Scope and Contents
The collection contains correspondence, journals and other writings, business and legal papers, and miscellaneous items of the Smedley family, a large and prominent Quaker family of Penncrest Farm, Middletown Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. The family was related to the Kite and Sharples/Sharpless families of Chester and Delaware Counties. The papers include significant correspondence of the Kite family, especially Thomas Kite (1785-1845) and Mary Kite (1792-1861), both prominent Quaker ministers, and Thomas's daughter, Susanna Kite (1809-1844) who married Aaron Sharpless. Their daughter, Elizabeth S. Sharpless married Edward G. Smedley of Middletown, thus merging the Smedley-Sharples-Kite families. In the 20th century, the property became the home of Edward Smedley's nephew, Walter Smedley (1862-1939), a Philadelphia architect, and his wife, Ida Wilkins Roberts Smedley (1896-1993). She married second C. Canby Balderston. The papers cover a wide range of subjects including Quaker ministry and concerns, the Hicksite Separation, Civil War, conscientious objection, education, dairy farming, and family life in the 19th and 20th centuries. Members of the family were active in the Society of Friends for over 250 years.
Biographical / Historical
The Smedley family in America is descended from George (died 1723) who arrived in Pennsylvania about 1682, purchasing property from William Penn in what is now Delaware County. He married Sarah Kitchen Goodwin, a widow, in 1687. He subsequently bought tracts in Dublin Township and Willistown where he removed about 1700. His son George (1692/93-1766), who married first Jane Sharpless, inherited the Penn grant farm. His son, William Smedley (1728-1766) built the first section of the family home in Middletown Township in 1757. Son William Smedley (1768-1839) married Deborah Lightfoot (1763-1824) under the care of Chester Monthly Meeting in 1793 and added an addition to the house in 1818. The eldest son, George (1796-1855) married first Mary Webster and second Philena Hibberd, the widow of Albin Yarnall. Mary Webster (1801-1837) was the daughter of William and Lydia Sharpless Webster. Mary Webster's younger sister, Rebecca Webster (1803-1844) married William Smedley in 1826, the younger brother of George Smedley. After Rebecca's death, William Smedley married second Harriett Jones (1797-1882) in 1849.
William Smedley (1799-1866) inherited the Middleton property. He and Rebecca had nine children: James (1827-1883) who married Hannah Hibberd Fox Haines, a widow; Mary (1829-1866) an Overseer at Chester Monthly Meeting and unmarried; Samuel (1831-1873) who married Mary Large in 1864; Thomas (1833-1875) who married Philena Yarnall, the daughter of Albin and Philena Hibberd Yarnall; Edward Garrett (1835-1908) married Elizabeth Sharpless; William B. (1837-1881) married Deborah Cope; Rebecca (1839-1918) a Quaker minister, acknowledged by Chester Monthly Meeting; Deborah L. (1841-1922) married George Allen; and Lydia (1843-1845). At William's death, his estate was divided between his children with the property conveyed to two sons, Thomas and Edward G. Smedley, living at the homestead at different intervals. Part of the property was sold to Minshall and Jacob Painter. In the 20th century, the Painter property became the Tyler Arboretum.
Thomas Smedley was principal of Friends School in Philadelphia. When William Smedley died in 1866, Thomas and his younger brother Edward G. Smedley took over the Middletown farm. Thomas and his family lived in the Middletown farm from 1866 to 1876, and Edward moved to his wife's family farm in Birmingham where his father-in-law, Aaron Sharpless, was Superintendent the Westtown School, 1869-1874. Aaron was the son of Isaac and Sarah Garrett Sharpless. His grandfather, Joshua Sharples, was an Elder who traveled with ministers and was active in Native American concerns. His grandmother, Edith Yarnall Sharples, was a Quaker minister, Aaron Sharpless married first Susanna Kite (1809-1844), the daughter of prominent minister Thomas Kite and part of a family that included many educators and Quaker ministers. They had three children, and after Susanna's early death, he married second Susanna Forsythe (1815-1907) with whom he had five children. Thomas and Philena Yarnall Smedley had seven children, six of whom survived to maturity. Lydia H. Smedley (1858-1923) married Edward L. South; Harriett J. Smedley (1859-1893) married William Kirkbride. Both were teachers. Walter Smedley (1862-1939) married Ida Wilkins Roberts. Horace (1867-1957) married Anne R. Hoopes and was a businessman. His twin, Rebecca (1867-1950), was an active member of the Society of Friends and Elder of Chester Monthly Meeting; the youngest, Emma (1868-1944), was a teacher at Johns Hopkins.
