In all the World over the centuries of time, those people who have been led by a most provident God to America, would consider themselves fortunate. Those early settlers throughout the land met the challenge of forming a new life for themselves and their descendants that is truly exemplary. Life in those early days was fraught with constant danger, strife and discouragement. However, God shed his grace on the people and the land. The result, two hundred years later stands before the World as the greatest Nation on earth. She is great because the very cause of freedom that inspired the formation of this government is still the basis of our existence. Frequently, some words of a famous poem come to mind when we ponder the true meaning of Patriotism,

The residents of West Nantmeal Township appreciate most proudly and sincerely, the ancestry and the aspects of this wonderful place that we call home.

The original spelling was "Nantmell" or ‘Nantmel," which means sweet water or land of the sweet stream. The first settlers were Welsh and the name was chosen for their birthplace in Radnorshire, Wales. These early Welshmen entered these wooded hills between 1700 and 1710.

In 1739, the township was divided into East Nantmeal and West Nantmeal. Some ten years prior to this division, in 1729, some Scotch-Irish immigrants landed at Newcastle. They moved up the historic Brandywine and along the Indian Trail that led from the great Valley to Conestoga Valley and chose this area in which to build their homes. In 1789 West Nantmeal was divided again and Honey Brook Township was formed to the West, which was predominantly Scotch-Irish and the Welsh in the East. Again, in 1852, Wallace township was divided from West Nantmeal.

Agriculture became the primary pursuit of these early settlers and the raising of livestock of all kinds became of major importance. The first mill began operation in 1740 on the West Branch of the Brandywine just above the Beaver Dam.

As the population grew, so did the pursuit of religion. In 1763 the first monthly meeting House included the meetings of Uwchlan, Nantmeal and Pike-land. The Scotch-Irish Presbyterians built and established their first meeting house at Brandywine Manor in 1735. From the beginning, the Honey Brook Presbyterian Church was built in 1835 by former members of the Brandywine Manor Church. In 1839, the West Nantmeal Presbyterian Church (Fairview) was also constructed. The Baptists built a church in East Nantmeal in 1741, shortly after that township had been established. A second church was established by them in East Brandywine in the year 1842.


The Good Will Methodist Church was established in 1832 on ground that had been donated by Rev. Thomas Millard for a church and a burial ground. The white and yellow pine lumber used in construction of the church was hauled from Columbia, Pennsylvania. The original building was 47 feet long by 37 feet wide and II feet high to the square. The outside was "pebble dashed." The original cost was $1,349.00. It is of interest to note that a steeple and belfry was built into the church, but it never had a bell.

Another early church is St. Mark’s Episcopal Church located on Church Hill along the Chestnut Hill Road, just north of Cupola. The founder of this church was Levi Bull. He was an Englishman and not of Welsh descent. Doctor Bull’s family was related to George Washington. There were no Episcopal seminaries in the colonies at this time, consequently Levi Bull studied theology, church history and biblical exegesis with the Reverend Nathan Grier, who was then pastor of the Forks of the Brandywine Presbyterian Church (Brandywine Manor). The first Episcopal Church Bishop of Pennsylvania, William White, tested Levi Bull’s knowledge and being satisfied, ordained him to the priesthood. One of his first assignments was St. Mary’s in Warwick, which was established in 1806. This was Dr. Bull’s home base for more than 50 years and he lived nearby at Bulltown in Mount Pleasant with his wife, the former Ann Jacobs, who was the daughter of the ironmaster at Hopewell Furnace. This home is still standing just north of Rte. 401.

While at St. Mary’s, Doctor Bull founded St. Mark’s at Church Hill in 1835 and the following year began another mission at Ludwig’s Corner called St. Andrew’s. These churches were founded primarily for the benefit of the Englishmen who came into this area for the purpose of mining the iron ore and engaging in the industry of iron manufacture. Some of the clergymen, who migrated here from England, became ill or did not wish to endure the primitive conditions they found in America. Consequently some returned to England, but Levi Bull continued in his missionary work and was determined to have the apostolic message preached and represented in Nantmeal Township. His determination was evidenced by the rifle, which he occasionally carried into the pulpit at St. Mary’s to defend the congregation from an Indian warrior, who was intent to put an arrow into one of the worshippers. This rifle is presently on view in a case as you enter St. Mary’s. At St. Mark’s there isa window between the two front doors dedicated to Levi Bull, which reads: "Blessed are they which die in the Lord."

