Wenonah Environmental Commission

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Historical Overview: Before 1870

1. Pre-colonial period (up to 1660 in the Wenonah area): The Lenni-Lenape Indians had camps along the Mantua Creek and Monongahela Stream. They were a combination of Mantese and Unalachtigo sub-tribes of the Delaware Tribe and were commonly called Algonkian Indians due to their common Algonkian language. Their trails were well worn as the indians moved about hunting and fishing throughout the area, mostly following the streams and valleys. There was an abundance of wild game, fish, corn, beans, squash, many berries and good drinking water. Deer provided clothing (Buckskin) as well as food. They lived in oval or round Wigwams. The weather was moderate due to the warming effect of the Delaware River, Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The Lenni-Lenape Indians began to move out of this area as settlers came up the Mantua Creek and started establishing farms. Throughout the area that is now Wenonah, there are still visible traces left by the Lenni-Lenape Indians, including their many trails.

2. Colonial Period (1660 to 1770 in the Wenonah area): Hanisey's Landing Road passed through the area farmland and woods (of what is now Wenonah) to Hanisey's Landing on the banks of Mantua Creek. In this area was a great deal of activity and commerce. Barges brought a variety of food, building material and clothing to the docks. Firewood and other local products were sent to Philadelphia daily from Hanisey's landing. There were shipyards on both sides of the creek that built barges and sloops. The Mantua Creek had a wide variety of fish. Shad were one of the favorite food fish netted in the creek. Sturgeons with caviar were also found here. There were valuable deposits of Marl along the shoreline. Much of the housing was established high on the banks of the creek. This area had the most activity because the Mantua Creek had navigable deep water from the Delaware River all the way up to what is now the bridge between Mantua and Wenonah.

3. 1770 to 1870 The Initial Development Period in Wenonah: The area was still pristine with many natural water springs. Water quality was excellent. Mantua creek was thriving with a variety of fish and wildlife. An increased number of boats came from the Delaware River to Wenonah along the Mantua Creek. Because of the forests and abundance of quality surface water, the area (later named Wenonah) became a resort attraction due to the healthful atmosphere. Many prominent merchants and business leaders built their permanent and summer homes here. Dilk's pond (now called Wenonah Lake) was already established and provided ice for food storage boxes. The water department facilities were located at the outlet of Dilk's pond. The pond now on N. Jefferson Avenue (which was then the original railroad tracks) had no name, but was on the George Dilk's property. No other lakes existed at this time.

(Continue to the 1870-1968 period.)

Acknowledgements: Some data derived from the archives of Milton H. Webb and Mayor Jack Sheppard, Sr. by C.R.Forsman