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History of Tredyffrin Township

Tredyffrin History
Few townships in Pennsylvania are as rich in history as Tredyffrin Township, which is located at the easternmost edge of Chester County, Pennsylvania. In the center of the Township lies the rich and fertile Great Valley, beginning at Valley Forge and running west toward Coatesville. The earliest settlers were Welsh, and to them, the Township owes its name. Ten or Tre is the Welsh word for town or township, and Dyffrin means a wide cultivated valley; from these words comes the compound tre (tree) dyffryn (valley), or Tredyffrin, meaning a township in a wide cultivated valley.

The Township had its beginning in 1682 when a group of Welsh Quakers went to William Penn in England and purchased, at a price of ten cents an acre, forty thousand acres of land in southeastern Pennsylvania. Penn promised the Quakers that here they could enjoy their customs and language in a little "barony" of their own. This land was originally known as the Welsh Tract and included within its boundaries parts of nine subsequent townships in four counties.

By 1707, Tredyffrin's population was large enough for it to be incorporated as a township. After they had cleared their land and established farms, the most pressing requirements for the early settlers became a mill to grind grain, a meetinghouse for their spiritual needs, and a market where they could sell produce. An example of meeting these needs was the construction of the Great Valley Mill, one of Tredyffrin's first mills. It was in operation by 1710, possibly even earlier, and was built by Thomas Jarman, a noted preacher and miller, on 300 acres of land by Valley Creek (it is now located on North Valley Road in Malvern).

Early Tredyffrin Churches
Churches were founded early. The Church of England's log cabin was built in 1700, Great Valley Presbyterian's original building in 1714, the Baptist Church of the Great Valley in 1711, and Valley Friend's meeting in 1781. The Old Eagle School was built in 1776 by German Lutherans who did not find it easy to live with the Welsh Quakers. They moved on, and the next Lutheran church in the Township was established in 1960 when the Township had undergone considerable change.

Tredyffrin & the Revolution
During the American Revolution, the British army was encamped along the south side of Swedesford Road between Howellville and New Centerville. Sir William Howe, British commander in chief, made his headquarters at the home of Samuel Jones on the corner of Contention Lane and Old State Road. Lord Cornwallis, who succeeded Howe as commander in chief, made his quarters at the Reese homestead on Cassatt Road.

A few months later, the American Army arrived in Tredyffrin for a winter encampment at Valley Forge from December 1777 to June 1778. Many of Washington's generals made their quarters in the homes of Tredyffrin farmers during that winter. Generals Lafayette and DuPortail were in the homes of Samuel and John Havard. Generals Lee and Bradford stayed with David Havard in a house still standing in Chesterbrook. Lord Stirling lived with Reverend William Currie on Yellow Springs Road in what is now Valley Forge National Historic Park. Wayne's Quarters were in the home of his cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Walker on Walker Road, while General Pulaski was across the road with the Beaver family on Brookmead Farm. Many of these houses still stand and are listed historic sites in the Township.

Early Tredyffrin Villages
Today, in our world of well-traveled highways and busy shopping centers, it is difficult to imagine how isolated the early Township must have been. It was literally on the edge of the wilderness and communications with Philadelphia was difficult. The earliest village was Howellville which at one time boasted of two inns, blacksmith and wheelwright shops, a grist mill and several saw mills. Paoli's history as a village dates from the establishment of the railroad during the nineteenth century. Paoli is named for the 18th century Corsican hero Pasquale Paoli.

Roads and Railroads
Swedesford Road was one of the Township's earliest roads, probably existing in 1718. The Philadelphia-Lancaster Turnpike (Lancaster Avenue), built between 1790 and 1800, was the first macadam roadway in the region and paved the way for a hearty tavern industry. The most famous tavern was The Paoli, named after Pasquale Paoli, and the most infamous was the second Blue Ball Inn, which still stands today. Stories of the Blue Ball Inn's owner, Prissy Robison, have told of her attempts to stop the railroad industry from ruining her business. The Turnpike was supplanted in 1832 by the Main Line of Public Works, a rail and canal system whose eastern end later formed the nucleus of the Pennyslvania Railroad. It went through Eagle (Strafford), Reeseville (Berwyn) and Paoli at grade level along much the same route as the present Main Line rail right of way.

Early Schools
Early schooling was taken care of at home or in churches. One of Tredyffrin's first schools was the Old Eagle School. The cost to attend was three cents a day or $2 a quarter. In 1836, Pennsylvania adopted the Public School System, and control of the schools went to the Tredyffrin Township School District in 1854. The Diamond Rock Octagonal School, built in 1818, was the first public school, "free" of any religious affiliation. It served the community until 1864 when two new public schools, the Walker School and Salem School were opened.

Tredyffrin's Growth
Until the Civil War period, Tredyffrin Township was chiefly a prosperous agricultural community with a few small country villages clustered along the railroad which ran along its southern border. The census of 1857 shows a total population of 474. In 1940, there were only 6,250 people living in the Township. World War II ushered in a third main period of our history with new commercial and residential development. The population of Tredyffrin has increased to 29,062 (2000) census and the Great Valley is now known as the high technology corridor.

 

Facts and Figures

Formed as Township: 1707

2010 Census Population: 29,332
Gender: 47.23% male, 52.8% female
Median Age: 42.9
Race: 85.1% White, 3.3% African American, 9.8% Asian
High School Graduate or Higher (of those 25 and older): 97.5%
Bachelor's Degree or Higher (of those 25 and older): 72.3%
Graduate/Professional Degree or Higher (of those 25 and older): 34.4%
Married: 58%
In Labor Force (of those 16 and older): 66.5%
Mean Travel Time to Work: 26.7 minutes
Median Household Income: $99,728

Total Housing Units: 12,283
Housing Status: 95.5% occupied, 4.5% vacant
Occupant Type: 78.6% owner, 21.4% renter
Average Household Size: 2.42
Median Market Value of Owner-Occupied Housing: $447,700
Numbers Residential Properties: 11,279
Number of Commercial Properties: 502

Townships Bordering Tredyffrin: East Whiteland, Charlestown, Schuylkill, Upper Merion, Radnor, Easttown, and Willistown
Counties bordering Tredyffrin, Chester County: Delaware and Montgomery
Tredyffrin Postal Regions: Berwyn, Chesterbrook, Devon, Malvern, Paoli, Pheonixville, Radnor, Valley Forge, and Wayne

Land Area: 19.8 square miles
Parks: 14,259 acres
Open Space: 520 acres
Municipal Roadways: 107 miles
Miles of State Roads: 43 miles
Major Roads in Tredyffrin: Routes 202, 76, and 30 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike