AN HISTORIC DISTRICT

WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF THE NORRISTOWN STATE HOSPITAL

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A Report prepared by the Rev. Judith A. Meier

in 1988 for the Norristown State Hospital

and re-introduced in 2000 for East Norriton Township

 

   The Norristown State Hospital holds the remarkable distinction of containing within its boundaries the well-preserved vestiges of an eighteenth and nineteenth century settlement.  So fortunate is this circumstance that steps should be taken to insure the continued protection and preservation of the many old houses owned by the state and occupied by State Hospital personnel.

   It is my belief that these houses should be placed on the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Inventory of Historic Places as an "Historical District" reflecting eighteenth and nineteenth century agricultural and commercial development in Norriton Township.

   In 1689 William Penn order the survey of the Manor of Williamstadt.  On October 2, 1704, a patent for Williamstadt was granted to the founder's son, William Penn, Jr.  Five days later young Penn sold his manor to Isaac Norris and William Trent for only 850 pounds.  Trent sold his share of the estate to Norris on January 11, 1712.  This property remained in Norris control until 1730, when the residents of Williamstadt petitioned to have the township of Norriton created.

   The properties we are concerned with at the Norristown State Hospital, seven originally, were created by sales of lands held by various relatives of Isaac Norris, who died in 1735.  At the time of the first sales of Norris holdings, there were five people who sold the plots which eventually became part of the Norristown State Hospital:  Isaac Norris, Jr., and his sister ELizabeth; John Dickinson, who was married to Mary Norris, Isaac, Jr.'s daughter; Richard Harrison, who was married to another daughter of the senior Norris; and Hannah Harrison, Richard Harrison's daughter and the wife of Charles Thomson.

   All of these people were prominent in the leadership of Pennsylvania and the founding of this nation.

   By the time all of the initial sales were completed (for our purposes, spanning the years between 1737 and 1764) there were seven major "plantations" within the State Hospital area.  They were as follows:

1)  Cornelius Tyson (after many sales beginning in 1744 with Richard Harrison) bought the property running along the Stony Creek up the present Stanbridge Street and built a mill there.

2)  Ezekiel Rhoads bought his large plantation from Elizabeth Norris before 1769.  It encompassed properties later to be known as the Potts, the McIntyre, and the Moyer estates, and the Scheetz Mill.

3)  Samuel Brown bought his land from Isaac Norris, Jr., in 1763.  The house built by Martin Summers in 1812 is presently designated 1515 Sterigere Street.

4)  John Coulston bought his plantation (north of Samuel Brown's) from Elizabeth Norris in 1737.  This farm came to be known in the nineteenth century as the McGuire farm.

5)  John Dickinson and his descendants kept their plantation well into the late nineteenth century, although the land was farmed by tenants for most of those years.  The house known as "Happy Hollow" occupies that property now.

6)  Hannah Harrison conveyed her tenant-farmed plantation in the northwest corner of the hospital property to her granddaughter Amelia Harrison McClenachan, who with her husband Robert sold it to Conrad Zorn in 1798.

7)  James Shannon bought his plantation from Isaac Norris, Jr., in 1744.  This property eventually became the great Getty farm.

 

   Records of eighteenth century farmers are scant, but we do know that several of our "State Hospital" farmers and their families served during the Revolutionary War with the Philadelphia County Militia, 6th Battalion, 5th Company, of Norriton Township.  These patriots, serving under Capt. John Wentz, Lt. James Adams, and Ens. Thomas McKaig, were David Coulston, private 2nd class; Joseph Tyson, private 3rd class; Jacob Rhodes, private 4th class; Ezekiel Rhodes, Samuel Brown, and William Zimmerman (one of Dickinson's tenants), privates 5th class.

   When the British soldiers pillaged and burned their way through Norriton township in September 1777, they caused damage to some of the property in our area of concern.  After the war, assessor Jacob Auld included the following names in his "Assessment of Damages done by the British, 1777-1778):

            David Coulston, £5, 17s; Ezekiel Rhoads, £65, 15s; Joseph Tyson, £102, 4s.

 

                 CORNELIUS TYSON PLANTATION

    Some time after Cornelius Tyson bought the property along the Stony Creek in 1764, he erected a mill.  According to tradition, this was one of the mills rented out by George Loesch of Germantown, converted to a powder mill for the war effort, and burned by British troops.  It was probably this damage for which Joseph Tyson, Cornelius' son, was compensated after the war.

