My Book of Old Chester
Louis J. Warfel,


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

Part IV Ward Republican Club . That was on the second floor of Upton's Trolley Café, opposite the car barn at 13th and Edgmont Ave. 107 of the 127 employees were unionized and voted to go on strike. can Club.

When the Company hired "scabs" and strike breakers to operate the Trolleys unprecedented violence and bloodshed ensued. The strike lasted for 7 months. During that time some bridges were blown up and Trolleys were overturned and destroyed. It's a miracle no one was killed.

Beatings and shooting occurred almost daily. A State Trooper had his horse shot right out from under him when he charged into an angry crowd at the Trolley Barn. Thirty boys attacked a driver of the Car to Upland and almost killed the man.

Frequent derailment of the Cars as well as intimidation caused most of the people to resort to walking. Morton School students staged their a own strike after seeing two of their teachers ride on a Trolley. Others refused to attend their Sunday school class because the teacher's husband had gone back to work for the Company.

* * *

William Howard Taft became President in 1909.

In Chester new Moving Picture Theater continued to open. The Fulton House on Fulton street above 3rd. The Macon, later called the Lyric, was on the south side of Third Street east of Highland Ave. The Edgmont Theater was on the southwest corner of fourth and Edgmont Ave. Their entertainment included both Movies and Vaudeville. The men who attended wore evening suits and the ladies wore gowns.



The American Viscose Plant opened in Marcus Hook just one week before Christmas in 1910. There the synthetic fiber Rayon was produced for the first time.

In order to provide their employees with good housing, the Company erected a "Model Village" on a large tract of land opposite the plant. The development consisted of hundreds of modern brick homes with nice kitchens and bathrooms, electric wiring and good central heating systems. Most of the houses had three bedrooms but a few homes, located on the circle across from the plant, were larger. These were reserved for plant managers and foremen.

* * *

In Chester that year the Polish people who had established St. Hedwig's Parish opened their own school. They built a Convent home for the Francis who came to teach.

* * *

Still more theaters were built. The Lloyd was on the north side of 3rd st. at Lloyd. It was later called the Apollo. The Strand Theater was on the north side of 3rd near Reaney. This was the year when the Movie Studios began to move from New York to Hollywood.

The Washington Theater was built by Edward Margolin and some associates in back of the Washington House, in what was once the stable yard of the old Inn. The Theater entrance was the former Carriage and Wagon entrance to the Inn where George Washington had stayed on two or more occasions.


* * *

Hargreaves' Grand Opera House was taken over by Leon Washburn. The Chester Steam Laundry was located in the basement of the Washburn Theater

* * * *

In 1910 a new building to house the Sleeper's Business College was erected on the east side of Welsh St. below the Imperial Hotel.

Down the street at 5th and Welsh several hundred children attended a Christmas Party at the Elks Lodge on Dec. 26, 1910.


The steamship Titanic sank on Sunday night April 14, 1912. The Titanic was the largest ship in the world at that time. It was 852.5 feet long with a gross tonnage of 46,328.

The ship was sailing on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York city with 2223 passengers and crew. Due largely to an incredible lapse of caution and unrealistic idea that the ship was unsinkable the Titanic ran into an iceberg and sank . 832 passengers and 685 crew members perished in the disaster. Among the more notable people lost were John Jacob Astor, Archibald W. Butt, Benjamin Guggenheim, F. D. Millet, William T. Stead and Isidor Straus.

One person who was fortunate enough to survive the shipwreck was Mrs. Emma Ward Bucknell, widow of William Bucknell. She was back in her home by April 21, nervously telling of her experience.


William Bucknell was born April 1, 1811


near Marcus Hook. He was the son of William and Sarah Walker Bucknell. His father, one of the pioneer settlers of the area, had been a Lincolnshire farmer and carpenter.

Young William's education consisted of only a short period of study in a country school. From his parents he learned to be thrifty. He was also taught to set aside 10% of his earnings for philanthropic and religious purposes.

William learned the trade of woodcarving. He saved up a little money and started a business of his own.

In 1839 William married Margaret Crozer, daughter of John P. Crozer. William had much in common with his distinguished father-in-law. They both gave generously to the Baptist Church and to educational institutions.

In the summer of 1856 Bucknell erected a gas works in Chester and laid mains throughout part of the City. His venture was very successful. Bucknell took contracts for the construction of gas and water works in various cities and took stock as payment. Between that and successful land speculation he amassed a large fortune.

Bucknell established himself in Philadelphia as a broker and dealt in securities and real estate development. He became a large owner of coal and iron mines, railroad stock and property.

His many gifts included over $140,000.00 to the University of Lewistown which was renamed Bucknell University in his honor in 1887. That institution is affiliated with the Baptist Church to

which Bucknell donated about a quarter of a million dollars.


After his wife Margaret died Bucknell married Emma Ward. She survived him when he died on March 5, 1890.

In 1912 Mrs Emma Ward Bucknell's home was at 17th and Walnut Street, Chester Pa. She was the sister-in-law of Garnett Pendleton . She was also the mother-in-law of Samuel Wetherill of 23rd & Spruce Street.


Edwin G. Roder bought the newsstand at 7th and Edgmont Ave in 1906. He owned a cigar factory where he produced the 5˘ Penn Club Cigar. He had the triangular structure rebuilt in1912. It was one of the busiest places in the city, selling newspapers, magazines, candy, soda, cigars, tobacco, and many other items.

