The Growth of the Village
Camptown Becomes La Mott
With the ending of the Civil War Camp William Penn was closed and many, but not all of the troops were mustered out of the service in ceremonies held in Philadelphia.
According to a document published in February of 1968 by one Ellwood C. Parry, Jr. of Dresher, Pennsylvania there has always been an incorrect legend about the beginnings of La Mott. Mr. Parry states in his treaty that the legend has always been that Edward Davis, the land developer who owned most of Chelten Hills, including part if not all of the second site of Camp William Penn, made land available to troops returning from the war at a nominal price so that they could establish a community. The legend continues that newly discharged troops rushed to take advantage of this generous offer. It supposedly were these troops that built the first houses for themselves in Camptown.
Mr. Parry declares this to be only legend. Based on written statements of Mr. Parry; “When the war ended in 1865, Davis did not even own the land on which the first houses of Camptown were built. He had previously sold the land to Francis Morgan. However, after Morgan died intestate, Davis bought back, at public auction on October 30, 1866, two tracts to help settle Morgan’s estate. One tract, of six acres, became the first settlement; that is where Keenan, Butcher, and School Streets are located. The other tract, about the same size, was above Beech Avenue, west of Sycamore. Davis paid a total of $5.900 for the 12 acres.
Already living nearby, on the County Line Road (City Line/Cheltenham Avenue), were Thomas Kelly, a laborer, and Christian Albrecht (or Albright), a carpenter. Both had bought their ground from Davis early in 1866. Kelly had been born in Ireland; Mrs. Albrecht, in Switzerland.
The first Negroes to live in the area were Davis’ farmer, William Butcher, who had been born in Virginia, his wife Esther Ann, and their two daughters. They lived in a house provided by Davis on his Oak Farm at the corner at the corner of Willow Avenue and Butcher Street.
After Davis re-acquired the Morgan property, he did subdivide the first six acres into 50 or more lots, the smallest of which he sold for $175 to $250 each. Since this gave him about a five-time profit, he was not exactly letting sentiment get in the way of sound business. The first purchasers of these lots, beginning in late August 1867, were Elwood Hallowell, Ephraim Logan, Stephen Hubbard, and Sarah Konegan – all were white.
It was not until April 1868, three years after the war ended, that there is any mention of a Negro in the land transfers recorded in Norristown (the county capital), and this is merely mentioned in a deed to Stephan Hubbard, a blacksmith, that his land on School Lane adjoined land “about to be granted George Henry.” The actual deed to Henry, a hod-carrier, had not been recorded by 1885, but he is listed in the Federal Census of 1870 as owning $1,300 worth of real estate in Cheltenham Township, presumably here. He was then 58 years old.
Also, significantly, the land transfers were all identified as being in Chelten Hills through 1868. The name Camptown did not appear on deeds until October 11, 1869, and the Davis’ subdivision of the ground labeled “a portion of Camptown” can be dated, from Internal evidence, no earlier than that.
In all of Cheltenham Township in 1870 there were only 58 colored people listed in the census. Most of them were coachman, maids, or farm laborers and their children living on the properties of their employers. There is a small group of Negroes listed close together, and, therefore all in this area (although street names are not shown in the census), which included the Butchers, George Henry and his wife Ann, George Washington and his wife Abigail, Benjamin Griffin, 23 year-old laborer, and William Watson, brick maker. Their immediate neighbors were Stephen Hubbard, Matthew Hirst, Ephraim Logan, Joseph Albrecht, James Kelly, Barney Hagan, Edward Murphy, John Doyle, Thomas Dignet, John Monaghan, David Bernhard, and many others, almost all of them Irish immigrants.
It is unlikely any of the first Negro settlers were Civil War veterans, although there were three George Henry’s and four William Watson’s listed among the troops trained at Camp William Penn. Those just happened to be uncommonly common names at that time. What is more likely is that troops who had trained at Chelten Hills told their friends and relatives what a lovely part of the country it was. When land later was made available at low prices, some of those people simply decided it would be a better place then the crowded cities.
In the summer of 1875 Davis opened up the second Morgan Tract, which he called “the 18 lots.” These were bounded by Willow, Beech, Penrose, and Sycamore Avenues. Again, the first settlers were Irish: Patrick Quinn, William Graham, and John Doyle. Thomas Keenan, for whom Keenan Street is named, purchased an early parcel of ground. The demolished barracks of Camp William Penn were used by him to build six houses.
After them came many Negro families, including the Triplett’s. The first black man to settle in Camptown was William C. Butcher (hired by Davis as his farmer). His house still stands on the corner of Willow Avenue and Butcher Street. The next black family was that of George Henry, who settled in 1868. Next to settle were Benjamin Anderson, John Bowser and Benjamin Griffin. Family names such as Johnson, Jones, Brent, Hall and Fripps came next; then Armstead Triplett, William Butcher’s brother-in-law. Subsequent marriages brought in the names of Washington, Harvey and Wayns. By 1880 the census showed 206 persons and 30 houses in Camptown.
A review of the marriages within the young community reveals how it grew. John Bowser and Benjamin Griffin married the two sisters of William Watson and settled on School Lane. Reuben Fripps married the sister of William Butcher’s wife. Then the children of William Butcher’s brother-in-law, Armstead Triplett, of Franklinville, New Jersey started the largest family group in the community. Wallace Triplett married Martha Dorsey; William Triplett married Letitia Bowser; Stella Triplett married John Washington; Anna Triplett married Jacob Harvey; Cornelia Triplett married Isaac Wayns. Another daughter Isabel was not married. Together, this family alone numbered eight children, 43 grandchildren, 74 great-grandchildren and 80 great great grandchildren.