St. Mark’s original charter was granted on August 22, 1887. The incorporating vestrymen were: Modecai Barclay, Samuel Shingle, H. H. Dengler, John Ranck, C. Morgan Talbot, Samuel Jones, Sr., Samuel Crouse, Jr., Brinton P. Swymelar. Harry D. Jones and Reese H. Buchanan. The building is situated on 4.5 acres surrounded by a burial ground at the top of a bill overlooking Cupola to the south and the new Lake Struble to the north.

In more recent years, the Wyebrooke Baptist Church began by conducting prayer meetings in homes in 1966. This church was incorporated in May, 1968. At that time there were four charter members: Mr. and Mrs. Earl Shepherd; Mr. and Mrs. Worth Stamper. James Stamper was pastor from 1968 to 1970. Gene Murphy began in 1970 until the present. As the congregation grew, they rented the old Franklin School until they could acquire ground and build on the location of their new building. This is a growing and active congregation.

St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church was established in 1963 and the new church building and rectory are located at the intersection of Rt. 82 and Cupola Road. Catholics in the West Nantmeal Township area before 1963 belonged to St. Joseph’s parish in Downingtown. As a convenience, they attended Mass in the Chapel at St. Mary of Providence School, which was served by priests of St. Joseph’s. In 1963, John Cardinal Krol, Archbishop of the Philadelphia Archdiocese saw a need for a separate parish to serve the area. Rev. Eugene Riley was the founding pastor of St. Peter’s parish, which was officially begun in June, 1963. Father Riley remained at St. Peter’s until January of 1971. He was succeeded by Rev. Edmund Rafferty, who, due to poor health, remained just a few months. In September of that year, Rev. Hugh 0. McSherry was appointed pastor, and is currently still head of the parish.

In addition to the church, a large activity hall and the rectory comprise the present parish building. Once farmland, there is a total of 96 acres, most rented out and still under cultivation. There are about 150 families who belong to St. Peter’s, a very small number for a parish that covers approximately 50 square miles — one of the largest in the Archdiocese.
Despite its small membership, the church sponsors many activities and groups, including Cubs, Scouts, boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, an active CYO (Catholic Youth Organization), and other parochial groups. The hall is open for use by groups not necessarily of the parish, and is a popular place for dances, wedding receptions, sports activities, and fund raising events.
St. Mary’s of Providence also has a very fine chapel and a more detailed description will be included in a latter portion of this narrative as it pertains to the Potts Mansion.


Many of the farm deeds of West Nantmeal trace their origin to the sons of William Penn: Thomas, Richard and John. The Titus Beam farm was deeded from John, Richard and Thomas Penn to Mary and William Clews in 1740 and in 1744 it was again conveyed to James Creswell. In 1770 John Creswell transferred to J. Creswell and John Moore. lames Levengood acquired the farm in 1899 and Harr~ Levengood, who was born in 1881, later acquired the grant which eventually was acquired by Titus Beam and wife in 1970. Mr. Harry Levengood is a nonagenarian and still living on the hill overlooking his former home. He is active and exceedingly alert. He has been most helpful in recalling some of the historic past that he has lived and seen in this township.

Another tract conveyed by the Penns was that formerly known as the George Ranck farm at Barneston. This has been traced by Thomas and Richard Penn in the early 1750’s when the earliest part of the house was built. The Penns sold it to John and Ann Potter on April 12, 1750 and the description notes that the buildings were "surrounded by 205 acres." This farm is now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Buss. This is their home and since the original purchase, they have acquired some additional acreage to the East. Over the years, portions of the farm have been split and sold off in smaller parcels.

