1897 Isaac Worrall Tree Inscription

May 31, 2016 by

1897 Isaac Worrall Tree Inscription

This spring, we learned about an 1897 inscription on an American Beech tree in Glen Providence Park! Research into its author revealed a family with deep roots in Media Borough, and direct involvement with other well-known characters and places in the park’s pre-history, from its years when it was known as Scroggie Valley. We also estimated the remarkable age of what is likely one of the park’s oldest trees.

Out of obvious view of passersby, the ornamental inscription reads:

Isaac Worrall
Media, Pa.
April 3, 1897

 

The Worralls were one of the earliest European families to settle near Media[1] after William Penn arrived in Pennsylvania in 1682. Early maps show a Worrall property across Ridley Creek from Broomall’s Run,[2] and you can find the Worrall family (sometimes spelled Worrell) on most of the historical maps of Media we have found.

 

The Isaac Worralls of Media

Four generations of Isaac Worralls listed on Ancestry.com lived and died in Media, Pennsylvania [3] – the 1860 census confirms the birth years of the first three generations.[4] At least the first three were builders, and seemingly all were active in community service. The first Isaac Worrall lived 1792-1865, the second 1827-1893, the third 1854-1920, and the fourth 1884-1948.[5] That’s at least 156 years of Isaac Worralls in Media! The third Isaac Worrall is likely our artistic inscriber – he would have been 43 years old in 1897.

The Isaac Worralls seem to have been involved in the shaping of Media Borough in its early decades after it was established in 1850. Just one source, the 1900 Semi-centennial of the Borough of Media,[6] lists Isaac Worrall as one of the incorporators of Christ Church in 1854; Isaac Worrall, Jr. as one of the incorporators of the Media Gas Company in 1866; and Isaac Worrall as a Burgess of Media 1891-1892. An Isaac Worrall served as a private in the Civil War under none other than captain John M. Broomall[7] – an active opponent of slavery, a US Congressman, and the owner of Scroggie Valley from around 1864 to his death in 1894. Continuing into the 20th century, an Isaac Worrall was one of the founding members of South Media Fire Company in 1922.[8]

 

Scroggie Builders!

Beyond community involvement, the Isaac Worralls left tangible marks – they built structures that still stand in Media. An 1855 Map of Media lists Isaac Worrall, Jr. as a mason;[9] the 1860 census lists Isaac Worrall as “Master Stone Mason”; and an 1870 Plan of Media lists “Isaac Worrall, builder.”[10] Several Worrall building projects are listed in the local papers from the late 1800’s, including the brick “centre building” of the Elwyn Institute in 1858.[11] An 1864 advertisement for bricks manufactured by Isaac Worrall, Jr. lists “all kinds of Bricks, consisting of hard, salmon, pressed, back and front stretchers, paving, etc., all well assorted, and of the best qualities”[12]Worrall bricks could have been used in any number of remaining 19th century buildings around Media!

Notably, in 1867, Isaac Worrall built a “farm house” for his former Civil War captain, Judge John M. Broomall, at “Scrogy”, as announced in the Delaware County American: “The scenery around it is abrupt, yet very fine, and such as might suit the visionary fancies of the romantic, but not the more practical ideas of a thorough farmer.” [13] So, Isaac Worall built the stone Scroggie estate that still exists today, which shared its name with Scroggie Valley and the Scroggie Shingle Mill, and played a role in the glen’s 1700’s Newlywed Ghost Story! 

 

Delaware County Institute of Science

More Worrall intersections with Glen Providence history can be found in the Delaware County Institute of Science (DCIS). In 1902, DCIS President T. Chalkley Palmer presented a paper about“Local Mineralogy and Mineralogists,” [14] including Isaac Worrell[5] among the mineralogists. Chalkley Palmer is the man who wrote in depth about Scroggie Valley in 1889, and who was the subject of our history lecture at DCIS in February. DCIS has microscope slides of diatoms collected by Palmer at “Worrell’s Spring” in 1902, which we discovered when viewing slides Palmer collected from Scroggie Run. The 1911 Proceedings of the Delaware County Institute of Science lists in the Anthropology Section of its Museum Catalogue, “Collection of several hundred arrow heads, supposed to be mainly local, presented by Isaac Worrall, Sr., of Media.”[15] These would likely be from the local Okehocking, and it is fun to imagine some could have been collected in the glen.

