BALA CYNWYD >> Every school child, by a certain grade, likely knows the story of the harsh winter of 1777-78 that Gen. George Washington’s troops spent at Valley Forge.
The part that Lower Merion Township, bordering the city of the new nation’s birthplace, played in those years of the War of Independence is probably less familiar.
More than 100 years ago, a plaque was placed on the grounds of the Church of St. John in Bala Cynwyd to memorialize one part of that story. More than 30 years ago, however, the tree on which the plaque was placed was cut down. The plaque was put into storage – and largely forgotten over the past decades.
“There were photographs of the marker, so its existence was known,” said Lower Merion Historical Society President Jerry Francis. When it was rediscovered last year in a house in Bala Cynwyd, a community effort was sparked to bring it home – and again highlight an important chapter in Lower Merion history.
That effort culminated in a rededication ceremony Nov. 1 on the church grounds at 404 Levering Mill Road.
Originally placed on the site by the Merion Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution on Washington’s Birthday, Feb. 22, 1919, it memorialized the encampment in August 1777 on this place of high ground of troops of the Fourth Battalion of the Georgia Continentals under Col. John White. Located in an area of farm and forest, with access to fresh water from nearby Vine Creek, the encampment was part of a campaign to protect Philadelphia from British invasion and capture.
With defeats that summer, the city was taken, and the Second Continental Congress moved west to Lancaster and then York. Washington encamped at Valley Forge that December.
Those events were related at the ceremony by Lower Merion Commissioner Brian McGuire, who participates with a Revolutionary War reenactment unit, the West Jersey Artillery Co.
To provide a fitting new base for the restored plaque, community partner West Laurel Hill Cemetery remounted the curved plaque on a block of Georgia granite, raised on another piece of Vermont granite for better visibility. To link the site to the infantrymen’s home state, the Historical Society of Georgia was invited to participate. It sent soil from the Savannah area, where many of the troops originated, to spread around the base.
Rededicating the marker, Bobbie McMullen, a regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and her husband, Joe McMullen, president of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, laid a wreath. Drawing a connection between the experience of the patriot soldiers who once held that ground and today’s volunteer military, veterans of conflicts from World War II to Vietnam to Desert Storm took part in the event.
The Lower Merion Historical Society has produced a brochure that details events surrounding the Georgia troops’ encampment on the site 238 years ago, along with information about the surrounding area, a predominantly Quaker enclave of farmers and householders, and their interaction with troops from both sides in the war during those years.
More information about the memorial plaque at the Church of St. John and Lower Merion’s Revolutionary War history can be found on the historical society’s website atwww.lowermerionhistory.org.
This article originally appeared in the Main Line Media News: http://www.mainlinemedianews.com/articles/2015/11/…