Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

The sabbatical project continues, exploring all that Tyler Arboretum has to offer


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Tyler Tales and Labels in Braille

One of the ways I prepare posts for this blog is to have several entries “in progress” and select one to finalize and have go “live” each week.  One post I had in a very early draft form was on the connection of Helen Keller and Tyler Arboretum – and it looks like one of Tyler’s student interns for the summer beat me to getting a post online on this very topic!

So I first have to give a “virtual shout out” to Tyler Arboretum’s latest blog, called Tyler Tales.  This new blog journeys through the fascinating history and legacy of Tyler Arboretum.  Early contributors to Tyler Tales includes Tyler staff members Kathryn Ombam and Chris Lawler, as well as new Education Department summer intern Shannon Crowe (who just happens to be an undergraduate student at my school, Penn State Brandywine!).  Note that you can sign up to receive email updates every time a new post is added – just enter your email in the box on the right side of the Tyler Tales home page, and you will soon receive posts on a range of topics.  My favorite post so far has been the very first one – it contains a photo of the original land deed between William Penn and Thomas Minshall (circa 1682).

Shannon recently wrote a post titled “An Unexpected Connection: Helen Keller and Tyler’s Fragrant Garden.”  This post includes photos from a letter Helen Keller sent to the Arboretum, dated December 3, 1950, adding her support for the creation of a fragrant garden.  Please read Shannon’s post – again, another fascinating story from Tyler’s history!

In my early searching for information on Tyler’s efforts to establish a garden for the blind, I came across this 1949 newspaper article that pre-dates Helen Keller’s letter:

From the Chester Times newspaper archive, August 26, 1949, page 7. Accessible at: http://newspaperarchive.com/us/pennsylvania/chester/chester-times/1949/08-26/page-7

From the Chester Times newspaper archive, August 26, 1949, page 7. Accessible at: http://newspaperarchive.com/us/pennsylvania/chester/chester-times/1949/08-26/page-7

I also found an article called “Notes and Comments: Garden for the Blind,” in the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboretums Newsletter 2 no.1, (January 1951): pages 7-8, that references “in 1951 the John J. Tyler Arboretum, in Media Pennsylvania set up labels in Braille for the blind.”  Clearly, Tyler’s work made local and national news!

Tyler’s Fragrant Garden is definitely going to be on my “list of places to explore” the next time I stop by the Arboretum!

 


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Roundtop Farm – the Minshall Family Farmstead

If you saw my post back in August 2013 about Touring the historic buildings, you might remember the end of the post (reproduced here):

We joked that we may meet again investigating Roundtop Farm in Ridley Creek State Park, which we learned was the original Minshall family farmstead (until I make it there, I’ll have to enjoy exploring the images in flickr)!  I also found a 1993 Masters Thesis from the University of Pennsylvania titled “Preservation in Ridley Creek State Park : documentation of the historic farmsteads.”  The thesis is available online as a free download and has more information on the Roundtop Farm home of the Minshalls, especially the case study section that starts on page 89 of the thesis (p. 193 of the PDF file).

I went searching for the Roundtop Farmstead not long after I took the Tyler Historic Building Tour – and I walked right by the building twice before I was able to find it!  Although the ruins are only approx. 20 feet off the hiking trail, it was the thick vegetation that blocked the view.  But now, in the winter months with all of the “green” missing from the trees and low plants, I had no problem finding the building – at least, what is left of it.  (At the end of this post, you can find my directions on how to find Roundtop for yourself!)

Roundtop Farm

Roundtop Farm became part of Ridley Creek State Park in 1978 in a property exchange between Tyler Arboretum and RCSP.

According to the thesis by Jeffrey Barr, the original portion of the house is believed to have been constructed in 1711 by Jacob Minshall (the second owner of the Tyler property).  Jacob’s son, John Minshall, inherited the property in 1734 and is believed to have built the additions on to the barn.  Unfortunately, it is only the house and ruins of the barn that are left standing, but Barr’s thesis has some impressive detail from his research on the chain of title of architectural records to speak about the layout of the structure and additions over the years.  I strongly encourage you to check out the link above and read for yourself!

And you can click here to view a slideshow of my images!

To find Roundtop, you can travel one of two pathways: (1) Start on the Painter Trail (formerly called the Red Trail) in Tyler Arboretum, take the turn in the trail that crosses in to Ridley Creek State Park, keep walking and Roundtop will appear on your left; (2) Park at the Sycamore Mills/Barren Road entrance at Ridley Creek State Park, and follow this map I created in Google (no log-in necessary) to find the house.

MOST IMPORTANTLY… when you reach Roundtop, do NOT enter the ruins.  Be incredibly careful and respectful of this historic structure, and keep your distance (just use the “zoom” on your camera like I did to snap some incredible photos!).

PLEASE ALSO NOTE… I made my trip to Roundtop and took these photos in mid-January, before the recent flurry of flurries we have been receiving.  I don’t know how many trees are down and how much damage Roundtop has sustained from the recent ice storms – please be safe and wait until the snow clears and you can journey on the trails once again.


