“I was born in the year of our Lord 1760, on February 14th, a slave to Benjamin Chew, of Philadelphia.” – Excerpt from Bishop Richard Allen’s autobiography.
Richard Allen is most famous for founding and becoming the first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Before starting his ministry, however, Allen was a slave in Delaware. Upon purchasing his freedom, Richard took up the surname Allen to indicate his free status.
After gaining his freedom, he preached to both black and white congregations while also working as a sawyer, wagon driver, and shoemaker if he ever needed some money. He first started preaching in Philadelphia at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church. After a dispute over the segregation of the congregation, Allen and others moved to a new location, that became known as Bethel AME Church, on July 29, 1794.
During the Battle of Germantown in October, 1777, a wounded British soldier etched this image in his own blood in the remaining moments of his life. The image is believed to be that of a girlfriend or loved one.
The portrait was not disturbed by the Chew family and remains an iconic image at Cliveden, and can still be viewed on the wall of the second floor bedroom near where the solider once lay.
A scientific examination confirmed the portrait to be organic material – it is not paint. This photo is emphasized by blue light as a visual aid. Can you see the woman’s profile?
In 1814, Charity Castle sued for her freedom. She landed at the center of a legal dispute involving Pennsylvania’s Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery. The law stated that any enslaved person who was “retained” in the state for more than six months would become free. After Charity’s six month stay at Cliveden, arrangements were made for Charity to be sent back to the Carroll Estate in Maryland. The night before her departure, she suffered a terrible and mysterious accident while collecting firewood. Her debilitated state prevented her from returning to Maryland, resulting in an a series of heated correspondence among Chew and other prominent Philadelphia lawyers. Sadly, we do not know what became of Charity following this incident.
Little information is known about the lives of many enslaved Africans, however some of the Chew family paper documents maintained by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania can help show a small glimpse into their lives. This is a document about an enslaved woman named Molly enslaved by Sam Chew in the 1800’s. The document is a transfer of ownership. Molly’s name changes 5 times.
Click Here to visit The Historical Society of Pennsylvania website to learn more and explore other Chew Family Papers. This extensive collection documents the lives of the Maryland and Pennsylvania branches of the Chew family through seven generations.
Benjamin Chew was a legal scholar, successful lawyer, head of the Pennsylvania Judiciary System, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Province of Pennsylvania. He built Cliveden from 1763 to 1767. Trained in law by Andrew Hamilton at an early age, Chew was greatly influence by his mentor’s ideas about the right to free speech. He also inherited many of Hamilton’s clients, including Governor John Penn and Thomas Penn, descendants of the Philadelphia founder William Penn.
Benjamin Chew married Mary Galloway, his mother’s niece and his own cousin, on June 13, 1747. After her death in 1755, he married again on September 12, 1757, to Elizabeth Oswald, heir to the estate of the Union Forge Ironworks, a company that produced cannonballs for the American Army.
Having greatly increased both wealth and property holdings when he married Elizabeth Oswald, Chew’s considerable landholdings were cared for by enslaved workers. He owned nine plantations throughout Maryland and Delaware, as well as several thousand acres of land across Pennsylvania.
After his father’s death, Benjamin Jr. inherited a large share of the family fortune, the family’s summer mansion, as well as other properties and stock holdings. In October 1817, he purchased a 12 acre tract of land from Jacob Clemens to enlarge Cliveden’s grounds.
Ben Jr. was committed to improving education. From 1805 and 1811, he made attempts to open a school in Germantown with other educators from Baltimore and several New England cities. He served as a Trustee of Germantown Academy from 1799 to 1802 and then again from 1803 until his death in 1844. He was also a Trustee of the University of Pennsylvania from 1810 until his death.
Ben Jr. also had the honor of hosting a morning reception for the Marquis de Lafayette on July 20, 1825 – the first time a house in Philadelphia was open to the public as a museum. Unfortunately, Ben Jr. suffered under financial constraints because his siblings and children were irresponsible with the family fortune. He chose not to bequeath Cliveden to his son Benjamin III, also known as “Bad Ben.”
Historians at Cliveden dubbed Ben III as “Ben Ben” because of all the trouble he stirred. Starting from his days as a school boy, Ben was described as a distracted student, compared to his younger brother Sam. According to a letter written about Ben’s progress at boarding school, he was independent and strong-willed, often clashing with his fellow students and his teachers.
