The act of Assembly that created Montgomery County in 1784, says that “the freemen of said county (Montgomery) shall meet at the house of Hannah Thompson, innkeeper, in the township of Norriton, and there elect representatives.” According to W. H. Reed’s well researched article, “The Thompson Family and Jeffersonville Inn,” (HSMC Sketches, vol. 1, 1895) it was located where Egypt Road branches off from Ridge Road, now the section of West Norriton known as Jeffersonville.
The building dates to 1765, but the Thompson family goes back even further in the area. Archibald Thompson first bought the land in 1742, from Mary Norris, the widow of Isaac Norris (after whom Norristown is named). Archibald’s grandson, also named Archibald, built the inn. He was married to a woman named Hannah Bartholomew. He fought with the patriots during the American Revolution, become Colonel Archibald Thompson. He was assigned the job of confiscating the property of loyalists in the area. This is probably what brought him to the attention of the British, who, on September 24, 1777, burned his barn and destroyed much of the furniture in the inn. After the war, the state paid his widow £807 for the damage.
Drawing of the Inn in Hannah Thompson's time
Col. Thompson died in 1779 at the age of 39, leaving Hannah and seven children. From 1780 until her death in 1789, Hannah Thompson ran the inn. The whole county was only one election district at the time, and all of the voters in the county had to travel to Hannah Thompson’s inn to vote. So, in 1784 and 1785, the county’s votes were cast in Hannah’s inn. After that, the county courthouse was completed, and the elections moved there.
Management of the inn then passed to Hannah’s son-in-law Archibald Darrah (it was a trendy name at the time, I guess). He rented it out to Frederick Hallman of Worcester in 1803, and according to W. H. Reed, it was around this time that the sign with a portrait of Thomas Jefferson appeared outside the inn. Over the next few years, the inn changed management several times, but it remained a gathering place for the local Democratic Republicans. It was also where local militia men would drill, and every year it had a large celebration for the 4th of July.
The inn around 1895
In 1829, the inn became Jeffersonville’s first post office (residents had been forced to travel to Norristown prior to that). As the village grew up around the inn, Reed remarks that references to the inn change from “the Jefferson Inn” to “the Jeffersonville Inn.” In 1852, elections returned to the inn when Norriton Township was made into a separate election district.
The dining room in the 1920's
At the turn of the 20th Century, the inn was known as “Tom Brown’s Inn” after its owner. It was closed for much of the 1920’s, but in 1925, the inn’s new owner, John Hallman, took advantage of the expansion of Valley Forge Park, and highlighted the inn’s historic significance with many antiques from the time of the Revolution.
The Inn in the 1920's
It 1939, the historic inn was razed for the building of a gas station.
As June comes to an end, graduation season is winding down. I thought this photograph of Norriton's Township's graduating class of 1900 was an appropriate one for this week. The photo was donated by Irma Schultz in 1978, and that's her brother Raymond (he's easy to spot). Lidie Cassel is on his right, but the girl on the left is unidentified. The bottom row is Mary Allebach Markley Lesher, Samantha K. Hoover, and the final girl is also unidentified.
The back of the photograph has the stamp of S. H. Cope, a photographer with a studio in Norristown. Many of Cope's photos have made it into our collection. The photo doesn't give an indication of what school the teens attended. Dr. David Schrack's 1895 article on the history of then Norriton Township (published in our own Sketches) notes that the township had 5 public schools at that time, but doesn't list them.
So, it is possible that they attended this school - the Jeffersonville School. This two room schoolhouse was built in 1898, and this photo is from around that time. It stood on School Lane and West Main Street. It was later expanded and remained in use until 1926, according to The History of West Norriton Township (2009).