By 1877 the little school was bulging with children, and the School District purchased the ground at Willow and Sycamore for $1,000. They then erected a one-room schoolhouse. By 1900, the school was enlarged to five rooms and an annex, and was described, “In points of location, arrangement and equipment one of the finest properties, which Cheltenham owned.” Originally the building housed students from the first through ninth grades, bug was later changed to the eighth grade and then to the sixth grade. In 1940 the school was closed and the children transported to Shoemaker Grammar School in Ogontz, the Myers Grammar School in Melrose, and to the junior and senior high schools in Elkins Park.
Since February 18, 1941, the La Mott Grammar School has been used as a La Mott Community Center.
With the growth of the community’s permanent population a need was created for a place of worship. Originally Sunday school was held in the old school house and prayer meetings were held from house to house. Edward Davis saw that the population needed a church, and donated a plot of ground for that purpose. The deed was obtained with clear title for one dollar. William Butcher paid the one-dollar. The first church, a frame structure, was built in 1888 and its first pastor was Rev. W. H. Hoxter. In 1911, the original church was torn down and rebuilt. Lucretia Mott was instrumental in the development of the church as was George Widener, Cheltenham’s first Township Commissioner who donated funds for the rebuilding.
In the early days of the village, Camptown received its mail through the post office in Shoemakertown, which is now Elkins Park and then later from Oak Lane. For the citizens of the little village, going to either location for mail was quite a walk. In 1888 the citizens petitioned the Post Office Department for an office of their own. However, this request was rejected because here was another Camptown in Pennsylvania.
Map of Pennsylvania counties: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/maps/pennsylvania_map.html
This Camptown was located in Bradford County near the borough of Wyalusing.
Facts about Bradford County
Today, Bradford County, a geographically large rural county in northeastern Pennsylvania that is bisected by the Susquehanna River, has a population of 62,316 (2013) individuals. The county contains 737,350 acres of which 58% is forested. Bradford County has more miles of roads than any other county in the state.
Agriculture is the largest employer and the biggest industry in the county. Total receipts from all agricultural activity exceed $200,000,000. Dairy farming is the largest agricultural enterprise. Sales from 450 dairy farms exceed $85,000,000.
Other employers in the county include Taylor Meat Packing, Mills Pride, International Paper-Masonite, Osram-Sylvania, Du Pont and Ingersoll Rand. The Guthrie Clinic/Robert Packer Hospital is a teaching hospital and trauma center located in Sayre.
Towanda is the county seat and one of the major economic and population centers in the county. Athens, Sayre, Troy and Canton comprise the other economic and population centers in Bradford County. U.S. Route 6 running east and west and U.S. Route 220 north and south, comprise the two major roads in the county.
The county known for its natural beauty has almost unlimited recreation opportunities. In addition to leaf peeping the countryside provides opportunities for hunting, fishing, boating and hiking.
Among some of the notable personalities of Bradford County was Stephen Foster who lived in both Towanda and Athens when he wrote some of his immortal songs. Towanda was also the home of David Wilmont, author of the Wilmont Proviso, limiting slavery in land purchased from Mexico by the United States.
A map locating Camptown in Bradford County is linked here.
Facts about Camptown, PA
Location: Bradford County Pennsylvania (PA) Latitude: 41.73108
Area Code: 570
Nearby Cities: Stevensville, PA; Wyalusing, PA; Laceyville, PA; Lawton, PA. Camptown is 76 miles from Allentown, PA
It is unknown who possessed the brilliant mind to name Camptown, Montgomery County, La Mott after the little Quaker lady once referred to as “The Black Man’s Goddess” but no finer tribute could be paid to Lucretia Mott, than to have the neighborhood she helped named after her.
Adam Shubert became the first postmaster and the post office was located in his store at the northeast corner of Willow Avenue and B.D. Street. When Lois Schmidt became the postmaster, the post office was moved to McConnell’s store on the southwest corner of Willow Avenue and Keenan Street. A subsequent move placed the post office on the southeast corner. During this period the mail was carried, twice daily from the Oak Lane Post Office to the La Mott, Post Office by Tim Myers and after his demise by his sister, Rena Myers. Upon the death of Mr. Schmidt, Eleanore McConnell became postmistress on the original corner. Later her brother, James McConnell became the postmaster until his tenure was interrupted by World War I. At that time delivery service was returned to the Oak Post Office. Since 1994 La Mott has been serviced by the Elkins Park Post Office. In 2000 a new larger Elkins Park Post Office was opened on Ashbourne Road just west of Penrose Avenue.
Until 1895 transportation between Philadelphia and La Mott was conducted by railway operating from the Oak Lane station. This service was instituted in 1855 and is credited with the development of the township. Originally named the North Pennsylvania Railroad it later became the Reading Railroad and the service was known as the Philadelphia and Bound Brook line. Beginning on February 1st of that year streetcars began to operate from the area along Old York Road and Germantown Avenue. The service was extended south on May 22, 1895 to Walnut Street in Philadelphia and north to Willow Grove. For many years Old York Road was a toll road for bicycles and vehicles. The fee for bicycles was two cents and five cents was charged for horse and wagon.
In 1929 bus service between the Philadelphia Navy Yard was instituted with the northern terminus at 19th and City Line (NOTE: Later named Cheltenham Avenue.) service was extended on September 8, 1940 to Ogontz and City Line.
