Marshallton’s history showcased during Town Tours & Village Walks
● By J. Chambless
The picturesque village of Marshallton retains a lot of its character and charm as a result of preservation efforts.
By Steven Hoffman
Chester County went back to its roots for the 25th anniversary of the Town Tours & Village Walks, shining a spotlight on a few of its most historic villages—including the unique and charming village of Marshallton.
Marshallton is steeped in history, and the Town Tours & Village Walks event offered an opportunity for visitors to learn about how it developed into a thriving village, and how it retains the historic character today. The West Bradford Historical Commission was the sponsor of the town tour.
As is so often the case, the development of Marshallton village was impacted significantly by its geographic location. The village of Marshallton had the good fortune of being situated along Strasburg Road, which was a popular freight road connecting Lancaster and Philadelphia. The road was heavily traveled, in part because it was without tolls and was cheaper for trucks hauling freight. Marshallton is located about halfway between the two Pennsylvania cities, and represented a nice stopping point for travelers heading between Lancaster and Philadelphia. As early as 1765, there were two hotels in the village and another one that was nearby. Businesses opened up to provide services to local residents and to the travelers.
“It was a thriving village. So much so that it required not one, but two taverns,” explained Linda Kaat, one of the tour guides during Town Tours & Village Walks.
The village was home to a lot of tradespeople, and residents ran businesses out of their homes. It was quite a self-sufficient little village from a very early date. Marshallton has been referred to as a “working man’s village,” and evidence of that can still be found everywhere throughout the village. Strolling through Marshallton is like stepping back in time, and a visitor can still learn a lot about its long history.
Marshallton is named after Humphry Marshall, a well-respected botanist who lived from 1722 to 1801. Marshall was born in the area that eventually became the Marshallton village, and grew to have tremendous influence on the area.
Marshall was the cousin of two botanists, John Bartram and William Bartram, but he did not focus exclusively on that field. He served as an apprentice stonemason before taking charge of his father’s farm. He also had an interest in astronomy and natural history that he nurtured. His interest in botany grew over time, and in 1773 he created a botanical garden at Marshallton with both native and exotic plants. It was one of the early botanical gardens in the United States.
In 1785, Marshall published “Arbustrum Americanum: The American Grove, an Alphabetical Catalogue of Forest Trees and Shrubs, Natives of the American United States.” His contributions to botany were significant, and the Borough of West Chester would eventually name the public square “Marshall Square” in his honor.
Humphry Marshall was a Quaker, and is believed to have built the Bradford Friends Meeting that is still located in the heart of Marshallton. The village had a Quaker Meeting as early as 1722, and the present building was constructed around 1765, and it has remained as one of Marshallton’s treasures in the ever-changing world of Chester County. The Bradford Friends Meeting still operates today, although its membership is smaller than during previous times.
The Bradford Friends Meeting is an important link to the village’s past. The village has always been very much in the middle of things. There was also a cradle factory that made grain cradles and scythes, a blacksmith shop, a pump maker, a cigar factory, ironsmith shop, clothing store, bakery, and the beautiful Marshallton United Methodist Church, all along or near Strasburg Road.
For travelers heading through the village today, there are still attractions like the Marshalton Inn, Four Dogs Tavern, and the Merchant of Menace art gallery, which is located in a building that once served as the town hall.
In the digital age, no small village is going to be quite so self-sufficient, but Marshallton still offers a charming and charmed existence for local residents.
Tom Walsh, one of the tour guides for the Town Tours & Village Walks event, shared some of his memories of growing up in Marshallton. He talked about a peaceful life at a time when two scoops of ice cream cost a dime, ice trucks still made deliveries to homes, and children in the area could play in the yard of the blacksmith shop or wander the fields that were still mostly undeveloped back then.
A lot has changed about Marshallton since then but, thankfully, some important elements of the village’s long history also remain.
Take a self-guided tour of the
Village of Marshallton
The West Bradford Historical Commission, with the assistance of Verne Weidman, have developed a self-guided tour of the Village of Marshallton using the izi.travel app. There are 34 points of interest on this one-hour tour and you can start the tour at any point.
Weidman produced the app for the West Bradford Historical Commission using the materials researched by the Commission for its brochure of Marshallton Village.
To use the app, download the free izi.travel app to your smartphone from the Apple App Store for iPhone or the Google Playstore for Android phones. Then search under audio guides for “Marshallton Village.”
You can also view the tour from the Internet by going to https//izi.travel/en, then click on “audio guides’ and search for Marshallton.
As you walk through the village, selecting a point will give you historical information about it.