Rock Hill Farm is a piece of Chester County history.
Rock Hill Farm sits in a historic section of Chester County and deserves to be protected from unwanted development. Too many of the county’s historic venues have been despoiled by developers in recent decades, including celebrated land connected to the Battle of Brandywine and Paoli Massacre.
Local efforts are underway to stop the unwanted development. Local neighbors have formed a Save Rock Hill Farm group. Neighbors and those affected by the development are urged to make their opposition known to the officials of Willistown Township and attend township meetings. No approval for development has been given at this point.
As the United States was struggling to gain its freedom in September 1777, the land of Rock Hill Farm and the rest of Chester County became the epicenter of the clash between the American forces of George Washington and the British army General William Howe.
Plenty of Revolutionary War soldiers from both armies were treated for injuries sustained in the Paoli battle in the farms and houses surrounding Rock Hill Farm. On the morning of September 21, 1777, the day after the Battle of Paoli, troops were reported on the Darby Road, which went through the village of Leopard, which is near the intersection of Grubbs Mill Road and current day Route 252.
More than 270 American soldiers under the command of General Anthony Wayne were casualties at Paoli. Buildings were reported to be used, but not documented, as hospitals in the vicinity of Easttown and Willistown townships. A tavern, opened in 1744, was operating in the area and very well could have treated American soldiers. Reports have been confirmed that wounded Americans were treated at the British’s Howelville camp, just north of Paoli. The British asked Washington to send doctors as the British army was heading towards Philadelphia.
At the time of the British invasion of Chester County, no structures were on Rock Hill as the first log house was constructed about 1796. The house is on the north side of Crum Creek. The structure was enhances about 1870. The home is part of the “Acres of Quakers” area, as described in the Willistown Historic Register. Two other homes are located at 2320 South Valley Road and known as the Patrick Boney House, built about 1855 and the Patrick Boney Tenement, dating to 1867.
From an archeological standpoint, historical artifacts have been found on properties adjacent to Rock Hill Farm. As evidenced in the below image, handmade earthenware from centuries ago left by the early Dutch settlers was discovered by a neighbor, who as a young child living on Grubbs Mill Road, unearthed various forms of such pottery and utensils. Other pieces from this specific collection of pottery are currently on display at The Philadelphia Museum of Art. Based on this finding, it is reasonable that other unearthed artifacts of immense archaeological value may lay beneath the beautiful acreage that has lain untouched for centuries.
It is also known that this specific stretch of land currently known as Rock Hill Farm was occupied by the Okehocking Tribe (also known as Ockanickon), a small band of Unami language-speaking Delaware Indians. Part of their land is preserved as Ridley Creek State Park and other areas they inhabited runs along Crum Creek that weaves a path of more than 2 miles through the center of the Rock Hill Farm estate.
The question begs what other treasures lie within this land on Rock Hill Farm? It is essential that a comprehensive survey be conducted to ensure irreplaceable and invaluable archaeological items are properly identified, catalogued, and preserved, prior to any engineering or large-scale work commence.
The Rock Hill Farm estate’s history dates back to the 18th century, when the land was acquired by Benjamin Cox, identified as a founding Quaker. One published report has Benjamin Cox being born on October 12, 1782, in Willistown. He died in the township on June 27, 1814.
Before the recent sale to a developer, Rock Hill Farm had been owned by the family of Tristram C. Colket Jr., a grandson of John T. Dorrance Sr., founder of the Campbell Soup fortune. Colket purchased the property in 1985. He died in 2020 at age 82. Colket was a longtime supporter and later board member of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, eventually becoming chairman of the Research Institute.