Found in Collection (244)
We have a guest blogger for this post. HSMC volunteer Eleanor Jones researched and wrote about a Medal of Honor recipient from Spring Mount, Montgomery County. Thank you Eleanor!
The One-Man Army - Alton Warren Knappenberger
by Eleanor Jones
What do you think of when someone mentions military achievement? In serving and protecting, The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor against enemy forces. The receivers have filled newspaper articles, remembrance anniversaries, and walls of lists. However, the personal undertaking can still be lost on many.
Alton W. Knappenberger is one such individual to receive the Medal of Honor. In World War II, Knappenberger was stationed in Europe in early 1944, during the Anzio Campaign. Born on December 31, 1923 in Coopersburg, PA, at the age of twenty, he was recognized by his familial dispatches to be, "chiefly responsible for preventing serious losses to his outfit in a battle in which every officer and non-commissioned man in his company became a casualty." One man's influence in tragedy cannot be ignored even in our modern times.
Copy of a Newspaper Article in the Family Files at HSMC
In Cisterna di Latina, a town 30 miles from Nazi-Occupied Rome, Knappenberg's unit was moving from Italy's beaches to an open field. With bodies on either side of him being shot down, he felt unattended and exposed. Assuming none of his superiors were left to give commands, Knappenberger was left to act on his own will against the enemy ahead of him. He ran forward in a zig-zag for up to forty yards as bullets shot passed him. He avoided grenades and shot down Germans. He stood his ground for several hours finding security behind a knoll, laying flat or occasionally kneeling. Six survivors remained and joined Knappenberger on the knoll. The remaining company's commander ordered them to return to their regiment, unaware there was no regiment to return to. Sixty Nazis were found dead after the Unites States troops took the ground. The 20-year old private did not have a scratch on him. Knappenberger's Medal of Honor Action date was February 1, 1944. When he was presented with the medal he was called, "a blasted one-man army," by General Mark Clark.
Alton W. Knappenberger, Photo from Congressional Medal of Honor Society
Knappenberger reminisced about the shift in response to his medal. He said, "Everybody wanted to talk to me about the medal. Now very few people know I have it." Locally, the medal lost its significance once the threat itself diminished. His life carried on when he returned home in August of 1944. He quickly married his first wife Ruth. Eventually he married his second wife, Mary. He had six children. Alton Knappenberger died on June 9, 2008 in Pottstown, PA. In World War II, 464 people were awarded the Medal of Honor. While he is proud of his service to earn the medal, he admits, "I was scared all the time I was over there. I just did what I had to do. You go in there and just try to get them guys before they get you." Alton Knappenberger's service in one day saved countless lives. The horrors of war and the strength of veterans must remain remembered and not be overlooked.
Stories of Sacrifice. “Alton W Knappenberger: World War II: U.S. Army: Medal of Honor Recipient.” Congressional Medal of Honor Society, 2022. https://www.cmohs.org/recipients/alton-w-knappenberger.
, David. “A Reluctant Hero.” The Morning Call, 30 Jan. 2019. https://www.mcall.com/news/all-altonknappenbergerhero-story.html.
Last, First. “Salford Medal of Honor Man Modest About his Exploits.” The Times Herald, July 26, 1962.
We have several indictments from Montgomery County in our archives. Many date back to the 19th century. Given the recent Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade, this particular indictment seems worth sharing. For privacy, the names of all individuals involved in the indictment have been redacted.
Indictment with Redacted Names
Dated March 11, 1879, this person was indicted for "fornication and bastardry, seduction, and attempt to commit abortion."
Prior to the mid 1800s, there seems to have been few or no regulations on abortion in Pennsylvania. What we can tell is that women were allowed to have an abortion prior to the gestational period known as "quickening," which is when the woman can feel the first movements of the fetus.
In 1850, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that abortion throughout pregnancy was a crime. This seems to have been one of the first times a state supreme court outlawed abortion in the U.S. Many states started making their own laws regarding abortion, with laws ranging from completely outlawing it to allowing it until the "quickening" period.
It was not until the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade that abortion laws were regulated on the federal level. In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the right to an abortion was protected under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. This ruling legalized abortion nationwide, but allowed states to impose certain limitations.
