And The Settlement Of The Township
With Historical, Genealogical
And Biolgraphcal Data From
Records Of Friends
Author of "Lyrics of Quakerism," "Old Richland Families," etc.
Roberts Publishing Co.
[Transcribed by Coralynn Brown]
This volume is the outcome of a discussion at a meeting of the Norristown Friends Association, following a paper on the early history of Plymouth and other meetings in this vicinity.
The difficulty of fixing the date of the erection of the original edifice caused the problem to recur again and again to the writer's mind, and called forth a desire to do what was possible to solve it.
A pamphlet of twenty or thirty pages was at first projected, and it was partly printed when the discovery was made that justice could not be done to the accumulated mass of material in so small a compass. Even now much has been omitted that might with propriety have found a place in the annals of the meeting.
The original records have been made use of wherever they were attainable. Much more care is taken at this time to preserve essential facts than was the case two centuries ago.
It is to be regretted that so little importance was attached to the care and preservation of records in times past, but what remain are of value, and are worthy, it seems to me, of being put into a form that will insure their permanent preservation.
The neighborhood meeting meant more to the scattered settlers of two centuries ago than it means to their descendants of the present day when there are so many other agencies for good in every community.
The assembling together at First-clay and at mid-week meetings—at marriages and at funerals.--was almost the only opportunity for general social commingling and it was appreciated accordingly. The meeting. house was a centre around which gathered the interest of the entire settlement.
Attached to the place of worship—preceding it, indeed in this case, by some years, was the graveyard, plain, unostentatious, without any monument or memorial of the dead.
The stricter views on such matters among early Friends have somewhat relaxed in our own day, and our modern burying-grounds are much like others except that the gravestones are limited to a size that keeps to moderation in such matters.
This volume is to a certain extent a memorial of those who lie in the graveyard at Plymouth Meeting, and as such it is commended to all who are connected by ties of this kind to the old structure of which it treats.
In conclusion I wish to tender my sincere thanks to all---and they are many--who have in any way contributed to the completeness or accuracy of this volume.
Norristown, 4th-mo. 10, 1900.
I. SURROUNDINGS OF PLYMOUTH MEETING
There is a charm in research as to the older Friends' meeting-houses found in this and adjoining counties, partly surrounded as they usually are by burial-places which contain the dead for a number of generations. There is none, perhaps, in Montgomery county, whose earlier history is more deaply [sic] involved in obscurity or more difficult to trace in all its details than one which had its origin not far from two centuries ago, and which, in the progress of time, gave its name to the adjoining village and post-office—Plymouth Meeting.
As a rule the records of Friends' meetings are fuller and more satisfactory than those of other religious denominations, but they are not always so. In the settlement of Pennsylvania, the urgent necessity for active and continuous exertion on the part of the pioneers, in order to secure a livelihood for themselves and their families and maintain their ground in the midst of most unfavorable surroundings, left but little time that they could devote to the preservation of records which are now regarded as invaluable, however lightly esteemed by the people of that day.
Plymouth meeting-house is beautifully located, being situated in the midst of an exceedingly rich, fruitful valley whose soil is underlaid with vast deposits of limestone which has been extensively quarried and burned for building and fertilizing purposes, in the course of the two centuries or more that have intervened since the coming of the first settlers. The appearance of the building and its surroundings is singularly restful, and suggestive of that serious reflection and studious thoughtfulness which pre-eminently characterize the membership of the Society of Friends.
Many ancient buttonwoods, oaks and other trees that ornament the spacious grounds and cast their shadows over the old meeting-house, have been there for a century; perhaps longer.
There is nothing more natural to the chance visitor, after an inspection of the meeting-house, the grounds adjacent; and the school building which has recently been greatly enlarged and improved, than a stroll through the resting-place of the dead. What a host of tender and kindly memories cluster round the sacred spot! Each passing year adds to the number of beloved forms laid beneath the sod! How many friends we have known have become weary of the race of life, and gone down to the silence, the solemnity, the awful mystery of the tomb.
The oft-extended cemetery is well filled with graves, the names on whose headstones are as familiar as household words. Descendants of those who bore them are numerous in all the country round and in neighboring towns - Norristown, Conshohocken and elsewhere.
A large proportion of the names found on these modest memorials of men and women of bygone generations belonged to those whose sober, earnest, upright living and habitual devotion to duty made than honored members of their respective communities. They have many of them left their impress for good upon the neighborhood. The world is the better for their having lived in it, which is more than can be said of some of those who in their day and generation have filled a larger space, perhaps, in the public eye. They lived simple and unostentatious, but useful lives. They cared little, as a rule, for the good or evil opinion of the great world beyond them. They did what their hands found to do, regarding not the applause of men. Aspiring to no high honors, they were content to meet faithfully the requirements of duty, and to satisfy, as well as they could, the demands of conscience.
The older portion of the burying-ground still shows the traces of the work of a lamentably over-zealous hater of tomb-stones, more than three.quarters of a century ago. He apparently imagined that it was his mission to reduce to a proper height the memorials erected by the hands of loving kinsmen, in remembrance of those who were sleeping their last steep in the old graveyard. A number of the broken stones are still to be seen lying around. Those who were injured by his destructive tendencies were lenient however, to their misguided neighbor. They took a charitable view of his offence, and, though legal proceedings were begun, they were not pushed to the infliction of any severe penalty for the mischief wrought.
That part of the grounds has a forbidding and somewhat neglected appearance, compared with the more modern portion. Its use as a place of burial antedates, by many years, the erection of the older portion of the meeting-house, the early settlers, as will be seen, preferring to hold their gatherings for worship at the residence of one of their number—the house being usually selected which happened to be most centrally located.
The early settlers of the vicinity were from Plymouth, in Devonshire, England. They gave the name of their beloved home in the old country to the new abiding place.
Many designations of places in Pennsylvania have had their origin in this way. If the immigrants were obliged to forego the pleasures of the home or their youth, they could at least perpetuate thus the dear old names to which their ears had been accustomed in the country they had left behind them. The fence that formerly separated the graveyard from that of the "orthodox" Friends, as they are usually termed, was allowed to fall into decay a quarter of a century ago, and was removed. There is now nothing to recall, so far as the burying-ground is concerned, the separation in the Society which occurred in 1827.
