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Cheltenham Township Historical Commission

February 2021

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Commission News

The Historical Commission is very excited to present its first live event via Zoom! On Thursday, February 11th, tune in online for Black Trailblazers of Philadelphia. See below for details.

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shut down Wall House tours, the Historical Commission is hosting its monthly meetings remotely, via Zoom. Be sure to check out the Fall edition of the Wall Paper below! Other local history groups have a large number of events scheduled, and a local historian has DVDs available about the Dominican Retreat House, which was located in the Elkins Estate. Don't miss our new monthly feature, A Moment in History.

A Moment in History

The Philadelphia Inquirer

May 26, 1921



Commissioners Hope to Start Repaving of Bad Stretch of Old York Road This Week. Quick Action Necessary or Condition Will Continue for Year

With complaints of hundreds of owners of automobiles before them in the form of letters, and with a succession of telephone calls registering other complaints, Commissioners of Cheltenham township, which includes the borough of Ogontz, hope that repaving of less than one-half mile of Old York Road can begin this week.

A majority of automobile owners in Philadelphia know the condition of this stretch of road at Ogontz, but are not aware of the complexity of causes. Starting from the city line, the State has provided a magnificent highway, concrete paved, leading to Willow Grove and affording attractive connections to Trento and New York.

The driver of a car speeds easily along the State-improved road to the north of the city until Elkins avenue is reached in Ogontz. Then from the enjoyment of a motor trip the driver and passengers are thrown suddenly into the bump-the-bumps and the car groans under uncalled for demands upon springs, tires, and engine.

For about one-half mile the car plunges through all kinds of depressions and protuberances in the road, with trolley tracks everywhere excepting at street level. This continues until the automobile has succeeded in reaching Bosler's Mill, at the foot of Ogontz hill, where the finely constructed State highway again invites to comfort.

It turns out they were talking about the road, and not your driving skills.

DVDs for Sale

Longtime friend of the Historical Commission, Patricia Miller, is selling a DVD about the Elkins Estate: "A Story of the Dominican Retreat Property and Tyler School of Art in Cheltenham Township." Copies are $30 each. Please contact Patricia Miller,, 215-635-2444 to order copies. Proceeds are shared with Patricia and the Historical Commission.

Commission Events

February Public Presentation: Black Trailblazers of Philadelphia


Join the Cheltenham Township Historical Commission when we welcome West Laurel Hill Cemetery to pay tribute to some of those black Americans who overcame discrimination and adversity to make significant contributions to society, from Dennie Hoggard, Jr. who (along with teammate Wallace Triplett) was the first black football player to play in the Cotton Bowl, popular musician Teddy Pendergrass and civil rights leaders Raymond and Sadie Alexander.

Speaker Rachel Wolgemuth is a historian and author who has worked at West Laurel Hill Cemetery for 15 years. In addition to her work sharing the many stories of West Laurel Hill’s “permanent residents,” Rachel leads the Boneyard Bookworms cemetery book club and is a board member for the Lower Merion Historical Society. Speaker Sarah Hamill has been a volunteer and tour guide at Laurel Hill and West Laurel Hill Cemeteries for 7 years. Joining Rachel and Sarah is Olga Hoggard, the sister of Dennie Hoggard. She will be sharing more details about the trailblazing season her brother spent with Wally Triplett as football players for Penn State University.

The Commission thanks the Jenkinstown Lyceum for its financial support of this production. Questions can be directed to the Parks and Recreation Department at 215-887-6200 ext. 227.

When: February 11th at 7:30 PM via Zoom.

Join via the free Zoom app. If the link does not work use the ID and password.

Upcoming Historical Commission Meeting

The next meeting of the Cheltenham Township Historical Commission will be February 11th at 6:30 PM via Zoom, with the event presentation to follow. Here is the agenda.

Join via the free Zoom app. If the link does not work use the ID and password.

Past Events

Previous Historical Commission Meeting

The last meeting was on January 14th at 7:30 PM via Zoom. Here are the minutes.


Citizens for the Restoration of Historical La Mott (CROHL)


We Fight for Our Rights, Liberty, Justice and Union: The Battle of New Market Heights

On September 29, 1864, the soldiers of United States Colored Troops 3rd Division, XVIII Corps, Army of the James, stepped off to do battle and stepped into history. During this engagement 14 African American soldiers and two white officers performed heroic acts that earned the Medal of Honor. This presentation will provide both an overview of the battle and share stories of some of the soldiers who fought there.

Presented by Tim Talbott. Tim is the Director of Education, Interpretation, Visitor Services and Collections at Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier in Petersburg, Virginia. He is President of the Battle of New Market Heights Memorial and Education Association. He maintains the Random Thoughts on History blog and has published articles in both book and scholarly journal formats.

Dr. James Paradis will discuss a recent memorial gift given to the Camp William Penn Museum which relates to one of the 6th regiment USCT soldiers.
  • When: Sunday, February 28, 2021 at 3:00 PM

This is a free Zoom event.

To reserve a virtual seat for this event, send an email to and you will be sent a link with a password within 24 hours of the presentation, giving you access. We look forward to having you join us. For information call 215-885-2258.