Across the street on Edgmont Ave next to St. Michael's Rectory M. B. Fahey ran another cigar store.



Two brothers, Edwin and Clarence Scott started a paper jobbing business in Philadelphia In 1879. In 1910 they acquired the abandoned soap factory at the foot of Market St. in Chester and began to manufacture all types of tissue.

In later years Arthur H. Scott was President and C.E.O. of the Company. Arthur Scott, who resided in Rose Valley, died on Feb. 26, 1927

The old soap factory had once housed the Henry Roever Co. the makers of Roever Blue Naphtha soap.


From the earliest time the shopping district of Chester was in the vicinity of Third Street, east of the Chester Creek. Open air markets on nearby Commission Street (called Commission Row) sold a variety of produce, meat and live poultry. That area continued to hold Chester's favorite stores well into the early years of the Twentieth Century.

A few of the businesses that my parents and grandparents talked about were;

28 W. Third St. Cloud's Shoe Store
8 W. Third St. Cummings & Glenney Good Clothes for Men & Boys
11 W. Third St. Geo. & Joe Messick's Men's Furnishings
13 W. Third St. Chester Hardware
23 W. Third St. S. E. E. Kay Clothier and Hatter


27 W. Third St. Deering's Dry Goods
31 w. Third St. D. G. Hendrick's Chester's Leading Carpet Store

Of course by then many businesses were established on Market Street and on Edgmont Ave. at least as far as Broad Street.

Johnson's Tavern was on Edgmont above Third.
401-413 Edgmont Ave. Wm. M. Bowen-Grocer
621 Edgmont Ave. Shaw & Fowden-Plumbers


606 Edgmont Ave Schmidt's O.N.M.A. STORE
801 Edgmont Ave. Schmidt's O.N.M.A. STORE
517 Market Street Suburban Gas Co. of Phila.
520 Market Street Geo. & Joe Messick Men's Furnishings.

The Steamboat Hotel was on the Northeast corner of Front and Market St. just a short distance away from the old Georgia Boat Club at Front Street and Edgmont Avenue.

The Washington House Tavern was on the east side of Market Street above Fourth. On the other side of the street is the Old Court House. On the corner of Market and Fifth was the Chester Times Building.

The Busy Bee Diner was on the southwest corner of Seventh Street and Edgmont Ave.

The Triangle of land at the intersection of Seventh, Edgmont and Welsh Street was occupied by a news stand. George Jenkins started the business in 1880. Edwin G. Roder bought the News stand in 1906. He had it completely rebuilt in 1912. Roder also owned a cigar factory where he produced the Five Cent Penn Club Cigar. Across from that famous landmark, on Welsh Street, just above Edgmont, was the Repetto's Restaurant.

D. S. Bunting had a lumber yard that took up the entire city block from Eighth to Ninth Street, from Welsh to Sproul. He also operated a coal yard from Sproul to the Creek. Coal Barges were polled up Chester Creek on the flood tide to make their deliveries to that business. In fact, the barges went as far up as The Chester Mills in Upland. At sometime in 1909 one of the barges struck and became stuck under part of the Bridge at Third Street.


Some of the other businesses in Chester at that time were Deakyne Bros., Candy makers at Third and Parker and the Chester Brewery at Second and Palmer Street.

The Chester Shipping Company ran Two Boats, The Chester and the Riverside, on one hour trips round trips to Philadelphia. There were two trips each day.

The Baltimore & Philadelphia Steamboat Company operated daily steamers from Phila. to Baltimore . They stopped at Consumers Ice Co. Wharf in Chester. Cabin Fare was $2.00, meals cost Fifty Cents.


Samuel Aldrich Crozer, the son of John P. and Abigail Crozer, was born in Aston Township, Del. Co. on Dec. 25, 1825.

Samuel entered his father's business at the age of 17.He eventually took control of the Crozer Mills and other interests. He also invested extensively in Iron and Coal Mines.

Samuel Crozer was President of the Crozer Theological Seminary from 1868 and President of the National Baptist Council for Missionary Purposes for Fifty years. He was a director of the Elwyn Training School and the Deaf and Dumb Asylum in Philadelphia. He was also a member of the Upland Borough Council for 30 years.

Samuel Crozer died at his home in Upland in 1910.



Alfred Odenheimer Deshong died in Chester on April 19, 1913, leaving a million dollar estate for the establishment of an Art Gallery and Park for the use of the People of Chester.

Alfred was the great-grandson of one Pierre de Shaw, a French Huguenot who came to live in Philadelphia at about the time of the Revolution. Pierre's son changed the name to Deshong and established himself in Chester.

Alfred O. Deshong was born in Chester on Sept. 30, 1837. He was the second son of John Odenheimer Deshong and Emmeline Terrille Deshong. Emmeline was the daughter of Dr. Job H. Terrill, a local physician. John O. Deshong had a very successful lumber business through which he amassed a considerable fortune. In 1850 John built a mansion on his vast estate which extended from Broad Street to Eleventh Street, and from Edgmont Ave. to the Chester Creek.

Alfred was educated in the public schools of Chester and at Bolmar Academy, West Chester. In 1862 Alfred enlisted as a private in Co. K, Tenth Regiment, Pennsylvania Militia, and served during the Antietam Campagne under Captain Thatcher. After being honorable discharged on 9/27/1862, he enlisted in 1863 in Captain William Frick's Company, "The Slipher Phalanx" 37th Regiment, Emergency Corps. He served with Captain Frick during the Gettysburg Campaign until honorably discharged August 4, 1863. For thirty years following the Civil War Alfred and his older brother John O. Deshong Jr. operated the Deshong Quarry in Ridley Township. With John's death in 1895 the partnership ended.