The circumstance may probably be accepted as an indication of the gradual softening of the asperities of that time.
II. THE EARLY SETTLERS
The record of early arrivals at Philadelphia shows that the ship "Desire," Captain James Cock commander, reached that place June 23, 1686.
Among its passengers were Francis Rawle, Francis Rawle, Jr., and the servants of the family who were Thomas Janvers, Francis Jervis, John MarsHall, Samuel Rennel, Isaac Garnier and Elizabeth Saries [or Sarles?]; James Fox and Elizabeth his wife, with their children, George, James, Elizabeth and Sarah, and their servants, Richard Fox, Stephen Nowel!, Christopher Lobb, Richard Davis, Nathaniel Christopher, Abraham Rowe, Mary Rowe, Mary Lucas and Sarah Jeffries.
Francis Rawle and James Fox had purchased from William Penn, the proprietor of Pennsylvania, before their departure for America, a tract of land which was, practically, the same as the present area of the township of Plymouth, 5327 acres.
Ezra Michener, in his "Retrospect of Early Quakerism," page 86, says, under the head of "Plymouth:"
" 1685. James Fox and other Friends settled about Plymouth in the year 1635? and held meetings at Fox's house. But they soon after removed from the place, and were succeeded by David Meredith and several Friends, who attended Merion Meeting."
As we have seen, James Fox and others did not arrive until June, 1686, so that Ezra Michener's question is well inserted in his statement There were no meetings, probably, until late in 1686. It is impossible, now, to fix the exact date when the first was held.
An old document states that by virtue of a warrant from the Commissioners of Property, dated Fourth-month 7, 1690, a tract of land in Philadelphia county was granted unto the Plymouth purchasers, together with six hundred acres which had been intended by the Proprietary, William Penn, for a town, containing in the whole five thousand acres, which was surveyed and laid out Fifth month 14, 1686. This was very soon after the arrival of Fox and the Rawles, so that they appear to have lost very little time in having their tract located and surveyed.
James Claypoole and Robert Turner, Commissioners empowered to grant land in Pennsylvania, on Fifth-month 5, 1686, had directed Capt. Thomas Holme, Surveyor General of the province, to survey five thousand acres of land together for a township, in the most convenient place for water for the encouragement of the woolen industry intended to be set up by the Friends of Plymouth. Others mentioned besides Fox and Rawle were Nicholas Pearce, Richard Gove and John Chelson. W. J. Buck says:
"It will be seen that Francis Rawle and James Fox must have been persons of some note and means to be at least the principal purchasers of the Plymouth tract, and undertake its improvement accompanied as they were by so many servants. The survey was made only three weeks after their arrival. There is no doubt they settled here immediately after the purchase, though published accounts have heretofore made it a year earlier, which the registry of arrivals proves to have been an error.
"After remaining several years and making considerable improvements, they became tired of their isolated life in the woods, and removed to Philadelphia, abandoning the settlement. In 1701 another survey was made of the whole tract, which was somewhat different from the former one. It was then mentioned as Plymouth township."
Some time after the removal to Philadelphia, James Fox died, and his widow, Elizabeth, in conjunction with Francis Rawle, the two being the principal owners of land in the township, proceeded to sell off several large tracts to various purchasers, the latter having been attracted by the fertility of the land and other advantages of the vicinity.
Arnong the newer arrivals were David Meredith, Thomas Owen, Isaac Price, Ellis Pugh, Hugh Jones and Edmund Cartlege, all of them, with others, from Wales, and all members of the Society of Friends. All these became settlers in the township, and their names frequently occur in connection with the Meeting records in the earlier years or the settlement. Many of the family names have entirely disappeared from the township.
David Meredith was one of the largest purchasers, buying in 1701 a tract of 980 acres, adjoining the line of Whitpain township, only a short distance from where is now the borough line of Norristown.
David Meredith left a number of descendants, as will appear further on in this volume, many interesting particulars in reference to him being given.
Some of the descendants of David Meredith continue to reside in Plymouth and neighboring districts to the present time, and some of them own portions of the original tract of land which was purchased by their ancestor, who came to this country more than two centuries ago.
Furthermore, the house which David Meredith erected and in which he lived for many years, is still standing, although built two hundred years ago.
Another purchaser of land in the township was John Maulsby, who bought in the neighborhood of Cold Point. Further on some account of those who bought land in the immediate vicinity of the meeting-house, will be presented in connection with the transfers of the property on which the meeting-house is located.
Among the earlier purchasers of land was Isaac Sheffer who bought of Rawle and Fox 472 acres in 1702. Sheffer immediately sold 244 acres to Lumley Williams. Further on, the deed from Lumley Williams for a portion of the meeting-house property will be given.
The following list of landholders in Plymouth township in 1734 is of interest:
Ellen Meredith, widow, 500 acres,
Rees Williams, 250;
Benjamin Dickinson, 100;
John Redwitzer, 200;
Peter Croll, 100;
John Hamer, 200;
Joshua Dickinson, 100;
Thomas Davis, l50;
Isaac Price, 328;
Joseph Jones, 200;
Mary Davis' estate. 400;
Jonathan Rumford, 200;
Henry Bell, 100;
Philip John, 200;
John Holton, 100.
Plymouth township contained 46 taxables in 1741, In 1828 the number was 228. In 1849 there were 484 taxables.
Besides the lime and agricultural industries iron ore digging has been very actively and profitably pursued in Plymouth township, providing employment for many persons, though of late years not to any great extent.
Most of the early settlers of Plymouth Meeting and vicinity were of English origin, as the names in the lists of taxables show. There was an admixture of Germain inmmigrants among them, Redwitzer, Crohl and others.
The Redwitzers originally settled in Germantown, whence they gradually drifted elsewhere.
A low tract of land, lying partly in Whltpain and partly in Plymouth, was known as "The Cloot," said to be a corruption of the Welsh word "clwt," a piece or "patch" of land, probably applied to low or swampy ground. A portion of the land of David Meredith was in the "Cloot."
The Davis family lived near the crossing of the Ridge road over Plymouth creek. A member of the family was captain in the American army during the Revolutionary War.