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Epitaphs and Symbols on the Painter Gravemarkers

If you read my post on The Burying Ground of the Painters and Tylers, you may have noted the statement, “Papers document that Jacob Painter designed his own grave marker, as sketches for his grave and drafts of the poetry engraved on both his own tomb and on his brother Minshall’s tomb are found among Jacob’s papers.”  Someone has asked about the text on the gravestones of Minshall and Jacob Painter, so I thought I would provide the text here, for those that cannot make the trip to visit the cemetery.  As you will see, the epitaphs capture their love of nature – and the love one brother had for another.

Minshall Painter tombstoneMinshall Painter was the first of the two brothers to pass away.  He lived from March 6, 1801, to August 21, 1873.  Minshall has three epitaphs carved in his marble tombstone.  This photo looks at the north side of the grave site.

The west side reads:

MY BROTHER ‘ROUND THY PLACE OF REST
WELL MAY THY ONCE LOVED FLOWERS ENTWINE,
NO HEART THAT THROBBED IN MORTAL BREAST
WAS KINDER OR MORE TRUE THAN THINE.

The south side reads:

FOR THEE, NO MORE SHALL VERNAL SPRING
RENEW THE LEAVES ON TREES AND BOWERS;
FOR THEE NO MORE SHALL FLORA BRING
HER CHOICEST GIFTS OF RAREST FLOWERS.

The east side reads:

‘TIS SWEET FOR HIM WHO KNEW THEE BEST,
TO CHERISH THOUGHTS OF THEE THAT KEEP
THY MEM’RY FRESH. WITH HOPE OF REST.
NEARBY THEE IN UNENDING SLEEP.

Minshall Painter tombstone
Minshall’s grave marker has many common tombstone symbols found in cemeteries.  An urn represents a soul, or mortality.  Any object draped on a tombstone, such as this urn, indicates mourning.  In fact, the draped urn is probably the most common 19th-century funerary symbol.  The ivy represents immortality and fidelity.  Ivy clings to a support, which makes it a symbol of attachment, friendship, and undying affection.  The flowers around the base of the urn represent beauty and eternal sleep.

Jacob Painter tombstoneJacob Painter lived from June 22, 1814, to November 3, 1876.  Jacob’s tombstone has many symbols on the north and south sides, with epitaphs carved only on the east and west sides.

The west side reads:

IF FOR HIS KIND SOME GOOD HE WROUGHT,
PERCHANCE REVEALED ANOTHER’S PAIN,
IF HE ONE USEFUL MORAL TAUGHT,
HE HAS NOT LIVED IN VAIN.
IF GRACELESS DEEDS HAVE MARRED HIS FAME,
MADE SAD HIS LIFE THAT ELSE WAS FAIR,
HE SINS NO MORE, WITHHOLD THY BLAME,
IN CHARITY FORBEAR.

The east side reads:

WHEN HE WHO LIES BENEATH THIS TOMB,
FELT LIFE’S WARM CURRENTS THROUGH HIM FLOW
HE WAS THE SPORT OF HOPE AND GLOOM,
OF JOYS THAT COME AND GO.
WHERE TRUTH AND NATURE SEEMED TO LEAD,
THAT PATH IN HOPE AND FAITH HE TROD.
FROM NATURE’S LAWS HE DREW HIS CREED,
AS TAUGHT BY NATURE’S GOD.

Jacob’s grave marker has many more symbols.  I have described some of them here.

Jacob Painter tombstone

The oak leaves and acorns can symbolize strength, endurance, eternity, honor, liberty, hospitality, faith, and virtue, in addition to maturity and “ripe old age.”  The pansy is a symbol of remembrance.  The lily of the valley represents purity, innocence, renewal, and resurrection.
Jacob Painter tombstone

When found on a grave marker, the philodendron is more of a decorative element than being a representative symbol.
Jacob Painter tombstone

The anchor stands for hope.  The hourglass represents the passage of time.
Jacob Painter tombstone

In general, trees represnt life.  The weeping willow tree, in many religions, represents immortality.  The flowers on the left appear to be roses, which represent brevity of life or sorrow.  The flowers on the right may be the morning glory, representing morning, youth, the bonds of love, and the Resurrection since the flower blooms in the morning and is closed by afternoon.

If you are interested in learning more about tombstone styles and symbols, I recommend the following books to further your exploration:

Keister, D. (2004). Stories in Stone: A field guide to cemetery symbolism and iconography.

Cooper, G. (2009). Stories Told in Stone: Cemetery Iconology.

 


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The Burying Ground of the Painters and Tylers

Philadelphia and the surrounding region is known for its historic and scenic cemeteries.  So which cemetery is the final resting place for the founding Minshall/Painter/Tyler families of Tyler Arboretum?  A quick review of the History of Tyler Arboretum webpage will get you up to speed on the names of the family members that owned the Arboretum property for eight generations and the ones I’ll be focusing on in this post.

The earliest documentation I can find for a burial of a Minshall family member is for Hannah Minshall (1782-1838).  Hannah, married to Enos Painter and mother of Minshall and Jacob Painter, is said to be buried in an unmarked grave in the Middletown Meeting Burying Ground (also referred to as Middletown Preparative Burying Ground and Friends Hicksite Cemetery, located here on Route 352/Middletown Road).  Many well-known Delaware County names can be found on the hand-written burial lists, such as Baker, Sharpless, and Darlington.  This property is surrounded by a stone wall and is across the street from the Penn State Brandywine campus.

