Chapter 2 – Report 36PH037

The land on the Delaware River lying north of Gunner’s Run was once part of a large country estate that William Ball, a Philadelphia merchant, purchased from Anthony Palmer in 1728 (Philadelphia County Deed Book G3:108). “Hope Farm” was calculated to contain 676 acres, plus the mud flats that stretched from the mouth of Gunner’s Run northward for a distance of 9,438 feet (about 1.8 miles) along the Delaware River. On a later map of the Ball estate, the mansion house is illustrated lying about 2,900 feet north of the mouth of Gunner’s Run, on a site overlooking the Delaware River. The Philadelphia and Reading Rail Road Company purchased the mansion and about 23 acres surrounding it in the middle of the nineteenth century, and the property became part of the Port Richmond rail yard (present day Conrail railroad yard) (Philadelphia County Deed Books RLL32: 522; GWC36: 465).

Figure 7Partition map of William Ball's estate, 1856 (Source: Gibson 1856).
Figure 7
Partition map of William Ball’s estate, 1856 (Source: Gibson 1856).

When William Ball died in 1740, his five living children—namely, William, Joseph, Ann, Samuel, and Mary—inherited Hope Farm in equal shares. William’s will specifies that Ann’s share was a lifetime estate that would pass down intact to her children (Fitler 1858:10; Philadelphia County Deed Book G3:108; Philadelphia Will Book F: 177). The estate of William Ball was brought before the Court of Common Pleas in order to make an equitable division among the five heirs. A group of 12 local landowners, who could impartially appraise the value of William Ball’s houses, gardens, and lands, undertook the partition (Figure 7).

In 1755, the court issued a partition of the land into 30 lots. Lot dimensions were drawn to maximize their value. For example, smaller lots were carved out of the valuable property between the riverfront and Point-No-Point Road (Richmond Street), and larger lots were created in the less-valuable area lying west of the road. Each heir was awarded between five and seven lots of differing values and in non-contiguous clusters on the estate. The lanes and landings were left open and not assigned to any of the heirs. William Ball, the eldest son, was awarded the mansion of Hope Farm on Lot No. 9, accompanied by 1,200 feet of shoreline. Mary Ball was awarded Lot No. 4, including a house on the banks of the Delaware—the only other building illustrated on the partition map aside from the mansion house. Joseph Ball was awarded Lot No. 2, just over four acres in size and situated on the southeast side of Point-No-Point Road, and the section of Hope Farm nearest the Gunner’s Run landing (Fitler 1858:10–12; Gibson 1856).

In 1756, Joseph Ball conveyed Lots 1 and 2 to his brother William (Fitler 1858:12). William Ball (1729–1810) was a merchant and planter who named his property “Richmond Manor” and named his house “Richmond Hall.” Detailed tax records from 1798 indicate that William Ball had nine tenants living on Richmond Manor. The area where these tenants lived became known as “Ball Town” or “Balton,” and was located on the north banks of Gunner’s Run along Point-No-Point Road (Jackson 1931:216).
Neither William Ball Jr. nor his brother Joseph had children, and Mary Ball died young and without issue, so that their shares in Hope Farm descended to the remaining heirs. Therefore, Hope Farm passed to the descendants of Samuel Ball, who had been lost at sea, and his sister Ann, who married John Gibson. Samuel Ball’s son, Joseph H. Ball, was born on July 4, 1776. He married Esther Hewson, the daughter of John Hewson, whose calico textile printing factory was built on the Ball estate near Gunner’s Run in the spring of 1774.

Martha Washington inspected the print works in November 1775 while on a visit to her Ball relatives. She commissioned John Hewson to print handkerchiefs with an image of her husband on horseback. The Washingtons later bought other textiles made at the Hewson plant (Reath 1931:27). John Hewson’s support of the Patriot cause extended to forming a company of militia men made up of his factory workers. In 1777, he fled the city with what equipment he could transport just ahead of the British army. British forces destroyed his factory and former employees took the rest. Hewson was captured, but later escaped from imprisonment in New York. He arrived back in Philadelphia in 1778 and, the following year, set about restoring his printing business. He was aided by a £200 loan from Pennsylvania that allowed him to expand his calico printing and bleaching business (Gillingham 1928:101–103; Milano 2010:22–24).

