Hope Road with their quarrying operation. Nathan
McCormick, a stone mason, probably led in the building. The ground on which
this Church was built was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Ripka. The building
was plain in keeping with Methodist requirements, without a steeple, and
resembling a small, unplastered stone house. It was not deeded to the Trustees
for nearly a year after its completion, perhaps due to the reluctance of one of
them, Wm. Stilly, to sign certain papers necessary to obtain additional money
A Sunday School was established in 1871, and in 1888, it was
decided to renovate the old structure rather than build another elsewhere as
first planned. The building was enlarged, and a steeple erected with a bell
added. At one point in time, stalls were built for horses and carriages, and
the whole was enclosed with a picket fence. There were good times and bad times
during the Church's history, depending on the prosperity, or lack of it, of the
mills. With the help of various pastors, these times were weathered. Some
Pastors had other churches on their circuit and walked each week to conduct
services. One, H. H. Poticher, died during the influenza epidemic of 1918.
A plot of ground was purchased from Mr. and Mrs. James
Merritt in 1902 and a parsonage built that served until 1964. It is now the
home of Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Crossan, Jr. The Church building was refurbished
in 1929, but by 1938, the Rev. Roger B. Hamlin was concerned by the lack of
response on the part of the congregation which, he said, "makes progress
possible only under the most difficult circumstances. We are standing on the
eve of a great revival in Landenberg. God knows we need it." He apparently
accomplished his goal for matters improved over the next several years as new
pastors came and went. By 1952 there was a real need for more Sunday School
space, and work was begun on an addition. Nine months of volunteer labor, and
extensive fund raising programs, were halted on the morning of December 16,
1953, when the Church was completely destroyed by a fire of unknown origin. The
new annex was saved and completed quickly. Services were, then, held there. The
congregation voted to build a new Sanctuary, and with a donation from the
Philadelphia Conference and $10,000.00 contributed by friends, members, and
organizations, a contract was awarded for the rebuilding. Another addition was
completed and dedicated April 5, 1965.
Space doesn't permit recognition of the many organizations
connected with the church, but each has made a major contribution through
untiring efforts. Since 1848, there have been 57 Pastors at this little church.
The list is on record there, and is being omitted since most served only for a
short period of time. The present one, Rev. Jack Rule, has been there since
1963, the longest to serve.
In November 1859, it was written of Chandlerville that, "The
crops are good, apple crop not too large; factory and grist mill are running
full time and the tavern is doing a good business. The band is playing sweet
music. 'The old custom of throwing cabbages against the doors and building
fences across the roads has nearly gone out of practice, and very little, if
anything was done at on last hallow-eve.' " The Chandlerville Brass Band
entertained nightly, and was fast becoming famous for its beautiful appearance
and splendid performances. They drew much applause when they marched in the
July Fourth parade at Newark, Delaware. Political interest increased daily as
more and more people joined the Republican Party. Ripka's Chandlerville Mill
and Fisher's Laurel Mill were purchased by Martin Landenberger about 1864, and
Chandlerville experienced a growth such as it had never known before.
John Martin Landenberger was born in Ebingen, Germany, a
town on the edge of the Black Forest, on December 29, 1817. He emigrated to
Philadelphia in 1832 with his father, Matthias, and two brothers. John Martin
served an apprenticeship with Mr. Drenshaw, a native of France, and a stocking
manufacturer of Delaware. He remained for two years and then went with Joseph
Button of Germantown, Philadelphia, who operated the first factory ever established
in that vicinity. In 1843, Landenberger purchased a single loom and started
business for himself, alone. By the end of the year, he employed three
journeymen who helped with his manufacture of hosiery. He later produced
paisley shawls which were very much in vogue. His marriage in 1843 produced
four sons - Martin, Charles Henry, John L., and George. As business prospered,
he moved from his home into a white marble faced building on the corner of
Broad and Girard Avenues. His income in 1864 was $158,433.00. After the death
of his wife, Mary, he married Lavinia Gebhard. Their later years were spent on
a small farm near Millville, New Jersey. By the time he died in 1884, he had
"lost every cent he had."
The Martin Landenberger and Company factory in Germantown ,
was built about 1846 and was described as one of the largest and most
convenient stocking manufactories in the country - quite a model mill. The two
branch factories in Landenberg were purchased because "water facilities are
unsurpassed by any in the State," and waterpower was utilized here, despite the
fact that steam power was in use at the Philadelphia mill. All told, his mills
employed from 1000 to 1200 people.
Landenberger built many new houses for employees in
Chandlerville and the population increased to one thousand people. The name of
the Village was changed to Landenburgh in 1869. (The current spelling,
Landenberg, was adopted in 1904.) The Village was laid out in streets - Main,
Laurel, Park, Washington, etc., causing such confusion that some property lines
have not to this day been properly established. The mills were modernized with
equipment from "Old England," and the area prospered. Landenberger did not live
here, but his brother-in-law, Charles Weiler, did. He most likely managed the
mills. Landenberger and Weiler exerted great influence to have a. railroad
built to Landenberg - the old Wilmington and Western.
Wilmington and Western Railroad
The first dispute after the Wilmington and Western Railroad
was incorporated in 1869 concerned the route it was to take as it left
Wilmington. Some wanted to follow a Mill Creek Route; others a Red Clay Creek
Route. The "Wilmington Daily Commercial" published a letter stating:
"Two routes have been surveyed for this road. Which one
should be selected?... Tens of thousands of tons of material must roll back to
the hills and plains beyond the mountains. Passengers unnumbered must crowd its
The Red Clay route required three more miles of rail than
the other, but the Mill Creek route supposedly would have been straight, short,
and direct. It was questioned that a single rail would ever be laid past
Landenberg if the Red Clay route was followed. How true this proved to be! The
letter writer felt that John Jackson, William G. Phillips, and George and James
Springer, Commissioners of the W. & W. R. R., as well as land and business
owners along the Red Clay, were influencing the latter move, along with Joshua
T. Heald, William E. Garrett, and Alan Wood, all influential men and members of
the Board of Directors of the road. (Alan Wood Steel Company of Conshohocken
had its beginnings at Wooddale, five miles from Wilmington, when it was known
as the Delaware Iron Works.)
