WILLIAM SIMPSON

English for William Simpson about 1880. Founder of the Eddystone Print Works and the town of Eddystone. Saville Avenue was named in honor of his wife Maria Saville.

THE HISTORY OF EDDYSTONE

According to early land patents Olofe Stille, a Swede, was the first resident in what is now Eddystone. Stille came to America in 1641 with the third Swedish expedition. It is believed he lived by Ridley Creek close to the Delaware River. Stille was made one of the four commissioners to administer justice in 1658. Stille also engaged in various treaties with the Indians by whom he was well known. He was called “TECOHERASSI” which means the man with the black beard. Stille died in 1666 and by 1671 his property had been granted by Governor Lovelace to Lars (Lawrence) Carels Lock. Lock was a minister and was the only one the Swedish Colony had for many years. In spite of being a minister, Lock was constantly in trouble. He was often in litigation with his neighbors and was involved in selling liquor to the Indians. He must have reformed his ways because it was recorded he “died in the Lord in 1688”. the property was sold to Anne Friend and later passed to Gabriel and Lawrence Friend, her sons. Gabriel was a stone mason by trade. He was the contractor for the construction of bridges on the Queen’s Road (Chester Pike) and over Crum and Ridley Creeks in 1709.

The other early land patent in Eddystone belonged to Neil Mattson and his wife Margaret. The Mattson’s lived on their patent of several hundred acres beginning in 1670, where the Baldwin Locomotive Plant is now. The dividing live between the two patents was approximately Simpson Street. His neighbor to the West was the Reverend Lars Lock. Mattson was a wealthy land owner who owned hundreds of other acres in Pennsylvania. Neil and Margaret Mattson, his wife, began having trouble with their new English neighbors who had begun arriving in 1681. On February 27, 1683, Mattson’s wife, Margaret, was put on trial for witchcraft in Philadelphia. The trial was conducted before Governor William Penn and his counsel, the only witchcraft trial on record in Pennsylvania. After the indictment was read in Philadelphia, Margaret pleaded not guilty.

Lasse Cock, a friend, was admitted as interpreter because Neil and Margaret were Swedes and did not understand English. Several neighbors testified that she could and had at times bewitched numerous cows in her neighborhood. Bewitching a cow meant the cow would not give milk. At the end of the trial, Margaret denied everything stating that the witnesses spoke only by hearsay. Governor William Penn charged “the jury went forth and upon their return brought her guilty of having the common fame of a witch, but not guilty in manner and form as She Stands Indicted”.

Neil Mattson and his son Anthony posted bond of 50 pounds apiece to guarantee Margaret’s good behavior for six months.

Neil Mattson ran into further troubles with the law about 16 years later. Mattson sold half of a tract of land, about 50 acres, to Walter Fawcett and then Mattson sold the entire tract to Edward Pritchett. Edward Pritchett took Fawcett to court in 1701 as Fawcett was claiming half of Pritchett’s property as his own. The trial was held in Chester and after testimony from numerous witnesses, the Court decided to have the entire piece of property resurveyed. Instead of the 50 acres of property the Court expected to find between the two men’s claim, only 38 acres were found. Fawcett agreed to take 25 pounds for his share of the 38 acres. The entire tract of 186 acres was sold to Peter Dicks in about 1715.

Dicks kept the large estate of close to 190 acres intact until the 1740’s when he began to sell the property off to several different land owners.

CROSBY LEIPER FARM

The Crosby Farmhouse stood on the north side of Chester Pike about 100 feet east of Bullens Lane. The Crosby Family owned about 250 acres of land in what is the Woodlyn area of Ridley Township. In 1775, John and Eleanor Crosby gave to their son, John the third, the stone farmhouse and 100 acres covering both sides of Chester Pike at Bullens Lane. John Crosby, the third, served in the American revolution as a lieutenant, was captured by the British in his home in 1778 and released about six months later. Crosby later became an Associate Judge of Delaware County. He died at his home in 1821 and his estate passed to his youngest son, Robert P. Crosby. George G. Leiper bought the property in 1846 and his family operated the quarries at the rear of the homestead until the 1920’s. the Leiper Family sold the last of the property about 1940. On April 17, 1848, the Leiper Family sold all the land south of Chester Pike in what is now Eddystone Borough. The property consisted of two tracts of land totaling 77 acres and included one road.