This program is funded in part by the Jenkinstown Lyceum.

The General Meade Society of Philadelphia


ON HOLD DUE TO COVID: Annual Lincoln Birthday Celebration Parade and Ceremonies

Friday, February 12, 2021

Contact: Dr. Andy Waskie. 215-423-3930 or

Annual Major Octavius V. Catto Honor Ceremony

Saturday, February 20, 2021 at 11am

Only upon availability of the Union League

Honor ceremony; wreath laying; military salute at the Catto Monument at the South Front of City Hall at 11:00am. Honoring the great African-American equal rights and military leader. Wreath-Laying ceremony. All military units, period civilians, veterans and heritage groups are encouraged to participate. Colors, wreaths and music encouraged.

Following the City Hall Ceremony: PA National Guard Award Luncheon & Medal Ceremony to follow at 12:30 pm in the Union League for the ‘Major Catto Medal’ Award Ceremony Luncheon

Contact: Mary O’Brien at the Union League to reserve lunch:
Information: Dr. Andy Waskie at:

POSTPONED: 21st Annual Meade Society Symposium: Bala Cynwyd, PA

12 noon, Sunday, April 11, 2021

Contact: Jerry McCormick: 215-848-7753 Email:

The Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Museum

Special Black History Month Presentation
  • When: 1pm, Sunday, February 7, 2021
  • Speaker: Bryan Cheesboro, historian

It’s been over 30 years since the popular movie Glory introduced the world to the fact that African American men were in the ranks as soldiers in the Civil War.  But since that time, the expectation of that conversation on history has not moved much farther than the film’s subject- the 54th Massachusetts, who are usually mentioned whenever the subject turns to the United States Colored Troops. 
Civil War historian Bryan Cheeseboro will present the story of the 1st United States Colored Infantry. 

Bryan Cheeseboro works for the National Archives with the records of the Civil War.  He is a reenactor with the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry; and a board member of the Alliance to Preserve the Civil War Defenses of Washington, DC.  He has been featured on American Battlefield Trust’s Zoom Goes the History series and has written for the Emerging Civil War blog.  His previous presentations have included the programs Outside of Lincoln's White House: Civil War Men and Women of the DC Metro Area; and The Grand Reviews of the Civil War

Please send a request to reserve a virtual seat for this outstanding presentation by replying to this e-mail at

You will be sent a link with a password that will enable you to access the program within 24 hours of the start of the presentation. 
As a lover of history, you know how critical it is to keep history alive, especially today! We very much appreciate your continued support for the GAR Civil War Museum.

Northeast Philadelphia History Network


Gram’s Gift: the Story of Cyrus Bustill

  • When: 7pm, Wednesday,  February 3, 2021 
  • Speaker:  Joyce Mosley – Genealogist, Historian, and Author

Author Joyce Mosley assumed the role of family historian over 30 years ago. She has documented her African-American family history to European settlers and Cyrus Bustill, a founding member of the Free African Society, and has presented her research at genealogy conferences and regional meetings of the African-American Historical and Genealogical Society and the African-American Genealogy Group. 

Gram's Gift tells the story of an African-American family with African, European, and Native American roots. Gram decided it was time for her grandchildren to know the contributions made by their ancestors. So, she gathers her grandchildren together for a family history lesson. Her lesson begins with Cyrus Bustill, who was born enslaved, purchased his freedom, operated a successful bakery business, and provided bread to George Washington's troops camped at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War. He was a businessman, an educator, and a leader in the Black community. His children and grandchildren continued Cyrus' legacy of leadership as they were agents in the Underground Railroad, soldiers in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) during the Civil War, and advocates fighting for the right to vote for all. Gram's gift to her grandchildren is their family history.

YouTube Videos of Recent NEPHN Presentations

The Wall Paper

A Publication of the Cheltenham Township Historical Commission

The fall 2020 publication of The Wall Paper is now available - click here. Back issues of The Wall Paper are available on the Cheltenham Township website. The edition features:
  • The Cheltenham Township Historical Commission Marks Fifty Years of Service
  • Chairman's Chatter
  • On the Cutting Edge of Technology in Cheltenham Schools - 100 Years Ago
  • Upcoming Events
  • The Historical Commission Mourns the Death of our Chairman and Long-time Member

The Richard Wall House

The Richard Wall House is normally open on the fourth Sunday of every month and upon request, when not closed due to the COVID-19 crisis. To arrange for a tour after the COVID-19 crisis is over, either private or for a group, either call the Township at 215-887-1000, ext. 227 during business hours, or call the house directly at 215-887-9159 and leave a message.

Learn more about the Wall House on the Cheltenham Township website.

Friends of the Wall House

Be a Friend of the Wall House and help preserve the rich history of Cheltenham Township.
Benefactor: $100 * Sponsor: $50 * Patron: $20

Make checks payable to Cheltenham Township Historical Commission. Mail your check, name, address, and email to:
Friends of the Wall House
c/o Cheltenham Township
8230 Old York Road
Elkins Park, PA 19027-1589
Copyright © 2021 Cheltenham Township Historical Commission, All rights reserved.

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