The letter to the paper went unanswered, but on September 9,
1869, a "Harvest Home and Railroad Meeting" was held in Hockessin Valley. Great
newspaper coverage was given it. Prominent citizens spoke pro and con on the
desirability of one route over the other, and the amounts of revenue that would
be derived from each. Major Alfred P. Sears, Chief Engineer for the W. &
W., finally presented figures proving that the Red Clay Creek area spent twice
as much for transportation yearly as did the other area. Up to that point, the
arguments were pretty convincing for each side, and many felt Sears had sprung
a trap. He made various other comparisons to prove the Red Clay Creek Route
more economical, and quoted the cost of building on that route at $500,000.00
for seventeen miles of track and rolling equipment. When he concluded, Railroad
President, Heald, made a short address that was really an ultimatum. He
demanded that those present vote to show if $150,000.00 could be raised by the
Red Clay Valley people, as opposed to those of the Mill Creek route who would
need $100,00.00. The Red Clay Creek faction carried the day, and no further
reference was made to those adherents of the Mill Creek Route. The speeches and
voting ended, the broad seats were turned into a smooth platform, and musicians
gave way to a merry dance which kept up until midnight.
It was planned to begin the railroad line near the Delaware
River in Wilmington, extend through that state in a westerly direction, pass
through the limestone valley of Hockessin, and connect with a railroad leading
westward or northwestward into the State of Pennsylvania. They also intended to
build a line that connected with the Philadelphia and Baltimore Central
Railroad at the borough of Kennett Square, or some other desirable point. While
this latter plan was often discussed, it was never carried out, nor was a
branch ever built to Oxford as had been often planned. The nearest to that
point was a cut begun through a hill in Landenberg.
President Joshua Heald was quite a showman, and the
privilege of breaking ground fell to him when ceremonies were held in July
1871. A number of citizens and guests left the railroad office at Seventh and
Market Streets in Wilmington and travelled by carriages to the hotel at
Brandywine Springs for lunch and groundbreaking ceremonies. The farmers of the
neighborhood had already enjoyed a picnic lunch with their families. When
ceremonies concluded, Heald announced that they had raised every cent of
$250,000.00 in "bona fide, clear subscriptions," and .further said that
contracts had been awarded for building bridges, trestles, etc.
The railroad had the right to confiscate land along its
route as it desired through legal recourse, but this was not done in most
cases. The project was generally welcomed as a cooperative one that would not
only benefit manufacturers along its line, but provide convenient public
traveling, point-to-point. One recorded sale was from Evan Brown and his wife
of New Garden Township, the ground on which Southwood Station was built. It is
said that Brown's daughter suggested the name for the station. Some landowners
gave the railroad release for damages that resulted to their premises due to
construction or maintenance; and in other cases it was stipulated that fires
begun from locomotives were the responsibility of the railroad who would
reimburse property owners.
People came from miles around to watch as crevices for the
track were blown into hillsides and rocky outcroppings in Delaware and
Pennsylvania. By October 1872, already six months behind scheduled opening day,
the long trestle through "Broad Run Valley" near Landenberg was completed and
duly noted in the Wilmington "Every Evening:"
the Chasm - not the Bloody One, but at Broad Run"
"On Saturday evening about 4 o'clock the track layers on
the Wilmington and Western Railroad spiked down and secured the track across
the Broad Run Trestle, and then indulged in hearty cheers over the completion
of the job.
The construction train loaded with iron and other supplies
and sundry workmen and spectators was immediately passed back and forth over it,
forming a gratifying and novel sight to the inhabitants of the valley. All
parties expressed their pleasure upon noting the smoothness with which the
train passed over, and how solidly the structure stood without a jar or
This celebration was entirely justified, for the trestle was
a fine piece of engineering. It was conservatively estimated as being forty
feet or higher in places, and approximately one-third of a mile long,
constructed of long leaf yellow pine. It was just east of Landenberg over a
marshy meadow, and across the Broad Run tributary of the White Clay Creek. It
stood until1943, when it was razed. The unused track had been removed to supply
scrap metal for the World War II effort.
A few days after the trestle was completed, formal opening
ceremonies for the entire line were held. It was a great day for Wilmington,
but even greater for Landenberg! The telegraph line had been completed to
Landenberg two days earlier, and President Heald received a message from the
supply train ahead. "All right at Landenberg. Lunch, etc., fixed first rate.
Compliments of the party to the President."
One can picture the lines of carriages and buggies pulled by
well-groomed horses that were used to convey families to the station at
Wilmington preparatory to the trip to Landenberg. The all Negro Independent
Cornet Band of Wilmington followed the carriage bearing bewhiskered Joshua T.
Heald with his high silk hat who was at the height of his career. Eleven new
railroad cars, decorated with flowers, wreaths, and drapes - somewhat
resembling a circus wagon - were ready for their arrival. Two engines, brass
shining, bearing Numbers 2 and 4 on both sides of their cabs with the initials
"W. & W. R. R." led the way. All prominent persons and newspaper men
received invitations, and the "Every Evening" reported:
"Saturday, October 19th, 1872, will be
remembered as a great day... as the day when the great iron city broke the last
of the bonds which have too long cramped her and stretched forth a hand after
her proper share of the treasures of the wonderful west."
"At about 10:20 a.m. (Conductor Baynard pulled the whistle
cord) , the train started and at every station on the line - Greenbank,
Faulkland, Wooddale, Mt. Cuba, Ashland, Auburn, Hockessin, Southwood, Broad Run
- the train halted to receive accessions to the excursion party from along the
Leaving the City, it cruised along at thirteen miles an hour
while passengers settled back on the red plush seat cushions until it reached
its destination - Landenberg! Here a glorious sight met the eyes of the
passengers. Business had been suspended for the day and houses, factories, and
the "street" were decked with American and German flags. Stretched across the
"highway" were several great muslin streamers with "WELCOME TO LANDENBERG"
printed on them in large letters.
