Sharing memories and giving thanks to those who have made a significant impact to our lives seems appropriate at this time of year. As Delaware County residents gather with family and loved ones, the Delaware County Historical Society family would like to pause in gratitude, for those founding members of the Society, such as, Delaware County Common Pleas, Judge William B. Broomall.
Judge William Broomall was one of the 83 founding members of Delaware County Historical Society (DCHS) in 1895 and served as president from 1914 until his death in 1927. His contribution to the Society lives on today.
Born Jan. 30, 1843 at the corner of Market Square and Third Street in Chester, William B. Broomall was the oldest son of U.S. Rep. John M. Broomall, R-7, and Elizabeth Booth Broomall. He came from several generations of Delaware County families, such as the Lewises, Talbots, Mendenhalls, Claytons, Dilworths and Duttons.
William Broomall graduated from Haverford College on Sept. 10, 1861. That very day, as a law student, Broomall, joined the law office of his father, Broomall and Ward. The firm was one of the largest and most prestigious law practices in the county, with its founding partners two congressmen. One, his father, John Broomall, who served in Washington from 1863 to 1869 and the other, William Ward who was the representative for the 6th U.S. Congressional district from 1877 to 1883.
Although his father’s political affiliations could have secured Broomall an officer’s commission or a safe assignment, he enlisted in Company D of the 124th Pennsylvania Regiment as a solider in August 1862 and served in the Battle of Antietam. After a bout with typhoid fever, he was honorably discharged in May 1863. He was admitted to the Bar a year later.
On Oct. 16, 1866, he married Anna Mary Hinkson in the same house where he was born.
From 1882 to 1884, he served on the Council of the City of Chester, representing the 6th, 7th and 8th wards and was a prominent member of the Chester Lodge No. 236. He also was one of the incorporators of the Chester YMCA in 1874.
On March 18, 1907, he was appointed to the Common Pleas Court by Gov. Edwin S. Stuart and was victorious in two following elections. He served as judge until August 1925, when he resigned because of ill health.
On March 3, 1927, as was his custom, Broomall retired to the library in his home at 14th and Chestnut streets in Chester, where he planned to solve a crossword puzzle. It served as his recreation and the judge was quite an enthusiast of solving its riddles.
There, slightly before midnight he was stricken with a heart attack and died. He was 84-years-old.
“No one more genuinely believed in the equality of man, nor more consistently lived up to the doctrine,” Federal Judge O.B. Dickinson said at a memorial for his lifelong friend.
For 13 years, from Sept. 14, 1914 until his death, Broomall served as president of DCHS as he took a deep interest in its affairs with a great enthusiasm for history. During his leadership, DCHS prospered in both membership and activity.
He was noted for preserving evidence of the James Sandeland house on Edgmont Avenue in Chester. When excavations were being made and the foundations of the old house were discovered, he directed that photographs be taken to preserve evidence of the building where the first Pennsylvania General Assembly held its session.
It is Judge Broomall who donated the 1860 Abraham Lincoln Presidential Banner, of which DCHS is currently immersed in a campaign to have the unique treasure restored. Portraying a rare picture of a beardless Lincoln, the banner was used for two Media Courthouse rallies – Lincoln’s 1860 presidential victory with vice president Hannibal Hamlin and Lincoln’s 1864 re-election rally with Andrew Johnson.
To learn more about the 1860 Lincoln Banner campaign, or about other founding members of Delaware County Historical Society, please visit the home of DCHS at 408 Avenue of the States. Please call 610-359-0832 or visit padelcohistory.org with any questions. DCHS is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday; and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month. It is closed on Tuesdays.
Appointments and group/school tours are available upon request. Parking is free in the lot behind the building or across the street in the city’s municipal lot. Memberships are encouraged and donations are graciously accepted.
Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge William B. Broomall was one of the 83 founders of Delaware County Historical Society.
William B. Broomall lived in the City of Chester, most of it in this home at 14th and Chestnut streets.