Tuesday, May 12, 2015


  While researching the Vandegrift family line I continued to come across a city or are of birth as Frankford. Having lived in Philadelphia i recalled there being a Frankford Avenue but not a city proper named Frankford. I also remembered fondly the loud rattle of the Frankford-Market elevated train. The hallmark of Frankford to me was the EL as it is affectionately called. So why would so many of the Vandegrift family list their homes in this are instead of Philadelphia? I decided to find out.
Of course it all begins with William Penn. He sold a tract of land along the Quessionwonmick River to the Society of Free Traders. The area was established by Dutch and Swedes, mostly trappers. The first meeting house was erected in 1683 and later a Post Office was ordered to be established by Penn in that same year. 
The Waln street meeting house in its present form is still the oldest meeting house in Philadelphia. It is known as a frequent stop for members of the Continental Congress meeting in secret meetings regarding independence from the English throne. 
The area was described at the time as " land with houses, barns, orchards, gardens, fence, enclosures, and improvements thereon.” It is a remarkable comment about the areas industry considering the area was wilderness just 18 years earlier.
The Frankford became a substantial area of commerce by the 18th century. th King's highway was laid out and roads to Bustleton and Asylum pike. In 1770 German immigrants established themselves and built a church and roads.
Frankford became incorporated as a borough of Philadelphia in mid 1800 so as this was a new face to community it would seem plausable that many would still consider their homes to be Frankford and thus use this in documenting their residence. In my research of my African-American ancestry Frankford became the focus as I stated earlier.    An A.M.E church was also named in some of these records of which I have located this photo.

In East Frankford during that time there were many old black families who resided there. Some of the old families were the Epps, the Smiths, the Blacks, the Brooks, the Grays, the Barretts, the Fletchers, the Millers, the Turpins, the Stewarts, and many more. Many of the families came from North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina and West Virginia.
      During that time, there were several black-owned businesses. There was also an all-black school were children were taught by excellent teachers. There was also three Afro-American doctors as my aunt was growing up — Doctor Levy, Tollivar and Pressley.
      During those years Frankford was a very safe place to live. People left their doors unlocked and opened all night. There was very little crime. The people had a great deal of fun.

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