Biographical / Historical
The history of the Minshall and Painter families in America begins with Thomas Minshall (1652-ca. 1728), a Quaker who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1682 with his wife Margaret (Hickock) Minshall. The previous year he had purchased 625 acres from William Penn, part of which was located in the northern part of Middletown Township in present day Delaware County. Bounded by Ridley Creek on the east, the property descended through the Painter line into the mid 20th century.
In the mid-19th century, brothers Minshall and Jacob Painter resided on the family farm where they established a plant collection which at one point contained over 1,000 trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. After their death, the property went to their sister, Ann Painter Tyler. Her surviving son, John J. Tyler, inherited the farm in 1914. In 1930 John Tyler made a will leaving 68 acres around the home of the Painter brothers as an arboretum, with an endowment from his estate. In 1944, his widow, Laura Tyler, also a direct descendent of Thomas Minshall, bequeathed the balance of property to a board of trustees.
Thomas Minshall's grant included a number of parcels. One of the two primary tracts lay in what is now part of Nether Providence and a second parcel was slightly north, at the northern part of Middletown Township. Thomas and Margaret Minshall built a home on the Nether Providence property. Providence Meeting, part of Chester Monthly Meeting, held its first meetings in their house, which was located a short distance from what is now Providence Road (Route 252) and Baltimore Pike. The meeting house was built on this property in 1699, and the second 1812 meeting house now stands on the same site.
Before his death, Thomas Minshall divided his property between his two sons. The elder son, Isaac Minshall (ca. 1683-1731), inherited the Providence tract and original homestead. A stone house built in the 1750s on Providence Road near the Meeting House, known today as the Thomas Minshall House, is the only reminder of the Minshalls' early settlement of the area. This surviving structure was not the Minshall's residence, but was one of a number of buildings erected in the so-called Providence Village. Isaac Minshall also donated land for a burial ground adjacent to the Quaker meeting. His children eventually moved away.
The second son, Jacob Minshall (1685-1734), inherited the Middletown property. In 1707 he married Sarah Owen. She was the daughter of Griffith Owen, Quaker minister, physician, and member of the Provincial Council. Jacob and Sarah had five children, including three sons: Thomas, John, and Moses. Jacob's parents lived with them after the property was divided. Jacob worked as a blacksmith as well as a farmer.
The eldest son of Jacob and Sarah Minshall, Thomas Minshall (1708-1783) married Agnes Salkeld (1714-1813) in 1738 under the care of Chester Monthly Meeting. She was the daughter of John Salkeld (1672-1739), a Quaker minister, and his wife, Agness (Powley) Salkeld. Versatile and hardworking, Thomas was active not only as a businessman and farmer, but also in the community. As well as operating the farm and expanding his land holdings, he also worked as a carpenter and wheelwright. He built the first section of Lachford Hall and several other structures on the Minshall property. In 1760 he was elected Assessor for Middletown Township. He was the executor of his mother's estate and subsequently others, acting as guardian for minor children in some instances. Thomas and Agness Minshall had ten children.
The second son, John Minshall (1716-1784), inherited his father's house and part of the Middletown property. He married Sarah Smedley in 1740, and they had five children. Part of his property later was purchased by his elder brother's descendants, and the remaining property was sold outside the family in the early 19th century.
The youngest son of Jacob and Sarah was Moses Minshall (1718-1761). He married Jane Salkeld, Agnes Minshall's younger sister, and left Delaware County to become a sea captain. He was disowned from Chester Monthly Meeting in 1757 for privateering.
Jacob Minshall (1738-1817) was the only surviving son of Thomas and Sarah (Owen) Minshall, and he inherited and expanded the family's property, including land inherited by his cousins, the daughters of John Minshall. In 1777, at age 39, he married Ann Heacock (d. 1821) under the care of Chester Monthly Meeting. She was 35 and operated a weaving business. Like his father, Jacob Minshall was a respected member of the community, serving as executor for many estates. Also like his father, he was a carpenter and wheelwright in addition to maintaining the family farm. He served as a gravedigger at Middletown Meeting, grew fruit trees as a hobby, and acted as a trustee of Blue Hill School. Jacob and Ann Minshall had only one child, Hannah Minshall (1782-1838), who married Enos Painter (1773-1857) in 1800.
Jacob Painter also served as a fence viewer, an important position in 19th century property concerns. The fence viewer was responsible for inspecting fences and settling disputes concerning fences, especially their upkeep. Ironically, the Painters themselves became embroiled in a fence dispute 1839-1844, a case which eventually went to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and led to the resignation of Enos's sons, Minshall and Jacob, from Chester Monthly Meeting because of their dissatisfaction with the Meeting's handling of the matter.
