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Local Family’s Immigrant Roots

In February, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a piece about the Kassab family. Penned by a granddaughter of the patriarch who brought the family to Nether Providence, the article was entitled A Syrian Immigrant’s American Story. Marie Kassab Helfferich described her family’s roots in Syria and the welcome they experienced as immigrants at the turn of the twentieth century.

The family is so well established in Nether Providence and Media that you would be hard pressed to find a longtime resident without some connection to a Kassab. Many were patients of the family – more than a few of Dr. Kassab’s progeny were or are dentists.

Click here to read the Philadelphia Inquirer article.

Did your family’s immigrant story find its way to our township? We’d love to feature it here. Send an email to info@nphistory.org.

Nancy Webster Publishes Colonial Cooking Article

Early American Life - Feb 2017Well-known local historian, Nancy Webster, has an article in the newest issue of Early American Life.  Entitled How the Lesser Sort Ate, it is about colonial cooking for every-day people. The women could not cook all day because they had many other jobs to do, including raising children. Nancy writes about what cooking tools they had, what foods were available when, and even sharing of food. The article grew out of a recent presentation Nancy made at a meeting of the Historic Foodways Society of the Delaware Valley, held in Warminster, PA.

The article is not posted on the magazine’s website, but you can pick up a copy at Barnes & Noble.

100 Years Ago Today – Flower Show at Bickmore Farms

Chester Times, April 17, 1916.

Chester Times, April 17, 1916.

The April 17, 1916 Chester Times carried a report of a horticultural exhibit at Bickmore Farms where Milton H. Bickley had a large nursery operation on his property at Palmer’s Corner (the corner of Providence and Rose Valley Roads).

The flower show became an annual event to which the public was invited every year on Palm Sunday.

Milton Horace Bickley owned, along with his father, a drug store at 4th and Market Streets in Chester. He purchased the 102-acre Cedar Lane Farm from James Miller in 1913 and called it Bickmore; a combination of his last name and his father, Mortimore Bickley’s first name. There, he raised a variety of flowers in 19 large greenhouses (300′ x 75′). There was a 75′ smokestack for the furnace used to heat the greenhouses.

The family also ran a poultry farm on the property. In 1916, there were regular advertisements placed in the Chester Times announcing “we have just installed a big hall incubator and decided to do some custom hatching. You can bring, or buy your eggs from us. We also have baby chicks for sale.”

Milton Bickley died in 1937.

In 1944, W. J. Messmer, a Chester florist, purchased the Bickmore nursery on the south side of Rose Valley Road. The purchase included 60,000 square feet of glass-enclosed greenhouses.

By 1954, the 15 acre site had been purchased by the Wallingford Development Company. When the nursery buildings were razed to make way for 22 houses, it took two blasts of dynamite to level the smokestack. The neighborhood was named Bickmore Hills. The first of the split level houses were completed by July and offered for sale at $15,590.

Bickley Druggist and Apothecary at 4th and Market Streets in Chester

Bickley Druggist and Apothecary at 4th and Market Streets in Chester

Living History Program @HKF

EarlyIrishImmigrants“The New American,” a Living Voices program, combines dynamic solo performance with archival film to turn history into a moving personal journey.

The show stars Wallingford’s Gabrielle Miller as Bridget Rose Fitzgerald. Set in 1910, her immigrant journey from Ireland includes steamship passage through Ellis Island to lower Manhattan and the sweatshop known as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. “The New American” reveals a timeless immigrant experience and the meaning of liberty and opportunity.

The performance is suitable for students in fourth grade through adults, and is made possible by a generous donation from the Rose Valley Borough Council and staff in honor of Lynn Kelley, a former council member and current volunteer at the library.

2 p.m., Sunday, March 8th in the Library’s Chadwick Auditorium.
The program is free and open to the public, but registration is recommended. Call 610-566-9331.

Prez Wins Award

Angela HewettAt its annual meeting, the Delaware County Historical Society presented its A. Lewis Smith Award to Angela Hewett, president of the Nether Providence Historical Society and long-time president of The Friends of the Thomas Leiper House. The award is presented annually to an individual who has made “significant contributions to the preservation of the history of Delaware County.”

Angela has conducted extensive research into the Leiper family and has edited two booklets – a compilation of correspondence between Mr. Leiper and Thomas Jefferson and another of his correspondence with James Madison. She is also the curator of the Leiper House; organizing and training its volunteer docents and coordinating the many events and programs hosted there.

She was on the steering committee for our township’s tricentennial celebration in 1987 and helped found our historical society soon after. She is also a board member of the Delaware County Historic Preservation Network.

The honor bestowed is well deserved.

 

HSP Surveys Collection

Von Byre DiaryThe Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s “Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories” seeks to ferret out the hidden, but often important, archival collections held by the many small, primarily volunteer-run historical organizations in the five county Philadelphia area.

Project Surveyors recently visited the Leiper House to view the Nether Providence Historical Society’s collection.

They posted an account of what they found on the HSP’s blog, Archival Adventures in Small Repositories.

Today is the anniversary of the beginning of World War I, so they focused their post on the collection of materials we hold related to the Byre family. Von Byre served in WWI and kept a journal of his June 1918 voyage to Europe on a troop ship.

Friends of Thomas

FrontEntryBuilt by Philadelphia merchant Thomas Leiper (1745 – 1825) the mansion sits above Crum Creek on his summer estate, Strath Haven, named for Leiper’s birth place in Strathaven, Scotland.

The house was scheduled for demolition to make way for the Mid-County Expressway (I-476). Through the joint efforts of interested citizens and Nether Providence Township, the expressway was re-routed and the historic house was saved. The house is furnished with circa 1800 antiques, including some Leiper family pieces. Its four remaining outbuildings are restored. Displays reflect Mr. Leiper’s prominence in manufacture, transportation, and politics in the development of the area, the state, and the nation.

The 1785 house is a fine example of Federal Period architecture and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Friends of the Thomas Leiper House, a separate organization from Nether Providence Historical Society, together with Nether Providence Township, maintain the house and its outbuildings.

The Friends recently sent out their annual appeal for donations. The Township covers the bulk of the maintenance, but it is up to the Friends to fund the maintenance of the collection, to maintain a staff of volunteers to open the house for tours and other programs, and to chip in on larger projects.

Attached is the Friends membership form. Will you help with the preservation of this community treasure? Download the membership form and send in your contribution.