We are fortunate to have ancestors who cherished their past, as we do, and with the foresight to preserve for us what is now our heritage. Many search in vain for their roots but our forefathers left us a wealth of history.
This is the first in a series of articles reprinted from the book Fairland, Gwynedd by Phil Johnson Ruth. Ruth is a writer-photographer who has been working since 1986 on local pictorial projects in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Fairland, Gwynedd is a retrospective celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of Upper & Lower Gwynedd Townships. It was here that Edward and Eleanor Foulke settled in America in 1698.
Gwynedd's status as an unmarked wilderness began to erode during the mid-1600's, as Swedish, Dutch, and British forces to the south and east wrestled over claims to the extended valley of the "South" or "Delaware" River. When England finally gained control in 1664 over all of the land included in the present-day states of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, Gwynedd's wooded seclusion drifted onto a collision course with the European notion of Progress. The area's destiny was secured in 1681, when it was included in a vast twenty-eight-million-acre package of land granted by Charles II, King of England, to William Penn, the son of a favorite admiral. Within two decades — before the 17th century was out — Gwynedd would be surveyed, named, subdivided, and settled.
In contrast to the slow unfolding of developments leading up to William Penn's proprietorship in 1681, events of the final decades of the 17th century occurred at breathtaking speed. First Penn divided up his Province among a handful of wealthy businessmen and speculators (to his credit, Penn had conscientiously acquired the Lenape "moral rights" to his territory through a series of legal, though inevitably exploitative, treaties). One bidder for a portion of Penn's vast holdings was Robert Turner, a Welsh Quaker who, along with Penn, had been a member of the Quaker Party that purchased East Jersey a few years earlier. In 1683 and 1684, the Philadelphia-based Turner bought from Penn four contiguous parcels of land, supposedly totalling 7,820 acres, about eighteen miles northwest of Philadelphia. This tract of nearly eight thousand acres would later turn out to actually comprise almost eleven thousand acres, suggesting that its first surveyor, the busy Thomas Fairman, had preferred to base his calculations on rude maps rather than leave the friendly confines of his Philadelphia office. Nor did Robert Turner, in all liklihood, ever journey out to his newly acquired territory. He meant only to hold it long enough to find a suitable buyer.
As it turned out, he found two Welsh cousins William ap John (anglicized as "Jones") and Thomas ap Evan (or "Evans"). How these "yeomen" or tenant farmers from the Country of Merioneth in northern Wales found their way to Turner's door, looking to buy an "extensive and compact body of land" in the neighborhood of Philadelphia, is something of a story.
Fourteen years earlier, in 1683, a company of Welsh Quaker immigrants had purchased and settled on a forty- thousand-acre tract of land encompassing what is today Lower Merion, Radnor, and Haverford Townships. Things had gone so well for the residents of this great "Welsh Tract" that they grew eager to have some of their relatives and former countrymen join them. To encourage this, emissaries were sent back to Wales to proclaim the virtues of Penn's province, which included "cheap lands, light taxes, and religion clear from oppressive tithes and church rates." The most zealous and influential of these emissaries was minister Hugh Roberts, who returned to Wales in 1697. Roberts‘ exhortations apparently fell on interested ears in the Old Country, including those of Edward and Eleanor Foulke.
The Foulkes, along with their four boys and five girls, were tenant farmers on a hundred-acre plantation one mile south of the market town of Bala, in the country or "shire" of Merioneth. A photograph of this area, one of several pictures taken in the 1890's by visiting American descendants of Edward and Eleanor Foulke, shows a landscape of low-lying pastures and meads lorded-over by a tree-covered hill. At the base of this hill is situated the buildings of the Foulke farm, which had long been called Coed-y-ffoel, meaning "woods on the hill." Just out of sight in this photograph, a stream called "Treweryn" flows to join the River Dee, discharged from Bala Lake two miles distant.