Alighting from the train, passengers formed into another
parade, this time on foot, and marched down the hillside from the station,
again led by the Independent Cornet Band. The procession moved on to the home
of Charles Weiler where assembled guests were already being entertained by the
Unionville Cornet Band. Weiler, in addition to being a partner in the mills,
was President of the Pennsylvania and Delaware Railroad Company with which the
Wilmington and Western connected at Landenberg. On his shady lawn, a platform
had been erected, covered with more flags, flowers, and evergreens. Not far
distant, near his elegant mansion, "several long tables awaited the hour when
the substantial food with which they were laden would relieve many an aching
void which a craving appetite rendered ravenous." However, the company had to
endure an ordeal before this craving was to be satisfied.
A number of young men and women - neatly attired factory
operatives under the leadership of a Mrs. Watt, who was probably their Sunday
School teacher - sang a song of welcome especially written for the occasion:
Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!
Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!
We welcome you dear friends, on this our opening day."
It was received with great applause. There were speeches by
Weiler and Col. J. W. Forney, Editor of the "Philadelphia Press;" prayer by the
Pastor of Grace M. E. Church in Wilmington; and a lengthy speech by President
Heald. At 2:00 p.m. he sent a telegram,
"To the Citizens of Wilmington: The Citizens of Landenberg
and along the way have received us with demonstrations as I trust will bind us
together hereafter in business and friendship as we are already bound in iron
Finally, it was time to eat! The first train left for
Wilmington at 3:15 p.m., but was slightly delayed when it struck an unwary cow
on the track. She proved to be substantially uninjured and only had a horn
knocked off which the "Wilmington Commercial" put on display in its office. The
train from Wilmington to Landenberg made the trip in one hour, 35 minutes; the
return trip was five minutes less - downhill! A foot bridge crossed the Creek
behind the Methodist Church to serve as a short-cut to those who went from the
train station to the mills.
Martin Landenberger suffered a heavy financial blow in the
Jay Cooke crash which precipitated a panic in 1783, but the full effect was not
felt by the people in Landenberg for a year or two. Joseph Hill opened a
confectionary and ice cream saloon, and Joseph Henderson moved here to open a
tailoring business. At times the lower mill closed for a week or two, and at
other times the upper mill did. These were only temporary problems, however,
which the residents took in stride. A few moved away each time the mills
closed, but some returned. Generally, there was stability.
It was proposed to build an Episcopal Church in Landenberg
in December 1872, but this was never accomplished. In that same year, Chandler
Phillips of Avondale started digging the cellar of the large hotel he planned
to build in the Village. It was completed and opened the next year, despite the
"no license" decision. Samuel Finley operated it, "a great convenience to the
travelling public, kept in the best style." The thoroughly modern store and
hall were built next to it, also in 1872, supposedly in an old barn and
stables. Its opening was celebrated with a Grand Ball! If that sounds a bit
pompous, keep in mind that many of the families in Landenberg during this time
of the Industrial Revolution enjoyed great prestige. They purchased all the
trappings and possessions that befitted their new wealth, had uniformed
liverymen for their carriages, and more than enough household help in their
homes. It was a grand way of life - for some. The laboring classes, of course,
did not have a very high standard of living at all. R. B. Moore "fitted up a
coal yard; an additional boiler was installed in the mill; Charles Kimble of "Kimbleville"
took over the large store house of Charles Weiler and expected to open in late
Spring; a drug store was under way; "and other evidences of thrift and
enterprise are not wanting." Although the Township had voted "dry" there were
demijohns labeled "honey" among the imports from Wilmington that satisfied all
By the end of Summer 1873, several new houses had been
erected. Washington Ewing, a storekeeper, led the way in building. Landenberger
and Company had built several fine houses, including the 1arge boarding house,
much needed. There has been reference to a boarding house or dormitory that was
built for the female mill operatives that was located above the mill, or
alongside it on Penn Green Road. However, most references to boarding houses
actually are to the hotel building of Chandler Phillips. It seems unlikely that
Landenberg, despite its prosperity, would have enough visitors or traveling
salesmen in one night to fill all twenty rooms of the hotel. The mills employed
about two hundred people at that time, and operated at fullest capacity. F.
Savage acted as station agent and telegraph operator; the "lower row" of homes
was remodeled into shops: No. 1 - a stove and tin store; No.2 - clothing,
boots; No.3 - bakery, confectionery; No.4 - millinery, mantua-making and ladies
fancy goods; No.5 - harness, trunks, etc. This row of houses may have been the
one earlier called "English Row." There were several rows of houses, typical of
any mill town of the 1800s. H. H. Storey remodeled his store, and was still
making alterations in 1877. It was this store building that was later to become
the Community Hall, located at Penn Green and Chesterville Roads.
The Landenberg Building Association formed in February 1873.
Building and loan associations were rapidly opening everywhere, and enabled
many people of moderate means to buy homes. The officers were: President, Henry
Burnett; Secretary, S. E. Niven; Directors, Charles Weiler, R. B. Moore, John
Phillips, H. C. Greenfield, William Davis, Andrew Moynihan, Howard Worth,
Richard Buckley, and Nathan Willard. It was believed to be the first Building
Association in the lower end of Chester County, and still continues as the
"Building Association of Landenberg."
The new money wasn't all paid out in taxes, either.
Landenberger's Township Tax for that year totaled $75.50 - another grand way of
life. And, the Pennsylvania and Delaware Railroad was completed between
Delaware City, Delaware and Pomeroy, Pennsylvania. A plan for reorganizing the
Wilmington and Western Railroad included raising the capital stock with a bond
issue to extend the line to Oxford. It was rejected. The W. & W. had other
problems, too. First it lost its passengers, then its freight business, but
both returned eventually. A major accident occurred when the mail train left
Landenberg in March and ran into a rock slide a mile north of Wooddale. One of
the rocks weighed several tons. The engine that hit it was hurled against the
projecting bank and badly damaged. Since the telegraph operator at Ashland was
away from home, the conductor had to walk 7½ miles to Wilmington to report the
wreck. Passengers finally arrived in Wilmington at ten p.m., and the seven p.m.
evening train to Landenberg didn't reach its destination until the following
morning. A new station was built in 1875 to replace the old shed that formerly
claimed that title. It had two waiting rooms, one for ladies and the other for
gentlemen, an agent's room and ticket office, and a freight department, and was
located just beyond the buildings adjoining the present Post Office.