The earliest tax transcript that seems to be on record is that of the year 1722.
It is of interest to note the name of Mordecai Lincoln on the original tax lists (1720 to 1725). He was married to Hannah Salter Lincoln and they had a daughter named Hannah Lincoln and a son John, who was the grandfather of Abraham Lincoln. Other children were named Deborah, Mary Anne and Sarah.
This line of descent marks Mordecai Lincoln as Abraham Lincoln’s great grandfather and places Hannah Lincoln Millard as his great-aunt. Hannah was also the great grandmother of Thomas Millard and was married to Joseph Millard. Many present residents of West Nantmeal Township trace their ancestry to Hannah and Joseph Millard. The name is familiar throughout the area and it appears that the Millard family has been established here since the early 1700’s.
The child Deborah was born in 1717 and died in 1720. She was buried in the old Jemison burying ground in Monmouth County, N.J. Shortly after Deborah’s death, Mordecai moved his family to Pennsylvania. His land was described as lying near "the branches of the French Creek and the Brandywine in Chester County, Pa." In 1725, he was one-third owner of the Coventry Forge, which he sold to a partner on December 14, 1725 for 500 pounds. His-wife Hannah died in Coventry Township in 1727 and in 1729 he married Mary, who it is thought, was a daughter of Andrew Robeson. Mordecai leased a 1,000 acre tract in neighboring Exeter Township, Berks County, which he later purchased in May, 1730. The house he built there in 1733 is still standing and bears the inscription "ML-1733." It appears that Mordecai then left West Nantmeal Township and took up residence in nearby Berks County.

It is of interest that mention be made somewhere in this narrative concerning Jonathan Millard, who still lives on his family farm near Barneston. He can trace his ancestry to Hannah Lincoln Millard. She was a daughter of Mordecai Lincoln and also a great aunt of Abraham Lincoln.
Jonathan Millard truly loves his farm home. So much in fact, that he has never spent one night of his life away from that farm. He and his wife, Millard, are gentle, loving people. They live quietly and as the years roll by, they take satisfaction in watching their grandson Thomas Kaiser, begin his activity of continuing the farming process on Millard land for yet another generation.


Isabella Furnace. The promise of making their fortune in a new country drew many people from the Old World, who had engaged in the iron manufacturing industry in Europe. Some of these migrated to Pennsylvania.

It was mainly in the Eastern portion of the State that some furnaces were established. This was undoubtedly due in part to the largely unsettled areas in the West. All of these furnaces contributed greatly to the development of America through the manufacture of all types of iron products ranging from kitchen utensils to the cannon and cannon balls used in the Revolutionary War.

Warwick Furnace has been credited with the manufacture of the first Frankun stove that was invented by Benjamin Franklin. This stove has recently gained popularity because of the energy shortage.

The owner and operator of these furnaces was called the ironmaster because of his knowledge of the fluxing of metals and the iron manufacturing process together with his qualities of leadership and business acumen. Many of these iron-masters built great fortunes for themselves.

The beautiful forests of Pennsylvania were a welcome invitation to this young industry and many acres succumbed to the ax. It was important, therefore that the ironmaster would have to have access to large tracts of land and the adequate manpower needed to maintain the production of iron. Consequently, many furnaces had homes built in small villages near the furnaces and it was here that the ironworkers lived and raised their families.

The ironmaster came to be looked upon as the most respected person in many of these communities because he not only provided a means of livelihood for the ironworkers, but supplied a home for them as well. Also, the ironmaster was frequently called upon for advice or leading in the settlement of legal disputes.

Some of the furnaces in the Eastern counties of Pennsylvania were Warwick, Hopewell, Cornwall, Rebecca and Isabella. There were several others of equal prominence that are not mentioned here because they have no particular significance in pertaining to West Nantmeal Township.

Originally, Warwick and Isabella were both located in Nantmeal Township before it was eventually divided into several smaller townships. Warwick started operation in 1730 and Isabella was begun about 1830 by David Potts and was later operated by his son William Potts until 1890. The stack at Isabella was raised from 32 to 60 feet in 1886-7 and the furnace went out of blast for the last time in April of 1894.

