History of Downingtown, Chester County, Pennsylvania

In the fall of 1908 there appeared in the Archive, the Downingtown weekly newspaper, an article calling attention to the fact that May 28, 1909, would mark the fiftieth anniversary of the organization of the Borough of Downingtown, and suggesting its appropriate observance. Attention was especially called to the fact that Downingtown, although an ancient settlement and with an honorable record, had no published history, and proposing that the semi-centennial should be marked by the preparation and publication of a town history. The article was received with marked approbation by many prominent citizens. The Council appointed a committee on the subject, with Mr. Isaac Y. Ash as chairman, and after deliberation it was decided to submit the question of the celebration to a called meeting of representative citizens, and this meeting was duly called, and was held in the rooms of the Alert Fire Company on the evening of March 11, 1909. The assemblage was composed of representatives duly appointed from the churches, benevolent and patriotic organizations and the industrial, financial and other interests of the community, and was largely attended.


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Downingtown is situated at the intersection of the Lancaster turnpike and the East Branch of the Brandywine Creek, about thirty-three (33) miles west of the city of Philadelphia, and about seven (7) miles northwest of the Borough of West Chester. It is located in what was originally Cain township, Chester County. The township was so called after Calne, in Wiltshire, England, from which locality some of the earlier settlers had emigrated. Cain township originally included the territory now embraced in Cain, East Cain, West Cain, East Brandywine, West Brandy- wine and a part of Valley township and that part of Coatesville lying east of the west branch of the Brandywine and the present Borough of Downingtown. In 1?02 surveys were made extend- ing from the Welch tract (the western line of Whiteland), on the east, to the west branch of the Brandywine on the west, mostly confining to the Chester Valley. These surveys were afterwards extended northward and northwestwardly, and were among the early purchases in the County of Chester. Chester County was named after the town of Chester, in England, from whence a number of William Penn's companions, in the good ship "Welcome," had departed on their journey to the new world. Chester in England, was so named because, eighteen hundred years ago, it was the site of an encampment of 'Roman soldiers, and the Latin word castra signifies such a camp, and from "Castra" was derived the title of Chester in our language. The circumstances under which Chester County (which is the mother county of Pennsylvania) was named were these: William Penn and Caleb Pusey landed on the shore of the Delaware. William, addressing Caleb, inquired, "What shall we call this land?" and Caleb replied, "It is a goodly land, and we will call it Chester, in honor of the town on the River Dee, in England, from whence we have come." In 1714 Peter Taylor was constable for Cain township, which shows an organization at that date.