   The Stony Creek grist mill passed out of the Tyson family in 1797 when William Abbett bought it.  At the time of the Direct Federal Tax of 1798 (the Window Pane Tax) Abbett was taxed for a two-story stone dwelling house, 45 x 17, with 9 windows and 8 lights, a stone barn, 25 x 35, a mill, 30 x 25, and a saw mill.

   In 1802 Abbett sold the mills to Jonathan Taylor, who modernized the property.  By 1805 Taylor had a grist mill, four stories high, with two water-wheels and two pairs of stones, a pair of shelling stones, a pair of burr stones, and elevators.  The saw mill and plaster mill which William Abbett had built were also in good working order.

   John C. Standbridge (the "d" appears in his name in all nineteenth century documents and newspapers) purchased the Stony Creek Mills in 1814, and he converted the mills into a cotton manufactory.

   In July 1831 a great freshet swelled the Schuylkill River and all its tributaries, including the Stony Creek.  The dam above Mr. Standbridge's factory was destroyed, resulting in an estimated loss of $2000.

   Several days later the Sheriff of Montgomery County announced the seizure and upcoming sale of Standbridge's property.  I include some of the newspaper's notice here because it gives an excellent description of the property.

 

A messuage and 57 acres of land, more or less, with the appurtenances, situate in Norriton township, in the county aforesaid, adjoining lands of Joseph West, Ezekiel Rhoads, George Roberts, and others.  The improvements are a large and commodious two story stone mansion house, with piazza in front, and nine tenant houses, six of which are new two story stone houses, the remaining three are part stone and part frame, with cellars under the whole, and a well of water with a pump in it near the door of the mansion house, a large stone barn, 45 feet by 30, with stabling for 4 horses and 4 cows, there is also a frame stable sufficient for several cows - a waggon-house, smith shop and other necessary out buildings, &c.  Also two cotton factories with their appurtenances, one of which is a new three story stone building, 50 x 45 feet, the other is a two story stone building 40 by 30, both of which factories are propelled by Stoney Creek, which passes through the premises, having about 25 feet head and fall.  There is on the premises a variety of fruit trees, the land is arable in a good state of cultivation.  Seized and taken in execution as the property of John C. Standbridge, and to be sold by Jones Davis.

 

   When William Montgomery had the Stony Creek Mill, he advertised a sale of cotton machinery in 1835.  The following notices gives an excellent inventory of a typical nineteenth century cotton mill.

 

The subscriber offers for sale on or before Monday the 5th of October next, all his Stock of Cotton Machinery, which he owns in Stony Creek Factory, 1 mile from Norristown, consisting of 4 mules, 3 of 250 spindles each, 1 of 276, 1 stretcher of 90 spindles, 1 twisting machine of 40 spindles, 6 carding engines, 1 lapcard, 2 willows, 2 pickers, 2 drawing frames, 2 bruster eclip speeders, a number of power looms, 1 carding machine for raising cotton flannel, 1 spooling machine calculated for both cops and hands, 1 reel, 1 warping mill, 1 eight day clock, 4 stoves with pipes and drums, - also the mill gearing in said factory, together with a large number of other articles not here specified.  The machinery is all in complete working order, and of first rate quality, being a complete connect lot.  Any person wishing to purchase will do well by examining the machinery, as the terms of payment could be made easy, as the present owner wishes to move to Philadelphia. --  William Montgomery. 


 

   Fire destroyed the Stony Creek Mills in 1854.  They were rebuilt and run as a paper mill by Oram & Miln and later by Markley, Smith & Co.  Roofing paper was made there in the 1860s by John W. Dixon until fire destroyed the mill in 1869.  According to one historian, when the Hospital was built, stones from the mill walls were used in the original buildings.

   A portion of Tyson land was sold to John and Lydia Castner in 1795 and added to a few years later.  John Castner was a cordwainer.  According to the Window Pane Tax of 1798, he and his wife were living in a one-story log house, 30 x 15, with 4 windows and 9 lights.

   In 1802 Castner built a two-story stone house and placed at the top of the gable a date stone containing the initials J & L C and the shape of a boot, fashioned with stone.  That house, at 1600 Stanbridge Street, is reached today (1988) by traversing a dirt road across a wood bridge over the railroad track.

   John Castner died suddenly in 1811, leaving his widow, eight children, six of whom were in their minority, no will, and not enough money to "pay his just debts and educate his children."  In 1815 the Orphans Court directed Mrs. Castner to sell off four parcels of land in order for her to handle her financial obligations.  Much to her credit, her children never had to be educated at public expense.  Lydia Castner proved to be one of the most long-lived citizens of Norriton.  She was enumerated in the 1850 census as being 80 years old and having her 40-year old daughter Mary living with her.  After the old lady finally died, her home was sold to Samuel Hoffman in 1855.  Hoffman was listed in the 1867-68 Norristown Business Directory as an ice-dealer.

  

                EZEKIEL RHOADS PLANTATION

    Ezekiel Rhoads, who bought his large holdings from Elizabeth Norris some time before 1769, was prominent in the development of early Norristown.  He was one of the incorporators of the Norristown Library in 1794.  In 1796 Rhoads, Thomas Craig, and John Cleyne were the three trustees to whom Lot No. 3 in the Town of Norris was deed "in trust for the use of a public school to be established and kept in Norristown forever."  This lot was on the north side of Egypt road, later known as Main Street, east of the public square.  When the Norristown Academy was built, Rhoads was elected a member of its first board of trustees on March 12, 1803.

   Ezekiel Rhoads was also active in an effort to collect money to "take down Barren Hill" in order to improve the roads.  In 1808 Rhoads was serving as "Poor Director."

   At the time of the Window Pane Tax Ezekiel Rhoads was living in a one-story stone house, 28 x 15, with 4 windows and 12 lights.  Another log building was on his property.  He was also renting a two-story stone house, 25 x 15, to George Roberts.  His son Abraham Rhoads had a two-story stone house, 28 x 18, with 8 windows and 12 lights, and another log building.

    When old Ezekiel Rhoads died in January 1813 (his wife predeceased him in 1811) he willed his home to his son Ezekiel, Jr.  Son Abraham became owner of the house in which he was living.  Son Joseph was bequeathed the mills at the northeastern sector of his property (i.e., on the Stony Creek above the section running along Castner's property and down to the mill dam and race belonging to William Abbett).  All three sons were obliged to make annual payments to their seven sisters.

   When Ezekiel Rhoads, Jr., died in 1845, his farm was offered for sale.  Once again, the newspaper's advertisement provides an excellent description of the property.

 

.....Farm late of Ezekiel Rhoads, dec'd... containing by a recent survey 105 acres and 105 perches.  Large 2 story stone house, 4 rooms, entry on first, 5 on second.  Two good rooms in the garret, cellar under the whole.  Stone barn and wagon house, stabling for 3 cows and 5 horses in basement and mows and threshing floor above.  There is a frame hay and straw house attached to the barn, with stabling for 7 cows underneath.  Stone grainhouse attached to barn, 20 x 21, and same height as barn, stone shed well suited to keep dry cattle in.  Good stone wall around the barnyard, well and pump.  Four barracks, stone hog house with loft over it.  Stone smoke house.  Spring house.  Orchard... One of the most productive farms in the country ..... 


 

   Samuel Haws purchased the property, which then passed through the Potts and Hitner families before being purchased by the Commonwealth.

   Abraham Rhoads died in 1827, but his wife remained on the plantation until her death in 1850.  The house in which the widow was living was sold to Jacob Moyer, cordwainer, in 1851.  The other portion of Abraham Rhoads' estate was sold to John Nieman in 1853.  James McIntyre sold the plantation to the state in 1878.  The state bought the Moyer property in 1895.

   Ezekiel Rhoads had had a grist mill on the Stony Creek since 1808.  When he died in 1813, his son Joseph inherited the grist mill and an additional oil mill.  Joseph and Cornelius Rhoads conducted the mill in partnership for some years, advertising the sale of cake meal at Rhoads' Oil Mill in the local newspapers.  The partnership dissolved in 1823.  When Joseph Rhoads moved to Philadelphia, John POtts ran the mill.  Rhoads sold the mill to Daniel Scheetz in 1828.

   In the summer of 1831 the same freshet which destroyed the large dam at the STandbridge Cotton Factory also broke the dam above Scheetz's Mill.  Daniel Scheetz died in 1845, and his mill was put up for sale.  The property was described in a newspaper notice:

 

MILLERS AND MANUFACTURERS, LOOK HERE!

Valuable Mills and Farm at PUblic Sale!