Thomas died at the age of 43 in 1875, and his half interest went to brothers William B. Smedley and Edward G. Smedley. Thomas Smedley's widow, Philena Yarnall Smedley, and their children were close to their extended family and the network of students who studied at Westtown. Philena Smedley moved to a house in Media, also the home of unmarried daughters Rebecca and Emma Smedley until they moved to the Barclay Home in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Edward G. and Elizabeth Sharpless Smedley with their two daughters Edith and Susanna lived at the farm until about 1888. They were appointed Superintendent and Matron at Westtown in 1896.
Edward Garrett Smedley was a conscientious objector in the Civil War and a Clerk, Overseer and Elder at Chester Monthly Meeting. His wife, Elizabeth Sharpless, a Sharpless and Kite descendant, was friends with the Smedley siblings, especially Deborah, and all attended Westtown School. Edward G. and Elizabeth Smedley had three children, a son who died in infancy and two daughters, neither of whom married: Edith (1869-1915) and Susanna (1875-1970). Susanna was bookkeeper for the Westtown School, served as archivist, and took an interest in family history. The property subsequently was owned by the widows of William B. and Edward G. Smedley, Deborah Cope Smedley and Elizabeth Sharpless Smedley, until Walter Smedley, their nephew, purchased it in 1911.
Walter Smedley (1862-1939) was the middle child of Thomas and Philena Smedley's and a prominent Philadelphia architect. He attended the Franklin Institute Drawing School and was apprenticed with the firm Balderston and Hutton. After the partnership dissolved in 1882, he remained in practice with Addison Hutton. He began his independent career in 1890, continuing a professional relation with Hutton and rented an office in the Stephen Girard Building, Philadelphia, where Hutton also had an office. Smedley's practice included residential and institutional design contracts. In 1910, he purchased the farm in Middletown from his aunt and uncle and lived in Media with his widowed mother, two unmarried sisters, and a widowed sister. In 1919, he married Ida Wilkins Roberts, a teacher and member of Moorestown Monthly Meeting, and they had three children: Walter, Jr. (1920-2010), Henry R. (1922-1997), and Alice Roberts Smedley (1924-1995). The family moved into the remodeled 18th century Smedley farmhouse before Henry's birth, and Walter enjoyed raising Guernsey cows and philanthropic concerns, and he served as president of the Pocono Manor Association. The market crash in 1930 brought financial disaster, much of it collateral damage from Walter's loan to save Pocono Manor. He suffered a debilitating stroke in 1937 and died in 1939.
Ida Wilkins Roberts (1896-1993) was the daughter of Allen H. Roberts and Ida Wilkins and a birthright member of Moorestown Monthly Meeting, New Jersey. She was educated at the Westtown School, graduating in 1914, and taught in Friends schools. In 1917, she spent a year at the State Normal School in Los Angeles with the help of a funding grant from the T. Wister Brown Fund. After graduation, she taught briefly in California where she was courted by Philadelphia architect Walter Smedley who had been traveling with Quaker minister Joseph Elkinton. He was more than thirty years her senior and already a well-established architect. They married under the care of Moorestown Monthly Meeting on 10 month 4, 1919. After briefly living in an apartment in Philadelphia, they moved to "Oaklawn," the stone house on the Smedley farm in Middletown Township. Soon after, they move into the remodeled historic Smedley family home. They had three children: Walter, Jr. (1920-2010), Henry Roberts (1922-1997), and Alice Roberts Smedley (1924-1995). Walter married Mary Jane Felix (1921-2016) of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, and Alice married Mary Jane's brother, Samuel Palmer Felix, and moved to California. With the Depression and Walter's declining health in the 1930s, the family struggled financially, and Ida returned to teaching. Walter Smedley died in 1939, and in 1942, she married C. Canby Balderston, a business executive and widower with two grown sons, Frederick E. Balderston and Robert W. Balderston. C. Canby Balderston was a conscientious objector in World War I, taught at the University of Pennsylvania and served on the board of governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1954-1966. After his retirement, the couple travelled widely. He died in 1979, and Ida Roberts Smedley Balderston died December 31, 1993. Walter, Jr., and his wife, Mary Jane Smedley lived in the family homestead until their deaths.