Railroad Conductors were then respectfully addressed by
other crew members as "Captain" and were in full charge. They assumed
responsibility for the safety of the train and passengers, and certain local
trains were known by their names. Alfred Hughes began work with the W. & W.
when it first opened, and continued on this section to Landenberg for over 25
years. The train became known as "Hughes" or "Hughes' Train." The Engineer's
lot was a rough one, for the old steam engines were open and unheated. He
leaned out of the cab regardless of weather to watch the track and signals
ahead. The station Agent was indispensable, for he opened up long before the
first passenger train was due to depart in order to sell tickets, check
baggage, and transact other business, and upon arrival of the train, helped
load and unload mail, baggage, and express. He was often a town's Postmaster;
telegrapher for the railroad and sent commercial messages; agent for the
express company. In short, the station agent was an arm of the United States
Government, the railroad company, express and telegraph companies, and
practically a 24-hour a day man, at least six days a week, and sometimes part
time on Sunday. R. B. Moore was Station Agent at Landenberg.
The first letter by mail over the road was to Mr. Henry
Thompson, Broad Run, from Messrs. Pusey and Rice, Ice Dealers in Wilmington.
There was no Post Office at Broad Run and it was taken to Landenberg where it
was endorsed to read: "This is the first letter over the W. & W. R. R. by
mail, S. Hersey, Mail Agent."
The need for excursion trains to Mt. Cuba by various
organizations and churches diminished by 1875 and they were stopped. Penns
Grove and Collins Beach had become the "in places" by then, but special Sunday
trains ran to Landenberg for people to view the lovely scenery, particularly
pleasant in the Autumn. Newspaper writers and local businessmen commented
correctly that Landenberg could have been one of the most beautiful resort areas
in the County. Business continued briskly. So much coal was being hauled over
the Pennsylvania and Delaware Railroad to the W. & W. that as many as 75 or
a hundred cars were on side tracks awaiting shipment at many times. Laurel Mill
continued to operate all through the depression in the dry-goods trade for it
was exclusively a yarn mill, but Landenberger was troubled by vandals who
damaged his property, and offered $10.00 reward for their apprehension.
The "Patrons of Husbandry" established a Grange on February
2, 1874. Its officers were: Septimus E. Niven, Jeremiah Starr, Jr., Richard N.
Chambers, J. Wilkin Niven, Thomas J. Megilligan, Charles Sharpless, S.
Wickersham, T. B. Hoopes, Lea Megilligan, Louis Garrett, Ella M. Hossinger,
Hannah J. Garrett, J. W. Hoopes, and E. D. Gawthrop. The Village's bad boy,
Jack Stevens, raised his head from time to time. One such incident was reported
"A notorious character who at too frequent intervals looms
up in all sorts of disgraceful doings, and hence through his persistent efforts
to be bad, has become a terror to the village and its vicinity. On last Monday
night, Jack came home in a terrible drunken condition and at once began making
his home and night hideous by knocking down his mother's stove pipe and
'kicking up Jack' generally. His mother became alarmed for her own individual
safety and sent post haste for Squire Burnett to put her son under subjection.
He responded, but on arrival, Jack made such terrible bloodthirsty threats as
to cause all the parties to recall to mind the old saying in which discretion
being the better part of valor takes a prominence. While Squire sought help,
'Jack vamoosed the ranche.' "
About the same time, a certain town official received
heavyweight fight results via the telegraph before they were common knowledge.
He immediately took bets, himself betting on the winner, and many residents
lost considerable sums of money to him. The heavyweight fight was no bloodier
than the one involving this official when his dastardly deed was discovered!
Landenberger handled his various financial reverses,
satisfied his creditors, and reopened his mills in the Village under the name
of M. Landenberger's Sons. People returned with light hearts and happy faces
from Chester, Philadelphia, and Camden where they had gone seeking employment.
Their optimism was short-lived. The following April, a fire burned a small
picker mill that adjoined one of the larger mills, and damages exceeded
$5000.00. In May, Laurel Mill burned with all its machinery and stock
destroyed. Good Hope Mill, owned by Robert Preston, was leased to handle the
work of Laurel Mill, and while it was not easily accessible, it was the best
temporary provision that could be made.
It was during this period in history that employees sought
shorter working hours, better wages, and formed the first of the labor unions
throughout the nation. It was not unusual for employees to seek physical
redress for their grievances. Employers were actively opposed to unions, but
when hard times struck in 1873 and 1874, with cutbacks in people and salaries,
plus the displacement of people by machines, employees began union formation
with great zeal. There is no record that this happened in Landenberg, but it
may be a possible explanation for some of the troubles that arose during this
period. As if employees hadn't enough problems travelling to Good Hope Mill,
Jack Stevens added his touch. It is written:
"Jack Stevens of Landenberg, whom we have frequently
noticed, first as a confidence man and next as a petty thief, has got decidedly
funny. On Saturday evening, as four workmen were returning from their labor in
Good Hope Mills, they were horrified at seeing something white in a covered
bridge ahead of them. If it wasn't a ghost, it was something that looked very
much like one from the way it swayed backward and forward and occupied two
sides and both ends of the bridge. They concluded to cross the creek at another
place and leave his ghostship in possession of the bridge. Jack Stevens soon
overtook them and told them he was the spook and for the purpose of looking
ghostly, he had partially denuded himself. The good temper of the workmen may
be fully understood when it is known that they didn't give Jack a ducking in
the nearest stream, worse than he got over a year ago... when he woke up the
Eli Logan reoponed his flour and saw mill in 1875 at the
same site his old one had been located. It had burned earlier.
