John Fanning Watson.

Annals of Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania, in the olden time; online

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concealed in a near hedge, and shot them as they rose on the wine.
There was a law in 17M made to give Zd. per dozen for the heads
of blackbirds, to destroy them.

A person, now 80 years of age, relates to me that he well remem-
bers seeing colonies of Indians, of twenty to thirty persons, often
coming through the town and sitting down in Logan's woods, others
on the present open field, south-east of Grigg's place. They
would then make their huts and stay a whole year at a time, and
make and sell baskets, ladles, and tolerably good fiddles. He has
teen them shoot birds and young squirrels there, with their bows and
anows. Their huts were made of four upright saplings, with crotch
limbs at top. The sides and tops were of cedar bushes and branches.
In these tney lived in the severest winters; their fire was on the
ground and in the middle of the area. At that time wild pigeons

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32 Petuisylvania InlancL — Oermanioum.

were very numerous, in flocks of a mile long ; and it was very com-
mon to shoot twenty or thirty of them at a shot They then caught
rabbits and squirrels in snares.

The superstition then was very great about ghosts and witches.
^' Old Shrunk," as he was called, (George S., who lived to be 80,) was
a great conjuror, and numerous persons from Philadelphia and else-
where, and some even from Jersey, came to him often, to find out stolen
goods and to get their fortunes told. They believed he could make
any thieves who came to steal from his orchard '^ stand^^ if he saw
them, even while they desired to run away. They used to consult
him where to go and dig for money; and several persons, whose
names I suppress, used to go and dig for hidden treasures of nights.
On such occasions, if any one ^' spoke^ while digging, or ran, from
^^ terror ^^* without "the magic ring^'* previously made.with incan-
tation around the place, the whole influence of the " meW^ was lost.
Dr. Witt, too, a sensible man, who owned and dwelt in the large
house, since the Rev. Dr. Blair's, as well as old Mr. Frailey, who
also acted as a physician, and was really pretty skilful, were both

U e doctors, (according to the superstition then so prevalent in

Europe,) and were renowned also as conjurors. Then the cows and
horses, and even children, got strange diseases; and if it baflled ordi-
nary medicines, or Indian cures and herbs, it was not unusual to
consult those persons for relief; and their prescriptions which healed
them, as resulting from witchcraft, always gave relief! Dr. Frailey
dwelt in a one-story house, very ancient, now standing in the school
house lane. On each side of his house were lines of German
poetry, painted in oil colours, (some of the marks are even visible
now); those on one side have been recited to me, viz. :


Lass Neider neiden« Let the envious envy me.

Lass Hasser hassen ; Let the hater hate me;

Was Gott mir giebt What God has given me

Muss mann mir lassen. Must man leave to me.

An idea was very prevalent, especially near the Delaware and
Schuylkill waters, that the pirates of Black Beard's day had depo-
sited treasure in the earth. The fancy was, that sometimes they
killed a prisoner and interred him with it, to make his ghost keep
his vigils there and guard it. Hence it was not rare to hear of per-
sons having seen a sphoke or ghost, or of having dreamed of it a
plurality of times, which became a strong incentive to dig there.
To procure the aid of a professor in the black art, was called Hexing;
and Shrunk, in particular, had great fame therein. He aflfected to
use a diviner's rod, (a witch-hazel) with a peculiar angle in it, which
was supposed to be self- turned in the hands, when approached to
any minerals ; some use the same kind of rod now to fed for hidden
waters, so as to dig for wells. The late Col. T. F. used to amuK«
liimself much with the credulity of the people. He pretended he

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Pennsylvania Inland, — Germantovm. 33

could hex with a hazel rod; and ofien he has had superstitious per-
sons to come and offer him shares in spoils, which they had seen a
sphoke upon ! He even wrote and primed a curious old play,* to
ridicule the thing. Describing the terrors of a midnight fright in dig-
ging, he makes one of the party to tell bis wife,

'' My dearest wife, in all my life
Ich neber was so fritened j
De spirit come, and Ich did run,
'Twas juste like tunder, mid lightning.''

Mr. E., when aged 78, and his wife nearly the same age, men.
tioned to me, that in their youthful days they used to feel themselves
as if at double or treble the distance they now do from Philadelphia,
owing to the badness and loneliness of the roads ; they then regarded
a ride to the city as a serious affair. The road before it was turn-
piked was extremely clayey and mirey, and in some places, espe-
cially at Penn's creek, there was a fearful quicksand. Several teams
were often joined at places along the bad road to help out of mires,
and horses were much injured, and sometimes killed, thereby. Rail
stakes used to be set up in bad places to warn off.