..... Containing about 53 acres of land, of which 9 acres is watered meadow, 10 or 12 acres woodland; the remainder in the highest state of cultivation, and enclosed with a good fence.  The improvements are a large Stone Mill, with three run of stone, and all the necessary machinery for merchant and custom work, with two water wheels in good repair.  There is also a clover and Oil Mill connected.  The Mill is propelled by the Stony Creek, with about 20 feet head and fall, and is capable of doing a large amount of business.  A two story STone house, with 2 rooms on the first floor, and 4 on the second, with garret over and cellar; spring of never failing water adjoining the kitchen.  A large stone barn, with stabling for 10 cows and 4 horses; a stone waggon house, stone smoke house, spring house over a constant spring, and other outbuildings..... 

 

   Scheetz's son, Jacob C. Scheetz, took over the property and ran with mill with Matthias Scheetz.  The Scheetz family sold the house, grist mill, and lot to the Commonwealth in 1895.   The farm house in 1907 was in the tenancy of John Hammington.

   

                SAMUEL BROWN PLANTATION

   Samuel Brown bought his farm from Isaac Norris, Jr., in 1763 and farmed it with his wife Ann until 1783.  Because his will was defective, the widow had to buy his estate from the Sheriff.  A sale notice in the Pennsylvania Gazette described a stone dwelling with one end partly new, an excellent cellar underneath, a stone spring house and log barn and stabling.  In 1791 Ann Brown transferred the property to her son Samuel.

   Taney Brown was assessed for the farm in 1798.  He was taxed for a one-story house, 35 x 18, with 5 windows and 12 lights, a stone spring house, 12 x 13, and a stone barn, 45 x 33.  Samuel Brown died intestate in 1803, leaving his wife Williamina Brown and six children:  Nancy (wife of Jesse DAvis), Peggy (wife of David McAfee), Henry, Samuel, Benjamin, and Sophia, all minors.  Legal guardians were appointed for the minor children.  In 1829 Henry Hartle was appointed to a committee for Sophia's estate because she had been declared a lunatic.

   John Brown held the farm from 1804 until 1810, when he sold it to Martin Summers.  Because the title was not clear, the sale was recorded again in 1830 as a transaction from Williamina Brown, widow of Samuel Brown, deceased, and SAmuel Brown (son), Benjamin Brown (son), John McFarland, guardian of Benjamin and also Henry Brown, now deceased (another son of the same Samuel, deceased), Stephen POrter, guardian of Samuel Brown the younger, and also Sophia (daughter), Henry Hartle, Committee of the estate of Sophia, now a lunatic.

   After Martin Summers bought the farm in 1810 he built a new house in 1812.  This house stands now at 1515 Sterigere Street.  Summers' father, Philip, served as a private in Captain David Marple's Company of the Pennsylvania Militia, fought at Germantown, and is thought to have held a lieutenant's commission.  Martin Summers attended St. John's Episcopal Church in Norristown.

   Martin Summers died in 1845 in his eighty-second year.  The newspaper advertisement for the sale of his estate described the property:

 

106 acres 2 quarters and 35 perches ..., Two story stone house 36 x 20, 2 rooms and entry on the first floor, 3 on second, large and well finished garret.  Large 2 story stone building running back, containing a large and commodious kitchen, a piazza, and cellar under the whole building.  Stone barn 53 x 33 with wagon house.  Stone hog stable, spring house, two wells.   


 

Personal property being sold included pigeon nets and tackles a clock and case, and kraut tubs.

   The heirs of Martin Summers, Sr., that is, his widow Anna Elizabeth, Sarrah Buscard, George, Margaret Gouldy, Philip, Elizabeth Keel, Samuel (father of William Summers, who served as librarian of the Historical Society of Montgomery County at one time), Hannah Shambough, and Henry sold the property to Henry Novioch, and Novioch deeded approximately half to it to Philip Summers.

   Philip Summers was succeeded by Martin Summers, who held the property until it was sold to James McIntyre in the late nineteenth century.  McIntyre sold it to the Commonwealth.

  

                COULSTON-CURRY-SHANNON PLANTATION

    The Coulston-Curry-Shannon homestead dates back to September 2, 1737, when James Logan of Stenton, Israel Pemberton of Philadelphia, and Elizabeth Norris, one of the daughters of Isaac Norris, sold 100 acres of land to John Coulston of Norriton, yeoman.  Included in the deal was a "yearly rent of 36 bushes of winter wheat on August 1 yearly, at any grist mill erected or to be erected at or near the mouth of Stony Creek in Norriton or the place of its entrance into the River Schuylkill or at any other grist mill, not exceeding six miles away, 2 payable to James Logan and Israel Pemberton."