The main house of the Foulke farm, also photographed in the 1890's, was described by pilgrimaging visitors as "a long, low, two-and-a-half story building, facing the south, with living rooms at the western end, and stables on the east" (though two hundred years had passed since the Foulke family left for America, 19th century visitors found the house to be virtually unchanged, as would Foulke descendants visiting their ancestral homestead as recently as 1988). It was in this home during the 1690's that Edward and Eleanor Foulke held informal Sabbath "singings" for friends and neighbors who were, like them, nominal members of the Established Church of England. Tradition has it that the sober-minded Edward enjoyed singing, and was in fact a fine singer, but that he became uneasy about the exuberance displayed at these gatherings, and his wife no less so. Together they decided to replace singing with Scripture-reading, "and this plan being adopted, the light and giddy among the visitors fell away, while the weighty and serious remained."
Tradition also has it that the Foulkes were simultaneously growing disenchanted with the British feudal system, which forced subjects or "vassals" to pay homage to their land-owning lords. For Edward, this meant that he was required by the Prince of Wales to train with a militia, performing exercises the sensitive yeoman increasingly judged to be "cruel" and "unconscionable." There appeared to be no way of freeing himself from this duty, however, short of leaving the country. This was the dilemma he and his wife were facing as they began to hear optimistic reports about life in the New World from American emissaries such as Hugh Roberts. Eventually, the Foulkes, along with a dozen other conscience-troubled families from their section of northern Wales, made the difficult decision to emigrate. Sometime in 1697 they sent two of their number — William Jones and Thomas Evans — off to Pennsylvania to find and purchase a second "Welsh Tract," preferably in the neighborhood of the first community, and similar in topography to northern Wales.
So it was that Jones and Evans were making their way around the Delaware Valley in the spring of 1698, looking for a suitable plot of land and arranging for the arrival of their countrymen. By the time they found their way to Robert Turner's door, they had considered many sites in southeastern Pennsylvania, all of which were either too cramped, too expensive, too populated, or too far removed from the first Welsh tract to merit lengthy consideration. What Turner was able to offer them, then, must have looked like a Godsend: an unsettled, seventeen-square-mile, elevated timberland, eighteen miles northwest of William Penn's flourishing capital town. If Jones and Evans journeyed out to this region to judge its suitability — and the chances are very good that they did — they would have found the soil only moderately fertile, but potentially productive, given patient and careful cultivation. All things considered (including the price of 508 pounds), the Welsh agents determined that this should be their countrymen's new home. On March 10, 1698, they struck a deal with Turner and sent word of their purchase back to Wales. As planting season was then approaching, they quickly set out for their newly-acquired territory and began clearing land for the planting of Indian corn and buckwheat so the new community might be off and running when the main body arrived a few months later.
Barely a month after receiving word that a new home had been found for them, the second company of Welshmen was on its way. On April 17, their ship pulled out of Liverpool, and then, after laying over a week in Dublin, set sail for America on May 1. We know that the emigration party included the eleven members of the Foulke family, Hugh Roberts returning from his completed mission, and Thomas Evans‘ three brothers — Robert, Cadwallader, and Owen — with their families, but beyond that, none of the remaining emigrants can be identified with certainty. It is generally believed, however, that the dozen-or-so families that eventually settled Gwynedd sailed to America together.
To be continued in the November, 1992 edition.
Special thanks to Phil Johnson Ruth for this article.
Date: June 20, 1992
Time: 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Location: Foulkeways Retirement Community Route 202 & Sumneytown Pike
All family members are urged to attend
Call Bruce Foulke for more information (xxx) xxx-xxxx
Well, another Fall and Winter have passed and another year closer to the "Big Event" — the 300th year reunion of the descendants of Edward and Eleanor Foulke. My heart is growing with profound enthusiasm for this project because of the great response, support and participation that we are receiving (we hear from ten to twenty new family members each month).
At our last meeting we established a By-Law Committee. The members are working feverishly to complete the by-laws in order to set up a non-profit foundation to continue to preserve our heritage so that our children's children will be able to look back to see what we did in the 1990's.