In those times the sleighing used to continue for two or three
months in the winter, and the pleasure parties from the city used to

[mt up and have dances at old Macknett's tavern, where his son since
ived. It was then very common for sailors to come out in summer to
have frolics, or mirth and refreshments at the inns. The young men
also made great amusement of shooting at a target They used ilb
wagons in going to market, but the woman went, and rode a horse with
two panniers slung on each side of her. The women too carried bat*-
kets on their heads, and the men wheeled wheel-barrows — being six
miles to market! Then the people, especially man and wife, rode
to church, funerals and visits, both on one horse ; the woman sat on
a pillion behind the man. Chairs or chaises were then unknown to
them ; none in that day ever dreamed to live to see such improve-
ments and luxury as they now witness.

The first carriage of the coach kind they ever saw or heard of be-
longed to Judge Allen,t who had his country seat at the present
Mount Airy College ; it was of the phaeton or Landau kind, naving
a seat in front for children, and was drawn by four black horses :
he was of course a very opulent man, a grandee in his generation —
such phaetons cost ^400. The country seats then were few. Pen-
ington had his country house where Chew's now stands, and the
present kitchen wings of Chew's house sufficed for the simplicity of
gentlemen of those days. Another country bouse was Samuel
Shoemaker's, a mayor of Philadelphia, and is the same now a part

* A copy of U is in the Athensnm Litmay.

I Then weie three or four earlier carritfef in Philtdelphie, Tis.! Nonii, Logan, and

Vou II.— E

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34 Pennsylvania Inland, — Oermantown.

of (he house of Mr. Duval's place, and enlarged by Col. T. Forrest
In their eariy days, all the better kinds of houses had balconies in
the front, in which, at the close of the day, it was common to see
the women at most of the houses sitting and sewing or knitting ; at
that time the women went to their churches generally in short gow^ns
and petticoats, and with check or white flaxen aprons. The young
men had their heads shaved, and wore white caps; in summer they
went without coats, wearing striped trowsers, and barefooted ; the old
Friends wore wigs.

In their day every house was warmed in winter by "jamb stoves,*'
and Mr. Sower, of Germantown, (the printer,) cast the first stoves per-
haps thus used in the United States. They were cast in Lancaster;
none of them are now up and in use, but many of xhepUites are often
seen lying about the old houses as door steps, &c. A jamb Btove
was set in the chimney jamb, (or side,) in the kitchen fire-place ; it
was made something like the box form of the present ten-plate
stoves, but without a pipe or oven, and it passed through the wall
of the chimney back into the adjoining sitting rooms, so as to present
its back end (opposite the ^e door) in that room. The plate used
to be made sometimes red hot; but still it was but a poor means of
giving out heat, and could not have answered but for their then
hardy constitutions, and the general smallness of their rooms in that

Mr. K. remembers ven^^well, that when he was a lad, there was
yet a little company of Delaware Indians, (say 25 or 30 persons,)
iKen hutted and dwelling on the low grounds of Philip Kelley's
manufactory ground. There was then a wood there through all the
low ground, which now forms his meadow, ground and mill race
course. Some of the old Indians died and were buried in Concord
burying ground, adjoining Mr. Duval's place. After they were dead
the younger Indians all moved off in a body, when Keyser was
about 14 or 15 years of age. Indian Ben among them was cele-
biuted as a great fiddler, and every body was familiar with Indian

In going to the city there was a thick woods on the south-west
side of the turnpike below Naglee's hill — where Skerrett's house now
stands, called Logan's swamp and woods. The road then went on
the low ground to the south-westward of said hill and house. At
Penn's creek, (or Three-mile run, now Albanus Logan's place,) and
at the opposite side on Norris' place, began a deep and lofty wood,
which extended on both sides of the road nearly into the suburbs,
and from thence the woods continued many miles up the Delaware.
There was then no inlet into the city but by the FYoni street road.
The Second and Third streets were not then formed.

On the 20th of October, 1746, a great public fair was held at Ger-

In 1762, the Paxton boys, from near Lancaster, halted at the
market square, preparatory to their intended invasion of Philadelphia,

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Pennsylvania Inland. — Oermantown. 35

to kill the friendly Indians sheltered there ; they yielded to negotia-
tion and went home. There were several hundred of them.