During his lifetime Alfred was known for his philanthropy, particularly to Chester Hospital. His main interest was his Art Collection. Beautiful and intricate Oriental Bronzes and carved Ivories formed the bulk of his collection. A monumental Bronze Vase was shown at the Centennial held in Philadelphia in 1876. He also owned an extensive collection of Paintings

Alfred Deshong was a lavish host, Artists, Musicians and Political figures were entertained at his home. He never married and for reasons that remain a mystery he became reclusive in his later life spending his time with his beloved dogs and a few close friends.

Louise Deshong Woodbridge was Alfred's only sister. She was born in 1848 and attended the Brooke Hall Academy in Media, Pa. She was an Artist, a dedicated photographer, and had a life long interest in science, especially botany. She and her husband, Johnathan Edward Woodbridge lived at 14th and Potter Street in what is now called the "Manor House" at Widener University. The house was endowed as a "Home for genteel ladies of uncertain means" after Louise's death in 1925


* * *

On March 3, 1913 Woodrow Wilson became President of the United States.

* * *

In Chester newly constructed homes on Kerlin Street between 10th and 12th st. were renting for $25.00 a month. The homes on Parker st. were $18.00 per month.


*     * *

A big event which took place in the city during 1913 was Fireman Week, Sept. 5th to 10th.when hundreds of firemen from far and near came to join a celebration. Preparations for the occasion had been under way for weeks. A total of 15000 electric light bulbs were strung along Edgmont Ave. The city's four firehouses were decorated and outlined with lights.

* * *

During the year, Father Joseph Timmins bought the Harvey family residence at 312 E. Broad St. It was thereafter used as the Convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph who he had invited to take charge of St. Michael's School. The Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus who had traveled to the school from Sharon Hill each day since 1881 agreed to relinquish the job. Accordingly, on Sept. 3rd, 1913, Mother Mary Louis, and sisters, Dolorine, Paschaline, Rose Angela and Rose De Lima moved into their new home.

* * *

A new bridge over the Chester River at 5th street was officially opened at 1:00 O'clock P. M. on Dec. 3, 1913. Only a few people were on hand for the ceremony but by nightfall hundreds of wagon teams, automobiles and pedestrians had crossed over.-

* * *

During 1914 the Freihofer property, 30 acres on each side of the entrance to Chester Park, was developed with houses.


Reuben Brooks came to Chester in 1914 and purchased a variety store at 608 Edgmont Ave. between


the O.N.M.A. Grocery Store and the Pool Hall on the corner. Brooks and his wife Bridget lived at 221 W. 8th street with their children Grover, May, Helen, Earl, Joseph and Loyola.

Nearby to the Brooks Store was the David (Davey) Davis Home Furnishings Store, 110 E. 6th street. The sight of Davey Davis' wagon making deliveries around Chester was familiar to he residents of the old town.

* * *

The Italian Catholics of Chester used the basement church at St. Michaels until they opened St. Anthony's on June 14, 1914.

* * *

The Panama Canal was finished in 1914 at a cost of $366,650,000.


In 1914 Europe was "armed to the teeth" and divided by military alliances into two hostile camps.

On June 28, 1914 Austria's Archduke Francis Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo by a Serb nationalist. This triggered the declaration of war on Serbia by Austria-Hungary.

Russia came to the aid of Serbia then Germany declared war on Russia on August 1st. The French began to mobilize their Army and on August 3rd, the Germans marched against them. On August 5th,1914 England entered the war on the side of the French.

News of these events caused a tremendous feeling of excitement and anxiety in Chester as it did throughout the Country.


* * *

The Atlantic Steel Casting Co. began to operate on. August 1st, 1915.

* * *

When the old Lyric Theatre was enlarged it occupied the properties from 311 to 315 Market street. It was renamed the Grand Theatre.


In 1915 world War 1 was raging in Europe. German submarines formed a blockade around Brittan. On May 7th they sank the British passenger liner the Lusitania off the coast of Ireland. 1198 of the 1959 passengers and crew perished. 128 of these were American citizens. Pres. Woodrow Wilson demanded an end to unrestricted submarine warfare. Eventually the Germans agreed but claimed the Lusitania was carrying arms and ammunition and the passengers knew they traveled at their own risk.


In Chester the Sun Shipbuilding Company was established in 1916 At first the site of the old Roache's shipyard was considered as a location for the new company. A major objection was that Chester Island would interfere with the launching of the large ships they intended to build. In the end the property at the foot of Morton Avenue was selected as the best location.


More trouble occurred between the U. S. and Germany when a submarine sank a French Ship in 1916 causing the loss of more American lives.

More trouble occurred between the U. S. and Germany when a submarine sank a French Ship in


1916 causing the loss of more American lives.


Ultimately, on April 6, 1917 the U. S. declared War on Germany. Four days later, at 10:10 A.M. on April 10th, the first of three explosions ripped through "F" building of the Eddystone Ammunition Co., killing 132 people, mostly women. Hundreds more were wounded. Flying bullets injured and killed as many of the victims as did falling debris and flames. Some eyewitnesses told of seeing their co-workers shot down in front of them.

The explosion happened in the section of the plant where high explosives were put into artillary shells and time fuses were installed. Some 40,000 loaded shells were stored there.

