The writer of rambles usually does not travel far, and seldom to wilderness; he or she is primarily interested in a loving study of the near. . . . The author goes forth into nature, usually on a short excursion near home, and records the walk as observer-participant” (Lyon 277-79).

Prep & Gear

On this expedition, a kind of introductory ramble around Little Crum Creek, we’ll discover the waterway’s geographical and historical place in the Crum Creek watershed.

A variety of reports, maps, histories, neighborly conversations, and personal experiences mark our trail.

I’ll point out these sources along the way. For those who want to branch off and explore them, there will be links to online documents and parenthetical references to texts listed on the Library page. 

Finally, our ramble is split into several sections.  You can scroll through them all or jump directly to any one of them by clicking on a heading below:

Introduction to Little Crum Creek and Our Watershed
Native Americans and European Settlement
History of Activity on lower Crum Creek
History of Activity on Little Crum Creek
The Great Flood
State of the Watershed
Community Care for the Creeks

That should be all we need.  So, if you’re all set, let’s get going …


Introduction to Little Crum Creek and Our Watershed    
The Course of Little Crum Creek  

Little Crum Creek is a modest little tributary. It covers between 3-4 miles of Delaware County in southeastern Pennsylvania before joining Crum Creek on its journey to the Delaware River.               

The spring waters of Little Crum Creek surface in Swarthmore as a few trickles meandering through suburban yards.               

The growing creek continues its residential flow through Ridley Township, where its wooded riparian buffer widens a way between rows of homes behind Ridley High School.                

This water then bends to border commercially congested traffic along Morton Avenue en route to East Lake Park and Ridley Park Lake.       

What water spills over the lake’s far end flows on to the border of Ridley Park and Eddystone. Here Little Crum Creek meets Crum Creek, whose lower portion has been running roughly parallel to Little Crum’s entire course.               

From this confluence, Crum Creek flows into the Delaware River, less than a mile to the east, on its way to the Atlantic Ocean.               


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The full course of Little Crum Creek flowing into Crum Creek and the Delaware River in the lower third of the Crum Creek Watershed (Excerpted from "Watersheds").


Crum Creek Watershed               

Little Crum Creek flows through the lower portion of the Crum Creek Watershed.  In its entirety, this watershed covers 24 miles through parts of both Chester and Delaware Counties.               

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) describes it as “a 38-square mile suburban area west of Philadelphia that drains a network of streams, wetlands and groundwater aquifer from its headwaters at Malvern to its confluence with the Delaware River” (CRC et  al, Chap IV 13).              


Native Americans and European Settlement of the Lower Crum Watershed       


Description by Henry Ashmead in his 1884 History of Delaware County (1).


By the time of Henry Ashmead’s idyllic presentation of our county in 1884, much of Pennsylvania’s native woodlands had long been transformed into farmland.  Just as such development reshaped the land and streams then, subsequent developers of towns and railroads produced maps and histories that help shape our understanding of Little Crum Creek today.               

Our experience and appreciation of the Crum Creek Watershed is therefore inseparable from local history.               

The Swedish, for example, landed along the Delaware River in 1643 and established Pennsylvania’s first settlement.  From them, we inherit the name we have today for our creeks. Crum means “crooked.”               

The Dutch, arriving in 1655, also left their mark:     



Early Dutch settlements in the area left us with the term "kill," used for creeks, streams, or rivers -- "Schuylkill," for example. This 1880 map shows that Crum Creek was also known as "Crump Kill." Likewise, Little Crum Creek was sometimes "Little Crump Kill" (Map detail: Smith "Ridley 14").


But before the Europeans arrived, this area was populated by the Lenni Lenape, meaning the “common people,” or even the “original people, those who live along streams” (CRC et alChap VIII, 75).  Settlers knew them as the Delaware Indians because they lived along the Delaware River and its tributaries.

To the Lenape, this river was sacred.  Lenapewihitak, the River of the Lenape,  was the center of their Nation, “the backbone” of the people (Hitakonanu’laxk 6, 9). 

Geographically speaking, any Lenape living in the vicinity of our lower Crum Watershed would be called the Unami or “Down the River People.”  The Unami were associated with the symbol of a turtle. This was both a badge of honor and a reminder of their place within nature.  The Lenape have multiple creation myths, but they generally agree on this: when the world was covered in water, all of nature sprung to life on the back of a turtle.  The turtle is the earth itself (Carter 9; Brinton 39; Hit. 45-52; Weslager 66).  

North America is thereby known to many Native Americans as Turtle Island.  The Lenape lived upon a share that they call Lenape’hokink.  Here they flourished as tribe, clans, and subtribes populating the river and streams of our region.         



From the 1894 edition of Wiley & Garner's Cyclopedia (28).


Determining the exact names used by native inhabitants proves difficult for early historians.  Scharf and Westcott suggest that Crum Creek was known as “Paperack or Peskohocken in Indian dialect,” but “the Indians seem to have no standard titles for their streams” (S&W 5).  Troubled by the unreliability of phonetic transliteration into Swedish, Dutch, and English, historians like Scharf & Westcott  deem most “Indian words and their translations” as “allegations rather than facts” (9).            

