LONDON BRITAIN (September 18, 2019) – The John Evans House, a historic structure that was built in 1715, will be saved from demolition thanks to the work of state Senator Andy Dinniman, the Friends of the White Clay Creek, and others.
This week Dinniman brought together officials from the friends organization, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to visit the house, which is purported to be the oldest in the area.
Initially, DCNR planned to demolish the structure, which was severely damaged by fire in 2017. As a result of the meeting, a plan is now in the works for the groups to work together to stabilize and preserve the structure’s shell as part of the rich history of the White Clay Creek Preserve and the surrounding region.
“The John Evans House tells the story of our nation – from its founding by colonists to the fight for the freedom and independence in the Revolutionary War to the establishment of the Mason-Dixon line and the abolitionist movement in the antebellum period,” Dinniman said. “It is vital that this structure be preserved for posterity as a testament to our rich history and that of Chester County’s White Clay Creek Preserve.”
According to reports, between 1696 and 1700, the John Evans family, Welsh Baptists, came to Colonial America.
Around 1701, they joined the Welsh Baptists of “First Philadelphia,” then, some of these Baptists split from the Philadelphia group and formed the Welsh Tract Baptist Church in Iron Hill, Newark. Later, part of that congregation left Newark to form a new congregation at the London Tract Meeting House.
In 1714, John Evans bought 600 acres in what is now Chester County, Pennsylvania and New Castle County, Delaware. The Evans House or Evans Mansion, as it is sometimes known, was built nearby the historic London Tract Meeting House, circa 1729. According to historians, new members were likely baptized in the White Clay Creek.
Recently, Dinniman worked with DCNR to complete infrastructure improvements, including a new roof, on the London Tract Meeting House, which today houses the preserve’s Nature Center.
Dinniman also said the group plans to work to have the entire London Tract Meeting House District recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. The tract includes additional historic structures and is also believed to have once been home to a railroad and Native Americans of the Lenape tribe who grew corn, beans, and squash.
Lenape Chief Kekelappen sold the land the White Clay Creek Preserve is located on to William Penn in 1683. According to historians, it is likely that the Native Americans did not fully understand the European concept of land ownership and only thought they were allowing the settlers to use the land.
Historians believe that Chief Kekelappen may have lived in Opasiskunk, a large Native American town that was at the confluence of the east and middle branches of White Clay Creek. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence that Native Americans were living in the White Clay Creek Valley from the Archaic Period (8000 to 1000 B.C.) until the early 18th century. They made pottery out of the white clay deposits found along the banks of the stream that give it its name.
In addition, the 2,100-acre White Clay Creek Preserve will soon be significantly expanded, and the new portion will become part of one of the largest contiguous areas of preserved land between Washington, D.C. and New York City.
Dinniman recently helped secure key state funding to acquire and permanently protect more than 1,700 acres owned by George Strawbridge Jr. in southern Chester County – land that will be added to the White Clay Creek Preserve.
Combined, the Strawbridge property and Maryland’s Fairhill Natural Resources Management Area (FNRMA), will result in a contiguous block of open, recreation space in excess of 7,000 acres – one of the largest in the Mid-Atlantic region.