Welcome to stop number 4.
You are standing in front of the Friends’ Home at 147 West State Street. The original section was built in 1843 by Samuel Martin as the Kennett Square Female Seminary. There were 40 students in the first year of operation. The school changed hands and was then known as the Eaton Academy until 1877 when it became a private residence. In 1901, it was purchased by the Western Quarterly Meeting of Friends to become Friends Boarding Home.
While we are here, look across the street. You will see the Kuzo Funeral Home on 250 West State Street. This Gothic Revival home was built in 1882 as a private home for William and Maude J. Davis. Mr. Davis came to Kennett from Virginia to attend Eaton Academy. He married the daughter of local doctor Isaac Johnson and lived out his life here. He was a pomologist, a biologist specializing in fruit trees, and had extensive greenhouses on his property. In 1945, Maude sold the property to William H. Worrall, whose cabinetry business had evolved into the business of undertaking. It has been a funeral home ever since.
You will remember that Isaac Johnson’s house is the building where you started your walk. Maude was his daughter. His story will also be told before you end your walk.
Our story is told by Terence Maguire, the president of KURC and also the editor of our Quarterly Newsletter, The Lantern. Should you wish to receive a free digital copy of The Lantern, just let us know. Past editions are available on our website.
Telling the Truth, Slowly and Suspiciously
One challenge of being a Quaker stationmaster of the Underground Railroad was combining the moral imperative of helping freedom-seekers while telling the truth. One stationmaster skilled at this task was John Vickers of Caln Township, about 15 miles north of Kennett.
R.C. Smedley, in his History of the Underground Railroad in Chester County, relates a story about the Vickers from 1818. Two young men had escaped from slavery and traveled first to Vickers’s father’s house and then on to his own. Visiting his father, John found that slave hunters were searching the house from top to bottom, and when finished they would be coming next to his house, where the young men were hiding. He hastened home, sending the men out of the house and into a field and the woods beyond.
After the hunters had arrived at his house, Vickers told them, “It will be of no use to search my house, for I know there are no fugitives in it.” The hunters insisted, and he eventually gave in and led them slowly around the house, denying that any such people were there. When they saw a trap door to the attic, they felt they had found the hiding place. Once again he calmly and slowly argued that they would find no one at all in the attic, but in a manner that aroused suspicion. Reluctantly and slowly, he got them a ladder, and they spent a good deal of time “groping around in the dark.” Finally they gave up, but all this time the freedom-seekers “were fast lengthening the distance between themselves and their pursuers.”
On to stop number 5! This stop is just outside Deisy’s Bakery on 315 West State Street.