Putting Trimbleville back on history’s radar

Fortunately for the audience of nearly 150, General “Mad” Anthony Wayne did not live up to his name on Sunday, Sept. 11 – and with good reason.

William Scudder (from left) of Exton takes a selfie with Jeannine Speirs of the Brandywine Battlefield Task Force and and Charlie Fifer of West Chester, also known as General 'Mad' Anthony Wayne.

William Scudder (from left) of Exton takes a selfie with Jeannine Speirs of the Brandywine Battlefield Task Force and and Charlie Fifer of West Chester, also known as General 'Mad' Anthony Wayne.

Wayne, also known as West Chester resident Charlie Fifer. sported Revolutionary War attire as he joined a large gathering at 311 Broad Run Road that included history buffs, neighbors, assorted officials, and area residents to celebrate the unveiling of a marker for the Trimbleville Historic District.

“I’m absolutely in a happy mood,” the general said, stressing the importance of paying homage to key moments in history.

The celebration capped an effort by the Friends of Martin’s Tavern, a nonprofit committed to preserving history in and around Marshallton, to ensure that area residents do not pass through the once-prosperous hamlet of Trimbleville without recognizing its significance.

Linda Kaat,

Linda Kaat, president and founding member of the Friends of Martin's Tavern, gets ready to address the audience.

Linda Kaat, president and founding member of the Friends of Martin’s Tavern, noted that the residents of Trimbleville awoke on Sept. 11, 1777, prepared for their weekly baking day. Instead, they ended up participating in “a turning point” in the life of the young country. “It’s up to us now to care and conserve and to bring the respect this area deserves,” she said.

Jack M. Hines Jr., a West Bradford Township supervisor who served as the event’s emcee, agreed. He pointed out that 8,000 British troops marched through the town, located about two miles south of Marshallton, and he expressed gratitude to the Brandywine Battlefield Task Force for its efforts to encourage preservation planning so that the landscapes involved in such historic occurrences could be protected.

The Trimbleville Historic District, which originated about 1740, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. It encompasses an area that includes Northbrook, Broad Run, and Camp Linden roads.

Elaborating on Trimbleville’s history, Mark Slouf, vice president of the Friends of Martin’s Tavern and a member of the West Bradford Township Planning Commission, described the village as a thriving industrial hub the day the British troops thundered into the area on a hot, foggy morning. He said “the army of redcoats” would have formed a line of two abreast that ran four miles long.

Mark Slouf (left) provides a history lesson on Trimbleville to an appreciative audience.

Mark Slouf (left) provides a history lesson on Trimbleville to an appreciative audience.

During their flanking march to engage Gen. Washington’s troops in Birmingham Township, the British looted and burned fences, Slouf said. So 239 years ago, the date of Sept. 11 resonated with negative associations, he said.

“The area didn’t recover for 10 to 20 years,” he said, adding that after the ordeal, some of the residents likely retreated to Martin’s Tavern in nearby Marshallton to have a drink.

Although the Americans subsequently lost the Battle of Brandywine, they demonstrated talent, grit and resiliency that prompted assistance from the French and also led to a more effective defensive strategy that ultimately won the war.

The speakers’ remarks were followed by bagpipe renditions of the national anthems for the U.K. and U.S. and the plaque unveiling, which was performed by Katherine Gelling and her sons Dean, Drew and Grant.

Later, Gelling said she was honored to have participated. She said she was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and didn’t have the same reverence for history until relocating to Chester County a couple decades ago. “I really hope people don’t take this [history] for granted,” she said.

She said she particularly valued the opportunity to have her sons included in the celebration. But even more gratifying was the timing on Sept. 11, which has experienced two instances of American tragedy.

“The fact that we can celebrate a positive accomplishment on this day gives me hope,” she said. “Maybe it can help offset the negatives.”

Photographs in slide show are courtesy of Lindy Powers Photography

The Friends of Martin's Tavern is a nonprofit 501(c)(3), organized to preserve the Revolutionary-era tavern in Marshallton. Over the years, the Martin’s Tavern site has served as a focal point for many village activities, and the organization has also become caretakers of the Marshallton Blacksmith Shop, a nearby historic building built in 1750 that remains essentially unchanged from its original condition.

In 1993, the Brandywine Battlefield Task Force was formed with municipal, state, and federal representatives along with nonprofit institutions. Since then, it has been working to ensure that this integral part of American history gets the attention and preservation it merits. To learn more, visit http://www.landscapes2.org/publications/PubHistoric.cfm.

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