Monday, February 9, 2015

Philadelphia trip February 2015

In preparation for my couple of days in Downtown Philadelphia, that is coming up quickly, I asked several sources for help in getting my ideas together about what I most want to do and see while I am there.  One of the first answers that came back to me was from (a lady in New Zealand...because of the time difference she has not yet given me permission to use her name).  Her answer was:

Some years back I was tracing the BEZER family, sons of Edward BEZER, one of the earliest Quakers in Wiltshire, England.  (As it turns out, my BEZER ancestry is probably from another Edward, contemporary with this one, but not a Quaker.  I haven't been able to go further back to discover whether the two were cousins or otherwise related.)  The three sons all migrated to Pennsylvania in the early years of Penn's colony.  One of them, John BEZER, was one of Penn's land commissioners distributing rural and urban lots.

I found a reference to John's urban lot, and on a Quaker visit to Philadelphia while working in London discovered that it seems to be the very site where the Liberty Bell now stands..... but at least you might feel a Quaker connection there.

Well, her answer caused me to rethink all that I had asked about.  Rather than looking for Quaker sites, I needed to concentrate on the Quaker connections the sites of today have.  It would seem that there are very few actual Quaker sites that still exist from the 1600s, but standing by the Liberty Bell, I will think about Quaker John Bezer who had lived there and been one of  William Penn's land commissioners.

My own MOORE family lived very close to the City Center where the City Hall Building is located today.  I just received information from Joseph Moore that a recent Moore researcher has discovered that James' wife was named Rose and that the couple owned other land in the area that is now Downtown Philly.

James was present in Philadelphia, within two years of the city’s founding by William Penn.  James’s town lot at the City Center, on which he built a house in 1684, forms the southwest corner of present Dilworth Plaza.  He was a blacksmith by trade and performed work on Penn’s Mill, for which he was partially paid by a 1692 land grant (which he shortly sold) in Merion township, Philadelphia County, and in 1690 he assembled the leaded glass windows for the Quaker’s Center Meeting House in Philadelphia

On Sunday I visited the art museum and spent a few hours in the Free Central Library.  Then I walked through Logan Square to Dilworth Plaza and City Hall (City Hall did not exist in the lifetime of James and Roose Moore).  Below are photos that I took of the southwest corner of Dilworth Square.  My research has told me that it would be the corner in the above rendering that is in shadow.

Wikipedia says of the Centre City area:

City Hall is built on the area designated by William Penn as Centre Square. It was a public square from the city's founding in 1682 until the construction of City Hall began upon the site in 1871. It was one of the five original squares laid out on the city grid by Penn. It lay at the geographic heart of the city from 1682 until the Act of Consolidation, 1854 (although it was never the social heart of the city during that long period).

A bit of googling has told me that the lead glass windows that James assembled could no longer be viewed as the location of the Quaker's Center Meeting House changed many times over the years.  

More new information on our mutual Moore family from Joseph Moore this month includes the fact that Steve Moore did land research in Philly including going back through chains of titles to establish that James and Rose Moore also owned land on the Delaware River at Front Street.

Wikipedia says about Front Street:

Front Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a north-south street running parallel to and near the Delaware River. It was constructed when Philadelphia was laid out by William Penn in 1682.
Front Street is the origin street of Philadelphia's numbered street grid; there is no First Street, Front Street exists in its place, and numbered streets begin at the next major block with Second Street, approximately one-tenth of a mile to the west.

Detail from "Plan of the City of Philadelphia and its Environs (Showing the Improved Parts)," 1797, John Hill, publisher, showing the downtown area. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

Soon after I heard from the lady in New Zealand, I received a message from Mark Dixon.  Mark had read my mind, and his answer was perfect!  He sent me the following:

I live in the Philadelphia suburbs, so I know many Quaker sites.  Rather than seeking out specifically Quaker sites, though, the most important thing may be to look at already-famous sites with "Quaker eyes."

Example: Independence Hall was not -- despite its current packaging --  built as Independence Hall.  It was built as the Pennsylvania statehouse by a Quaker-dominated state assembly.  This is the assembly from which Friends resigned during the French & Indian War rather than participate in war making.

The Liberty Bell really has little to do with the Revolution.  It's purpose was to ring when the Assembly was in session.  In the 19th Century, abolitionists made it a PR symbol for their movement.  And, as we know, many Quakers were involved in that movement.  (In one of his books, historian David Hackett Fischer examines the bell as a uniquely Quaker sort of tool. Essentially, his observation was that the bell could be heard by all announcing that the assembly was in session.  Legislatures elsewhere operated more quietly, more "sub rosa," if you will.  Into that, Fischer read a more democratic attitude.)

To say that the Free Quakers were a splinter group of "fighting Quakers" is too simple.  Some of them did fight.  Others had been disowned by various meetings years before the Revolution for a variety of offenses. Betsy Ross married out of meeting.  Timothy Matlack was a slacker of a businessman, and disowned when he didn't pay his bills.  Another (whose name escapes me at the moment) was involved in a counterfeiting scheme.

When visiting the Arch Street meetinghouse (320 Arch Street), remember that it is also a cemetery.  There are no markers because Friends at the time didn't use them, and no record of who is where.  However, many famous Quaker names of the colonial period are there, including Anthony Benezet.

FYI, the Arch Street Meetinghouse dates only to 1804.  At the Hicksite/Orthodox split, Arch Street stayed with the Orthodox, while the Hicksites built a new meetinghouse at 15th & Race.  The latter is now called Friends Center and houses Philadelphia Yearly Meeting offices, as well as the American Friends Service Committee, and other organizations. For really old Quaker meetinghouses, you need to get out into the suburbs.