As Wiley regrets,            

“Although the first settlers came in contact with all of these tribes, traveled over their villages, yet they failed to either make record or hand down to the present through tradition the names of the tribes and the locations of their trails and villages … Their neglect permitted the fast-fading traditions of tribe and village and of chief and trail to pass from recollection and sink into oblivion” (28).            

Nonetheless, settlers would have benefitted greatly from native knowledge of the land and waterways, both directly and indirectly.  Even when not personally guided, they would have followed native trails to important  springs, streams, and hunting grounds.  Their paths and roads would have been worn and built along what the Lenape and other native people had already written into the natural landscape.            

“By 1755,” notes Wiley, “the Delawares had left the county” (28).  Other reports indicate that the last of the Lenape in this area were forcibly moved to Oklahoma in the 19th century (CRC et al, Chap VIII 76). Still others note that many stayed behind, blending in with the new culture (Hit. 32; see also Lenape Nation). In each instance, much native wisdom and memory of the land was either lost or obscured.            

What specific history we can know of Little Crum Creek, then, must be gleaned from the records of European settlement along the Delaware River and inland.     

By the 1680s, the English were acquiring land previously settled by the Swedish and Dutch.  And in 1682, William Penn arrived to claim land granted him by King Charles II.     

Before the year was out, Penn sold land to friend John Simcock.  In addition to a subsequent land grant, this area became Ridley Township.  Simcock then built a house along Little Crum Creek (Lockhart, History 8-9), continuing an unceasing interaction between the settlers and streams of the Crum watershed.            

Farmers would steadily settle the land throughout the 18th century, utilizing their shares of Crum and Little Crum Creeks while fashioning the pastoral landscape so appealing to Ashmead in 1844.        


History of Activity on the lower Crum Creek           

Due to its navigable length and volume, commercial enterprise was often drawn to Crum Creek’s course through Delaware County to the Delaware River.            

Along the lower third portion of this creek, stretching from Swarthmore to the Delaware, and roughly parallel to the whole length of Little  Crum Creek, these commercial ambitions were especially embodied in the lasting impressions of Thomas Leiper.      

At the end of the 18th century, Leiper was operating rock quarries along Crum Creek in both Ridley and Nether Providence.  Leiper transported stone from his Crum Creek quarries to Ridley Creek by a horse-drawn railway he built in 1809, often cited as the first railway in the United States.  His son George supplanted the railway in 1829 with a canal stretching from Avondale to Leiperville near the conjunction of Crum and Little Crum Creeks.  While this canal has long been refilled since last used in 1852, a quarry at Blackrock Park in Swarthmorewood was evident until the 1980s, as many youthful explorers and rock-climbers of the 20th century will still remember today.       



Crum Falls in Winter.


Several dams and mills populated Crum Creek’s banks.  Two obvious effects of these enterprises along the creek are still visible about a mile west of where the Little Crum crosses Yale Avenue in Swarthmore.  The first is a dam along the same road.  The second is a park on nearby Avondale Road in Nether Providence.           

The overflowing dam, known by many today as “the falls,” once widened the creek to form Strath Haven Lake.      

From the road, one might recognize a house by the dam where professor Fredric Klees wrote and illustrated his 1963 “almanac” of natural observations, The Round of the Year.       



Crum Creek at Leiper House.


The park, named for Thomas Leiper, was once submerged under the dammed up creek and called Leiper Pond.  Old maps show that the dam served mills  just below it and must have figured useful in George Leiper’s canal.           

These features are well-known to those who frequent Crum Creek.  The sound of roaring falls washes over your car rushing by on the road.  And downstream one can still scramble the creek rapids on quarry stones that might have comprised some of the old Leiper pond dam.  Why not take a tour of Leiper’s summer home some weekend? You can step through its windows to the porch and take in the view once enjoyed by the family.    



Strath Haven Lake, its dam (the falls), and Leiper Pond are all visible on this 1910 map (Kiser, Plate 21). The inset shows a spring water company just below Leiper Pond.


History of Activity on Little Crum Creek           

Leiper’s enterprise stretched all the way down Crum Creek to its meeting with Little Crum Creek, just downstream of Leiperville (presently Crum Lynne).      

This is a good place to start tracking the history of Little Crum Creek as we travel geographically upstream.      

In 1797, Caleb Davis and Isaac Culin together built a saw mill and water-works at the confluence of Crum and Little Crum Creeks.  Here they built a dam and channeled a race from Little Crum Creek to feed the mill.  For all this effort, the short-lived enterprise was sold in 1806, changed hands a few times, and was abandoned by the middle of the 19th century (Ashmead 743).           



Little Crum Creek (here called "Crum Lynne Creek") meets Crum Creek on its way to the Delaware River in 1889 (Smith, Plate 22).


