On Flag Day 1909, the Citizens Committee of Wissinoming
issued a souvenir program in conjunction with the presentation of the flag to the Henry W.
Lawton Combined School. William J. Duryea, an early resident of Wissinoming wrote a
short history for the occasion, and it was published in the program. This history
appears below with only minor editing.
Where Is It And What Is It?
The People who sojourned here for a time and then disappeared like
the mists, before the Morning Sun, would no doubt give widely different answers to the
above questions, much no doubt depending upon their success while here, and the extent to
which they were able to control and guide the actions of their neighbors.
Having the pleasure of residing in the town for almost a quarter of
a century, and having a knowledge of the place for a still longer time, it may be on
interest to my fellow townsmen to place them in possession, in part at least, of so much
of the birth and growth of the town. In doing so it is not my intention to overlook
any one who may have been interested in the place, neither is it my intention to write a
complete History of Wissinoming; because to do so would require works of research into the
archives of the past, very little of which is, so far as I know, at my disposal or
accessible to me. Wissinoming when William Penn arrived at Philadelphia was no doubt
a beautiful place, clothed in Natures beauties, Virgin forests and wild flowers abounded.
Flowing to the South; and emptying into the Delaware River, a lovely stream wended
its way, along the banks of which it would have been a pleasure to idle away a Summer
afternoon, perhaps to spend an hour in fishing or at some other time in the season of the
year, to gather from the majestic and prolific vine, the most excellent found, the Grape.
The writer of this article has personal knowledge of that which goes
to prove that possibly less than fifty years ago the banks of Wissinoming Creek showed
many an ancient grape vine reaching to the tops of the tallest trees.
The name Wissinoming was given to the place by the Red Men of the
Forest, the noble Indian, long since passed away and gone to the Happy Hunting Grounds.
They were always consistent in their actions and deeds: therefore it follows that
from the luxuriant growth of the vines and the immense quantities of the most luscious
fruit, that there were sound reasons for calling it the "Land of the Grape."
An ideal abiding place for those who cared for rural scenery.
There are representatives of families residing in the village, who number many years of
residence in the locality and who have seen the place grow in numbers and in industries
far beyond their imagination.
I well know, through the efforts of a few members of a fraternal and
beneficial organization, known as The Brotherhood of the Union, now Brotherhood of
America, a tract of land bounded by Torresdale Ave, Erdrich Street, Comley Street, Vankirk
Street and Dark Run Lane containing about sixty acres was purchased from Mrs. Caroline H.
Sherman and title in William J. Duryea, Thomas Neeley and Samuel T. Eshback, Trustees -
dated April 15th 1885.
The gentlemen who conceived the idea believed that they would best
serve the object of the organization by putting into effect one of the cardinal principles
of the order. It was then and is yet their belief that while many and great, good
things have been accomplished by individual efforts, a greater good can be accomplished by
the united efforts of earnest workers, having faith in their convictions, and a determined
effort, put their ideas into practical works.
There was brought first the Wissinoming Land and Improvement
Association. Many preliminary meetings were held in various parts of the city during
the latter part of 1884. The originators and others who became connected with the
Association and made the first payment in December 1884, there is to be found the names of
many of the present residents of the village. Not all who were interested came to
Wissinoming to live.
Wm. McBride, Garfield Circle No. 7 President; Henry B. Walters,
Secretary, No. 76, William J. Duryea, Treasurer, No. 97. They were elected at the
beginning and continued in office by yearly elections until, by order of court the
Association dissolved. On the Board of Directors there appears the names of William
H. Ploucher, Harry Shoch, Thomas Eckley, Edwin Campbell, George S. Campbell, Henry B.
Howell, Harry Yohn, Geo. W. Merkel, Jr., Elwood Gibson and Harry Grand. Castor and
The Association was regularly organized in January 1885 and launched
into existence by the election of officers. Charter was applied for and received in
April 1885, at a cost of $125. The land was purchased at the cost of $500 per acre.