Before 1900 all of the streets in the area were dirt, with cinders and ashes used for walks as they had been many years before in downtown Philadelphia. George Widener, the first elected president of the Board of Commissioners, saw to it that all the main streets of La Mott were macadamized and curbing was installed as were water mains. (George D. Widener served as Board President from May 7, 1904 until his tragic death on April 15, 1912. www.titanic.com) In 1903 street lighting was installed and police protection began in 1904. According to the records, Perry Anderson was the first colored policeman, beginning his tours in 1908.
In 1903 the first telephone exchange serving La Mott was established at 70th and Cheltenham Avenue. The exchange was named Oak Lane, but was later changed to Melrose
It was not until Cheltenham Township was incorporated in 1900 that municipal services were provided to any degree. However, with the advent of the newly installed gas and water mains and paved streets other municipal services began to appear.
A police force was established and led by Chief of Police, John Saddington. That force also had its first black policeman. His name was Perry Anderson. The present Chief of Police is John P. Scholly and the force has a complement of 86 men and women.
The La Mott Fire Company was organized in August of 1910. The original equipment was a two-wheel hose cart that was pulled by hand. The apparatus was housed in a firehouse at the rear of a house on Willow Avenue. In 1915, a permanent firehouse was constructed at 1618 Willow Avenue. The site of this first firehouse is now under renovation as a museum honoring the troops who were trained at Camp William Penn and who served gallantly in the Civil War. The person behind this endeavor is Perry Triplett, who has had the establishment of a museum as his goal for many decades. Perry like other members of his family continue to live in La Mott. Voting by citizens in La Mott was held at the newly constructed fire house beginning on November 5, 1917 when the polls were moved from a location in Ogontz.The community was served by this firehouse until 1957 when the present facility on Penrose Avenue was built. The fire company currently has three modern motorized vehicles. The current Fire Chief is Township Fire Marshall, Michael L. Moonblatt.
Zoning laws for Cheltenham were passed based upon the Cheltenham Zoning Ordinance of 1929 and sewage lines were installed in La Mott in 1931.
(Zoning: Chapter 295 Township of Cheltenham)
William C. Butcher, who was hired as a farmer by Edward Davis, is credited with being the first black man to actually settle in Camptown. His house was on the corner of Willow Avenue and Butcher Street. The next black family to settle in the community was that of George Henry who moved to the area in 1868. According to historical records, next to settle were Benjamin Anderson, John Bowser and Benjamin Griffin.
La Mott as seen and recorded by residents
According to records available, William J. Bowser, Sr. (b.1842; d. 1945) gave the following account of some important events during his lifetime in La Mott (Camptown).
“In 1869 when I first came to live here, this little community was known as Camptown, more recently known as La Mott. Upon my arrival in La Mott from Eastern Shore Maryland, where I served as a slave, there were only four colored families in La Mott, namely, William Butcher, William Watson, George Henry and William Bowser.
During the Civil War, troops of the 160th Pennsylvania Infantry were quartered on that site bounded by Cheltenham Avenue to Willow Avenue, between what is now known as Sycamore and Penrose Avenues and because the soldiers’ camp being located here, the town which grew around it was known as Camptown.. In the midst of this plot stood a massive tree which marked the headquarters of General Wagner, the Commander of this troop. At the end of the Civil War, when the camp dismantled, the lumber from the barracks was diverted to the construction of houses; for the residents of the town, some of which are still standing on what is now known as Keenan Street, a few of them are still in the original state, the remainder having been remodeled along a modern trend.
Lucretia Mott, whose home occupied the site where the entrance to Latham Park now stands, was a Quaker lady of strong abolitionist tendencies, who during the war accomplished much through her association with the “Underground Railroad”. Due to her sympathies for the unfortunate colored race, the number of colored families in the vicinity increased. Lucretia Mott was born in 1793 and after many years of anti-slavery activities, departed this life in 1880.
The first street In La Mott to be developed was Willow Avenue, which was adjacent to the Davies residence. Mr. Davis, Lucretia Mott’s son-in-law, was a pioneer in aiding the colored residents to secure homes of their own. Mr. Davis donated the ground for both the school and the church. The school was conveyed in 1877 and the church in 1888. The church which was a frame structure was torn down and in 1911 a brick and stone structure was erected.
The philantrophic activities of the late George Widener, whose demise was caused by the ill fated sinking of the Titanic, created a sizeable sum which proved to be of immense assistance, as it was given to the people at the time of the rebuilding of the church.
In the old days, the nearest stores in which to purchase supplies and foods were either in the town of Ogontz or Branchtown.
The Greenhouses which Mr. Campbell now operates were formerly a brickyard owned by William Watson, one of the first settlers of La Mott, from which many of the bricks in the houses today were derived.
While in the several decades past, the population of La Mott has increased, the same deep-seated religious atmosphere prevails which has been reflected in the lives of the present generation.
While in preceding years, La Mott has a mixed populations, at no time has local strife developed and both whites and colored dwell harmoniously.
We are proud to be considered the outstanding colored community of Cheltenham Township and while no assuming and egotistic point of view, are an industrious, law abiding, civic minded people.”
NOTE: The proceeding comments were obtained from an undated article titled “La Mott (Camptown)” As told by the late William J, Bowser, Sr.
Lathan Park was developed in 1913 and was on the original and largest portion of the old “Oak Farm”. Located within that area in Latham Park on Willow Avenue is the former gatehouse to the farm and “Roadside”, which was widely believed to have served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. William Watson, one of the earlier settlers, supplied bricks for many of the homes in this area. “Brickyard” as it was called, was located along city Line and Keenan Street. Sometime later, about 1914, on the site of the brickyard was built what was reported to be the longest greenhouse in the world. Some of the houses along Willow Avenue have bricks made in that brickyard.
