|Use the links at left of the article to return.|
Easttown Digital Archives
Henry Fox and the Fox Inn in Easttown
Henry Fox was born in Germany around 1745. He emigrated in 1763 and initially lived in what is now Montgomery County. He was naturalized in Pennsylvania on the 7th April 17651.
On the 17th May 1770 Henry married Anna Saunders. She died childless on the 27th January 1774. Henry remarried on the 24th November 1774 to Mary Ruth, daughter of Henry Ruth. They had a number of children. In his will of 1824 Henry mentions the following children: Barbara, John, Nancy, Christian, Maria, and Magdelena.
In 1771 Fox purchased a farm of 73 acres in Easttown, bounded on the west side by the Wayne properties2 and appears in the Easttown tax list the next year. The farm had previously belonged to the Wayne family and was later reacquired by them to become part of the present Waynesborough tract.
In 1793 Henry Ruth purchased a tract adjacent to the south boundary of Waynesborough. The following map shows the alignments of the tracts:
In 1786 Henry Fox became the overseer of the neighborhood farm of Waynesborough. The following text is the agreement that was made between Anthony Wayne and Henry Fox defining this role (original document owned by Clifford Fox). It is a fascinating insight into the day-to-day operations of an 18th century farm.
General Instructions & Directions for conducting the Waynesborough Farm for the year 1786
1st The horses & cattle to be taken particular care of their stables to be kept clean & well bedded with straw – all the racks to be cleaned once a day and with other course hay & straw to be sickled & gave among them in the yard - the horses to be fed once a day with cut straw & half a bushel of choped rye.
2 The fences to be repaired round the wheat fields & meadows so as to keep the hoggs & cattle out of them
The total area of the 4 portions was 711 acres, rather than the 500 acres originally specified.
3 The barn yard must be shoveled at every thaw & immediately after every rain & the dirt & dung thrown in heaps – which must be haul’d upon those parts of the meadows that were not fully dugned or manured last year – the mud that was cleaned out of the ditch below the house to be spread thin & wide – the meadows to be harrowed & the dung which the cattle droped last fall to be beat about with batts as soon as the season will permit. The water must be well attended & the musk ratts or sinkholes stopped – the stones in the timothy meadow ground in the rye field must be picked and put into heaps after the ground is harrowed & roled & the lumps beat about that were spread last fall – the brush that was cut this winter to be heaped & burned as soon as circumstances will permit
4th The field that was broke up last fall must be harrowed &' crossed deep – should you be pressed for time plow four furrows & harrow them for to lay the lime as at the rate of sixty bushels to the acre as last year & be sure to let the ground after being plowed be harrowed before you spread the lime in order that it may mix the evener – which is the great secret in liming to effect.
5th If the wet low ground in the square meadow & in the meadow below the new ditch from the tree in front of the house to the point of rock and stony bank where the rye & timothy are sowen, should appear to have suffered by the winter – plow it into & sow it with flax oats – barley or any kind of Spring grains - & after taking the crop off let it be well plowed & leveled, sow it with timothy & role it well & even in proper season - & do the same with the barren bank on the other side the swamp under the new ditch if you think it has suffered too much by the winter
6th The grove field you will put in with wheat, & the two fields above & below the lane after taking the crop off – plow in the stubble & sow this whole with rye. I would wish to have all the seeding finished by the middle of September if possible
7th The Indian corn field must be the place for corn & potatoes – the little clover field for oats - & if practicable for to manage four kilns of lime - let it be limed & put in with wheat – but this must depend upon circumstances
8th By all means keep the cattle in the barn yard & horses until the middle of May if the hay & straw will last so long
I promise to pay Mr. Henry Fox the sum of twenty five pounds specie for superintending the aforesaid business until November next as witness my hand this 13th day of March 1786
The text implies that Henry was aware of the work on the farm the previous year and suggests he may have previously been overseer.
In 1797 Fox sold his property in Easttown and moved to Westmorland County where he died in 1824. He was visited there by his friend Isaac Wayne.
The Sign of the Fox
In 1784 Henry Ruth, Henry Fox’s father-in-law, purchased two adjacent tracts of land comprising 33 and 50 acres3 in the northeast corner of Easttown with the Lancaster Road and Valley Forge Road as its northern and eastern boundaries. He quickly sold off 11+ acres to Henry Fox. The reason for this transaction is not known but perhaps Ruth was financially extended by the land purchase. Ruth first petitioned for a license in 1786. His petition states:
‘That whereas your petitioner living at a notable stand for a public house of entertainment situate in the township of Easttown, County of Chester, on the Lancaster Road and on a road leading from the Swedesford by the Baptist meeting house to Newtown Square, Chester etc., on the last mentioned road there is no publick house for the distance of ten miles. Your petitioner begs to mention to yours honours that he is dayly troubled with a number of travelers etc. calling at his pump for water by reason of a scarcity of that article for a considerable distance on both roads and he has housing and other necessaries such as good meadow pasture with other conveniences. He requests the favour of your Honours to recommend him to his Excelency, the President of the supreme executive council of this State, for obtaining a license agreeable with the tenor of this petition and he shall as in duty bound ever pray.’
The petition was supported by 22 signatories. The license was disallowed but Ruth persisted and applied again in 1789. The petition was disallowed again but later in the same year the petition was allowed. Ruth held the license from 1789 to 1793. Jacob Waters purchased the property4 and took over the license in 1793. One of the supporters of this petition was Henry Fox, who owned a small tract of land nearby (mentioned above). In 1794 the inn was called the ‘Sign of the Fox’ for the first time in the licensing records. Possibly it was named after Henry Fox. In 1795 Jacob Waters sold the tract to Henry Zook, who sold it on to David Llewellyn5.
It is not clear who held the license in 1795 and 1796 but it was likely to have been William Reed. In 1797 Jacob Keyser took over the license for a year. Christian Houseman purchased the property in 17976, which was then 15 acres in extent, and held the license in 1798 and 1799. He must have lost the license in 1800 as he was found guilty of running a tippling house without a license. The establishment never regained the license.
With the opening of the Lancaster Turnpike sometime after 1793 the Fox became less accessible to travellers. The Springhouse Tavern, closer to the Turnpike, then served the locality in the 19th century7. The stone house of the Fox Inn was demolished in 19008.
Although it had no license the Fox seems to have continued in existence as a country store for at least a while into the 19th century as can be seen from a comment in Sachse’s Wayside Inns9 and Elizabeth Drinker’s diary entry of the 28th Oct 1804: Peter [the Drinker’s coachman] sett of about 9 o’clock for the Fox on the Turnpike Road, where he mett Jacob Downing [Elizabeth’s son-in-law] and his 2 oldest daughters, 12 miles off, they came to town with him.
Thanks go to Clifford Fox and John Roose for insights and inspiration.