East Marlborough Township History


    Scattered throughout East Marlborough Township are dozens of campsites of the earliest residents: the Lenni Lenape, a peaceful group who hunted, fished, and farmed small plots. Their quiet life ended in 1681 when William Penn arrived to begin his "Holy Experiment" in the vast lands granted to him by Charles II (Charles had generously donated the Lenape land) to repay a debt he owed to Penn's father. Penn then negotiated with all the local native groups and the colony remained peaceful.

    Penn advertised all over Europe for settlers. In addition to religious freedom, he offered land at 2 per acre and promised that it would be fertile with plentiful wild game. Thousands came and by 1704 Marlborough Township was established and Penn had the Marlborough Street Road (Route 926) laid our from the Schuylkill in Philadelphia to the Susquehanna. Like all improved routes it spurred growth and soon roads branched out to farther settlements allowing farmers to bring their goods to the larger markets near the coast. In return itinerant tradesmen from the cities could now reach the interior. Inns and taverns sprang up to serve this traffic - three still exist along Street Road. Jacksonville (now Unionville) had the Union Hotel which catered to drovers driving cattle eastward. Such prosperity brought more settlers (mostly English and Welsh) who cleared more land, built mills along the streams, and established small businesses. The Lenape were pushed farther west and by the mid-1700s their culture had disappeared except for the shards found at campsites and the road names Wawaset and Lenape.

    The Revolutionary War reached here in September 1777 when Cornwallis and Howe with 18,000 British and Hessian troops encamped around Kennett Square and ravaged all the local farms for food and loot.

    On September 11, the British sent the Hessians under Gen. Knyphausen along the Baltimore Pike to Chadds Ford. The British troops went up present Route 82, turned east onto Doe Run Road, then marched north to Northbrook, and, after crossing both branches of the Brandywine, moved south to Chadds Ford, effectively ambushing Washington. After a terrible battle, Washington withdrew his defeated troops farther east and eventually reached Valley Forge. The war didn't trouble the area again, but for years afterward each spring plowing turned up cannon balls, bullets, coins, and bones.

    The Revolution left another remnant locally: the legend of Sandy Flash. Sandy was actually James Fitzpatrick, a brawny, red-haired blacksmith noted for his wild ways. After a flogging by the Continental Army, he deserted to the British and probably guided Cornwallis's troops to Chadds Ford. After the war he became a local terror as a highwayman until he was hanged in 1778. In 1860, world famous author Bayard Taylor (now largely forgotten) sat in the tower of his mansion Cedarcroft and wrote his novel The Story of Kennett set in the familiar landscape that stretched before him. Sandy Flash was a main figure and so Sandy and the treasure he is said to have buried have remained local lore.

    By the early 1800s the nation was dividing bitterly over the issue of slavery. Being only 7 miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line, the Kennett area was the first refuge for those following the North Star to freedom. A network of "stations" on the Underground Railroad developed in the 1830s. In 1855, local Quakers built the Progressive Meetinghouse (now the Chester County Visitors' ) to which every major Abolition speaker came: John Greenleaf Whittier, Frederick Douglass, Lucretia Mott, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Tubman - the list goes on and on. Most were hosted by John and Hannah Cox whose house still stands just west of the meeting. The Coxes also gave shelter to scores, maybe hundreds of escaping slaves before sending them on to other local homes, many of which still stand.

    After the excitement and danger of Abolition and the Civil War were past, the area went back to rural small town life.  Farmers acquired new equipment to improve their yields and some established nursery businesses. By the late 1800s the greenhouse floral business boomed and soon mushrooms were an added crop. Many Italian immigrants came as workers and stayed as owners. Two world wars did little to change the basic economy and order of life. The second half of the 20th Century has been notable for the mushrooming of housing developments and increased traffic. Preserving our scenery, history, and open space has become an urgent effort which many residents take part in.

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