The 1804-1819 journals of Miers Fisher (kept during Fisher's retirement at Ury House) have not yet been consulted to see whether the Swedish settlement origins of Ury House are mentioned therein.

Note how the story of Ury House's Swedish origins, with the exception of the 1912 account, becomes increasingly embellished from 1892 to 1945.

Ury House -- circa 1645

Ury House is situated upon the Pine Road, on the hill crest of the divide between the Pennypack and the Tacony Creek waters.

Originally a fort built by Swedish Refugees in 1645...

There remained a square stone tower, built, as has been testified by comparison, of stone quarried close by. This tower consisted of a curious cellar, approached by solid stone steps leading to a door of wrought iron, supported on either side by tremendous stone drillings. Over the cellar was a square room, from which a steep stairway led to another, and over it, with sloping roofs and reached by a very rickety ladder, was a garret.

It is supposed that this tower was built by those Swedes who sailed up the Pennypack, and was used as a sort of fort and government house, the people living in huts scattered about in the forest, and only coming into the fort in case of an attack from neighboring Indians.
Rev. S. F. Hotchkin, M.A., The York Road, Old and New (Philadelphia: Binder & Kelly, Publishers, 1892), pp. 406-10.

The Swedes contributed no quota of Pennsylvania's population comparable to the other elements that entered into it, but their benefit to the Colony is not to be measured by a numerical yardstick. Even though their settlements along the Delaware persisted after their political severance from the parent country, they were soon merged into the life of later and more numerous settlements. When they disappeared as a social and political entity, however, they left ineradicable traces of their brief occupation and the communities that once owed allegiance to the Swedish Crown are the richer for their presence; their influence through their valued descendants has persisted to our own day with truly characteristic Scandinavian vigour.

The few Swedish buildings that remain belong almost altogether to the seventeenth century, and of these Ury House at Fox Chase is one, a building much changed and added to as the years have passed but, nevertheless, Swedish at the core. Almost hidden amid ancient trees, it stands on gently rolling land near Pine Road. As to its early history, the date of its building, and the purpose for which it was designed, there are no authentic records and we can say little more than that it was apparently meant for a trading post, or a fort, or perhaps both. We do know that Swedish settlers came up the Pennypack at a very early period and trafficked with the natives, and it is more than likely that Ury House owed its origin to them.

Tradition says that it was at first a fort built by refugees in 1645. For this there is absolutely no warrant. The Swedes did not seem to have been in the immediate neighborhood as early as 1645, and if they were they were certainly not numerous enough to warrant building a fort; furthermore, it is rather difficult to explain from whom and from what they could have been refugees in 1645. As far as the Indians were concerned, a fort so near the older settlement was unnecessary, for relations with the red men were friendly. It is far more probable, from what we know of contemporary history, that it was a combined trading-post and block-house built some years later, perhaps between 1655 and 1665, and that the defense for which it was needed was not against the Indians, but against the Dutch, with whom there were frequent hostilities about that time. However, be that as it may, there can be little doubt that Ury considerably antedates the coming of Penn to the Delaware River and its fertile shores.
Harold Donaldson Eberlein and Horace Mather Lippincott, The Colonial Homes of Philadelphia and Its Neighborhoods (1912), pp. 312-317.

Ury House on Pine Road near the old village of Fox Chase embodies one of the earliest structures--if not, indeed, the earliest--in all Pennsylvania. In just what year the oldest part of the house was built, it is impossible to say. All existing evidences and tradition, however, point to a date somewhere about 1645 for the building of the Swedish fort or blockhouse, the nucleus around which the rest of the structure has grown.

The story goes that a Swedish ship bearing colonialists to settle in New Sweden, coming up the Delaware at night, unwittingly sailed past the intended landing at the mouth of the Christiana. At daylight, the colonialists found themselves opposite the mouth of Pennypack Creek. They landed and camped on the flat rising ground beyond the flats along the river bank. Here they built the fort which became the heart of the present Ury House.

In the cellar of the house there was a forge, a bake oven was set in the kitchen wall, and there were sleeping quarters in the upper story. Thither the settlers came from their surrounding cabins to bake their bread, shoe their horses, weld their farm implements and mold their leaden bullets. When need arose, the fort gave refuge from hostile Indians, or--what is much more likely--from interloping Dutchmen from the Hudson. The Swedes usually preserved friendly relations with all the Indians.
Harold Donaldson Eberlein and Cortlandt Van Dyke Hubbard, "Colonial Philadelphia No. 13 Ury House" (Evening Public Ledger, 1939.10.03).

Its youth belongs to the forest-clearing 17th century. Storybook like, the history began one dark night in 1645 when a Swedish bark lost its way coming up the Delaware and anchored far upstream.

In the morning the colonists liking the appearance of things around them, decided to start life anew on the spot. So, nine miles inland on the first high ground above the river flats--about half a mile northeast in Pine rd. of the present Fox Chase Inn--the woods soon rang with Swedes building a blockhouse. For generations it served as a fort against Indians and marauding Dutchmen from the Hudson, and later as the foundation for the present mansion.
Manning Smith, "Sisters in Historic Mansion Hold Off Invaders" (Philadelphia Record, 1940.01.29.

That raftered room, Swedes Hall, is part of the original blockhouse built in 1645. We understand that a Swedish ship with colonists planning to settle on the Delaware, sailed up the river at night and missed the landing at the mouth of the Christiana. At daybreak, the voyagers found themselves opposite the mouth of the Pennypack Creek and they were so glad to see a place to land after tossing around for weeks on the North Atlantic in a filthy little cockleshell that it made little difference to them where they landed. So they bustled right up to the first rising ground beyond the flats bordering the creek and there constructed the fort which became the nucleus of Ury House.

In the cellar, they had a forge and an oven, and settlers came there to shoe their horses, mold lead bullets and bake their bread. Sleeping quarters were in the upper story. The fort was their refuge against marauding Dutchmen from the Hudson, or hostile Red Men, though the Swedes were usually on good terms with all Indians.
Rex Rittenhouse, "Ury House Guest Was Victim Of Jittery Maid" (Philadelphia: The Evening Bulletin, 1945.10.21).



Quondam © 2007.02.26