Local History

The Merion Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution was formed on February 16, 1895, by thirteen descendants of Welsh settlers who had arrived on the Lyon in 1682. The chapter held its inaugural meeting in the historic General Wayne Inn on April 17, 1895, meeting there regularly until 1939. The organizing regent was Dora Harvey Develin, author of Historic Lower Merion and Blockley (1922). The chapter placed a granite block in Merion on Montgomery Avenue near Meeting House Lane on September 14,1895, to commemorate the encampment of Washington's army there and on adjacent ground in 1777.

The chapter erected another granite block in 1931 at the Lower Merion Baptist Church cemetery at Old and New Gulph Roads in Bryn Mawr memorializing the services of Charles Thomson, secretary to the Continental Congress, and soldiers from the township who served in the Revolutionary War. Steps leading to the memorial and representing the thirteen American colonies were dedicated to the memory of Margaret B. Harvey, a historian and botanist, and Louisa Harley Arnold, mother of Gen. Henry H. Arnold, both members of Merion Chapter.

The Dr. Benjamin Rush Chapter, DAR, was organized in Narberth in 1921, and the Jeptha Abbott Chapter, DAR, was founded in Ardmore in 1929.

The Rosemont-Villanova Civic Association built a Tribute Walk at Ashbridge Memorial Park, Montgomery Avenue and Airdale Road, to honor those who fought in World War II. Ashbridge Park itself memorializes the soldiers of World War I.

The Wynnewood Civic Association placed a stone and bronze marker beside a majestic oak tree on Wister Road near Aubrey Road in 1976, to record the recognition of the tree's existence in 1776 by the International Society of Arboriculture and the National Arborist Association.

The Lower Merion Historical Society, founded in1949, largely through the efforts of Edward Snow, principal of Ardmore Junior High School, and Dr. Douglas Macfarlan, has its headquarters at Ashbridge House, where there is a library, a collection of fine glass photographic plates, flags, and other memorabilia. The society has issued a number of publications, among them Carl Doebley's Lower Merion: A Portrait (1976) and a map of the historic Main Line by Dr. Macfarlan.

The National Register of Historic Places includes these in Lower Merion: the Baldwin School (1891); ten buildings in the Bryn Mawr College Historic District (beginning in 1885); the Harriton Historic District (1704); Merion Friends Meetinghouse (1695); Rathalla (1889), Rosemont College's administration building; the General Wayne Inn (1704, 1746); the Mill Creek Historic District, which includes the 1690 home of John Roberts, miller; and the Gladwyne (Merion Square) Historic District. In addition these sites are registered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission: Appleford (1705?, date stone 1728), donated to the township in 1973; Fairview Union Sunday School (1826), now Penn Valley Women's Club; Ashbridge House (1769); Lower Merion Baptist Church (1810); the Old Dutch School House (1789), West Wynnewood and Argyle Roads; Robindale (c. 1875) now The Owl at Bryn Mawr; and the Owen House (1695), also known as Penn's Cottage.

Researchers in township history can find a wealth of material at Gladwyne Library's Pennsylvania Room; at Haverford College Library, where the Friends' Historical Association papers and the college's records from 1833 are kept; at Bryn Mawr College Library, where college records date from 1885; and at Villanova University Library, where records since 1848 are maintained.

Local historians who have contributed richly to the knowledge of the township's past, and are included in the Literature chapter are: Dora Harvey Develin, Carl Doebley, Phyllis Maier, Thomas A. Glenn, David Loth, Barbara Alyce Farrow, and J. W. Townsend. John M. Nugent and Bernard Kramer, newspapermen, wrote colorful local history. After Kramer's death in 1980, Gerry Snow Mason, former president of the Lower Merion Historical Society and daughter of one of its founders, capably continued his page of township history. The "Early Recollections of Ardmore" of Josiah S. Pearce (1841-1915) twice appeared in a series of articles in the Ardmore Chronicle and are reprinted in the Bulletin of the Historical Society of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania in volume 4 (1944-45). In addition forty-six local experts have contributed to the research and writing of this chapter, as well as another fifty whose help has been much appreciated.