The entire fire-fighting force of Chester and nearby boroughs rushed to the yard of the plant to battle the blaze.

Community response was phenominal, Every available vehicle was put to use hauling the many victims to Hospitals in Chester, Ridley Park and Upland. When the Hospitals could hold no more the injured were treated at the National Guard Armoury and at the former Anderson Tabernacle in Chester. James W. Friel, an inspector in some other part of the plant, was not injured. He made four trips in a milk truck to take bodies to the funeral home of E. F. White at 3rd and Norris.

Fifty two of the bodies were never identified. They are buried in a mass grave site in Chester Rural Cemetery.

Capt. Walter M. Wilhelm, Army manager of the plant, heroically endangered his own life to


evacuate survivors. At one point he stood on top of a powder magazine, wetting it down with a hose to keep it from exploding. Capt. Wilhelm died the following year, a victim of the 1918 Flu epidemic.

The Eddystone Ammunition Works was on the Baldwin Locomotive property. It was a subsidiary of Baldwins, built in 1915. Artillery shells were made there for France, Russia and the U. S.

Nearby was the Remmington Arms Plant. During World War 1 the Chester Area produced 2,200,000 rifles, 22 large Naval guns, and some 5,500 engines, locomotives and ships. The population of the city grew from 50,000 to 80,000 almost overnight..



James (Baron) Dougherty was one of Delaware County's most colorful figures. He was born on Dec. 16, 1868 at 17th and Chestnut Street. His parents, Owen and Ann Dougherty, were very poor.

James went to work at a very young age in a Chester Brickyard. He grew up to be a bold, clever, six foot, red headed Irishman who knew how to make friends and get things done.

In 1917 Jack Demsey, who later became Boxing Champion of the world, worked as a waiter at Baron Dougherty's Hotel in Lieperville. In a boxing ring set up behind the hotel Demsey trained for his 1918 fight with Battling Levinsky. Many exhibition fights were put on in that boxing ring featuring some of the greatest names in the sport. After becoming successful Demsey still remained a loyal friend of Dougherty and from time to time came to visit him as did many others, notably, Sugar Ray Robinson, Jack Johnson, Luis Firpo, Jack Blackburn, Mickey Walker, Kid Chocolate, Joe Gans, Maxie Rosenbloom, Tony Conzoneri, and Billy Conn.

Dougherty sometimes officiated as referee in the boxing matches. He acted in that capacity at the Gibbons fight and the Miske match in 1924.

Dougherty, The famous "Baron of Leiperville" picked a perfect location for his hotel and bar. It was on the Chester Pike, right alongside the Baldwin Locomotive Works property, where the men from the plant came to catch a ride home on the Short Line Railroad . The bar was a perfect place for the workers to relax for a time after a long day on the job. But it was also the gathering place for boxers and wealthy sportsmen like Sam Riddle,


owner of the famous racehorse Man-O-War.

Twelve bartenders worked shifts around the clock. Each day the Chester Brewery delivered 100 half kegs of beer. 6000 pounds of ice was used each day to chill the brew. Whiskey was delivered 5 barrels at a time.

Built of imported stone, Dougherty's Colonial Hotel contained 14 rooms, rooms, 3 baths, a dining hall and a huge barroom.


The famous author and newspaper columnist Damon Runyon was a close friend of Dougherty. During the early years of his career Runyon worked for the Chester Times. It was he who gave Dougherty his title when he wrote an newspaper article about the popular hotel owner and referred to him as "the Baron of Lieperville.

It was during his stay at the Colonial Hotel that Runyon wrote much of his famous story "Little Miss Marker", the film version of which starred Shirley Temple and Adolf Menjou.

Damon Runyon died in 1946. Dougherty died in 1949.

Baron Dougherty's home was located at 101 Chester Pike in Ridley Park.

He had a son Howard and a daughter Dorothy. Dorothy Dougherty married George McLaughlin, son of Edward and Elizabeth Bunce McLaughlin who operated a popular Hotel at Chester Pike and Fairview Rd., just a short distance up the road from the Colonial Hotel. Edward McLaughlin had inherited the Hotel and a large estate from his father. He owned race horses and carriage horses and a very fine automobile.



The worst epidemic of modern times was the Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918-19. 500 million people worldwide were infected. More than 20 million died including 548,000 in the United States.

At least three hundred and fifty deaths in Del. County were attributed to the Flu. There were 600 new cases each month and 1/3 of the total cases were fatal.

Eighty unidentified victims were buried in a mass trench grave in Chester Rural Cemetery. The demand for coffins was so great that the workers at Sun Ship and Chester Shipbuilding Co. were assigned to build them at the expense of the Company.

Local hospitals were packed and could take no more patients. Local doctors were so overworked that the Public Health service sent 12 physicians and a dozen nurses to help out.

All schools, Churches, Theaters, and other public recreational facilities were closed.

It has been recorded that grave diggers were hard to find even at the high wage of $1.10 per hour.


In the year 1919, a very successful business man and financier from Chester, William Sproul was elected Governor of Pennsylvania.

William Cameron Sproul was born at Octoraro, Lancaster County, Pa. on September 16, 1870. His family had come to America in 1786 and were involved in the iron industry. When William was a child his family settled in Chester where his father established an interest in the old Chester Rolling Mills.


William graduated from Chester High School in 1887 and from Swarthmore College in 1891 with a B. S. Degree.

On March 10, 1892 William purchased a one half interest in the Chester Times. Eventually he became the sole owner of that paper and the Chester Morning Republican.

William Sproul married Emeline Roach on May 17, 1898. Emeline was the daughter of John B. Roach, famous Chester Shipbuilder. The Sprouls had a stately brick home on the northeast corner of Ninth Street and Kerlin, very close to the home of Emeline's parents. They had two children, a daughter, Dorothy Wallace who married Laurence Sharles, and a son, John Roach Sproul.

After his marriage to Emeline, William took an interest in the Shipbuilding business. He became a director of Roach's Shipyard. Then in 1900 he organized the Seaboard Steel Casting Company, in Chester.

Seaboard's foundry had 9 overhead cranes with carrying capacity of from 10 to 40 tons. They produced such equipment as 10 ton steel propeller wheels and giant cast steel spectacle frames for transoceanic liners.

From that time on, Sproul went on to extend his financial interests to include innumerable business enterprises in every part of the eastern seaboard . Among other things he was a director of several banks in Chester and Philadelphia.

When World War 1 broke out in Europe William Sproul, together with Samuel Vauclain of the Baldwin Locomotive Works, J. Leonard Replogle, George T. Coleman Dupont, and E. V.


Babcock of Pittsburgh, organized the Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Company of Chester.

William C. Sproul began his public career in 1896 when he was elected to the State Senate on the Republican ticket. He was President Pro tempore of the Senate in 1903 and 1905. From 1905 until 1918 he was chairman of the Finance Committee. He organized an efficient system of finances for the State. His progressive Highway Bill of 1907 provided for the system of roads which ultimately connected all of the major cities and all of the County Seats of Pennsylvania.

William C. Sproul was inaugurated Governor of Penna. on January 21, 1919. In the History of the State his administration is considered to have been one of the most progressive.

William Sproul belonged to the Society of Friends. His home which was located in Nether Providence was called "Lapidea Manor".

William Cameron Sproul died in Chester Pennsylvania on March 21, 1928.


The world famous racehorse Man-O'-War, also known as Big Red, was retired in 1920 by his owner Samuel Riddle. Man-O'-War was regarded by many as the greatest racehorse of all times. Because his owner did not approve of racing two year olds so early in the season, he was not entered in the Kentucky Derby. But the horse who was sometimes called "Big Red" won every other possible honor.

On Oct. 12, 1920 Man-O'-War ran against the 1919 triple crown winner Sir Barton. Man-O'-War won the race by eight lengths. It was Big Red's last


race, crowning his career of 20 wins in 21 starts. He had won the Preakness that year and his Belmont Stakes victory was by 20 lengths.

* * *

On Jan. 6,1920 the 18th amendment to the Constitution went into effect prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcoholic drinks in the

U.S. Probably this contributed more than anything else to making the "Roaring Twenties" the wild, lawless decade that it was.

* * *

On August 18, 1920 the 19th amendment gave women the right to vote. American women felt a sense of freedom and self confidence such as they had never before experienced.

* * *

On March 4, 1921 Warren Harding became president of the U. S. Two years later Harding became ill and died. Vice President Calvin Coolidge took office as President.


On Sept. 10, 1921, 24 people drowned when the Third Street Bridge over the Chester River collapsed. A large crowd of people had gathered on the bridge to watch the rescue of a three year old boy who had fallen in the water. Suddenly a section of the bridge walkway gave way under the excessive weight of the spectators. The fallen portion formed a chute down which the wildly clutching people slid in a mass of writhing arms, legs and bodies.

Many acts of bravery were performed, so that 20 people, many of them children, were pulled from the water and saved. However, 24 souls perished before they could be rescued. The most


outstanding hero of the day was George T. Pierce who is credited with participating in the rescue of fifteen people.

It was later reported that the bridge had been weakened as a result of being bumped by a coal barge going up the river in 1909.

* * *

During 1921 the Philadelphia and Chester Pike was purchased by the government from the Darby & Chester Telford Road Co. The road was improved and opened as a public highway, free of toll.

* * *

St. Anthony's School was opened at Third and Parker Street.

* * *

In 1925 the U. S. Naval airship Shenandoah crashed in a windstorm. It was the first entirely American built Zeppelin type airship.

* * *

For many years the old Shoemakerville Bridge near Twenty Fourth and Providence Ave. was a much used crossing of Ridley Creek. In 1926 it was replaced with a new span costing at a cost of $200,000.00. The new bridge was named the Governor Printz Bridge in honor of the first Gov. of the Swedish Province established at Tinicum in 1643.


On May 20, 1927 Twenty five year old Charles Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field, Mineola, N. Y. in his single engine plane, The Spirit Of St. Louis. The following night he landed at Le Bourget Field, Paris, France. "The Lone Eagle" as he was called, had made the first successful non-stop flight from New York to Paris. That historic flight to Paris took 33 hours, 29 minutes.


Some excerpts from the Chester Times

Feb. 11, 1927; John Sorcuss was elected President of the Chester Business Men's Association.

Adolph Monjou in " Blonde or Brunette ", is the attraction at the Stanley Theater

Feb. 19, 1927; The Stanley Corp. is preparing to build a $250,000.00 Manor theater on Chester Pike in Prospect Park.

Feb. 22, 1927; George ( Whitey ) McCain, proprietor of the Pennsylvania Hotel at 6th and Penna. Ave., opposite the R. R. Station, was sentenced to two years in prison and a $2,000.00 fine for the possession of liquor on his premises. The sentence was handed down by Judge Broomall at Media.