The Dickinsons emigrated from England to Virginia or Maryland about the middle of the seventeenth century, whence descendants removed to Pennsylvania after Penn came into possession of the province.
William Dickinson was the first of the family who settled in Plymouth. He was an ancestor of the Corson family, Joseph Corson, the father of Alan W. Corson and Dr. Hiram Corson, having married Hannah Dickinson.
The following is the population, according to various censuses;
1800, 572; ten years later, 895; 1820; 928; 1830, 1091 ; 1840, 1417; 1850, 1383.
Conshohocken's incorporation as a borough in 1850, subtracting 320 acres from its area, and the addition of 158 acres to the borough of Norristown when it was extended in 1853, reduced its poplation considerably.
In 1870 the number of inhabitants in the township was 2025 [second digit hard to read], which had decreased in ten years to 1916. In 1890 the population was 2244, according to the census figures.
The surface of Plymouth is gently rolling, and there are few if any districts of Montgomery county better adapted to farming, as heavy crops produced year after year abundantly testify.
The early settlers could have made no better selection for their future home, all things considered. They were comparatively near Philadelphia, which was desirable, as a matter of course.
The timber that once covered the entire area of the township, has been mostly cleared away—the combined effect of that and the drainage of the land being to diminish greatly the volume of water in the streams. Improved methods of agriculture have atoned largely for this, however, and maintained the fertility of the soil nearly in its former condition. There is no great amount of waste land in Plymouth at this time aside from that occupied by limestone quarries.
III. THE FIRST PLACE OF WORSHIP
There is no doubt as to the first settlement being made near the site of the meetinghouse. William Penn had conceived the somewhat original idea of founding a large town at this point. In 1686 he had ordered that six hundred acres be laid out and set apart for this purpose. There appears, however, not to have been any attempt to carry out his design.
The first place of worship in all the country round was undoubtedly located in the vicinity of the present meeting house, but it was held in a private house; first, probably, at the dwelling of James Fox, and afterwards at other Friends' houses as convenience or change in ownership suggested.
It is certain that no meeting-house had been erected in 1703 for the records of Haverford show that the meeting was still held in the Fox dwelling which at that time had come into the possession of Hugh Jones. It remained there for several years longer, and was then held at the residence of a member of the Cartlege famIly, not far distant, for a time.
The number of Friends in the settlement and in the township having considerably increased as time passed, it was decided that a meeting-house should be built on the site occupied by the present structure.
The older portion of the burying-ground is believed to have been made use of for that purpose from the earliest beginnings of the settlement. Various additions have been made to its area from time to time, as occasion required, as will be shown in a subsequent chapter.
It is somewhat remarkable that the exact date of the erection of the first meeting-house cannot now be ascertained, but such is the case. , It was undoubtedly built early in the eighteenth century, and some years prior to the time, Twelfth month, 1714, old style; when the Friends of Gwynedd and Plymouth were permitted by Haverford, the .parent meeting, to hold the first Monthly Meeting for themselves at Gwynedd.
The writer has very carefully examined for himself the records of Radnor and Haverford Monthly Meeting, and has found little information as to the earlier days of the meeting we are now considering, strange as it may seem. This fact merely illustrates the remissness that prevailed in keeping the records among Friends two centuries ago.
Under the date, Ninth month 12, 1702, the following entry appears:
"Friends about plimouth of the other side skoolkill propose to have a meeting first-day at Hugh Jones for six months and to have a weekly meeting to be kept by course at Davd. Wms., at Hugh Jones, at Lewis Thomas, which this meeting consents to if the Quarterly Meeting approve thereof, and to be transmitted to them for their approbation."
The Quarterly Meeting approved the proposition that Friends of Plymouth hold their meetings in this way, and it was so settled.
Fifth-month 13, 1704:
"Gwynedd and Plimouth friends informed the Meeting that they were willing in paying into the collection 1 lb. when Merion friends 2 lbs. and those of Radnor c£ 10s."
Seventh-month 14, 1704:
"Plimouth friends have brought an account that they have concluded that their fifth day weekly meeting be kept at Hugh Jones house hereafter constantly."
Ninth-month 12, 1713:
"Some friends propose to have a meeting at David Meredith's house on the fourth day of the week also till the end of the first month wch this meeting condescends to and does desire yt Plimouth friends whose conveniency requires a meeting at David Meredith's do also as often as they can conveniently attend the fifth day meeting at the meeting house."
Tenth-month 9, 1714:
"Likewise Plimouth overseers In ye Behalfof frds there propose yt their week day meeting he kept every other 5th day att ye meeting house and att Dd. Meredith's wch this meeting allows till ye end of 1st mo."
These extracts show very conclusively that there was no meeting-house until some years after 1700, and probably not before 1710.
The settlement, it should be borne in mind included several families on the Whitemarsh side of the township line where John Rhoads, Abraham Davis, and David Williams (the last named mentioned above) had located themselves.
Willlam Penn, in a letter from England to Thomas Lloyd, Fourth-month 14, 1691, had said; "Salute me to the Welsh Friends and the Plymouth Friends, indeed to all of them."
It would thus appear that there was no time, from the coming of Fox and the Rawles, when there were not a number of Friends in the neighborhood. It took years of very hard labor to make any impression on the wilderness around.
Their principal speaker was Ellis Pugh, a very remarkable man, of whom, fortunately; an interesting account has been preserved, which will be presented under its appropriate head.
From what has been said on the subject, the reader has probably obtained a tolerably clear idea of current knowledge in reference to the establishment of Plymouth meeting.
There is a noticeable lack of exact information on several points where it is desirable. On some of these a clearer light will be thrown, further on in this volume, by extracts from old documents, by citations from the records of friends, and in other ways.
IV. DAVID MEREDITH
Because of the fact that a meeting was regularly held at David Meredith's house some years prior to the erection of the meeting-house on the present site, it has been thought proper to devote this chapter to him, although the arrangement might be different if were deemed necessary to follow the chronological order.
David Meredith resided on that portion of his original purchase now owned by Thomas Dougherty and occupied by William Dettra, the buildings being but little more than a half-mile distant from the borough line of Norristown. The entrance is from the Arch Street road, at the last turn before reaching the old Germantown road, the house being at an almost equal distance from each highway.