HENRY EFFINGER FARM

Henry Effinger of Springfield bought about 150 acres in what is now central Eddystone in 1784. Henry lived in a farmhouse that stood just East of Ridley Creek in what is now Eddystone. He died in 1799 and left the property to his two sons, Henry, Jr. and Jacob. Henry Sr. had four daughters also but left them no property but instead his will directed that they “be bound out during their minorities”. Jacob took the old house by the river, while Henry built a new house close to the corner of today’s 9th and Ashland Avenues. Jacob died in 1831 and in 1834, his three children sold his property to Henry. Henry was considered to be tight with his money. He was opposed to the Public School Act of 1864 so much that he refused to pay school taxes. The tax collector had to sell Effinger’s personal effects at public sale to get the tax money. Henry was remembered for wearing old clothes that were out of style. Needless to say, Henry was a bachelor. He died on August 27, 1867. Henry’s estate was left to the churches of Chester. Shipbuilder John Roach of Chester bought the estate in 1871 and on February 20, 1872, Roach sold the estate of 168 acres to William Simpson for $40,000.00.

GRANTHAM-DENIS FARM

Charles Grantham “Gentleman” bought 120 acres in 1799 and just East of Simpson Street. The property went from Chester Pike to the Delaware River and he raised sheep on the farm along with several cattle. Charles was a judge in the 1740’s and 1750’s. the property remained in the Grantham Family until 1824, when Lewis Trimble bought the farm. Lewis built a new home at Chester Pike and Simpson Street but sold the farm to Lewis Price who lost the property to the Bank of Delaware County. The Bank sold the property to John Willets for Richard Risley Carlisle. Carlisle was a famous acrobat and gymnast in the 1840’s. Carlisle went by the name of “Professor Risley”. His two sons worked with him as acrobats and his troupe was the first to tour Japan in 1848. Carlisle lived on the farm for a while but he had bought the farm as an investment. He had financial difficulties and sold the farm in 1855. French Native Honore Denis, a chemist in Philadelphia, bought the farm, remodeled the house and used it as a summer home. Denis died there in September 1872. His son Geoffrey lived on the farm before moving to Chester where he formed an electric power company. Geoffrey sold the farm to the Simpson Family in the early 1900’s.

TRIMBLE-PATTERSON FARM

Charles Grantham bought an earlier tract of land in 1751 from Jonas Culin’s estate. The tract totaled about 100 acres and went from Chester Pike to the Delaware River just West of Crum Creek. Grantham died about 1770 and left this share of his estate to his son William. In 1793 Abraham Trimble bought the property from the Grantham Family. Trimble added several small tracts of land in the next few years until his property totaled about 180 acres. Trimble died on July 18, 1821 leaving a wife, Susanna, with eight children. The property was given to Abraham, Jr. in 1825 and he died in 1840 unmarried. Lewis Price, Abraham’s brother-in-law, owned the property for a few years, but in 1849, Abraham T. Trimble bought the property. It is believed he was a grandson of Abraham Trimble, Sr. Abraham, who was from Middletown Township, kept the land until 1881 when Thomas Simpson bought the property. After several other owners, the entire estate was sold to the Baldwins in 1909.

Thomas P. Carey and William McFarland were the buyers of George Leiper’s 77 acres in April of 1858. Both Carey and McFarland lived in Nether Providence Township. The men formed a loose partnership and began selling the property off in small pieces.

George Baker bought 12 acres with his brother James and started a small brick manufacturing company. James Jones, of Philadelphia, bought 8 acres and started a small farm. In 1866, McFarland decided to sell lots and start a small town. Carey was still a partner but he now lived in Baltimore. No map exists of the town itself then, but contemporary maps show the development consisted of about 40 lots. The development went from Chester Pike down to 12th Street and was between Saville and Simpson Street. McFarland sold the first lot on September 23, 1866 to Hugh Sample,, a school teacher in Ridley Township. McFarland named 12th Street after himself and 13th Street was called Broad Street. Simpson Street was called Denis Lane after a local landowner. Carey sold about 25 lots over the next 9 years. On February 20, 1872, Carey and McFarland sold most of their undeveloped property to William Simpson for $9,500.00. About 23 houses were built in Carey’s and McFarland’s little town in those 9 years and William Simpson bought most of the houses and rented them to worker’s at the Print Works.