Rittenhouse, the celebrated philosopher, as well as Godfrey, the
inventor of Hadley's guadrant, were of the neighbourhood of Ger
mantown. Captain Miller, who was basely killed at Fort Washing
ton, after its surrender, was of Germantown.

The old road of Germantown continued in a line with the first
bank of Germantown, (to the south-west of the present,) ran near the
poor house, by S. Harvey's, up through R. Haines' low lands, and
came out by the Concord school house, by the Washington, or
Abington lane. Some of the logs now lie sound under ground,
back of Justice Johnson's, on which the road ran by the swamp.

The quantity of Indian arrow heads, spears, and hatchets, all of flint
and stone, and attached to wooden or withe handles, still ploughed up
in the fields, is great I have seen some of a heap of two hundred
together, in a circle of the size of a bushel ; some of them, strange
to tell, are those taken from chalk beds, and not at all like the flint
of our country.

The creek on which Wm. L. Fbher's mill stands is the head of
Frankford creek, and was called by the Indians Wingohocking.
The creek at Albanus Logan's, called Penn's creek, was called 2\<-
manaxamamingj and goes out at the upper end of Kensington.

Anthony Johnson, who died in 1823, aged 78, saw, when a lad,
a large bear come across the road in daytime from Chew's ground,
then a wood ; he has seen abundance of wild turkeys, and has often
heard the wolves howl at night near his father's house ; the one re-
built at the comer of S. Harvey's lane. The woods then came up
near the house. He has seen several deer tn the woods, but they
were fast going oflf when he was young. Near the same house,
when the old road passed in the swamp behind it, his father told
him he once saw six wolves in daytime.

After James Logan's house was buih, in 1728, at Stenton, a bear
of large size came and leaped over the garden fence.

Jacob Eeyser, now 88, tells me that he and others pursued and
killed a small bear, about sixty-five years ago, on one of the back
lots ; it was, however, then matter of surprise and sport

Mr. E. remembers that a Mr. Axe, in his time, killed a bear on
Samuel Johnson's place, not far from the Wissahiccon. Foxes and
rackoons were then quite plenty.

Only about fif\y years ago a flock of six wild turkeys came to
Enoch Rittenhouse's mill, and remained about there till his family
shot the whole of them ; and in the winter of 1832 they shot a lynx

In 1721 a bear was killed in Germantown, and so published^ and
two more nearer to Philadelphia.

In the house of Reuben Haines, built by Dirk Johnson, a chief
and his twenty Indians have been sheltered and entertained.

Anthony Johnson, when a boy, has seen near two hundred In*

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36 Pennsylvania Inland. — Germaniwon.

dians at a time on the present John Johnson's place, in a woods on
tiie hollow adjoining to the wheeiwriprht's shop. They would remain
there a week at a time, to make and sell baskets, ladles, fiddles, &c
He used to remain hours with them and see their feats of agility.
They would go over fences without touching them, in nearly a hori-
zontal attitude, and yet alight on their nimble feet They would
also do much at shooting of marks. One Edward Keimer imitated
them so closely as to execute all their exploits. Beaver and beaver
dams A. Johnson has often seen.

The earliest settlers used to make good linens and vend them in
Philadelphia. They were also distinguished, even till modem times,
for their fabric of Gennantown stockings. This fact induced the
Bank of Germantown to ado{>t a seal, with such a loom upon it.
The linen sellers and weavers used to stand with the goods for sale
on the edge of the pavement in Market street, on the north side,
near to Second street corner. The cheapness of imported stockings
is now ruining their business.

Professor Kalm, who visited Germantown in 1748, says : " The
inhabitants were so numerous, that the street was always full."

Old Mr. W., in 1718 or '20, shot a stout deer between German-
town and Philadelphia, and the rifle he used is now in possession
of his grandson.

John Seelig predicted men's lives when requested, by the rules
of nativities ; and he had a mysterious cane^ or rod, which he com-
manded to be cast into the Schuylkill in his last sickness, and which,
as the tradition goes, exploded therein ! Kelpius too kept his diary
by noting the signs of the Zodiac.

Doctor Witt leA all his property to strangers by the name of
Warmer^ saying, they had been kind to him on his arrival, in be-
stowing him a hai in place of his, lost on shipboard. .

The tombstone of C. F. Post, the missionary and interpreter, so
often named in Proud's history, is in the lower burying ground. He
died in 1785, aged 75 years.

