Stop number 11! Welcome!
You are standing outside the Chalfant Mansion. This magnificent architectural treasure was designed by renowned Philadelphia architect Frank Furness. It was built in 1884, as a home for Kennett Square banker and businessman William Chalfant. Furness is credited with designing nearly two hundred railroad stations for three of the nation’s largest railroads. Today you can still see his work when you go to the Wilmington Train Station or The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. If you have visited the Emlen Physick House in Cape May, NJ, you know that not only is the exterior of that building distinctive but the details on the inside are just as fascinating. This influence is seen here, in the Chalfant Mansion, most notably in the massive, corbeled chimneys. What do they remind you of? The house suffered a major fire in November of 2014 but has been beautifully restored and now serves as the owner’s real estate office.
The following is a wonderful story of misdirection written by Terence Maguire. We will tell you the shortened version. For the full story, please see our website! Enjoy!
A “Station” with Rails Heading in All Directions
Quaker stationmasters of the Underground Railroad often had a delicate balancing act: protecting those who came to them for aid yet not overtly engaging in falsehoods. Another truthful but cunning stationmaster was Dr. Jacob Paxson of Norristown who conducted railroad work in the 1840s through the 1850s.
After the “riot” at Christiana, PA on September 11, 1851, many of the black farmhands who had participated fled to escape capture and prosecution by U.S. marshals. Four of the fugitives, including the leader of the resistance, William Parker, had made their way to Dr. Paxson’s home. They were then hidden for days in a pile of wood shavings at a nearby shop, owned by Samuel Lewis, a black carpenter. The town, meanwhile, was being closely watched by U.S. marshals.
At a secret meeting of local abolitionists, the problem was discussed. Dr. Paxson proposed a clever trick. From Joseph Brody, who ran a stable, they acquired five wagons and five teams of horses. That evening, the wagons, laden no doubt with suspicion-arousing materials, headed out. Two wagons went on the turnpike, each going in opposite directions; a third headed toward West Chester, while the fourth went in the direction of Downingtown. These earlier four wagons drew the attention of the marshals who quickly followed after them. Then Parker and his companions emerged from their shavings, having also shaved their beards and changed their clothes, and calmly walked out of Samuel Lewis’s shop to the home of William Lewis, perhaps a brother of the man who hid them. Although William got lost for a while, eventually the four safely arrived in Quakertown. From there they made their way to Canada. The hapless marshals later pursued them but without success.
Only two stops left! Please continue down North Union until you reach Linden Street. Carefully cross Linden Street to the Kennett Heritage Center. You will see your next story beside the wheelbarrow you will see in front of the sign.