During January 1875, Theodore F. Armstrong of Newark, Delaware,
and Thomas Whann, Jr. of nearby Strickersville, purchased the remaining Fisher
mill property below Landenberg for $4700.00 to convert to a bone mill. Whann
purchased Armstrong's interest and by 1879 was the sole owner, operating as
Keystone Super-Phosphate Mills. All sorts of bones were brought here from
slaughter houses and other sources and .ground into fertilizer at the building
located on the west bank of White Clay Creek, downstream from the store. At
first, loads of bones were taken by horse-drawn freight wagons from the
railroad station to the mill by fording the Creek. Wire mesh was laid in the
creek bottom to keep wagons from getting mired in the mud. Later, a railroad
siding was built right to the mill.
Fire totally destroyed the works on August 19, 1880. It was
rebuilt and operated night and day for two years, then burned again while Whann
was at an Odd Fellows meeting. As it was being rebuilt the second time, a wall
collapsed, taking with it a mason, John P. Little. The Works reopened in
February 1883, but four months later Whann discharged his entire work force of
twelve or fourteen men. He had left them unloading a railroad car on a
Saturday, and when he returned several days later, found it only half finished.
In September, Whann opened an office in Philadelphia. A month later, newspapers
were lamenting his sudden and unaccountable disappearance. His creditors were
He returned and dispelled the many rumors surrounding his
whereabouts, and was surprised that some people thought he had absconded, for
he had money to pay his creditors "$ for $." He did, however, decline the
nomination he had previously accepted for Recorder of Deeds in Chester County.
He was forced to shut down several times when ice formed too thickly on the
Creek and millrace to permit a good flow of water. Whann was operating in March
1884, but a few months later, Washington Ewing purchased the mill and rebuilt
A firm known as Walton and Whann Co., Inc. manufactured
fertilizers on the Christiana River near Wilmington from 1861 to 1894. They
established several branch offices, and this may possibly have been one, but
that is not confirmed. They were forced to close when financial disaster struck
Washington Ewing operated the bone mill for several years.
When he suddenly died in 1904, it was sold to William Sullivan who continued to
operate until sometime between 1915 and 1920 when it finally closed.
Employees of Landenberger's mill celebrated New Year's Day
at his home on Shackamaxon and Wilder Streets, Philadelphia, in 1876, perhaps
to celebrate the first one hundred years of America's Independence. Greenwalt
and Company published "The Little Traveller" in Landenberg - a newspaper "about
the size of 8 x 10 pane of glass," that lauded the merchants and services of
the village. The cornet band performed at many social functions under the title
of the "Young America Brass Band." It waited expectantly for the handsome gift
from a prominent gentleman of the Village in the shape of a band wagon, to be
ready for the "Fall Campaign." Special trains were run to Philadelphia's
Centennial Grounds that year, with passengers first going to Wilmington, and
then on by another train.
Trouble followed the year of celebration. The Wilmington and
Western Railroad went into receivership, schedules were cut, and the road was
advertised for sale at public auction. A lawsuit intervened before this
occurred, but the legal obstacles were overcome and it was sold to the
bondholders for $5000.00. There was no cheering. When the purchasers organized,
the name "Delaware Western Railroad" was adopted and the W. & W. came to an
ignominious end, leaving in its wake great financial losses. Under new
management, and decreased financial obligations, the road prospered. It was an
important line and two railroad corporations struggled for its ownership in the
early 1880s. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Corporation finally acquired it on
February 1, 1883. It continued to flourish as a passenger and freight line for
The 1880s began auspiciously enough in Landenberg. In May,
the mills operated full time; in June, half time; but in September, fire
destroyed the main mill with a loss of $75,000.00. You will notice this was
only a month after fire destroyed the aforementioned Bone Mill. Landenberger,
apparently, gave up then. Many, many people were unemployed and left the area.
Population decreased to 353 people, and in January 1883, an execution was
placed against other Landenberger property for interest in default. John L.
Landenberger, a son, was missing at the time and his wife reported receiving a
letter in which he said he was going to take his life, but he didn't.
The Lund Family and the Mills
James Lund purchased the grounds and all not destroyed by
the fire in November 1880. He rebuilt the mill sixty feet longer in size, but
not quite so tall. It was about twice the size of the old mill, and expected to
open in June 1881. His partner for the first year was one Manny Ogden, and then
Lund became sole owner.
Born on December 21, 1836 into a family of spinners and
weavers in the heart of the woolen mill industry, Yorkshire, England, James
Lund was the son of Joseph Lund of the village of Bradford. Educated in a
parish night school, he was at an early age apprenticed in the woolen business,
first working in England and later in Belgium and Germany. Upon landing in the
United States he was emp1oyed as a weaver and foreman for Scheppers Brothers in
New York City in 1868. His wife, Ann (nee Jagger), joined him after three
years. It was his desire to provide a comfortable home before sending for her
and their children, six in number. Lund came to Landenberg in 1878 when he took
employment with the Landenberger Company mills.
When his new mill opened, it operated both night and day. He
had some problems - a cylinder exploded shortly after the opening and employees
narrowly missed serious injury; a twelve-year old girl injured her hand on a
machine. This new mill employed steam power.
The Rev. B. F. Myers, Pastor of a Presbyterian Church of
Upper Darby opened a private school here in 1881. Lund's mill burned down on
September 13, 1883, following an attempted robbery. Someone tried to blow open
the safe, but failed. Lund rebuilt the mill and added a house to his row of
buildings. This was the first step of his plan to build several more houses the
The goods of a Landenberg storekeeper were levied upon by
Dr. Benjamin Thompson and Taylor Thompson who were sureties on his bond when he
was collector of delinquent taxes. Dr. Thompson built a mansion on the corner
of Newark and Buttonwood Roads when he was Medical Examiner for the B. & 0.
R. R. Employees' Relief Association. His name occurs frequently throughout the
story of New Garden Township, and particularly in the activities of Kaolin and
Landenberg. He is remembered by some today as a kindly man, always on call for
a medical emergency. Mrs. Michael Lafferty was often called upon to assist him
in childbirth cases among the wives of quarry workers and tenant farmers in the
Taylor Thompson operated an undertaking business near
Landenberg on Newark Road. The Casket Factory was located there, too, but no
longer exists. Mrs. "Bessie" Lorzier who lives in the house once owned by
Taylor Thompson remembers the sliding panel that was under a front window which
was used for pushing caskets into the viewing room when they wouldn't fit
through a door.