10% of the purchase price was paid under date of April 15th, 1885. $2613.10
and a mortgage of $26000.00 executed for the balance to launch the Association into
existence to guide and direct its affairs so that it might be brought to a successful
issue, required much time, labor and moral courage, because of the excellent offers made
and guaranteed by those who originated the project.
Many who attended the meetings in the days of its beginning, after
listening to the proposition, reports and promises, would leave the place of meeting with
th4e thought in their minds, that no body of men would practice this liberality or fulfill
the obligations; there must be a ground floor, ort of which a few individuals intended to
reap a harvest financially.
Next the payments made by the individual stock holders had reached
the amount needed to make the first payment; the money so collected had been deposited in
the Shackamaxon Bank. Arrangements had been made to meet the Attorney for Mrs.
Sherman by the committee on grounds, in Philadelphia to receive the money and execute the
mortgage for balance. A few days before the time set the Bank failed, the
Association was without funds therefore could not meet their obligations. A halt was
called in the transaction, an extension of time asked for and granted. A special
meeting of the Association was called. The conditions confronting them made known to
the members and a most forcible question asked, what will you do?
Nearly $40000.00 paid in and nothing to show for it.
Fortunately for all concerned the Officers and Board of Directors had so far gained the
confidence of the stock holders, that advance payments were made to the amount of about
$1500.00 and a loan made by one of the members, $1500.00. Following this,
arrangements were again made with Mrs. Sherman and the money paid April 15, 1885 and the
title and deeds transferred to the trustees of the Association.
This loan to the Association was made about April 15th, 1885 and was
repaid in three $500.00 payments; the last one September 5th, 1885.
This transaction forcibly illustrates what may be accomplished when
men work together honestly, sincerely and courageously for the common good of all
concerned, for mark the result: starting with nothing, trusting to the honesty of one
another, laboring for the good of all.
On or about April 24th, 1886, less than two years after the first
payment, the final payment on the mortgage was made and the mortgage satisfied, and
practically the Association ready to go out of existence.
In closing up the affairs of the Association there was a lot on the
east corner of Vankirk and Jackson Streets that had been reserved by the Association; for
a hall to be erected thereon.
There was in the hands of the Treasurer about $600.00. The
several lot holders agreed that if an organization was formed by the residents of
Wissinoming or others, having for its object the erection of a Building for school
purposes, the Land Association would transfer the $600 and lot.
After several meetings in which many difficulties had to be
overcome, the Wissinoming Hall Association was regularly chartered to do business and as a
final act the Wissinoming Band [Land?] Association transferred the lot and $600 in cash.
Sometime later a proposition was submitted to and accepted by the
Hall Association [unreadable].
Turn the deed for lot, and the money on hand which amounted to about
$1380.00 over to W. J. Duryea who would in return proceed to erect a two story building at
a cost of $700.00 and borrow money to complete the same in time to open in September 1888.
When the final settlement for materials and labor was made the
property was transferred back to the Hall Association. School was opened in
September 1888. The first floor of the building was used as No. 52 fire engine
house. The second story southwest row was occupied by the Wissinoming Circle No. 130
B. of A. [Brotherhood of America], who were instituted on December 5th 1888 and still
remain in the village. They are imbued with the same spirit of progress and
advancement as the organized promoters of the Wissinoming Land and Improvement
Association, evidenced by the fact that they have purchased the lot 70 by 100 feet on the
west corner of Torresdale Avenue and Vankirk Street, on which site they hope to erect a
hall suitable to the needs of the village. They are not working alone in this
movement, as a number of other organizations in the village are working along the same
| A farmhouse in Wissinoming around the end of the nineteenth
This is true to the extent that Cook's Hall, the only
hall in the town is occupied every night in the week by some organization, all striving to
better the conditions of mankind and worthy of the respect of all in the village.
in 1885: The only industries near the village were the Fitler
Cordage Works and the Diston Saw Works.
The families represented on the grounds of the Wissinoming Land
Company were George Markel, M. Chursy Sules and W. J. Duryea.
The nearest Church was St. Stephens in White Hall with Tacony a
close second as to distance.
