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Cheltenham Township Historical Commission

November 2020

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Commission News

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.

A Moment in History

Recently, the Inquirer published an article about Ben Shibe and his Philadelphia Athletics, 100 years after the car crash that eventually led to his death. There are some interesting local connections that were not mentioned.

Apparently his doctor had ordered the 82 year old to take a daily automobile ride through the countryside for his health. It is not clear why the Lower Merion resident was in Elkins Park, but driving down Ashbourne Road, he was t-boned by another car. Shibe’s car overturned causing his injuries which included a fractured skull. Shibe died a year later from his injuries. The car that hit Shibe’s car was driven by David Smith, the chauffeur for Howard Eckles, the embalming fluid king and founder of the Eckles School of Mortuary Science which was incorporated into Temple University later. Eckles lived on Deaver Road and his first factory for producing his embalming chemicals was in a small building on the east side of Greenwood Avenue on the Jenkintown side of the railraod tracks. The factory was built before today’s Greenwood Avenue bridge, so it stood about where the Jenkintown embankment for the bridge is today. His Athletics team drawing in increasing crowds, Shibe built a new stadium in 1909 on Lehigh Avenue west of Broad Street. It was named Shibe Park and later Connie Mack Stadium. The builder was William Steele and Company and it was celebrated as the first building in the US to utilize Steele’s new method of reinforced concrete construction. Steele’s son, Joseph, took over the company after that project and lived at his estate Caversham, on Jay Cooke’s old Ogontz site at the northeast corner of Washington Lane and Ashbourne Road. One could speculate that Shibe was travelling to visit Steele perhaps when the accident occurred. Caversham was purchased in 1938 by Fitz Eugene Dixon who demolished it and built his own opulent estate, Ronaele. 

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 go to Patricia and not the Historical Commission.

Commission Events

Upcoming Historical Commission Meeting

The next meeting of the Cheltenham Township Historical Commission will be November 12th at 7:30 PM via Zoom. 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 October meeting was on October 10th at 7:30 PM via Zoom. Here are the minutes.


The General Meade Society of Philadelphia

US Marine Corp Birthday Observance

Tuesday, November 10 at 11am

At the grave of General Jacob Zeilin, 7th Commandant of the Marine Corps. Call 215.228.8200 for details.

Remembrance Day in Gettysburg

Saturday, November 21 at 10:30 am

THE CUSTOMARY EVENT AT GETTYSBURG HAS BEEN CANCELLED. However, Andy Waskie intends to have a lesser memorial at the General Meade Equestrian Monument. Email him for further details. Dr. Andy Waskie at:

Annual General Meade Birthday Celebration

Thursday, December 31 at Noon

Will mark the annual anniversary of the birth of General George G. Meade, heroic commander of the victorious Union army at the Battle of Gettysburg. Arrive at 11:30am. The General Meade Society of Philadelphia will celebrate his birthday at Historic Laurel Hill Cemetery, 3822 Ridge Ave. This will mark the 205th anniversary of the birth of General George Gordon Meade (1815-1872); it was also the 30th anniversary of the ceremony and the 24th anniversary of the founding of the General Meade Society of Philadelphia. A champagne toast and reception will follow the program. For directions, call Laurel Hill Cemetery: 215-228-8200.

General Meade Society Champagne Brunch & Awards Ceremony

Sunday, January 17, 2021 (Backup date: Jan. 24, 2021)

Join the Gen. Meade Society of Philadelphia for its annual DeLuxe Champagne Brunch & Awards Ceremony, presenting the Society ‘Award of Merit’. Cannstatter Volksfest Verein, 9130 Academy Road, Philadelphia, PA 19114. To reserve: 215-848-7753 or

Annual Lincoln Birthday Celebration Parade and Ceremonies

Friday, February 12, 2021

Sponsored by the Union League of Philadelphia. Civil War military units, civilians, and heritage groups are welcome and encouraged to march in the parade through Philadelphia to Independence Hall to honor President Lincoln on his birthday. Participants will gather at the Union League, 140 S. Broad St. by 10am.

Complimentary parking is available at Laz Garage on the N.W. corner of 15th & Sansom St. only. There are no reimbursements for those who park elsewhere. Arrive between 9:00am – 10:00am and obtain a parking pass from a guard at the Sansom St. Entrance, opposite the Union League garage. Proceed to Laz garage at 114 S 15th St to park. Return to the Union League. Color Guards, Firing Party, music, and wreaths are appreciated. There will be a complimentary lunch for the participants at 12 noon. After the parade ALL are invited to return to the Union League via coach for refreshments and entertainment in the historic League House. To register: Contact: Dr. Andy Waskie. 215-423-3930 or

Annual Major Octavius V. Catto Honor Ceremony

Saturday, February 20, 2021 at 11am

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:

The Major Octavius V. Catto Honor Ceremony will begin at 11am, with lunch to follow. We will meet at the new OV Catto Monument at the S.W. corner of City Hall at 11:00am for the wreath laying and honor volleys and taps. Honoring the great black equal rights and military leader with a wreath-laying ceremony. All military units, period civilians, veterans and heritage groups are encouraged to participate. Colors, wreaths and music encouraged. Then come back to the Union League for a delicious lunch starting at 12:30pm. There will be a signature/cash bar available. Price: $35 inclusive.

