History of Birmingham Township, Pa.
From: A History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania
Edited By: John W. Jordan, LL. D.
Published By Lewis Historical Publishing Company, New York 1914

Birmingham Township — This township, lying in the extreme southeastern corner of Delaware county, adjoins on the west and north the state of Delaware and Chester county, Pennsylvania, being separated from the latter by Brandywine creek; on the east is bounded by Thornbury and Concord townships, Chester county; on the south by the state of Delaware. It is traversed from east to west by the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore railroad (Central Division) which entets the township near Branclywine Summit and leaves it at Chadd’s Ford. The Baltimore turnpike also crosses the township. It was on this road that Washington and Lafayette bad their headquarters during the battle of Brandywine, fought September 11, 1777. The name of the township is believed to have been conferred by William Brinton, the first white settler known to have located in that section, in remembrance of the town of like name in England, near which he resided prior to his coming to Pennsylvania in 1684. He had purchased 400 acres from Joseph Allison and William Morgan, and his patent was so located, in 1790, when Delaware was erected out of Chester county, the county lines being so run that the original tract laid about equal in both counties. William Brinton’s daughter Ann married in England, John Bennett, who loined his father-in-law in 1685 and in 1686 was appointed constable. The next settlers were Peter and Sarah Dix, a name that in more recent years has become Dicks. Joseph Gilpin and his wife Hannah settled in Birmingham not later than 1659. He inherited under the will of William Lamboll, of Reading, England, a part of the tract of land that had been, surveyed and located in Birmingham in 1683 by Lamboll. Gilpin, glad to escape from the persecution to which his Quaker principles subjected him, came to the province and settled on his inheritance. On first coming lie dug a cave at the side of a great rock, and-therein thirteen of his fifteen children were born. It was on this farm that two valuable varieties of apples originated — the Gilpin, also called carthouse and winter redstreak, and the house apple, also called grayhouse apple. Several years after his settlement, Joseph Gilpin built a frame house, removing from the cave. In 1745, adjoinging the frame, a brick house was built, On the evening of Thursday, September 11, 1777, the house, then owned by George Gilpin, was occupied by Gen. Howe as his headquarters, remaining there until the following Tuesday.

Francis Chadsey or Chads and Chadds, as the name is now written, came from Wiltshire, England, early in 1689. his name first appearing in Birmingham taxables in 1696. He served as a member of assembly from Chester county, 1706-07, and about that time erected his corn mill, for at his death In 1713 he willed one of his sons “a half share in my corn mill.” John, eldest son of Francis Chads, inherited the larger part of his father’s estate, married Elizabeth Richardson, and is believed to have built in 1729 the old stone house, close to the spring in the village of Chadds’ Ford, opposite the then ford of the Brandywine. As travel increased, the ford often impassable, failed to meet the needs of travel. John Chads was urged to establish a ferry at that point, and to aid him, the county loaned him £30 to defray the expense he was put to in building a “flatt or Schowe.” The ferry was placed in operation in 1717. In 1760, the ferry boat was repaired, Chads charging the county £44 3s. 6d., for “rebuilding the Flatt,” one of the items in his bill being: “five weeks diet to boat builder at six shillings per week,” The post planted on the west side of the Brandywine to fasten the ferry rope was standing in 1827, but rope, windlass and boat had disappeared. About that same date, Mary Brown, a colored woman, kept a small store at the ford, sold cakes and beer, and for a small sum would ferry passengers across the creek in a boat she poled across. John Chads’ widow was living at the ford on the day of the battle of Brandywine, in the stone house already mentioned, Washington was in the field just above the ford on the morning of the battle reconnoitering, but was driven away by British cannon balls. Several of the farm houses in the section showed for many years the effects of the battle fought in that hitherto peaceful section, September 11, 1777, and several of the spots of especial interest have been marked by tablets, by the societies interested in their preservation.

Chadds Ford, now the principal village of the township, is located on the line of the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore, at the old ford, thirty miles from Philadelphia and twelve miles from Media. Schools are located in Birmingham at different points, best to accommodate the rural character of the population. They are known as Kaolin or No. 1 school; Chadd’s Ford, or No. 2; Gilpin’s or No. 3; Smith Bridge, No. 4. The old octagon school house is near the present Kaolin school. Churches exist in the township, all the principal denominations being represented, St. Luke’s Episcopal being located in Chadds Ford village. The population of the township in 1910 was 702.

There are two historic buildings in Birmingham, Washington’s Headquarters, a building of stone, two stories, used by Washington as his headquarters during the battle of Brandywine, was built in 1731, by Thomas G. Clark, and was owned at the time of the battle by Benjamin Ring. There are several stories connected with the ancient building, one of which is that the first time an American flag ever floated from the house was during the battle of Brandywine, when the Stars and Stripes were flung from an open window and hung there all through the fight. Another is, that while the battle was raging, Benjamin Ring stood on the porch watching the fray. Bullets were flying all around and Ring was advised to go into the house for protection, but answered, “I always put my trust in the Lord.” Just at that moment a round shot struck at his feet. Tradition makes no reference to the revocation of his trust, simply recording the fact that he fled to the wine-cellar. Here Benjamin Ring conducted a tavern, his application for a license being granted in 1800 and refused in 1802. The following year his son Joshua was granted a license, the hotel having the name of “The United States Arms” in 1805. Its career as a hostelry ended in 1807. Extensive repairs were made in 1829, athough the interior of the east side remains as it was at the time of the battle.

The house to which General Lafayette was carried after being wounded in the battle of Brandywine, was built in 1745 by a member of the Gilpin family. Before being carried into the house, the General was laid tinder a large sycamore tree at the side of the building, and after partially recovering his strength was taken within. The sycamore, which was large at the time, is now a massive tree, its wide-stretching branches capable of offering shade and shelter to a hundred wounded soldiers. Upon revisiting America tinder much more pleasant and more peaceful conditions than on his previous visit, General Lafayette called on Gideon Gilpin, who owned the property at the time of the battle and who had made his home an asylum for the French nobleman. At this time Mr. Gilpin, a very old man, was confined to his bed, but was very much pleased at the call, the General pressing his hand cordially and wishing him every blessing. The house mentioned stands on the Baltimore turnpike, east of Chadd’s Ford, south of the Gilpin school-house, and not far east of the house on the same road which served as Washington’s headquarters.

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