Document Collection

Devon and its Historic Surroundings

by Julius Sachse

Summer Rambles over Hill and Dale

Louis Cassier & Co., copyright 1892

Spread Eagle Inn
The Old Spread Eagle, 1791
From a rare old print

St. Davids Church
St. David’s Church, Radnor

What an image of peace and rest
Is this little church among its graves

ne of the most striking objects seen by the traveler on the Pennsylvania Rail Road as he speeds on, to and from Philadelphia, through the eastern end of Chester County, is the imposing pile which crowns a spur of the south Valley Hill, sixteen miles west of Broad Street Station.

The quaint gables and tower, the wide sweep of velvety lawn and wealth of shrubbery, the smooth drives and broad walks at once recall an English landscape with its proud baronial Hall. From the flag staff, however, float the Stars and Stripes in all their beauty, and in front of the building may be seen swinging in its yoke on the post, an old time sign board bearing the name “Devon Inn”. Here, during the season, meet representative Philadelphians and travelers from all the cities in search of summer rural comfort.

The frontpiece, copied from a rare old picture, represents the Spread Eagle Inn on the Lancaste roadside as it was one hundred years ago; this house then occupied the same position in the community as the Devon Inn does now. Its reputation for good cheer was wide spread, and the host, Adam Siter, was known to all travelers over the road.

The fast mail coach shown leaving the Spread Eagle was scheduled to reach town in from 6 to 8 hours, while now the Pennsylvania Railroad trains land us in the heart of the city within half an hour.

Devon Inn derives its interest, however, not only from fashionable patronage, convenience and perfect appointments, but from the historic associations of the picturesque hills and valleys round about it; records which reach from the earliest days of the Province, through the darkest days of the Revolution, down to the present time.

Every road passes over historic ground, every path has its legend, and each old house its own traditions.

The Inn and its surroundings are located within the bounds of the old Welsh Tract of 40,000 acres granted as early as 1681, by Penn to the hardy Welsh, who were to have exclusive jurisdiction over it, and did until Penn repudiated the grant - and one of the oldest landmarks is the former Welsh church at Radnor, one and one-half miles south of the Inn. This quaint sanctuary, of which an illustration is shown on the next page has, since the publication of Longfellow’s Poem in 1876, became known to all visitors as “Old St. David’s.” It was long presided over by the venerable Rev. Wm. F. Halsey, and is located in a little valley at the point where the townships of Newtown, Easttown, and Radnor meet, the county line of Chester and Delaware, dividing the churchyard. The quaint building proper dates from 1715, while the unique outside stairway was erected in 1773. Nothing of the old church remains, however, except the outside walls, all the interior fittings being modern. The old pulpit, chancel and high-backed “Pughs” long since succumbed to the demands of modern needs.

Wayne Homestead   Leopard Inn
Old Paoli Monument Major General Anthony Wayne New Paoli Monument
The Lee Picket   Interior Wayne Homestead

In the surrounding God’s Acre, rest the remains of Gen. Anthony Wayne, whose monument was the first public memorial placed over any of the Revolutionary heroes; directly in front of the door repose the mortal remains of the aristocratic William Moore, of Moore Hall, and by his side lies his wife, a lineal descendant of the Macduff immortalized by Shakespeare; while in front of the chancel window sleeps the pious Currie, for half a century in charge of the three churches comprising “Ye Mission of Radnor.”

A host of lesser actors, who were prominent in our early struggles, warriors who wore the British scarlet, as well as those who graced the buff and blue, here mingle their ashes under Radnor’s sod and periwinkle.