On behalf of all of the committees, I would really like to extend an invitation to all family members to get involved with the Reunion. I know the committees could use another 50 to 100 or more people in order to prepare for our 1998 reunion. We could really use your input and knowledge and any time you could contribute to help your family.
On February 1, 1992 there was a Southeastern Regional Reunion held in Kissimmee, Florida which was successful in getting new family members, that had never met each other, to meet and get their input and ideas for the reunion. They saw a video tape of Coed Y Foel ISAF made by me in 1987. Many cousins have never seen the original Foulke homestead in Wales. We are hoping to promote regional reunions all over the country so that you can meet other family members and get your ideas.
One ironic note is that cousin Carol Laycock of Florissant, Missouri found two close relatives living near her. One was Andy Foulke who was living in the same apartment complex as Bob Foulke. Andy and Bob did not even know each other much less that they were related. It is a small world. One of our goals is to publish a Foulke address and phone list that will be distributed to every member of the family so that you can see who is living near you. I am sure you will be surprised to find our family spread across the country and how close some family members actually are to where you live.
On another note, our next Reunion Committee meeting will be held on Saturday, June 20, 1992 at the Foulkeways Retirement Community located at Route 202 and Sumneytown Pike in Gwynedd, PA. We would love to have a hundred or more cousins attend this meeting. There will be a video of "Coed-Y-Foel ISAF", pictures and books, and of course, your family members. There also will be another workshop segment where we will break out into various Committees. Again, we really need a tremendous number of people to help put this program together. Remember, it is your family and your heritage.
On a final note, I would like to remind everybody that, in order to be able to accomplish this reunion, we need to have family members contribute, $10.00 for a single person and $20.00 for a family every year, to help defray the cost of postage, compiling the newsletter, communications, etc. in preparing for this reunion. Please send your contributions and donations quickly. I hope to see everybody at the June 20th meeting and I know I definitely will see you at the 1998 reunion.
Have a happy and sunny summer.
Who do you know that may be one of the oldest living descendents of Edward and Eleanor Foulke?
This regal looking lady, Ruby Mabel Foulke, may well be the Matriarch. She was born December 24, 1891 on a farm in Clay County, Indiana near the small town of Cory. Her bearing still carries the marks of nobility passed on through the Foulke genes. Our ancestor Rhird Flaid would have been proud to call her his own.
Ruby is the last survivor of 10 children born to Silas Dudley Foulke and Sarah Trimmer. She descends from Edward and Eleanor through Hugh and Ann (Roberts) Foulke, Samuel and Ann (Greasley) Foulke, Judah and Sarah (McCarty) Foulke (moved to Ohio), John and Sarah (Hartley) Foulke (moved to Indiana), and Silas and Sarah (Trimmer) Foulke.
In 1914, Ruby married Howard Simpson Brown and had three children, Ruth and Robert (twins) and Rosemary. Robert died as an infant. Ruth is a novelist living in Peoria, Arizona and is thinking about attending the Reunion Committee Meeting in Gwynedd on June 20, 1992. Mother Ruby threatens to come along.
Ruby can be reached at xxxx xxxxxxxxxxxx, Peoria, AZ 85382. Be sure to remember Cousin Ruby on her 101st birthday with a Christmas Card greeting this year.
Harry Harvey Foulke (1872-1944) moved to Plymouth Meeting, PA in 1884 from Collegeville. It was here that he was selected by the artist Thomas Hovenden as the central figure in what was to become his most famous painting "Breaking the Home Ties". Hovenden, born in Ireland, settled in Plymouth Meeting with his wife in her ancestral home.
Harry Foulke was selected because he was said to depict "the typical rural youth, whose dreams of fame and fortune in a world beyond enticed him to ‘break the home ties‘ and seek world glory in other climes". The painting was exhibited at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 and voted the most popular picture. The original painting has traveled abroad and reproductions can be found around the world.