The buildings are located close to Nye bank of the little stream known as "Saw Mill run," which flows through the lower part of Norristown and empties into the Schuylkill near the point where Arch street would terminate were it extended to the river.
This location is in accordance with the almost universal custom of the early settlers in building close to streams of water, large or small, as happened to be the case. Convenience to water was of prime importance to man and beast and it was seldom overlooked by the pioneers who founded homes for themselves and their families in the Strange Land to which they had come.
There is a sharp declivity from Arch street to the house, the descent being more gradual from the Germantown road. The portion of the house which is nearest to the last-mentioned thoroughfare remains very much as it was in David Meredith's time, almost two centuries ago. The identical room in which were held the meetings mentioned in the last chapter, is still in existence and it has undergone comparatively little change in the course of nearly two hundred years.
The old house has been frequently remodeled, the last time by the late Andrew Hart, who owned the property from 1848 until his death a few years ago, his heirs having conveyed it to Thomas Dougherty, the present proprietor, in the year 1896. The last remodeling occurred nearly forty years ago.
The room is now nearly square with a large door in front, that is, on the side towards the rivulet, which was doubtless a much more important stream when the primeval forest still covered a large part of the slope which it drains, and a comparatively small part of it had been placed under thorough cultivation.
Several members of Andrew Hart's family who were familiar with the appearance of the old "meeting room" before any alterations had been made, have informed the writer that a partition extended across the room, dividing it into two nearly equal portions, one for the men, the other for the women, as was the custom among Friends in constructing their places of worship.
This partition extended from the door in front to the one at the rear of the room which has long been closed up, a glance at the wall outside showing very plainly the outlines of the opening. The partition was so constructed that it swung on rude binges, and could thus be raised and secured to hooks fastened in one of the joists above, throwing both divisions into one, when occasion required it.
It is possible that seventy-five persons might have been accommodated in the room, and when some famous preacher visited the settlement, the doors were probably thrown open, especially in summer, giving an opportunity to many hearers ranged outside to listen to the spoken word.
Capacious chimneys still remain, but a wall which extended across the cellar directly under the partition, as if to support it, has been recently removed. At certain seasons of the year a spring of water develops itself is the cellar which may have been perennial in David Meredith's time.
The house is an interesting relic of antiquity, and should be preserved for years to come.
about three hundred yards below the house are the ruins of the saw-mill which was doubtless so efficient an aid in converting the oak, poplar and maple trees into boards and other lumber in years gone by. The limits of the old dam whence came the supply of water to operate the mill can be distinctly traced, just below the main road, the race down which the water flowed to do its work at the saw-mill below, being outlined on the slope opposite the house.
It is no doubt a century almost since the dismantled mill ceased its operations. It had apparently been idle for years when the Harts came to reside on the farm a half-century ago.
David Meredith was born in Wales in the year 1637. He was one who in his youth became convinced of the truth of Friends' principles, for he was among the followers of George Fox who suffered persecution as early, it has been stated, as 1660.
In Eleventh-month, 1663, David Meredith, with others, was imprisoned because he could not conscientiously take an oath required of him.
He, in common with many of his brethren, hailed with delight the opportunity to begin life anew in the province beyond the Atlantic which had been secured for his own people, as well as the persecuted and oppressed of every nation, through the wisdom and foresight of Penn. Treated with contumely, if not harassed with violence or cast into a loathsome prison because of their conscientious devotion to what they believed their duty in the matter of worship, it is not remarkable that they responded gladly to the invitation of Penn.
There are said to have been five brothers of the name who came to Pennsylvania, and that the coming of David, who was probably the oldest of them, was several years in advance of the others. He settled first in Radnor; one of his brothers in the Great Valley in Chester county; the third in Gwynedd; the fourth near Chester, and the fifth in Virginia.
The Meredith family to which David belonged, owned property in the parish of Llandoghy, in Radnorshire, Wales. David Meredith's purchase which, as we have already seen, was made from Rawle and Fox and not directly from Penn, included 980 acres on both sides of the "Great Road," now the Germantown road, extending to the line of Whitpain's purchase, now Whitpain township, on one side, and to the line of Norriton on the northwest embracing the entire northern corner of Plymouth township. The boundaries in his deed follow:
"Beginning at a stake dividing it from Richard Hayes' land; thence extending northeast by a line of marked trees dividing it from reputed land of Benjamin Chambers to a corner marked hickory, 311 perches; thence southeast by a line of marked trees 400 perches to a stake, dividing it from John Wood's land; thence southwest by a line of marked trees four hundred and seventy perches to a stake set in the ground; thence northwest 142 perches; thence by a line of marked trees, dividing it from said Hayes' land, northeast, 82 perches; thence northwest, 320 perches, to place of beginning."
Some of the boundaries were one and one-half miles in length. The witnesses were Sarah Meredith, Mary Williams, Owen Williams, Catharine Yarnall.
David Meredith had three daughters, sisters of Meredith David.
One married Reese Price,
one a Harry
and another a Ferlamb.
David Meredith is frequently spoken of as having been a preacher, and it is probable that he had a word of exhortation occasionally, especially at the meetings held at his own house. So many misstatements have been made in regard to him that it is eminently proper to confine what is said in this connection to authentic records, which has been the aim of the writer.
He made his will the 28th of the Ninth month, 1723. It is as follows:
"Be it known unto all Men whom it may concern by these Presents that I David Meredith of ye township of Plymouth in ye county of Philadelphia & province of Pennsilvania being of a sound & perfect mind & memory do make & ordain this my Last Will and Testament in manner & form as followeth.
"First & principally I recommend my body soul & spirit unto my Saviour and Creator's hand for all is his and my body to be decently buried according to ye discretion of my Executors hereafter named Also I will that all my Debts both of right and Conscience be paid and discharged.
"Also I give to my daughter Sarah's children after my decease Edward Price, Mary Price, Margaret Price, thirty pounds viz a bonnd on Thomas Ellis of twenty pounds and a bond on John Shires of tenn pounds to be equally divided among them beside ye bonnd of twenty nine pounds wch is in Rees Price hand for Mary and Margaret all to be put to Interest by ye Executors and trustees or ye survivors of them till they are of the age of twenty one years old and if either of them dies the survivors is to have his share but if in case they all dye it is to return to my son Meredith David's children.