   When John Coulston died, the Orphans Court awarded his property to his son William.  William Coulston owned the property during the Revolutionary War.  After the war damages to the property were assessed at £5 17s and awarded to David Coulston.

   On February 3, 1790, William and Eve Coulston conveyed the farm to David Coulston, subject to the annual rent of 36 bushels of wheat to Logan and Pemberton and a payment of £4 a year to Elizabeth Coulston, mother of David.

   After the death of David Coulston, James Curry purchased the 100-acre property in 1792 from Ezekiel Rhoads, administrator of Coulston's estate.  Curry had to continue payment of the wheat and the money to Elizabeth Coulston.  James Curry and his wife Rebecca sold the farm to James Shannon the next year.  Shannon sold a parcel of this land to his son John.

   At the time of the Window Pane Tax of 1798 James Shannon was assessed for 197 acres adjoining William Shannon and Ezekiel Rhoads, containing a two-story stone dwelling, 20 x 30, with 10 windows and 12 lights; a one-story stone kitchen, 15 x 30, another stone building, 43 x 30, and a saw mill.

   At Shannon's death, Samuel Shannon took possession of the farm.  He began paying taxes in 1814 on 74 acres on Griffith's ground rent of 36 bushels.

   In March of 1819 Samuel Shannon held aa sale of such property as five milch cows, one heifer, a plough, flax, a side saddle and bridle, and household goods.  In December 1820 he offered his 70-acre farm for sale.  The property included a good farmhouse, part stone part log, three rooms on a floor; a well and pump, milk house over a spring, stone barn with a waggon house, and corn crib attached.  The farm was on elevated land with a southern exposure and adjoined a public mill road.

   Although he did not sell the Norriton farm, Samuel Shannon did take over the Centre Square Tan Yard in the spring of 1824.  But in 1826, Thomas and Hannah Pugh took the tanning and currying business at centre Square belonging to Euphemia Humphrey, formerly occupied by Samuel Shannon.

   Back in Norriton, Samuel Shannon began a tanning business on his farm and was taxed for his tanyard in 1829.

   By 1846 Shannon had accumulated 100 acres but then conveyed 10 acres and the tanyard to John R. Shannon.  Several years later, however, John R. Shannon died, and Samuel Shannon and George Shannon offered the tanyard for sale on February 2, 1848.

 

The dwelling is nearly new, a tan yard in complete order; there is a currying shop two stories high, bark house, bark mill under the bark house, a constant fountain of spring water, and everything necessary to make it a desirable location and worthy the attention of persons who desire to engage in the above business and if desired the stock which is in all conditions from green to finished leather, can be purchased.  Also, the bark, Spanish and black oak, patent bark mill, turning implements, &c.

 

This advertisement was repeated on November 15, 1848, but "turning implements" read "tanning implements."

   Joseph Shannon was owner of the farm form 1859 to 1868.  Peter McGuire held the property from 1868 to 1878, when he sold his 92-acre farm to the Commonwealth for use of the Insane Asylum, at a price of $18,5000.  Chalkley Jarret, farmer of the Asylum lands, resided in the old house for eight years.  John R. Shannon's old home was also sold to the state.

 

                JOHN DICKINSON PLANTATION

   The farm where "Happy Hollow" sits was owned by the John Dickinson family for many years and rented out to tenant farmers.  When William Zimmerman was assessed for the Window Pane Tax in 1798, there stood a one-story log house, 30 x 25, with 6 windows and 9 lights and another log outbuilding.  Other tenant farmers who tended to the timber on the estate were William Stroud, John Correl, Augustus Shearer, Nathan Moore, and John Hardin.

   When John Dickinson's daughter, Maria D. Logan, wife of Dr. Albanus C. Logan, died in 1860, the estate was given to her son Gustavus George Logan.  The trustees of the Logan estate sold it in 1870 to Joseph Greaves, who later sold the property to the Commonwealth.

 

 

                HANNAH HARRISON PLANTATION

   The section of Hospital property in the vicinity of Germantown Pike and Whitehall Road is difficult to sort out without the assistance of surveyors and professional "house-daters" because there are now four houses on it with a fifth house and a mill now gone.

   When Conrad Zorn bought his 150-acre plantation from Amelia Harrison McClenachan, a tenant farmer George Layman had been living on it.  The 1798 Window Pane Tax listed a one-story log house with 6 windows and 9 lights.  In 1802 Zorn sold the land to Christian Wismer and John Reiff, who in 1802 began subdividing the property.