A reproduction of the painting can be found in the home of Mrs. Walter Foulke, Harry Foulke's daughter-in-law, in Lafayette Hill, PA. After searching galleries, antique shops and second-hand stores with no success, the reproduction was given to Mrs. Foulke by a near-by resident. The original painting hangs in the American Wing of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The first meeting of the Program Committee was held August 3, 1991. In attendance were eight Foulke cousins representing six States. The Committee established its goal: "to provide educational and fellowship events and activities for all ages and interests, in celebration of the 300th reunion of the Edward and Eleanor Foulke family, and of our Welsh heritage and culture".
To achieve that end, the Committee is working on some ideas. The first is the establishment of an Exhibition Center which could house musical events (Welsh dancing/singing), children's entertainment, a play depicting Foulke/Welsh history and booths for entertainment, crafts, food, information, souvenirs, and information on Foulke culture/history. Other ideas being considered are organized sporting events, hayride/picnic, tours of historical sites including Gwynedd Meeting, burying a time capsule, display and/or sale of handmade crafts and the assembly of a commemorative quilt.
The Program Committee wants to hear your ideas for possible events and activities. Please take a moment to write us and let us know what type of entertainment or programs, that you would like to see included at the 300th year family reunion.
Chairperson - Bruce Keller Foulke
Vice Chairperson - Edward Sidney Foulke
Treasurer - Lawrence Ray Foulke
Secretary - Melissa Taggart Foulke
Genealogist - Margaret Ann Foulke Hellmann
Members-At-Large - Carol Foulke Laycock
David Jenkins Morrison
Genealogy - Margaret Ann Hellmann, Chairperson
Historian - Brent Edward Foulke, Chairperson
Communications - Linda Foulke White, Chairperson
Finance - Lawrence Ray Foulke, Chairperson
Exhibition - Edwin Gerhart Foulke, Jr., Chairperson
Program - Carol Foulke Laycock, Chairperson
Transportation - Terry Foulke, Chairperson
By-Laws - Edward Sidney Foulke, Chairperson
All correspondence may be directed to:
300th Year Family Reunion Committee
Bruce K. Foulke
Box 768 Worcester, PA 19490
|Beginning balance as of 10/04/91||$1,330.58|
|Credits since 10/04/91|
|Picture sales through 03/02/92||$269.20|
|Total Credits - 10/04/91 to 03/02/92||$1,367.00|
|Debits since 10/04/91|
|Expense of Conference call of Executive Committee on 10/08/91||$138.20|
|Postage for November 1991 Newsletter||$147.32|
|Expenses for Picture Sales through 3/2/92||$155.77|
|Total Expenses - 11/24/91 to 10/4/91||(441.29)|
|Ending Balance as of 3/2/92||$2,256.29|
One of the Finance Committee's responsibilities is to raise money for the Family Reunion in 1998. Our first fund raiser is selling reproduction photographs.
For a donation of $10.00 per picture or $27.00 for all three (3), you may order 8 X 10 copies of three different historical photographs suitable for framing and passing down to your descendants.
These pictures have been made from high fidelity reproductions of photographs which appear in the memorial book published in 1898 in commemoration of the reunion of the descendants of Edward and Eleanor Foulke. The cost of making the high fidelity negatives from the original photographs was donated by a family member.
Photograph No. 1 is of the Old Foulke Mansion at Penllyn, PA. It was built at the site of Edward and Eleanor's home. The mansion was torn down in the early 1980's. A brief history of the Homestead at Penllyn was given in the first issue of the Foulke Family Herald published in April, 1991.
Photograph No. 2 is of Coed-y-Foel Isaf near Bala, North Wales taken in 1888. It was in this home, still standing, that Edward was born and lived until he and Eleanor came to America in May, 1698.