His inclination toward trouble carried over to his adult life. When Ben found out he was not to inherit Cliveden from his father, Ben did everything he could to disinherit his other siblings. He tried persuading his mother against them in private conversations. The family affair became a heated dispute at court over the family’s property and fortune. Ben’s presence at court became frequent. He was a heavy drinker, with increasing erratic behavior. He even made physical threats to his sister, Anne Sophia Penn Chew. He was eventually disinherited by the family.
John Chew (Feb. 12, 1946 – Dec. 24, 2013)
For decades John Chew has been highly invested in Cliveden’s preservation, education, and development. John is, of course, a descendant of the Chew family, and currently an active board member at Cliveden.
John’s contributions to the recent expansion of the interpretation projects has been essential. He is responsible for the artistic quality of the current Cliveden logo design, and created this in collaboration with Cliveden staff. John also participated in the making of the visitor orientation film Emancipating Cliveden, and his voice can be heard by all who come to tour the museum.
Samuel Chew was Anne Sophia Penn Chew’s nephew. He was only an undergraduate student at Harvard College at age 21 when he inherited Cliveden. As a young boy, Sam’s mother, Mary, was devoted and affectionate to Sam, but Sam seemed to crave her attention.
“I think if you took an interest in me I might amount to something. I am dependent however and am a domestic animal and need a lot of care and attention when at home and at out of working house, (not as much though as the little dog). Don’t you think you could ever concentrate to give me what little I crave, instead of nursing the dog, and giving the rest of your valuable energy and intelligence to Stenton and Independence Hall!”
As a young man, he impersonated Chief Justice Benjamin Chew at a pageant celebrating the 135th anniversary of the Battle of Germantown. As a middle aged man, Sam volunteered in the Red Cross Ambulance Corps in France during the War.
Sam Chew V was the last member of the Chew family to own and live at Cliveden from the years 1958 – 1971, and then he donated Cliveden to the National Trust in 1972. Click here to read Cliveden under Samuel Chew V written by Nancy Richards in 1993.
Sam Chew, Jr. graduated from Temple University, class of 1965. He worked as an announcer and a DJ in Philadelphia before moving to Hollywood in 1965. He was a contract player at 20th Century Fox from 1966-1968. He has appeared in hundreds of TV shows such as Love Boat, Dynasty, Eight Is Enough, Cannon, Mannix, Barnaby Jones, among others as a guest star. He was an active commercial/spokesperson field, and did extensive narration and voice-over work.
Sam also participated in the making of the visitor orientation film Emancipating Cliveden, and his voice can be heard by all who come to tour the museum.
Anne Sophia Penn Chew restored and preserved Cliveden for the Chews. Her main mission for Cliveden was to stabilize the building and to renovate the outdated kitchen. She had the shingles replaced, installed new down spouts and drains, plastered areas with leaks, and painted the walls. Anne also had an addition built on the north rear side of the house. The extension of the house not only maintained Cliveden’s original structure, but it also provided new modern luxuries: forced air heating, indoor plumbing, and gas lighting. All of these new renovations brought comfort and convenience for the family, allowing them to spend more time living at Cliveden.
Anne Sophia Penn Chew was born in June of 1862 to “Centennial Sam” Chew and Mary Johnson Brown Chew. During her childhood, Anne spent a portion if her summers at Cliveden, and in 1868, with the completion of the north addition on the house, the whole family spent more time here. Growing up, Anne divided her time between this property and the family’s other estates; Vanor and the Townhouse.
On September 2, 1894, Anne Sophia Penn Chew married Vere Speke Alston. Alston was on the of the judges of the Court of Appeal of the Native Tribunal in Cairo, Egypt and he had met Anne when she visited Cairo several years earlier. This was only the second wedding to ever take place at Cliveden, after the wedding of Anne’s great aunt Eliza to James Murray Mason in 1822.
Directly following the wedding, Anne moved to Cairo with Vere Speke and she spent the rest of her life traveling between their home in Cairo and his properties in England and other parts of Europe.
Mary married a Chew. Mary’s marriage into the Chew family with Samuel Chew, Anne’s nephew, came with perfect timing. As the daughter of wealthy Philadelphia industrialist David Sands Brown (1800-1877), Mary had a large dowry that helped revitalize the Chew family fortune. But more importantly, Mary had a passion for preserving colonial landmarks, such as Independence Hall, Stenton, and Cliveden.
