History of Aston
by: Paul L. Dougherty, Historian, Ruth M. Ross of the Aston Township Historical Society
Aston was first settled in 1682 as a municipality and was incorporated as a township in 1688. In 1906 it became a first class township. Prior to 1687, Aston was known as Northley. Edward Carter, who was the constable of the township, changed the name from Northley to Aston in remembrance of his old home in Oxfordshire, England.
Today, Aston covers approximately seven square miles, with a population of about 15,000. The population of Aston in 1870, according to the census of that year, was 1,845, of which 1,536 were native born and 309 foreign.
On July 30, 1842, an act of legislature was passed annexing to Thornbury Township, all that part of Aston lying north of a line beginning immediately south of Stoney Bank Churchyard and extending east and west from Chester Creek to Concord Township.
Along Chester Creek there were many mills in the early part of the 19th century. Among them were: Peters Grist and Saw Mill on the west branch of Chester Creek near the Concord Township line, Tyson’s Mill, also known as Llewelyn Mills or Rhodes Mill at Aston Mills, the Old Forge at Rockdale, which today is the Kings Mill Caterer, Thatcher’s Tilt Mill, near WaWa station, the Lenni Mills on Lenni Road, later became Aldon Rug Mill, Crozerville Mills at the foot of Hollow Hill, this mill later was known as Yorkshire Worsted Mill, and today is Container Research, West Branch Mills, which was later operated by Victoria Plush Mill and then Aldon Rug Mill, Today it is the Rockdale Industrial Center. Farther down the Chester Creek to Bridgewater was the Pennellton Mill, which later was American Rendering Plant, now Giant Concrete. Over the years these mills produced cotton, wool, paper, with grist mills grinding wheat and corn grown in the area. These mills operated as long as they had water supply for power. Low water and winter freezes caused operations to cease.
The flood of the century, which occurred on August 5, 1843, did considerable damage to the mills, destroying some along Chester Creek as well as the dams and races which they depended on for power. Among those killed by the flood waters was John Rhodes, an aged man, along with his daughters, Hannah and Jane, and his granddaughter, MaryAnn Collingsworth, who were swept away along with their house.
The first licensed house in Aston was the Seven Stars Hotel, located at Pennell and Concord roads. The hotel was built about 1738. In 1740, Thomas Vernon presented a petition to the court for a license for a house of entertainment, alleging that there was no tavern for twelve to fourteen miles from where his house was located. The petition was denied by the court. However, in 1762, James Johnson was licensed to keep a public house at Village Green. The location is believed to be the Seven Stars Hotel. The Seven
Stars Hotel became a stage coach stop and a stop for watering horses, as well as changing horses. On September 2, 1831, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows was chartered at the Seven Stars Hotel. The hotel was the only voting place in Aston for several years, and also played a prominent part in one of the famous murders in the nation, which eventually involved many well known people in Delaware County.
For many years the Rockdale area was the center of interest as they had just about everything a person would need. They had doctors, dentists, churches, bakeries, movie house, town hall for dances and minstrel shows, grocery stores, dry goods stores, newspaper, ambulance, hotel, schools as well as bus and train services.
Among the well known people who attended schools in Aston were, David Glascoe Farragut, who became Admiral and Naval hero in the Civil War, John Drew, the American stage actor, as well as Doctor James Gassoway, who became a United States Marine surgeon and ex Governor Powell Clayton of Arkansas.
The first church building of record in Aston was Mount Hope Methodist Church which was built in 1807 on land donated by Aaron Mattson, a paper manufacturer in the township. The first church building was stone and measured thirty by forty feet. Since 1807 there have been many additions made to the church. On September 3,1860, the church was incorporated and in 1877 the parsonage was erected near the sanctuary.
In 1833, Richard S. Smith, an active Episcopalian, came to Rockdale and established a Sunday School in a vacant room in the upper story of his nail factory. His wife and daughters taught the scholars. The success of the Sunday School was so great that it was resolved to form a congregation of Episcopalians that eventually Bishop Onderdonk designated the congregation as Calvary Church. On August 18, 1836, Bishop Onderdonk laid the cornerstone for the church and on Christmas Eve, 1836 the first services were held.
St. Thomas The Apostle Church first started with services in St. Mary’s Church, the noted chapel in the mansion of the Willcox family at Ivy Mills. On August 26, 1853, ground was purchased and on August 29, 1852, the cornerstone was laid for the church. The edifice was finished in 1856, and Rev. Joseph Maugin was appointed the first pastor.
On November 18, 1851, John P. Crozer donated a lot of ground to a number of members of the Mount Hope Circuit, residing in the Rockdale area, he felt that the cause of Methodism could be advanced by the erection of a church edifice at Rockdale. In the spring of 1852, a petition was presented to the Philadelphia Conference that the Rockdale church, as it was known, should be separated from Mount Hope. The request was favorably considered and Rev. George W. McLaughlin was appointed the first pastor. The edifice was completed in the summer of 1852. Prior to this, services were held in Temperance Hall at Lenni.
Other Churches in the township include the Camp Meeting Association which purchased a farm in 1872 on the line of the Baltimore Central Railroad. St. Francis De Sales started as a mission church of St. Thomas The Apostle, in the 1880’s. The church was dedicated in 1894, with the Rev. Edward J. O’Reilly as first pastor. Also, the Crozer Chapel at West Branch, the Blue Church, Baptist Church at Village Green, and the Baptist Church at Bridgewater were churches in the Township.