   John Metz purchased a lot of land from Wismer and Reiff in 1802 and gave small parcels of it to John Metz, Jr., and Joseph Metz.  In 1820 Benjamin Brown, weaver, bought the Metz land.  When he offered it for sale he described it as having

 

"two dwelling houses, one 40 x 18, kitchen 18 x 16, 2 stories, double piazza in front.  Other house, 25 x 19, 2 stories high, 2 rooms on each floor.  Barn, 40 x 30, modern style, with stabling for 5 horses and 8 cows.  Wagon houses, milk house, ice house, wood houses, and others ... all of stone and nearly new.  Well and pump.  Several springs.  Stream of water passes through sufficient for mill works.

 

Marmaduke Burr bought the property in 1837 and kept it until 1843, when it was sold to Daniel Smith.  A portion of this farm is now (1988) part of hospital property, including the house numbered 528 Whitehall Road.

   Josiah Bryden, a tobacconist, bought a lot from Wismer and Reiff in 1802, which he in turn sold to William Zimmerman.  Bryden sold another portion of his land to Jacob Moyer, a weaver, and a much larger parcel to Abraham Metz.  This property eventually was given to Metz's daughter Sarah and her husband Daniel Hendricks.  The house on this lot is numbered 542 Whitehall Road.

   Charles Law, a weaver, bought another lot from Wismer and Reiff in 1804 on the Five Mile Run, with the privilege of raising a dam for a mill.  Abraham Metz, weaver, bought this property in later years.  A grist mill was operated by the Metz family and later by Henry Kester and then Robert B. Hatfield.  Nothing remains of a mill or house there now.

   Benjamin Brown, the weaver, who owned a house on Whitehall Road, bought other land on Germantown Pike at a Sheriff's sale in 1831.  A small portion of this he sold to Leonard Metz, but the major part when to Henry Countiss, a brush-maker.

   In 1835 Abraham and Elizabeth Metz built a new house at the corner of Germantown Pike and Whitehall Road and apparently turned it over to their son Leonard, the weaver, the next year.  Leonard Metz sold it to Daniel Yost in 1872.  This house, at 660 W. Germantown Pike, clearly marked with a date stone, was purchased by the Commonwealth in 1918.

   It is likely that the house at 650 Germantown Pike was part of the Brown-Countiss property.  An 1836 newspaper advertisement described Brown's large Germantown Pike farm this way:

 

Two dwelling-houses, the one 36 x 30, 2 1/2 stories, large store room, parlor, sitting room on first floor, 5 chambers on 2nd, 5 on third.  Cellar under the whole.  Wash house, pump.  Other house is 33 x 19, 2 rooms on first, 3 on second, spring house.  Barn 50 x 36, built on modern style, with stabling for 5 horses and 15 cows, with pediment over bridgeway, with granaries and corn crib, wagon house under the same, also other outhouses.  These buildings are of stone and new.  The Germantown turnpike passes through the farm. 


 

   Of much more interest than the individual real estate transactions are the individual people who lived and plied their trades on the Metz properties.

   Leonard Metz the elder was living in Norriton township as early as 1769.  In 1792 he was living on William Smith's estate in the Town of Norris.  When Leonard Metz died in 1797, he left his widow one-third of his estate, and his son John received his weaving loom, £60, and a colt.  Other children receiving a portion of the estate were Jacob, Ann, Esther, Barbara, Mary, Catharine, Abraham, Leonard, and Elizabeth.

   At the time of the 1798 Window Pane Tax John Metz was operating a grist mill on Smith's estate in Norristown.

   John Metz bought his first property out in the township in 1802.  John Metz, Jr., was an active weaver in the area, as was Abraham Metz, who even employed an apprentice.  He advertised that he "had commenced Coverlid, Diaper Weaving, &c.  also Dying Blue, Green, Yellow, &c."

   The most well-known of the Metz weavers was Leonard, who was active in the business in the 1830s and 1840s.  He later moved to Pottstown.  A newspaper announcement in 1832 read:


 

Coverlet Weaving.  The subscribers having secured the patent right of George Detterich and Jonathan Conger, for weaving figured cloth, such as coverlets, table linens, carpets, &c. in a manner superior to any heretofore manufactured, in the U. States, having purchased the right for the district composed of the city and county of Philadelphia, and counties of Bucks, Montgomery, Lehigh, Berks, Chester and Delaware.

   Leonard Metz, of Montgomery county; Solomon Houseman, Solomon Kuter, Jacob Houseman of Lehigh county.

