In the early 1970s, Diane and I rented a house in New Hope with John and Barbara Paglione. It was on a two block spur off route 202 on the edge of the borough — Old York Road. We became friends with Rodney and Ragna Hamilton who lived across the street. Sometimes they were our intro into New Hope society.
I remember Ragna introducing us to John Loeper, an educator, school administrator, and writer. Among recent digging in my children’s book collection, I found and reread Loeper’s “The Flying Machine: a stagecoach journey in 1774.” (It was published in 1976 in time for the bicentennial.).
“The Flying Machine” is the story of the Swift-Sure Stagecoach line that traveled between Philadelphia and Elizabethtown, NJ. In NJ, passengers could take a ferry to or from New York City. The “Flying Machine” route was “the Old York Road.”
Loeper writes for middle school students. I bought several of his books and at the time thought I could write books like this. Of course, I didn’t.
But the reread was fun. Local history; memories. A young boy, David, takes the Swift-Sure stage coach to NY to visit family. The coach connects the Barley Sheaf Tavern on Second street with Elizabethtown, NJ. From there a ferry took passengers to NYC. The trip took two days. I particularly like the local references. “Down the streets of old Philadelphia they went, past Christ Church, Walnut Street, the High Street (today it’s Market).
There was a mid-day stop a Crossroads Inn, another at Bogart’s Tavern in Buckingham. They passed through Lahaska and the Great Spring, called Aquetong, to Well’s Ferry (now, New Hope). “John Watson (the driver) halted the Flying Machine before the Logan Inn. ” William Penn’s secretary was James Logan. A ferry ride across the Delaware river brought the traveler’s to Coryell’s Ferry on the New Jersey side (now Lambertville). For me these are all familiar locations.
Similarly in New Jersey the stage coach passed through Mount Airy, Ringoes, Pleasant Corners, Centerville (overnight stop), Bound Brook, and eventually the Indian Queen Tavern in Elizabethtown. These NJ names are new for me. In the story, David takes the ferry to NYC, “his journey on the York Road was over.” My journey living on Old York Road lasted four years.
I remembered and located a related book “Along the Old York Road” (1965) by James and Margaret Cawley in my local history collection. The couple has written several NJ local history books published by Rutgers University Press. James Cawley recalls many personal experiences living close to the road. The Cawley’s story leans heavy on colonial history and the use of the road by General Washington during the American Revolution.
They describe many field trips they take in the area. One passes our New Hope house. “This part of the road retains some of the original stone and plaster buildings and, at the point were Sugan Road crosss our road, a left turn takes the traveler to and across Aquetong Creek, on the banks may be seen the ruins of an early mill, now being restored. The mill was built by Richard Heath in 1702, and is believed to be the oldest one in Bucks County.” When we lived there, the Jim Hamilton family lived in the Heath mill.
There are several Bucks County sites mentioned by the Cawley’s that I would like to visit. Inghamdale and Rolling Green are houses outside of New Hope. I could take a closer look at the Friends Meeting in Lahaska and General Greene Inn (Bogart’s Tavern) in Buckingham. I need to check out Hartsville, the Log College, and Hatboro, scene of the Battle of Crooked Billet. In New Jersey there are many new sites to explore.
For me Old York Road carries so many personal memories.