My Book of Old Chester
Louis J. Warfel, loujwarfel@juno.com

A COLLECTION OF HISTORICAL FACTS AND STORIES ABOUT OLD CHESTER, PA.
AND BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF SOME OF THE PEOPLE WHO LIVED IN OR NEAR THE OLD CITY

Introduction & Dedication  |   Index
Part I  |  Part II  |  Part III  |  Part IV
(7-53)  |  (54-89)  |  (90-127)  |  (128-164)


Part III COMMODORE DAVID PORTER

Commodore David Porter was born in Boston, Mass. in 1780. His father, David Porter Sr. was a sea captain. As a young boy Commodore Porter went to sea with his father. eventually he became a Naval Officer.

Com. Porter married Evelina Anderson of Chester, Penna. Evelina's father, Colonel William Anderson, purchased "Greenbanks", the beautiful home and property on the bank of the Delaware River near Welsh Street and presented it to his daughter and son-in-law for their home.

In 1809, Captain David Porter Jr. (He was not yet a Commodore at that time) was given command of the U. S. S. Essex, one of the frigates that the Jefferson Administration had recently commissioned.

In the year 1809 his father, David Porter Sr. was a Sailing Master stationed at New Orleans, La. A Sailing Master was the Naval Officer in charge of navigation. Both of the Porters were very close friends with another Sailing Master, George Farragut. In fact David Porter Sr. lived in the same house as did Farragut and his family. He also died in that house in 1809 of the Yellow Fever. One of the many epidemics of that dreaded killer was raging at that time. Farragut's wife Elizabeth died from the illness on the same day. The Farragut's little son, David was eight years old at the time. Captain David Porter Junior liked the boy. He did not want to leave him in New Orleans with no mother to care for him and the threat of death always present. Porter adopted young David and took him home to Chester and enrolled him in school.

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Porter helped young Farragut to secure an appointment as midshipman in the Navy on Dec. 10, 1810. The young seaman spent the next two years alternating between cruising on Porter's ship Essex and attending school in Chester.

During the War of 1812 Porter's ship captured several prizes, including the British Warship of 20 guns, the Alert. Captain Porter and his crew which included young Farragut then undertook an eventful cruise in the Pacific. Their primary mission was to disrupt the British Whaling fleet. The Essex left the Delaware River on October 27, 1812. In the course of that voyage, the Essex, under the command of Capt. Porter, was the first U. S. Navy Ship to display the flag around Cape Horn. The crew of the Essex captured several British Ships in the Pacific. Finally, in need of supplies and repair, they put into the Harbor of Valparaso, Chili on March 14, 1813.

They were shortly thereafter trapped in the Harbor by two British Frigates, the Phoebe and the Cherub. The Essex was more than a match for either of the Enemy ships, but not for both together.

After a three month stalemate, Porter tried to make a run for the open sea. He would probably have been successful had not his mainmast given way. The Essex tried to return to safety but was soon being pounded unmercifully by the two enemy ships, one of which had very long range guns. Porter was forced to surrender.

In the early years of the U. S. Navy the highest rank was that of Commodore, an officer in command of a Fleet of Ships.

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In 1824 Commodore Porter took such a fleet to the waters of the West Indies and ridded them of pirates. Porter was forceful and aggressive and at times undiplomatic. He rashly offended an influential dignitary in Puerto Rico. Porter was court-martialed because of the unauthorized action which caused the problem. He had put ashore a body of armed sailors and demanded an apology from an official for an insult to one of his Naval Officers.

Because of this Commodore Porter resigned from the U. S. Navy in 1826. For the next three years, until 1829, Porter headed the Navy of Mexico.

Commodore Porter was U. S. Consul to Algiers during 1830 and he represented the United States in Turkey from 1831 until 1843, the year of his death.

DAVID DIXON PORTER

Commodore Porter's son, David Dixon Porter was born at Greenbanks" in Chester, Pa. in 1813. He sailed with his father as a young boy and served under him in the Mexican Navy until 1829. He was then commissioned in the United States Navy.

During the Mexican War with the U. S. David Dixon Porter helped capture the Fort at Tabasco and was given command of the U. S. Ship Spitfire in 1847.

Some years later, early in the Civil War, David Dixon Porter relieved Ft. Dickens, Fla. In April of 1862 he subdued Fort Philip and Ft.Jackson below New Orleans, enabling his foster brother, David Farragut to capture the city. Farragut was in command of the entire expedition.

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DAVID GLASGOW FARRAGUT

David Glasgow Farragut was born in 1801 at Campbell's Station, near Knoxville, Tennessee. His parents were George and Elizabeth Shine Farragut. After his mother died of Yellow fever in 1809 he was adopted by Com. David Porter and went to live in Chester Penna.

Young David Farragut attended school in Chester until he secured an appointment as midshipman in the Navy on Dec. 10, 1810. Then he sailed on the U. S. S. Essex with Commodore Porter. During the engagement between the Essex and the British ships Phoebe and Cherub Farragut took an active part in the battle. He was cited for bravery and would have been promoted in rank had he been older in years.

He returned to Chester and resumed his schooling. The National Cyclopaedia says, "He was again put in school at Chester, Pa, this time under a "queer old individual named Neif", one of Napoleons famous old guard, who had the original method of teaching orally, and without books, requiring the pupils to take notes and pass examinations.

In 1822 and 1823 he served aboard the schooner Greyhound, one of the ships in his stepfather's fleet that went against the pirates in the waters of the West Indies. During this expedition he distinguished himself in several hazardous encounters.

In 1825 Farragut received his Lieutenant commission. He was immediately assigned to the frigate Brandywine which was given the honor of conveying The Marquis de Lafayette to France after his visit to the United States.

During the Mexican War Farragut commanded the Saratoga in Commodore M. C. Perry's squadron.

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From 1854 until 1858 Farragut was in charge of the Mare Island Navy Yard which he established in California.