According to a 1949 unpublished history compiled by the late Wallace Triplett, “William A. Ritchie, butler of George W. Elkins, moved to La Mott in the late 1890’s, bought a residence at 7320 School Lane and later built a home at 1506 Willow Avenue and became most active in the physical improvement and increasing ownership of colored properties and businesses. In 1907 he organized the Fairview Cemetery Company and was its president. In 1917 he helped organize the La Mott Building and Loan Association and was its treasurer. In partnership with James Burley, he purchased the King Estate, corner of Sycamore and Graham Lane, sub-divided and re-sold it to nine owners. They then purchased the McAleer estate on Keenan Street and Butcher Street and re-sold it to eight owners. Then in partnership with John Haskins, he purchased the Schmidt estate at Willow Avenue and Keenan Street and remodeled it into six apartments and four stores. He was employed in the Elkins family 55 years and died October 19, 1941.”
Over the years, the community continued to grow. New homes were built and the list of names of the residents grew longer. By the time of William A. Ritchie’s death there were nearly 200 homes in La Mott.
Other residents of La Mott took note of the community in which they lived and made comments in diaries or even compiled short histories. One such resident was Lucretia Mott Butcher White who compiled a small document she titled, “HISTORY of the little hamlet of La Mott.” This booklet had as its masthead the words, ENERGETIC PRINT, 1450 Willow Avenue, La Mott, Pa.
The booklet is dated La Mott, Pa, July 4, 1930. The following are selected quotes from the text written by Lucretia Mott Butcher White.
“Nestled among the hills of Old York road and in close proximity to the show places of such financiers as Elkins, Widener and Stetson and just over the line from the city of brotherly love lies the little village of La Mott, Cheltenham township, Montgomery county, Pa. This little village has a place in history that is accorded to but few villages of its size. Sometime in the latter part of 1859 or the early part of 1860 a man by the name of Edward M. Davis, who was a Hicksite Quaker acquired possession of all the property extending from Penrose avenue to Old York road to Old York road and from City Line to Beach (sp) avenue to Juniper avenue. There were no streets cut through at that time but City Line. It was just one great big tract of farm land. After ahouse was built on it, which stands at the corner of Willow avenue and Butcher street, he secured the services of William C. Butcher, for whom the street was later named, as his farmer, who after his marriage in the latter part of 1860 became the first occupant of the house and the first settler of La Mott. When the civil war began and the government decided to put the black man in the fray, they leased a portion of the grounds from Mr. Davis for a drill ground and training camp for the colored troops. It was known as the rendezvous for United States colored troops. City Line near North Pennsylvania Railroad, Chelten Hills, Pa. They were under the command of Colonel Louis Wagner, of the 88th regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers Commanding Post.”
“At the close of the war and when things had begun to settle down Mr. Davis bought the lumber that the barracks were made from and built six houses on what is now Keenan street, all of which are still standing and all are owned by our race except one, which is owned by Richard Fillmore and family, who is a very old resident of the town. Thus its birth from seven houses to a countless number. The first name of the town was Camptown in honor of its having been a camp town for our soldiers. The next family to move here was William Watson, who established his residence on Keenan street. By this time the street began to open up and the first school house was built on School lane on the site now owned by John Ball and on which there are two houses erected. This school was attended by the three daughters and two sons of William Watson. …The next colored people to come to the town were William Bowser, who still lives, and Benjamin Griffin, deceased.
They made their home with the first settler until their marriage to the two sisters of William Watson, after which they took up their residence on School lane. When the new school house was built on Willow avenue there were still only five colored to attend who left wonderful marks on record, never allowing any white student to surpass them in any branch of study. There were a number of white children, as many as five or six white to one colored, for the school was the highest in the jurisdiction at that time and children came from all around to attend. When William Butcher decided to go in business for himself and become his own employer he got the support and hearty cooperation of every white man of influence around the neighborhood. He therefore became the first colored contractor.”
“…The name La Mott, however is of great importance to some of us who know its origin for it is a contraction of the name of Lucretia Mott, who was the mother-in-law of Edward M. Davis, who owned all the town at one time.” “… We as a race should have nothing but love and praise for her and should revere her name at all times. She lived with her daughter until her death in 1880. When the family of Mr. Davis moved away the home was occupied by a family of Wisters, who were relatives of theirs..
As the town continued to grow in population and more and more of our people decided to buy and build and make it their permanent home, we thought we would like to have a place of worship as there was no colored church nearer than Germantown, Frankford or Jenkintown; and as we only had prayer meetings from house to house we enlisted the assistance of some of our white friends and Mrs. Samuel Clements who was conducting a military academy for boys not far from La Mott, and she in turn solicited the aid of Rev. Richard Montgomery, rector of Ashbourne Presbyterian Church. They aided us spiritually and financially.”
“… The writer of this history has seen the town grow from a quiet little settlement to a hustling, bustling little village, having free mail delivery, perfectly lighted streets, well-paved walks and under police protection day and night. And as she looks back it brings joy to her heart to know that she is a descendant of the first settler.
We have in our midst race people who are doing anything the other race is doing. We have postoffice clerks, all kinds of contractors, landscape gardeners, garage owners, painters, paperhangers, stone masons, cement finishers, printer, tailor, barber shop, carpenter, and a colored physician who is a member of our church and who has an extended practice in our midst. We also boast of a building and loan society and officers of a cemetery owned and controlled by our own citizens and stockholders.
