Cobb’s Creek and the Underground Railroad

March 14, 2014 update:  Leo “Jake” Murray has continued his wonderful research on the relationship between the Underground Railroad and Cobb’s Creek (see earlier February 25th update).  By working with leads from the Delaware County Historical Society, he summarizes his findings to the blog below:

The land Cobb’s Creek Golf Course occupies today was owned by Samuel Rhoads (1806-1868).  He was a cousin of Thomas and Edward Garrett and he was a Quaker as were the Garrett’s, Pennock and Sellers.  Rhoads was a good friend of Abraham L. Pennock.  They all worked together to help runaway slaves traveling north.  Rhoads, in addition to having an Underground Railroad station on his property, was a stockholder in the Underground Railroad.  Stockholders provided financial support for the Underground Railroad.  Rhoads traveled to England in 1834 and met many Quakers who were actively engaged in the anti-slavery movement.  On a second visit to England in 1847 he was able to raise considerable sums of money in addition to his own contributions.  The Philadelphia and West Chester Turnpike Road Company was formed in 1848 by a group of Quakers to build a toll road between the two cities, Samuel Rhoads was the President. On old maps from the mid 1800’s todays State Road is called New State Road and where it crosses Cobb’s Creek into Philadelphia it is called Pennock Street.  After his death in 1868 the land was sold to the city of Philadelphia.

In the book “Cobb’s Creek Golf Course Uncovering a Treasure” (page 218), a reference is made to buildings on the property, “An old homestead on the property that had recently been burned had been rebuilt as the women’s locker and dining room and the barn was remodeled for the men’s locker room and the course offices”.

Abraham L. Pennock and Samuel Rhoads were close friends.  Pennock owned the Howard House, a temperance inn, at the corner of West Chester Pike and Pennock Avenue, ( Pica’s Restaurant and parking lot occupies the site today).  The inn served meals and rented rooms to travelers.  It was also the location of a tollgate on the Philadelphia and West Chester Turnpike.  The Howard House played a role in the Underground Railroad.  It was a meeting place for abolitionists.  Tunnels from the building were found that led to Cobb’s Creek.  Southern businessmen traveling to Philadelphia often stopped at the inn and left their slaves there while they conducted business in Philadelphia.  Upon their return to the inn they would discover that their slaves were gone!  On maps from the mid 1800’s what is today Pennock Avenue extended north and across Cobb’s Creek for a short distance.