The Darby Borough Historical
and Preservation Society
Preserve, Document, Educate
Darby Borough, PA, the settlement village on Darby and Cobbs Creek was once a part of Darby Township which was partitioned to create several Delaware County Boroughs and Townships. Darby had its first Town Meeting in 1683 and was incorporated in 1853. Settled by Quakers in 1681-82, it quickly became an industrial and business center. Darby Borough played an important part in the development of Delaware County, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the United States.
The Darby Friends Meeting House is on the National Register of Historic Places
Built in 1805 to accommodate a growing congregation, this was the third Darby Friends Meeting House. The First one, built in 1687, was a log cabin and was used by Revolutionary soldiers. The present Meeting House was also used as a hospital during the War of 1812 by the U. S. Army. It is in its original state and will soon be able to be viewed on the National Park Service Web site.
Organized in May of 1997, the The Darby Borough Historical and Preservation Society's purpose is to Preserve, Document and Educate concerning the history of Darby Borough, Pennsylvania. One of our goals is to restore the Bunting Freedom House, an Underground Railroad Station, creating a cultural center where our children can learn about the history of our community and its people. Another goal is to have 1000 Main Street restored and used as a community archive where the records of our Borough can be made available to researchers and local residents. This colonial house, another Underground Railroad Station, can serve as a tourist center, providing walking tour information for three or more of the most historic blocks in Delaware County. Darby was referred to as "The Gateway To The South" because it was the stopping off place for travelers between Baltimore and Philadelphia. Darby once had more than thirty inns, boarding houses and taverns where travelers could be assured overnight accommodations.
Another part of the Society's mission is to make sure our historic sites and buildings are protected with proper ordinances and zoning regulations and to develop historic areas that reflect the contributions of different eras of our history and our cultural heritage.
Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church
Founded in 1875, Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church was the first black church in Darby. A band of steadfast Christians met in Penn Hall on Tenth Street in Darby, then known as Serill Street to organize a Sunday School and Bible Study Class in May, 1875. Among those present on that day were Allen Disberry, Charles Price, John Meads., Samuel Rodgers, John Massey, Charles Tomplims, May Fisher, Rebecca Roland, Jane Meads, Heneritta Grace, Anna Clay and others. Officers elected were Allen Disberry, May Fisher, Charles Price, W. H. Cork and Samuel Rodgers.
In 1879 the Church was assigned its own minister, Rev. Richard Barney. He died in 1881 and his remains were buried in front of the Church. A second story was added in 1916 and an annex in 1976. The Church's beautiful stained glass windows reflect the names of many devoted members of that era. There are fifth or sixth generation family members in Mt. Zion's congregation today.
"View of Darby, Pennsylvania, After the Burning of Lord's Mill"
A Painting by Jesse D. Bunting, 1840-1870
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Karolik
Collection of American Paintings
This painting shows G. Flounder's, Wheelright or Blacksmith shop. The Mill Race runs in front of the mill and in the background the creek can be seen. 1861 tax records show that another Fulling Mill was added to the Mill when part of it was purchased by Simeon Lord in that year. Darby's Mills manufactured fabric, yarn, lumber. tools and hardware. Historic Fuller Street was built in 1843 for mill workers.
Darby Methodist Meeting Cemetery (Old Mt. Zion Cemetery)
Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his essay, "History", wrote: "All history is subjective, therefore, there is no history, only biography". The biographies of the people buried in Darby Methodist Meeting Cemetery tell the story of our community.
This cemetery dates to 1807-8. It was abandoned for more than 50 years and a group of concerned residents had the title cleared and are working to restore it. A lot of damage has been done to the gravestones. With the help of Delaware County Community Service, over 200 trees have been cut down and debris cleared. Documentation of the people buried there is progressing. The Friends of Darby Methodist Meeting Cemetery, a not for profit corporation, have discovered at least 30 Civil War Veteran's graves and we believe we will have documentation on a Revolutionary soldier soon.
