History

Morton Pa Morton Ave Business Block 1912The area now known as Morton Borough is one of the oldest communities in Delaware County. Early references indicate it was part of a 1636 Land Grant, which in 1776 became Ridley and Springfield Townships. In fact, John Morton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was the original Land Surveyor of the area.

The new town of Kedron was growing far too slowly for founder Judge Sketchley Morton. Founded in 1860 on the West Chester Railroad Line, the town of Kedron had many good points. The Kedron Methodist was founded in 1860 and had its own railroad station. Judge Morton had also invested heavily. He’d established a brickyard, sawmill and general store under the name “Morton and Son,” all solely owned by Judge Morton, of course.

But by 1867, the town of Kedron still only consisted of about ten houses, and Morton knew he needed something else to get the town of Kedron off and running.

That is when Judge Morton set his eyes on the “Oakdale” Post Office. The little community of Oakdale was centered at today’s Baltimore Pike and Sproul Road. Besides a school, blacksmith shop and some other stores, Oakdale’s main claim was its post office, the only post office in Springfield Township.

The post office postmaster was coming up for reappointment in 1867 and Judge Morton applied for the job. When word got out to Springfield Township the residents were outraged. They knew Morton would move the Oakdale Post Office to Kedron, but Kedron was all the way at the southern tip of Springfield Township. To receive and send mail Springfield Township residents would have to go there, while Oakdale was much more central to all of Springfield’s residents.

Newspaper editorials were against the move, and petitions were signed by nearly all of Springfield’s residents. In spite of the protest, Judge Morton had the political clout to get the postmaster appointment. As feared, Morton moved the post office to the railroad station, which he had built himself with bricks from his own brickyard. As a final insult to Springfield residents, Judge Skethchley Morton named the post office “Morton,” after himself. His town of Kedron quickly faded and now Morton took its place. Kedron Methodist Church kept its original name, however.

Various branches of the Morton Family resided in the area throughout this period. In 1810, Sketchley Morton, son of John S. and Susan Crosby Morton and great grandson of John Morton, was born on a farm in the vicinity of Ridley Township. The father moved the family to the Morton area in the early 1820s. In 1835, Sketchley married Elizabeth Newlin of West Chester and fathered seven children, whom he moved in 1866 to his own property near the Railroad Station. Sketchley Morton was a colorful character. A prominent State Representative and a Judge in the Court of Common Pleas, he moved into our community when the area was known as Newton Station consisting of only a Post Office, the Newton Railroad Station (named after the Honorable Isaac Newton, first Secretary of Agriculture), the Kedron Methodist Church (newly built in 1860) and four farms.

The area gradually became known as “Morton,” although it was still governed by the adjoining townships. In 1894, when Pennsylvania was undergoing massive change, Morton residents voted to remove themselves from the controls of Springfield and Ridley Townships and in 1898 became incorporated as an independent municipality. However, independence was not free – the newly formed Borough was forced to assume a debt of $2,813.11 to Springfield Township, which it finally paid in 1910.

The layout of the current Borough as we know it can be traced to John Irwin, another prominent local businessman. In 1871, John Irwin bought 76 acres of ground and called the property Faraday Park. On this acreage, Mr. Irwin erected his home, a machine shop, an electrical plant and a gas works from which he serviced many of the local establishments. Mr. Irwin also laid out two streets, which he named Franklin and Kedron Avenues, and built a boardwalk from the newly renamed Philadelphia, Morton and Swarthmore Railway Company to the Church of Atonement on Amosland Road, which he had helped to found. Mr. Irwin was also instrumental in installing the first street lights in these areas. Local businesses flourished. The Morton Building and Loan Association was organized in 1885, later becoming the Morton Savings and Loan Association. Other prominent businesses included the Morton Chronicle, a local newspaper (which began publication in 1879), Faraday Heat, Power & Light Company (founded by John Irwin), Keystone State Telephone and Telegraph Company, and Morton Poultry Yards (founded by Richard Young).

The children of Morton were first taught at a public school in Oakdale on Baltimore Pike until the Morton Public School (later named the Phyllis Wheatley School) was built in 1876. Later, as the population grew, classes were also taught at the new Sidney Smedley Public School (site of our current Municipal Building). In the 1960s the Wheatley School was closed and students were taught only at the Smedley School (grades 1-8) and attended Ridley High School. In the 1970s Smedley was also closed and the District consolidated with Springfield Township. Although the Wheatley School has since been torn down, the site has been preserved as Jacob’s Park, named after William Jacobs, a prominent citizen. Portions of Smedley School have also been razed, but it continues to serve the Borough as its Municipal Building.

Do you have any Morton Borough photos, stories or history to share?  If so, please share it with us at web@mortonpa.org and we may post it here on our Community site!