John P. Stilwell was born in Philadelphia in 1860. It was said he was a direct descendant of Azariah Stilwell, a Revolutionary patriot and member of Morgan’s New Jersey Rifle Co. At age 17, John Stilwell moved to Doylestown and went to work for Thomas Hargrave.
Stilwell married Harriet L. Biffert. The couple had two children: Susanna and Samuel.
Stilwell bought the house and lot where Hargrave House B & B now stands in 1914. The price tag: $3,800. He had previously been living on Clinton Street with his family. Shortly after the purchase, Stilwell hired a surveyor to determine the property lines of his lot. Interestingly, the surveyor discovered that a portion of a wooden frame addition that had been added to the rear of the original stone house was actually located on the Donnelly property to the north. This was the second time the property line had been questioned. About 30 years earlier, Donnelly acquired a small triangle of land from the Hargraves that increased the frontage of his property. That transaction occurred because a portion of Donnelly’s store may actually have been built on Hargrave property. The price for the small triangle of land remained the same as it had years earlier – $10.
Following Thomas Hargrave’s death, Stilwell became the sole proprietor of the monument business. An advertisement for “John P. Stilwell Marble and Granite Cemetery Work” describes highlights of the business: “Our Designs are New, our Material First-class and our prices Right.” The company grew to be one of the best-known and largest establishments in Bucks County.
Stilwell kept a journal that now resides in Spruance Library. The book lists sales of his monuments from 1903 to 1924. Handwritten in pen and ink, entries show that a typical sale was between $30 and $80 for a marble monument and lettering. Some entries, though, show sales of higher than $500.
The monument maker became one of Doylestown’s most prominent citizens, fostering many progressive projects to improve social conditions. He held membership and board positions with several organizations, including the county board of health, borough council, Doylestown Building and Loan Association, Salem Reformed Church, the Freemasons and the local gas and electric company.
In 1928, Stilwell left his South Main Street home to go to the Strand Theatre uptown. As he was walking, he had a heart attack and died the next morning. He was 68 years old. He left a will instructing that his house and lot be left to his widow. He was buried in Doylestown Cemetery.
After Stilwell died, his widow moved out of the house. Two years later, she rented it to a family whose son eventually grew up to be a well-known journalistic figure around town.
Time to get back to our long and varied history.
While Thomas Hargrave was one of the better-known owners of the property at 50 S. Main St., Thomas’s brother, John, was also an owner for a while. Thomas sold the house and lot to John in 1861 for $600. John made many improvements to the property. About eight years later, John sold it back to his brother’s family – this time with his sister-in-law, Mary, listed as the property owner. The deed was transferred to her in 1869. Payment was $4,500.
The Thomas Hargrave family lived in the house for several more years. The 1880 federal census shows the residents were Thomas (then 71), his much younger second wife Mary (46) and their three daughters: Kate (17), Annie (13), and Mary Jane (11). Both younger girls were in school. The eldest daughter was listed as an apprentice dressmaker. The family had a 29-year-old domestic servant, Jennie Kaisinger, living with them as well.
In the early 1880s, a property line problem arose. Neighbor John Donnelly was a tinsmith, and stove and heater dealer at the intersection of South Main and York (now West Oakland) streets. The Hargrave and Donnelly lots had a frontage on South Main of 50 feet. (Donnelly may have built his store too close to the Hargrave house, resulting in it being on Hargrave property.) The sale of land in 1883 was to clear up any confusion. The price for the small triangle of land: $10. After the sale, the frontage of the Hargrave lot was reduced to 44.8 feet while the frontage of the Donnelly lot was increased to 55.2 feet. It would not be the last time the property line was called into question.
After the death of her husband in 1894, Mary continued to live in her house along with two of her daughters, Kate and Annie. Annie worked as a clerk at a notions store at the turn of the century. Neither daughter married.
Mary was 80 years old at the start of 1914 and had been ill for several weeks. She died of bronchial pneumonia at the end of January and was buried next to her husband in Doylestown Cemetery. In her will, she declared that the house and lot should be sold and any profits be shared equally among her three daughters. Six weeks after the will was probated, the Hargrave sisters sold the property to the man who had been a partner in the monument business with their father – John P. Stilwell.
It’s the time of year where we all get our ghouls on – Halloween! This year, the merchants of Doylestown will be hosting their first ever Spooktacular Parade through town. Young children, and even pooches, are invited to join in on the fun.
The festivities start at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 1. Costumed parade-goers should assemble at the Pine Street parking lot (at the intersection of Pine and East State streets). The parade will go down State Street, turn left onto Main Street and end right next to Hargrave House in the Doylestown Historical Society Park. Costume judging and handing out treats will take place there.
The parade is open to children ages 2 to 10 years and friendly, well-socialized dogs of all ages. Those participating are asked to bring two boxes of character adhesive bandages (such as Batman, Hello Kitty, etc.), which will be donated to the local nonprofit, B-Strong Foundation, for donation to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia or St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.