Bill found with the Indictment
A case originating in Pennsylvania, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, also made it all the way to the Supreme Court in 1992. In this case, the court reaffirmed that women had the right to an abortion prior to fetal viability. However, the court also ruled many of the statutes under the PA law in question were constitutional. This included: the woman seeking an abortion must give her consent, a minor seeking an abortion needs one parent to consent, clinics must provide certain information to the woman seeking the abortion, and the woman must wait 24 hours before having the abortion. Violating many sections of this law could be considered a felony in the third degree.
As of July 2022, the future of abortion laws in Pennsylvania is unknown. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, it is now left to the individual states to decide the legality of abortion. Some PA legislators are currently trying to pass amendments to the Pennsylvania State Constitution to further restrict abortion. Other PA legislatures are opposed to the changes. Ultimately, the issue may be sent to the voters for a final decision in an upcoming election.
Joseph, Anthony M. The “Pennsylvania Model”: The Judicial Criminalization of Abortion in Pennsylvania, 1838 – 1850. The American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 49, No. 3 (July 2007). https://www.jstor.org/stable/25664426
Meyer, Katie. “After advancing constitutional amendment, Pa. Republicans move closer to being able to restrict abortion access” Whyy.org, July 9, 2022. https://whyy.org/articles/pennsylvania-house-senate-constitutional-amendment-abortion-gop/
Pennsylvania General Assembly, Title 18, Chapter 32: Abortion. https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/LI/consCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&ttl=18&div=0&chpt=32
PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA, et al., Petitioners, v. Robert P. CASEY, et al., etc. Robert P. CASEY, et al., etc., Petitioners, v. PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA et al., Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute. https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/505/833
“Roe v. Wade overturned: What are Pennsylvania's abortion laws?”Pittsburgh’s Action 4 News, June 24, 2022. https://www.wtae.com/article/what-are-pennsylvanias-abortion-laws/40406446#
Witkowski, Gustave Joseph. “Pre-1850: Abortions in early America are commonplace.” Wikimedia Commons, WFMZ News, June 24, 2022. https://www.wfmz.com/entertainment/coffee-break/pre-1850-abortions-in-early-america-are-commonplace/image_7571121e-1451-57b4-843c-a7be2fcedab6.html
While removing old picture wires from our framed art works, I came across this piece.
It is a drawing of the King of Prussia Inn. I am uncertain when the piece was made, but the title indicates the artist drew the Inn as it would have looked circa 1760. There is no artist signature, but we know it was made for a Lyle Boulwar.
The King of Prussia Inn was founded in 1719. Over time, it evolved into a successful tavern and inn at the heart of the town. It thrived for two centuries before it was faced with location problems.
In the early 1950s, the PA Highway Department was planning to widen US Route 202. This was part of the preparation for the PA Turnpike and Schuylkill Expressway merger. Since the King of Prussia Inn was in the way of this project there were a lot of protests by the local population. Ultimately, US 202 was constructed around the Inn. Although the building was saved, it was difficult to access. The precarious location caused the Inn to close on June 28, 1952.
Over the next few decades, the Inn was vacant, leaving it vulnerable to weather and vandalism. The building received some upkeep by the King of Prussia Historical Society, volunteers, and local businesses in preparation for the Bicentennial in 1976. By 1997, PennDot was planning another highway expansion. Since the Inn was added to the National Register of Historic Places, there were several calls for the building to be preserved.
On August 20, 2000, it was moved to land donated by PECO. The engineering involved in this project was so impressive, it earned the National Legacy Award for successful relocation and restoration in 2004. Today, the building housed the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, located on Bill Smith Boulevard.
Google Maps Street View Image August 2021
“KOP Inn History.” King of Prussia Historical Society. http://www.kophistory.org/kop-inn-history-part-1/
“15 Year Anniversary of King of Prussia Inn’s Move.” King of Prussia Historical Society, August 19, 2015. http://www.kophistory.org/15-year-anniversary-of-king-of-prussia-inns-move/
“At a Crossroads: The King of Prussia Inn.” National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/articles/at-a-crossroads_teaching-with-historic-places.htm
We recently added a tin of Kiwi Shoe Polish to HSMC's collection. Most of you have probably seen the iconic tins or used them yourselves. What you may not know is one of Kiwi's manufacturing plants was located in Pottstown.