Just upstream of this junction is perhaps Little Crum Creek’s most recognizable  feature.  In 1872, developer Isaac Hinckley purchased eight farms and hired landscape architect Robert Copeland to design a town that he would name Ridley Park.  Part of that bucolic design, to the delight of countless picnickers, fishermen, fireworks lovers, Victorian Fair goers, and ice skaters ever since, was the creation of Ridley Park Lake.  Early maps name it Crum Lynne Lake, “lynne” being a verbal flourish for lake or waterfall (Lockhart, History 52, 114).  Likewise, Little Crum Creek came to be called Crum Lynne Creek.            



1889 map detail from Smith, Plate 23.


Henry Ashmead dependably pens an appealing picture of the place.  Among the commendable qualities he attributes to the young town are “the healthfulness of the locality,” its “proximity to Philadelphia,” and “its freedom from malaria” (747).        



Source: Ashmead 747.


Drawings from an 1875 book on railroad travel depict a couple of Ridley Park scenes from these early days.  The first is a boating picture that might or might not be on Crum Lynne/Ridley Park Lake.  The second is almost certainly a romantic impression of the lake’s namesake falls.          



A drawing titled "Ridley Park" (Philadelphia 47).



The "Crum Lynne Falls" of Ridley Park Lake (Philadelphia 48).


Just upstream of Ridley Park Lake, and over eighty years prior to that lake’s creation, a grist and saw mill operation went into business along Little Crum Creek on Haverford Road in present-day Milmont Park. In fact, Milmont owes its name to “Millmount,” which characterizes the high foundation of the mill on a mount along the creek (Lockhart, History 94). While some stories about the mill’s role in the American Revolution have been passed along (by Ashmead, for example), historian Keith Lockhart has traced tax records for the property only as far back as 1790. From that time, it was successfully operated as some sort of mill until 1917.            

On July 1, 1864, at the time of another American war, the following notice appeared in a newspaper called the Delaware County Republican:  


Advertisement NEW GRIST MILL. – The subscriber having purchased the MILL PROPERTY, formerly belonging to Henry Effinger, on LITTLE CRUM CREEK in RIDLEY Township, Delaware county, about one mile from Leiperville, and has lately fitted it up with the most approved Machinery, is now prepared to all kinds of GRIST WORK at the shortest notice.  He will also keep constantly on hand a supply of FLOUR and FEED for sale.  Having had several years experience in the MILLING BUSINESS, he feels confident that he will be able to give satisfaction to all who may favor him with their custom.  The market price will be paid for all kinds of grain. SAMUEL HICKMAN.            


A map from this era gives us an idea of where the mill was located:    



We can see the Hickman mill on this 1892 map. Haverford Rd runs from the lower left to the upper right, where it connects with current-day Morton Ave. Today, this is the intersection of Haverford, Morton, and MacDade. The lake at the top of this image fed the mill and is no longer there ( Miller, Plate 9).


Those familiar with Ridley Township today might wonder about that large body of water just upstream of the Haverford Rd mill.        

In fact, on the opposite side of  where we’d see Macdade Blvd  today, there was a lake of considerable size.   The unnamed body of water appears on maps as early as 1870, thereby preceding the digging of Ridley Park Lake, and as late as 1909, when it has diminished considerably to the size of a pond.  As the maps show, the lake fed a race to the Haverford Road mills.             

By the 1940s, according to one lifetime local’s account, the lakeland was pasture and the pond a stream again.  Father Nall held cornboils with dancing along the creek.  A rope hung over a favorite swimming hole.  And the water was wide enough to ice skate far upstream in winter.            

Today this former lake area of Little Crum Creek is a softball field tucked between the Ridley Brook Apartments and a portion of Arlington Ave constructed on pastures in the 1950s.    



In 1892, a lake (Miller, Plate 11).


By 1910, a pond (Kiser, plate 20).


Smaller bodies of water have not been uncommon along Little Crum Creek.  In fact, one small pond is still visible today beside a house along Michigan Avenue.   



On this 1910 map, Michigan Ave cuts from the upper left to lower right where it would intersectwith Morton Ave. The pond is visible on the Calvert property (Kiser, Plate 20).


Following Little Crum Creek upstream through Swarthmore toward the end of the 19th century, we would have met another lake or pond. Today, this body of water would be in the vicinity of Little Crum Creek Park at the junction of Yale & Swarthmore Avenues.            

During this same period, we could have walked the creek banks to Swarthmore’s north side where we’d have run into   “Glove Lake.”  Whether or not some kind of pond remains on private property there, I don’t know.  Several spring pools possibly dot people’s properties along the course of Little Crum Creek, just as several small springs trickle from yards into the little creek’s main branch.            

Finally, a small walk away, we’d come to the most commonly acknowledged spring source of Little Crum Creek’s main branch.  Today it is located by the junction of Swarthmore Ave and Chester Rd (rt 320).  On the 1892 map below, Swarthmore Ave is named Lazaretto Road.      



