Our History

This is how our organization’s history was presented by Gibbons C. Cornwell on the occasion of the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Paoli. 

It seems most appropriate to add on this occasion a record of the trusteeship of the ground….for the benefit of any and call persons wishing answers to the questions “What happened here? And “What is the Paoli Memorial Association?”

No formal recognition of marker of the graves of the patriots buried at the site of “Paoli Massacre” existed until 1817, the 40th Anniversary of the engagement. In that year, under the leadership of Dr. William Darlington of West Chester, a wall and marble monument were erected by the Republican Artillerists and certain private citizens of Chester and Delaware Counties. 

On the 24th of December, 1822, as recorded in Miscellaneous Deed Book No. 2, page 241, Chester County Court House, Cromwell & Mary Pearce for $458 granted and sold to Lt. Col. William Darlington & Major Samuel Anderson, Commanding Officers of Chester and Delaware Battalions of Volunteers, a tract of land, on which have been erected the Paoli Monument, consisting of 22 acres and 110 perches, to have and to hold “in trust as a place of parade for the use and benefit of all volunteer corps lawfully organized that have contributed towards the purchase of the same, or that may thinking proper to assemble thereon.”

It apparently having been subsequently discovered that the purchase from Cromwell Pearce did not embrace the complete grave site, on the 20th of September 1832, as recorded in Deed Book S-7, Vol. 165, page 266, Chester County Court House, John & Barbara Griffith, for $10, granted and sold to Col. William Harris, Lt. Col. Emmor Elton, Major John S. Yokum, and Major David McConkey, field and commanding officers of the First Regiment of Chester & Delaware County Volunteers, a lot or piece of land on which was erected a part of the Paoli Monument consisting of 10 perches to have and to hold “in trust and to their successors in office forever as a place of parade for the use and benefit of all volunteer corps lawfully organized and may think proper to assemble thereon to perform military duty.”

On June 14, 1869, as recorded in Miscellaneous Docket No. 3, page 209, Chester County Court Hours, twenty-four citizens, many stated as theretofore forming part of the military volunteer organizations of the County, petitioned to the Court of Common Pleas representing that all the officers to whom the conveyances of land were made were deceased, no volunteer organizations as described in the deed existed and as a consequence there were no persons legally authorized to take charge of the trust imposed by the deeds. In the light of “barbarous depredations” that had been committed by the defacing of the monument and “improper destruction of timer upon the tracts,” the petition requested “that trustees should be appointed by the Court to take the place of those named in said Deeds of Trust, now deceased, having authority to protect the said monument and premises from further depredation or destruction and preserve the premises for the use of any future volunteer military organizations which may be embraced in the terms of the trust.”

On that same date, according to the prayer of the petitioners, the Court appointed Capt. William Wayne, Col. Henry R. Guss, and Capt. N. A. Pennypacker trustees. 

In the same docket, on August 15, 1874, a petition is recorded as filed by the trustees asking to be discharged from their trust. “Whereupon it appearing to the Court that the circumstances under which the trustees were appointed have ceased to exist and that there is no further necessity for their continuance in that capacity” the Court decreed that the trustees be discharged “upon their surrendering all trust property and accounting for all monies which have come into their hands as trustees.”

October 5, 1886, a report and account were filed and approved by the Court. 

August 30, 1897, the Charter and Certificate of Incorporation presented to the Court of Common Pleas of Chester Count of the Paoli Memorial Association was approved, “to hold, improve, and preserve the land and improvements thereon, known as the Paoli Parade Grounds and including the monuments now erected.”

The minutes of the annual meeting of the Associations held on September 21, 1903, record the following action: “A committee of five was appointed to confer with the Military Organizations of Chester and Delaware Counties and with their consent to prepare and present to Court a petition for this Association to the appointed trustee under the deed of conveyance to take charge of the grounds and said committee to have power to act without further reporting to this Association.”

The minutes of the annual meeting held September 20, 1904, records as follows: “The committee reported that the petition has been prepared and had been signed by many citizens of the two counties. A letter sent to each of the commanding officers concerned requesting them to join in the petition.” It is further recorded that at the special meeting of the Directors held in August it had been reported that a meeting of the officers had been held in July in Gettysburg and the officers decided not to sign the petition holding that “the commanders of the present military organizations are not the legitimate successors of the officer names in the deeds and therefore had not title rights in the management of the property.” The Directors determined if the petition was not presented and approved, the Association might as well disband and resolved to present the petition to the Court notwithstanding the officer’s position. 

The Prothonotary’s office in Miscellaneous Docket No. 9, page 13, is recorded a petition dated December 13, 1904, pointing out that all the officers to whom the land was conveyed are deceased, no voluntary organizations or commanding officers are described in the deeds exist. There exists no persons legally authorized by name or description to take charge of the trust. Further, that the counties’ military organizations are now part of the National Guard with headquarters in Philadelphia and on this basis no care or attention has been given the grounds by the military organizations. The petitions prays “that the Paoli Memorial Association be appointed by the Court trustee to take the place of those names in said deeds of trust with full power and authority to carry out the uses and purposes for which the two tracts of land were granted.”

On that same date the following decree was issued and is recorded: The Court do appoint the Paoli Memorial Association trustee of the Paoli Parade Ground and the monuments thereon erected, to take the place of the trustees named in the deeds of trust with full power and authority to carry out the uses and purpose for which the said tracts of land were granted.”

The minutes book of the Association records that at a special meeting of the Association held on December 27, 1904, the committee reported that the petition had been approved by the Court without any opposition appearing, and at the annual meeting held on September 20, 1905, it was again reported that the application was made without the aid of the military members who did not care to obligate themselves but would not oppose, and a copy of the decree is recorded in the minutes of that meeting.

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