The 1798 direct tax list described the Hewson property as a two-story stone and brick dwelling (20 x 30 feet in size) with a dye shop fronting on Point-No-Point Road that was valued at $1,000. It was situated on a two-acre lot William Ball owned on the north side of Gunner’s Run, between Point-No-Point Road and the Delaware River (Figure 8). Earlier newspaper advertisements for his business indicate that his property at one time had also included a Bleach Yard (Brackman 2009:4). City directory listings and population census information consistently place John Hewson living and working on Point Road in RichmondTownship. However, beginning in 1807, John Hewson’s address appears in city directories as Queen Street (now Richmond Street) in Kensington. The village of Kensington, when originally founded circa 1730, was centered in the area south of Gunner’s Run, between that stream and Cohocksink Creek (present-day Canal Street), but over time expanded into lands north of Gunner’s Run as far as the vicinity of present-day Norris Street. Letters John Hewson wrote between 1813 and 1820 clearly indicate that he remained living on his property on Point Road north of Gunner’s Run until the time of his death (Lincoln 1904:209–227).

Figure7.2
Figure 8
Topography of the Ball lands north of Gunner’s Run, circa 1777 (Source: Anonymous 1777).

Hewson retired in 1810 and left the business in his son John’s hands. John Hewson Jr. carried on the business with the help of his brothers James and Robert. In 1814, the location of the calico printing factory, and of Robert Hewson’s residence, were described as Queen Street above Gunner’s Creek. John Hewson Jr.’s address is given alternately as “Queen above Point Bridge” and “Near the Glass House.” John Hewson Sr. died in 1821. His will left everything connected with the printing business to his son John (Gillingham 1928:104–105; Kite 1814:n.p.; Robinson 1804:109; Robinson 1816:217; Woodhouse 1807:n.p.; Woodhouse 1808:n.p; Woodward 1800:62).

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Figure 9
Dyottville Glass Works in 1849 (Source: Sidney 1849).

In 1816, John Hewson Jr. became a partner in the firm Hewson, Connell & Company and announced that they would build a new glassworks on their lot which adjoined the old glassworks lot. John Jr.’s partner John H. Connell was probably a nephew. John Jr.’s sister Esther had married Thomas Connell in 1794 when she was 15 years old. John H. Connell was born the following year. When Esther married Joseph Ball in 1801, she appears to have brought two young sons from her previous marriage with her. John H. Connell was about 21 years old when he began making glass on the Hewson lot. City directories list his glass factory on “Queen near Gunner’s Run” from 1817 to 1822 (Linn and Egle 1880:9:83; McCarty & Davis 1822:n.p.; Robinson 1817:120; U.S., Bureau of the Census, Northern Liberties East, Philadelphia County, 1800:364; Philadelphia 12th Ward, 1860:202).Directly north of the Hewson lot was the glass house and furnace known as the Philadelphia (or Kensington) Glass Works built by Robert Towars and Joseph Leacock in 1771. Towars was a skinner by trade and Leacock a watchmaker. The partners had purchased the lot for their factory from William Ball in October 1771. It measured 150 feet in width and lay between Bank Street and the Delaware River in the “town of Richmond.” Ball reserved ownership to a small, wooden frame, red-painted building on the lot (Philadelphia County Deed Book D6:266). This section of Bank Street was subsequently vacated in the first half of the nineteenth century to accommodate the expansion of the Dyottville Glass Works (Scharf 1884:2298) (Figure 9).