When the Civil War broke out, Faragutt remained loyal to the Union. He moved from Norfolk, Va. to Hastings-on-Hudson in New York. Unfortunately, some Northerners did not trust his loyalty because he had been born in the South. For a long time he was ignored and given no command.

All the while, his Foster-brother, David D. Porter, along with other Naval Officers who knew Farragut, urged the Navy Dept. to relent and take advantage of the man's abilities.

In Dec. of 1861 he was chosen to command the important Naval Expedition against New Orleans, La. During this assault the ships commanded by David D. Porter were armed with heavy Mortars. They pounded the two forts, Phillip and Jackson, into submission and made it possible for Farragut to enter the Harbor of New Orleans and capture the City.

The capture of New Orleans cut off one important supply route of the Southern Troops. It also gave the Union Navy access to the Mississippi. Farragut led his fleet up the River, past the batteries of Vicksburg. For several months they remained there on blockade duty.

Soon after the battle of New Orleans, on July 16, 1862 Congress created the rank of rear-Admiral for the expressed benefit of David Farragut in recognition of his exceptional services. He was also the first to receive the title Vice-Admiral on Dec. 23, 1864 and of Admiral on July 25, 1866.

In 1864 Farragut led his squadron of ships in a bold attack on the strategic port of Mobile, Al. On

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August 5, 1864 he sailed past the batteries in the Bay to a point opposite the City. The attack began to falter when the Tecumseh struck an under water torpedo and sank. It was then that Farragut lashed himself to the rigging of his ship the Hartford and cried out "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead". He ordered his ship to break from it's place in line and rush to the van of the fleet. The coolness and determination of that maneuver , executed in a scathing fire, in the face of the gravest danger, inspired the whole fleet with confidence and saved the day.

After the War Admiral Farragut commanded the European Squadron. His wife Virginia, accompanied him as he traveled from one European Nation to another on a good will tour.

Admiral Farragut died at Portsmouth, N. H. on August 14, 1870. He was buried in a cemetery, New York City.

His foster-brother, Vice-Admiral David Dixon Porter was then the superintendent of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. After Admiral Farragut's death David Dixon Porter succeed to become the United States Navy's second Admiral..

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Construction of the new St. Michael's Church was begun on Nov. 1, 1874. The basement was completed and in use in 1875. The depressed economy of the time held up the work. It was 1877 before the walls were completed up to the roof.

Fr. Haviland became ill, his general health failed and he had to retire from the pastorate. A vigorous young priest, Rev. James Timmins, became pastor on his thirty first birthday, July 12, 1878. He energetically tackled the problems of the parish. The outside of the church was finished and the roof installed by Oct. of 1880. Still it took another two years to ready the interior. The completed edifice was dedicated on Nov. 5, 1882

B. & O. RAILROAD.

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad ran a line through Chester in 1882. The Company had attempted to work out an arrangement with the P. W. and B. in 1881 to use their tracks. The Pennsylvania R. R. however did not want the competition in Philadelphia, so they bought out a controlling interest in P. W. & B. and blocked the deal.

U.S. NAVY WHITE FLEET

The men at the Shipyard where Pat Bunce worked were very happy when John Roach was awarded the contract to build four steel ships for the U. S. Navy. One was the dispatch boat Dolphin of 1202 tons. The other three were heavy Cruisers. Two of those, the Atlantic and the Boston were 3527tons each. They were to be 270 feet long and 42 feet wide. The other Cruiser, Chicago, was to be 325 feet long and 48 feet wide.

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Those Ships comprised what was called the White Fleet, the first unit of the modern U. S. Navy. The construction of those Ships was authorized by Congress on March 3, 1883. The hulls were built at Roach's Shipyard in Chester. The machinery was built at the New York Navy Yard. The Atlantic was launched on Oct. 9, 1884 and the Boston on Dec. 4, 1884.

HORSE DRAWN STREET CARS

A lot of exciting things were happening in Chester during those years. On Feb. 1, 1883, the first horse drawn street car rolled down Third Street. The track ran from Clayton Street, the western limit of the Borough of South Chester, along Third Street to Edgmont Ave.,up Edgmont Ave to Thirteenth st. where the car barn and stables were located. Five cars and forty horses and mules provided service every half hour. Passengers boarded anywhere along the streets. The fare was five cents.

On July 14, 1883, service was extended to Fourth Street in Upland by way of Edgmont Ave. and 15th Street. By the end of the first year twelve cars and 67 animals carried 2000 passengers daily.

In 1886 horse car service was extended to 25th and Providence Ave. Track was laid on Fifth Street from Edgmont Ave, to Potter, up Potter to Providence Ave, then north to 25th Street. This area was the foot of Shoemakerville Hill.

The horse car operator worked from 8 to 18 hours a day for 12 cents an hour. He sat on an open seat behind the animals. During the winter it took many layers of clothing to keep him warm. His duties included driving, making change, transporting

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packages as well as passengers, delivering messages, feeding and watering the animals, and helping to operate the turntable at the end of the line.

Each team of animals pulled a fourteen foot car on three trips a day. The cars were mostly unheated. A few had small stoves that burned coke. The cars were built at the Lamokin Car Works at Fifth and Lamokin St. in Chester.

O. N. M. A. STORES

Frank and Henry Schmidt were two of the many people who came to Chester to view the aftermath of the Jackson Explosion and fire. They liked the Town and decided to go into business there.

Their first store was at 801 Edgmont Ave., just a few door up from St. Michael's Church. In those days it was the accepted practice to buy food on credit. Neighborhood Stores kept an account of purchases in a ledger and customers settled up their account periodically. Schmidts did give credit but encouraged cash. They called their business the O.N.M.A. Store for OWE NO MAN ANYTHING. They had lower prices, good service and they prospered.

In 1895 Schmidts opened another Store at 606 Edgmont Ave., next door to Hargreaves Arcade Hotel. A third store was eventually opened at Third and Kerlin Street. It was run by a brother, Joseph Schmidt. Frank Schmidt retired in 1914.

