Residents of and visitors to the Brandywine Valley know it as the home of the famous Wyeth family of artists and enjoy its picturesque countryside, but few know the history behind Chadds Ford Days, which has been celebrated here since Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House.
The Lenni-Lenape Indians inhabited the area around the quaint village of Chadds Ford for centuries before European explorers arrived. The first settlers were Swedish, arriving in 1638 and discovering the Brandywine River, which became important to local farmers as a source of water and also for the rich soil along its banks. In 1707 ?Ye Great Road to Nottingham? (now U.S. Route 1) was laid out from Baltimore to Chester, and more settlers began coming to the region. One of the early settlers was John Chads, who operated a ferry service across the Brandywine in the 1730s- 1740s at a ford in the river. The spot came to be known as Chadds Ford, the extra letter added due to colloquial spelling of his name.
The American Revolution arrived in Chadds Ford on September 11, 1777 when George Washington faced off against British forces led by General William Howe in what would be the largest land battle in America up until the Civil War. Combat raged all around the village, with fighting occurring from west of the river all the way up to the north around the Birmingham Meeting House and Dilworthtown. Although Washington lost, he proved his ability to stand up against a powerful British force and survive to fight again.
Village historian Christian Sanderson lived for many years in the nearby Benjamin Ring house where Washington had his headquarters during the battle. Sanderson enjoyed talking with visitors about the Battle of the Brandywine and gave numerous lectures on the topic. He collected thousands of pieces of Americana detailing our rich heritage and in 1958 he, Virginia Peters Morgan, and other locals began celebrating what was called ?Chadds Ford Days? to commemorate the conflict. Chris dressed up as the ?Town Crier,? leading them in a local parade. The Chadds Ford Historical Society was begun in 1968 to preserve some local historic buildings dating to the time of the battle ? the John Chads House and later the Barns-Brinton House. Since then, the Society has promoted Chadds Ford Days as a way to honor our local heritage and enjoy arts, crafts, food, fun, and music around the first week of September.
Chadds Ford Days 2012 will be celebrated on Saturday September 8 and Sunday September 9 from 10am to 5pm on the grounds of the Chadds Ford Historical Society at 1736 Creek Road in Chadds Ford. This year’s event includes: live music from The Brandywine Creek Boys, The Skyline Band, and others, along with a Colonial tavern serving beer and wine, arts and crafts, Colonial demonstrators, games and hay rides for kids, Civil War re-enactors, tours of the John Chads House and an antique car display. For more information, please contact the Chadds Ford Historical Society at 610.388.7376 or visit their website at www.chaddsfordhistory.org.
Gene Pisasale conducts historical lectures series and is the author of four books, including the historical novels of Chester County Lafayette’s Gold ? The Lost Brandywine Treasure and Abandoned Address ? The Secret of Frick’s Lock, along with the historical review The Christian Sanderson Museum ? Tom Thompson Remembers. Visit his website at www.GenePisasale.com.