National Geographic : 1960 Aug
Philadelphia Houses a Proud Past thread to the leg of each, loose enough not to hurt the part, but so fastened that no exertions of theirs could remove it." The following spring he had the gratification of finding two birds with "the little ring on the leg." Audubon was the first birdbander in the United States. We found the old fieldstone farmhouse at Mill Grove well preserved as a national shrine to the memory of John James Audubon. Mr. J. d'Arcy Northwood, curator of Mill Grove and its wildlife sanctuary, attends to the feed ing stations, checks numerous nesting boxes, and oversees a plant nursery of hundreds of trees and fruit-bearing shrubs. For the bene fit of bird watchers and the pleasure of all nature lovers, five miles of trails wind through the 120-acre preserve's wooded hills and fields beside the Perkiomen. Learning that Northwood in his seven years here had recorded 152 bird species, Howell asked about rare examples. "During the winter of 1956-57 we had a 'chickmouse' on the place," the curator said. "Chickmouse?" "Well, that's our name for a cross between a chickadee and a titmouse," Northwood ex plained. "To prove to doubters that there really is such a creature, we netted the chick mouse. After a few people had seen it, we let it go because we couldn't bear to keep the bird in captivity." Later we learned that other ornithologists have reported seeing "chickmice." Seven bird miles south of Mill Grove stands Waynesborough, birthplace of Revolutionary Gen. Anthony Wayne and present home of his great-great-great-grandson, William. The charmingly asymmetrical fieldstone dwelling dates from 1724. Anthony's grandfather built it, and Mr. William Wayne is the eighth generation to occupy the family homestead. Not counting two dogs and some pet geese, he lives alone. Alone? Well, not entirely. No one could be alone in a house so completely impregnated with the spirit of the Revolutionary general, in a house so well furnished with memorabilia of "Mad Anthony." One almost expects to see him burst into the front parlor, making the crossed swords above his portrait rattle and the brace of pistols dance on the chimney mantel (page 166). Sitting on the back veranda with Mr. Wayne, we enjoyed a vista probably un changed since the days of Anthony. No other house appeared among the groves or marred the gentle lines of the rolling meadows. "That large clump of boxwood at the far end of the lawn caused some red faces among the redcoats," said Mr. Wayne. "They had come here looking for my great-great-great grandfather. When the British got to the box bush, they repeatedly applied their bay onets, sure the general must be hiding there. And all the while he was three miles away, much too busy with his disordered Conti nentals at Paoli to think of hiding anywhere." Washington Slept Here, but Badly As a result of the Paoli Massacre, Anthony Wayne was court-martialed for his defeat (and fully exonerated) in the parlor of a house called Dawesfield. This rambling stone home sheltered two other distinguished Revo lutionary generals (page 168). Lafayette, nursing a wound sustained at the Brandywine, slept in the entrance hall because he couldn't climb the stairs to a bed room. Directly above the hall General Washing ton spent a dozen troubled nights. After the unsuccessful encounter with the British at near-by Germantown, he could face only with misgivings the prospects of wintering at Val ley Forge. At Dawesfield we met Mr. and Mrs. James Cheston IV who, while making it their emi nently livable home, have guarded many of its features that speak of the past. They showed us upstairs to the room used by George Washington. A plaque on the foot board of a four-poster told that "General Washington slept in this bedstead during the encampment at Whitpain. Oct. 21st to Nov. 2nd 1777." The American commander in chief had to decide whether to cross or not to cross the Delaware River. Should he drag his miser able little army of ill-equipped, hungry, suf fering soldiers into winter battle against far superior British forces strongly entrenched at Trenton, New Jersey? In effect, General Washington had to decide whether to keep the Revolution going or to abandon the cause of freedom. Being George Washington, he chose the course of greatest resistance. He reached this decision in a Bucks County farmhouse-the Thompson-Neely house-then the headquar ters of Gen. William Alexander, titular Earl of Stirling, who sided with the Americans.