Lund's mill operated sporadically in the mid-1880s when it
employed about 300 people. It closed several times, and finally, on May 1888,
closed again. According to Squire Dougherty of the "Kennett Advance," the
"Sheriff closed him out as he had done to Chandler, Ripkey, and Landenberger."
The people left once more for other areas offering mill employment, and Thomas
Whitely closed his bottling business and moved to Philadelphia. The following
February, Thomas and Alfred Lund of Pudsey, Yorkshire, England, brothers of
James Lund, purchased the mills and planned to operate them. When production
resumed, it was under the direction of James Lund. Plans to open a new bottling
business were met with opposition. "It is the opinion of some of the citizens
of the place that it had better be let alone."
During the Summer, the dam located just above Laurel Bridge
washed away - and some of the old-timers thought they were going to wash away,
too! There was a fire that destroyed Fisher's store, "supposed to have been the
work of an incendiary." In March 1889, the hotel was sold at public sale by
order of the Court. John Jones purchased the twenty-room hotel, a frame stable
40 x 50 feet in size with stabling for eleven horses, carriage house with shed
attached, large ice house, butcher shop and barber shop, together with a match
factory and other necessary buildings. The total cost, including mortgage was
$5300.00. It was sold in December 1890, to Ezra Lund, a son of James. The mills
in the meantime were once again running night and day. People returned to
Landenberg and it assumed an air of prosperity such as had not been seen for a
long time. James Lund died in 1891. Had he lived only a short while longer, it
was predicted that he would have been able to regain ownership of the mills
which he had been forced to sell to his brothers due to an "unfortunate
endorsement of a large Philadelphia wool firm." He had been very popular with
his employees, and was the first to inaugurate the weekly payment system for
them, paying every Friday night in full.
Ezra Lund then took over mill operations and retained his
father's method of paying weekly wages. He had come to America with his mother
at age nine, and began learning the trade of spinner under his father shortly
thereafter. He married Lizzie J. Fisher, daughter of Thomas Fisher of
Landenberg on August 7, 1884, and they had four children. In addition to owning
the hotel which was often leased to others, Lund operated the general store,
and served a four year term as Postmaster. His political associations were
"most decidedly with the Republican Party."
The two-story Match Factory included with the hotel property
had been built along the creek bank below the store about August 1886. It
measured sixty by 40 feet, and was built under the direction of the "Courtney
Parlor Match Co., Ltd. of Landenberg, Pa." The principals of that company were
Frederick Courtney, probably of Wilmington, Samuel Dougherty, William O.
Walker, and O. S. Jones. Although the building was completed in August,
operations could not begin until cooler weather prevailed. Matches cou1d not be
made when "the mercury makes 70 degrees or upward." Its daily production
capacity was 450 gross boxes, containing 200 matches each. Landenberg was
ablaze with excitement.
The new industry seemed doomed to failure, however. First,
there was trouble hiring enough people to make boxes by hand and it was
necessary to purchase a machine for this purpose. The factory was "going full
blast" in December; in January, the illness of Frederick Courtney caused
suspension of operations. He was the only one who understood the secret of the
preparation used in the manufacture of the Courtney Match. (This secret was
known to his brother, Samuel, for he had been a partner of a match company in
Wilmington several years earlier. It merged with Diamond Match Company in 1882.
Perhaps Samuel had died before the Landenberg operation began.)
Less than a year later, by April 1887, the Landenberg
company virtually disbanded. A new one was organized and chartered in New
Jersey, with plans made to relocate at either Columbia, Oxford, or Chester,
Pennsylvania; or at Camden, New Jersey. Frederick Courtney died the following
month at age 45, and no further information was found on the operation. The
building was eventually torn down.
Ezra Lund and Landenberg
Landenberg prospered during the early years of Ezra Lund's
ownership of the mill, and truly typified the "Gay Nineties" with many social
events, various entertainments, and fetes abounding. Almost no excuse was
needed to plan a celebration. The "Landenberg Express," later known as the
"Avondale and Landenberg Express," duly reported everything. It was advertised
as "The largest and best weekly newspaper south of West Chester," but in tiny
letters underneath added, "with one exception." Its Editor-Publisher, S. B.
Dougherty (the same one quoted earlier when he worked for the "Kennett
Advance") wrote a series of "Short Sketches about Landenburg and Vicinity" that
have furnished valuable information regarding the village and some of its
residents. However, he wrote mostly of the "upper class" of Landenberg. Other
news items and records indicate the Village had its share of rowdies, thieves,
illegal liquor operations, etc. It seemed to have truly had its "other side of
the tracks" insofar as people dealt with each other. The Hill People had a
status far above that of the Mill People, and the "Mill Dolly" or "Wool Dolly"
was looked upon scornfully by women who pursued more "ladylike" activities.
Dougherty in writing of the mills said, "The people being
employed being English, Germans, Jews and some few Americans." The German
families, or at least a great many of them came to the area when Landenberger
purchased the mills, but most seemed to vanish insofar as any record of them is
concerned. One exception is the Brandenberger family. Charles Frederick
Brandenberger and Christine Roser both came from Eichestaten, Baden, Germany.
They met and married in America. His brother, Andrew, married Rosina Lindsig.
They all lived near Landenberg along with other members of the Lindsig and
Roser families at one time. Patrick Mangen lived there in 1871. Charles
Brandenberger, son of Charles Frederick and Christine, lives today near
Landenberg, sharing a home with his nephew, J. Robert Pierson. Mrs. Clara
Dickerscheid, a daughter of Charles Frederick and Christine who until a few
years ago lived on Newark Road, relates many well-remembered stories of life
and places in the area. A row of houses in Kaolin near the clay quarries housed
many German families who preceded the Irish as quarry workers.
The English to whom Dougherty referred, or at least many of
them, came here with Lund, but no one today could recall any Jewish families.
