Special Report

Hurricane Ida Storm and 
The Great Freshet of 1869

The September 1, 2021, storm spawned from the remnants of Hurricane Ida was one for the record books not only for the rain it brought to our area, but also for the 16 tornadoes reported around the Delaware Valley. Local news reported that the Schuylkill River is expected to crest at its second highest in recorded history on September 2, 2021 -- surpassed only by flooding in 1869. 

This 1869 event occurred October 2-4 and was known as "The Great Freshet of 1869" and caused death and destruction in PA, NJ, DE, MD, DC, NY, and beyond. For trivia buffs, this is the notorious flood that washed away the Manayunk Bridge. The storm's destruction was reported on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer with details neighborhood by neighborhood and state by state.

Read about the Great Freshet of 1869 now >>>>

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PDF Downloads:

Maps -- A Snapshot of History

 

If a photo can say 1,000 words -- how many can a map say? 

 

Perhaps not as many as a photo? Perhaps a great deal more?

 

Or maybe maps just say it differently than a photo -- like the weathered old cowboy in the western movie who says it all with a simple grunt. Or maybe like the old cowboy, it is what is NOT SHOWN on the face of a map that tells us far more in the end.

 

In any case, for map adventurers like me who like to travel historical paths and streets found on these documents, surprises on a map are often exciting. What is found on a map can confirm a theory or ignite an interest to pursue an area of reading/research we'd previously not considered.

 

In fact, while some maps may lead you to a treasure, I feel a map that introduces a new mystery and propels me off on a fact-finding historical hunt is a treasure in itself.

Consider these map snippets that have surprised folks and the questions they've raised ...

NEW SECTION

 Historical Maps

1752

Where's the Manayunk Bridge?

 

Why is there a ferry at the base of the "Wifsahiccon" -- and what's with the spelling?

Why does it say Germantown and not Chestnut Hill?

Ferry-1752.jpg

Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

1863

Does the map really show positions and lines for defense of Roxborough during the Civil War?

Are those strange marks fortifications in Roxborough?

 

Were troops stationed here?

CW-1863.jpg

Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

1869

Were there really vineyards along the Wissahickon?

Was "Wissahickon Turnpike" a toll road?

Did it become Forbidden Drive? If so, when?

Vineyard-1862.jpg

Free Library of Philadelphia

I invite you to take a few minutes (or if you're like me, a few hours) to check out the digital collection of historical maps that have been assembled to compliment physical map collection in the RMWHS Archive.

Some of the digital maps selected are worn and torn and worse for their years -- just like that old cowboy. Many are as interesting to look at for their weathered features as their hand-drawn content.

 

Some of the maps are nearly pristine, detailed, and even full of color with buildings, structures, and landmarks all noted. (One of my personal favorites is Gorgas Park drawn by a landscape engineer in 1939. It is a simple map, but graceful in form and worthy of display in my humble opinion).

Some of the maps barely indicate Roxborough, Manayunk, or Wissahickon on them, but each map included in this collection tells a small part of a greater story.

 

Free Library of Philadelphia

If you're not a map person -- or you are GPS dependent and never held a map in your life -- I beg you to at least look at these images as pieces of art.  You can marvel at the mathematics or magic used to create them long before a plane could fly over or even a hot air balloon could go up and take a peek.

I hope you enjoy the collection. If you find a map you love or want to examine more closely, follow the source link provided with each one. The link will take you directly to it on the Library of Congress or the Free Library of Philadelphia website where you can take advantage of the powerful zoom features. Also, many these maps can also be downloaded from the source institutions in a variety of formats.

Go forth and explore ... and Happy Trails!

Georgie Gould
RMWHS Webmaster

Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

Become an RMWHS Member Today

For more than 50 years, RMWHS has focused on preserving and promoting local history, art, and culture – and despite our inability to hold in-person meetings in 2020/2021  – our dedication to the RMWHS mission remains strong.

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  • In December 2020, RMWHS launched this website to better promote and share our local history, art and culture. Within the first two months, we had visitors from across the United States and overseas.

  • Our virtual presence on the Web increased awareness of RMWHS and our mission and generated interest in our efforts which resulted in new members, volunteers, financial donations, photo donations, research requests, and more. 

Click Image to Enlarge

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By joining RMWHS, you will be:
 

  • providing financial support to our ongoing preservation efforts,
     

  • able to see new RMWHS web features before they are released to the public
     

  • informed of virtual history-related events around our area
     

  • be invited to provide ideas and help us shape the future events and activities of RMWHS -- including meetings, outings, tours, and day trips once they resume.

2021 RMWHS
Membership Dues

 

$10 Student

$20 Individual

$30 Family

$50 Business/Org

 

As a volunteer-run 501(c)(3) public charity, we are eager to build a strong, loyal membership and hope you will consider joining and/or supporting the Roxborough Manayunk Wissahickon Historical Society and its efforts to preserve and promote local history, art, and culture.

 

Sincerely,
Lynn M. Trimborn, President
Georgie Gould, VP & Webmaster

Ridge Ave Roxborough Historic District

Discover the history of Roxborough and  the development of Ridge Avenue, including the Native Americans, Early Settlers, Roxborough during the Revolution & the Civil War, and the many types of architecture that can be found in Roxborough.

Explore the 1304 Steps of Our Town
 

Since the 1880s, more than a dozen staircases have adorned the steep terrain of our area and knit our neighborhoods together.
 

Free poster & interactive map

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In the Spotlight: Claude Clark

Celebrate the Roxborough High School graduate who became a world-renowned artist and spent his life advancing art education and recognition of black artists.