Left to right, 1892: the spring source of Little Crum Creek, Glove Lake, and the lake near today's Little Crum Creek Park (Miller, Plate 13). Don't forget to click on maps to make them bigger.


The Great Flood            

These pools, ponds, and lakes are hints and reminders of what volume these waterways might achieve. Early chapters of history note significant flooding in the county during the years 1683, 1705, 1740, 1795, 1822, 1830, 1839, 1843 (Wiley 65), 1870, 1871, 1876, and 1877 (Ashmead 99-108).  But only one is known as the Great Freshet or Great Flood.  On August 5, 1843, torrential rain raised the creeks to catastrophic levels throughout Delaware County.    



Source: Wiley 65.


The lower Crum Creek watershed was not spared.  According to an 1844 report conducted by the Delaware County Institute of Science, no people lost their lives along the Crum, but horses were drowned and considerable property lost (“Flood” 25-29).            

Ashmead describes some of the toll in the following excerpts:    



An ominous prelude to the Great Flood of 1843 (Ashmead 102).



The scene along Crum Creek from today's Baltimore Pike to Chester Pike (Queen's Highway) (Ashmead 102).


While not recorded by historians, anyone with a memory of the last thirty years knows that if the water rose so dramatically in nearby Crum Creek on these occasions, similar flooding occurred along Little Crum Creek. 

More recently, conversations with local residents rekindled recollections of the Little Crum flooding around the years 1943 and 1989 [dates not yet verified]. 

One lifelong Ridley resident vividly recalls 1943’s chicken coops washed away in the Little Crum’s flooding over the intersection of Macdade and Morton.  A bridge collapsed, a house was turned on its foundation, and only one car in the corner garage’s lot escaped inundation thanks to being raised on the mechanic’s lift. 

Most recently, around 1989, the same low-lying intersection was flooded as water backed up to fill the entire field behind the Ridley Brook Apartments.  For nearly a full day, witnesses beheld an ephemeral body of water where few others could have since the same area’s lake disappeared over seventy-five years ago. 

Anyone who witnessed such voluminous torrents rising from the trickle of Little Crum Creek on these occasions might easily fathom the terrible flood of 1843.      


State of the Watershed          

A report from the Chester-Ridley-Crum Watershed Association divides the entire Crum Creek Watershed, from Chester County to the Delaware River, into three geographical segments.            

The upper watershed, flowing from Crum Creek’s headwaters in Malvern down to West Chester Pike near the border of Chester and Delaware counties, is largely rural. The water quality is high.            

The middle watershed, between West Chester Pike and Baltimore Pike, is largely suburban.  The water quality is not quite as high.            

The lower watershed includes the entire area of Little Crum Creek. While by most appearances suburban compared to city life, this lower portion of the watershed is nonetheless designated an urban area due to development and population density, particularly nearing its furthest reaches along the Industrial Highway (Rt 291).  Downstream of the other two, and being the most developed of the three, the lower portion of the watershed is the most degraded in quality (CRC et al, 15-18).            

Incidentally, the middle watershed’s Springton Lake Reservoir was built in 1931 to maintain a supply of water.  But it is actually the lower watershed’s Lower Crum Reservoir that supplies most of Delaware County’s drinking water after a thorough treatment by Aqua Pennsylvania.            

The majority of waterways in the lower watershed have been designated by the DEP as “impaired.”   In addition to the loss of water drawn from reservoirs, the impairment is caused by runoff over impervious surfaces, overdevelopment, loss of wild woodland growth along creeks, commercial industry, and discharge of bacteria and chemicals from outdated sewage systems.  Accidental and intentional spills continue.  Properties along some portions of the creek find it necessary to post signs that read “No Dumping.”            


Moon over interstate, Blackrock Park.

Years ago, some had feared that the Blue Route’s construction (I-476) would only exacerbate problems. Such a project usually requires that wetlands be filled, streams diverted, and wildlife habitat forever altered. Citizens successfully fought to preserve Thomas Leiper House.  But the road ultimately effaced any enduring traces of Blackrock Park’s quarry along Crum Creek in Swarthmorewood.  The parts that weren’t dynamited and leveled were covered by the highway.   Its traffic now rolls along Crum Creek throughout the whole lower portion of the watershed.     



First view of Crum Creek & Little Crum joined.

The water and interstate finally part ways upon reaching I-95. Crum Creek crosses under the highway. It continues on between a shopping center and office park as it  borders Eddystone and Ridley Park.  This is the last place most of us can see Crum Creek before it meets Little Crum Creek within the gated confines of the Boeing Defense, Space, and Security property.            

Likewise, there is not much opportunity to see Little Crum Creek downstream of Ridley Park Lake except from behind a fence at Catania Brothers Park by the police station.  From that point, Little Crum Creek also flows under I-95 into the gated Boeing property where the two creeks disappear under a parking lot. 
The first and last place to see the two creeks joined is from a bridge on the Industrial Highway. The fleeting view from a car reveals Crum Creek flowing through a channel between Boeing and Exelon into the Delaware River.    