To date, only two have been discovered who lived here - the Meyer Chertok
family whose son, Samuel, and his sons operate the Chertok Furniture Store in
Coatesville; and Lewis Mittleberg, a junk dealer. Meyer Chertok did not work in
the mills, but sold dry goods and clothing. Before he and his wife, Hattie,
moved to Landenberg, he peddled his goods from a pack, as was customary for many
merchants before they established a shop. He came from Philadelphia by train
and either carried his cases and walked, or rented a horse and wagon to carry
supplies. While here, he boarded with the Jagger family. Chertok left
Landenberg for Wilmington after a short while, but continued sales in this area
until the early 1900s. Nothing has been found on the Mittleberg family.
James K. Taylor advertised his fifty barrel water powered roller
mill for sale in 1889. It was described as 55 x 30 feet in size, three stories
high, in a healthy neighborhood on a branch of the P. & N. R. R. It
included a new barn and good house of ten rooms. It had operated four years
under his ownership. The New Garden Roller Mills on Egypt Run were sold in 1891
to Harry Hoopes Crossan. He sold the mill once, but regained possession of it
later. It burned to the ground on February 5, 1910. A telephone exchange opened
in the Village in 1887, connected with the Kennett Exchange. And Custer
Conclave #8 of the Hephtasophs was constituted in Landenberg in 1892 with 48
charter members. Its Eminent Archon was Lewis Greenwalt, and other officers
were W. H. Butler, P. Taylor Thompson, I. G., William Alexander, R. D. The New
Garden W. C. T. U. and Landenberg Lodge of Good Templars tried to prevent
renewal of the liquor license at the Hotel that Ezra Lund owned,
By this time, there were many Irish Catholic families living
in and around Landenberg. Their story is covered in a separate section, but
because of them and the increasing number of Italian immigrants brought to the
quarries in and around Avondale, it was decided to build a Roman Catholic
Church in Landenberg.
Land for this new Church building was donated by Mrs. Mary
McMahon on the corner of Saw Mill and Landenberg Roads. Building was done
chiefly by the parishioners who began in April 1893. It was completed and
dedicated on Sunday, October 29, by Archbishop Ryan who also gave the Sacrament
of Confirmation. By this time, a resident Pastor had been appointed to St.
Patrick's parish in Kennett Square who replaced Father James F. Kelly. Father
Kelly lived in West Grove and served both Kennett Square and Oxford, and when
West Grove was established, served that parish, too. The new Pastor, Father
John H. O'Donel served Kennett and Landenberg until 1910.
The Landenberg building held 250 people. The first child
baptized in the Church of St. Francis Xavier was Mary Connell; the first couple
married there, William H. Gardiner and Elizabeth Laurie, took their vows on
November 30. Sometime between 1933 and 1947 the building closed for two months
for a complete renovation "from foundation stone to turret." This was done
under the direction of Father Michael Crane. The painting of the crucifixion
that always hung over the altar was restored to its original state by artist
Frank Schoonover. It had been donated to the Church by Father Kelly when
original construction was completed.
This plain wooden chapel served the people of Landenberg and
surrounding communities for seventy-two years. During that time, the number of
Italian families living in the Avondale-Toughkenamon areas increased
tremendously. The old building was inadequate in many ways - its benches were
plain and its kneelers splintery; pigeons took up residence in the loft; it was
cold in Winter if you sat too far away from the central furnace grate and too
hot if you sat close by, it was no longer centrally located, and the wasps
competed for attention on Spring and Summer days when the windows were opened -
but it still retained its charm and is missed by many. It has now been replaced
by a new chapel dedicated to St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother at its first
High Mass held February 6, 1966.
The names of Priests who served in Landenberg, and of
parishioners, are on record at St. Patrick's Church in Kennett Square. The old
building has been renovated and changed by its present owner, Bernard Felch,
who resides and maintains an art studio there.
The "Daily Local News" reported in
"Residents of Landenberg complain of the number of
intoxicated persons to be observed about the village on each Sabbath. It is
supposed that there is a speak-easy in the neighborhood, and the authorities
propose looking the matter up..."
The Good Templar's Lodge was undoubtedly very discouraged by
that time with such behavior in the Village. Organized in 1886, and having over
fifty members then, it sought "the cooperation and assistance of all temperance
people." Its full title was "Wasteland Valley Lodge of Good Templars of
Landenberg," and its officers in 1887 were: William C. Alexander, Emily Bevan,
Thomas Lund, Katie Alexander, Ezra Lund; Chaplain, Newberry Graham, and
Marshal, Elmer Ford. There were several barn burnings in and around Landenberg.
The culprit was arrested and taken to Chester County Home, where he was
"incarcerated in the insane department."
When the bridge at Landenberg was completed in 1898, the hotel
proprietor was the first to cross it. For the honor, he entertained the
Commissioners and others in attendance with dinner. Farmers and workers came
from miles around for the grand ceremony. The wedding of Charles C. Ryan, Jr.,
a brakeman on the B. & 0. R. R. and Clara Hughes, daughter of the
aforementioned Conductor, Alfred Hughes, is a perfect example of the way plans
go awry in a snowstorm. They had planned to be married in the Continental Hotel
of Philadelphia in February. The "Kennett News and Advertiser" reported:
"Charles C. Ryan, Jr .was married last week with
difficulties. The ceremony was to have taken place last Tuesday, but he was
snowbound in Wilmington. After making an offer of $50.00 to anyone to take him
to Landenberg, he started out on horseback. The horse gave out at Wooddale and
he started out on foot, soon getting stuck in a 12 foot drift. He was rescued
with difficulty and spent the night in Hockessin. He succeeded in reaching
Landenberg about 5:30 the next day. The minister was summoned and his marriage
to Miss Clara Hughes was celebrated."
In that same year, two hundred employees were thrown out of
work when the large smokestack of the woolen mill blew over, carrying with it
three smaller stacks and destroying the boiler house. A gentleman died after
three weeks of being ill with a disease resembling appendicitis. Physicians had
hoped to cure him without an operation. The following ad appeared in 1900:
"Wanted - Girls to work in spinning mills, steady work and
good wages paid; experience not necessary. Also good openings for families with
three or more workers of girls and boys - cheap rents - wages paid weekly.
Apply Ezra Lund, Landenberg, Chester County, Pa."