At this time the village was a part of the old 23rd ward, the area
of which comprised nearly one third of the entire County of Philadelphia and the voters
from here were compelled to vote at the Clayton Tavern, located at that time at Bridge St.
and Bustleton Pike. The November election of 1886 found the polling place at
Fisher's in Tacony.
In 1888 - When the first school was opened there were forty
scholars, today the Henry W. Lawton School has about four hundred and forty scholars.
Not gained by natural growth of the community, but brought about by the increase of
families, who have come from the city proper.
About 1890: The 23rd ward was divided and the 35th ward was created
with the dividing line at Dark Run Lane. At this time access to Wissinoming was by
way of Dark Run Lane or by Howell's Lane running from State Road to Erdrich Street, thence
to the old farm house on the north corner of Dark Run Lane and Erdrich Street.
Today much of Dark Run Lane has disappeared, caused by the opening
of Vankirk Street from the State Road to Erdrich Street.
Howell's Lane is only to be found in the memory of those who were
residents prior to 1890.
While it is true, there are representatives of families residing in
this locality who have lived here many years more than the average life of man, it is
equally true that at least 95% of the present population came to reside in this beautiful
suburban district in the last twenty-one years.
The present population is composed largely of that great
representative Americans who go to make up the bone and sinew of our great Republic.
They came not to abide in luxurious surroundings but to erect their homes and
surround them as best pleased their fancy.
The thought was in the beginning and we believe it is today to build
a town of homes, where at the close of day, the occupant may follow his particular idea of
enjoyment whether it be sport, poultry raising or gardening, in the pure air away from the
congestion contamination of a large city; not for profit altogether, but for the great and
helpful pleasure of seeing Nature's efforts for the benefit and enjoyment of man.
Some may say; Those who were first interested in the village and
those who came later made many blunders or were mistaken in their ideas of what was best
for the upbuilding of the locality. Permit me to say in answer that these, who from
the beginning and are still interested in all that makes for the good of Wissinoming,
builded from their view of the surrounding and the propositions they were met with, are in
most cases absolutely unchangeable in their views.
No great moneyed interest encouraged prosperity or growth of the
place. 25 years ago, those who came first and those who followed later on from time
to time, came for their own happiness without building for future generations.
The fair minded man will admit we are blessed in location and
improvements when he considered the value of property at the present time in a suburb with
many of the city improvements.
From a small beginning we now number about nine hundred homes with
many new ones underway, seventy business places, four churches and one combined school of
the most modern type.
Among the men, women and children of the village there is found as
much patriotism, Charity and Morality as can be found in many other locality of the County
of Philadelphia ready at all times to give assistance where needed, in whatsoever manner
it might best serve the purpose. It is a community made up of people capable of
reasoning and with an understanding that will admit of their reaching an opinion on the
general issues of the day. I have faith sufficient in my fellow townsmen to warrant
me in saying they are loyal to God, our Country, their families and their neighborhood in
May our Creator in His infinite goodness and mercy bless and prosper
them in all their industry.
William J. Duryea
Following the history is a list of the persons on the Wissinoming Flag Day Committee:
Joseph R. Nace, Chairman of General Committee, has resided in this vicinity for about
thirty years. Address: Keystone Street, Fosterville.
Charles J. Faunce, Secretary of General Committee, has been
a resident of the town for over ten years. Address: 6122 Ditman Street.
Frank L. King, Treasurer of General Committee, has resided in the town for about
fourteen years, one of our live business men. Address: Hegerman and Howell Streets.
William J. Duryea, Historian for the committee, a pioneer
in the founding of the Wissinoming Land and Improvement Asociation had resided at Howell
and Dittman Streets more than twenty-five years.
Arthur J. Elsey, on the Music Committee, has been living in the town about twenty-three
years at 3212 Vankirk Street.
John J. L. Merget, Publicity Committee, a resident of town
for twenty-one years, 6009 Torresdale Ave.
Henry H. Barber, Jr., Decorating and Parade Committee has been living in the town
twenty-three years at 3029 Vankirk Street.
