Haverford Township was laid out by William Penn as part of the Welsh Tract or Barony. In 1681, a representative group of Welsh Quakers met with Penn to discuss their settlement having purchased forty thousand acres of land which today comprises all of Haverford, Radnor and Lower Merion Townships. "Companies of Adventurers" were formed, with the most prominent person in each taking out the patent on 5,000 acres of land as trustee. The first three families arrived in Haverford Township in 1682. Lewis David, Henry Lewis and William Howell selected land along the southern border.
The area was primarily agricultural until the second decade of the twentieth century. The census returns of 1860 show the value of livestock as $62,485.00; animals slaughtered $11,255.00; 46,049 bushels of grain harvested and the and the value of orchard and garden produce, $4,090.00.
The two creeks that mark part of the township boundaries provided good millseats for the early settlers. On Darby Creek to the west, Richard Hayes Jr., David Morris and Samuel Lewis erected a gristmill, known as Haverford New Mill, in 1707. Later a sawmill was attached. This mill operated until 1904. Near the border with Marple Township, Humphrey Ellis operated a very early fulling mill. In 1807 Henry Lawrence built a sawmill on this site, and in 1832 his son, William, built a gristmill close by. The sawmill remained in the family ownership for more than 125 years, and is the oldest industry exant in Haverford Township.
Toward the eastern boundary, Cobb's Creek, called Karakung by the Indians, was the site of a number of mills. Haverford Mill was the first, a gristmill built by William Howell in 1658. Daniel Humphreys purchased the property in 1703 and built a sawmill and fulling and dyeing mill. These were added to Dennis Kelly's holding in 1826 and became the Castle Hill Mills. This site is just north of Eagle Road on the west bank of Cobb's Creek
About 1800 grist and sawmills were built on the headwaters of Cobb's Creek by Peter Brown, and in 1810 Jonathan Miller built grist and sawmills at what is now the Juncture of Mill Road and Karakung Drive.
Israel Whelen, Sr., built the Nitre Hall Powder Mills on Cobb's Creek, which were in operation by 1810. During the Revolution very little black powder was manufactured in this country, and it was needed for engineering and mining. Between 1810 and 1840 these mills were the second largest powder mills in the U.S. with production of 800,000 pounds in 1812. The mills ceased operations in 1840 and were sold to Dennis Kelly, who converted them for the manufacture of cotton and wooden goods.
In 1814, Dennis Kelly borrowed capital to purchase a mill-seat on Cobb's Creek. He erected a small wooden factory known as Clinton Mills. This was a highly successful venture and, after enlarging the mill, he built Cedar Grove Mill further downstream. Dennis Kelly provided material for the U.S. government from 1817 until 1860 with contracts ranging from $1,800.00 to $41,370.00. Improved transportation opened the township to development. The Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad opened for use from Broad and Callowhill Streets to Paoli in 1833, and went as far as Pittsburgh by 1835. Tracks meandered through the countryside, going along Railroad Avenue in Haverford Township. This was the first railway for general commerce in the U.S., but offered little in the way of service to passengers until the late 1860s. The Pennsylvania Railroad bought the Columbia in 1857 and began changing the roadbed for what became the Main Line to the west.
The Philadelphia and West Chester Turnpike Company first built the toll road, then formed the Philadelphia and West Chester Traction Company and built the trolley line, which opened in 1898. The addition of the Ardmore line in 1902 brought much new housing. The trolleys provided good transportation to Philadelphia and workers began to commute. Moderately priced homes on smaller lots were built in communities such as Llanerch, Brookline and Oakmont.
The population of Haverford Township almost doubled between 1900 and 1925.
In the beginning of the 20th Century much farmland was purchased by wealthy families who built mansions and developed gardens on their new estates.
Several golf courses were developed. Merion Cricket Club Golf Association incorporated Clifton Hall an old farmhouse, in their clubhouse. They have 140 acres in the main course or East Course and 160 acres in the West Course.
- Brookthorpe- J. Stanley Reeves 31 Acres;
- Far-Away- Clarence Warden 35 Acres
- Allgates- Horatio Gates Lloyd Sr. 76 Acres; Cobble Court - J.H. Carstair's and West Hills - Atwater Kent and Maryland Woods, Mrs. Archibald Thomson. (Those starred are still standing).
The Llanerch Country Club consists of 126 acres.
The Pennsylvania Railroad Golf Club was established in 1925 on 109 acres bounded by Earlington Road, Manoa Road and City Line. This property was sold in 1943 to Warner West Corporation, which developed Chatham Park.
The first building erected for educational purposes was the Federal School, in 1797. During the 1800s four additional one-room schools and one parochial school were built. The latter part of the 19th century was the beginning of the present school system.
After World War II, additions were made to existing schools, a new high school and three one-story elementary schools were built. Today there is one middle school, one senior high, five elementary schools, four parochial schools and four private schools.
Haverford College, the first College founded by the Society of Friends in the United States in 1833, has several historic structures on its 225-acre property.
The township is primarily residential with retail and service businesses and some light industry. There are two shopping centers, Manoa with 28 businesses and Pilgrim Gardens with about 12. The tallest buildings in the township are two apartment buildings of five stories. There are 237.5 acres of park, playground and recreation land, and 32.6 acres of Cobb's Creek Park owned by the City of Philadelphia. There are two private Swim Clubs.
There is quite a mix of residential properties with single homes, duplex and some row homes. There are many pleasant tree lined streets. Haverford Township is a great place to live.
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