"Also I give to my son Meredith David all the rest of my Estate both real and Temporal and so make him my son Meredith David my sole Executor of this my last Will and Testament revoking all other wills and Testaments lwre heretofore made by me.
"Lastly I nominate Peeter Jones, John Moore, David Jones and Rees Preys to see this my Last will and testament fullfilled.
"In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 18th day of ye ninth Month in ye year One thou-and seven hundred and twenty three."
The will was signed by David Meredith with his "mark" which resembled a capital "O."
The witnesses were William Coulston, Thomas Ellis, John Rees.
Thc will was proved May 13, 1727, Thomas Ellis and John Rees appearing before Peter Evans, Registrar General, at Philadelphia, for that purpose.
The eminent preacher, Thomas Chalkley, visited David Meredith, as may be seen by reference to his "Journal," edition of 1749, page 182, where he says:
"In the Fourth month I left my Family, and went back in the Woods as far as Oley. I was from Home nine Days travelled about one hundrcd and fifty miles, and had six meetings at Oley, Perkiomen, and divers other Places, chiefly ln Barns and open Places, there being large Companies of People, and few Meeting-houses yet built in those Parts of the Country. In this journey I suffered pretty much thro' the heat. The first Meeting was at the Iron-works settled a little beyond a Place called Mount Misery; I was concerned for those People, having heard of their rude Doings before I left my Habitation; and attho' some were rude, others behaved themselves soberly, and expressed their Thankfulness for that Visitation as I do for Opportunity I had of clearing myself to them. In my return homewards I cross'd Schuylkill, and went to Samuel Nutt's Iron-works, where I had a large quiet, solid Meeting; And the next Day I called to see my old Friend David Meredith, who being about 89 years of Abe, I thought it probable I might not have another Opportunity of seeing him. He met me with gladness, and told me, It was their meeting-day; so that I stay'd, and was much comforted and tendered by the Power of Christ; after which l came home that Night."
The visit of Thomas Chalkley occurred in 1726, David died the next year, as has been stated.
Between the signing of the will and the death of his father, Meredith David died, and letters of administration with the will annexed were granted to his son Ellis Meredith, grandson of the testator. Another David, brother of Ellis, appears to have died suddenly as well as his grandfather, for a nuncupative will was proved by Thomas Ellis and Ellis Roberts, he having declared in their presence on the day he Died that it was his will to give to Susannah Jones (piobably his betrothed), forty pounds, the date being First-month 10, 1726-7.
Ellis did not live long afterward, however. By his will dated June 20, 1728, he left to Moses and Aaron Meredith, all the real estate in Plymouth which had descended from their ancestor, 862 acres, subject to payments to Catharine, wife of Mordecai Yarnall; Mary, wife of Owen Williams, and Sarah Meredith, all of whom in 1738 granted a release to Moses and Aaron for their interest in the land.
By a deed of partition dated February 20, 1738, recorded in Deed-Book G, Vol. 6, page 296, at the Recorder of Deeds' office, Philadelphia, Moses and Aaron Meredith, described as "grandsons of David Meredith," divided the tract of 862 acres which "by divers deeds and conveyances" had become their property.
Moses, by this deed of partition, took full title to two tracts, containing respectively 259 and 152 acres. Aaron took also two tracts, containing respectively 211 1/2 acres and 191 acres and 122 perches.
Aaron's purchase included the old homestead and house in which their ancestor lived and died, containing the meeting-room which has been described, and which has outlasted all the alterations and remodelings that have taken place in a period of more than a century and a-half.
At Airon's death he left only one child, a daughter Phebe, intermarried with Isaac Williams.
On December 2, 1816, Isaac Williams, Jr., Joseph Mather and Isaac Williams, Sr., conveyed the property to Joseph Williams who, the same day, deeded 142 acres 66 perches to Isaac Williams and Joseph Mather, including the original house, part of which still remains.
On lsaac Williams' death, his administrators, Joseph Williams and Samuel Paul, deeded his half-interest to Joseph Mather, the other owner, who thus became the sole proprietor.
In the meantime two small lots had been sold, one to Jesse Meredith and one to Jacob Aaron. A tract of forty acres had been previously sold to John Hart, now part of the Relf tract. From Joseph Mather the tract descended to his children, the other heirs deeding their interest to Phebe W. Mather and Sarah P. Mather who in turn some years afterward conveyed the farm, then containing 93 acres and 51 perches, to Andrew Hart, whence it passed to the present owner, Thomas Dougherty, as has been stated.
The tract owned by David Meredith has been subdivided into a dozen farms or more. A portion of it lying east of the Germantown road, owned by the late Jesse Meredith, was recently purchased by his nephew, John M. Jones, a lineal descendant of the original settler and purchaser of the entire tract, constituting nearly one-fifth of the area of the township.
Among the farms which are a part of the original Meredith tract are the Aaron farm, 80 acres; William Shuman, 80 acres; Samuel Rhoads, nearly the same quantity; the Samue! Richards farm, the Relf property, as already mentioned, and several others.
The Germantown road, on both sides of which lay the Meredith purchase, is one of the oldest in the vicinity. It was laid out to Philadelphia as a "cart road," Second-month, 1687, on petition of James Fox and other settlers to the council of the then new Province of Pennsylvania. It was made a turnpike in 1801-4.
In this connection, it may be mentioned that a deed from Francis Rawle and Nicholas Pearce to Edmund Cartelidge (also spelled Cartlege), for 500 acres, on record in. Pliladelphia, recites that William Penn's deed for 2500 acres in Plymouth township to Rawle and Pearce, being that portion of the tract adajacent to the Schuylkill river, was dated on March 12 -13, 1685. The deed thus named fixes the time of the original purchase.
The records of Radnor Monthly Meeting show that Meredith David, the son of the man of whom this chapter treats, was married in 1699, just two hundred years ago.
The marriage certificate is still in existence, in the possession of one of his descendants. He is described as a bachelor of "Radnor in the Welsh Tract," and his bride as Ellen Ellis, of the same place. They were married at Radnor meeting.
