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By the Way: Pulling strands of history together

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Pulling together the strands of history is like knitting argyle socks. You’re balancing your knitting needles with many colors of yarn hanging in little clumps just waiting to jump out of line and foul you up. Complicated, to say the least, but there is a pattern to it.

With historical matter, while a pattern may exist, it’s not always easy to discern where the threads should go.

That’s why Margie Fulp of the Haycock Historical Society got so excited when she read a column I wrote about Revolutionary War hero Gen. Daniel Morgan, whom many historians believe was the son of the ironmaster at Durham Furnace. (Bucks County’s celebrated historian William W.H. Davis was among the believers.)

It seemed to Margie that some of the pattern was taking form. She had always wondered about the identity of the woman named Eleanor Morgan who was buried with Marjorie’s ancestors.

She now knows Eleanor was the mother of the general who was a brilliant military strategist.

Eleanor was buried along with some of Margie’s own Bryan ancestors in the Bryan Cemetery, a tiny pioneer burial ground west of Applebachsville in Haycock Township. After Margie read the column she suspected Eleanor might be the missing wife of the ironmaster.

She did some research and discovered Eleanor’s dates matched the ones on her tombstone. Until then, Eleanor had simply been the mystery woman. Eleanor was born sometime in 1712 and died Dec. 12, 1764, in Durham, and was buried in the little cemetery owned by an early Baptist congregation based in New Britain.

Research indicated she was the ironmaster’s first wife and mother of their two sons, one of whom was named Daniel.

Margie also discovered the origin of the cemetery. She said, “A man named Silas McCarty, who bought 215 acres directly from William Penn’s sons in 1738, gave one acre to my ancestor William Bryan for the use of the Baptist congregation in New Britain in 1759.

“The congregation built a log church, long since gone, and a stone wall surrounding a small burial ground.”

Previous owners of the property, she said, had allowed livestock to roam through the cemetery and many of the stones were damaged or gone when Charles Isaac and his late wife, artist Joanne Isaac, bought the farm. Charles rescued the ones he could and mounted them on a stone wall in a protected area just off the graveyard. The others, often little more than jagged pieces of rock, remain hidden in weeds and brush.

Eleanor’s stone is one of those rescued. The others are Margie’s Bryan ancestors, two William Bryans, father and son, and their wives. Margie said the first William “owned a lot of land in Haycock and Richland and Tinicum. I think he must have been like a real estate developer.”

Always intrigued by old graveyards, I joined Margie and her husband, Charles, a retired dentist, on a visit to the Isaac farm near Applebachsville to see Eleanor’s tombstone. The largest of the rescued stones, it is still fairly legible and will probably stay that way now that it’s in a safer area.

Rachel Isaac, Charles and Joanne’s daughter, took us to the burial ground and to see the rescued stones. She tossed in a tour to the restored wooden silo, one of the few left not replaced with metal siding. Inside it offered a cathedral light appearance with the sun peeping through the roof, a special sight to remember.

Margie is a historian herself. She and Pamela Varkony collaborated on the 342-page “Our Lost Tohickon Valley – Haycock Township.” Published by the Haycock Historical Society in 2010. Margie said, “It’s about the houses lost to the making of Nockamixon State Park. My childhood home was torn down and Pam’s was taken from her parents to be used for state employees.” The state bought up the land in the valley and its surrounding woods and fields in the 1960s and flooded the valley to form Lake Nockamixon.

The two women recorded and documented in words and photos what life was like in the valley for the families who later lost their homes. It’s an amazing community memoir.

kathrynfclark@verizon.net


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