Manuel Rivero - A Short Biography (June 2022)
June is National Caribbean American Heritage Month, and it is an opportunity to recognize the many contributions Caribbean Americans have made to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. To celebrate this, we turned to the story of Manuel Rivero who immigrated to the United States in 1918 and enjoyed a successful 43-year career as a coach, educator, and administrator at Lincoln University. Check out this video we made documenting Rivero’s inspiring journey—from a 9-year-old boy entering Ellis Island to having a gymnasium named in his honor. Information, images, and other media for this video came from the Chester County Archives, Chester County History Center, Lincoln University Special Collection, Columbia University Special Collections, and other online sources. Click the image to the left to watch the video.
Catharine Boothe - Farmer (March 2022)
After the death of her husband in 1803, Catharine Boothe of Londonderry Township became a widowed mother of eight children all of whom were under the age of fourteen. Catharine had no family nearby for support. She faced the loss of her husband, the challenge of single-parenting, the threat of financial instability, and the inherent adversity in homesteading and farming alone. Despite all of this, Catharine’s story is not one of barely surviving or subsistence. Instead, Catharine achieved a great deal of success throughout her life—tripling the family’s collective land holdings and providing her children with both financial and inspirational support. Read more about Catharine and her inspiring story by clicking on the image to the left.
The Last Will & Testament of Bilha of Westtown - A Brief Account of Her Life & Legacy (February 2022)
On February 18, 1768, Bilha of Westtown signed her mark between the words “Negro” and “Bilha” on her last will and testament. Unbeknownst to her or any of the witnesses, she became the first identified person of color in Chester County to have her will probated. This unique record offers a remarkably rare glimpse into colonial Chester County history from the perspective of a Black woman. Learn about Bilha’s historic life—from an enslaved woman to a free woman with an estate file—in this new project by the Chester County Archives. Click the image to the left to read more about Bilha and her story.
The Upper Uwchlan Township Thumb (November 2021)
The division line between Upper Uwchlan and West Vincent is perhaps one of the strangest municipal borders in Chester County, and it tells a fascinating story. The Upper Uwchlan thumb—as we’ll call it—is the product of empire, business ambitions, beaver furs, and even unpaid taxes! It was supposed to play an important role in the New Mediterranean Sea Company’s grandiose plan to purchase 100,000 acres stretching from the Schuylkill River all the way to the Great Lakes (what investors dubbed as the “new” Mediterranean Sea), but the plan never came to fruition. Instead, the land was neglected and involved in complicated legal matters with the Penn Family. Learn more about the fascinating history of this unique municipal border in our new video (click the image to the left).
Slavery in Chester County (June 2021)
Chester County did not escape the stain of slavery. Not only did hundreds of enslaved people work in the fields, taverns, forges, and mills throughout the county, but a growing enslaved population in the Caribbean opened new export markets for Chester County wheat and flour. In 1780 the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed the Gradual Abolition Act, but this early attempt to end slavery in Pennsylvania left a system in place that ensured it would continue well into the 19th century. Jacob Glasgow personally experienced the horrors of slavery firsthand—first as an enslaved man pursuing freedom, and second as a loving father and husband trying to navigate a legal system designed to protect the interest of the Hood family, who were the enslavers of his wife Sall. In 1803 Glasgow sued Samuel Hood over a broken contract. This was a bold act for a man who—just a few years earlier—had been inventoried as personal property. Glasgow’s perseverance and determination did not go unnoticed by the ensuing generations of children and grandchildren who shared his surname. This is a story of slavery in Chester County as told through the experience of Jacob Glasgow. Click the image to the left to access our "Slavery in Chester County" portal with the Glasgow video along with accompanying interactive maps showing slavery's spread in Chester County.
Material Culture in the Archives (March 2021)
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 (February 2021)
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 (January 2021)
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 (September 2020)
- Remembering the Graves: The Family Behind Birmingham Hill (August 2020)
- New London Crossroads (July 2020)
- Chester County Archives Staff Picks (May 2020)
- A Colonial Tavern in West Brandywine Township (April 2020)
- Ann Preston, MD and the 1852 Pennsylvania Woman’s Rights Convention (March 2020)
- Moses G. Hepburn and the Magnolia House (February 2020)
- History of the Red Rose Inn Property (November 2019)
- Indicted for Selling Liquor without a License: Graphing the Temperance Movement in Chester County (August 2019)
- A Tale of Two Orphans: Children’s Lives as Told in County Records (July 2019)
- James Monroe Document in the Chester County Archives (June 2019)
- A Will of One’s Own (March 2019)
- The Story of Henrietta Cummings and Charles Cassidy (February 2019)
- Spelling Variations in Public Records (January 2019)
- Christmas Dinner at the Chester County Poorhouse (December 2018)
- The Chester County War Aid Association (November 2018)
- The Story of Mary Otley (October 2018)
- Chester County’s First Unofficial Archivist (September 2018)