Crum meeting the Delaware River.


Community Care for the Creeks             

Canals, railways, dams, interstates, parking lots…         

For all this, nature is never spent.            

Increasingly, however, resilient pockets of nature seem to rely on our awareness and cooperation.  Fortunately several local projects manifest this human concern for our waterways and their riparian corridors.    



Crum Woods, Swarthmore College.


Little Crum Creek’s nearest woodland neighbor is the Crum Woods.   As the DCNR observes, the Crum Woods of Swarthmore “is one of the largest remaining mature woodlands in Delaware County, and includes a variety of oaks, beech, tulip poplar, and hemlock” (CRC et al, chap IV, 13).  The woods still stand along Crum Creek below the Blue Route and flourish because of the work done by Swarthmore College and its Scott Arboretum.        


LCC Park, Swarthmore

Little Crum Creek Park, Swarthmore



Not far from these woods, Swarthmore’s Little Crum Creek Park has been made a wetland restoration project, an inspiring example of a community collectively reintroducing native plants to improve water quality and life along Little Crum Creek.        



Cattails at Ridley HS wetland.


A bit downstream, the park project is supported by a half-acre wetland created by students, faculty, and volunteers along the Little Crum behind Ridley High School.        



Ridley Park Lake

. .

Further on, the water of Ridley Park Lake continuously circulates through a fountain, and a recently completed project in East Lake Park stabilizes the banks of Little Crum Creek  as it flows into the lake.            

There may be other municipally-owned lands along the creek that could receive similar care and treatment.  But the majority of Little Crum Creek’s acreage flows through the yards of private homes.  These, in turn, host the rain water runoff from each street and neighbor on both sides of the creek. 



Streetside stormwater drains remind us of our impact on life along the creeks.


To this point, both Swarthmore Borough and Ridley Township provide contact information and insights about everyone’s relationship with Crum and Little Crum Creeks.



Skaters, Ridley Park Lake, Little Crum Creek


There may be no surer sign of our interconnection than these streams that visibly manifest our neighbor’s engagement with the land and transport it through every neighboring yard and town.         




Early histories of Delaware County’s plants and animals naturally focus on the wildlife which settlers encountered the most.        

Many we would recognize today: raccoons, squirrels, opossums.  Don’t forget foxes.  They were popular culprits of chicken snatchings.        

Other animals seem a bit more exotic.  Black bears and wolves were such threats to pigs and sheep that bounties were placed on their heads during the 17th and early 18th centuries (Ashmead 211-15).  An abundance of red deer or elk simply made good eating.  All three were still being hunted in the area “as late as 1750” (Wiley 25).        


Source: Ashmead 212.


Game birds such as pheasants, wild turkeys, and partridges were plentiful.  But so were such troubling fowl as crows and blackbirds, whose predilection for corn and grain placed them high on the bounty list as well (Ashmead 211-15).        

According to one recollection, pigeon flocks were sometimes so thick as to block out the sun.  


Source: Ashmead 213.


“The American otter,” notes Wiley, “was once in Crum creek” (25).        

And finally, it will come as no surprise to those along certain stretches of Little Crum Creek today that mosquitoes were also plentiful (Ashmead 215).        

Both Ashmead and Wiley list much more of the wildlife thriving in Delaware County between the 17th and 19th centuries, including fish and plant life.  Wiley provides particularly extensive lists of the birds and plants.  Even broader lists for the whole Philadelphia region are provided by Scharf & Westcott.  It is possible that some of the more elusive creatures on these lists, such as the bobcat and mountain lion, escaped the notice of Wiley and Ashmead but still roamed the land of Delaware County.        

Encounters with current plant and animal life on a small portion of Little Crum Creek are the focus of this blog’s homepage.  What we find here can often be found up and down the creek, as well as in neighboring creeks and woodlands.  Getting to know a very small part of Little Crum Creek, then, is one way of getting better acquainted with the whole watershed and our place within it.

We might not miss seeing the black bear, wolves, or abundance of game colorfully mentioned in the histories of Delaware County.  After all, we have never seen them here.  It is just as hard to imagine our woodlands before the proliferation of introduced species that we regularly meet.  But we are living in a time when the natural habitat will continue to be noticably impacted by our interaction with it.  And we, in turn, will be affected.  Not everyone prefers to meet one’s dearest self in a walk with the natural world’s sounds and silences. Some prefer to do that on a convenient drive up the interstate or boulevard.  In either case, we all drink the water flowing thereunder.  And that, at the very least, makes us kindred beings with all other life.  Perhaps we owe it to ourselves, and thereby everything else, to at least see our living watershed now, and get to know it where we can, while we can, where we are.        

Welcome to Little Crum Creek. 



