Material Culture in the Archives
Did you know the Chester County Archives has a shark's head in our collection!? Well, not exactly...but using estate inventories we do know that Representative John Hickman of West Chester did, in fact, own a shark's head when he died in 1875. We might not have many physical artifacts in our collections, but you can still learn so much about objects and material culture by viewing archival government records like estate inventories, insolvent debtors' petitions, assigned estates, and taxes. Check out this video in which we highlight how you can use our records to study some of the objects your ancestors or other historical subjects owned. Click the image to the left.
The Anderson Family in Chester County
On October 16th, 1859, twenty-nine-year-old Osborne Perry Anderson was one of twenty-two men who captured the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia)—an event that has become known as "John Brown's Raid." But did you know Osborne Perry Anderson was born in Chester County? In this month's blog post, we poke around the archives to learn more about the Anderson family. Click the image to the left to read.
Our LEAST Favorite Records
We get asked all the time about our favorite records to work with. So we wrote about them last year in a blog post which you can access by clicking here. But what about our LEAST favorite records? What are some of the records that are just a pain to handle and work with? We take a look at some of those in our latest blog post. Click the image to the left.
1777 Chester County Property Atlas
If you ever wondered who lived on your property in September 1777 or wanted to know if it was plundered by the British Army during the Philadelphia Campaign, then you’re going to want to check this out new research tool. The Battle of Brandywine has been considered the largest battle of the American Revolution, yet these armies were not fighting on vacant land. Thousands of inhabitants called Chester County home, and this new project will highlight these people and their stories. Click the image to the left to start exploring!
Remembering the Graves: The Family Behind Birmingham Hill
You've likely heard of the Battle of Brandywine. Maybe you're even familiar with Birmingham Hill. But have you heard of the Graves family? They owned the land where so much of the fighting took place on September 11, 1777. In this video, we peel back the layers and study how the battle impacted this Chester County family. Click the image to the left to watch the video.
New London Crossroads
In 1729, Lazarus Finney was granted a license to operate a tavern at the New London Crossroads (modern-day State Road & Rt. 896). Similar taverns and crossroads were vital to the early commercial success of Chester County. Chester County thrived on wheat production which was turned into flour at the many gristmills along the Elk River, White & Red Clay Creeks, and the Brandywine. Check out our very first video which discusses the history of this particular tavern, the importance of wheat production in Chester County, and the global mercantile system which necessitated such taverns, crossroads, and gristmills. Click the image to the left to watch the video.
Chester County Archives Staff Picks
During the week of April 21st, 2020, the Chester County Archives staff featured some “staff picks” on their Facebook page. They wanted these posts to spark some curiosity and encourage its audience to explore different records or a new collection. They also hoped their picks would shed a little light on the team behind all the work on Facebook, on the website, and in the reading room. Click the image to the left.
A Colonial Tavern in West Brandywine Township
Around 1767, Andrew Culbertson purchased 150 acres of land along the west branch of the Brandywine Creek. Culbertson quickly capitalized on the prime location and began operating a grist mill, saw mill, and a tavern. The tavern petitions submitted by Culbertson offer a glimpse into the early history of this colonial tavern. In 1774, for example, he detailed what happened when he refused to serve his neighbor’s drunken servant and his friends. Explore the history of this colonial tavern in West Brandywine Township in this month’s post from the Archives staff. Click the image to the left.
Ann Preston, MD and the 1852 Pennsylvania Woman’s Rights Convention
168 years ago on June 2nd and 3rd 1852, the Pennsylvania Woman’s Rights Convention occurred at Horticultural Hall, now home to the Chester County Historical Society. Ann Preston, MD delivered the main speech during the event. In her remarks she addressed the need for women to have equal educational and professional opportunities. Read more about the 1852 convention and Ann Preston in this month’s blog from the Chester County Archives. Click the image to the left.
Moses Garrison Hepburn opened his West Chester Magnolia House in 1866. The business not only served West Chester’s African American community, but it also elevated Hepburn’s status among those in the borough’s political and economic establishment. Read more about Hepburn and his Magnolia House in this month’s blog post from the Chester County Archives. Click the image to the left.
History of the Red Rose Inn Property
The Chester County Archives staff recently completed a report on the history of the Red Rose Inn located in Penn Township. Situated at the Jennersville intersection, the history of the Red Rose Inn is a fascinating look at the importance and early development of crossroads in Chester County. Check out the report and interactive maps by clicking the image to the left.
Between 1681-1890, there were 1,286 criminal cases involving the sale of liquor in Chester County. What happens when those cases are organized chronologically? In this month’s blog post from the Chester County Archives, staff uses data from the Court of Quarter Sessions Indictment Papers to study the impact the temperance movement had on Chester County.
In this month’s blog post from the Chester County Archives, the staff explores the lives of two children by studying public government records. Although the same age and located in the same geographic area, Jane Hoopes and Temperance Howard had vastly different life experiences in Chester County during the nineteenth century. One benefited from her family’s financial success, while the other struggled to leave the County Poorhouse. Read their stories by clicking the image to the left.
One of the best things about working with government records is their authentic representation of everyday life in American history. The records at the Chester County Archives typically don’t highlight big names or important events. Rather, they reflect the unexceptional actions of ordinary life (paying taxes, testifying in court, purchasing property, settling estates, applying for licenses, etc). It’s not every day a county archivist discovers something signed by a United States President, so you can imagine the surprise of former archivist Jack McCarthy when he discovered an 1812 record signed by then Secretary of State James Monroe. Read more in this month’s blog post. Click the image to the left.
The Chester County Archives’ collection of Will & Administration files span from 1714 to 1923, but it contains very few wills written by married women prior to 1848. Before Pennsylvania passed the Married Women’s Property Act of 1848, a married woman typically could not write a legal will. Read more about this law with some collection highlights in this month’s blog.
In this month’s blog post we discuss how the Civil War impacted a young couple from Southeastern PA. Henrietta Cummings of West Chester and Charles Cassidy of Haverford got engaged in January 1863. Less than a year later, Cassidy marched off to war as a Private in Company E of the 25th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops. Unfortunately, no correspondence between the young couple is known to exist, but we can share their story thanks to court records preserved at the Chester County Archives. Click the image to the left.
Genealogists have probably come across various spellings of their family’s surname. Common names like Smith, Roberts, and Bernard can be spelled numerous ways, and that can make searching government records difficult. Read this month’s blog post about spelling variations in public records. Click the image to the left.
Nutritional planning and calorie counting are not new phenomena. With the development of food science in the early twentieth century, the Chester County Poorhouse developed its meals based on people’s varying needs for calories, protein, fat, and carbohydrates. In this month’s blog entry, we look at what was served at the Chester County Home on Christmas Day 1925. Click the image to the left.
This month marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One. Read our November blog post about Chester County soldiers and nurses serving in Europe as well as the contributions of those on the home front. Click the image to the left.
Did you know a Goshen Township woman bewitched innocent children during the 1770s? Well, that’s according to J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope’s 1881 History of Chester County. Read our Halloween-themed post on how the records at the Chester County Archives debunk this local legend. Click the image to the left.
Why does Chester County have such well-preserved records dating back to the 17th century? Joseph Parker, the Chester County Clerk of Courts in 1737, deserves some credit. Read about his early advocacy efforts in our inaugural blog post. Click the image to the left.