Feb. 28, 1927; Walter Webb and Amos Hughes of Chester were put to death in the Electric Chair at Bellefonte Prison on Sept 9, 1926. The two men had murdered Walter (Bud) Harden, a well known and much liked Chester Cab Driver. They had engaged him to drive them to Aston, but when they got to Bridgewater Road, near Upland they robbed and killed him.

Feb. 28, 1927; John Sorcus remarked that 1/5 of the clothes that women were wearing were from 10 years before.


Chester Fireman, Tim Mccarey said that firemen like everything about their job except rolling hose. In that case " Flappers " should make wonderful fire eaters.

June 13, 1927;Col. Charles A. Lindbergh flew a big yellow U. S. Army plane over Chester at 11:15 AM today. He was en route to New York. Col Lindbergh had an escort of 21 planes. Alerted by fire alarms, thousands of people jammed the streets of Chester and waved as his plane flew by.



The first Seatrain was built in 1928 at the Sun Shipbuilding Co. in Chester. The ship was built for the Seatrain Lines which began operating a service on Jan. 12, 1929 between New Orleans and Havana Cuba. Loaded freight cars were hoisted from the tracks to the seatrain ship which accommodated 95 railroad cars.


Joseph Schmidt was the youngest of three brothers who had the O.N.M.A. grocery stores in Chester. Joseph's store was at Third and Kerlin Street. On December 28, 1929 at 9:45 in the evening Joseph was just putting the days receipts away when two holdup men entered the store. His older brother Frank was there at the time. He said that one of the robbers shot Joseph down in cold blood. Joseph ( 60 years old) was taken to the Chester Hospital where he died a few hours later. The two men, who didn't get a cent in the robbery, were quickly caught.

The ONMA store on Kerlin Street was never reopened. That was the final end to a fine old Chester business.

Frank Schmidt had several children. Miss Helen M. Schmidt was one daughter, Mrs. Caroline Schmidt Lord another. Mrs. Lord became a prominent teacher and at one time was principle of Martin School.

Frank's son William H. Schmidt became a somewhat famous doctor, with an international reputation as a pioneer in the use of electro-surgery for the treatment of cancer. He was also one of the first to use radium in the treatment of cancer.


Dr. William Schmidt graduated from Chester High School in 1904. He received his higher education at the University o f Pennsylvania. During his 43 years at Jefferson Hospital Dr. Schmidt developed the use of fever therapy in the treatment of many illnesses believed incurable. In 1939 he was elected President of the American Congress of physical therapy at the 18th annual convention of that body in Chicago.


The first Diesel Engine Powered Passenger Ship ever built was the "City of New York" . It was constructed at the Sun Ship . A trial run for the vessel was held on January 11, 1930.

The first all welded, self propelled seagoing petroleum carrier was the Motor Ship "White Flash" launched on Sept. 10, 1931 at Sun Ship. It was placed into service by Atlantic Refining Co. on Sept. 14, 1931.


During the 1930s and 40s Ethel Waters was one of America's most popular entertainers. Ethel was born in Chester, Penna. in the home of her great aunt Ida at 9:15 A. M. Oct. 31, 1900. Her mother, Louise Anderson was 12 years old when she was raped at knife point by John Waters. It was a very traumatic experience for Louise who was a very religious girl who attended Church regularly and aspired to be an Evangelist. Louise's mother, Sally Anderson took baby Ethel as soon as she was born and cared for her most of the years of her childhood. Louise married Norman Howard a short time later. He worked for the Railway in Chester.


In her autobiography, "His Eye is on the Sparrow", Ethel said her whole childhood was " like a series of one night stands. I was shuttled about among relatives, boarded out, continually being moved around to Camden, Chester and Phila. homes". That was because her Grandmother boarded or bunked her near where ever she was working so she could always come to her quickly if Ethel needed her.

At the age of six Ethel was stricken with Typhoid Fever and developed pneumonia along with it. Her grandmother feared Ethel would die. She sent for a priest, Father Healy of St. Peter Claver R. C. Church in Phila. and Ethel was baptized and anointed. Sally Anderson was always inclined toward the Catholic Religion. Although they seldom attended Church Ethel was taught by her family say her prayers.

Ethel's aunt Ida lived in a semi-rural area of North Chester for a time. When Sally Anderson worked in Chester she and Ethel lived with Ida and Ethel attended the local school. When they moved back to Phila. she entered a Catholic School and the kind, loving treatment of the Nuns had a very profound effect on her.

Later Ida moved and Ethel said her house was so far out she had to take the Trolley to the end of the line and walk about a mile further.

Ethel's father was a rather talented pianist and all of the members of her family had nice voices and sang well. When she was about 10 she sang and danced at parties in Chester. Her friends regarded her as the champion "hip shaker", the best in the world. She said she lived on Morton Street.


Ethel was only 13 when she reluctantly married Merritt Purnsley who worked at the Penna. Steel Casting Co. He was an abusive and unfaithful husband. They lived on Banana Ave. near Fulton Street. On the other side of Fulton was a place called Longbottom's Gut. Purnsley had a girl friend there.

Ethel said she tried very hard to make her marriage work because she wanted to live up to her Catholic convictions. But finally, no longer able to take the abuse, she left Purnsley and went to live with her mother Louise in Philadelphia.