The meeting must have been particularly large on this occasion, as no less than 250 names of witnesses are said to have been appended to the certificate.
V. ELLIS PUGH
Among the early settlers of Plymouth, none was more notable, perhaps, than Ellis Pugh, who was born in Dolgelly, Wales, in 1656. He became "convinced" of the truth of friends' principles by the preaching of an able minister, John ap John, as were many others of his generation. He became a member of the Society in 1674, and a minister six years later.
The surname Pugh was originally ap Hugh, that is, son of Hugh, which became shortened into "Pugh," as ap Rees in the same way became Prees and ultimately Price. Ellis Pugh reached Pennsylvania in 1687, and soon afterward settled in Plymouth.
In the year 1706 he went on a religious visit to Wales, returning in 1708, when it was completed. About this time he wrote a work in the Welsh language, which was translated by his friend Rowland Ellis and revised by David Lloyd, and printed in Philadelphia by S. Keimer in 1727. Some copies of the work are still in existence. It is a small volume of 222 pages, and is particularly interesting on account of its early publication.
The title of the book is characteristic of that day, when it was customary to fill the title-page with a sort of digest of the contents of the volume. It is as follows:
"A Salutation to the Britons, to Call Them from many Things to the ane Thing Needful for the Saving of their Souls; Especially to the Poor, unarmed Travelers, Plowmen, Shepherds and those that are of low Degree like myself.
"This is in order to direct you to know God and Christ, the only wise God, which is life eternal, and to learn of Him that you may become wiser than their Teachers."
The following interesting account of the life and religious labors of Ellis Pugh is found in a "Collection of Memorials" concerning deceased ministers and others in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and parts adjacent, from nearly the first settlement to the year 1687; it is partly extracted from a memorial of Gwynedd Monthly Meeting of Friends in regard to him, and partly from a short summary of his life, both of the articles being prefixed to his book, "A Salutation to the Britons."
"Ellis Pugh was born in the parish of Dolgelly, in the county of Merioneth, and dominion of Wales, in the sixth month, 1656. His parents were religious people; but his father died before he was born, and his mother a few days after. In the days of his youth, when going with the multitude into folly, it pleased God, by his judgment, to stand in his way, and cause him to consider the things that belonged to his soul's everlasting peace. And in the eighteenth year of his age, the Lord visited him more eminently, kindling a zeal in him to serve his Creator more diligently; having been also reached by the testimony of Jobn-ap.John, one of the people called Quakers.
"God, who promised to be a father to the fatherless, took care of him; and about the year 1680, gave him a part in the ministry of the Gospel of Christ, notwithstanding he was not one of the wise of this world, nor had human learning; yet he was made a profitable instrument to turn divers from vanity, and to exhort and strengthen many in their spiritual journey, in his native land, and also in this country, where he finished his course.
"In the year 1686, he and his family, with divers of his acquaintance, prepared to come over to Pennsylvania, and whilst they waited for the ship to be ready, there came great trouble and exercise upon him, so that he was sick for some days; in which strait the Lord showed him, that they should meet with troubles and exercises in their way, and that He had a work for him in that country, and must sometime return to his native land. After they sailed, they met with storms, straits, and troubles; and having been upon the tempestuous sea all winter, they arrived at Barbadoes, where they were joyfully and lovingly received by their friends.
"The summer following, in the year 1637, they arrived in Pennsylvania where this our friend was a serviceable instrument in the Lord's hand, to cherish and instruct us, in meekness and tenderness, to obey that which God made known unto us of his will, and to follow and understand the operation of his Spirit, discovering to us the snares of the enemy of our souls.
"His pious labors, with those of others that were fitted for the same service, have been profitable in directing and edifying us in the way of Truth; for by the tenderness and influence which came as dew upon our souls, whi!e we at under his ministry, we believed his doctrive was of God.
"In the year 706 he was engaged to visit the inhabitants of his native country, according to what the Lord had revealed unto him before he came from thence: which service he performed to the benefit and acceptance of many, and returned to his family in 1708.
"After he came home, three of his children, in the flower of their age, who from their youth had walked orderly, and were hopeful, died within one month; in the time of which trial, the Lord was near unto him: he mourned not as one without hope. Strength was given him to bear his affliction. He said in a public meeting: "If he could bear his affliction acceptably in the sight of God, it would be as marrow to his bones," which testimony amongst several other things was to the edification and comfort of the hearers. His residence was then nearer to us than before, which rendered his life and conversation more conspicuous, and his fellowship more known unto us.
"His ministry was living, profitable, and to edifcation, He was of a meek and quiet spirit, considerate and solid in his judgment, of few words, honest and careful in this calling; and several were induced to speak of the benefit they received by his chaste conversation, and his loving and comfortable expressions while he was amongst them in their families. He was honorable among his friends and of good report among all people generally, therefore his memory will not soon wear out.
"He was in a declining state of bodily health about a year and three months before his decease, so that be was not well able to follow his calling; but his candle shone even brighter, as may be seen by perusing his treatise called 'A Salutation to the Britons,' which he wrote in his own language, in the time of his long sickness when his view was to -wards that which pertains to eternity; more especially to those, or for the sake of those, to whom the salutation of his life reached over sea and land; for the encouragement and instruction of them that were seeking the way to Zion, the New Jerusalem, the city of the Great King, whose walls and bu!warks are salvation.
"In the last meeting he was at among us, he was weak in body; but fervent in sprit, as one taking his last leave in a great deal of love and tenderness, saying, that the Lord granted him his desire to come and visit us once more; putting us in mind to live in peace and unity, and to keep out from amongst us, as much as we could, all strife and discord; and when any thing appeared which had a tendency thereunto, that hands should be laid without delay to end it, and that none should depend upon his own hand, eye, or balance in judgment.
"He was fitted to counsel others, because his life and conversation was answerable to his testimony; amongst his family tender, and careful to counsel them to live in the fear of God.
"We looked upon him as one who had finished his work, that the time of his dissolution drew nigh; and that he might say in the words of Paul, according to his measure: 'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.'
"He was patient in his tedious indisposition, and contented to wait the Lord's time; and he slept with his fathers on the third day of the Tenth month, 1718, in favor with God."