32 Responses to “Ramble”

  1. Scott Grayson Says:

    Thank you for this. I grew up on Crum Creek. We lived below Springton lake at Crum Creek Rd and Barry Lane. My Dad worked at Boeing Vertol and my Mom worked at what was then Sun Ship so we were always close to it. When I was about 13 my folks bought me a homemade wood and canvas kayak. I knew every bend and pool from Paxon hollow rd to Old State Rd.

  2. Bill Titus Says:

    Thank you for your wonderful history of the little crum.

    When I grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s, I was fortunate to have Little Crum Creek Park in Swarthmore as my backyard. My parents owned the half block along the little crum from Swarthmore Ave. back to the paper street where Harvard Ave. was supposed to meet Yale Ave. My great Aunt Emily and Uncle Walter Rumble owned the other half along Yale Ave (218 S. Swarthmore Ave was their home). Thus the park was the “Titus-Rumble Tract” that was purchase by Swarthmore Borough around 1969. It was a great childhood for me and my sister to have unbridled access to this wonderful area, which used to be the farm of my great grandfather Anton Wagner.

    I remember the following birds and animals: pheasants, hawks, Baltimore Orioles, turtles, snapping turtles (which my sister stopped me from picking up, I didn’t know the danger!), wild ducks, crayfish (which we spent time carefully lifting rocks in the creek to catch and release), muskrats, and all of the usual birds, minnows and water bugs.

    The little crum creeks were endlessly fascinating. The large stone chimney visible from Cresson Lane was part of a ramshackle building called the “Scout House”, used by both the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and finally the Sea Explorers. The Scout House was moved to that section of Borough owned land after the completion of the Rt. 320 underpass in Swarthmore, where the building served as a shed for the WPA construction project. On that section of the little crum park along Cresson Lane, the Borough dumped unused sections of granite curbing that was used in many of the Borough’s streets. Some of them are still there, serving as benches. The Borough also used that area as the town dump. Along the tributary that comes down along Lafayette Ave and meets the little crum by the gazebo, my young buddies and I used to dig along the steep banks to find treasure: old bottles, plates and silverware. We even found a clip of bullets, which wisely we turned over to our parents. The banks have since been re mediated with wire netting protecting the banks. I’m sure much “treasure” remains there, never to be found.

    Today, I am grateful that Swarthmore Borough purchased the Titus-Rumble Tract and made it a park for all to enjoy, including myself. At the time of the sale, my parents may have been somewhat resentful, for they and the Rumbles had hoped to sell the property to a developer for probably a higher price than what the Borough paid. That would have resulted in a number of houses where access to the little crum would have been denied or implied trespassing to access the creek.

    One last comment: I am sure my Uncle Walter is spinning in his grave with the advent of the creation of “wetlands” on his side of the tract. He always took great pains to keep the area drained with a network of pipes and pumps, which have since been blocked and disabled. I do hope the Borough keeps my parent’s former section as open parkland for all to enjoy. After all, that’s where my grandfather used to graze the cows! They were kept in the former barn, which is today 206 S. Swarthmore Ave.

    1. Scott Says:

      Bill, thank you for sharing your fantastic experience of life along Little Crum Creek. It’s a terrific contribution to this little history of the creeks. And I could picture every turn of your reminiscence around the spot we now know as Little Crum Creek Park. I too am glad the Borough bought that tract! Thanks again!

  3. pajokie Says:

    Charles Lewis Fussell was an artist who lived in Media at the turn of the 20th century. He did a number of landscape painting with nature as his subject. He painted many scenes along Ridley Creek and Crum Creek. Some of his work can be found here:!/friendsofhoutmanpark

    1. Scott Says:

      Cool — thanks!

  4. Thank you for a wonderful introduction to your watershed, a piece that I enjoyed reading in all its aspects. I have had a life-long interest in streams and watersheds, in getting to know the local watershed (in my case, the upper Susquehanna River region), in getting a first-hand look at the water and then recording its natural history in word, as you are doing with your blog. Excellent, and please carry on.

    1. Scott Says:

      Glad to meet you, Walt. The waters draw us on a journey through space and time, don’t they? I look forward to exploring the upper Susquehanna through your blog.

  5. Rick Bender Says:

    This is a little off-topic, I’m sure, but I’ve wondered for years about a swimming hole I remember somewhere along Crum Creek.

    We lived at the southwest corner of 7th & Colwell when I was a boy. We moved away in 1953, when I was a first-grader. I have fond memories of our days there in what we called “Grace Park” — it really was a nice place to raise a family.

    In those days, 7th Avenue extended eastward only as far as the two-story brick duplexes did; it was a dirt road going into the woods from that point on. Colwell’s pavement ended near the intersection at our house; south of our house it was a bladed dirt road. There was a small store behind us that was run by a somewhat elderly couple — immigrants, I believe. We all called it John’s Store. I recall walking on a wooden walkway from the end of the sidewalk at Colwell when I went to John’s Store. John also had a farm — or at least a farm house with some property and assorted farm animals — on the west side of Fairview Road and a little south of 7th Avenue.