We lack, however, race teachers in our public schools. In the early school history so many of the other race attended school that those in authority thought they should have all of their race; but now there are more colored than white and we are paying as much tax as the other race and educating our boys and girls for teachers. It is right that we should have them.
…In one house alone we have four generations living. We therefore as a people have made La Mott what it is today for by our faith in God and our allegiance to the flag we are able to celebrate under our own vine and fig tree.
The first Fourth of July celebrations of the little village were very different but the hearty spirit was back of it all. Then months before the Fourth some of the men would go into the woods and cut down a tree of the necessary proportions and measurements and after trimming it and letting it get seasoned and whitewashing it, on the Fourth of July they would have a flagpole raising on some vacant plot. They would hoist the flag atop the pole and there would be patriotic songs, speaking by the citizens, and music furnished by two violinists, namely Barclay Hallowell and son, Conard, who lived in the home now occupied by Belle Triplett, who is a niece of the first settler.
Then the children would get home-made cake and home-made ice cream. In the evening there would be fireworks.
This celebration included the other race as there was not enough of us to stage it alone. But in this day we boast of boy scouts, girl scouts, a men’s civic club, a women’s Republican club and various other clubs, and we march to the strains of a brass band.
Let us therefore, bow our heads to Almighty God, Who in His wise providence, has seen fit to let us live to see this day, and ask him to make crooked paths straight and guide us in all our undertakings; let all our ways be paths of peace, living closer together, doing what we can for the uplift of our race, ever sticking together, for in union there is strength.
Let us continue to celebrate the Fourth more and more and on a larger and larger scale each year and continue to uphold our flag until the summons comes to join our first settler in the great beyond, and there meet the approval of the Great Ruler of the universe who will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servants. Enter into the joys of My kingdom.”
Lucretia Mott Butcher White
La Mott, Pa.
July 4, 1930
According to information recorded in a booklet written in 1949 by Wallace Triplett the following has been copied.
“HISTORY OF LaMOTT (1949)
Nestling among the hills of Old York Road wedged in on the northeast by Latham Park in 1910 and on the southwest by Erlen in 1930, in close proximity to the partial residences of Elkins, Widener and Stetson, and just over the line from the “City of Brotherly Love”, Philadelphia, lies the little village of LaMott, Cheltenham Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. This little village has a place in history that is accorded to but few villages of its size.
James and Lucretia Mott lived for nearly twenty years on 9th Street, Philadelphia, Pa and raised their surviving children and spent the ascent of their happily married life. In 1850, Lucretia’s daughter and family, the Davises, who lived next door on Arch Street, removed into the country where they purchased with Thomas Mott an estate called “Oak Farm” extending from Old York Road to Penrose Avenue and from City Line to Beach Avenue. Later a house was built on the farm at a location of what is now Willow Avenue and Butcher Street and Edward M. Davis. Son-in-law of Lucretia Mott, secured William C. Butcher as his farmer who became the first colored settler and hence Butcher Street. Lucretia Coffin Mott, variously called “the Black Man’s Goddess” was born of Quaker ancestry in the island town of Nantucket, Massachusetts, January 3, 1793 and moved to “Roadside” on Oak Farm in 1857. She was one of the founders of the “underground railway” which was a network of routes of travel through the free states to Canada over which slaves were hurried from one town or farmhouse to another by wagon or afoot on their way to freedom. It had no physical properties. Its inventories showed no steel rails, no coaches, no engines. Its conductors collected no fares. The trains did not run on schedule. Lucretia Mott died November 11, 1880 and is buried in Friends Fairhill Cemetery on Germantown Road at Clearfield Street.
On July 17, 1862 , Congress enacted a bill authorizing the President “to employ as many persons of African descent as he may deem necessary and proper for the suppression of the rebellion, and for this purpose he may organize and use them in such manner as he may judge best for the public welfare”. On January 1, 1863 the President signed the Emancipation Proclamation relating to the slaves held in the disloyal states and leased a portion of Oak Farm for a training camp for colored soldiers and it was called “Camp William Penn.”. Lieutenant Colonel Louis Wagner of the 88th Regiment, Pennsylvania Infantry, who had been badly wounded at Bull Run, was appointed to command the camp. The colored regiments mustered at Camp William Penn was numbered the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 22nd, 24th, 25th, 32nd, 41st, 43rd, 45th and 127th, a total of 10,940 men who suffered 1,056 casualties. So the colored volunteers of the great Civil War came, in proud array, along the flag-draped corridors of our national history, passed on to their mission, consecrated to the cause of national integrity. Whatever may now be told of their heroism and triumph can be but an echo of the music which led them on and stirs the soul of all loyal and patriotic men and women.
At the close of the war, Mr. Edward H. Davis divided the camp grounds into small plots for homes and laid out streets. On the west, adjacent to Oak Farm was the farm of Penrose Mather, hence the name Penrose Avenue. He purchased some of the lumber that the barracks were made from and built six houses on the west side of Keenan Street, all of which are still standing and modernly improved, except one, owned by Fillmores and which you can see the original barrack lumber. They were built by a builder by the name of Keenan, hence we have the name Keenan Street. The first name of the town was “Camptown,” in honor of its having been started a town from the camp. Thus its birth from seven to nearly two hundred.
