August 8, 2016: PORT PROVIDENCE – IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF CHRIS SANDERSON

by Sally Denk Hoey

Why does Hanna Sanderson’s name appear as Hanna Carmac Sanderson on her grave marker and her father’s name as Captain Christian Carmack on his handsome obelisk?

And what’s the 4’ long buried concrete marker museum president Sue Minarchi uncovered next to the Sanderson lot that spells out SANDERSON? Could it be the remnant of the settee that Hanna had installed at her husband’s marker shortly after his death in 1898?

These were just some of the questions that arose during the fieldtrip on August 6, 2016, sponsored by the Sanderson Museum. On this day, fourteen museum volunteers would literally walk in Chris’s footsteps in Port Providence, Pennsylvania, the village where he grew up on the banks of the Schuylkill Canal.

FullSizeRender
Sanderson Museum volunteers at grave marker.     Back Row l-r: Diane Peralta, Sue Minarchi, John Aaron, Walt Kinsey, Tom Walsh, Linda Banks, Joanne Kinsey Front Row l-r: Carol Little, Chuck Ulmann, Sally Hoey, Mary Hewes, Donel Manke Missing from photo: Mary Ann Ulmann and Tom Hoey (photographers)

Drawing on her experience as a Chester County Day bus tour leader under the mentoring of the late historian Paul Rodebaugh, the fieldtrip was organized and led by board vice president Sally Denk Hoey.

Although the day’s forecast called for hot and humid weather, the morning breezes across the hillside Morris cemetery in Phoenixville brought blessed relief.

Volunteers brought flowers and flags to decorate the graves of Chris Sanderson, his parents and grandparents.

Crossing the Schuylkill River into Montgomery County our Krapf’s bus traveled along the quiet Schuylkill Canal on Walnut Street to Port Providence. A prosperous village in the mid 19th century, Port Providence was the only stop on the Schuylkill Canal between Norristown and Pottstown. It was here, bargemen carrying anthracite coal from upstate Pennsylvania could change mules, revive their spirits at the tavern and re-supply for the remainder of the voyage.

But by the time Chris Sanderson was born in his Grandfather’s Port Providence home on the east end of Walnut Street, the canal had seen it’s heyday and was already in decline with the new Philadelphia and Reading Railroad transporting three times as much coal as the barges.

Our next stop was lunch at the colorful and historic old Fitzwater Station on the canal. The rustic tavern was named for Abel Fitzwater, whose family bought land along the north side of the canal in 1825. Sanderson volunteers enjoyed entrees such as the Fitzburger, Caesar Salad with Shrimp, Fish and Chips Basket or a Turkey BLT.

After lunch, volunteers had leisure time to cross the footbridge at Fitzwater Station to the beautifully maintained canal path or walk down Canal Street to see stately Sunnyside, the Sanderson home from 1899 – 1906 and Chris’s birthplace a few houses away on Walnut Street.

PP - Canal path across from Sunnyside-sdh
Sanderson Museum volunteers at bridge on canal path; “Sunnyside” in background on right.    l-r: Tom Walsh, Joanne Kinsey, Chuck Ulmann, Carol Little, Sue Minarchi, Mary Hewes, John Aaron

“Sunnyside” with 3 bedrooms and 1-1/2 baths, is in fact currently under an agreement of sale for $350,000 with Century 21.

The property listing starts, “Welcome to Sunnyside. This little piece of History was once the home of Chester County Historian Christian C Sanderson.”

How’s that for front page billing?

The last stop of the day was a short ride across Bridge Street to Jacobs Street in neighboring Mont Clare on the canal, to see the beautifully restored little home Hanna Sanderson named “The Little Brick House” where the Sanderson family lived from 1882 – 1890.

At the end of the day, our volunteers found the fieldtrip had been not only a great opportunity to know Chris better, but to share and renew friendships with fellow volunteers.