Upon seeing the Kiwi bird on the tin, most people probably think the product originated in New Zealand. However, it was founded in Australia by William Ramsey. He and Hamilton McKellar started a business in Melbourne around 1901. They produced a wide range of products including disinfectant powder, stove polish, cleanser, and boot cream. By 1906, they developed the Kiwi Shoe Polish, which Ramsey named for his wife, Annie Ramsey, who was a native of New Zealand. Sadly, Ramsey never saw the huge success that was to come for the company. He died from cancer on September 4, 1914 at the age of 47.
Kiwi became known for its ability to preserve leather shoes and make them water resistant. This became especially vital during World War I. With soldiers fighting in trenches, health issues like trench foot were big concerns on the front line. Many Allied countries bought Kiwi's product to help soldiers keep their feet dry. This production for the armed forces continued in World War II, when Kiwi became particularly popular among U.S. Troops.
The first U.S. based Kiwi plant was built in Philadelphia in 1948. The plant moved to Pottstown in 1953. It remained there until the 1980s when it moved to Douglassville Township in Berks County. Kiwi is still manufactured to this day and is currently owned by the SC Johnson Company.
“Kiwi Brand 100 years of Kiwi polish 1906 – 2006.” Blanco and Bull. https://www.blancoandbull.com/boot-cleaning/kiwi-brand/
Newspapers, “Kiwi Polishes Up Its Line of Products.” March 11, 1990, Orlando Sentinel. https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-xpm-1990-03-11-9003093158-story.html
Pottstown Historical Society. “2016 Historical Walking Tour.” https://phspa.org/2016/06/22/2016-historical-walking-tour/
, Madeleine, “Kiwi Shoe Polish History in Book by Late Author Keith Dunstan.” Herald Sun. https://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/north-west/kiwi-shoe-polish-history-recorded-in-book-by-late-author-keith-dunstan/news-story/7f53583e574f90a2b6a4ca1fc60e60fc
We recently acquired a transmitting tube used by the WIBG radio station. These devices control electric current flow in a vacuum. Their functions allowed radio signals to be amplified.
This tube was placed on a wooden mount for display. It was given to Thomas Caldwell, a retired dentist and ham radio operator. It was given to him in 1936 by William Brownback, who was also a radio operator as well as one of Caldwell's patients.
The WIBG radio station was founded in 1924 as a 50-watt religious station for St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Elkins Park. It played on channel 1350 AM. St. Paul's sold the station in 1931. The new for-profit company moved the station to Glenside in 1932.
By 1939, the station was sold to Seaboard Broadcasting. In 1941, the station moved to 1425 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. In 1957, the station was sold to Storer Communications. By this time, WIBG became popular with their "top 40" format. Playing more rock and roll music than their competitors, WIBG was particularly popular among teenagers. Over time, the station became known as "Wibbage".
The station changed hands several times since then. As ownership changed, so too did the style of music. Everything from rock and roll, disco, R&B, country, and religious music was played over the airwaves. Some of the owners also introduced news, sports, and talk show segments in between the music. WIBG is still around as of 2022. It is currently headquartered in Ocean City, New Jersey.
“About WIBG Radio,” WIBG. https://www.wibg.com/about
“History of Philadelphia radio station 990 WNTP (Salem Communications),” Philadelphia Radio Archives. “http://www.phillyradioarchives.com/history/wntp
Fuhrmann Doug, “Local History: WIBG Radio 99 dominated the airwaves.” The Daily Journal, June 18, 2015. https://www.thedailyjournal.com/story/news/history/2015/06/18/local-history-wibg-radio-99-dominated-the-airwaves/28932459/
This is a watercolor painting of the Wetherill Mansion. It was painted by local artist, illustrator, and educator Lois Rapp (1907-1992) around 1938.
Wetherill Mansion, HSMC Collection
The mansion has had several names over the years including Wetherill Mansion, Fatland, Fatland Farm, and Vaux Hill to name a few. It is located along the banks of the Schuylkill River in Audubon.
Location of the mansion in Audubon
James Vaux, a wealthy Quaker from Philadelphia, purchased the land from the Morgan family in 1772. By 1776, the first mansion was constructed. The property spanned an estimated 300 acres at the time and was referred to as Vaux Hill. During the American Revolution, Vaux temporarily housed both General George Washington and General Sir William Howe on different nights in September 1777.