 

So how old is the tree?

In 2015, we measured the diameter of the tree as 45.5”. Based on a formula by the International Society of Arboriculture to estimate the age of trees without taking a core sample, we multiplied the diameter by 6 to estimate the age of an American Beech tree in a wooded area. [16] The estimated age is 273 years old – the American Beech could have been growing as early as 1742, before the American Revolution! The tree would have had to be fairly large already in 1897 when Isaac Worrall carved that inscription.

How intruiging that the Isaac Worrall who left a long-lasting mark in Glen Providence Park was part of such an enduring family of Media, and a part of Scroggie Valley history!

A tremendous thank you to Scott McConnell for telling us about the American Beech, which we had walked past innumerable times without noticing its inscription. What a wonderful piece of history – we are so glad Scott was observant enough to discover it!

 

At this point, to protect the tree, we won’t publish where in the park it is located. If you have any photographs or more information about the Isaac Worralls of Media Borough or their descendants, please let us know! 

Endnotes are below the photo.

"Isaac Worrall Media, Pa. April 3, 1897"

“Isaac Worrall
Media, Pa.
April 3, 1897″

 

ENDNOTES:

[1] The Rose Tree Families, Jane Levis Carter, KNA Press, 1984.

[2] “Map of Early Settlements from early Taylor Surveys,” The Rose Tree Families, Jane Levis Carter, KNA Press, 1984.

[3] Ancestry.com records on Isaac Worrall retrieved May 26, 2016.

[4] June 25, 1860 census of “Free Inhabitants in Media Borough” accessed through Ancestry.com, listing the second Isaac Worrall as a “Master Stone Mason.”

[5] As each generation aged, the use of Jr. gave way to Sr., making it unclear to which of the four Isaac Worralls some of the local records referred. Additionally, Worrall is occasionally spelled as Worrell (even within the same family), and there were other Isaac Worralls living in the area in the 1800’s. But the 1860 census of Media Borough make the birth years of the first three generations clear. There is an obituary consistent with this family history for “Isaac Worrall, Member of Old Family” in the August 2, 1948 Chester Times.

[6] Semi-centennial of the Borough of Media, Penna., May 19, 1900.

[7] PaCivilWar.com – retrieved May 26, 2016. Isaac Worrall was in the Sixteenth Regiment Militia under Captain John M. Broomall.

[8] South Media Fire Company, http://www.southmediafire.com/our-history.php retrieved May 31, 2016. Three other Worralls were included in the founders.

[9] 1855 Map of Media the Seat of Justice Delaware County, Pennsylvania by Thos. Hughes, C.E., courtesy of Media Historic Archives.

[10] 1870 Plan of the Borough of Media, PA by G.M. Hopkins, C.E., courtesy of Delaware County Institute of Science.

[11] “A Noble Institution,” Delaware County Republican, June 11, 1858.

[12] “Media Brick Yard,” Delaware County American, May 4, 1864.

[13] “Improvements in Media,” Delaware County American, April 10, 1867.

[14] Delaware County Institute of Science Minutes: “October 16, 1902 – President Palmer read a highly interesting paper on “Local Mineralogy and Mineralogists”. Among the latter he referred to Dr. George Smith, Col. Joseph Willcox, Theodore D. Rand, Dr. J. M. Cardeza, Patrick Bradley, Lewis Palmer, John Smedley, Deshong, Dr. W. T. W. Dickeson, and Isaac Worrell.”

[15] Proceedings of the Delaware County Institute of Science, Volume VI: October, 1910 to July, 1911. Media.

[16] Asheville GreenWorks, ashevillegreenworks.org/how-old-is-my-tree retrieved May 26, 2016.

 

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