The costume categories are funniest child costume, funniest dog costume, most creative child costume, most creative dog costume, and best child-dog team costume. Judges will be Mayor Ron Strouse, Discover Doylestown chairman Ron Martin, Doylestown Fire Company’s fire prevention officer Larry Browne, and cardiologist Dr. Doyle Walton.
Children are welcome to trick or treat in town after the parade, and dogs can visit dog-friendly shops for goodies too! Many businesses will have treats: Booktender’s Secret Garden, Busy Bee Toys, Chapman Gallery, Doylestown Bookshop, Doylestown Food Co-op, Fabby Shabby Grab Bag Co., Hunting and Gatherings, In Full Swing Thrift Shop, LAD Hairdressing of Distinction, Life on the Leash, Monkey’s Uncle and Tres Bien Boutique and more.
Also, as long as we’re talking Halloween, don’t forget to stop by the Moravian Pottery & Tile Works this Saturday, Oct. 25, for Pumpkinfest 2014. It’s a great family event that is sponsored by CB Cares and benefits their alcohol, tobacco and drug prevention programs.
While in Philadelphia, Thomas Hargrave was in the marble and granite monument business with his brother, John. John would later become owner of the property. Thomas Hargrave’s son, William, also was in the business partnership with his father. William would continue in the marble business until his death in 1889. At that time, John P. Stillwell because a junior partner, and the firm operated under the name Hargrave & Stillwell.
While Thomas Hargrave owned the property, it is likely he added a two-story addition and porch to the rear of the main stone house. The stone cutting and monument pieces were located at the rear of the house.
Hargrave was 86 when he died in his home shortly before 10 p.m. on Aug. 8, 1894. Hargrave’s obituary notes that he was a staunch Democrat at the end of his life, even though when he came to Doylestown “he was just as strong an opponent of the Democratic party.” Hargrave’s allegiance to the Republican party was questioned just after the Civil War, when one of the leaders challenged his vote on grounds that Hargrave was not naturalized. “The unwarranted proceeding so angered Mr. Hargrave that he never afterward affiliated with that party not voted for any of its candidates. He always was the first man at the polls in the morning thereafter, and the first ballot that went into the box for many years was Mr. Hargrave’s straight Democratic vote.”
Hargrave was still active in the marble business until shortly before his death. For a man who was known for creating lovely and meaningful pieces of memorial sculptures, the monument that sits atop his own grave in Doylestown Cemetery is rather plain.
Visit our Facebook page, Hargrave House B & B, to see what it looks like.
On March 23, 1855, Philadelphian Thomas Hargrave bought the lot and house for $1,600. Hargrave, a marble mason by profession, had come to Doylestown two years earlier to open a second establishment of his large marble monument business. He later became one of Doylestown’s most prominent businessmen.
A native of Leeds in Yorkshire, England, Thomas Hargrave came to America as a young man. An expert marble cutter, Hargrave had no difficulty finding work. One of his first jobs was constructing ornaments for the building at Girard College in Philadelphia. He established his first marble business, said to be the largest in the city, at 13th Street and Ridge Avenue. Historical records indicate he displayed some of his marble sculptures in the 1847 Exhibition of American Manufactures at Franklin Institute. It featured a monument base and die with a figure of an infant in a sleeping pose. Two lambs were part of the piece, and the Italian marble headstone had a carved wreath of flowers, enclosing a name in raised letters. Documents of the exhibition describe the work as “well done” and worthy of the fine art label. Many of his most handsome monuments were erected in Laurel Hill Cemetery, a noted garden cemetery in the East Falls section of the city. Laurel Hill was also where a former owner of Hargrave House, Margaret Kripps, is buried.
Hargrave was married twice, with his second wife being much younger than he was. After their marriage in 1860, Mary Deschamps Hargrave gave birth to three daughters: Kate, Annie and Mary Jane. The federal census of 1870 notes that the Hargrave family lived on South Main Street in Doylestown. Hargrave was 60 years old and a marble mason by occupation.
More on Hargrave’s activities in our next installment.
In 1815, Judge William Watts purchased the house and lot for $1,000 and a swap of two other lots. Watts – a prothonotary, clerk of quarter sessions and associate judge for Bucks County – moved to Doylestown from Southampton when the new county seat was established here.
Dr. Thomas N. Meredith bought the property in 1819 for $1,500. Born in Doylestown, Dr. Meredith was a physician, as was his father. He married Rachel Burson nine years earlier and they eventually had 11 children. Historical research indicates he must have had some kind of financial problems, since in 1823 the court of common pleas issued a writ of execution against Dr. Meredith for failing to pay almost $2,000 in debts owed to Robert Jamison. He tried selling his house to pay off the debt, but was unable to do so. Later that year, the house was sold at a sheriff’s sale to Margaret Kripps of Philadelphia.
Kripps was the highest bidder on the property, buying the house and lot for $601. She was also a woman buyer, certainly not a common occurrence in the 1800s. She owned the house for more than 30 years, but there is no indication that she lived in it. She was single and lived her whole live in Philadelphia. Most likely she maintained landlord status and rented out the property.
