From the Halls of Philadelphia to the Shores of Tripoli

The war in Libya is our third war of this century so far.  That seems like s stretch to make a Philadelphia connection but did you ever hear about the US Philadelphia?

USS Philadelphia

At the start of the 19th century we were also at war with Tripoli (Libya) and the Philadelphia was part of a blockade.  In the end the Philadelphia was captured.  In subsequent action in was then retaken and burned to the waterline by our boys.

Well that was a Philadelphia connection but what about Frankford.  Stephen Decatur was the commanding officer of the operation that took back the Philadelphia and burned her.  His family connections to Frankford run deep.

Thanks to the Naval Historic Center for the use of their picture from the web site.

  • Matt A.

    Admiral Horatio Nelson, when he heard about the action by Decatur and his men, called it, “The most bold and daring act of the age.”

    I think it was pretty far up there in boldness and daring for ANY era of history.

  • NCA President Emeritus

    My research exposes flaws and falsehoods with Wikipedia’s account of the USS Philadelphia.

    Decatur Sr. had a hand in it’s construction, which was done by his business partners – General Francis Gurney and Daniel Smith.

    The USS Philadelphia was commissioned & fitted and out to sea – all by July of 1798. Stephen Decatur, the elder was it’s commander.

    Stephen Decatur Jr. worked as an office clerk in the offices of Gurney & Smith.

    After living on this father’s farm in Byberry and attending the Lower Dublin Academy (when it was still a log house), Stephen Decatur Jr. entered the U.S. Navy on or about about May 16th of 1798, almost at the same time his father was commanding the USS Philadelphia.

    By 1800, the elder Decatur retired from the Navy & sold his farm in Byberry.

    He then went into making gunpowder in Frankford.

  • fmoore

    According to Alexander Mackenzie in his 1846 *Life of Stephen Decatur*, Decatur was briefly “under the instruction of a Mr. Talbot Hamilton, a former officer of the British navy, who kept an academy for that purpose in Lower Dublin, in the environs of Philadelphia.”

    Talbot Hamilton was the principal teacher at Lower Dublin Academy (outside Holmesburg) from 1800-1803. Apparently he was teaching naval tactics at the Academy as early as 1798. A case could be made for Lower Dublin Academy being among the first naval academies in the United States.

  • NCA President Emeritus

    For several years their has been a mix-up that Stephen Decatur’s Frankford property was in fact the same property that once belonged to Dr. Benjamin Rush.

    Even though the correct information is given in “Life of Stephen Decatur” by Alexander Mackenzie – erroneous information is continuously passed around via Wikapedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenwood_Cemetery_(Philadelphia,_Pennsylvania)
    Rush’s sons and Decatur’s sons mingled as personal friends and classmates, as their respective families were closely connected.

    There are explanations for the assumptions and errors which involve the mix-up of Stephen Decatur’s property with Benjamin Rush’s Property.

    Reason One:

    “Greenwood Cemetery, Adams Street, Frankford, was established by the benevolent order of the Knights of Pythias, for the interment of their members and others. The company was chartered Dec. 9, 1869, and bought the property, which was formerly Mount Airy, the residence of Commodore Stephen Decatur, Sr.” – History of Philadelphia, 1609 to 1884. BY J. THOMAS
    SCHARF AND THOMPSON WESTCOTT Vol III, Page 1697.

    Reason Two:

    The Hessian – By Johannes Schwalm Historical Association, Published 1977. It contained this erroneous article: “A Twist of Fate” By G. Paul Moser, which says that Stephen Decatur owned the Greenwood Cemetery property.

    In that article, Mr. Moser interviews Mr. George Delong, then the superintendent of Greenwood Cemetery, who arrogantly and falsely told the author that the maiden name of his wife was “Moser,” when in fact it is Myers.

    His wife’s maiden name, Gwendolyn Myers, was the daughter of David Jay Myers Esq., an attorney for the Cemetery and also the brother of the Grand Chancellor of the Knights of Pythias Wilbur Myers. She is not a Moser.

    The Moser Article cites: “Dunkerley, E.S.: Cemetery Records in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine 30 No. 3: 173-177, 1978”, and “Philadelphia Will Book 2, number 137.” (There is no such “Will Book 2, Number 137,” also the microfilm with Decatur’s will is missing – I know because I have a copy of his original Will).