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STATUE OF LIBERTY

On Oct 22, 1886, the Statue of Liberty, a magnificent gift to the United States from the people of France, was completed and unveiled. The statue was shipped in pieces by boat.

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The Borough of North Chester became part of the City of Chester in the year 1887. Free postal service became available to the enlarged city.

That was the year when Edison invented the Gramophone.

John Roach died in 1887.

JOHN ROACH

John Roach was born on Dec. 25, 1815 in Mitchelstown, County Cork, Ireland. He was the oldest son of Patrick and Abigal Meany Roche.

John attended school until 1828 when he was thirteen. His father was financially ruined that year. Patrick Roche was a merchant with a good reputation for honesty and integrity. He had to pay off some notes which he guaranteed for friends and it took everything he had to settle the debts. A short time later Patrick died. John assumed the duties of head of the house for the next three years. He was 16 years old when he came to New York City in 1831.

I have read that he walked 60 miles to a New Jersey Town where he secured a job at the Howell Iron Works operated by James P Allaire. In three or so years he saved twelve hundred dollars which was entrusted to his employer. John took $500.00 and traveled to Illinois where he put the money down on

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the purchase of 300 acres of land in the center of what is now Peoria. A short time later his employer failed and young John lost everything including the land. He went back to New York City and worked for $1.00 a day learning to make the castings for Marine Engines..

John married Emeline Johnson in 1836. They had nine children .

John was naturalized on Nov. 8, 1842. The Clerk of the Court erroneously spelled his name Roach instead of Roche and since it was not corrected he went by that name.

After saving $1,000.00 he and three other workmen bought a small foundry in New York. In a few years he became the sole owner. Roach saved about $30,000.00 and purchased the land his foundry occupied in 1856. He enlarged and improved the operation, but a short time later the shops were destroyed by a boiler explosion. Roach found himself practically penniless but his ability and integrity enabled him to borrow enough capital to resume his business.

In 1860 he obtained he contract for building an iron bridge over the Harlem River in New York City and thereafter he prospered. By the end of the Civil War his foundry and Engine works was one of the best equipped in the United States. His 'Etna Iron Works' had the capacity to build the largest Marine Engines built in America at that time. His business was so successful that John found it necessary to buy several other Iron Works to enable him to meet the demand.

John Roach realized the importance of shifting from wooden to iron ships and the impact that would have on the American Navy as well as

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on the Merchant Marine. He sent an agent to the British Isles to study the methods being used to build iron vessels at the shipyard on the Clyde. Three years later, in 1871, he purchased the ship yard of Reany, Son & Archbold in Chester, Pa.

Roach made vast improvements to the Chester facility. He erected a Rolling Mill and a Blast furnace and provided everything that was necessary for the building ships of both iron and timber. In 1874 two Iron ships were built in the Chester yard, The City of Peking and the City of Tokio. They were for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company and they were the largest steamers built in the United States at that time.

His versatility and genius showed in his designing and building the steam yacht 'Viking' for Samuel J. Tilden and the 'Utowana' which won the Lunberg Cup in 1885.

He was one of the first to recognize the superiority of the Compound Engines for Marine work. He pressed the U. S. Government until the Navy Dept. authorized him to install the first of such engines to be made in the U. S. in the Tennessee. It was very successful so additional ships were done.

The first ships built by Roach for the Government were the sloops-of-war Alert and Huron in 1874. He next went to Pensacola Florida and built the sectional drydock at the Navy yard there. In 1876 he received the contract for two monitors, The Miantonomoh and Puritan.

In 1883 the construction of the first fleet of modern ships for the U. S. Navy was begun. They were the dispatch boat, Dolphin and the Cruisers, Atlanta, Boston and Chicago. When the Dolphin was completed it was accepted by the Naval

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Advisory Board but for some political reason the Sect. of the Navy refused to confirm the acceptance and canceled the contract for the other three ships. John Roach took the rejection very hard. His health was failing and although his finances were perfectly solvent he decided to close his works. Later the matter was resolved and the ships were built but John Roach took no further part in the operations.

John Roach's death took place in New York on June 10, 1887. He died of Cancer of the mouth. While he was not the first to build Iron ships in the U. S. Roach launched 126 such vessels from his yard between 1872 and 1886. He has often been accorded the title, "father of Iron shipbuilding in America"..

Although it was the genius of John Roach that guided his business and all of the marvelous achievements of the Shipbuilding industry, It was his son John Baker Roach who was the day-to-day general manager of the Chester plant. John B. Roach lived with his family in a beautiful stone mansion on Kerlin Street between 8th and 9th st. When operations resumed after the death of John Roach in New York, his son John B. Roach took complete charge of the Shipyard. It was under his supervision that the Cruisers Atlanta, Boston and Chicago were completed.

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The streets of the cities were dangerous then just as they are today. Annie O'Hara was 28 years old in 1887 when she was struck down and run over by a horse-drawn wagon. Suffering with fatal internal injuries, she was taken to her home at 532 West Front Street. There, she passed away on August 1, 1887. Her death was attributed to complications following a crude operation which the doctor performed on her in her own bed. She was not taken to the Chester Hospital which had been founded five years before. Perhaps she was in no condition to be moved that far. Annie, the oldest child in the family, was unmarried. She was survived by her mother the Widow Rose O'Hara, and four sisters, Mary 26, Kate 23, Sarah 21, and Rose 18.

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Skating was a very popular pastime during that period. The Chester Times on Dec. 2, 1888 reported;

"The interior of the skating rink on 7th street never appeared more dazzlingly resplendent, nor was it ever more densely crowded with merry lads and rose-cheeked lasses than on Saturday night. In fact, hundreds were unable to gain admittance and turned from the door with expressions of disappointment."

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During that year second street was paved with Belgian Blocks from Edgmont Avenue to Lamokin street. Asphalt was used from Lamokin to Thurlow street.

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Even though the school at the Immaculate Heart had been in operation since 1883, the one at St.