She was a strong female figure in Germantown who invested a large portion of her time at public events and entertained many guests.
As Sam and Mary’s only daughter, “Bessie” revived Cliveden’s reputation and gradually opened it to the public. She hosted the first reenactment of the Battle of Germantown in 1927, gave tours, subsidized research on the Chief Justice, and even proposed turning Cliveden into a museum in 1939. Bessie also added new bathrooms and redecorated the house in the popular Colonial Revival style.
Sam and his wife, Mary Brown Johnson, shared an interest in historic preservation. Sam’s goal was for Cliveden to be recognized as a historical monument.
Sam was also very artistic. Below are some of his sketches and paintings from 1855-1863. His interests in art may be why he commissioned the portrait of Chief Justice Benjamin Chew, The Lafayette Reception, and Cliveden During the Battle of Germantown, along with a series of photographs featuring Cliveden.
The youngest of six, Oswald had a lot of attention and care while growing up. He had a private tutor from France who supervised his classroom studies in literature, penmanship, history, math, and French. He also took dancing classes, drawing lessons, and was a member of the Athletic Club. Photography was only one of his many hobbies, encouraged by his mother, Mary. Mary spent a lot of time with Oswald, reading books about history, animals, and bible stories. During WWI, Oswald served with the Red Cross Ambulance Corps in France.
William was passionate about writing. He wrote not only a large number of articles and letter, but also interesting essays reflecting his political and social views, and even poetry. His writing reflects the drama in his life. For example, he wrote a poem about his ardent love for his cousin Mary Bayard. Unfortunately, Mary was already married. In a diary entry, he wrote angrily about how his brother Anthony frequently came home drunk.
The Marquis de Lafayette was a young French military officer who helped the Americans win the Revolutionary War. At age 19, he taught the American soldiers techniques in battle retreats. A favorite of George Washington and a hero among the Americans, Lafayette was given an Honorary American Citizenship.
A well publicized reception for Lafayette took place at Cliveden on July 20, 1825. His reception was a great honor for the Chew family. Lafayette has been quoted as vocally opposing the enslavement of Africans taking place in America after his visit.
James Smith was enslaved in Chestertown, Maryland where he bought his freedom before coming to Cliveden. He joined the Chew family’s staff as a coachman in 1819, and later on served as their general servant until his death.
As a general servant, Smith carried out a variety of tasks. He often made the fire, cleaned the pots, and fetched coal and firewood. Anne Sophia Penn Chew was especially fond of Smith and often asked him to go into town for her personal needs. Smith is the only known servant at Cliveden to have been professionally photographed, possibly reflecting the favoritism Smith enjoyed from the Chew family.
Smith served the Chews long and faithfully for over half a century, up until his death in January 1871. He was found dead, lying with a basket of firewood by his side. Given his lengthy obituary in the local newspaper, it is likely that Smith was well respected by the town’s people. Smith is described to have been a friendly and much esteemed old man.
Hannah Welsh (1836 – )
Hannah Welsh, an Irish woman, was one of three servants Anne Sophia Penn Chew brought upon her return to Cliveden in the fall of 1857. Little is known about Hannah Welsh before she started working at Cliveden, but Anne’s diary entries reveal that Hannah did not enjoy working for the Chews. Hannah was a domestic servant at Cliveden in the mid-19th century who started out as a cook for the Chew family, but she hated her job because of its long, hard hours. Instead, she insisted that her salary be raised and that her position at Cliveden be reassigned as a housemaid, a less strenuous position.
Anne was not particularly fond of Hannah. She describes Hannah to be “overbearing to other servants, [and] disinclined to obey directions.” Hannah did not get along with the new cook, who quit within one week. Anne’s tense relationship with Hannah heightened when the Chew family began running low on cash. Anne struggled to pay Hannah’s salary. She even suspected that Hannah remained with the Chews only with hopes of gaining a small portion of the Chew inheritance.
During her time at Cliveden, Hannah lived on the third floor of the main house. Aside from her responsibilities as a housemaid, Hannah also bought Anne’s clothing and essentials. She remained on the Chew staff until the 1880’s.