The next colored family to move here was William Watson who purchased a large plot of ground on the south side of Willow Avenue between School Lane and Old York Road on the plot where the large green house now stands and on which pot he had a brick yard and fashioned bricks for building houses, some of which are the four brick houses on the north side of Willow Avenue between Sycamore Avenue and B.D. Street The next colored people to come to the town were Benjamin Anderson, John Bowser and Benjamin Griffin who made their home with the first settler. Later John Bowser and Benjamin Griffin married the two sisters of William Watson and settled on School Lane. Other early settlers were Emanuel Johnson, Walker Jones, George Brent, Henry Hall and Reuben Fripps, who married William Butcher’s wife’s sister. Then came the children of William Butcher’s brother-in-law, Armstead Triplett of Franklinville, New Jersey, which today is the largest family group in LaMott consisting of Wallace, who married Martha Dorsey; William, who married Latitia Bowser; Stella, who married John Washingon; Anna, who married Jacob Harvey; Cornelia, who married Isaac Wayns; and, Isabel. They numbered eight children, 43 grandchildren, 7i4 great-grandchildren, 80 great-great-grandchildren. Then followed the Moores, Matthews, Haskins, Burleys, Manlys and many other prominent citizens of today.
As the town began to grow in population and more people built and made it their permanent residence they decided to have a place of worship. Sunday School was held in the old school house and prayer meetings were held from house to house. Mr. Edward M. Davis, seeing how anxious the people were for a church, donated the plot of ground on which the church now stands, all the cost being one dollar for a clear deed, which as paid by William Butcher. The church was built in 1888 and the first pastor was Rev. W. H. Hoxter; later it was rebuilt in 1911 by Rev.. H. D. Brown who pastured here eight years.
The first school house was built on School Lane on the site now owned by John Ball, hence the name of School Lane. Later, about 1878, the school house at Willow and Sycamore Avenue was built. It was a nine year grade grammar, later changed to eight years grammar and later to six year grammar. In 1940 the school was closed and the children are transported by bus to Shoemaker grammar school in Ogontz and Myers grammar school in Melrose and to the junior and senior high schools in Elkins Park.. Since February 18, 1941, the LaMott Grammar School as been used as a LaMott Community center.
In the early days of the town our mail came to Shoemakertown Post Office, which was later changed to Ogontz and is now Elkins Park, and was delivered to Shubert’s, our local postmaster, at the corner of Willow Avenue and B.D. Street. Later we began to get our mail at Oak Lane Post Office (but in each case we had to walk direct to the post office to get it). In 1885 we petitioned for a post office but before giving us the post office they said we would have to change the name as there was another Camptown in Bradford County , Penna, and there was apt to be a mixture of mails. Although we hated to part from our historic name of Camptown, we decided to call it “LaMott” which is a contraction of the name of Lucretia Mott who was the mother-in-law of Edward M. Davis, who owned all the town at one time. Adam Shubert was our first postmaster and the post office was located in his store at the northeast corner of Willow Avenue and B.D. Street. Later Louis Schmidt became postmaster and the post office was changed to the southwest corner of Willow Avenue and Keenan Street in what is now McConnell’s store and later he built and moved to the southeast corner, where Ritchie’s and Haskins’ apartments are now. The mail was carried from Oak :Lane Post office to LaMott Post Office twice daily by Tim Myers and when he died his sister, Rena Myers, carried the mail. When Mr. Schmidt died, Eleanor McConnell became postmistress on the original corrner. Later her brother, James McConnell, became postmaster and when he was called to World War I, we were given delivery service from Oak Lane Post Office.
Transportation between Philadelphia and LaMott was by railway only from Oak Lane station until February 1, 1895, when street cars operated on Old York Road from Ogontz to Old York Road and Germantown Avenue and later on May 33, 1895 was extended south to Walnut Street via Germantown Avenue and 4th Street, returning via 8th Street and Germantown Avenue and was also extended north to Willow Grove. Old York Road was a toll road for vehicles and there was a toll gate at Old York Road and City Line for many years. Toll was two cents for bicycles and five cents for horse and wagon. Bus operation from Philadelphia Navy Yard to 19th and City Line began in 1929, and on September 8, 1940 was extended to Ogontz Avenue and City Line.
Before 1900 the streets were not macadamized. They were dirt streets and were scraped flat several times a year by the township horse drawn scraper and the gutters cleaned. Cinders and ashes were used extensively for walks. Later cement walks began to be constructed individually, then full blocks were laid when more than half the block was paved and in 1930, under protest from the LaMott Civic Club, cement paving and curbing was ordered on all streets in LaMott by the Board of Commissioners of Cheltenham Township.
About 1895 P.A.B. Widener and William Elkins demolished their residences and built the palatial homes you see today. On March 5, 1900 Cheltenham Township was incorporated a township of the first class, and today is governed by the Board of Commissioners of Cheltenham Township, Charles Conklin, Jr. has been president since 1934. Mr. P.A.B. Widener’s son, George, was elected our first Township commissioner in 1900, serving until 1912 when he went to his death on the sinking of the ship Titanic. Dr. Herbert was appointed to service his unexpired term. Charles Bosler was elected our commissioner in 1914 and served until 1930. George G. Pierie, Jr. was elected our commissioner in 1930 and is still our commissioner. Harold C. Pike, Cheltenham Township Manager, was appointed secretary of the Cheltenham Township Board of Commissioners on January 5, 1914 . “It’s great to live in Cheltenham Township.”
Mr. George Widener had all the main streets of LaMott macadamized and water mains were put in the streets. The first telephone exchange serving LaMott was located at 70th and Cheltenham Avenue in 1903, was called Oak Lane and later changed to Melrose. Street lighting was instituted also in 1903 and police protection in 1904. Perry Anderson was the first colored policeman, appointed in July, 1908. Gas mains were put in the streets in 1910. Zoning was put in effect in 1930 and sewerage was installed in 1931.