The coming of so many leaders in the Society to America caused their loss to be severely felt in Great Britain, and especially in Wales.
Men like David Meredith, Ell's Pugh and others who will be mentioned later, were sadly missed in the meeting, and the emigration to Pennsylvania, while it built up a strong body of Friends in this country, gave those on the other side of the Atlantic a blow from which they never fully recovered.
Aniong the marriages in records of Haverford Monthly, Meeting, to which Plymouth Friends belonged prior to the establishment of Gwynedd Monthly Meeting, is that of Ellis Pugh, Jr., of Plymouth, eldest son of Ell's Pugh, to Mary Evan, eldest daughter of Owen Evan, of Gwynedd, at a public sheeting, Third-month 3, 1708.
The testimony concerning Ellis Pugh, which has been given in full, was "signed on behalf of the Monthly Meeting by John Hugh, Edward Foulke, John Humphrey, Edward Robert, Hugh Griffith, Meredith David, Thomas Pugh, Rowland Ellis, David Meredith, Thomas Evan, Robert Evan, Owen Evan, Cadwallader Evan, Robert Jones, Evan Evens, John Evans." It is probable that these were among the principal members of the meeting at that time.
VI. OTHER EARLY MINISTERS
Other ministers of Plymouth meeting in its earlier days were Rowland Ellis and William Trotter, some account of whom may be given in this chapter. As a matter of course, there were some other speakers, of whom little or nothing has come down to the present generation.
Rowland Ellis was the close friend of Ellis Pugh, as has been stated, translating his "Salutation to the Britons" from the Welsh language in which it was written, and doubtless making the necessary arrangements for its publication.
There was naturally a feeling of near kinship among the Welsh settlers, who retained the knowledge of their mother tongue, although they soon learned enough English to make themselves understood by their brethren.
Rowland Ellis appears to have been well versed in both tongues. He has left on record testimonies in reference to Robert Owen and Jane his wife and others which are of great value.
Rowland Ellis came from Wales in 1697. He was a minister, whose services were acceptable and to edification. He is described as a man of sound judgment, was ready and willing to assist his neighbors and friends in all cases, civil or religious, when desired, and was a very useful man in the community.
The following memorial of Gwynedd Monthly Meeting gives additional facts in regard to Rowland Ellis, and conveys some idea of the esteem in which he was held by those who had the best opportunity of knowing him:
"Our ancient and esteemed friend, Rowland Ellis, was born in the year 1650, in Merioneth, North Wales, convinced of the truth about the twenty-second year of his age, suffered several years imprisonment with constancy on account of his testimony, it being then a time of sore persecution; the two judges who committed him with many others for refusing to take the oath of allegiance and supremacy, declared openly at the assizes, That in case they refused a second time to take it, they should be proceeded against as traitors, the men hanged and quartered and the women burned.' In 1686, he came over into Pennsylvania to prepare for a settlement for his wife and family, with whom he returned in the year 1697.
"He was endued with a gift in the ministry, and tho' not very frequent in appearance therein, his service was acceptable and to edification; being of sound judgment, ready and willing to assist his neighbors and friends in all cases civil or religious as desired.
"He was zealous for supporting our christian discipline, and exemplary in conducting himself agreeable therewith, sometimes saying 'If the hedge of discipline was not kept up, the labor of the husbandmen would very soon be laid waste,'
"He was careful in educating his children religiously, by timely endeavoring to inculcate in them the principles of piety and virtue. A practice of his, tending thereto, was having meetings frequently in his family, which he long continued.
"In the last monthly meeting he attended he was taken unwell, but afterwards said to divers friends present, 'I am glad I was here today, for I had a lively meeting, and the I now feel much weakness and the infirmities attending my advanced age, yet I can say, truth is as dear and as sweet as ever.' He also said, 'Satan sometimes lies in wait like a roaring lion to devour me, but I find he is chained by a secret hand which limits his power, so that he cannot harm me.
"His indisposition continued a few days, which he bore with christian patience, expressing 'His sense of his near arrival at the haven of rest and quiet, where none wou!d make him afraid.'
"He expired at the house of his son-in-law, John Evans, in the eightieth year of his age, and was interred in Friends burying-ground at Plymouth, (to which particular meeting he belonged) in the seventh month, 1729. Concerning whom we trust it may be said, he rests, enjoying the reward of the righteous, and his works do follow."
William Trotter was another minister at Plymouth. The following is the testimony of Gwynedd Monthly Meeting in reference to his life, religious labors, death and burial.
"Our friend, William Trotter, late of Plymouth, in the county of Philadelphia, son of William Trotter, was born in the fourth month, 1695, of religious parents, and was educated amongst Friends. "As he grew in years, he was blessed, in that he grew in grace, and in the fear and knowledge of our blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
"About the twenty-first year of his age, he received a gift in the ministry, in which he was frequently exercised during the course of his life. His ministry was sound and savory, and attended with a remarkably good degree of that life and power 'By which the dead are raised, and without which all preaching is vain.'
"He was not tedious or burdensome but often very reaching and edifying to his hearers. In his life and conversation he was grave, yet innocently cheerful, and strictly just in his dealings, also a lover and promoter of peace, unity, and brotherly love amongst friends, of which himself was a good pattern.
"He was generally beloved during his life, and at his death left a good savour. His removal from time to a happy eternity, though certainly his greatest gain, was a considerable loss to the meeting where he belonged.
"He departed this life on the 19th of the Tenth month, 1749, aged about fifty three years and six months, and was interred on the twenty-first of the same month in Friends' burying-ground at Plymouth; and we believe is gone from his laborious service to receive a heavenly reward of peace where the 'wicked cease from troubling, and the weary be at rest.' "
VII. TRAITS OF WELSH SETTLERS
In the latter part of this volume, an account is given of the ministers at Plymouth Meeting of later generations, those who have been mentioned in chapters previous to this, having been identified with its earlier history. As a rule the latter were of Welsh nativity, and most of the earlier settlers in the immediate vicinity were also of that nationality. The names of Welsh origin are readily distinguished at a glance, including Meredith, David, Pugh and Ellis.
The list of taxables for 1734 illustrates this point. Among the Welsh names it contains are Meredith, Williams, Price, Jones and John.