21st Annual Meade Society Symposium: Bala Cynwyd, PA

12 noon, Sunday, April 11, 2021

Annual Meade Society History Symposium at the Conservatory at West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA Speakers on the topic – The War with Mexico; Training Ground of the Civil War
Featuring noted historians and speakers, and authors on the life and career of the Victor of Gettysburg, as well as books, prints and raffles. 12 noon – 5pm Conservatory at West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Please register to attend - Cost: $40 per person including registration; luncheon & refresh-ments. Contact: Jerry McCormick: 215-848-7753 Email:

The Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Museum


History's Mysteries: Of the Revolutionary War and Colonial Era  - What They Didn’t Teach You in High School 

by Historian & Educator - Herb Kaufman

Sunday, November 1 at 1:00 pm

Many people love to read historical fiction, but this is historical reality. Legends and lore have become a significant part of American history of the Revolutionary War and the colonial era.

Among others, historical reality seeks to answer: “Who is Molly Pitcher and did she really fire a cannon at Monmouth” … “Did George Washington honestly have wooden teeth?” … “Where did Paul Revere actually ride?” …  “What really happened on the Fourth of July?” … “What is the true story of the Liberty Bell?”

The history of the American Revolution and the colonial era are full of lore, myths, half-truths and just plain inaccuracies that have become a part of American history.

Every day stories are repeated in schools, museums, and television programs because they are catchy, humorous or entertaining; but we are going to separate fact from fiction.

This program focuses on these mysterious, misrepresented and often imagined incidents and events. You will learn the truth about the Revolutionary War and colonial myths, stories and events that they never taught you in high school.

Please send a request to reserve a virtual seat for this outstanding presentation by replying to this email 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

Thomas Holme’s 1687 Map of Pennsylvania

  • When: 7pm, Wednesday,  November 4, 2020 

  • Speaker:  Fred Moore, Historian

Northeast Philadelphia Historian Fred Moore will discuss Thomas Holme’s 1687 map, particularly as it pertains to the early settlement of Northeast Philadelphia.  Holme was William Penn’s first Surveyor General and was himself an early settler to the Northeast on Pennypack Creek where he is buried near Holmesburg.

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 825 7987 7656
Passcode: 255697

Old York Road Historical Society

Due to the public gathering restrictions in place for the COVID-19 pandemic, the Society will be hosting lectures virtually via Zoom. Lectures will be held live and will not be recorded for later playback due to copyright restrictions on the images used in the presentations. A link will be posted on our website and Facebook page a day prior to the presentation If you are not on our email reminder list and would like to be, please send your email address to

The Program Committee has arranged for the following presentations to be held on Wednesday evenings at 7:30 p.m. The lecture series is sponsored by a grant from the Jenkinstown Lyceum and all programs are offered on Zoom free of charge.

A Postcard Tour through Eastern Montgomery County

  • When: November 11

Society President David Rowland will give a postcard tour along the three major byways in Eastern Montgomery County, namely Old York Road, Huntingdon Pike, and Easton Road. The postcards illustrated will highlight many of the sites in the area as they were at the turn of the last century. From mansions to mills, clubs to churches, schools to stores and hotels to hospitals, this overview tour of the area will be an enjoyable and edifying flight into the past.

Fall Outings


Saint Paul's Episcopal Church Cemetery

  • When: Sunday, November 1, 2:00 p.m.

The Society will conduct a tour of the cemetery of one of the oldest and most prominent Episcopal churches in the area, Saint Paul's Episcopal Church in Elkins Park. St. Paul's was organized in 1860 largely through the effort of the great Civil War financier Jay Cooke and a building was completed the following year.

The cemetery was established in 1878 and contains the graves of many persons who feature prominently in the history of the region. We will gather along Ashbourne Road and then tour the cemetery. In order for everyone to be safe, we will ask that you abide by prevailing guidance on face-masks and social distancing. Seasonal light refreshments will be provided at the conclusion. Please respond by Wednesday, October 28th.

Bryn Athyn Train Wreck Walk

  • When: Sunday, December 5, 1:30 p.m.

Join the Society as it partners with the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust for this annual program observing the anniversary of the Bryn Athyn Train Wreck, which occurred on December 5, 1921. This head-on collision of two trains along the Newtown railway line resulted in the deaths of 26 persons.

Society president David Rowland will lead a walking tour to the site from the Trust's Visitor's Center. Please contact Pennypack Trust at 215-657-0830 to register. Society and Trust members are free, all others are $5. The Visitor's Center is located at 2955 Edge Hill Road, across from the June Fete Fair Grounds in Huntingdon Valley.

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 © 2020 Cheltenham Township Historical Commission, All rights reserved.

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