Grateful for past favors the subscriber solicits a continuance of the patronage heretofore bestowed upon him by his friends and the public generally.  He is now enabled to weave almost any pattern which may be requested.  Those who may please to favor him in his line can have their names wove in their cloths.  He thinks it necessary to mention to those who prefer finding their own yarn, that it must be spun seven cuts doubled and twisted to the pound, for wool or cotton, for coverlets, eight cuts will be necessary for a coverlet, two and a half yard wide by three long.

The subscriber invites the friends of superior domestic manufactures to call and see a specimen of his work, and does not hesitate to say they will pronounce it worthy of the patronage of the citizens composing the district.

    -   Leonard Metz, Near Norristown


 

   Leonard Metz is included in A Check List of American Coverlet Weavers, by John Heisey:  "Metz, L.  Two Coverlets by Metz, woven in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, in 1841 and 1842, have been recorded."

   In The Coverlets of the Pennsylvania Germans, by Guy F. Reinert, there is a photograph of a coverlet made by Metz in 1841 for Elizabeth Kulp.

   Benjamin Brown, who was conducting his weaving trade in the house on Whitehall Road, employed a journeyman weaver and several apprentices.  When he sold that house to Marmaduke L. Burr and bought another property on Germantown Pike, he conducted a store, probably on the north side of the turnpike.

   Marmaduke L. Burr, who bought Brown's Whitehall Road property, was a wealthy merchant form Philadelphia.  He was taxed for a pleasure carriage and for furniture assessed upwards of $300, something unusual in Norriton township.  He donated the meeting house and lot of land on the west side of Whitehall Road "for a place for holding Religious Worship by all Denominations of Christians who may desire the use of it and who the Committee of supervisors ... shall consider ground in faith and practice and for the purpose of holding Sabbath Schools in and for such other moral and Religious purposes....."

  

                SHANNON PLANTATION

    James Shannon bought a great property on Germantown Pike from Isaac Norris in 1744.  His son Dr. Robert Shannon inherited this farm in 1765.  Dr. Shannon added several other lots some years later.  When Dr. Shannon died intestate in 1796, the disposal of his property among his widow, two sons, and daughter was directed by the Orphans Court.

   At the time of the Window Pane Tax, Thomas Shannon, the physician's older son, was taxed for a two-story stone house, 36 x 30, another two-story stone house, 21 x 31, two stone kitchens, one 13 x 16, the other 13 x 16, and a stone stable, 35 x 30. 

Both Thomas and his younger brother James apparently were seriously ill in the late winter and early spring of 1800.  Thomas wrote his will on February 1, and James wrote his on May 17.  Thomas was dead by June, leaving most of his property to James, but James died in July.  Hence, much of Dr. Shannon's property which Orphans Court had awarded to the two sons was put into the hands of administrators and executors.

   A newspaper advertisement in 1801 described Thomas Shannon's property well.

 

That handsome and valuable Plantation situate in Norriton township, Montgomery county and State of Pennsylvania; on the Monitawny road, 18 miles from Philadelphia.  For richness of soil, and pleasantness of situation, it is scarcely equalled; it is convenient to different places of worship, and has several grist mills within its neighborhood.  It  contains upwards of 200 acres of land, of which is good woodland and 30 acres of meadow, 14 of meadow is watered by Stony Run -- it has an excellent bearing Apple Orchard and abounds with Cherry, Plum, and other Fruit-trees -- There is a large stone house, two stories high with four rooms on a floor, one of the rooms handsomely papered and a good cellar under the whole; a new piazza 12 feet encircles the front and one end of the house, from which there is a view of Norristown.  A pump of excellent water stands near the kitchen door.  Besides, the above described house, there is on the Premises a new two-story Farm House and kitchen; a Barn and Carriage-house.  There is also a never failing spring of water, over which is built a stone springhouse - and there are two Gardens.

To be sold as the property of Thomas Shannon, dec., by Isaac Knight and Benj. Tucker, Administrators.

N.B.  For times apply at No. 116 Race-street, Philadelphia, or to Daniel St. Clair, near the premises.

 


 

Isaac Knight was Dr. Shannon's widow's new husband.  Daniel St. Clair was Thomas Shannon's brother-in-law, the husband of Rachel Shannon.  The property finally went on the Sheriff's block and was purchased by Daniel Craig in 1802.