Towars and Leacock owned the glassworks for one year before selling it to another Philadelphia partnership made up of druggists, a brush maker, and a tanner. The deed conveying this lot specified that the property included a “glass house, furnace, melting potts, grinding mill, mill gears… with pans, plates, kettles, moulds, pipes, riddles, sieves, clay, and all utensils and materials belonging to the glass manufactory” (Philadelphia County Deed Book D6:266). The new owners built an additional furnace and manufactured bottles for eight years before closing during the British occupation of Philadelphia in 1777 (Scharf 1884:3:2299).

In 1780, the glassworks were sold to tobacconist Thomas Leiper. Following the sale, the glass works were put back in operation, but only for a short period, during which glass production was sporadic. In 1798, Leiper’s property consisted of a 150-x-150-foot lot on the Delaware River, and contained a two-story wooden dwelling (15 x 15 feet) with a glasshouse. The entire property was valued at $600 and occupied by Christopher Triple (or Trippel). Thomas Leiper remained the owner for 20 years before he sold the glassworks to the partnership of Joseph Roberts Jr., James Rowland, and James Butland. They named their business the Kensington Glass Works. These partners also encountered problems with production, and in 1812 they were forced to auction off coal and an inventory of glass (Milano 2010:21; Philadelphia County Deed Books D6:268 and EF1:320; Scharf 1884:3:2299; Sives n.d.; U.S. Direct Tax List 1798).

Joseph H. Ball, John Hewson’s son-in-law, died in 1825, leaving as heirs: William White Ball (1802–1874); Joseph Ingles Ball (1807–1854); Benjamin B. Ball (1809–1865); George Bicknell Washington Ball (1814–1882); Charles Henry Ball (1817–1852); and Harriet Stiles Ball (1822–1902), who married Richard Dodson (Fitler 1858:14).

A partition of the Ball lands was made in the District Court for the City and County of Philadelphia in 1826, dividing the property into six shares. Joseph I. Ball was allotted the lot at the mouth of Gunner’s Run (Fitler 1858:15). In 1830, Joseph I. Ball, William W. Ball, and Benjamin Ball conveyed the lot lying on the north side of Gunner’s Run between the Point-No-Point Road and the Delaware River to Thomas W. Dyott for $20,000. The northern boundary of the lot was a new 50-foot-wide road named Rush Street. The lot encompassed land that had been previously occupied by the Hewson Calico Printing operations, the Hewson House, and the glass furnace Hewson, Connell and Company built in 1816—and may have continued to contain buildings dating to those earlier periods (Philadelphia County Deed Book AM10:7; Sives n.d.). Within a few years, Thomas W. Dyott had expanded his landholdings northward to James (later Plum) Street. This expansion included the acquisition of the 1771 Philadelphia/Kensington Glass House lot from James Rowland, in 1833, that included a total of three glass furnaces. Thomas W. Dyott renamed the glassworks the Dyottville Glass Works and there manufactured a variety of bottle forms, including those to contain his many patent medicine concoctions (Philadelphia County Deed Books AM37:747 and AM54:299) (see Figure 9).

Thomas W. Dyott was born in England about 1776 and arrived in Philadelphia sometime between 1796 and 1806. Very little is known of his early life in England, but he probably served an apprenticeship with a druggist. Once reestablished in Philadelphia, Dyott began what would eventually grow into a patent medicine empire by producing bootblack, which he sold and demonstrated (McKearin 1970:15). He appeared in a Philadelphia city directory for the first time in 1807, listed as the owner of a patent medicine warehouse at 57 South Second Street. He began advertising his boot blacking and patent medicines the same year (Democratic Press, 27 March 1807:4; Robinson 1807:n.p.). Dyott’s situation changed in 1809, when he moved to 116 North Second Street (between Race and Vine Streets) and opened a medical dispensary at the same address. His brother John also lived and worked at 116 North Second Street, selling his brother’s medicines (Robinson 1809:n.p.). Thomas listed himself as a physician in the Philadelphia city directories beginning in 1810 and adopted the credentials of “M.D. and druggist” (Whitely 1820:n.p.; Woodhouse 1810:n.p.). By 1814, he had expanded his property holdings, buying the former commercial and residential property of the merchant Abraham Wilt at the northeast corner of Second and Race Streets (Kite 1814:n.p; Scharf 1884:3:2299).