THE EDDYSTONE PRINT WORKS

William Simpson was born in Manchester, England on April 21, 1812. His father worked in a linen shop and William, Sr.’s family had long been identified with textile printing. The elder Simpson sold his shop in Manchester, England and sailed for America in 1818. The family landed in Philadelphia and William, Sr. worked in the textile trade before moving to New York where young William was apprenticed to learn the textile printing trade. William Simpson served a full apprenticeship and worked in his trade before moving to Jefferson, Ohio, where he kept a country store with a partner. About 1835 he returned to the Philadelphia area where he decided to go into the textile business. He went into partnership with his brother-in-law John Halliday. They purchased a former carriage factory at the Falls of the Schuylkill north of Philadelphia in June of 1836. In 1837, Halliday left the business and William Simpson worked alone until 1842 when he took Duncan McGregor as a partner and they expanded the plant which they now called “The Falls of the Schuylkill”. The Print Works printed Calicos and also silk. About 1845, Simpson and McGregor’s partnership broke up and Simpson went on alone. Simpson’s business, now called “The Washington Print Works”, continued to flourish and on January 1, 1869, he brought two of his sons, Thomas and William, Jr. into the business. The plant’s name was changed to William Simpson and Sons and now covered 17 acres. The Print Works manufactured and dyed plain shades and shirting’s and fancy goods. In 1870, the American Institute of New York awarded its Bronze Medal to William Simpson and Sons for “The Best Fast Blacks and Mourning Prints”.

Two years before in April of 1868, the State of Pennsylvania gave the Fairmount Park Commission power to purchase and condemn property to expand the park in preparation for the Centennial exposition that was to be held in Philadelphia in 1876. Simpson, well aware that his Print Works property was t be condemned, began looking for a new location. He bought a site in Norristown, but changed his mind and decided on a farm in the southwest corner of Ridley Township. The farm was close to Chester City and the newly constructed rail lines.

The new branch of the Philadelphia Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad was being built and would be opened in November of 1872. On February 20, 1872, William Simpson paid Chester Shipbuilder, John Roach $40,000.00 for the 168 acres that was Henry Effinger farm. In mid-May, 1872, Simpson ought four small tracts of land in Eddystone close to Chester Pike, covering about 35 miles. In June, Simpson paid $130,000.00 for the Spencer McIlvain farm of 58 acres, this farm is now Sun Village. Simpson and his sons would make other purchases and by 1885, the Simpson family would own all of Eddystone except for a few small homes in the north end of the borough.

While getting ready to move to Ridley Township, William Simpson sent his son, Thomas, to Europe on a two year tour of textile plants for new ideas in bleaching, dyeing and printing. Simpson also recruited skilled workers for the new plant. While on his way home in 1874, Thomas passed the Eddystone Lighthouse on the southern coast of England. The Lighthouse was near the town of Plymouth and was the third lighthouse to stand on the Eddystone Reef. Thomas Simpson was impressed at the Lighthouse and its symbolism of strength and upon his return, he suggested the new plant be called “The Eddystone Print Works”. The name “Eddystone Print Works” was registered that same year as a trademark with the Library of Congress.

While Thomas was away, William Simpson and William, Jr., had been working on the new plant. The original plant consisted of 15 buildings, covering everything needed in the textile business. Simpson also built 3 story brick tenement houses on the property which he rented to workers.

The original trademark of the Print Works copywriter in 1874. The print works was still in Philadelphia waiting for completion of the buildings in Eddystone.

Anchor Shirting’s were a popular item of the Print Works in the 1870’s.

These tenement houses are now known as the “Village” section of Eddystone. In 1880 the census for Eddystone showed over half the population was foreign born, with the majority from England and France.

“The Company has 36 brick tenements and four brick stores with tenements overhead, which are in four rows of ten houses to the block. The occupancy is limited to one family for each house. Each tenement has a small flagged and dirt yard with outside privy and a hydrant for water supply. All the houses have a cellar over which is the kitchen and living room. The second and third floors have two bedrooms each of which are lighted by one or two windows. They are piped for gas, but in most cases kerosene lamps are preferred and used. Heating is done by stoves. The houses are comfortable, well arranged and in good condition; the rooms are neatly papered and the floors are sound and clean. They rent for $4.00 every two weeks.” By 1875, the Eddystone Print Works was completed and operational.

EDDYSTONE BOROUGH

By the late 1880’s, Eddystone was a thriving town of over 450 people. The majority of them living in the Village, which was then the center of town. In late 1888, the men of the Village applied to the Court of Delaware County to incorporate as a Borough.. The Petition was granted December 17, 1888.

SOME HISTORY OF EDDYSTONE

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