In the 1800’s in Aston, many of the towns had their own post offices, such as Aston Mills, Village Green, Rockdale, and Ivy Mills.
In 1946, the residents of Chester Heights area, not happy with the high taxes in Aston, seceded and formed the Borough of Chester Heights.
About 1960, the residents of the section of Bridgewater Farms, seceded from Chester Township and became residents of Aston Township, although they still had to send their children to Chester Township Schools for several years.
The recently constructed Our Lady of Angels College held its first classes in September of 1965. In the beginning, it was a 4 year Liberal Arts College for young women who were being taught by the Sisters of St. Francis. On July 1, 1980, when the college became coed, the name was changed to Neumann College.
On June 26, 1967, a navy jet plane crashed into a Chester Water Company storage tank at Concord and Cherry Tree Roads demolishing the 10 million gallon tank, sending a 20 foot high wall of water 200 yards downhill to the West Branch of Chester Creek. This caused many homes along Concord Road, near the tank farm, to sustain heavy flood damage in their cellars. Fortunately, the pilot bailed out at 8000 feet and parachuted to safety, landing in an orchard in Middletown Township.
Penn-Delco School Board was ordered to accept students, from the former Bridgewater Farms section of Chester Township, into Penn-Delco schools in August of 1970. This portion of Chester Township was annexed to Aston Township in 1958, but the County Court ruled that the students would have to stay in Chester Township schools for 10 years.
On September 13, 1971, a flood hit the area taking lives and destroying property. An Aston woman lost her life while trying to cross the Convent Road Bridge. The Knowlton Road and Bridgewater Road Bridges sustained heavy flood damage making them unusable. However, they were later rebuilt.
The Aston Township Library began in 1977 at the Municipal Building. It later moved into the special services building next to Northley Middle School. In September of 1984, it relocated into the Green Ridge School due to the need of more space. In 1997, the library moved into its permanent home in the Aston Community Center.
In September of 1985, The First Baptist Church on Bridgewater Road celebrated its 30th anniversary. In November of that same year, Crozerville United Methodist Church celebrated its 134th anniversary. This church was built by John Crozer, who was a mill owner, for his workers.
The Golden Slipper Tavern on Pennell Road and Dutton Mill Road, a well-known landmark throughout Delaware County, was destroyed by fire on October 27, 1987. It was believed that an electrical problem started the blaze.
In March of 1993, a group of 4 people sat down together to form the Aston Township Historical Society. Over the years, this group has grown, and its purpose is to preserve the one-room school as well as other historical sites in the township.
Sunroc Corporation, located at the border of Aston and Middletown Townships, announced it was leaving the area in November of 1993. This put the Aston-Middletown Little League field in jeopardy, because Sunroc owned it.
June of 1995 was when Ben Davis, an 18-year old Aston youth, in his senior year at Malvern Prep, gracefully moved into a one million dollar plus deal with The San Diego Padres.
In January of 1996, Aston Township, along with the rest of Delaware County and Philadelphia, got hit with a blizzard, which dumped more than 30 inches over the area.
A suspicious fire took the life of 14-yearold Ryan Ferris on November 6,1998. He died heroically inside the century old frame home after waking up his mother who jumped out a second floor window to safety.
Hurricane Floyd blew into the area in September of 1999 causing very heavy flood damage but no loss of life. At one point, all roads, which crossed a creek in Aston, were closed to traffic.
In March of 2000, The Aston Sports Hall of Fame held its first dinner at Neumann College on Convent Road to honor local sports figures. A very large after dance was on hand for the induction of the sports stars into The Hall of Fame. This will be an annual event.
St. Joseph’s Church held its dedication on September 16, 2000. The official founding of the Church of St. Joseph’s at Green Ridge was July 2, 1947. Father James A. Donnelly was assigned as the first pastor. Sunday services were held in the Grange Hall on Pennell Road in Village Green until the first church was built. The laying of the cornerstone was held November 8, 1949, and the church was built on land once owned by the Jurich family of Village Green. A rectory and school were built next to the church a few years later. In 1997, the church had become too small and was torn down with a larger church being built at a cost of 5 million dollars.
On September 28, 2002, more than 300 people attended the rededication and flag raising at the one-room Village Green School. The school was built in 1866 and used until it closed its doors on November 14, 1951. Current students had to report to Crozerville School. In 1976, the school was opened for the celebration of the Centennial throughout the county.
In November, 2002, the Sisters of Saint Francis entered a request to have 5 hermitage buildings constructed, which would be part of their spiritual retreat center. The groundbreaking took place on March 30, 2003, with the new hermitages being opened on September of 2004.
In May of 2003, the Veterans Memorial Garden Foundation was formed to oversee the development and construction of a memorial garden at Five Points.
In March of 2005, Neumann College celebrated its 40 th Anniversary. As of April, 2005, Venuti’s Hardware had remained a family business for 46 years.
Aston Township published its first edition of the Township Times, an informative newsletter, in August of 2005.
In October of 2005, Aston Presbyterian Church dedicated its new prayer labyrinth. February, 2006, marked the 140th anniversary of Aston Presbyterian Church.
Aston Township launched its Aston Township Cable Access Channel 10.
Mount Hope United Methodist Church celebrated its 2001h anniversary during the year of 2007 with numerous events.
In September of 2007, St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church celebrated its 45th anniversary.