R. Williams, Chief Marshall, also on the Decorating and Parade Committees, has been a
resident of the town for fourteen years, 3314 Higbee Street.
Charles J. Stratton, Publicity Committee, has resided in this vicinity for several
years, on Tulip Street, Fosterville.
Walter G. McHenry, Publicity Committee, living in the town over four years at 6000
Joseph E. James, Light and Band Committee, has resided at 3107 Comly Street, over
J. W. Stanistreet, Music Committee, has been living in our town about four years at
4919 Homestead Street.
Alexander Martin, Decorating Committee, has lived in this community about three years
at 4915 Homestead Street.
Leon S. Thornton, Music Committee has resided in our town for several years on Howell
James H. Davies, on Decorating Committee, living in this vicinity over four years, 6833
Marsden Street, Tacony.
Franklin J. Armstrong, Music Committee, has resided in this vicinity for nearly thirty
years, at 2359 Pratt Street.
A Chronology of Wissinoming History: From a Variety of Sources
1679 A small settlement of Swedes and Finns at the mouth
of Frankford Creek. Some reports put settlement here at 1660s.
1684 Jacob Hall emigrated to Pennsylvania, probably on
the ship Friendship, from Macclesfield, Chester County, England. He settled in Bucks
County in 1685.
1686 Provincial Council of Pennsylvania orders that a
road be laid out from Philadelphia to the falls of Trenton. This road eventually
became Frankford Avenue.
1691 Jacob Hall was still residing in Bucks County.
1693 Jacob Hall was commissioned a Justice of the Peace
in Philadelphia, and apparently moved to Philadelphia shortly before.
1694 Jacob Hall requested a survey of "meadow swamp
or marsh" adjoining his land in the vicinity of "Tacony" (what Wissinoming
was referred to at the time) and Frankford Creek.
1700 Jacob Hall died. In his will he named three
sons (Jacob, Joseph, and Solomon) and one daughter named Sarah.
1702 Jacob Hall, the son of the Jacob Hall that died in
1700, owned 119 acres in Taconic Township. Wissinoming, as yet unnamed, was in
1707 Jacob Hall purchases more land in Oxford Township.
1711 Trinity Church Oxford built for Anglicans on the
site of an earlier Quaker meeting house.
1712 Jacob Hall died in Oxford Township.
1731 Joseph Hall, second son of Jabob Hall, described as
a brewer, large land-owner, and a vestryman of Trinity Church Oxford, died in Oxford
Township. Joseph had the following children: Thomas, John, Joseph, Theodorus,
Jacob, Rebecca, Susanna, Sarah, Hannah, Ruth, Mary, and Charlesworth. Susanna was
the mother of Benjamin Rush, the father of American medicine. Sarah was the great
grandmother of Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph. All evidence indicates
that Joseph died without a will.
1731 Solomon Hall, third son of Jacob Hall, died in
1734 A list of landowners in Oxford Township contains
the names of Joseph Hall (250 acres), Jacob Hall (100 acres), and Solomon Hall (40 acres).
1742 Jacob Hall, the son of Joseph Hall and grandson of
Jabob Hall, purchased the family farm from his surviving siblings: Joseph, Theodorias,
John, Susanna, Sarah, and Ruth. The indenture describes the farm as having a main
house, a malt house, a brew house, and a tan yard.
1748 Jacob Hall was a captain in the Provinical Service,
and was several times commissioned a Justice of the Peace for Philadelphia.
1760 Lynford Lardner built a waterfront mansion north of
the mouth of Wissinoming Creek. The Lardner Point pumping station is named after the
1765 Jacob Hall sold 265 acres in
Oxford Township for 1661 pounds to Samuel Howell, a prominent Philadelphia
merchant. Described in terms of the present day shape of Wissinoming, the borders
were: from the Delaware River west on Howell St. to Hegerman St., then south to Cheltenham
Ave., then west to Frankford Ave., then north to Wissinoming Creek, then east back to the
Delware River. In all likelihood, the farm remained a place for brewing
activities. Among his other activities, Samuel Howell was the owner of the Crooked
Billet Tavern in Philadelphia.