Prominent early white settlers were: the McElderrys, McAleers, Morrows, Schmidts, Fillmores, Irvins, Watkins, Rubys, Hagans, Dagneys, Ganleysm. Monahans, Malarkeys, Woodings, Morans Stitzes, Johnsons, Flemings, McDermotts, Doyles, Longs, McIlhennys, et als. In 1909 their sons organized the “Idle Hour Club” and on August 10, 1910, they organized the LaMott Fire Company. Their first fire apparatus was a two wheel hose cart which held 500 feet of 2 ½ inch hose and was pulled by hand and was housed in a fire house on the rear of McConnell’s lot. Later in 1915 they built the present fire house at 1618 Willow Avenue near Sycamore Avenue and have modern auto fire equipment for a volunteer company. Voting was held at Ogontz until November 5, 1917 when the polls were moved to the LaMott Fire House.
William A. Ritchie, butler of George W. Elkins, moved to LaMott in the late 1890’s, bought a residence at 7330 School Lane and later built a home at 1506 Willow Avenue and became most active in the physical improvement and increasing ownership of colored properties and businesses. In 1907 he organized the Fairview Cemetery Company and was its president. In 1917 he helped organize the LaMott Building and Loan Association and was its treasurer. In partnership with James Burley, he purchased the King estate, corner of Sycamore and Graham Lane, sub-divided and re-sold it to nine owners. They then purchased the McAleer estate on Keenan Street and Butcher Street and re-sold it to eight owners. Then in partnership with John Haskins, he purchased the Schmidt estate at Willow Avenue and Keenan Street and remodeled it into six apartments and four stores. He was employed in the Elkins family 55 years and died October 19, 1941.
Today LaMott has about 200 houses apartments, a church, a large community center building and grounds, and several stores, or saloons or taprooms, and represents an ideal modern suburban home community. It has the distinction of being one of the best localities in which a large number of colored people live anywhere.”
(In the book “History of LaMott” is a picture of “Roadside”, home of Lucretia Mott, also William Butcher’s home (first house in LaMott), and a picture of Lucretia Coffin Mott)
Copied from the booklet compiled by the late Wallace Triplett.
La Mott Expands
At the end of World War I La Mott began to expand westward as an area bounded by Penrose Avenue, Cheltenham Avenue, Erlen Road and Euston Road underwent development. This area has been listed on certain township maps as parcels 302 and 303. This area would eventually include the seventeen and eighteen hundred blocks of Cheltenham Avenue, Chelsea Road and Erlen Road.
The area is clearly defined on the Zoning Map of Cheltenham Township Montgomery County, PA, adopted as part of Ordinance No. 351. This was the Cheltenham Zoning Ordinance of 1929 as approved by the Commissioners on June 11, 1929. The Ordinance was amended and revised on December 15, 1964 by Ordinance No. 1075. A recent map of the area is shown below.
A lot described on a plan made by Albright & Mebus, Civil Engineers of Glenside, PA on August 20, 1920 is traced by deed transfers to show the growth of the area. (Albright & Mebus are no longer in business in Pennsylvania.)
Samuel Stern and his wife Winifred A. Stern sold a lot for the sum of $1.00 and other unnamed goods to Samuel Holg on May 28, 1926. The Deed is recorded as number 991-132.
On March 25, 1930 the land was again surveyed and a plan made by Albright & Mebus. The plan was approved by the Board of Commissioners on April 15, 1930. By this time the land was part of the premises of C. Harry Johnson, et al. (No. 1080-559)
On February 4, 1931 the land now owed by Charles Erny and his wife Agnes was sold to James Nolan (No. 1122-73). Within a few months James Nolan and his wife Levinia P. Nolan sold the land to Edward and Mildred Donahue. (August 14, 1931, No. 1133-287).
A home was built in 1931 and remained in the hands of the Donahue’s until July 11, 1941 when it was sold for $5,000 to Catherine Schneider (No. 1406-377). On November 14, 1973 it was sold to Charles Gray for $19,000. Another sale was made in December 1960 for $35,900 (No. 4594-568), but By March 23, 1984 it was in the hands of HUD with an accessed value of $4,100. It was subsequently acquired from HUD and in 1990 was bequeathed to the present owners. The accessed value at that time had risen to $87,650.
A similar parcel on the other end of the plan followed a similar pattern after being developed on July 17, 1934. (No. 4750-1790)
Around 1912 a brochure advertising sites for sale was distributed by William T. B. Roberts, developer. The area he advertised consisted of 28 acres and was named Latham Park. It was part of the estate of William L. Elkins, a descendant of the noble English Latham family.
The property was located between Beech and Willow Avenues and fronted on Old York Road. A published article prior to the advertising of what were to be nineteen homes costing a minimum of $19,000.00 each is printed in full.
“Historic House To Go”
Home of Lucretia Mott Will Give Way To Improvements
“Roadside,” the old home of America’s great abolitionist, Mrs. Lucretia Mott, is now being demolished. The tract of land upon which it is situated is being developed by William T. B. Roberys, of Elkins Park, and according to his plans, the historic building will be torn down.
The home of this great anti-slavery woman is situated on York Road, opposite Oak Lane, near the hamlet of La Mott, Montgomery county, which place was named after her. It is a low three-story stone building, resembling the farm houses of the present day. The roof is shingled and contains several windows, in order that the upper loft may receive the sunlight. The front of the building, which faces York Road, has a low porch, covered by vines of ivy and honeysuckle. Many windows adorn the sides of the home and huge shutters with large iron bolts cover them.