In compiling data for this history of Isabella, Russell Buckwalter of nearby Exeter Township in Berks County has been most helpful. He relates that his grandfather, Silas E. Buckwalter, was a drover for the Potts family when Isabella was in operation. He drove six mule teams hauling charcoal all the way from Cornwall. Sometimes he hauled limestone which was used in the iron manufacturing process. When he traveled on some of the longer trips, he carried his bedroll and slept under the wagon at night. He frequently carried along a demijohn of whiskey, no doubt for medicinal purposes. Silas Buckwalter and his wife later lived in the old ironmaster’s mansion located across the road from the furnace. This property was recently purchased and is presently being improved by Mr. and Mrs. lames Derksen and family, who now call this fine old dwelling their home. The magnificent new mansion was built in 1892 through 1896. This "castle" or "iron mansion," as it was known, is now occupied by the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence, who operate a school for retarded children in the building. The paneling, imported marble and the great bronze staircase are some features, among many others, that made this incredible mansion so outstanding.

James Bollinger of Barneston reports that his grandfather, David Bollinger, was the last "Keeper of the Furnace." He originally came from Bedford County, Pa. Here at Isabella, a good grade of pig iron was made that was later sold and shipped to the Baldwin Locomotive Works at Lima, Pa. via railroad from the line that formerly ran between Downingtown and Lancaster known as the D&L.

Isabella Furnace also boasted a very beautiful lake. It was from this lake that the Knickerbocker Ice Company obtained ice that was shipped by rail to Philadelphia and New York on the same line.

William Potts is reputed to have built the roads around and through his holdings. He also employed the former furnace workers to build the unusual stone walls that may still be seen forming the boundaries of this elegant estate. William Potts lived to be more than ninety years of age. Prior to his death on June 1, 1943, he made his home in the great mansion. The old furnace, long unused, had begun to settle into ruin. Following that fateful date of December 7, 1941, America was plunged into World War II and President Roosevelt made a formal declaration of war against Japan. Due to this, an unprecedented demand for scrap metal was created. Mr. Potts was urged to grant his permission to remove all the railroad tracks from his unused spur lines running into the furnace area. However, he was reluctant to do this and it was not until after his death in 1943 that his estate gave permission to remove these rails and other metal to be used in the war effort. For this reason, no tracks remain around the furnace today.

In recent years, many organizations became interested in preserving Isabella Furnace as another historic site, however adequate funds were not available. Eventually, the furnace and some surrounding acres, including the site of the former lake and dam breast were sold to Dr. and Mrs. Daniel Lieberman, who have converted one of the largest stone buildings of the furnace into a very fine home.

Progress in iron manufacture proceeded over the years and one of the improved processes eliminated the use of charcoal in iron manufacture. Most of the furnaces still in operation began to close and soon became a part of history.

Isabella Furnace, by comparison with other furnaces did not function quite as long as some. However, each furnace will long be remembered for its respective contribution to American progress and development. The last superintendent of Isabella was R. Walter Head, who was actually a chemist by profession. He was employed by Col. Potts in the year 1887 and remained in charge until the business ceased to operate in April of 1894.

Some interesting news items concerning the furnace and its operations are
given below:

Over the years of operation, Isabella Furnace faced some financial difficulties from time to time. In 1855. due to financial problems, ownership was procured by Robert S. Potts and Addison May. The following year the furnace and sixty-four acres of land were sold to John Frey and James Rutter. After David Potts retired from the furnace business, he became interested in the lumber business which he carried on successfully. In 1860 John Frey purchased sole interest in the furnace. In 1864 the furnace was purchased by Brutley, William, Levi and Horace Smith of Joanna Furnace, Berks County. This firm operated it until 1880. Then the furnace was purchased by Joseph D. Potts, the son of David Potts. This incident brought the furnace again into the Potts family. Joseph D. Potts was a very successful civil engineer and rendered capable military service during the Civil War. He attained the rank and commission of lieutenant colonel and after the war became, an unusually successful businessman.

After Col. Potts secured possession of the furnace, he equipped it with steam power. This method increased its production over the water power of Perkins Run. which was uncertain in drought seasons. Under this new method the production capacity of the furnace was increased to 16 tons per day instead of from 20 to 30 tons per week.

Other references in this transcript refer to Joseph D. Potts as Colonel Potts and it would seem to be of interest to note here how he attained the title or military rank.

The furnace was built about 1830 although some historians say that it was built in 1835 after Henry Potts and John P. Rutter secured 49 acres of land from Robert Wilson and wife. The location was in West Nantmeal Township near the place that Perkins Run empties into the Brandywine Creek. This spot later became known as Wyebrooke. In 1836 the ownership of the furnace became vested in Henry Potts, David Potts and John P. Rutter.