    The area east and south of John’s Store was all open grassland with some dirt roads crossing it here and there. A wooded area was off farther to the east. The carnival would come to town each year and set up in the grasses south of John’s Store. I think I remember seeing the Oscar-Meyer Wiener Truck out there once too. And I remember marching around out there during a political rally chanting, “I like Ike!” with absolutely no idea what I was talking about.

    There was no air-conditioning in our house in those days, and no pool. If we really wanted to beat the heat, we made our way to the swimming hole: “Black Rock” as I recall it. I was too young to go there other than with my father, who would drive a little northward on Fairview and then make a left turn onto a dirt road that led to the east bank of Crum Creek. We’d then make our way down a steep slope of loose soil and rock and wind up at what I’ve always called Black Rock. (I now suspect it was actually “Blackrock.”)

    There was a large black (or dark gray) rock along the creek’s east side. It was large enough that we could sit there and watch the swimmers below us. (I always assumed the swimming hole was named in honor of that rock.)

    Was it only a neighborhood swimming hole, where only a few families went to go swimming? I have no idea.

    It was near enough to our house that my older brother would sometimes ride his bicycle to the swimming hole, and close enough that our neighbor, Sylvia, who was maybe fourteen, could walk there. Sylvia’s description of that walk makes me think it was in the area of what I now see on the maps is Blackrock Park.

    That place just nags at me. We moved from Levittown to New Mexico in 1956 and we stopped by Grace Park as we left. New housing blocked our way to Black Rock, so I didn’t get a refresher for my memory. I didn’t return again until 1993 — plenty of time to forget your way around.

    Does anyone back there remember it?

    I’m going to Philly in September. I’ll try to wander around Blackrock Park and down along the creek below the Blue Route. I’d appreciate some guidance.

    Rick Bender

    1. Scott Says:

      Rick, thank you for this descriptive tour through a time on Crum Creek that I’ve always wondered about. I’m sure that many of us who grew up around Blackrock Park and roamed its woodland fantasized about a time before our houses were there and the trees stretched for miles in every direction. It’s great to read of your experience.

      As you recall it, I agree that your best chance of finding the swimming hole is by starting at Blackrock Park. You can then follow a path downstream along the water to Bullens Lane. A lot has changed since you’ve been there, but I’m sure the big gray rock remains. And you’re bound to come across it.

      You can also walk upstream from Blackrock Park, but the path strays from the waterside and the Blue Route has rendered that area entirely unrecognizable from the time before the interstate was built. If you do walk that way, you’ll soon come to Thomas Leiper House, but by your account I’m thinking that’s further upstream than the swimming hole.

      I hope to hear of your quest’s success. Good luck!

    2. Jack Says:

      Wow – remember the swimming hole from when I was a boy in the 1970s. There was a fantastic rope swing on the high rock on the wallingford side, and down the little hill there we a rectangular stone that you could dive off. I imagine that it was dredged at some point because it was deeper than the rest of the creek. On the Swarthmore side there was a dirt clearing. All summer large groups of kids ranging from eight to their teens would be there. It was boys only, I’m pretty sure, because no one had a swim suit. I remember an older boy giving me a cigarette there. It was a Kent that he had stolen from his dad. I seem to recall that we often built little fires on the swarthmore side as well. No particular reason. Just to have a fire.

      In 1974 or 1975 there was some sort of fight in which a belt was used as a weapon. A boy was cut and his dad was so mad about it that he and some friends went and not only removed the rope swing, but cut the limb off making restoration impossible. Of course for all of us it was a huge loss – the end of an era! I don’t think we ever swam there again, though it was no doubt still a great spot. Wonderful memories.

      1. Rick Bender Says:


        I did return but I couldn’t find it with the time available. Could you pinpoint it for me? (Just in case I fly to Philly again someday?)

        When I looked at the maps many years ago, I wondered if maybe the housing on Morgan Circle was what I remembered had blocked our entry in 1956.

        I mentioned the big rock on the east side, but there was, as I recall (I’m pretty sure), another large rock on the west side. And I think I remember something about a rope swing. And there definitely was a small “beach” on the east side, upstream a little ways from the big rock I mentioned.
        — Rick

        1. Jack Says:

          Rick – I went there last year and walked along the Swarthmore side, but never found it. Next time I go I will walk the Wallingford side and see if I have better luck. What I can say is that it would be between the waterfall and what we called “The Ruins” — the wonderful stair case remains of the Hinckson estate. The spot nags at me, too. Perfect place to be a kid.


          1. Eric M. Bender Says:

            Every time I think about it and each time I look at Google Maps, I go back to Morgan Circle. We drove from our house at 7th & Colwell, up Fairview Road (not far; maybe a mile) and then turned left (now Harvard off Chester Road?) and drove on a dirt road to a” high” bank above the creek, then walked carefully on a steep, loose-soil, stony “trail” down to the swimming hole. That’s my recollection of it 70 years after the fact. (So who knows?)

