Chester And Lancaster Valleys
( Originally Published 1900 )
Let us go westward across the Alleghenies by the Pennsylvania route. East of the mountains it traverses a rich agricultural region, limestone valleys, intersected y running streams and enclosed between parallel ridges of hills, stretching, like the mountain ranges, across the country from northeast to south-west. It is a land of prolific farms and dairies, and for miles beyond Philadelphia the line is adjoined by attractive villages and many beautiful suburban villas. Three noted institutions of learning are passed—Haverford College, the great Quaker College, standing in an extensive wooded park ; the Roman Catholic Augustinian College at Villa Nova, with its cross-surmounted dome and twin church spires ; and the Bryn Mawr College for women, one of the most famous in the United States. This is a region first settled by Welsh Quakers, and the name Bryn Mawr is Welsh for the "great hill." It is a wealthy and extensive settlement, and its College has spacious buildings and over three hundred students. At the Commencements they all join in singing their impressive College hymn :
" Thou Gracious Inspiration, our guiding star,
A few miles beyond is Paoli, preserving in its name the memory of the Corsican patriot Paoli, and the birthplace of the Revolutionary General " Mad Anthony" Wayne. Here the British defeated the American patriots in September, 1777. It stands on the verge of one of the garden spots of Pennsylvania, the Chester Valley, a charming region of broad and smiling acres, bounded on the northwest y the Welsh Mountain and Mine Hill, and a veritable land of plenty. The Brandywine and Valley Creeks water it, flowing out respectively to the Delaware and the Schuylkill. Beyond the long ridge of Mine Hill is Lancaster County, another land of rich farms, with many miles of grain and tobacco fields. Mine Hill is the watershed between the Delaware and the Susquehanna, the fertile Pequea Valley being at its western base. This is a great wheat country, and from here was sent the first American grain across the Atlantic to feed Europe, the Lancaster County wheat, in the days before the railroads brought it from the West, ruling prices for the American markets. It was hauled out in the ponderous Conestoga wagons, named after the Indian tribe which formerly ruled this region—their name signifying " the great magic land." They were a quarrelsome people, fighting all the neighboring tribes, and becoming deadly foes of the whites. Repeated wars decimated them, until in 1763 their last remnant, being hunted almost to death, took refuge in the ancient jail at Lancaster, and were cruelly massacred by the guerillas called the " Paxton Boys."
In the midst of the wheat lands and bordering the broad Conestoga Creek, flowing down to the Susquehanna at Safe Harbor, is the city of Lancaster, its red sandstone castellated jail being a conspicuous object in the view. This city was originally called Hickory Town, but in the eighteenth century its loyal people christened it Lancaster, and named the chief streets, intersecting at the Central Market Square, King and Queen Streets, with Duke Street parallel to the latter. Prior to 1812 it was the capital of Pennsylvania. Lancaster is an attractive and comfortable old city of thirty-five thousand population, with many mills and factories and large tobacco houses. It has a splendid Soldiers' Monument in the Central Square, with finely sculptured guards, representing each branch of the .service, watching at the base of the magnificent shaft. Upon the outskirts are the ornate buildings of Franklin and Marshall College, a foundation of the German Reformed Church, and it also has a Theological Seminary. The charm of Lancaster, however, is Woodward Hill Cemetery, on a bold bluff, washed by the Conestoga Creek, which forms a graceful circle around its base. Upon the surface and sides of the bluff the graves are terraced. Here is the tomb of James Buchanan, the only President sent from Pennsylvania, who died in 1868, at his home of Wheatland on the outskirts of the town. Another noted citizen of Lancaster was Thaddeus Stevens, who long represented it in Congress, and was the Republican leader in the House of Representatives during the Civil War, and afterwards until his death in 1868. He was the great champion of the emancipation of the negro race, and refused to be buried in the cemetery be-cause negroes were excluded. Upon the grave which he selected in Lancaster are these words : "I repose in this quiet and secluded spot, not from any natural preference for solitude, but finding other cemeteries limited by charter rules as to race. I have chosen it that I might be enabled to illustrate in death the principle which I have advocated through a long life —equality of man before his Creator." When Lancaster was the chief town of the Colonial frontier in. 1753, it was the place where Braddock's unfortunate expedition against Fort Duquesne at Pittsburg was organized and equipped, the work being mainly directed by Benjamin Franklin. Robert Fulton was born in Lancaster County, and he grew up and was educated at Lancaster, going afterwards to Philadelphia.