"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
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:
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
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
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.