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Michael's was still overcrowded. It was therefore torn down in 1888 and a new three story stone building was begun. Construction was completed in 1889. There were four classrooms and an office on the first floor and four more classrooms on the second. The entire third floor was an auditorium with a stage. The toilets and washrooms were located in the basement. A large steam boiler was installed in a room under the School building. It provided heat for both the School and the Church. An underground tunnel connected the Church and the coal bins located under the school yard to the boiler room.

During that year a new pipe organ was installed in the Church.

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There was a bicycle shop on 7th street near Penn. The bike of that era was the "Safety" bicycle, developed by J. K. Stanley of England. in 1885. It was the forerunner of the modern bicycle. Stanley's model had a front wheel that was only slightly larger than the rear, and a chain drive. At some time during that year of 1888, John Dunlop of Belfast, developed the pneumatic rubber tire for the bicycle.

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Work was plentiful in Chester in the year 1889. One of the new factories that opened was the Aberfoyle Manufacturing Company where Cotton dress goods was made. The plant was located on the Southeast corner of Forth Street and Morton Avenue.

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ABERFOYLE MFG. CO.

The Aberfoyle Mills Co. was established in 1882 at Camden, N. J. by Charles Edwin Lord and William Thomas Galey. They manufactured pure cotton fabric.

Galey and Lord incorporated and set up their Mills at Chester, Pa. in 1889. Lord was Secretary then Treasurer until 1910 when he became the President of the Corp. He served in that capacity until he retired in 1939.

In the 1890s they were one of the first companies to adopt the process of mercerizing cotton, a chemical treatment which makes the material far more durable than it would otherwise be. Later they became the largest producer of mercerized cotton in the world.

They were also among the first to combine silk and cotton in a fabric for women's wear. They also did some of the early work with rayon in the 1900s. Aberfoyle pioneered the weaving of nylon in 1942 at their subsidiary plant in Norfolk, Va.

The Company won the highest award at the 1893 International Exposition in Chicago. They also won a Gold Medal at the 1900 Exposition in Paris for a variety of fine products.

SOME OF CHESTER'S MFG. COMPANIES .

The Irving & Leiper Company was another outstanding manufacturing Mill. The Irving Plant had about 15,000 spindles and produced about 1,250,000 pounds of yarn yearly.

The Shaw and Esrey families were partners in operation of Cotton Mills. Shaw's Mill was at the intersection of 14th and 15th street near the Crozer Hospital. Esrey's MILL was nearby at 14th and Esrey street.

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Chester continued to grow during those years. The Crown Brass Smelting Foundry at Concord Ave. and Patterson Street was organized in 1886. They manufactured Bronze and Brass items for Roach's Shipyard, Pennsylvania Railroad, the Bethlehem Steel Co., Wetherill's, Baldwin's, and many other businesses and industries.

The Baldt Anchor Company was at Sixth and Butler Street. The modern Ship's Anchor was developed there. The old style anchor had two curving arms on a "T" shaped stock. At the end of each arm was a triangular blade called a fluke. When the anchor was lowered on the rope one of the flukes would dig into the bottom and take hold. The problem was that the other arm and fluke stuck up and when the ship swung around the rope could catch on it and pull the Anchor loose. The Baldt Anchor was constructed so that no matter how it fell to the bottom both flukes are always down and take hold simultaneously. It provides greater hold than any other Anchor.

The Berry Engineering Company was located at 610-628 Crosby Street, They specialized in Boiler Room Items.

The Vulcan Works which had been founded in 1863 in South Chester was in full operation. There they built Water Valves and Hydraulic specialties. That firm had the exclusive right to manufacture the Jenkins Patent Marine Engine Governor which by1900 was used on every ship along the Atlantic Coast.

J. Frank Black was President of the Chester Lumber and Coal Co. at Seventh and Willow Street.

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There was a popular spot for Ice Skating at Second and Wilson Street. I'm sure there were many other places where little ponds froze in the winter, some right in or near the center of town. Ice skating has been a popular pastime for many centuries but around 1850, when E. W. Bushnell of Philadelphia his first pair of steel-bladed ice skates, it became more exciting than ever.

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In 1890 two U. S. Navy ships, The Concord and the Bennington, were launched at Roach's Shipyard. The concord was part of Dewey's squadron when he destroyed the Spanish Fleet in Manila Bay.

GRAND OPERA HOUSE

The entertainment produced by Thomas Hargreaves at Holly Tree Hall was more popular than ever. But the auditorium was not large enough for the larger, more elaborate productions that he wanted to present. Consequently, Hargraves built the Grand Opera House. Located on seventh street next door to Holly Tree, it opened on Oct. 20th, 1890.

Vaudeville Shows, including animal acts of all kinds, were featured at the new theater. One such act was that of a local resident, George W. Jones, who owned a " talking horse " named Richard. Hargreaves like the act so much that he booked it for a week long run at the Opera House. Just what kind of talking the horse did was not clear from the old newspaper accounts, but it must have been amusing.

Hargreaves owned two hotels. One was on the southeast corner of 10th and Edgmont Ave. across the street from the Deshong Mansion. The other, the Arcade Hotel at 608 Edgmont Ave. was very

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convenient to the Chester Station of the Penna. R.R. Hargreaves had two pet lion cubs which he put on display in the front window of the Arcade Hotel. The cubs were tame and often laid at the feet of the family members in the evening after dinner.

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In 1890, two U. S. Navy Ships, The Concord and the Bennington, were launched at Roach's Shipyard. The Concord was part of Dewey's Squadron that destroyed the Spanish Fleet in Manila Bay.

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In 1890 the Union Railway Co. ran a trolley from 2nd and Market St. to Highland Ave.

It was during that year the Phila. and Chester Turnpike was taken over by the Chester & Darby Telford Road Co. Improvements were made all along the highway and a series of toll gates were installed. Tolls were collected on that road until 1921.