What has been already given is sufficient, perhaps, to convey some idea of their characteristics, but it may not be amiss, at this point, to call the reader's attention to the prominent traits of the settlers who formed so large a proportion of the land owners of Colonial times, and whose descendants are an influential element of the population or this section of Montgomery county at the present day.
The thrifty habits of the Welsh emigrants made them prosperous. They became large lard owners and accumulated wealth which was handed down to their descendants, from generation to generation.
To comprehend fully the traits of the Welsh settlers, it is necessary to go back much further than Penn's time. The men and women who listened to the preaching of John ap John, and were convinced by what they heard of the truth of Friends' principles, were the product of ages gone before in which these sturdy "Britons," as Ellis Pugh calls them, maintained their ground in their own land against all the force the English could employ in the work of conquering them.
They were well fitted to embrace the view: of the lowly and despised Quaker. The history and traditions of the race peculiarly qualified them, even more than their English brethren, to brave the fury of the tempest of persecution which the disciples of Fox and Penn encountered.
Their inherited independence and self-reliance rendered most acceptable to them the cardinal doctrine of Friends —a Divine Light shining in each soul which rcvea!s to each individual the Divine will concerning himself.
The early Friends were a wonderfully favored people in some respects.
Though they were exposed to a pitiless storm of persecution, there were gains to balance such loss. Fines and imprisonment, magisterial tyranny and priestly malediction could not swerve from their fixed methods of worship the believers in the communion of man with his Creator and loving Father. Reproach and denunciation had little effect on the stedfast disciples of the Inner Light—the God in man-.whose right to rule and reign in every heart they accepted without any question.
Their faith in inward revelation, founded on the declaration of Jesus--The kingdom of Heaven is within you—sustained them in every emergency. They recognized it as directing rightly all who cherished it and obeyed its leading, enabling them to attain to that measure of perfection in act and thought towards which all the children of men are called upon to strive.
To them as to all who obey the word which is "older than all preached gospels," this heavenly messenger became a guide, a guardian, an enlightener, a present he!per in every needful time. They held this Divine visitant sufficient for all things—temporal as well as spiritual—a quickening spirit, a living teacher, teaching as man in all the panoply of priesthood and all the arrogance and pride of ecciesiastical authority, has never taught and never can teach.
The penalties and privations which they sufferc1 were effective only to confirm them in the religious faith to which they clung with the tenacity ofone who, after long searching, has found what he deems a treasure which is beyond all price.
Dungeons had no terrors for men and women who heard in every place the still small voice of Divine inspiration, the love of God filling their hearts with a peace and comfort "passing all understanding." They could be robbed of their worldly possessions, separated from their families, cast into loathsome prisons, but they could not be deprived of that communion with the spirit which was to their souls like dew from Heavcn falling at night upon the parched and thirsty earth.
The persecution encountered by Welsh Friends, as well as those of England, was effective only in spreading their principles, and in greatly increasing their number. The name "Quaker" applied at first in derision, came to be regarded as an honorable term, because those who bore it conducted themselves so as to make it worthy of honor.
There has been no time in the listory of the Society when the tide of religious fervor rose higher, or when its members were more earnest, more devoted, more thoroughly imbued with the true Quaker spirit, than when Geergc Fox and his companion, John ap John, traveled up and down among the towns, the villages, and the country homes of the principality, as it was commonly called, preaching the new gospel of the Christ within the hope of glory--the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.
John ap John has been appropriately termed the "Apostle of Quakerism in Wales." He well earned the title. It is to be noted that nearly every Welsh Friend of whom mention is made, attributed his "convincement" to the preaching of John ap John.
To understand clearly the traits of the Welsh sett!ers of Plymouth who came at the invitation of Penn to people the fertile valleys of his Province, it is necessary to bear in mind that they were descendants of the unconquered Britons who preferred to retire into the remote portions of the island rather than yield to the Romans, the Saxons, the Danes or the Normans.
Thomas Allen Glenn, in his "Merion in the Welsh tract," says, speaking of the Saxon conquest: "Step by step, and foot by foot, fighting desperately for each farm and village, the Britons retreated towards the west coast. But the conquest was not a brief one, and it was not until the eighth century that the stubborn Welsh consented to do homage to Saxon England, nor was that homage then of a servile kind; for we learn that the Cymric princes sat in the frequent Parliaments which were held by the early English kings, particularly those which mark the reign of the great and good Athelstan.
"The Britons had in early times accepted the Christian religion, to which they devoted themselves with a singular piety. In their belief, however, they were still swayed by the old teachings of the Druids, and never accepted in their entirety the doctrines or dogmatic rules insisted upon by the Roman See."
How natural that they eagerly accepted the offer of Penn to migrate to a country where they were promised freedom of conscience and the right to worship God as they chose, with none to molest them or make them afraid.
After many an encounter, in which the Llewellyns, famed in song and story, Owen Glendower and others contended against the might of England, the monarchs of that country, taught by experience, learned that the Welsh could be conquered by kindness, but never by violence.
It is unnecessary to dwell upon the cruelty which marked the treatment of the converts of John ap John in Wales They are all set forth in Sewell's and other histories of the time. The story of the "Convincement of Evan Morris," by his son, Morris Morris, pages 77-82 of "Old Richland Families," is a pathetic narration of ills to which many were subjected because they embraced the faith of Fox.
The remnant of the ancient Cymric race mingled in the course of many centuries with their English neighbors, but their primitive characteristics, while they were motifed somewhat by such contact, were not entirely lost. In their remote corner of the island of Great Britain, they were much less exposed than the English people to the transforming influences which are encountered in the course of a dozen or more centuries.
Their individuality as a race and their self-dependence were retained through the long tide of years, transmitted from father to son as the generations passed, in the endless procession of time. The bards kept alive the remembrance of ancient courage. The memory of old-time glory, thus embalmed in verse, was perpetuated for ages, becoming a national inheritance. In Pennsylvania they became the trusted friends of the proprietor, and were able to assist very materially in the upbuilding of the Commonwealth founded by Penn in the new world.
The early Welsh settlers in America transmitted to their posterity their prominent traits, and their identity has by no means been entirely lost, after the lapse of two centuries, nor is it likely to be for a long time to come.