   Daniel Craig died in 1824, but his wife Jane and Lewis Craig and James Craig continued to run the farm.  After the deaths of Lewis and James, Mrs. Craig began trying to sell the farm.  In late 1831 she described the estate as follows:

 

#1.  estate of Lewis Craig, dec.  Valuable Farm, 19 miles from Philadelphia, 2 from Norristown, adjoining lands of estate of Hannah Steward, dec., Daniel St. Clair, and land belonging to estate of James Craig, dec., also the Germantown road and a road running from said turnpike to the Ridge turnpike.  140 acres with Stony Creek running through.  Large two story dwelling house, four rooms and entry on first, 5 on second.  2 storied kitchen adjoining, well with milkhouse adjoining.  Tenant house near dwelling house being 2 storied stone house, 2 rooms on first, 2 on second, with kitchen adjoining.  Stone barn, 45 x 75, with 2 floors, one over the other, with granaries on lower floor and stabling for 14 horses and 18 cows, divided into stalls.  Well and pump.  Stone waggon house, cider press house with corncribs on second story, under one roof.  Stone hog sty, with wall around yard.  Stone arched springhouse, over spring stone smoke house.  Apple orchard.  David Getty, Ad'tr.

#2.  estate of James Craig, dec., adjoining lands of Lewis Craig, dec'd., A. C. Logan, and others.  Also a road leading from Germantown to Ridge, 63 acres and 143 perches. Stone Oil Mill, propelled by the Stony Creek.

     William Hamill, Ad'tr. 


 

   Thomas Read, a Plymouth township storekeeper, bought the Craig farm in 1834 and sold it to David Getty.  This great farm, together with an additional 82-acre farm owned by Henry L. Ackers, J. R. Hunsicker, and William Sassaman in the latter part of the nineteenth century, was sold to Frederick A. Poth, whose executors in 1907 sold the entire property to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

  

   In my introductory remarks I spoke of the State Hospital property as encompassing an "historical district," but I think I would rather consider it to be a "neighborhood."  A notice in the local newspaper of November 13, 1839, warned Gunners and Hunters:

 

As the subscribers of Norriton township, Montgomery county, viewing with concern the increase of insects, and the damage done to our crops and fruit for years past, and believing the cause to be owing to the killing of the innocent birds, we the undersigned are determined to stop the nuisance, and if any one of us finds a gunner or hunter on our lands we will have him forthwith arrested and dealt with according to the law, without respect for persons.

-  Ezekiel Rhoads, Thomas Shepard, Cornelius Rhoads, Mary Roberts, S. Shannon, Martin Summers, John Shannon, John C. Cift, C. Yeager, Samuel Brown, Jacob Teany, Wm. Stubbs, John Teany, Lydia Castner, John Zeiber, James Barry, David Rittenhouse, Christian Nace, Elizabeth Rittenhouse, Anthony Whitby, Samuel Crawford, Peter Griffith, Hannah Steward, Isaac Slifer, Daniel Scheetz, William Yerkes. 


 

   We have come to know some of these people.  I hope that we will be able to honor their memory by preserving their homes as homage to their contribution to the development of Norriton township.

  

 

SOURCES USED FOR THIS REPORT

 

Montgomery County Deed Books

Philadelphia County Deed Books

Wills and Orphans Court Records of Montgomery County

The Norristown Weekly Register

The Norristown Herald and Weekly Advertiser

The Norristown Free Press

The Norristown Register and Montgomery Democrat

The Pennsylvania Gazette

A Checklist of American Coverlet Weavers, compiled for the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center by John Heisey, Edited and Expanded by Gail C. Andrews and Donald R. Walters, published by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, VA, Distributed by the University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, p. 88.

"The Coverlets of the Pennsylvania Germans," by Guy F. Reinert, in The Pennsylvania Folklore Society, Vol. 13, 1948, p. 38, photo on p. 131.

The History of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, by Theodore W. Bean, 1884.

Atlases of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, for 1871, 1877, and 1893

Smith & Wistar's Map of Montgomery County, 1848

Maps of Norristown, East Norriton, West Norriton, 1935

The Federal Direct Tax of 1798

Federal Censuses of 1790 and 1850

Tax Records of Norriton township and Norristown

Pennsylvania Archives (for members of Philadelphia County Militia, 6th Battalion, 5th Company)

"Assessments of Damages done by the British, 1777-1778," in Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 25, 1901, pp. 550-551.

Scrapbooks of Edward W. Hocker and Edward Matthews in the collection of the Historical Society of Montgomery County

  

The Rev. Judith A. Meier

Norristown, PA

evgreywolf@hotmail.com

 

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