CHESTER TIMES

In 1891 the Chester Times Newspaper Co. moved into a beautiful stone building on the southwest corner of 5th and Market St. The paper was published there for the next 40 years.

The first issue of the Chester Times was printed on Sept. 7, 1876 at the tiny print shop of Prince and Stowe on the corner of Welsh St. and Edgmont Ave. The Publisher was Major John Hodgson, a Civil War Veteran in his 80s. That paper, called the Chester Daily Times, sold for 1 cent a copy or 6 cents per week, payable to the carrier boy on Monday.

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6000 people lived in Chester at that time.

There was one Want-Ad in the first paper. WANTED; A girl to do housework, one that can play the piano while the mistress is washing the dishes.

After a few months Major Hodgson gave control of the paper to the printers, Prince and Stowe. They hired Jacob Craig to work as Reporter and Editor. He acquired the paper in lieu of unpaid wages. A few months later Craig sold the paper to John Spencer who had a good size printing plant in Chester where he published the Delaware County Advocate. Craig received $500.00 and the promise of a $15.00 a week job in return for the paper.

Spencer published the paper until April 17, 1882 when he sold it to a group who had organized as the Times Publishing Company. David F. Houston was President and John A. Wallace was Secretary, Treasurer, Editor and Manager.

The Printing Plant was located first at Third and Market St., then at 526 Market and then at 584 Market. Finally, in 1891 it was moved to the beautiful stone building at 418 Market St. which was it's home for the next 40 years.

About a year later, in 1892, William Sproul purchased a half interest in the Paper.

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CHESTER PARK

Chester Park was a popular place for picnics in 1892. There was plenty of room for games and contests. The creek flowing through the park was ample for fishing and bathing. The carpet of soft grass along the banks afforded a place for hundreds of people to stroll, or sit and talk while enjoying the beauty of the landscape. A little way downstream the sight and sound of the magical waterfall over the great rocks held the viewers spellbound. A. J. Duffy operated a refreshment stand for those who did not bring along a picnic basket.

While the residents of the north end of the city found the park convenient to get to many of those who lived at the west end more often frequented Lindenthorpe Park in Marcus Hook. That little community was something of a resort town at the time. People went there from far and wide to enjoy the rides and other attractions including swimming in the Delaware and sunning on the sandy beach.

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The power of electricity began more and more to influence the lives of people. Electric Trolleys started to operate in 1892.

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In 1893 Benjamin Harrison completed his 4 year term as President and Stephen Grover Cleveland took office for the second time. The country was in the grip of another depression.

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Pawnee Bill, ( Gordon W. Lillie ) stored his Wild West Show during the winter at the Lamokin Street Station of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

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In 1893 the gasoline powered automobile was invented and the first one in the U. S. was built. On July 14th 1894

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Samuel Crozer donated a large parcel of land to the City of Chester for use as a public park. It is located on the southwest side of Chester Creek and Kerlin Street near Upland.

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Larkin School was built in 1894 at 9th and Crosby St.

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In 1895 the Cox Sash factory was located on 7th street near Penn.

 

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In 1896 the home of Major Anderson at 5th and Welsh St. was demolished to make room for the new Chester Post Office.

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By 1896 the Delaware River had become very polluted. The City's water supply was drawn from the river and treated but it was not fit for drinking. In fact it was virtually unusable except for washing. Through the years steps were taken to improve he water quality but it was not until many years later, around 1950, that a new, pure source was found. During those years everyone relied on spring water for cooking and drinking.

SPANISH AMERICAN WAR

William McKinley became President in 1897. A Nationalist insurrection had broken out in Cuba in

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1895 as a result of a century of misrule by Spain. America tried, without success, to act as an arbitrator in favor of Cuba. Finally Spain was given an ultimatum to settle the dispute. In a show of strength the U. S. Battleship Maine was sent to Havana. The ship was destroyed there by a mysterious explosion on Feb. 15th, 1898, with the loss of 260 lives. On April 19th Congress officially recognized the independence of Cuba and demanded the withdrawal of Spanish Troops. War was declared on April 25th. At the same time the Philippine Islands were in revolt against Spain. It was there in Manila Harbor, on May 1st, 1898, that the U. S. Navy's Asian Squadron under the command of Commodore George Dewey, sank the entire fleet of 10 Spanish ships, without the loss of a single American life. By the end of June 18000 American soldiers had control of Cuba after the famous battle of San Juan Hill where the Rough Riders gained distinction under the command of Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt. The Spanish surrendered in Cuba on July 16th and in Puerto Rico on July 25th, 1898.

By the terms of the treaty with Spain the U. S. acquired Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippine Islands for a payment of 20 million dollars. Spain relinquished her sovereignty over Cuba.

HARGREAVES CIRCUS PARK

In Chester, during that time, Thomas Hargreaves had continued to expand his entertainment business. By 1898 the two wagon circus that he had put together had grown to be a very large show that traveled far and wide by railroad.

When he had only two wagons they were stored for the winter in the Car Shop of the

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Lamokin Street R. R. Station. By 1898 he needed more space so he tried first the Cox Sash Factory at 7th and Penn, then a farm, and finally settled on the Morton-Black property at the foot of Morton Ave. Those grounds later became the site of the Sun Ship Co. It was an excellent location, accessible from Morton Ave. and a R. R. siding running from Front and Welsh Street.

Hargreaves established a regular amusement Park there. The Animal Barn was the most interesting part of the Park .A very efficient heating system in the barn kept the wild animals comfortable during the severely cold winters. The big 12,500 pound elephant, " Jumbo the Second ", enjoyed excellent health living there.

One of the foremost freaks of the century was part of the menagerie. It was a Sacred Cow with five legs which had been procured by the Show's foreign agent.

Hargreaves Pleasure Park also featured a nice sandy beach on the Delaware River, suitable for bathing.

The Hargreaves Circus finally closed in 1907 after it returned from a trip through Indiana.

