In 1682, the counties of Chester, Philadelphia and Bucks were delineated within William Penn’s Providence of Pennsylvania. An 8.2 square mile area, a north/south diamond of rolling hills in the extreme eastern portion of Chester County became Easttown Township in 1704. Originally settled by Welsh Quakers, the township drew English, Scots, French, Swiss, Dutch and Swedish immigrants, most subscribing to the Episcopal, Baptist and Presbyterian faiths. The oldest surviving church, St. David’s Protestant Episcopal, was established in 1715. Easttown was a farming area, sending its products to Philadelphia, by the Revolution, second only to London among English cities.
Although the township was actively involved in the American Revolution, the Tarleton skirmish of 1777, following the Battle of Brandywine, was the most famous historical event. Americans under the command of General Anthony Wayne, an Easttown native, and led by Captain “Light Horse Harry” Lee repelled an attack by the British on Signal Hill near the intersection of Newtown and Sugartown Roads. The house was later named Tarleton for the British leader. Signal Hill itself acquired its name as the end of a signal line extending from Valley Forge.
Construction began on the Philadelphia-Lancaster Turnpike in 1790, the first paved highway in America. When completed it ran through Reeseville, or Cockletown, renamed Berwyn after the Berwyn Hills in Wales, by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1877. The railroad promoting the area as a summer vacation spot for the hot Philadelphians, selected Welsh names for many Main Line stations.
The coming of the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad in 1834 changed life in this rural area. Those businesses and homes near the old roads and trails declined while new ones expanded along the railroad and the turnpike. Between 1862 and 1872 a feed, coal and lumber yard, a tin shop a blacksmith shop and a general store began operating. Postal service was added in 1862, using the railroad name when the change occurred. Even today, the name has only railroad and postal address meaning since government is in township form.
For many years after its founding in the early 1800’s, an inn known as The Leopard was the center of local life. A small community arose around it at the intersection of Darby-Paoli Road and Leopard Road. Another, Glassley, was laid out in the northeast corner of the township in the early 19th century. Although no relics of it remain, it is remembered as the site of the first Easttown school erected in 1807. The Devon Inn, built in 1881, was used to house Valley Forge Military Academy in 1928-29.
In the early 1900’s, Easttown was a thickly settled farming district that included some fine country estates of wealthy Philadelphians. Many of these affluent residents used the train on the “Main Line” to commute to their city businesses. In 1911, the railroad was electrified and Paoli became important as the end of the line from Philadelphia.
Natural limitations of steep slopes, flood plains, areas of poorly drained soil and heavy erosion slowed the development of Easttown over the years. However, the population increased dramatically from 16 male residents in 1715 to 9064 in 1980. The most growth, in housing development and in population, occurred during the 1950’s with a jump of 81%. The 1970’s brought more households despite a population decline of 500 people.
In the 1990’s, most residents are employed as managers or professionals outside the township. Most of the big estates have been sold, their properties divided into building lots for single family homes or townhouses. A variety of housing stock is available but rental units are rare. Businesses and office buildings border much of Lancaster Pike.
With bus and rail transportation and access to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Schuylkill Expressway and the 202 Interstate Easttown provides good job availability in Philadelphia and a broad suburban area. A variety of shopping, good health care, professional sporting events, plays and concerts and areas of historic interest are nearby. Civic, social and service groups abound. The Upper Main Line YMCA (UMLY) serves as a recreational and cultural center and claims the highest membership in the U.S. The Devon Horse show Fair Grounds hosts the world famous Devon Horse Show each year during the Memorial Day celebration.
Churches situated within the township are St. Norbert’s and St. Monica’s Roman Catholic parishes, the First Baptist Church of Berwyn, Berwyn United Methodist, Main Line Unitarian Church, St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Church of the Brethren, and Trinity Presbyterian. In addition, the township contains one synagogue, Or-Shalom, and a portion of the Old St. David’s Church, which it shares with Radnor Township.
Nine regular TV stations and numerous cable TV stations reach Easttown. Cable providers are Comcast and Verizon. Philadelphia area radio stations serve the community. News in print reaches Easttown residents daily in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the West Chester Daily Local and through daily delivery of the New York Times. Weekly newspapers available are the Upper Main Line edition of the Main Line Suburban Life.