1777 A map of the day still shows the Hall family in
1783 An Oxford Township tax document shows that Samuel
Howell paid taxes on 262 acres, 8 horses, 9 cattle, and 27 sheep.
1800 Frankford Borough was formed out of Oxford
1803 The Frankford-Bristol Turnpike Company was
incorporated. The beginning point was Front St. and Germantown Ave. Milestones
were marked 1MT, 2MT, etc., meaning "first mile of the turnpike," "second
mile of the turnpike," and so on. The milestone marking the sixth mile of the
turnpike is at the SE corner of Comly St. and Frankford Ave.
1807 Samuel Howell died. His estate at
Wissinoming, now known as the Howell Farm, was divided up among his children and
1809 First mill in Frankford. The factory system
was firmly established in Frankford by the end of the War of 1812.
1816 Land purchased for Frankford Arsenal. The
Arsenal was completed in 1830. Two more large tracts of land were purchased in 1849
and 1917, and the Arsenal was expanded.
1834 In November, the Philadelphia and Trenton Railroad
went into operation between Morrisville and Tacony. The railroad tracks went as far
as Kensington; however, the people of Kensington refused to let the trains into the city.
This made Tacony the end of the line. Passengers had to detrain around
present day Disston St. and take a steamboat into the city. A small community,
later to become Tacony, formed around this terminus.
1847 The Philadelphia and Trenton Railroad built the
Buena Vista or Tacony Station on the Cavender Estate near the foot of Disston St.
1852 Robert Cornelius moved to his estate, Lawndale,
which is now part of Wissinoming Park.
1854 Consolidation of the City and County of Philadelphia.
1872 Ground broken for Disston Saws in Tacony.
1884 There were less than a dozen houses in Wissinoming. In
December, a group of workingmen in the 31st Ward (part of Kensington) instituted a
corporation known as the Wissinoming Mutual Land and Improvement Association. Sixty
acres of land were purchased bounded roughly by Erdrick St., Comly St., Torresdale Ave.,
and Cheltenham Ave. The area was subdivided into lots and streets were opened.
1886 Wissinoming Presbyterian Church built a frame one story chapel
at Torredsale and Howell. This is the earliest church in Wissinoming.
1887 First street light on Howell St. There were about 69 homes
1888 Wissinoming Hall cornerstone laid at Vankirk and Jackson Sts.
Before Lawton School was built, children met at Wissinoming School on the second
floor of this hall, the first session being on 8 October under the supervision of the
first Principal, W. H. Hollis. The first floor was occupied by Fire Engine # 52.
1889 First newspaper published: The Wissinoming Schedule.
1890 William J. Moran became principal of Wissinoming School at the
1891 Elmer E. Michener became principal of Wissinoming School for a
short time and was replaced by A. J. Evans.
1893 Trolleys intoduced into Frankford.
1896 The Holmesburg, Tacony and Frankford Street Railway Company
opened its State Road Line.
1902 Lawton School opened at Benner and Ditman Sts.
1903 Torresdale Avenue trolley line opened.
1909 Major Flag Day Celebration on June 12th.
1910 Frankford High School opened.
1911 Wissinoming Park purchased by the City.
1922 Frankford Elevated opened.
1922 Ferry established between Tacony and Palmyra. Ceased
operations in 1929 when the Tacony Palmyra Bridge opened.
1923 Northeastern Movie opened. Closed in 1950.
1929 Tacony Palmyra Bridge opened.
1941 Wissinoming Boys Club won the Pop Warner Conference Football
Championship. Playing from 1939-1949, the "Wissies" amassed a record of
71-12-4 and won the Pop Warner Conference in 1941, 1942, and 1947.
194? Moss field dedicated to Victor Moss, a local soldier killed in
1972 American Legion playground pool dedicated to William Findlay, a
local soldier killed in Dung Ho, Vietnam on 29 October 1970.
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