Various people have lived in the mansion since James Vaux, but the Wetherill family owned the property the longest (1825 - 1946). The original house was raised in 1843 by William Wetherill. The construction of the new mansion, which still stands today, was completed in 1845. It was designed by noted architect John Haviland, who also designed the original Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.
This painting of the Wetherill Mansion will be on display during our Grandma's Attic exhibit, which will be free and open to the public from May 19, 2022 to March 31, 2023.
We are finishing the final details of our upcoming exhibit, Grandma's Attic, so I thought I would highlight one of the items that will be on display starting Thursday May 19, 2022 at 5pm.
This is a maroon wedding dress worn by Rachel Schwenk. She was born in Perkiomen around 1862. Rachel lived most of her life in the Graterford area. She married William R. Johnson on September 25, 1890, in Graterford. They were listed as farmers in the 1900 census. However, by 1920, William transitioned out of farm life and became a carpenter. Rachel died on July 15, 1955 in Pottstown. William died on July 18, 1959 in Towamencin. They are both buried at Keelys Church Cemetery in Schwenksville.
Made mostly from silk, this dress has a few hidden surprises to it. The collar and a section on the bottom left is made of felt. There is also a metal brooch on the left side, which holds the folds of the dress into a bow shape. Another interesting part of this dress is its size. Rachel was so small, we are unable to button the top while it is on our mannequin! This dress was donated to HSMC in 1955, but it did not come with any shoes or other accessories.
This dress, and many other items will be on display at HSMC starting Thursday May 19, 2022 from 5pm to 8pm. The upcoming exhibit, Grandma's Attic, will highlight rarely displayed objects from HSMC's collection. Each item represents fun and unusual things you might find in a family member's attic, basement, or other storage space. Visitors will see a wide variety of objects including, but not limited to, toys, clothing, and art. This exhibit will be free and open to the public from May 19, 2022 through March 30, 2023.
Our Board President, Charles Kelly, recently told me about the first robbery on the Schuylkill division of the Reading Railroad. Several articles were written about it in the Norristown Times Herald.
Norristown Times Herald, June 1, 1934
On June 1, 1934, five masked men confronted a mailman at the Reading Train Station in Conshohocken at 7:25 am. The men were dressed as laborers, wearing black stockings and pieces of window curtains to hide their faces. They stole registered letters containing a large sum of money.
They escaped in a car heading towards Norristown. Many packages were reported to have been emptied and thrown out the car window as the thieves escaped. The car was found, still running, two hours later near the Montgomery County Courthouse. Inside the car, police found a mail sack and letters. They learned the car had been stolen from H. W. Powel of Merion the day before the robbery.
Norristown Times Herald, June 2, 1934
The mail had been scheduled to arrive at the First National Bank of Conshohocken. The bank claimed they normally received $40,000 every week from the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia for their payroll. However, their records indicated $17,000 never arrived and was suspected to have been taken during this robbery.
The mailman, J. Roy Stewart, had previously received protection during his mail routes. Apparently, there was fear such a robbery might occur while he was scheduled to deliver money to the bank. Unfortunately for him, he was not under protection on June 1. This suggested to the police that the robbers may have been tipped off that there were no guards scheduled to protect Stewart that morning. A reward of $11,700 was set.
Norristown Times Herald, February 8, 1935
Six men were ultimately tried for the robbery, including Conshohocken letter carrier, John J. Murphy. He was given a suspended sentence and put on probation for 5 years. Murphy's cousin Edward J. Dempsey was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for his complicity in the robbery. Another man, Edward J. Quinn was sentenced to 10 years.
The leaders were identified as George Marsh, John Cahill, and Bentley Verro. They were each sentenced to 25 years in a Federal penitentiary. They were allegedly going to be sent to Alcatras, California to serve their sentence. However, I did not see their names in the National Archives, so I am uncertain if they were sent there or to another Federal penitentiary. Dempsey and Quinn were supposedly sent to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
George's brother Stanley Marsh was also suspected of being involved. However, while the others were on trial, he was still at large. At this point, I have not uncovered if he was ever found and tried in court.