Military History

The 1980 Memorial Day parade was a tribute to Gen. Henry H. Arnold of World War II fame. Bands from the Leon Spencer Reid American Legion Post 547 and Lower Merion High School provided music for the march to Arnold Field, named in his honor, where services included placing a wreath on a monument dedicated to Americans who lost their lives in World War II. Veterans wore the uniforms of soldiers from all the country's past wars, while a six-man firing squad of Vietnam veterans from Main Line Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 843 saluted deceased veterans of all wars.

Veterans' groups in Lower Merion in the past century have included the Colonel Owen Jones Camp 591, GAR (active until 1921 and memorialized by a stone marker on Bryn Mawr Community Center grounds), the Society of the Army of the Philippines, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the American Legion.

Colonel Franklin D'Olier of Wynnewood was the first national commander of the American Legion. He was among the delegates who assembled in the "Cirque de Paris" in March 1919 to form the American Legion, and was elected the first commander at the Minneapolis convention. In private life Colonel D'Olier was the head of the Prudential Insurance Company of America.

A number of American Legion posts were established immediately after World War I. Bullock-Sanderson Post 136 was founded in Ardmore in 1919 with forty-three charter members. Named in honor of Pvt. Joseph Sanderson and Lt. Benjamin Bullock, the post elected Frederick C. Peters as commander. They met in various places in Ardmore before their present quarters at 145 East Lancaster Avenue, shared with VFW Post 843. On Memorial Day, 1923, Bullock-Sanderson Post 136, American Legion, unveiled a bronze tablet, bearing the names of Ardmore's war dead, that had been placed on the Merion Title Building, now the First Pennsylvania Company.

Also in 1919, the Leon Spencer Reid American Legion Post 574 was organized by Black veterans with William Williams as commander. Its home is at 233 Simpson Road. The post has a band, color guard, drill team, and marching unit.

The Vandiver-Moylan American Legion Post 355 also began in 1919. A few years later it built a log cabin on Gulley Run, Conshohocken State Road, Cynwyd, an attractive site for social events. Named originally for Thomas D. Vandiver, who died in World War I the post added the name "Moylan" to honor a young soldier who died in Vietnam, the son of Post Commander Lawrence Moylan. The post provided a war memorial plaque in 1956, erected by the township, at Montgomery Avenue and Conshohocken State Road.

John Winthrop Post 118 of Bryn Mawr, chartered in 1919, is on the American Legion War Memorial grounds behind the Community Center on Bryn Mawr Avenue.

Merion Post 545, American Legion, chartered in 1920, occupies the Merion War Tribute House on Hazelhurst Avenue. In 1922 Merion residents and the post raised a sum of money matched by Mr. and Mrs. Eldridge Reeves Johnson, who also gave the community the eight-acre site.

In 1932 some Spanish-American War veterans who were not eligible to join the American Legion, members of the Society of the Army of the Philippines, and other veterans formed the Main Line Post 843, VFW. After World War II Ardmore VFW Post 5943 was organized at the Merion Fire Company in Ardmore. Later this group joined with Main Line Post 843, using their name and number.

Gladwyne Post 6956, VFW, was founded after World War II, as was West Manayunk (Belmont Hills) Post 857, American Legion. The Gladwyne Post met first in the Odd Fellows Hall, later erecting a building along the Schuylkill River at Waverly Road that has survived three severe floods. The West Manayunk Post built its home in Belmont Hills. Members erected a community war memorial in front of the grade school.

A veterans' organization leader who has served in many capacities locally and statewide, Michael J. Boucher of Ardmore, has been commander of Main Line Post 843, VFW; adjutant of Bullock-Sanderson Post 136, American Legion; a commander of Montgomery Council VFW, Sixteenth District of Pennsylvania; and state judge advocate of VFW of the United States.

Rear Admiral F. Julian Becton of Wynnewood, once commander of the battleship Iowa, retired in 1966 and wrote The Ship That Would Not Die. General "Hap" Arnold, born in Gladwyne, became a five-star general in the air force in World War II. Alexander M. Haig, Jr., a four-star general, lived on Bryn Mawr Avenue in Cynwyd and graduated from Lower Merion High School. He served as North Atlantic Treaty Organization commander-in-chief and was, in the early 1980s, the Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan. Julius W. Becton, Jr., advanced from private to become one of the country's first black generals. Born in 1926, he served in combat in three wars.

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