October 31, 1917 was a big day in her life. She experienced her first real performance at Jack's Rathskeller in Phila. at a Halloween Party. Ethel started her career as a Blues Singer nicknamed "Sweet Mama Stringbean". She was just 17 years old.

For the first few years Ethel toured those theaters of the Northern and Southern cities that were frequented almost exclusively by Blacks. She had several hit records including Oh Daddy, Down Home Blues, Tiger Rag and Georgia Blues. She replaced Florence Mills in Plantation Revue in 1925 and played at theaters in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and elsewhere.

After a Moving Picture debut in 1929, On with the Show, she went to England for an extended engagement at the Café De Paris in London.

Back in the U. S. in 1930 Ethel appeared in revues, Blackbirds of 1930, Dixie to Broadway and From Broadway back to Harlem, both in 1932. In 1933 she was in Stormy Weather. Her version of the title song by Harold Arlen was her best remembered recording. In 1933 she became the first Black woman to star on network radio. She recorded with Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey and Benny Goodman.


For her performance in "Pinky" in 1949 she received a Negro Actors Guild Award and an Academy Award Nomination for best supporting actress.

Ethel Waters ended her career regarded as one of the most accomplished and sensitive interpreters of popular music in her era.

As a Roman Catholic Woman of strong religious convictions and an Ecumenical Spirit Ethel Waters worked with the Evangelist Billy Graham from the late 1950s. She died at Chatsworth, Cal. Sept. 1, 1977.


The first Merchant Ship to be formally Blessed at a Launching Ceremony was the Rio Hudson of the Moore-McCormack Line. The Ship had a displacement of 17,500 tons and carried 197 passengers. The event took place on Nov. 27, 1940 at the Sun Shipbuilding Company in Chester, Pa. The Blessing was bestowed by the Right Reverend Francis Taitt, Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.


Francis Marion Taitt was born in Burlington, New Jersey on Jan. 3, 1862. He was educated in the Central High School of Phila., Temple Univ., University of Penna. and Hahnemann College. He was the Rector of St. Paul's Church at Ninth and Madison Street, Chester from 1893 till 1929. He was made Bishop of Pennsylvania in 1931. He was also a Trustee of Pennsylvania Military College, and


a director of Crozer Hospital and Chester Hospital. Bishop Taitt was Grand Chaplain of the Grand Holy Royal Arch Chapter of Penna.

His home was at 300 East Broad Street in Chester opposite St. Paul's Church. Bishop Taitt died July 17, 1943.


The first Heavy Tank ( 60 tons) was built for the U. S. Army at the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Eddystone. It was formally presented by the Vice President of the Company, William Henry Harman to Brigadier General Gladeon Marcus Barnes, Army Ordnance Dept. on Dec. 8, 1941. The tank was armed with a 75 mm ( 3") cannon in the turret.


William John Clifton Haley was born on July 6, 1925. Bill Haley grew up in Chester, Pa. and became one of the founders of Rock N' Roll music. Haley toured the Western part f the U. S. with Shorty Cook's Downhomers in 1944. When he returned to Chester later that year he took the job of musical director with radio station WPWA. He formed a band and during the next few years recorded a number of cowboy tunes.

In 1953 Haley and the Comets began to develop a rock rhythm. In 1954 his publisher signed him with Decca Records and presented him with "Rock Around the Clock", a novelty number by Max Freedman who also wrote "Sue City Sue".

Rudy Pompilli from Chester, voted best new Saxophone player in 1953 by Downbeat Magazine, joined the Comets. Pompilli was a hot soloist with


an athletic stage act which involved playing while laying on his back.

Bill Haley and the Comets had ten big hits during 1955 and 1956. They were the first Rock Star Group to perform outside the U. S.

Bill Haley died on Feb. 9, 1981.


Another very successful musical group of the 1950s was made up of four young men from Chester. Al Alberts, Dave Mahoney, Sod Voccaro and Lou Silvestri were the Four Aces. Their recording of the song "Sin" sold a million copies in 1951. they followed that up with Tell Me Why and Three Coins in a Fountain in 1953 and Stranger in Paradise in 1955. Later, Al Alberts left the group to seek a career on his own. For several years he hosted a Children's Amateur Variety Hour on Sunday mornings on a Philadelphia Television Station.


Few men dominated the everyday life and the politics of a community as did John J. McClure. He was born in 1887. In 1926 when he was 39 years old McClure was President of the Penna. Paving Company, Pres. of Chester Materials Co., Pres. of McClure and Co. Insurance, Treas. of the F. K. Worley Construction Co. and a Director of two Chester Banks.

For fifty eight years he was the Republican Boss in Delaware County. During that time he put together one of the Country's most powerful political machines. He was feared and hated,


reviled and around election time burned in effigy by his Democratic rivals. But thousands went to his Ward Healers and Agents for help in securing jobs and for other favors when they were down and out.

McClure died on Sunday March 28, 1965 at the age of seventy eight.


The first commercial Ship to conquer the Northwest Passage was the 1,005 ton Ice breaker, oil tanker, "Manhattan". The ship was built at Sun Ship.

The Manhattan left Chester on August 24, 1969. After a stop at Halifax, N. S. sailed north on August 29 and returned to Halifax on Sept. 14. It had passed through the Prince of Whales Strait to the Amundsen Gulf in the Beaufort Sea.



Hurricane Hazel swept through Chester on October 15, 1954 with winds up to 95 miles per hour. Hazel was the worst hurricane to ever strike the area. It caused terror, injury and damage worth millions of dollars.

