Delaware County Daily Times from Chester, Pennsylvania on May 2, 1964 · Page 25
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Delaware County Daily Times from Chester, Pennsylvania · Page 25

Chester, Pennsylvania
Issue Date:
Saturday, May 2, 1964
Page 25
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Page 25 article text (OCR)

Disintegrated Walls Attract Attention Ivy Mills Is 235 Yrs. Old Recognized Over World By ARDEN SK1DMORE Daily Times Staff Writer The disintegrating stone walls ·f an old building on Polecat Road in Concord Township always attract attention. One towering wall still shows openings for eight windows and a door. Three other walls 'have crumbled badly. A mountain spring gurgles through the rocks of one wall and flows through the decaying remains. Dead ivy still clings to the walls. It was here, 235 years ago, that Thomas Willcox established his famous paper mill--Ivy Mills. The business continued in the Willcox family from 1729 until late in the 19th century, descending from father to son through five successive generations and winning a world-wide reputation. Descendants of Thomas Willcox still live in the vicinity of the mill site, which is located on the west branch of Chester Creek near Ivy Mills Road, Lives in Wawa Mark Willcox, retired president of the Beneficial Savings Fund of Philadelphia, lives in Wawa. So do two sisters, Mrs. A. H. Santa Maria and Miss Katherine Willcox. A brother, James M., lives in Devon. Mark Willcox also has two children, Mark, Jr., and Miss Margaret, who live in Wawa. Another son John, lived in Newtown Square. Mark Jr. has two sons, Mark 3rd, who is 8, and William, 7. John has two daughters, Anne, 10, and Louisa, 9, and a son, John Jr., who is 7. Miss Mildred L. Wiilcox, a first cousin of Mark Wiilcox Sr., lives in "Ivy Mills" --the Willcox mansion which was built in 1744, torn down in 1837, and rebuilt. The mansion overlooks the mill site. Industrialists In many respects, the Willcox family parallels the Thomas Leiper family of "Avondale." Both were pioneering industrialists and colonial families of wealth who enjoyed the close friendship of leading statesmen of their time. Benjamin Franklin made numerous trips to Ivy Mills and often was a guest in the home of Thomas Willcox. Historians say Franklin often would stop at the Pine Apple Inn in Lima, which v.'as then known as Wran- gletown because of the wrangling, so they say, that went on in the Pine Apple. Why the great statesman stopped at the Pine Apple isn't quite clear--unless he relished a drink and a rough argument. One historian notes that "the frequenters of the Pine Apple were either of the belligerent element of society or the whisky vended there was unusually exhilarating, for the character of the debates and arguments em- MAGAZINE IVy MILLS COMPLEX -- This photograph., taken early in the 19th century, shows the famous Ivy Mills and other buildings erected by the Willcox papermaking family. From left to right, they are sandpaper mill, Ivy Mills Posloffice, stone tenement, the paper mill and the warehouse. The tenement still stands and today is the attractive, refurbished home occupied by Dr. H. E. Hotting, professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. The postoffice building was used until 1 824. John W'illcox once was postmaster. ployed soon earned for the locality the name of Wrangle- town. "The men, seated around a table with a dirty pack of cards, would sing a song composed by a local jingler of rude verses. It had more than a dozen stanzas, one of which went 1'ke this: "Wrangletown we Wk.l pull down, The sign-board we will alter; And if we had Joe Yarnall Jiere, We would hang him with a halter." Joseph Yarnall was the landlord. The public house had been established in 1806 at what then was known as Middletown Cross Roads by Philip Yarnall, who formerly ran a tavern in Chester. The Pine Apple, torn down many years ago, stood on the site of the present Weather's Food Market on the northeast corner of Baltimore Pike and Pennell Road. Men like Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Robert Morris also have documented associations with the Willcox papermaking tycoons. The mill built by Thomas Willcox wasn't the first in America. Earlier ones in Philadelphia were the old Rittenhouse Mill (1690) on Paper Mill Run, a small stream that runs into Wissahickon Creek, and the William De Wees Paper Mill, erected in the Crefield section of Germantown in 1710. There may have been a couple others. But the Willcox family outstripped them all with the superior, high - grade paper pro- ducts turned out first at Ivy Mills and later at two mills known as Glen Mills. For years, the Federal Government used the Wilcox paper for its currency. Other countries eagerly sousht the paper. One Account One historical account asserts: "No paper money in the world is as nearly perfect as tnat turned out by our own bureau of engraving and printing in Y.'ashington. And none is as nearly counterfeit-proof. And this distinction is largely due to the Willcox Mills." In 1864, it was explained, the United States Government had tried to make its own counterfeit - proof paper, and failed. It then sought out the Willcox specialists to undertake the task. The Willcoxes used a peculiar paper c a l l e d "locali/.ed f i - bre,' invented and patented by them a few years earlier. It accomplished its purpose. "This process was so jealously guarded by the Government," one account said, "that for 10 years Glen Mills and every part of the plant was occupied by a Government officer, a large police and detective force and some 40 employees of the Treasury Department. "Every sheet of the paper was guarded from the time it left the paper machine right to the point of its delivery on express wagons. "During that period not a single sheet of the hundreds of millions made was lost or missed, nor a counterfeit seen of any Treasury note or bond of the series that began with the paper made at the Willcox Mill." Threads Added Red threads were added with the pulp in the beating engine while blue threads were applied on the machine in the making of paper for American money. One of the important aims of the Willcox family was to improve the general method of paper manufacturing. James W. Willcox, the second, invented a chemical paper called "Chameleon," which the U.S. Treasury Dept. used for its stamps and checks. This "Chameleon" was a sheet so treated chemically that it would, by reaction, change its color if tampered with for alteration with either acid or alkali. This paper, it was said, put an end to the counterfeiting and the re-using of Internal Revenue Stamps by which the Federal Government had been defrauded of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Near Exeter Most historians say Thomas Willcox came to America in 1718 from near Exeter, in Devonshire, England. However, Thomas' History of Printing in America says his arrival was in 1712. Willcox's name first appears in the list of taxables for Concord Township in 1725. In 1726, Thomas Willcox and Thomas Brown built a mill-dam on the west branch of Chester Creek in what was then Concord, Chester County. After building the dam and acquiring additional property, the proprietors erected a mill and began the manufacture of paper, in which Wilicox had gained considerable experience in England. Brown stayed with Willcox only a short time. That paper manufacturing equipment in those days was scanty is revealed by the following list of items in the lease by which Brown turned over his interest in Ivy Mills to Willcox in 1730: "A mortice and hammers, a Vatt and a Pott, two Stuff Tubbs, a rag knife and block, one press paper mould and a pair of Shop paper moulds, twenty-six fulling paper felts, seventy-seven shop paper Planks, a Press and Rag wheel, a screw and box, Glazeing Engine, two paring knives, two little pails with iron hoops, one small adz, two pairing frames, one pairing Bench, three cocks, two troughs, one winch, a halft- ing bench, two tressels, a Iron Bar, six posts and eighteen rails for hanging paper, one pad, one pair of stillards, a box of Paper Hanging stoll, one hundred and sixty Tap Pots, twenty cogs, and three washers." Died in 1779 When Thomas Willcox died in 1779 his son Mark took over the business. The son at that time was a leading Philadelphia merchant. Mark Willcox's three sons -John, Joseph and James-- were associated in the paper mill with him. There are several versions as to how the plant became known as Ivy Mills. One was that it Continued on Page 4A May 2, 1964--3A

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