REAR ADMIRAL SCHLEY

On July 4, 1899 the people of Chester gave a reception for Rear Admiral Winfield Scott Schley , who had commanded the U. S. Fleet during the Battle of Santiago on July 3, 1898. He was touring the Cities of the Atlantic Coast.

Admiral Schley performed a heroic deed in 1884 when he rescued Adolphus W. Greeley and six other survivors of the ill fated Arctic Expedition of 1881 who were marooned near Cape Sabine.

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* * * *

Crosby M. Black became Mayor of Chester in 1896. During his first year in office the Borough of South Chester enacted an ordinance to have itself annexed to the City of Chester. On Feb. 27, 1897 the City Council of Chester passed a companion measure and took over the community. Mayor Black took possession of the Borough Hall and assigned policemen to patrol the new area. Some citizens challenged the legality of the action and took the matter to court. On September 27, 1897 the Court appointed Master in the case ruled the merger was valid.

WETHERILL FAMILY

One of Chester's most successful businesses at the turn of the century was that of the Wetherill Brothers at Sixth and Upland Street.

The Wetherill family became established in America in 1810 when Richard Wetherill, 22, came from Ireland. He was born April 12, 1788 at Rich Hall, Armagh County, Ireland of parentage that was originally from Yorkshire, England.

He began the manufacture of worsted cloth at Green's Mills, Concord, Delaware County.

He married Ann Henviss, the daughter of one of the original Swedish settlers of the area. Her family had received an original grant of land from William Penn.

Richard Wetherill leased the Wallingford Mills in 1822. In 1834 he purchased property in Lower Merion and began manufacturing cloth there.

In 1840 Richard Wetherill turned his business over to his sons. He purchased a farm in Chester

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Township, Delaware County where he lived until his death October 22, 1869 at age 82.

Richard's son Richard was born at Concord in Delaware County in 1817. Young Richard married Phoebe Delany on Oct. 31, 1843. They established their home in Lower Merion. Young Richard owned and operated three Woolen Mills left to him by his father. During the panic of 1857 his business failed and never recovered. Richard Wetherill died in Philadelphia in 1861.

Richard and Phoebe had two sons. The eldest was Robert Wetherill born at Lower Merion on September 4, 1847. Robert was educated in Philadelphia Public Schools and at Upland Normal School. After graduating he was apprenticed for four years with Miller and Allen, machinists of Chester.

After serving two years of his apprenticeship Robert's character and mechanical ability so impressed his employers that they promoted him to the drafting department where he finished out his four year term.

Robert remained with the firm superintending, designing and constructing until Jan. 1, 1872 when he and his brother Richard began their own business manufacturing Corliss Engines, boilers and machinery. Their business grew to be the largest of it's kind on the Continent. Their firm made all of the most important castings for the ships built at Roach's Shipyard. They did a lot of other work for the government as well as for the general trade.

The Corliss Engine that the Wetherills made was a steam engine designed by George Henry Corliss. It was the most efficient engine of it's time. One of the unique features of the Corliss was the

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governor that controlled the valves so as to regulate the work they performed.

It prevented a waste of steam and facilitated a uniform operation of the engine. It was such an efficient system that if all but one engine in a plant shut down suddenly, the release of power was regulated and the one engine would continue to operate at it's usual speed.

Robert Wetherill married Mary B. Gray on February 27, 1879. She was the daughter of Colonel William C. Gray.

In 1886 Robert Wetherill became president of Standard Steel Casting of Thurlow, Pa., the largest plant in the country for the manufacture of open hearth castings.

The Wetherill Plant was located between Upland and North Streets, between Sixth and Seventh Street. It was a small shop at first which was enlarged and remodeled several times. One unidentified amateur Chester Historian ( I suspect Frank Cullis) wrote in a paper for the Delaware County Historical Society that before Wetherill added the huge machine shop he was able to see the ships going up and down the river from the second story bedroom of his home. The Cullis Stone Yard was on Seventh Street.

Richard Wetherill, brother and partner of Robert Wetherill, was born Sept. 28, 1850 at Lower Merion. Richard was educated in the public schools of Philadelphia and at Chester Academy. As a young man he worked as a clerk in a drug store. Then he had a job with the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad. He was 21 when he and his brother established their works.

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Richard was the financial head of the company. He was also director of the Chester National Bank, the Union Railway Co. of Chester, and Treasurer of Standard Steel Casting of Thurlow, Pa.

Richard Wetherill married Ella Larkin, daughter of John Larkin, the first Mayor of Chester. The Richard Wetherill family lived in one of the finest residences in Chester. Their home was, a large stone mansion on Potter Street, is part of Widener University. Richard built a beautiful house across the street at 1300 Potter for his daughter Florence Wetherill Wilson at the time of her marriage. That house is now the home of Widener's Art Museum.

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* * *

President William McKinley was shot on Sept. 6, 1901 while attending a reception at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. When he died on September. 14th Theodore Roosevelt became President.

* * *

During 1901 many Polish immigrants came to Chester and settled in the West End.

* * *

In the year 1902 the Pennsylvania Railroad consolidated the Phila. Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad with the Baltimore and Patomic Line and formed the Phila. Baltimore and Washington Railroad. The tracks running through Chester were elevated.

* * *

In March of 1902 the chippers were on strike at the Chester Steel Casting Works. That was the first Steel Casting Plant in the United States. That company specialized in the manufacture of parts for use in electrical equipment, locomotives, and dredging machinery. .They made gears of enormous size, such as flywheels. Chester Steel Casting sold to plants all over the Country under the trade mark "SOLID STEEL". The plant was located in the Eighth Ward, Between Norris and Broomall Streets, Third Street and the P. B. & W. Railroad.

* * *

In February of 1902 Albert West, a black man, shot and killed police officer Mark W. Allen Jr. Allen was one of the most popular men on the Chester Police Force. It was regarded as one of the most atrocious, deliberate and cold blooded crimes ever committed in the town.

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West fled to Darby where he was captured and returned to Chester. An angry mob tried to lynch the murderer. The mob was held back by armed police and finally turned away after speeches by Senator William Sproul, Mayor Jefferis, and police Chief Leary.

