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Frankford Chronicles – Agent Lydia Darragh – Intelligence Operative

It is a privilege to present today, a new work of historic research by Joe Menkevich.  Lydia Darragh is a fascinating subject in Frankford history although she did not live here.  I won’t go into her history since Joe has done the research and you should read it from his narrative.  Whenever we have posted any reference to Lydia Darragh in the past, it has received a large number if hits from the search engines. This new work from Joe, adds to the Darragh story by providing links to other historical documents that support the story.

So picture the period in December of 1777 when Philadelphia was occupied by the British army and the Continental army was camped out at Whitemarsh. Joe’s account brings it all to life. Read it here.


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Investigating Allan McLane and Lydia Darragh

Joe Menkevich provided these links to more information about the Lydia Darragh story.  The story of Captain McClane is especially interesting.  The link to his story is here.

Capt. Allan McLane is a notable and interesting
character. He was so popular and interesting that
Peale painted his portrait.

Encounter between Capt. Allan McLane and a British
dragoon at Frankfort, near Philadelphia. Painting by
James Peale. 111-SC-91311. (revolutionary_war_039.jpg)
Free black & white Download here. Color here.

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Lydia Darragh

From Joe Menkevich we have this link.  It is an account of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) visit to Philadelphia on December 24, 1853.  He talks about several places of note he visited, among them:

At the corner of Little Dock and Second streets, stands the queer looking old house occupied by the heroic Lydia Darrah. It was here, if I remember the story aright, that she left the British officer, and taking her flour bag, set off to inform Gen. Washington of the intended attack of the British upon his camp; and her heroic conduct defeated the plans of the red-coats, and saved the Americans. Well does she deserve a monument; but no such monument is hers. As one might almost guess, her old mansion is now occupied by a Jew, as a clothing store.

Of course, he is reporting what was the accepted story at that time.

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Lydia Darragh

This is another source of information and another version of the events about Lydia Darragh, provided by Joe Menkevich.

This passage is page 294 and 295 from the book “Historic Tales of Olden Time: Concerning the Early Settlement and Progress of Philadelphia Pennsylvania” by John Fanning Watson – Philadelphia (Pa.) Published in Philadelphia by E. Littell and by Thomas Holden in 1833.

“I have very direct and certain evidence for saying,
that Mrs. Lydia Darrach (the wife of William Darrach,
a teacher, dwelling in the house No. 177, South Second
street, corner of Little Dock street,) was the cause of
saving Washington’s army from great disaster while it
lay at Whitemarsh, in 1777. The case was this:—
The adjutant general of the British army occupied a
chamber in that house, and came there by night to read
the orders and plan of General Howe’s meditated attack.
She overheard them when she was expected to have
been asleep in bed; and making a pretext to go out to
Frankford for flour for family use, under a pass, she
met with Colonel Craig, and communicated the whole
to him, who immediately rode off to General Washington
to put him on his guard. The next night, at midnight,
the British army, in great force, moved silently
out of Philadelphia. The whole terminated in what
was called, I believe, the affair of Edge Hill, on the 5th
December; and on the 8th following, the British got
back to the city, fatigued and disappointed.
Mrs. Darrach, although a small and weakly woman,
walked the whole distance out and in, bringing with her,
to save appearances, twenty-five pounds of flour, borne
upon her arms all the way from Frankford. The adjutant
general afterwards went to her to enquire if it had
been possible that any of her family could have been up
to listen and carry intelligence, since the result had
been so mysterious to him. Mr. and Mrs. Darrach
were of the society of Friends”

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Lydia Darragh

One of the most frequent search terms that brings people to the Frankford Gazette is “Lydia Darragh”.  I am not sure why but, possibly, there are not many sources of information on the web and we have had a few posts featuring her.  So in that light, our Friend, Joe Menkevich, has offered to share some of his research with a wider audience.

This first installment is a PDF of the Lydia Darragh story done by the Center City Historical Society in 1910 or 1911.  It is provided courtesy of the Historical Society of Frankford and was digitized by Joe Menkevich.

Although Joe does not entirely agree with any of the accounts, he says of this account: “It is pretty much the most thorough investigation and explanation of Lydia’s Walk to Frankford. It is largely the foundation for many of the modern day accounts on Lydia Darragh.”

He has provided some other information that we will be posting in the future.   At some point Joe will summarize with the conclusions he has drawn and provide what he believes to be the definitive account the the Lydia Darragh story.

Follow this link to download the file.  click on the “Save a Copy” tab in the upper
left hand corner of the Adobe Acrobat window to save to your hard drive or desktop.

From Joe:  “Although this publication from 1916 may now be considered Public Domain, you have not found it until now, close to 100 years later.  Please give credit where credit is due. It takes time, labor, generosity to preserve the historical records of our heritage and digitizing the records.

The Historical Society of Frankford has been preserving the documents for over 100 years. It also costs money to keep a roof over their head, pay the gas electric, water and taxes. This PDF. is a promotional  in the hope that you will visit, join and support The Historical Society of Frankford.”

“Please join the Society or donate some money.  The history you save is your own. Thank you.”