Photograph No. 3 was taken at the Reunion of Descendants of Edward and Eleanor Foulke held in Gwynedd, PA, on May 30, 1898. Over 500 descendants met at the Gwynedd Meeting House on that date to celebrate the landing in America of Edward and Eleanor Foulke and their nine children. Your great-great-grandfather or great-great-grandmother may be in this picture.
You may obtain copies of any or all of these pictures by returning the right hand portion of the enclosed Contribution/Picture Order form. The proceeds from the picture sales, above the cost of reproduction, will be donated to the Reunion Fund. Please state clearly how many copies of each photograph you desire. Make your check payable to the Foulke Reunion Committee in the amount of $10.00 for each or $27.00 for all three photographs plus $2.60 for postage.
"Dad bought the farm in 1915. It was the location he liked ... it was so quiet. There were lots of hickory trees, and there was this small cinder path that led right to the Quaker Meeting House."
These are recollections of Joe Hillegas, son of Jacob Hillegas, the last family to live in the Burgess Foulke home. Of course, that was before the construction of Route 309, which passed the home on the picture-side-right in the photo on this page.
The stone structure was built in 1812 by Edward Foulke (Edward, Hugh, John) in the simple form reflective of the Quaker lifestyle. It was his son, Edward Jr., who would go on to become the first burgess (mayor) of Quakertown when the borough became incorporated in 1855.
Life in the newly formed borough was somewhat simpler than now. The following ordinances we a sampling of those passed under Chief Burgess Foulke:
ORDINANCE NO. 1
ORDINANCE NO. 2 was a tax of 50 cents per year on lost dogs — approved June 16, 1855.
ORDINANCE NO. 3
As the years passed, Quakertown changed and grew, but managed to stay the same small farming community for as long as it could. My father, Raymond Herbert Foulke, and Joe Hillegas, both fondly remember harvest time when they were youngsters. My grandfather, Herbert Theophilus Foulke, apparently owned the only thresher in the area, so all the families would get together and harvest each farm one at a time until they were all done.
But progress knows no boundaries. The highway came through in approximately 1938, and so did the shopping centers and housing developments. Then in 1974, the Hillegas family was forced to sell the farm, as most of the other families were, and the fight began to save the Foulke home from the wrecking ball to make way for still another shopping center. Through the efforts of the Quakertown Historical Society and hundreds of borough residents support in the signing of petitions, etc., the demolition was delayed to give the Society time to make their plans. The home was purchased and the Society moved it from Route 309 & Lower Trumbauersville Road (now the site of the Country Square Shopping Center) to its current location on South Main Street, about 5 or 6 blocks from its original location.
Now part of the Society's historical building complex, the Burgess Foulke Home is utilized as a museum, housing artifacts and antiques donated by local citizens. Of particular interest to our family members is a rush-seat rocking chair which belonged to Edward and Eleanor Foulke from the late 1600's. The large kitchen fireplace is intact, and the Society is always working on something. Keep this home in mind for your visit to the area during the 1998 reunion. They have already agreed to have the house open when the time comes.
They are now planning to replace the windows. Most are still the original windows (you can tell by looking through the glass) and they desperately need renovation. They're receiving bids for the work and then must go through all the proper procedures for approval on the work since it is an historic building.
As for the quiet farm with all the hickory trees ... only one was left standing. The cinder path to the meeting house is gone, but the house was saved. If only the same valiant effort had been made before the Penllyn home was torn down.
The 300th Year Foulke Family Reunion Committee would like to acknowledge the commitment and generosity of the following family members who belong to the Tri-Centennial Club. Membership in the Tri-Centennial Club is granted to those family members who donate $100.00 to the Reunion Fund.
Bruce and Melissa Foulke
Chester and Martha Foulke
E. Sidney and Nancy Foulke
Larry and Janice Foulke
William G. Foulke and Louisa Foulke
Patrons of the Foulke Family Reunion Committee are those who donate $50.00 to the Reunion Fund. The Committee would also like to thank the following patrons for their generous support:
William D. and Melissa R. Foulke
Windell and Madonna Foulke