The Germantown newspaper, by C. Sower, was printed but once
a (fuarter^ and began in the year 1 739 ; and what was curious, he cast
his own types and made his own ink! It eventually was printed
monthly^ but from and after the yea- 1 744, it was printed every week^
under the title of the "Germantown Gazette," by 0. Sower, Jr., and
was not discontinued till some time in the war. A copy of these
papers would be a kind gift to the Germantown Library. Sower
published Jirsi in the United States a quarto Bible, in German.

Germantown was a place of great interest during the war of the
revolution, and at the celebrated battle there. It occurred on the
morning of the 4th of October, 1777. The main body of the Bri-
tish anriy, under Gens. Howe, Grey, Grant and Agnew, were attack
ed by the Americans in the following order : Washington, with the
division of Sullivan and Wayne, flanked by Gen. Thomas Con*
way's brigade, entered the town by Cheslnut hill road. Gen. Ann*

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Pennsylvania IhlaneL — Cfermaniavm.^ 37

rtrong, with Ihe Pennsylvania militia, attacked the left and rear, near
Schuylldli. The division of Generals Greene and Stephens, flanked
by Gen. M^Dongall's brigade, were to enter by taking a circuit at the
market house, and attack the right wing, and the militia of Mary-
land and Jersey, under Generals Smallwood and Freeman, were to
march by the old York road and fall upon the rear of the right.
General Steriing, with Generals Nash and Maxwell's brigade, formed
a corps of reserve. Admirably as this attack was planned^ it failed,
from those fortuitous events in warfare, over which Gen. Washing-
ton had no possible control. Lieut Col. Musgrave, of the British
army, as (he Americans advanced, threw himself, with six cdfhpa-
nies of the 40th regiment, into Chew's lai^ge stone house, which
stood full in front of the main body of the Americans. Musgrave,
before the battle, encamped back of Chew's house in excellent huts,
and Col. Webster's regiment (33d) lay hack of John Johnson's in
huts also ; they were as regular and neat as a town. Gen. Read, it has
been said, was for pushing on immediately, and was opposed by Gen.
Knox as against military rule, to leave an enemy in a fort in the rear.
Any how, in attempting to induce the surrender of Lieut. Col. Mus-
grave, the precious moments were lost, and gave Generals Grey, Grant,
and Agnew, (who dwelt in Germantown,) time to come up with a re-
inforcement. Much blame, too, was attached to Gen. S.'s division,
who was said to have been intoxicated, and to have so far miscon-
ceived and broken his orders as to have been afterwards tried and
broken. The morning was exceedingly ioggy^ which would have
greatly favoured the Americans, had not those, as well as part of
Greene's column, remained thus inactive. Col. Mathews, of Greene's
column, attacked with great spirit and routed the parties opposed to
him, and took one hundred and ten prisoners; but, through the fog,
he lost sight of his brigade, and was himself taken prisoner with his
whole raiment, (on P. Kelley's hill) and his prisoners released.
Greene and Stephens' division, formed tlie last column of the retreat-
ing Americans. Count Pulaski's cavalry covered their rear. Wash-
ington retreated to Skippack creek — his loss amounted to one hun-
dred and fifty-two killed, and five hundred and twenty-one wounded,
upwards of four hundred were made prisoners, amongst whom were
fifty-four officeiB.

The cannon which assailed Chew's house were planted in front
of the present John Johnson's house ; Chew's house was so battered
that it took four or five carpenters a whole winter to repair and
replace the fractures. The front door which was replaced was filled
with shot holes — it is still preserved there.

A cousin of mine, who was intimate with Gen. Washington's aid-
de-camp, told me that he told him he had never heard the general
utter an oath, but on that day, when he seemed deeply mortified
and indignant, he expressed ao execration at General S— — as a
dranken rascal.

The daughter of Benjamin Marshal, Esq., at whose house General


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38 Pennsylvania Inland. — Oennaniawn.

Washington stopped after the battle, told me he reached there in th«
evening, and would only take a dish of tea, and pulling out the
half of a biscuit, assured the family the other half was all the food
he had taken since the preceding day.