Dr. Arde, Dentist of Philadelphia, was at Dr. Whann's office
every Tuesday to ply his trade. Full sets of teeth were $5.00 and up, plus
"Gold crowns, Porcelain Crowns, all kind of fillings." Teeth were "extracted
without pain" and all work was guaranteed. During these years, A. W. Watson
operated the store and hall "on the best corner in town;" Hiram Storey, "the
Wanamaker of the town" furnished anything that could be bought at any store in
Chester County at the lowest market rates; Washington Ewing was "still at his
old stand at the Post Office where he had been for thirty years;" Blacksmith
Ross plied his trade, while W. H. Alexander or Joseph Ross were ready to
relieve pinching shoes. Greenwalt, Hoopes and Strickland were builders; Irvin
Guest had a large route selling fresh meats; and Harry Rigler and Mr. Palmer
operated barber shops, the former located on Main Street near the hotel.
"Solomon's Temple" in Laurel Woods housed an old recluse
about whom fanciful tales were told. Perhaps he was Solomon Spencer who owned
property in that area. Nearby, on Watson's Mill Road, stands the shell of a
grist mill built by Halliday Hoopes in 1776 on Broad Run. It had many operators
through the years. Hoopes and Hollingsworth ran it about 1870; S. John Pyle
then operated it until it was sold to A. W. Watson in 1902. Upon Watson's death,
a son operated it until 1941. When the son, Gerald, died, his personal property
was sold at auction. Iron gearing from the old mill brought 43¢ per hundred
pounds, and the millstone sold for $5.00, and was to be used as a stepping
stone. For years and years local farmers took milk to the Creamery in
Landenberg - first by horse and wagon, and later by truck. When it was owned in
1894 by A. Sharpless, it operated as "Valley View Creamery." Later, it was
purchased by Supplee Dairies.
Thomas Hoopes operated a water-powered sawmill and grist
mill known as Wasteland Mill, located on the present Cook farm on Broad Run
Road. Predating Watson's Mill by several years, it was noted for its unusual
vertical saw blade. Most mills operated with round ones. John Miller had been
the builder; Samuel Pusey came into possession of it in 1820 through the Will
of Mary Miller, heiress to The Wastelands, and her subsequent bequeaths. Hoopes
owned it about 1850. When no longer used as a mill, the Hoopes family donated
its remains for rebuilding near the Caleb Pusey House in Upland, but that has
not yet been done. Although that old mill no longer exists, the sawmill of
Kennedy Crossan and Sons located on Saw Mill Road evokes memories of it.
Although oxen are no longer used to pull logs there from the woods, the whine
of saws can be heard on early Spring and Summer mornings - a pleasant sound,
indeed, and one which bespeaks of an era that has all but passed.
Landenberg prospered during the first year or so of the
Twentieth Century. Lund advertised in 1902 for "Widows having three or more
workers" to apply, but in September of that same year, it was reported:
"Landenberg is to be sold, bag, baggage, good will and
fixtures. Although it has 600 inhabitants it is almost entirely owned by one
interest, that of the estate of Thomas Lund, of England."
The article went on to state that it was a pretty village
with 240 acres of land, nearly fifty dwellings, and a large worsted mill in
operation; three valuable water powers, and several large business houses and
trade stands, plus two railroads, and unlimited power if developed. It was
considered an ideal spot for manufacturers, and the suggestion made that all
the water power could well be used to provide electricity to the area. A short
time later, it was made clear that the whole town wouldn't be sold, only the
mills and ten or twelve houses. It had not been decided what to do with the
portion on higher ground. The mills remained under the management of Ezra Lund,
so perhaps he bought them, or continued to operate them for others. No further
research was done to clarify this.
In 1909, the mill closed for repairs and inspection,
reopened and employed one hundred boys and girls "converting much wool into
vast quantities of the finest yarns." Several families moved to Landenberg
before the end of that year to increase the working force. When the mill
finally ceased operating in 1912 or 1913, it was a sad day for the Village.
There are several supposed reasons why Lund closed the mill.
The most interesting one proffered claimed he was angry over Prohibition and
wanted to wipe out the town, but Federal Prohibition laws were not yet in
effect. Lund had sold the hotel properly to Edward J. Fahey in 1905, and unless
he had repurchased it, had no interest in it at that time. There was a dispute
in 1914 over the liquor license and Lund signed in favor of it, while many
citizens opposed it, but that was after the mill had already closed.
The most widespread reason given was his concern over
Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, being elected President. Perhaps the problems
connected with operating the mill were just becoming too complicated. Many laws
were passed regarding tariffs, trusts, taxes, banking systems, etc. Government
was at that point trying to improve national life, and one aspect was
abolishment of child labor. Certain states had already passed significant
legislation with restrictions, and others were well on the way of doing so.
Another big factor may have been the income tax law passed in February 1913,
and the corporate income tax passed in October of the same year.
In any case, employees left Landenberg once more. Some
returned later, purchased property, and remained. Those who stayed found work
on nearby farms, on the railroad, or commuted to nearby towns for employment.
The mill remained unoccupied with only a watchman on the premises until
September 9, 1917 on which date the 5:00 a.m. whistle which had been blown
daily while the mill operated to awaken the employees sounded once more - this
time as a fire alarm. The mill was completely destroyed.
The death knell sounded for the one remaining sign of
prosperity in the Village of Landenberg - the three mile portion of the
Wilmington and Western Railroad - in 1942. Its demise was reported with the following
"The once shiny rails, laid back in 1872, will be ripped
up from Southwood to the western terminus of the road at Landenberg, Pa. For
many years the system has not carried passenger traffic for the owners - and in
more recent years it has been used for freight, its most important customer
being the experimental station of the Hercules Powder Company.
When tire and automobile rationing first went into effect
it was rumored that the railroad would again be put in passenger service, but this
was never confirmed."
Through intervening years the village known as Laurel
decayed and disappeared; walls of the old mills collapsed and became covered
with honeysuckle and brambles, or were torn down and the rock used in road
beds. The location of Nobleville was never discovered. Nothing remains to
indicate the lively industrial village that existed - one known as Landenberg.