Sign outside of Cumberland CemeteryThis area had an immediate need for a burial site for “non-demoninational harmony” (as the Middletown Quaker Hickstie and Orthodox congregations that separated in 1827 both found their own burying grounds no longer adequate, suffering from graveyard overcrowding).  Interestingly, Minshall Painter’s written papers for May 5, 1859, mention a visit to his neighbor Thomas Pratt. Minshall had stopped at the Pratt farm, which included the land between the two Quaker cemeteries, as Thomas was “laying out a piece of ground for a cemetery laying adjoining the Middletown [Friends] grave yard.”  Bordering that stone wall and between two Quaker burying grounds was the establishment of Pratt’s Burying Ground, what is now expanded and named Cumberland Cemetery on Route 352.

The new burial ground was documented in the May 13, 1885 issue of The Chester Times (see below, and notice a familiar name in the list of purchasers in the third sentence):

A NEW PLACE OF BURIAL
A new place of sepulture, know as the Cumberland Cemetery, is a very finely located burial ground. It is situated in Middletown Township, and is part of the estate of the late Thomas Pratt. In February last Townsend F. and Horace P. Green of Media, James M. Smith, John J. Tyler and Thomas Sharpless, of Middletown, purchased the farm consisting of seventy acres and then sold all but eighteen of them, which they reserved for the new cemetery. A charter was granted by the court on April 6. The property will be laid out in lots, with avenues running to all portions of the grounds. The front of the cemetery will be embellished by a stone wall, on which an iron fence of suitable pattern will be mounted. It is thought this place will soon be come popular as a place of interment. It is on high ground, commands a fine view, and will make a fit spot for the living to place their dead. It is only a short distance from Chester. The officers of the association are J. M. Smith, President, T. J. Sharpless, Treasurer, Horace P. Green Secretary.

Minshall and Jacob Painter are both buried in “Pratt’s Burying Ground” (as they passed away before Cumberland Cemetery was officially incorporated in 1885).  Papers document that Jacob Painter designed his own grave marker, as sketches for his grave and drafts of the poetry engraved on both his own tomb and on his brother Minshall’s tomb are found among Jacob’s papers.  I have seen stories online that Minshall and Jacob wanted to be buried right next to the stone wall, so they could be buried close to their mother Hannah who was buried on the other side.

Tyler at Cumberland Cemetery

The final resting spots of Minshall (left) and Jacob (right) Painter. Note that both tombs are next to the stone wall of the Quaker burying site of their other (the meeting house can be seen above Jacob’s grave marker). If you visit this site, take a peek over the stone wall – you will be surprised to see more than tombstones within the stone wall!

The short text below is the only mention I have found of the cause of death of Minshall Painter:

Screen Shot 2013-12-26 at 8.47.28 PMThe image above is a screenshot from the article “Some Old Gardens of Pennsylvania” by J.W. Harshberger in the 1924 publication The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 48, No. 4, available online through the Penn State Libraries.

Ann Painter, the youngest sibling of Minshall and Jacob who inherited the property after the passing of her brothers (which contradicts the above article), is also buried in Cumberland Cemetery – but on the complete opposite side of the property in the Tyler mausoleum (described below).  She lived from 1818-1914 and was the wife of William Tyler and mother of John J. Tyler.  It was John J. Tyler that managed the property for Ann.

Tyler at Cumberland CemeteryJohn J. Tyler (1851-1930) was married to Laura Hoopes (1859-1944) and is buried in the only mausoleum in Cumberland Cemetery.  The structure is located on the one road that bends through the cemetery, named Tyler Memorial Driveway (as pictured to the left).  The beautiful and simple mausoleum has a stained glass window in the back and a small marble bench on a granite floor with six tombs inside.  When peering through the windows of the door, you will see John J. Tyler in the middle on the right, with Laura at rest below him.  To the left is Ann Tyler in the middle, William Tyler on the bottom, and their son William at the top who died in 1873 at the age of 25.

Tyler at Cumberland Cemetery

The Tyler Mausoleum at Cumberland Cemetery. Note Middletown Monthly Meeting in the background to the right, along with the Quaker cemetery.

If you want to further your exploration of Cumberland Cemetery, I strongly encourage you to read the undergraduate honors thesis of Eileen Fresta, who earned her B.A. in American Studies from Penn State Brandywine in Spring 2013.  Her thesis, titled “A Study of the Cumberland Cemetery in Middletown Township, Pennsylvania,” is freely available online as a PDF file.  I believe you will find Chapter 5, Middletown Township Quakers in the Nineteenth Century, of particular relevance and interest.  Visitors are also allowed to walk through Cumberland Cemetery during daytime hours.

RANDOM FACT  —  Perhaps the most well-known person resting at Cumberland Cemetery is Joshua Pusey, the inventor of the paper matchbook! There is a historical marker detailing this accomplishment along Route 352.