Wide stone chimneys tower above the roof. Open brick fireplaces are found in several of the rooms, and if these could only speak, many thrilling and interesting stories could be told of how slaves were protected from danger. The rooms are all large, but have low ceilings. Closets are abundant, and these, it is said, were used as hiding places by poor slaves.
The building is surrounded by eight acres of land, which is densely covered with fruit trees and bushes, making it almost impossible to see the house from the road.
It, is not known when the foundation of the building was laid, but through the efforts of Edward M. Wister, the recent owner, it has been learned that the first part of the dwelling was built in 1753, and an addition in 1757. The house stands as it did then on the outside, but considerable alterations have been made within.
It was about 1812, while the country was raging its second battle with England, when Mrs. Mott purchased the home from Edward M. Davis, Sr. She lived there until her death in 1880. Mariah Davis, the daughter-in-law of Mrs. Mott, then took possession of the house, and a few years later sold it to Edward M. Wister, who sold it to William T. B. Roberts, several months ago.
Lucretia Mott was born on January 3, 1793, in a small shingled house at Nantucket Island. She founded the “Underground Railway System” for the protection of slaves from injury while they were escaping from their masters in the South. In 1840 she was chosen as America’s delegate for the World’s Anti-slavery Convention, which was held in London. Mrs. Mott was prohibited from the convention at first on account of her being a woman, but was permitted to have a seat in the convention.
A colored man named Dangerfield was arrested in the South for committing murder. His trail was held in Philadelphia, and while Mrs. Mott was listening to the pleas in the case, a mob of Southern sympathizers broke into the court room with the intention of lynching the slave. Mrs. Mott arose from her chair, and clasping the negro’s arm, defied the mob, which turned away, as it did not dare to kill the slave while she held his arm.
Mrs. Mott was a favorite among men as a political leader, and this caused her to call a meeting of all the women in the East to discuss the rights of women. The first meeting was held In Seneca Falls, New York in 1848 and was termed the Women’s Rights Convention.
Physically, Lucretia Mott was a woman of small stature, never weighing more than 90 pounds, but this little woman, like the Little Corporal, was a host within herself.
Lucretia Mott died at her home on November 11, 1880, and is well remembered by La Mott folk, whom she used to term “my friends,” and truly she was a friend to all.”
NOTE: The Gatehouse at 611 Old York Road is all that remains to mark where the house stood.
World’s Anti-slavery Convention – London 1840
Woman’s Rights Convention – Seneca Falls, New York 1848
Lucretia Mott is buried at the Friends Fair Hill Burial Ground located at 45 W. Schoolhouse Lane in Philadelphia.
La Mott and the American Legion
On October 2, 1969, he local newspaper ran the following article:
Post Named After
Two LaMott Men
“The Moore-Triplett Post No. 451 of the American Legion, whose headquarters are on Division St. in Jenkintown commemorates the sacrifice of two young men of LaMott who died for their country in World War I.
Norman Triplett, born Oct. 18, 1893, son of the late Wallace and Martha Triplett, entered the military service Aug. 4, 1918. After training in the United States, he was sent overseas to Liverpool, England, then to Brest, France, dying in France on October 21, 1918.
The first meeting of the Norman Triplett Post, No.451, was held on Dec.10, 1919, at the residence of William Bowser, Keenan St., LaMott, Wallace Triplett acting as Chairman.
The charter members were Wallace Triplett, James L. Moore, Needham Lewis, R. Lester Rhodes, Frank Triplett, Louis Banks, James Griffin, Benjamin Griffin, Ulysses G. Harvey, Joseph O. Harris, Wiliam J. Bowser, George Dean, John Scroggins, Charles Purnell, and William Simms.
On May 7, 1920, a meeting was held at the residence of Wallace Triplett, and the first officers of the Norman Triplett Post No.451 were elected as follows: Clarence T. Woodland, commander; Benjamin Griffin, vice commander; Wallace Triplett, adjutant; Frank Triplet, finance officer; John Scroggins, historian; Albert B. Hall, chaplain; Horace Johnson, employment officer; James L. Moore, athletic officer; Matthew Austin, sergeant-at-arms, and Louis Banks, Service Officer.
July 9, 1920 a permanent charter was applied for, and the name of the post was changed from the Norman Triplett Post, No. 451, to the Moore-Triplett Post, No. 451 to honor both Kelly Moore and Norman Triplett, the only deceased men drafted from LaMott.
Kelly Moore, born July 10, 1891, at Orange County, Va. Son of the late Moses and Maria Moore, lived in North Hills, later moving to LaMott. He was inducted into the military service Oct.27,1917, After basic training he was sent to France, where he was killed in action Sept.18, 1918. His widow and two children survived him.
Meetings of the Moore-Triplett Post followed regularly. The first Memorial Day service was held at Fairview Cemetary, Willow Grove On May 30, 1924, Rose Vallet Cemetary, Ambler was added to the regular Memorial Day services of the post.
A post is not complete in the community without an Auxiliary unit, whose purpose is to support the Legion in all its activities. In November 1926, a reception was given to the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters of members of members of the Moore-Triplett Post.”
NOTE: Mts. Glayds O. Gould, who served as a WAC First Lieutenant in World War II, was the first woman to join the Moore-Triplett Post No. 451 American Legion in Jenkintown and at the time of the above article was serving as adjutant of the post.
American Legion, Department of Pennsylvania
During the period between World War I and World War II, La Mott continued to grow and prosper and is today, as it was then, a solid community of residents who are proud homeowners. The descendants of many of the original families continue to reside in the community as illustrious representatives of “the little village’s” historic past.