The Garrett Williamson Foundation is the vision of Elizabeth Garrett, born in 1831 on the Williamson farm on Bishop Hollow Road in Newtown Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
Elizabeth was the daughter of Adam Buckley Williamson, a descendent of Newtown’s early settler, Daniel Williamson, who purchased the original 450-acre tract on September 24, 1692, and in whose honor our SISTER-TOWN relationship with Stretton, England has been formed.
She married Casper S. Garrett of Upper Darby at her father’s house on March 3, 1853. Garrett owned and operated the Union Paper Mill on Darby Creek, as well as the “Paper Mill House,” which today houses the museum of the history of Newtown Township.
The Williamson farm was later sold to Elizabeth’s father, but she was determined to have it back. Her husband purchased 212.75 of its original acres for her on December 6, 1877 from William Sheldon and Mary Thomas, for a total of $24,400. Elizabeth later acquired more acreage, bringing her holdings to 262 acres.
Garrett Williamson Foundation is Established
After Elizabeth died in 1910, she left her farm and all of its buildings and equipment to provide a vacation home “for the support and maintenance of poor children and deserving single women, as many as possible, so each shall remain for a limited period during the spring, summer, and fall months and shall be succeeded by others in the same manner.”
It was thought that the working girls were included because of her compassion for the girls who worked in her husband’s paper mill. The beneficiaries were to come from Philadelphia and other cities and towns where farm life was not known. The will stated Elizabeth’s desire that…
“…beneficiaries shall not live in one large building, my wish being that smaller buildings to accommodate fewer beneficiaries shall be erected and built rather than one large building to accommodate all who may be enjoying the benefit of the lodge.”
In a departure from the will, the lodge was constructed in 1916, rather than smaller buildings. Elizabeth stipulated that the farm be kept as always, “with a succession of crops in different fields, with flowers in suitable places, and with all the buildings, furniture and farm animals retained.”
The will also stipulated that the Board of Managers could sell small portions on the outskirts of the property, if necessary, but must never sell the woods adjoining the creek, “as I desire the farm and its surroundings to be kept and preserved as nearly as possible in its present condition.”
The Foundation has been generous with the use of the facilities over the years. Classes were held in the lodge when the Marple Newtown High School burned down in 1956. The Ellis School had some classes here over the years. A private school for Armenian children, the Armenian Sisters
Academy, now of Radnor, also leased the lodge in the early 1970’s. The Marple Newtown Recreation Commission also had an office here.
Garrett Williamson Today Garrett’s Way and Camp Garrett are premier educational and recreational centers for youth in Delaware, Chester, and Philadelphia counties.
Senior citizens, churches, nonprofit organizations, outside groups and Boy and Girl Scouts use the facilities for picnics, social functions, and retreats. The Delaware County 4-H uses the barn and pastures to teach youth about agriculture.
We still have a charming reminder of this unselfish woman, who loved her childhood home enough to retrieve it and leave it for the enjoyment of those less fortunate. It is a Sampler, fashioning a poem in her own fine needlework, stitched when Elizabeth was 16, reading…
“We were made to work awhile,
Cheerful at our work to smile;
Thinking as we labor thus
Of the heaven prepared for us.”
The Garrett Williamson Foundation is committed to the policy that all persons shall have equal access to programs, facilities, admission, and employment. The Garrett Williamson Foundation does not discriminate against any person because of age, ancestry, color, disability or handicap, national origin, race, religious creed, gender, sexual orientation, or veteran status.