The general opinion then was, that but for the delay at Chew's
house, our army must have been victorious, and we should have
been sufficiently avenged for our losses the preceding month at the
battle of Brandy wine, and would have probably caused the British
to evacuate Philadelphia. But Gen. Wilkinson, in his late memoirs,
who has described minutely the battle therein, and was but a few

f^earf ago here on the spot, examining the whole ground, has pub-
ished his entire conviction that it was a kind proviekncCy which
overruled the disaster for our good : for had we been successful and
pushed on for the city, Gen. Howe was coming on with a force suffi-
cient to have captured or destroyed the whole American anny. He
states, that Washington relied on information from a deserter, that
Howe intended a movement of his troops towards Fort Mifflin, which,
unknown to Gen. Washington, he tiad countermanded, and so
enabled him to come out in full force. See Appendix, p. 554.

There were as many as twenty thousand British, &c., in and
about the town under Gen. Howe. He was a fine lai^ge man, and
looked considerably like Gen. Washington : he lived some time at
Logan's, and also in the present Samuel Morris' house ; he walked
abroad in plain clothes in a very unassuming manner. Gen. Grant
occupied the house now Michael Staiger's, near the lane. The
artillery lay on the high ground in rear of the poor house; two regi-
ments of Highlanders half a mile in the rear of Reuben Haines'
house : and the Hessians lay on the Ridge Hill above Peter Robe«
son's, near the road ; all the infantiy were on the commons about
where J. Price's seat now is.

In the time of the battle Gen. Howe came as far as the market
square, and stayed there giving his commands. Gen. Agnew rode on
at the head of his men, and when he came as far as the wall of the
Mennonist grave yard, he was shot by Hans P. Boyer, who lay in
ambush, and took deliberate aim at his star on the breast: he fell
from his fine horse, and was carried to Mr. Wister's house, where he
died in his front paHour. He was a very civil and gentlemanly man.
The man who killed him was not an enlisted soldier, and died not
long since in the poor house.

At that same place is a rising hill, at which the severest of the
firing and battle was waged, except what occurred so disastrously
for us at Chew's house. The British advanced no farther than the
said hill on the road, until after the retreat.

Several have told me, who saw the dead and dying after the action,
lying on the ground, that some in their last moments were quite in-
sane : but all who could speak were in great thirst from anguish, d&c
In Samuel Keyser's garden many bodies were lying: and in the
rear of Justice Johnson's, Gen. Moiigan of the rifle c< rps came up

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Pennsylvania Inland* — Cfermaniovm. 3&

with a small body after the action was supposed to be closed, and
very daringly and unexpectedly killed nineteen Hessians and an
officer, all of whom were buried ihere, save the officer, who was next
day removed to the city. Boys were suffered to get very near the
combatants on ihe flanks. Benjamin Lehman \vas one, who has
told me, there was no order nor ranks after the first fire, and soon
every face was as black as negroes' about the mouth and cheeks,
from biting off* the cartridges; British officera, especially aids-de-camp,
rode at full rate up and down through the men, with entire uncon-
cern as to running over them. The ranks, however, gave way.

When the British buroed seventeen houses at one time, between
Philadelphia and Grermantown, in retaliation for some aggressions
made, they said, by Col. Ayres, from some of those houses, they
ordered Stenton house to be included : two men came to execute it,
they told the housekee]3er there, to take out her private things — while
they went to the bam for straw to fire it. A British officer rode up,
inquiring for deserters; with much presence of mind she said they had
just gone to the barn to hide themselves in the straw — off" he went,
crying, " Come out you rascals, and run before me back to camp!'*
In vain they protested, and alleged their commissions; and thus
Logan's venerable house was spared. This house was built in
1727-8, by James Logan, secretary for Penn, and in which he re-
sided; it was a palace-like structure in that day, and was surprisingly
well builL Gen. Howe stayed part of his time there.

A fence of cedar boards is now standing in Peter Keyser's yard,
which was very much perforated with musket bullets in the time of
the battle.

On the 19th of October, the British army removed from German-
town to Philadelphia, as a more convenient place for the reduction
of Fort Island.

After the battle, the British surgeons made use of Reuben Haines'
hall as a room for amputating and other hospital operations requiring
prompt care ; the Americans who were wounded were carried to the
hill where Thomas Armatt's house is, and were there temporarily
attended by surgeons, previously to being sent to the hospital in
the city.

Capt Turner of North Carolina, and Major Irvine, and six men,
were all buried in one grave, at the N. E. comer of the burying ground
by the school house. We have set them a stone there.

On the north-east side of Three-mile run (Fox Chase Inn now)

Online LibraryJohn Fanning WatsonAnnals of Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania, in the olden time; → online text (page 5 of 74)