Some of the Swedish Boon family are buried there. Their family came to Darby about 1637 and members of the family belonged to the Mt. Zion Methodist Meeting. Some of our earliest settlers, officials, clergy and descendants of the people who organized the Darby Mt. Zion Methodist Meeting in 1808 are also buried there.
One of the first subscription schools was on this site. Students came from as far away as Media and boarded with local residents in bad weather. A Temperance Society was formed in this school building on June 6,1818. It was later called The Home Protective Society. George Whitefield, the celebrated Preacher, spoke to hundreds of Darby area residents in a near by orchard in 1739. Soldiers camped on the church property for two weeks during the War of 1812 while enroute to Philadelphia. The biographies of the people buried there tell the story of the early beginnings of Delaware County.
Records of veterans are acquired whenever possible. The Friends hope to write a paper on the old church and the cemetery. New Friends of the cemetery are welcomed. We look forward to it being declared a historic site. The Friends Of Darby Methodist Meeting Cemetery are members of Darby Borough Historical and Preservation Society.
Darby Fire Company #1
On January 27, 1775 a group of Darby Borough men joined together to "protect their neighbors lives, houses, goods and effects from fire". The new fire company held meetings twice a year until 1780 when they decided to meet once a month. Darby Fire Company #1 has given continuous service to the community of Darby for more than 200 years.
In the beginning each member had to provide two leather buckets to be kept ready and not used except for fires. If they were used for other purposes the members were fined. Widows were responsible for to keep their buckets available for use by the firemen unless they remarried. The Company now has the latest fire fighting equipment and volunteers still respond to community needs.
The Darby Ram, shown above, was puchased from England in 1833. The Ram (logo shown) was the symbol of the woolen mills in England and was used by mill owners that settled in Darby. At one time a ram's head was mounted on the front of this early fire fighting equipment. The Darby Song which originated in England was about the Ram and was sung by George Washington at the house of Judy Ellsworth in Hartford, CT shortly after the Revolution. There were many verses to this song. According to living history musicians, several versions of the music existed.
When I went down to Darby
It was on a summer's day.
I saw the finest ram sir,
That was ever fed on hay.
And if you don't believe me,
Sing jingle, jingle, Darby
The Society welcomes new members.
We publish a newsletter several times a year. Three years ago we created a map that identifies about 30 of our historical sites. During the past year we have published seven short histories of 20th Century Darby families. We held "Darby Homecoming 2000" and gave 7 Citizen Awards to local residents for their contributions to improving the quality of life for their neighbors. This Award is given annually. We hosted the Delaware County Historical Society Houston Lecture concerning Darby Borough's history. Several of our members participated in the lecture.
We are looking forward to doing a historical survey of our community to facilitate planning and preservation to improve Darby Borough. We welcome Darby residents to join us in this effort. Our history is our future! Preserving our historic sites will also preserve the character of our town showcasing its contributions to Delaware County.
William Penn wrote his Rules of Privileges which was the basis for the Law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 300 years ago. John Blunston, one of the people that contributed to these rules, was one of the Quakers that came to settle Darby in 1682 on one of William Penn's ships along with seven other Quaker men, three with families. Twenty-three people created a new town and practiced their faith which provided freedom of religion and tolerance. They established schools, built a Meeting House by 1687 and organized a library by 1743. They built mills which brought other settlers to find new homes and freedom from persecution. They brought their expertise to build a new country.
John Blunston's property comprised most of what is Darby Borough today. Darby Borough has three or more houses that were Blunston family properties built before 1750 that are still intact. The Bunting Freedom House was built in 1699 and completed in 1723. It was owned by the Blunston/Bunting family until the middle of the 20th century. This Blunston/Bunting property was an active center in the Underground Railroad as were several other homes, including the Fearne Mansion at 1006 Main Street and the Meeting House.
To explore Darby Borough's history is to experience the beginning of our country. Join us and help document the Darby Story for future generations to learn from and to claim the pride that comes from knowing about the place where you live.
For Information: Phone: 610-583-4386
P. O. Box 108, Darby, PA 19023-0108