A roof was blown off a home on Morton Ave. and landed on the tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad. It was several hours before the trains could resume their service between New York and Washington, D. C.

Along the Delaware River five hundred boats were damaged.

The roof was torn from a Scott Paper warehouse and one of the brick storage houses there collapsed.


Early one morning, late in the summer of 1958, a fire broke out in the Palm Gardens, a bar room in the basement of 624 Edgmont Ave. It quickly burned through the old dry wooden wall which separated the bar from the back basement of the Buten Paint Store above. Eventually the flames weakened the floor of the paint store until it collapsed. Firemen broke out the front show window of the store and wet down the very flammable stock of paint supplies in an effort to limit the intensity of the fire.

A local building contractor, Nolan Bros. had their office down the street in the 500 block of Market. Mr. Paul Nolan himself came to the scene of the fire to supervise the start of boarding up the burned out building. He stood on the front pavement with a small group of men. The firemen were putting away their equipment. Suddenly one of the fire hoses uncoupled. Still under pressure it ripped through the air like a giant snake. The heavy brass coupling on the end smashed into the group


of men on the sidewalk. Two of the men were knocked off their feet. One of the men was able to get up and was not seriously hurt. The other, Mr. Paul Nolan, had been struck on the side of his face and head. He was rushed to the Chester Hospital where he died without ever having regained consciousness.


Chester's most famous baseball celebrity was Daniel Edward Murtaugh. He was born in Chester on Oct. 8, 1917. Danny had an intense love for the game. He also had an intense love for his wife and children. During the off season he worked at McGovern's Men's Store on Market Street. His warm friendly personality won him the respect and affection of everyone in town.

During the late forties and early fifties Danny played second base for the Pittsburg Pirates. He took over the job as Manager of the team during the 1957 losing season and turned the team around. Under Danny's leadership the Pirates won the World Series of 1960. They beat out the New York Yankees by winning the seventh game of the series on Oct. 13, 1960. It was a close game. Mazeroskie hit a home run in the bottom of the 9th inning to break a 9 to 9 tie.

Everyone in Chester followed the games and rooted for the Pirates to win. All of the Chester Stores decorated their windows with signs of congratulations and Danny came home to a hero's welcome.

Danny managed the Pirates from 1957 until 1976. He took them to victory in a second World Series in 1971 when they defeated the Baltimore Orioles. He missed the 1972 season and part of 1973 because of ill health. Danny died on Dec. 2, 1976.



On Sept. 13, 1971, after five days of rain totaling 4.65 inches, many of the rivers and streams in the area of Delaware County overflowed. The worst problems were caused by the Chester Creek from the West Branch in Chester Township to the Delaware River. In some places the water was as much as 16 feet deep.

Cars, trucks and trailers, some heavily loaded, were tossed about like toys. Homes, businesses and public buildings along the Chester Creek were filled with water. In Chester Heights, Aston, Brookhaven, Toby Farms, Upland, and Chester the devastation was awesome. A small dam burst, bridges and roads were impassable, people were stranded everywhere. Some clung to fence posts, trees and poles in an effort to prevent being washed away by the current. Many were rescued, some were not.

Mrs. Delores Snyder of 618 Convent Road tried to drive over the Convent Bridge. Her car stalled and she stood on the railing of the bridge for three hours only to be swept away to her death. No one could get to the bridge to help the unfortunate woman.

A dyke which had been erected to protect the community of Eyre Park in Chester, gave way and the entire 8 block section of 250 homes was under water within a half hour. Firemen and volunteers rushed to the area to help rescue the residents.

The force of the current was tremendous. A sturdy rescue boat of the Franklin Fire Co. was capsized and bent in two by the water. Two elderly women, Mrs. Lucille Cox and Mrs. Mary Hazzard, were thrown from the boat, washed away and drowned. A young minister, Rev. Sherwood Dixon, went to help the people of Eyre Park and


heroically gave his life in the effort.

Ralph Worrilow, a brave volunteer fireman was swept away and drowned as he tried to evacuate two elderly people from their home.

The Y. M. C. A. building was located in Eyre Park. Many people had taken shelter there when the flooding began and they had to be evacuated by boat. Only 6 or 7 could be moved at a time so it took many hazardous trips before they were all rescued.

In all, 9 people were drowned, dozens were injured and 450 were left homeless. Not since 1843 had such a devastating flood occurred in Delaware County.

Mayor Nacrelli toured the City and declared a state of emergency so the National Guard could be called to help. The Mayor placed the blame for the Eyre Park flooding on the fact that the Dyke was not high enough to protect the area. He also claimed that the Railroad Trestle over the Creek, which remained closed and was reinforced with several Railroad cars, acted as a dam and caused the water behind it to rise more than it would have if the trestle had been opened.

Many businesses in the City were flooded, notably the Chester Times Building on Eighth Street. For a time it was necessary to have the paper printed at a facility in Pottstown, Pa.


* * * *

One of the most enduring landmarks in Chester is the News stand at Seventh and Edgmont Ave. It was founded in 1880 by George Jenkins. In 1906 it was purchased by Edwin G. Roder. He rebuilt the structure in 1912 and operated it for many years. In later years the business was run by Maurice Sapovits and Herman Smith. In 1976 it belonged to Marilyn and Milt Berman.

My Book of Old Chester
© 2001 Louis J. Warfel,

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

© 2001 John A. Bullock III.

GDPub2.JPG (7902 bytes)

This page last updated 02/24/07