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Thomas Moore's Ambition: The Man Behind Downingtown, Coatesville, Wagontown, and Atglen's Early History. (May 2023)
300 years ago in the early-eighteenth century, most of Chester County was frontier country. It was the hinterland between the European settlements along the Delaware River and the vast Pennsylvania wilderness. Chester County’s abundant arable land, waterways, and natural resources made it a prime location for swift economic development, but it would require ambitious pioneers to stimulate growth. Thomas Moore of Concord Township was one such man. In 1710 Moore embarked on a milling enterprise that helped lay the foundation for Chester County’s early economic success. While his ambition planted the seeds for the future development of four towns—Atglen, Coatesville, Downingtown, and Wagontown—it would ultimately cost his family everything. Discover his story in our latest ArcGIS Storymap by clicking here.
Chester County's Pioneer Female Physicians (March 2023)
On June 9, 1886, Mary Cheyney traveled to the Chester County Court House in West Chester, PA. She was a trained medical professional who spent the last three years training at the Woman’s Medical College in Philadelphia. Despite all her training and accomplishments, she was required by law to register as a medical professional. Although most the county’s registered medical professionals were men, Cheyney was among eighteen women who registered between 1881-1922. This medical register—now preserved at the Chester County Archives—is much more than a method of tracking physicians’ credentials. It also represents the personal stories of the physicians, the countless and untold stories of their Chester County patients, as well as the story of one very special institution, the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. We turn to some of these stories now in a new project by the Chester County Archives. Click here to read Chester County's Pioneer Female Physicians.
For the County of Chester: The Oldest Record Preserved at the Chester County Archives (February 2023)
The oldest record preserved at the Chester County Archives is an old colonial court docket. The first entry was recorded on September 13, 1681—just six months after William Penn received his royal charter from King Charles II. What’s particularly interesting is the fact that the first nine pages of this docket were all recorded before William Penn ever stepped foot on Pennsylvania soil, and before he formally established the Chester County Government in November 1682. Explore the history of this court docket and learn about some of the earliest European inhabitants in the local area.
Check out the new video by clicking here.
Richard Adams: A Civil War Hero (February 2023)
On June 26, 1863, Chester County resident Richard Adams entered Camp William Penn near Philadelphia. He was one of the very first recruits to enter the new military training facility which had just opened to accommodate the influx of African American men enlisting to serve in the Union Army after the Emancipation Proclamation. During the enlistment process, Richard falsely listed his age as forty. In actuality, he was sixty-three years old. As one of the first men to enter camp, as well as one of the oldest, Richard was prepared to fight and die in the American Civil War to contribute to the abolition of slavery.
Learn more about the story of Richard Adams—a Civil War hero from Chester County—in this new project by the Chester County Archives. Click here to access the project.
A Brick Building on Walnut Street (January 2023)
The Chester County Archives staff regularly receive questions from homeowners asking if a property is “historic.” This is a difficult question to answer because “historic” is a subjective term. In other words, what qualifies something as “historic”?
Look at downtown West Chester, for example. Throughout the borough are dozens of historical plaques acknowledging various buildings, sites, and people. The Bank of Chester County building on High Street, for example, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Just down the block is another historical marker acknowledging the former Turks Head Hotel which operated in West Chester for nearly two centuries before being razed in the 1960s. Both sites unequivocally contributed to West Chester’s development and economic success. Situated directly behind both locations, however, is a three-story brick building on Walnut Street that directly supported both the Bank of Chester County and the Turks Head Hotel. It was built by the bank in 1856 and housed many employees who worked in the hotel’s stables and blacksmith shop. Does this qualify the brick building on Walnut Street as “historic”?
Every building has a history, and therefore, every building is “historic” in its own right. The history of this brick building on Walnut Street offers another historical perspective to West Chester’s nineteenth-century growth and prosperity. Its history reminds us to look past the town’s iconic places and names for new stories and different perspectives. Read more about the history of this property in a new interactive project created by the Chester County Archives staff. Click here to access the project.
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)
- Slavery in Chester County (June 2021)
- Material Culture in the Archives (March 2021)
- The Anderson Family in Chester County (February 2021)
- Our LEAST Favorite Records (January 2021)
- 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)