With the amount of rain we have gotten this week, I was left thinking about the various photographs of local storms and flooding we have here at HSMC.
One of the collections contains color photographs from a small community in West Norriton known as Port Indian. These photographs, donated to us by William F. Runkle, depict the flooding along the Schuylkill River after Hurricane Agnes went through the area in late June 1972.
According to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Agnes hit Florida as a Category 1 before continuing north and east. Seen in the image below, it regained strength when it entered the Atlantic Ocean before coming back towards Pennsylvania.
The rainfall brought widespread flooding to communities along the Schuylkill River. The Times Herald recorded several photographs and stories about the flood. The storm caused forty-eight deaths and over $2 billion dollars in damage in Pennsylvania alone.
The Times Herald, June 23, 1972
The Times Herald, June 24, 1972
Due to the destruction, Hurricane Agnes was listed as one of the worst storms to hit the area. The Schuylkill River at Norristown crested at 25.10 feet, the highest on record at that time. That record was broken last year when the river crested at 26.85 feet after Hurricane Ida hit the area in September 2021.
“Flood of June 1972 – Hurricane Agnes.” National Weather Service. https://www.weather.gov/bgm/pastFloodJune1972
“Top10 Highest Historical Crests: Schuylkill River at Norristown, PA.” 1/14/2020 https://www.weather.gov/media/marfc/Top20/SEPA/Norristown.pdf
Heinze, Justin. “All-Time Record Floods Slam Schuylkill River, Perkiomen Creek” Patch,
Kiner, Deb. “‘A cruel blow’: Tropical Storm Agnes devastated Pa. in 1972” PennLive, Jun. 20, 2020. https://www.pennlive.com/life/2020/06/a-cruel-blow-tropical-storm-agnes-devastated-pa-in-1972.html#:~:text=Agnes%20caused%20more%20than%20%242,Milton%20J.
If you follow our blog closely, you may remember reading about the Snowballing painting created by J. Lizzie Cloud Waters. You can click here to read that article. I could not have imagined the good fortune that would come from writing that article! With help from Lynn Emery (HSMC member and genealogist) and Daniel Sheppard (Irish art dealer and researcher), we now have a clear picture of Lizzie's life!
On July 22, 1833, Josephine Elizabeth "Lizzie" Cloud was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Her parents were Dr. Joseph Cloud Jr. and Elizabeth Roberts. Lizzie was the youngest child and had three older brothers: Oliver Evans Cloud, Joseph Cloud III, and Edwin Carroll Cloud. Her father Dr. Joseph Cloud Jr. Died on June 2, 1834, shortly before Lizzie's first birthday.
Baptisms at St. John's Episcopal Church, Norristown, December 21, 1838
Lizzie, her brothers, and their mother, were all baptized at St. John's Episcopal Church in Norristown on December 21, 1838. All of them were still living together in Norristown in 1850. Around this time, Lizzie attended the Oakland Female Institute.
On August 10, 1853, Lizzie married Dr. George Henry Waters. They resided together in Philadelphia until at least 1871, when Lizzie's mother died. After her mother's death and into the early 1880s, there are records of Lizzie traveling in Ireland and England. During her travels she published articles and illustrations in Harper's New Monthly Magazine.
Drawing by Lizzie for her article "A Lone Woman in Ireland." Harper's Magazine, Vol. 47, 1873
Lizzie's artistic style seems similar to fellow American Artist, Howard Helmick. Furthermore, the Irish and London addresses used by Helmick during his exhibitions seem to coincide with Lizzie's travels. It seems they may have been traveling together during this time. Lizzie's paintings were exhibited in several galleries and are signed in different ways: Elizabeth Waters, Josephine Lizzie Cloud (sometimes signed Miss. or Mrs.), J. Lizzie Cloud, J. Lizzie Cloud Waters, and Mrs. J. L. Cloud.
Snowballing, created by J. Lizzie Cloud Waters c. 1873 (left) LeMauvais Oeil (The Evil Eye) by Howard Helmick, c. 1869 (right)
While Lizzie was in Ireland and England, Dr. Waters stayed in Philadelphia. We have not located any divorce records, but it seems they became estranged at this time. Dr. Waters committed suicide on November 12, 1891 and is buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, Montgomery County.