* * *

Some excerpts from the Chester Times of 1902;

Feb. 10, 02; The defensive work of Burt Mustin was especially good during Saturday's fast hockey game between P. M. C. and U. of P. on Silver Lake. P. M. C. won 2-0.

Feb. 11, 02; Albert West is to be tried for the murder of officer Mark Allen Jr. Presiding judge will be Isaac Johnson.

Henry Hass is a member of the committee to arrange for the construction of a new firehouse for the Franklin Company on the site of the present building.

Feb. 18, 02; Howard Houston was elected Mayor of Chester by a majority of 2000 votes, the largest in the City's history.

Feb. 18, 02; United Telephone and Telegraph lines now extend to Darby. A public pay station is in service at Foster's Restaurant at Main St. and Chester Pike.

Feb. 21, 02; The Chester High School sports banquet was held in the Pennsylvania Hotel at Market Street and the Railroad where James A. Stephens is the proprietor.

Feb. 22, 1902; John Wannamaker is advertising a dozen styles of Black Derbys at $1.50 each.

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Feb. 1902; Ferdinand Nyemetz has a photography shop in the 3 story red brick building at 33-35 West 3rd Street.

Mar. 9, 02; Miss Etta Moore of 927 Madison Street is receiving compliments for her excellent needlework on two fancy cushions. The front of one contains a myriad of varicolored puffs giving a strikingly beautiful effect.

Mar. 8, 1902; The Glen Riddle Mill property of Samuel D. and Leander Riddle, along with 30 homes, was sold for $60,000.00 to John Dobson, Carpet manufacturer of Philadelphia.

Mar. 1902; An architect has been selected to design a new 5 story Y. M. C. A. building to be erected at 7th and Edgmont Ave. at a cost of $70.000.00

Mar. 1902; A Telephone wire crossed with a Trolley wire caused a small fire in the Hotel of T. P. Dwyer, Second and Reaney St.

On Feb. 7, 1904 a fire broke out in Baltimore, Maryland that wiped out the business center of the city. Two units went from Chester to help fight the blaze, The Felton Fire Co. and the Hanley Hose Company. The total cost of the damage was estimated to be 125 million dollars.

SAMUEL PALMER

Samuel Palmer was Chester's Fire Chief from 1902 until 1905. He was a member of the Felton Fire Company and it's driver for many years.

At the time of the great fire in Baltimore, Feb. 7, 1904, Palmer took the Felton and the Hanley Hose Company to help fight the blaze in the business

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district of that city. Three of his sons, Samuel Jr., John and Aaron were also members of the Felton so they went with him to the stricken city.

Palmer and his wife Minnie had 9 children in all. His daughter, Mrs Catherine Rigby lived at 2803 W. 15th Street in later years. She told the reporter from the Chester Times that her Father was a very colorful Fire Chief. He had a red Carriage with bells and he often drove a white horse. Palmer weighed 400 pounds when he died on January 23, 1923 at the age of 71.

When Samuel Palmer was Fire Chief, in those days of the horse-drawn steam engines there were six volunteer fire Companies in Chester.

The Moyamensing Hook and Ladder Co. with G. W. Potter as president.

The Good Will Fire Company with H. D. McCray as president.

The Franklin Fire Co. with Edward McCray as president.

The Hanley Hose with William P. Ladomus president.

The Felton Fire Co. with W. S. McDowell president.

Fire Chief Samuel Palmer was one of the thirteen children of Samuel P. Palmer and his wife Margaret News of Phila. Four of those children died in their early childhood. The father, Samuel P. Palmer had been born in Phila. Dec. 28, 1813, the Eldest son of Aaron and Susannah Palmer.

It is recorded that young Samuel P. traveled to Chester in 1829 at the age of 16. I rather doubt that. I think he must have been a bit older. He tried various

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occupations and settled on the trade of manufacturing bricks. Samuel P. rented a brick yard at Third and Parker Street. He was very successful in his business. He was able to produce very large quantities of excellent quality brick at a very good profit. It was a perfect time for him as Chester was being developed with hundreds of brick houses as well as mills and other buildings. After a few years Samuel P. was wealthy enough to purchase a large section of land in the vicinity of Third and West Street which was later renamed Palmer Street. The Palmer homestead is located at 2404 W. 3rd Street.

Samuel P. Palmer was a Democrat. He was also an active member of the Masonic Fraternity. During his life he was not identified with any particular Church but he died in the Faith of the Catholic Church.

 

SAMUEL VAUCLAIN

When Matthias Baldwin built his first locomotive in Philadelphia it took a year to construct. By 1906 Baldwin Locomotive Works had orders for so many engines that the facilities in Philadelphia were too small to handle the vast demand. The Company built a modern plant in Eddystone at the edge of Leiperville. About 3000 people were employed in that factory. The little Borough of Eddystone developed rapidly to provide housing for the workers. Probably the most noteworthy man in Baldwin's at that time was Samuel Vauclain.

Samuel Matthew Vauclain was born in Phila. May 18, 1856. He was the son of Andrew C. and Mary Ann Vauclain. His ancestors were French. His grandfather had come to America from Martinique where he had been a Coffee grower.

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Samuel's father, Andrew was a foremen in a Pennsylvania Railroad machine shop in Altoona, Penna. Young Samuel served his apprenticeship for five years in that shop.

On April 17, 1879 Samuel married Annie, daughter of James Kearney, an Altoona merchant. They had six children.

Samuel brought his family to Philadelphia. He went to work for the Baldwin Locomotive Works and in 1883 he became foreman in their 17th street shop.

The name Baldwin Locomotive Works was first adopted by M. Baird & Co., successors to Matthew Baldwin who founded the company. Baldwin died in 1866. The name was continued by Burnham, Parry, Williams and Co. who acquired the business in 1873.