Somewhat west of Wyebrooke and Isabella Furnace near the village of Cupola, the old Rebecca Furnace was built about 1764 along the Brandywine Creek in West Nantmeal Township. It is interesting to note that this furnace was located some two miles west of Isabella Furnace, which started operation some years later. There remains no trace of the old Rebecca Furnace today although some evidences have been located to firmly establish the site of operation.

This furnace was established by Mordecai Piersol. It appears to have been built on land owned by Jeremiah Pierson, Mordecai’s father, by mutual agreement. In 1774, Jeremiah Piersol died and this parcel became a portion of the estate passing to Mordecai. Near the furnace Mordecai Piersol also built a grist mill and a saw mill. The grist mill later passed into the possession of James Lewis, which therefore became known as Lewis Mill.

Following the Revolutionary War, hard times fell upon Mordecai Piersol and he lost his properties to the sheriff in 1789. Some understanding must be given here to the state of this nation at that time. Financial conditions were quite serious after this costly war. A new nation was struggling to organize and therewas a lack of a stable financial policy. All of these conditions contributed unfavorably to Mordecai as he tried to hold his business together. However, the Sheriff sold the property to Jacob Vinance, Thomas Rutter, Sarah May and Samuel Potts. The new firm had the privilege to use the high grade iron ore from the Jones Mines in Berks County. However, the renewed prosperity of the furnace received a sudden reverse because the farmers in the neighborhood refused to supply any more wood for the furnace which cut off their charcoal supply. Consequently, the furnace went out of business in 1794 and was never operated after that. In the meantime, the grist mill was sold by Jacob Winning to Jacob Happersett.

On the north side of Bollinger road just west of the Bollinger bridge, stands the remains of a small grist mill that received its power from the flow of water from Perkins Run. These ruins are across the road from the home of Steven A. Green family. This fine old stone house is presently being restored by Mr. Greene. The date on this home is 1790. Apparently the original property consisted of 40.6 acres and the mill was operated by Lewis P. Lewis. The Lewis family, as will be revealed later in this narrative, figured prominently in the operation of grist mills both in West Nantmeal and Honey Brook Townships.

At the Bollinger bridge there are two fine stone houses, one on each side of the road. Both of these homes have been carefully restored by Mr. Elmer Fisher. The first restoration on the south side of Bollinger road is now owned and occupied by Dr. and Mrs. Morris Kauffman. On the north side of the road, at the road, at the end of a long drive, Mr. Fisher has restored another stone house in which he lives. Both of these homes are a credit to the ingenuity of the restorer and have enhanced the beauty of this lovely wooded setting.

Many references have been found concerning the Lewis Mills and it would seem that three operations were related to the same family. The mill on Bollinger Road, mentioned above included with the ones on Cupola Road appear to have been conducted by members of the Lewis family. The mill on Lewis Mill Road and Cupola Road was built in 1762 and the house now owned and occupied by the Joseph Blosenski family was built in the same year by Mordecai Piersol. The stone house across from the mill at the west side of the arched bridge was built in the same year by Mordecai Piersol. This house, now owned and occupied by the Howard N. McNeal family was not used as a home until some years later. It appears to have been used as a storehouse and was a part of the grist mill complex of buildings. The old sluice and water gate may still be seen in the meadow where the water was turned into the mill where it flowed through a stone archway to power and turn the water wheel by which the grist was ground. This mill was operated by Samuel P. Lewis.

The Cupola Mill at Cupola is now occupied and owned by Mr. and Mrs. Walter Barto. This mill is now converted into a very beautiful home. The mill dam lies to the West of this building and the breast of the dam is to the southwest of the mill. This property is located in Honey Brook Township although a small portion of ground on the east side of Chestnut Tree Road lies in West Nantmeal Township.

There was another grist mill operated by the Lewis family to the west in Honey Brook Township.

It is interesting to note that the earliest tax records reveal the builder of the mill at Lewis Mill Road and Cupola Road, Mordecai Piersol, as one of the early settlers of Nantmeal Township. The tax transcript of 1722 lists three members of the "Pearsall" family as owners and residents of Nantmeal Township. They were John, Richard and Jeremiah.

This page updated on March 1, 2009