            There was the big, “sunning” rock on the east side, downstream from the swimming hole itself and a loose-stone “dam’ going from that rock to the other side of the creek. (People said we had to stay upstream from the “dam” because there were snapping turtles downstream.)

            There was another large rock on the other side — at the swimming hole — and I think kids used to jump into the water from that rock. I think.

            Roger was a friend of mine who lived up Colwell; he was from England, as I recall. I think I remember his family joining all of us one day at the swimming hole. They arrived late and entered from the west bank. They parked on the road on that side. I didn’t even know there was a road on the other side!

            If I’m right, then maybe it was Avondale Road.

            My father took my brother and me for a walk upstream once and I remember the creek got wide and straight for a while. My brother skipped stones on the water.

            When we left Pennsylvania (for New Mexico) we drove to Grace Park as a farewell gesture, I guess. We tried to drive to the old swimming hole but new housing closed off our access point. That was June 1956. There had been a lot of new housing around Grace Park during the 3 years we lived in Levittown. Could Morgan Circle have been some of that 1953-1955 construction?

            We hope to go to Myrtle Beach in September; we might actually fly into Richmond and fit in a couple of days at Williamsburg. Now I’m wondering if we should add an extra day and fly into Philly, and go wandering around Crum Creek again! — Rick

  6. Wow – great information and wonderful photos.

    1. Scott Says:

      Thanks Stephanie.

  7. Sandra Says:

    I really enjoyed this, lovely.

    1. Scott Says:

      Thanks, Sandra. Glad you stopped by.

  8. Kyla Cromer Says:

    Honestly, I couldn’t make hide nor hair of it. I just hoped it was close enough to be of interest to you! Have a good one!

    1. Scott Says:

      It certainly was of interest. Thanks!

  9. Scott Says:

    Thanks for the link to these proceedings Kyla.

    Based solely on the description in “Lewis versus Effinger,” I think the disputed half-acre of land in Nether Providence is today located between Swarthmore College and Smedley Park where Baltimore Pike (Rt 1) crosses Crum Creek.

    On an 1870 map of Nether Providence, this is the area identified as “Wallingford Mills” which is located on property held by Mordecai Lewis (who is mentioned in the 1858 dispute). You can see it on the map where the “Delaware County Turnpike” (today known as Baltimore Pike/ Rt 1) crosses Crum Creek.

    An 1870 map of Springfield also shows the same area:

    Finally, the “mills of the Lewis family” are briefly mentioned on this page:

    You might have already discovered the two websites referenced above. They’ve been invaluable for my research.

    Thanks for leading me to this interesting bit of history. Be sure to let me know if you discover a more likely location for the property disputed in “Lewis vs Effinger.”

  10. Kyla Cromer Says:

    I ran across this researching my ancestor Henry Effinger. Great job here, thanks.

    1. Scott Says:

      Thanks, Kyla. Glad you found your way here. I learned from Ashmead’s history that Henry Effinger once owned the Haverford Road/Hickman mill property. I’d love to hear what discoveries you make about his relationship with the creek or area. Good luck with your research.

      1. Kyla Cromer Says:

        Hi Scott, I found a PA Supreme Court case you may find interesting. It refers to Crum Creek – I don’t know enough about the area. There was a dispute over a 100 year lease that was begun in 1750. It refers to a dam and cotton mills, and right to quarry. See what you think. Take care, Kyla

  11. […] this native strawberry that the Lenape  knew as a useful food and […]

  12. T Says:

    Great post. I grew up 100 feet from Blackrock Park and often took to fishing and wandering up and down the creek there and by the Leiper House. I can’t wait to read Ashmead’s History of Delaware County and I look forward to your future posts.

    1. Scott Says:

      Thanks for contributing, T.

      It’s great to add some more personal history from Blackrock (a lot of good fishing & adventure stories out of that creek, I’m sure).

      Enjoy Ashmead…

      As you probably noticed, there are two links to his History on my “Library” page. And several public libraries have hard copies.

  13. John Says:

    Nice job Scott

  14. Tom M. Says:


    Though our paths have not intersected for quite sometime, not a day goes by that I don’t reflect back to when they did. I see myself as a better person because of our childhood adventures. The genius of you is something I will always be proud to say I experienced.

    You have taken me back to a time that is nearly forgotten through the fast paced lives we live today. For a moment on a rainy and miserable morning, you took me back to a simpler time learning to skate for the first time and enjoying time with my friends in our neighborhood. I only hope my daughter will get to enjoy these times as she grows in the same environment.

    Thank you.

    1. Scott Says:

      I share your hope, Tom.
      May the adventures continue!

  15. Ann Blackrock Says:

    As a local resident, I found this piece to be a great tool in guiding me along Little Crum Creek. It is enlightening to know the history of how Little Crum Creek, current day, came to be. A greater appreciation will be had, as I drive alongside, view from a short distance, or find myself rambling about Delaware County. Thank you!

    1. Scott Says:

      You’re welcome, Ann. That’s my greatest hope for this page!

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