When Kripps bought the property, it was still part of Doylestown Township. (The borough didn’t become established until 1838, when it incorporated.) As an interesting aside, township tax records showed that a year after she bought the property (1824), the value was worth $601 and a tax of 20 cents was levied. Later, in 1848, tax records show the value of the house and lot were worth $900, and Kripps paid a county tax of $1.40 and a state tax of $2.70.
In 1852, two years before she died, Kripps sold the house and one-quarter acre lot on South Main Street to William T. Eisenhart for $900. Eisenhart was a tailor, working in Allentown, Philadelphia, Reading and Pittsburgh before coming to Doylestown. It’s not clear if he ever lived in the house, but he opened his own business on South Main Street. He ran the tailor shop for about 13 years until he began to grow flowers and operate a truck farm. He only owned the house for about three years before he sold the property.
We’ll discuss the next property owner – one from whom Hargrave House takes its name – during the next installment of our history.
As we said in our last blog installment on the 200-year history of Hargrave House, the new county seat took its place at the crossroads in 1813. In January of that year, William Magill sold a portion of his property – Lot E – to David Carr Jr. The transaction was for $310. That lot was a quarter of an acre of land and part of the original Magill farm. Our historical research determined that Carr built the stone house that now hosts our bed and breakfast. After it was completed, he sold the building and property, unlikely that he had ever lived in the house.
The three-story structure was built in the Georgian style of colonial homes. The building was a simple box with side gables and windows in strict symmetry along with a center door – common at the time. Double-hung windows on the first and third floor had 6-over-6 panes, while the arrangement of the second-floor window panes were 9 over 6. As was typical, the upper windows touched the cornice. The roof was a hand-split, pine shingle roof, and the thick, stone walls were covered with stucco. Later additions included a small porch roof along the entire front of the house and a two-story wood frame rear addition. In the early part of the 20th century, the wooden shingled roof was covered with standing seam tin. (Town officials encouraged this action among homeowners after a 1914 fire storm caused several homes to burn.)
So after Jeremiah Langhorne died, the executors sold 172 acres of land and 141 perches (which amounts to a little less than an acre in today’s property measurements) to a man named William Scott. Later in the same year, 1753, Scott sold the parcel of land to Archibald Crawford of Warwick Township. The purchase price is not known. Hargrave House now stands on a portion of that land.
As an aside, other owners of large tracts of land around the crossroads that now make up the heart of Doylestown were Joseph Kirkbride, Robert Scott, Edward and William Doyle, Isabella Crawford, and the Flacks.
Like his father, Edward, William Doyle was a tavern keeper. At the time, he went to the county seat – then in Newtown – to petition for a license to allow him to keep a public house. Records indicate he had the recommendations of 14 of his neighbors and friends. The petition asked that no public house be located within 5 miles of where they lived. The Doyles built an inn at the crossroads in 1745. The crossroads were then named Dyer’s Mill Road (now Main Street), running north and south, and Swedesford-Coryell’s Ferry Road (now State Street), running east and west. The inn and tavern was known as Doyle’s Tavern and is where Starbucks is located today.
The family ran the tavern for 30 years before moving to New York state. The country crossroads was called Doylestown in honor of the early pioneer Doyle family.
Been dying to try some of Domani Star’s famed meatballs? What about that luscious creamy crab soup served piping hot by Pennsylvania Soup & Seafood House? Here’s your chance. Both are among the more than 20 restaurants participating in the second annual Doylestown Restaurant Week April 21-27.
Special menu options will be showcased, along with the restaurant’s normal culinary fare. You can get a preview of some of the offerings April 17 when Discover Doylestown will hold its brand launch party at The Standard Club.
Our town has so many options when it comes to dining out. From casual to more formal, BYOB places, al fresco dining, and a multitude of ethnic eateries – there’s bound to be something for anyone’s taste!
There is plenty of history behind what is now Hargrave House. And it began with William Penn, who asked England’s King Charles II for land in America as payment for a debt owed to his deceased father. The king granted him 40,000 acres in 1681, which eventually became known as Pennsylvania.
Eleven years later, Penn sailed to America and decided, as a way of enticing people to emigrate here, to offer land at a cheap price – 100 pounds ($166 in today’s U.S. dollars) would buy you 5,000 acres. During that trip, he established both Bucks and Philadelphia counties. He also made a treaty with the Lenni Lenape tribe of the Delaware Indians who are also native to our area.
Realizing the massive amount of land he owned was too large to manage alone, Penn sold about 20,000 acres to The Free Society of Traders, a wealthy group of Quaker merchants in England. The Society had offices in Philadelphia too, close to the Delaware River, in an area that later become known as Society Hill.
In 1724, The Society sold large tracts of land to Jeremiah Langhorne. Nearly half of his land was located in what is now Central Bucks County – Doylestown, New Britain and Warwick townships, to be exact. We’ll talk about that a little more in our next blog about Hargrave House’s history.