By 1920, Lizzie had moved back to the United States and was living in West Grove, Chester County with her nephew Joseph E. Cloud. She died on January 21, 1922 and is buried in New London Presbyterian Church Cemetery, New London township, Chester County.
I want to thank Lynn and Daniel for their help uncovering Lizzie's story. Their kindness in sharing research with me was vital to creating this article. Thank you!
Edited by Vera Kreilkamp. RURAL IRELAND THE INSIDE STORY. McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, 2012. https://archive.org/stream/ruralirelandinsi00krei/ruralirelandinsi00krei_djvu.txt
Harper's New Monthly Magazine Volume 47 June to November 1873, Vol. 47. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers. https://archive.org/details/harpersnew47various/page/874/mode/2up?q=cloud
"Howard Helmick (1840-1907) American, Le Mauvais Oeil (The Evil Eye) (1869)." Morgan O'driscoll. https://www.morganodriscoll.com/art/howard-helmick-le-mauvais-oeil-the-evil-eye-1869/36800
“J. Lizzie Cloud (British, flourished 1873-1880).” Studio Antiques & Fine Art Incorporated. Lois Boyles & Richard . https://www.studioantiquesandfineart.com/items/1228660/Lizzie-Cloud-British-flourished-1873-1880
If you live in the Plymouth Meeting area, you likely recognize the family names Corson and Hovenden. These families owned Abolition Hall, one of the many local sites connected to the Underground Railroad. It was also the studio of famous artist Thomas Hovenden.
Thomas Hovenden, HSMC Photograph Collection
However, you may or may not be familiar with the name Helen Corson Hovenden. She was born in Whitemarsh to George and Martha (Maulsby) Corson on September 15, 1847. Helen wanted to become an artist, so she attended the School of Design in Philadelphia, now known as the Moore College of Art and Design. In 1875, she traveled to Paris to study painting at the Academie Julian.
While studying art in Paris, Helen met her future husband and fellow artist, Thomas Hovenden. They both moved back to Montgomery County in 1880 and were married on June 9, 1881. Helen and Thomas used the Corson family barn (Abolition Hall) in Plymouth Meeting as their art studio from 1881 to 1895.
Abolition Hall, HSMC Photograph Collection
Helen was a widely respected artist in Montgomery County and Philadelphia. She was mostly known for her portraits and animal paintings. You can find her work at places like Woodmere Art Museum and the Smithsonian. HSMC even has two portraits created by Helen.
The first one is of Dr. Louis W. Read. He was a renowned Civil War surgeon from Upper Merion.
Dr. Louis W. Read, HSMC Collection
The second portrait is of Dr. William Corson. He was Helen’s uncle.
Dr. William Corson, HSMC Collection
Helen died on October 6, 1935. She and her husband are buried at Plymouth Meeting Friends Cemetery.
Helen Corson Hovenden. Woodmere Art Museum. https://woodmereartmuseum.org/explore-online/collection/artist/helen-corson-hovenden
Robert Knight Ward, HSMC Photo Collection
Robert Knight Ward was born near London, England on November 16, 1825. He and his parents, Lydia and William, immigrated to the United States in 1830. Robert learned about the restaurant business from his father. He married Elizabeth King (1829 – 1903) of Philadelphia on February 27, 1848. They would go on to have ten children together.
Elizabeth King Ward, HSMC Photo Collection
Robert started his restaurant in 1848 on Swede Street, located near Lafayette Street. Roughly a year and a half later, he moved his business to DeKalb Street near Main Street. According to the directories, he moved the restaurant at least two more times after that, but stayed in Norristown.
1882 Norristown Directory
From at least 1882 to 1888, Robert operated his business at 36 East Main Street. Located directly across from the newly constructed Montgomery County Courthouse, this was an ideal place for a business. Locals as well as visitors to Norristown were known to frequent his restaurant for his famous oysters and ale. Robert became known for his business integrity and quality food. We even have a pin in HSMC's collection that advertises his restaurant.
Robert operated his restaurant until his death on January 1, 1888. The restaurant appears to have continued even after his death. Elizabeth Ward was listed as its owner in the 1890 and 1891 directories. Based on the photograph of a B.T. Ward, which is undated, I would guess the restaurant continued at least into the first part of the 1900s.