    These same citations are used in first faulty National Nomination of Greenwood Cemetery in 1978 that went no place.

    Eventually there was a Historic Designation of Greenwood Cemetery in year Y2K as the property of Benjamin Rush. But the many court cases which followed, & the skewed studies only serve to prove that lies can be covered with money and transformed into histoty. For Big lies – it takes big money. Some people just wanted the land – not the history.

    Recently in year 2000, the DeLongs sold their interests in the Cemetery for an undisclosed sum of money – only after taking great pains (ex-post-facto) in reversing their position by recanting that Rush ever owned the property.

    New Historical reports were soon fabricated. Those reports are skewed & self serving – used as propaganda to undermine & circumvent the Rush ownership of the House at 930 Adams Avenue.

    Pre-Press Release from: http://www.kpgreenwoodcemetery.org/ touted that “studies have determined that the historic house on the property was built between 1830 and 1850.”

    Here is the Head House Report on Benjamin Rush’s 18th Century Property which proved that the wood used to build the house may have been cut the same year that Benjamin Rush purchased the property: http://www.kpgreenwoodcemetery.org/POS%20Report%2011%2006%2009.pdf

    The above report only proves that the house underwent many renovations in the 1830’s using stucco. The report placed too much emphasis on cold cut-nails not being available until the 1830’s, when in fact that type of nail was first manufactured in America in 1777; therefore may have been the same ones they found in Rush’s House built in 1781.

    As far as I am concerned, this case is far from closed, as my research say’s it’s just getting good.

    I have come to a variety of conclusions based upon my findings of fact:

    Here in Frankford, the respective estates of Rush and Decatur bordered each other – but not as contemporaries. Rush owned the Adams Avenue property between 1780 and 1792, while Decatur moved to Frankford in 1800-01.

    Various family members of both were contemporaries and had estates in Byberry. The name of the Decatur Estate in Byberry was Mount Airy, and at one time Oakland Cemetery (next to Greenwood) was also called “Mt. Airy”. I do not know what name, if any name, was given to the Byberry estate of the Rush Family.

    The Decatur’s were close friends with the Peart family, who were related to Doctor Rush. In fact I have found one citation that states the Decatur’s were related to the Peart Family too, but that may be erroneous.

    In 1774 through the early 1800’s, the Pearts also owned an Oxford Township property adjacent to Oswald Eve’s Powder-Mill property, which also nearly bordered Doctor Benjamin Rush’s Oxford Township property. (It’s Eve’s property that latter became Decatur’s property. Also – both Eve & Decatur were ship captains & contemporaries).

    All of the Oxford Township properties (of Peart, Eve, & Rush) also had a common boarder to John Hall’s property, who was also a relative of Dr. Rush’s mother – Susannah Hall. The Hall property, latter belonged to Pattison Hartshorne and the Large family. (Castor Avenue was once called Hartshorne Lane)

    Benjamin Rush was also the Decatur family’s doctor and attending physician at the time of both the death of Captain Stephen Decatur Sr. and his wife Ann Pine Decatur.

    Could Dr. Rush have allowed his friend Stephen Decatur Sr. access to his summer-home when Decatur was not out at sea?

    Could Decatur have spent so much time at the Rush Estate in Frankford near the gunpowder mill – so much so that it was believed that he owned the place?

    Could Decatur have learned to make powder in here in Frankford from University of Pennsylvania’s Professor of Chemistry, Dr. Rush, and then latter purchased the powdermill when it became available?

    Who Knows? (Someone knows – I know).

    Ironically there is a Decatur vault in Greenwood Cemetery, but that cemetery is located in New York City.

    Two other things about the K of P Greenwood Cemetery here in Philadelphia – it is probable that there may be Revolutionary War Soldiers buried in Greenwood, and it is on record that American Indians are buried there.

    On a side note, Gen. George Washington had a camp set up in Frankford in February of 1779, as he gave instructions for the appointment of an Inspector General of Ordinance.

    Was it a coincidence of George Washington being here in Frankford?

    Perhaps it was nothing.

    J.M.