Samuel Vauclain was promoted from shop foreman to Plant Superintendent in 1886. His most important contribution to the company was his design and construction of the first compound engine which was built for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. A four cylinder type of engine, it proved to conserve fuel and water and to operate more efficiently than anything previously made. During the next 15 years a great many of those locomotives were built and operated on many American Lines. They were surpassed only when the Superheated Engines were introduced to the market.

Samuel Vauclain was admitted to partnership in the Company on Jan. 1, 1896.

The demand for Baldwin Locomotives was tremendous. By 1906 the plant had overrun the capacity of the 19 acres it occupied in Phila. The company purchased 184 acres in Eddystone, Pa.

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where they built extensive foundries and forges.

On July 1, 1909 the firm of Burham, Williams, & Company, which had owned Baldwins, was dissolved. A stock Co. was immediately organized under the name Baldwin Locomotive Works with Vauclain as General Superintendent.

On July 1, 1911, the property was sold to a Corporation called the Phila. Locomotive Works, who immediately reorganized as the Baldwin Locomotive Works. Samuel Vauclain became Vice President of the Company. In 1919 he became president of the Company. In 1929 Vauclain resigned as pres. and became Chairman of the Board of Directors.

During his lifetime, Vauclain was connected in various capacities with many Hospitals and Charitable institutions. He received many honors and medals for his inventions and ingenuity and for outstanding service to the country during the first World War. Samuel Vauclain died in Philadelphia on February 4, 1940.

* * * *

In nearby Chester that year a new stone Rectory was built at St. Michael's. It was erected behind the old brick residence which was torn down when the new home was finished. The grounds around the new building were beautifully landscaped.

* * *

In April of 1906 the news of the San Francisco Earthquake shocked the people of Chester.

 

MOTION PICTURES

1906 was the year when the first Motion Picture

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Houses were opened in Chester. George Leslie had operated a snapshot gallery on the north side of 3rd St. opposite Dock St. He rented a store at 315 Market Street and started to show movies on Oct. 5th, 1906. He called his place the The Amusement Palace. At a later time it was renamed the Lyric. Leslie mounted his projector on a platform at the rear of the store. When the cowboys on the screen fired their guns he would stomp his feet on the floor for sound effect.

These early films were all made in and around New York City. It was not until 1910 that Studios started to move to Hollywood, Cal.

Another Movie House opened on Oct.8, 1906, just three days after George Leslie's place went into operation. The New Family Theater was a more impressive enterprise. It was located in an attractive building on the south side of seventh street next to the Chester Creek. For quite some time this had been the home of the Harmonia Singing Society. Sometime later this picture house was renamed the Princess Theater.

Other Movie houses that quickly opened were the Bijou Dream later called Malta Hall, on the north side of third street west of Market. The Paradise was at 6th and Sproul, and the Majestic on the northeast corner of 5th and Market. The William Penn was at 602 Edgmont Ave. That was the first to show a talkie, the Jazz Singer, in 1927.

In 1907 other movie houses opened in Chester. On April 4th Otto Miller showed his first film in the Biograph Theater at 407 Market Street.

April 13th was opening day for the Theatorium at 617 Edgmont Ave. The manager, Mr. Moore, hired young men to dress up like cowboys and ride horses

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on Edgmont Ave and Market St. to advertise his Western Films.

* * *

There was a fire in the Arcade Hotel in 1907. One man was killed when he jumped from the top floor.

JOHN B. ROACH

John B. Roach died in 1908.

John Baker Roach was born in New York City on December 7, 1839. He was a son of John and Emiline Johnson Roach.

Young John B. was educated in the public schools of N. Y. and at the Ashland Collegiate Institute of Green County, N. Y.

In 1867 his father bought the Morgan Iron Works in N. Y. and with his son as a partner formed the firm of John Roach & Son. In 1871 the firm bought the plant of the Reaney, Son and Archbold, a shipbuilding company in Chester Penna. Although he was only 32 years old John Baker Roach was put in charge of the shipyard. The facility was called the Delaware River Iron Shipbuilding and Engine Works. At times as many as 2000 people worked there.

For more than 35 years John Baker Roach devoted himself to close and persistent management of the business.

The first vessel contracted for was the City of San Antonia, for the C. M. H. Mallory Co. of N. Y. In that same year (1872) The Pacific Mail Steamship Company ordered two large Iron vessels with compound or double expansion engines. They were the first ships in America to engines such as those. In 1883 John Roach & Son got the contract for the new steel cruisers the Chicago, Boston and

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Atlanta, and the dispatch boat Dolphin. The amount of that contract for the first ships of the modern United States Navy was $2,444,000.00.

The Priscilla, Puritan, Plymouth, & Pilgrim, which Roach built for the Fall River Line, in their day were the finest steamboats in the world.

After his father died John Baker Roach became President of the Shipbuilding Corp. of Chester and Vice President of the Morgan Iron Works.

John B. Roach married (on Dec. 12, 1861) Mary Caroline, daughter of David Wallace of Staatsburg, N. Y. They had 11 children, four of whom survived.

Daughter Emeline Wallace Roach married William C. Sproul of Chester, Pa.

Daughter Mary Garretta Roach married George Forbes of Baltimore.

Their two sons were John and William McPherson Roach.

The Roach family lived in a stately stone mansion on Kerlin Street, between Eighth and Ninth.

John Baker Roach died in Chester on June 16, 1908.

* * *

David M. Johnson became Mayor of Chester in 1908. The first Model T Ford was built that year.

TROLLEY STRIKE

The country was in the midst of a depression. Many Companies failed and many plants and big factories shut down. In an effort to cut cost the Chester Traction Co. reduced the pay of their Trolley Car Motormen from 18 to 16 per hour. On April 13, 1908 a meeting was conducted at the Second

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Continue to Part IV >


My Book of Old Chester
2001 Louis J. Warfel, loujwarfel@juno.com


If you have any information and or pictures that you would like to contribute about the history of Chester, please forward it to john@oldchesterpa.com

2001 John A. Bullock III.

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This page last updated 02/24/07