B. T. Ward outside Ward's Oyster House, HSMC Photo Collection
Robert, Elizabeth, and several of their children are buried at Historic Montgomery Cemetery in lot L - 14 -16.
Horace A. Davenport was born in Newberry, South Carolina on February 22, 1919. Like many Black families in the Southern United States at this time, Davenport's family was part of the Great Migration. They moved to Bridgeport when he was four years old. When he was 12, Davenport temporarily moved back to Newberry to live with his paternal grandparents. By age 14, Davenport moved to Norristown and graduated from Norristown High School in 1938.
Davenport attended Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC on a football scholarship. However, he was drafted to the US Army a few weeks before graduation. As an engineer during World War II, Davenport built and maintained airfields in New Caledonia. He also saw action in Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Soi Pan.
After serving in the army, Davenport completed his BA at Howard University. He went on to earn a Master of Science in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1947 and a Bachelor of Law from Penn Law School in 1950. He passed the Bar in 1951.
After being rejected for jobs because he was Black, Davenport decided to set up a private practice on Swede Street near the Montgomery County Courthouse. He handled cases in criminal and civil law. Davenport eventually served as solicitor for the Norristown Area School District, the Norristown Area School Authority, and the Central Montgomery County Vocational-Technical School. By 1971, Davenport was part of the law firm Gerber, Davenport, and Wilenzik. Davenport's primary focus at this time was school law.
Times Herald, November 5, 1975
By 1975, he became the first African-American judge on Montgomery County's Common Pleas Court. Judge Davenport served on the 38th Judicial District. He became a senior judge in 1989. Judge Davenport became renowned for his ability to settle cases outside the courtroom, which reduced the backlog from 4,000 to 400 cases. This cut the wait times for civil trial from two years to less than six months.
In 2001, the Montgomery County Bar Association opened its first dispute resolution center and named it after Judge Davenport. He was eventually forced to retire in 2003 when the PA State Supreme Court revised the mandatory retirement age for judges to 80 years old. Judge Davenport was 84 at this time.
Times Herald, January 6, 1976
Outside the courtroom, Judge Davenport participated in many community organizations, including the La Mott Historical Society where he served as President. His wife Alice also made history when she became the first Black teacher in the Norristown Area School District in 1950.
Judge Davenport died on March 21, 2017 at the age of 98.
Otoole, Stephen. “Newly retired judge reflects on career, life,” The Reporter, January 5, 2003. https://www.thereporteronline.com/2003/01/05/newly-retired-judge-reflects-on-career-life/
Jones, Ayana. “Horace A. Davenport, 98, Montco judge.” The Philadelphia Tribune, April 7, 2017. https://www.phillytrib.com/obituaries/horace-a-davenport-98-montco-judge/article_f907a407-3a3f-58fe-b865-54a22a27ad78.html
On May 21, 1954, papers throughout the Philadelphia area were buzzing about William Cashore winning the 27th National Spelling Bee. Cashore was a fourteen-year-old eighth grader from St. Helena's school in Center Square.
May 21, 1954, Times Herald
The word he spelled correctly to win was transept, a noun meaning "the section forming the short arm of a church with a cross-shaped floor plan."
After the contest, Cashore was nicknamed "speller" at school. He later studied pre-med at the University of Notre Dame and attended the University of Pennsylvania for medical school. After graduation, Cashore became a neonatolgy specialist.
Pictures from Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. and at St. Helena's school, May 21, 1954, Times Herald
In an article written by Time Magazine in 2016, Cashore said the Spelling Bee made him a confident public speaker. This proved useful later in his career when he was a professor emeritus at Brown University. He also developed a lifelong interest in architecture, thanks to his winning word. Today, Cashore lives in Rhode Island.
William Cashore and his mom, Mrs. Joseph T. Cashore, Times Herald
The first National Spelling Bee was held in 1925. It was organized by nine newspapers with the goal of educating and inspiring children. The contest gained popularity quickly. The contest has continued every year since its start in 1925, with the exception of 1943 to1945 (due to World War II) and 2020 (due to the COVID-19 pandemic). It is open to children under the age of fifteen and are not in high school.
Thank you to our HSMC Board President, Charles Kelly, for finding this story and sharing it!