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Painter Family Papers

Identifier: SFHL-RG5-110

Scope and Contents

The Painter family papers include family and business correspondence, business and legal papers, copybooks and other school workbooks, genealogical papers, numerous account books, papers on the interests and concerns of the Painter brothers, and miscellaneous deeds and other papers collected by Minshall Painter. It is a rich source of information not only on the Painter family of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and the origins of the Tyler Arboretum, but also on agriculture, social life and customs, and nineteenth century education and Quaker concerns.

Organized in seven series.


  • Creation: 1687-1948


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Friends Historical Library believes all of the items in this collection to be in the Public Domain in the United States, and is not aware of any restrictions on their use. However, the user is responsible for making a final determination of copyright status before reproducing. See

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 enslaved people. Many Delaware County Quakers, including the Garretts, offered help to freedom seekers. 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.


24.417 linear ft. (49 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Painter family was an early Pennsylvania Quaker family that married into the Minshall family of Delaware County. In 1681, William Penn granted Thomas Minshall a land tract which now includes the Tyler Arboretum. The property was home to eight generations of the same family. The collection includes family correspondence, business and legal papers, property records, papers on interests and concerns of the Painter brothers, genealogical papers, and miscellaneous deeds and other papers collected by Minshall Painter. It is a rich source of information not only on the Painter family of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and the origins of the Tyler Arboretum, but also on agriculture, social life and customs, and nineteenth century Quaker concerns through day books, account books, financial records, correspondence, and other documents.

Physical Location

For current information on the location of materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Tyler Arboretum, 2009

The collection, housed in the Painter brothers estate in Media, was inherited by Ann Painter Tyler at her brothers' deaths in the 1870s. The farm passed to her son, John J. Tyler, at her death in 1914. In 1881, he married Laura Hoopes, a distant cousin. In 1930, John Tyler made a will leaving 68 acres of the property to create an arboretum, with an endowment from his estate. Laura Hoopes Tyler left the remainder of the estate to the John Tyler Arboretum when she died in 1944. In 1976, part of the collection was placed on permanent loan at Friends Historical Library. In 1996, the Arboretum made a second deposit. In 2009, the collection was given to Friends Historical Library by the Trustees of Tyler Arboretum in order to provide the collection with better access and more complete processing. Additions transferred from the Delaware County Institute of Science, Media, PA. Minshall Painter was one of the founders of the Institution.

Existence and Location of Copies

Painter Collection on microfilm at Friends Historical Library: Film MS-P 1-6. Six reels of 16mm negative microfilmed in 1971 by the American Horticultural Society. Includes the Tyler card catalogue and publications.

Related Materials

  1. Friends Historical Library: Delaware County Manuscripts. Includes genealogical material collected by Minshall Painter and arranged by Gilbert Cope. Also includes manuscripts of advices to Philadelphia Quakers about slavery.
  2. Tyler Arboretum: The Painter Library at the Tyler Arboretum retains many of the published books collected by the Painter brothers, as well as other relics and memorabilia.
  3. FHL ; F159.L45 P6 1996: National Register of Historic Places nomination : Painter Arboretum, Delaware County, Pennsylvania Potter, Leslie B.; Healy, Joseph W.; United States. National Park Service.; Middletown Township Historical Society (Lima, Pa.); National Register of Historic Places. 1996

Separated Materials

Chester Monthly Meeting (Hicksite), Women's Minutes (rough), 12 month 1828 through 5 month 1830, transferred 8/2010 to RG2, Chester Monthly Meeting Records.


Mullin, Timothy J., "Documenting and Interpreting the Historical Resources at the John J. Tyler Arboretum with Recommendations for Future Use and Educational Development." M.A. thesis, 1982.
National Register of Historic Places nomination : Painter Arboretum, Delaware County, Pennsylvania Potter, Leslie B.; Healy, Joseph W.; United States. National Park Service.; Middletown Township Historical Society (Lima, Pa.); National Register of Historic Places. 1996

Processing Information

The papers were mainly collected by Minshall Painter (1801-1873), who was born and lived his entire life on the Minshall family homestead. He and his brother, Jacob, inherited the property through their parents, Hannah (Minshall) Painter and Enos Painter. Minshall was active in local organizations and had a deep appreciation for family and local history. Together with Gilbert Cope, local historian, he began to index and organize his collection in the 1870s, reflecting the mid 19th century penchant for creating scrapbooks of unrelated "interesting historical documents."

Minshall died in 1873, followed three years later by his younger brother, Jacob. Their only surviving sibling, Ann (Painter) Tyler continued to use the property as a summer home while residing in Philadelphia. Her son, John J. Tyler, managed her business affairs and inherited the property after her death in 1914. When John Tyler's widow, Laura (Hoopes) Tyler died in 1944, she created a trust in her husband's name.

This historical collection probably remained in the Painter brother's library, constructed in the early 1860s, and was largely untouched until the early 1960s when Virginia Willis began to catalogue the books in the Library according to the Dewey Decimal System. In 1967 the Trustees of the Arboretum approved a plan sponsored by the Friends of the Arboretum to index the manuscripts. A volunteer committee was formed, composed largely of members of the Delaware County Historical Society, but also with advice from the American Philosophical Society, Wintherthur, and Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College. The correspondence was indexed by Whitfield J. Bell, Jr., of the American Philosophical Society. An inventory of the items stored in the vaults of the Painter brother's library was prepared.

By 1969, much of the manuscript collection was indexed, largely by Virginia K. Willis, consulting librarian. The committee had decided to organize the material by subject matter and thus separated items by a single author into various topics such as Account- Administration; Accounts - Bills and receipts; Accounts - Inventories; Deeds; Property, and so. Additionally, the topics were separated into letter-sized and over-sized storage. In 1971, Freeman's Auction prepared an inventory.

In 1982, Timothy J. Mullin wrote an M.A. thesis, "Documenting and Interpreting the Historical Resources at the John J. Tyler Arboretum with Recommendations for Future Use and Educational Development." Cited below, this document is an important study and is quite useful for collections background and context.

When the papers were deposited in Friends Historical Library in 1976, they were stored as organized by the Tyler Arboretum. The collection was divided into three major sections: Manuscript collection, Catalogued publications, and Uncatalogued material. Subsequently, the 1996 deposit was inventoried and added to those categories and made available to researchers through a series of in-house finding aids.

In 2009, the Board of the Tyler Arboretum approved the gift of the Painter Family Papers to Friends Historical Library. In 2010, staff of the Library commenced a project to fully process and re-house the Papers, integrating the two deposits and describing the collection according to current archival standards.

Processing Information

Added five journals from the Delaware County Institute of Science, 6/13/2024

Painter Family Papers, 1687-1948
Finding Aid Prepared by FHL staff
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2016: This electronic finding aid was updated in Summer 2016 by Abdulrezak Kemal in preparation for importing into ArchivesSpace, to conform to current markup standards and the ArchivesSpace data model.
  • 2020: Updated outdated, harmful terminology related to enslavement, except where it appears in a title, quotation, or subject heading.

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