Notes on the Early History of Berwyn

Gleaned from a Paper Appearing in the Current Issue of the Tredyffrin-Easttown History Club Quarterly (circa 1952)

At the time of earliest immigration to the region of Berwyn, the wooded crest of the steep and rocky So. Valley Hill formed a natural barrier to extended settlement along the line of Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships. With the fertile Chester Valley to the north and good farming land, when cleared, to the south, why bother with breaking and clearing the ground a mile or so to each side of what is now Conestoga Road?

This, evidently, was the thought of our first settlers, a group of Welshmen; purchasers following their countrymen, Howell James, grantee in the decade before 1700 of one thousand acres; extending from Tredyffrin, across Easttown, to Newtown. Prior to 1700, James sold off a two hundred fifty acre piece of his ground, lying along the Tredyffrin line and extending to the south on both sides of what is now Waterloo Road, to near the foot of Waters' Hill. This ground lay practically undeveloped in a number of different ownerships, mainly Welsh, until 1723, when it was sold to Peter Elliott a Radnor Blacksmith. Elliot sold fifty acres of his purchase, down the little valley of Darby Creek, to his son Morris, and left his name to a road opened northwardly to Conestoga Road. It is probably that he had his home and blacksmith shop at the spring (now no longer to be seen) west of the Bronze Works, but it appears that little was done with the remaining two hundred acres until it came into Llewellyn family ownership twenty odd years later. A part of this ground would now be considered the heart of Berwyn.

Immediately to the south of the two hundred acre tract, however, the story is different. In 1703 Howell James sold five hundred acres of his larger tract to Edward Hugh or Hughes. The latter conveyed his northernmost one hundred acres for the benefit of his sister, Margaret Hugh Davies, wife of Philip, and her heirs. This ground was known as Travelgwyn. It was fair soil and from here southwardly the little band of Welshmen settled with their families and cleared, broke and farmed the land. They soon united with their countrymen to the south and southeast to form the ancient Episcopal parish of St. David's Church, established their burial ground along the Welsh line, north of the present junction of Newtown and Sugartown Roads, and near Mr. Young's stable.

This ground east of the Welsh line was long known as The Graveyard Field. According to tradition it was strongly urged as the site for St. David's Church which, in 1715 was to be built at the joint corners of Radnor, Newyown and Easttown Townships. In the erection of the Church, its maintenance and the work of the parish, these devout Welshmen and their descendants bore a prominent part. Members of the several families still live in Easttown. In 1723 a part of Travelgwyn with its stone house was sold; the name then appearing as Grove Hall.

In the year 1710 a road was laid out along the Welsh line to pass by or near the line of present Walnut Avenue to Tredyffrin. Its path lay near the present High School, thence to the Swedesford Road and to Jarmen's Mill north of Paoli, for many years known as Great Valley Mills. Conestoga Road was soon to join the earlier road and later Grubb's Mill Road came in from Crum Creek in Willistown, across Easttown somewhat to the east of present Leopard Road. Soon the Howellville Road and Conestoga Road intersection was of considerable importance and a little settlement appeared, to be known later as Cockletown, of which the Neilley house is the nearest of a number of ancient log or stone houses still standing nearby in Tredyffrin.

If traditions be true, as in part they probably are, this little hamlet was not looked upon with great favor by the straight-laced Welshmen to the south of Waters' Hill. It was, however, to form the first real village part of Berwyn. With the growing importance of the great Conestoga Road it was to thrive lustily. The Reeses and other prominent people were to clear the land and farms were to appear. Somewhat later, the Llewellyns were to become very active in Easttown and development along its north line appeared. Between 1790 and 1800 the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike came through Easttown south of the line of the railroad. The Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad followed in 1832, and between the old Welsh settlement at the foor of Waters' Hill and Old Cockletown, Berwyn as we know it now was to begin its steady growth, to be augments by the great developments along the Main Line following the Centennial.