The Painter family had its Pennsylvania roots in Samuel Painter's removal to America by 1705 where his family became members of Concord Monthly Meeting. His son, Samuel Painter, married Elizabeth Buxcey in 1716, and their son, also Samuel (1719-801) married Esther Gilpin (1718-1795). Samuel and Esther's oldest child James (1742-1822) married Jane Carter in 1771 at Concord Monthly Meeting. She was the daughter of John Carter and Hannah (Cope) Carter. Their son, Enos Painter (1773-1857) married the previously mentioned Hannah Minshall in 1800.
Enos and Hannah (Minshall) Painter moved into the Minshall homestead, and Enos worked with her father to run the farm. An active Quaker, he traveled to New England in 1801 with ministers Phebe Speakman and Sarah Newlin. He was a good businessman, kept careful records, and increased the land holdings, including a section of the original Minshall land grant that had descended through John Minshall. A mill was built in 1814 on Dismal Run. Enos increasingly became involved in business, making loans and investing in stocks. In 1827/28, the family affiliated with the Hicksite faction after the Separation in the Society of Friends.
Enos and Hannah had seven children: Minshall (1801-1873) who did not marry; James (1802-1867) married Betsy Thatcher in 1835 and removed to East Bradford; Sarah (1804-1849) who married Quaker minister and abolitionist Eusebius Barnard and lived in Pennsbury; Hannah (1806-1840) married John Barnard in 1835 and lived in Chester County; Sidney (1810-1857) married John Sharpless in 1833; Jacob (1814-1876) who did not marry; and Ann (1818-1914) who married William Tyler in 1847.
The unmarried sons of Enos and Hannah Painter, Minshall and Jacob, lived their entire lives on the farm which their father had expanded. Minshall attended Gummere's Boarding School in Burlington, NJ. He was a skilled farmer and an avid student of the natural sciences. A collector of plants, minerals, and insects, as well as a keen observer of the weather, he kept extensive notes on his findings and on the establishment of an arboretum, building on the orchards started by his father. In 1833 Minshall Painter helped found the Delaware County Institute of Science. An enthusiastic genealogist, he compiled notes and collected deeds and other papers pertaining to many Quaker families of Delaware and Chester Counties. More active in the community than his brother, Minshall served on the local school board and was involved with the removal of the Delaware County seat from Chester (City) to Media, more centrally located in the County. He is given credit for naming the town "Media."
Jacob Painter, while sharing Minshall's scientific interests, was a student of language and a poet. He attended Westtown School and then Rensselear Polytechnic Institute in New York City before settling down on the family farm. The brothers acquired a printing press which they used to publish a number of essays on language, a system they developed for scientific nomenclature, and genealogical compilations. They were active in civic and Quaker affairs and members of Chester Monthly Meeting, attending Middletown Meeting until their resignation in 1842. While no longer formally members of the Society of Friends, they continued their interest in "liberal" Quaker concerns, including abolition and women's suffrage, and collected classic Quaker texts.
The Painter farmstead is associated with the Underground Railroad. Sarah Painter, a sister of Jacob and Minshall, married Eusebius Barnard of Pennsbury, and they were prominent in the movement. The Painters subscribed to abolitionist newspapers and clearly sympathized with the efforts to free slaves. Many Delaware County Quakers, including the Garretts, offered help to escaping slaves. The Honeycomb A.M.E. Church, founded 1852 in Lima, was an active station and was situated adjacent to the Painter property.
Ann Painter Tyler (1818-1914) was the last survivor of the seven siblings, outliving her brothers by over thirty years. In 1847, she married William Tyler whose family were leather merchants. He was not a Quaker, but Ann retained her membership in the Society of Friends. She and William maintained their primary residence in Philadelphia on North Ninth Street and summered at the family home in Delaware County. They had two sons. William Enos (1848-1873) shared his uncles' pleasure in farming and attended the Pennsylvania Agricultural College (later Penn State University). John J. Tyler (1851-1930) helped his mother manage her business affairs and remodeled the family home into a comfortable summer retreat after his marriage in 1881 to Laura Hoopes (1859-1944). She was a distant cousin, the granddaughter of Ann's sister, Sarah Painter Barnard. In 1930 John Tyler made a will leaving 68 acres around the home of the Painter brothers as an arboretum, with an endowment from his estate. The John J. Tyler Arboretum was chartered in 1933. Laura Tyler left the entire balance of the property to create the John J. Tyler Arboretum when she died in 1944. In 1946, John C. Wister, renowned horticulturist, became the first director, a position that he held until 1968. He also served as director of the Scott Arboretum on the Swarthmore College campus from 1930-1968.
The Painter's historic home, "Lachford Hall," became part of the Arboretum, as well as the library that was built in the early 1860s for Minshall and Jacob. The library and manuscript collections lay outside the primary mission of Tyler Arboretum, and they were deposited at nearby Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College beginning in 1976.