Perhaps ironically, Philadelphia is full of historic churches of many other denominations.  One is St. Joseph's Catholic Church ( which dates to 1733. How is this relevant?  Again, look at it with "Quaker eyes."  This church is here because Philadelphia's non-Catholics allowed it to be here.  You won't find a Catholic church of similar age in Boston.

Finally, just enjoy the diversity of a big city -- people of all races, religious and backgrounds doing all sorts of things.  That's the world made by the Quakers' decision to allow immigrants of different religions and from countries other than England.  Yes, it is more diverse than they ever imagined and undoubtedly more than they would have desired.  But our current diversity is the result of what they did.  .....

Mark added the following in a later e-mail:

The Philadelphia History Museum is on 7th Street, just south of Market. Used to be called the Atwater Kent Museum.  I did not get around to this museum...another trip.


Marsha, the Pusey house is no reconstruction.  It's an original.  The mill is gone, but its weather vane -- with WP's initials -- is now at the Philadelphia History Museum:


Suzanne Dutton added the following comments:

These places are all in what is called Old City, near the Delaware River where most people lived early on. It's the neighborhood east of Center City and City Hall and Dilworth Plaza. ....

You can visit the Arch Street Meeting House at 320 Arch Street. This building is still a worship space for Quakers with knowledgable Quaker docents.

Not far away at 500 Arch Street is the Free Quaker Meeting House, built by what we refer to as the "fighting Quakers," those who decided to fight in the Revolutionary War. It is operated by the National Park Service. ......
In Fairmount Park on the western part of the city is Cedar Grove, a lovely old Quaker farm. 

Alan Crossman added to my information:

The first place of Quaker interest is the Arch Street Friends Meeting House at 4th and Arch Streets, built in 1804.  The Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia which meets here was founded in 1683 with the founding of Philadelphia.  The building is open from 10 AM to 4 PM, Tuesday to Saturday.  There is worship on Sunday Morning and Wednesday evening.  Information about the building is at and the worship group is at  The building is a National Historic Landmark.  The original meetinghouse at Center Square was torn down after only a few years, as it was viewed as being too far west of the population center along the river to have any appeal. .....  The ground on which the Arch St MH sits was given to Friends by William Penn in 1701 and used for the first 100 years as a burial ground.  Some of the graves there pre-date the Penn deed.  Very few of the graves are marked, as was the early Quaker practice, and the building and parking lot sit on top of the graveyard.

The second place of interest to Friends in the downtown area is Friends Center at 15th and Race Streets.  This is the place of worship for Central Philadephia Friends Meeting and the business headquarters for the American Friends Service Committee, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Friends World Committee (American Section) and several other Quaker organizations.  There is a statue of Mary Dyer out in front, a copy of the one that sits on Boston Common where she was hung as one of the early Quaker martyrs. The meetinghouse that is attached to this modern building was built after 1827 when Philadelphia Quakers had a separation on theological disputes. (Philadelphia friends reunited in 1955)

I did visit this site and took below photos, but this was not nearly as interesting as the Arch Street Meeting House as there was no one to show you around or tell you the stories like Jim at Arch Street.

The original 12th St Meetinghouse, built in 1812 was  located between Market and Chestnut Sts, usually referred to as “Western District” in the old records, was torn down in 1975 and moved to the George School campus and reconstructed there.  The materials for this building came from tearing down the previous “Great Meetinghouse at 2nd and Market” which was built in 1755.  The location of the Great Meetinghouse is now the open grass area along Market St next the Christ Church, as the Quakers specified it should stay open space when they sold it to the Episcopalians.

I have served as one of the guides at the Arch St meetinghouse from time to time an would be happy to try and answer other questions.

Most of the early Quaker records for the Delaware Valley are stored at either Haverford College or Swathmore College.  On-line catalog is available through their shared catalog at  Most of these files have been microfilmed and are in the process of being made available through Ancestry, but it is fun to visit the two archives to learn more about the original records and the librarians at both are helpful in pointing you towards resources.  Both colleges have easy access by SEPTA train lines from center city.  In addition, Gilbert Cope extracted many of those records in the late 1800’s.  His extractions are available at the Pennsylvania Historical Society on Locust St. Worth a visit to their library.  The other center for help with genealogy in Philadelphia is the PA Genealogical Society.  Their reading room and library is just around the corner from the Historical Society. 

While doing the research above, I found the following site that is very helpful:

It is an overview of historic sites with maps to go with each site.  

Here is the information for the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania:
GSP office hours: 10 AM - 4:30 PM, Tuesday - Friday
The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania is located at 2207 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

And the Historical Society hours:
Library Hours

Monday: Closed
Tuesday: 12:30 - 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday: 12:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Thursday: 12:30 - 5:30 p.m.
Friday: 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

I think that I am a member of either this organization or of the Pennsylvania Historical Society.  I joined at one of the bigger .....perhaps NGS annual event?  I need to look this up and double check.

It looks as if both are easy to access from where I will be staying:

Janet Palo-Jackson sent me a reminder that I should visit the Arch Street Meeting House.  And that she believed that the Pusey mill was the mill that was referred to as Penn's Mill in my information.  She is a Pusey Descendent.  Her ancestor was brought by William Penn from England to oversee the mill.  She is also a Matlack descendent.  Janet sent a very interesting link to her Matlack ancestor:

Mark Dixon agreed with Janet's suggestion that Penn's Mill might have been the Mill associated with Caleb Pusey's mill:

Thinking more about the "Penn mill" you're seeking.  Unless you have strong evidence to the contrary, I wonder if this wasn't the mill at Upland, near Chester:  I know that Penn and miller Caleb Pusey were partners in this venture.  The still-standing Caleb Pusey House there is the only extant structure visited by Penn. (Closed for the winter, unfortunately.)

I am waiting for permission from a couple of more people to add their information to my site.  I'll update as I have time and permissions.

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