Speakers Series

Dr. Whittier C. Atkinson: Coatesville’s Healer

On May 21, 2023, the East Brandywine Historical Commission hosted Toni Morton of Coatesville’s Hayti Historical Society. In this outstanding presentation of local history, she celebrates the story of Doctor Whittier C. Atkinson. Dr. Atkinson was the first African American physician in Chester County and boldly opened his own hospital to care for underserved African Americans in the community. He named the hospital after his father. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and can still be seen in Coatesville today. Founded in 1936, the Clement Atkinson Memorial Hospital remained in operation until 1978.

To learn more about the Hayti Historical Society, located in Valley Township, visit them at https://www.haytihistoricalsociety.org

Caring for Historic Brick and Stone

On March 26, 2023, the East Brandywine Historical Commission hosted Andy deGruchy, the owner of LimeWorks.us, the nation’s leading manufacturer and distributor of “green” historic preservation and sustainable building mortars, plasters and paints. His lime-based materials are used for durable, appropriate, time-tested historic masonry restoration campaigns. In this presentation, he shares a wealth of knowledge you can use when caring for historic brick and stone at home.

In 1979, Andy received a full scholarship to study and practice masonry from the nation’s oldest private, post-secondary, free trade school founded in 1888. He received their “Key” award for the advancement of its founding ideals and has restored hundreds of historic buildings in the Delaware and Lehigh Valleys of Pennsylvania. Andy holds lectures and training workshops on the subject of historic masonry restoration and sustainable building.

The History of Steel

On November 20, 2022 the East Brandywine Historical Commission hosted a presentation called “The History of Steel,” with a guest speaker from the National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum in Coatesville. Beginning in the early 19th century, the iron and steel industry played a key role in transforming both Pennsylvania and the nation. A female entrepreneur, Rebecca Lukens, began managing the mill in 1825 and created a successful iron-making operation on the Brandywine. Learn more about Luken’s Steel Company and how this powerful regional industry shaped our community.

To learn more about future speaker series events in East Brandywine, visit the township website at http://www.ebrandywine.org

The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum welcomes visitors six days a week with three guided tours per day. The grounds are open daily, sunrise to sunset. Plan your visit to one of Chester County’s best local museums here https://steelmuseum.org/

America’s Obscure Presidents – Van Buren to Buchanan

On October 16, 2022 the East Brandywine Historical Commission hosted David Walter for a presentation called “America’s Obscure Presidents: Van Buren to Buchanan.” The United States had 8 Presidents in a 24 year period – none of them re-elected. Hear about their accomplishments and failures, including the Pennsylvania’s one and only President, James Buchanan. Buchanan grew up in neighboring Lancaster County and graduated from Dickinson College in Carlisle. 

Mr. Walter is the founder and commissioner of Westtown Township’s Historical Commission. 

To learn more about future speaker series events in East Brandywine, visit the township website at http://www.ebrandywine.org

President James Buchanan’s home, Wheatland, is a National Historic Landmark open to visitors in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The property is well preserved and managed by the Lancaster County Historical Society. Plan your visit at  https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/presidents/james_buchanan_wheatland.html

Thomas Buchanan Read: Painting the Civil War

On September 18, 2022 the East Brandywine Historical Commission hosted Associate Professor Olivia Gruber Florek for a presentation called, “Painting the Civil War: Thomas Buchanan Read and Civil War Memory.” In 1864, Thomas Buchanan Read captured the national attention with his poetic ode to Philip Sheridan’s ride at the Battle of Cedar Creek. His poem and painting were both widely popular at the time. But did you know that Thomas Buchanan Read grew up on Corner Ketch Rd. in East Brandywine? Learn more about one of America’s most celebrated artists of the Civil War era.

To learn more about future speaker series events in East Brandywine, visit the township website at http://www.ebrandywine.org

And to learn more about the incredible history of Chester County, we encourage to visit the Chester County History Center, where you’ll find artifacts, displays, and rotating exhibits spanning the full history of our region. Plan your visit at http://mycchc.org

Hinsonville Heroes: Black Soldiers of Chester County in the American Civil War

On May 15, 2022, the East Brandywine Township Historical Commission hosted Dr. Cheryl Renee Gooch for a presentation called “Hinsonville Heroes.” She shares the forgotten story of eighteen US soldiers during the American Civil War and beyond. African American Chester County veterans served in the legendary 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and saw action at the assault on Fort Wagner in 1863.  Others were part of the only black regiment to lead President Lincoln’s funeral procession. Learn their stories in this presentation with Dr. Gooch.


Duffy’s Cut Mass Grave

On November 21, 2021, the East Brandywine Township Historical Commission hosted a presentation called “Duffy’s Cut Mass Grave.”  Fifty-seven workers were hired to build a stretch of railway in Pennsylvania known as Duffy's Cut in 1832. However, within weeks all of them were dead. It is thought some died from cholera, while others were murdered by local people who believed the immigrants were spreading the disease. Six sets of remains have previously been uncovered and the new searches that are taking place are at what is believed to be the site of a mass grave containing the remaining fifty-one. Hear all about the story that took place in Malvern and the current efforts being made, as well as the museum at Immaculata University. In addition, a possible mass grave of Irish railway works is also taking place at Norwood Cemetery in Downingtown. We’ll hear the latest on that project.

The Downingtown & Lancaster Railroad

On April 19, 2020, the East Brandywine Township Historical Commission hosted Mark W. Hoffman for a presentation called “Downingtown & Lancaster Railroad.” Historically, the East Brandywine and Waynesburg Railroad Company first connected the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) Main Line at Downingtown to Waynesburg (now Honey Brook), PA in November 1861. By December 1876, trackage extended west from Honey Brook to New Holland, PA. The railroad bordered East Brandywine until 1955. Come hear all about the D&L – nicknamed Dark & Lonely!

Mark W. Hoffman, a railroad enthusiast, photographer and historian from Leola, PA, will present an overview of the Downingtown and Lancaster Railroad. His digital presentation  reviews the 39-mile line’s history and route. In addition, he will cover current operations on remaining trackage in Lancaster County.

1700s Historical Clothing

On March 15, 2020 the East Brandywine Township Historical Commission hosted Elizabeth Bertheaud for a presentation called “Aren’t You Hot in Those Clothes?” Have you ever seen women and men at reenactments and historic sites dressed up in clothing of another time period and wondered just how they were tolerating the heat of a summer day in that getup? This lighthearted presentation explains the whys and wherefores of clothing worn during the 1700s.

Elizabeth Bertheaud is the Historic Site Administrator for Ephrata Cloister. Started in 1732, the community’s unique lifestyle allowed the creation of incredible architecture, original music, significant publications, and remarkable art.


The History of the American Flag

On November 17, 2019, the East Brandywine Historical Commission hosted Michael Rapp, the owner of Brandywine Flags from 1995 to 2017. He discusses the evolution of the American flag from the time of the Mayflower to the present. We see our flag flying every day from buildings across our community, but how much do you know about its origins and the many patterns and designs the flag has had over time? How did those changes occur? Michael also discusses proper flag etiquette and how to show your respect to this hallowed symbol of the nation.  

Michael and his wife Jeanne Rapp owned Brandywine Flags until 2017 and remain active in the Marine Corps League of Chester County and Warrior Watch Riders. You can learn more about the local Marine Corps League at http://chestercountymcl.com.