From the very beginning, Thomas W. Dyott had envisioned the sale of his patent medicines on a grand scale. By 1809, he had at least 14 agents in 12 towns and cities in seven states. Within a few years, his agents and newspaper advertisements reached nearly every corner of the country. Indeed, his use of advertising put him far ahead of his time and he became a nationally recognized medical figure. His brother John later moved to Charleston, South Carolina, set up his own practice in medicine and dentistry, and sold his brother’s patent medicines. John Dyott died in Charleston in 1827. By 1830, John’s widow Julia had moved her family in with her Dyott in-laws in Philadelphia and was listed in the city directory as working in a glass store at 143 North Second Street (City Gazette and Daily Advertiser, 10 July 1812:3; Desilver 1830:34; Motte 1816:8; Schirmer 1966:169; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Upper Delaware Ward, Philadelphia, 1830:439).

In 1829, Thomas W. Dyott’s brother Michael arrived in Philadelphia with his family to join the expanding Dyott business empire. In 1830, Michael Dyott was listed as a glass manufacturer and lived in Kensington. His family consisted of his wife and three children, yet the census enumeration listed 17 other people living in his household. Most of these other residents were young men and might have been apprentices in the Dyottville Glass Works (U.S. Bureau of the Census, Kensington, Philadelphia, 1830:257).

By 1833, the Dyottville Glass Works employed 300 people, of whom 225 were apprentices (The Mechanic, April 1834:139). Dr. Dyott supposedly bought large tracts of land along the river on which he raised dairy cows and grew vegetables to feed his workers. He established a labor commune based on his Methodist principals that strictly forbade alcohol and gambling, and closely monitored the activities of his employees. All his workers were required to participate in morning prayers, calisthenics, and school room lessons or lectures. Many of these meetings were held in the chapel Dyott built. He established a temperance society and promised extra rewards and compensations for those employees who demonstrated their piety and hard work. A system of fines was used to instill good behavior and support the Dyottville Apprentices’ Library. The creation of this community of laborers resulted in the area around the glassworks being named “Dyottville” (Scharf 1884:3:2299; Sives n.d.).

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Figure 10
Dyottville Glass Works in 1875 (Source: Hopkins 1875).

In 1836, Dr. Dyott established the Manual Labor Bank with an old friend, Stephen Simpson, at his former drug store at Second and Race Streets. He circulated his own bank notes extensively, but when confidence in his unchartered private bank became shaky during the economic collapse of 1837, he was compelled to redeem his notes. The bank failed in November 1837, and afterward Dyott declared bankruptcy and his creditors took him to court. He was convicted of fraudulent banking practices in a case that received nationwide attention, and was sentenced in 1839 to three years imprisonment in Eastern State Penitentiary. He was pardoned and released on May 10, 1841, after serving 18 months, and immediately was arrested for debt. After a two-week stint in the Debtor’s Apartment at Moyamensing Prison, he was released with the help of a friend who guaranteed the payment of his debts. In time, Dyott reestablished his apothecary business with his family on Second Street above Race Street. He lived until 1861, dying of “old age” at 84, and having regained his good standing in the community (Joyce 1919:224; Philadelphia Death Certificate, January 19, 1861; Scharf 1884:3:2299; Sives n.d.).

After Dr. Dyott’s business failure, the glassworks remained idle for a few years. The Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company acquired Dyott and Ball lands along the riverfront and built a coal depot that became Port Richmond (Figure 10). The company rented the former Dyottville Glass Works to Henry Seybert in 1842. Seybert sold his interest in the factory two years later and the glassworks was continued under the name of Dyottville Glass Works by a series of business partnerships until 1923 (Scharf 1884:3:2299; Sives n.d.).