The Mercer Museum, Bucks County Historical Society located at 84 S. Pine Street, Doylestown, Pa. Has continuously provided me with a wealth of information pertaining to my family roots. It seems only fitting, space on this web page be provided for brief information on the person who made this the success it has become. The Spruance Library provides information for anyone searching their roots in Bucks County. While my web page provides a little information regarding a mere few who lived in Bucks County, this library provides a seemingly endless resources. For anyone seeking there family, previous ownership of their property, this is a must, and if you are a serious information seeker, I would hope to see you some Saturday. The staff of this library has been in place many years and are extremely knowledgeable researching every aspect of Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Dr. Henry Chapman Mercer
DOYLESTOWN, March 10.-This borough's internationally famous citizen, Dr. Henry Chapman Mercer, A. B. LL. D., Sc. D died at his home "Fonthill" yesterday afternoon shortly before 4 o'clock at the age of seventy-four years of a complication of diseases. He had been in poor health for a number of years and had been confined to his bed for two weeks. As one of the outstanding archaeologists of the United States, Dr. Mercer was best known internationally as the builder and donor of the famous museum that bears his name on the grounds of the Bucks County Historical Society. Arrangements for the funeral will not be completed until Tuesday or Wednesday of this week when a brother of the deceased, William R. Mercer, of "Aldie," is scheduled to arrive home from a trip to Europe. Dr. Mercer's famous museum connected with the Historical Society houses the famous "Tools of the Nation Maker" collection that is viewed annually by thousands of persons from every part of the world. He was also the builder and operator of the famous Moravian Pottery and Tile Works located on his estate east of town. Dr. Mercer was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, member of the American Philosophical Society, Academy of Natural Sciences, Phila., Numismatic and Antiquarian Society, Georgraphical Society, British Numismatic Society, Rittenhouse Club, Phila. Club, Phila. Racquet Club, T-Square, Club, of Phila. and the Explorers' Club of New York. Dr. Mercer was never married. He was born in Doylestown, June 24, 1856 and was the son of William Robert Mercer, of "Cedar Park," West River, Anne Arundel County, Maryland. The primary education of Dr. Mercer was received in the private school of Thomas Hughes, Doylestown. He later attended the famous Tennent School at Hartsville, Bucks county that marked the start of Princeton University. He prepared for college at the Mohegan Lake School, near Peekskill N. Y. and under a private tutor. He entered Harvard in 1875 and was graduated with a degree of A. B. in 1879. He read law with Hon. Peter McCall in Phila. in 1880 and 1881 and was admitted to the Phila. Bar in 1881. Dr. Mercer was interested in archaeology in early life. He was an honorary member of the United States Archaeological Commission at Madrid in 1882. He became editor for anthropology in the "American Naturalist." He was appointed in 1894 by Dr. William Pepper as curator of American and prehistoric archaeology at the University of Pa. and filled that position until 1897. Many caves in the United States were explored by Dr. Mercer. He studied aboriginal remains in the Delaware Valley, as well as in the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, and in Belgium and Spain. In 1894 and 1895 he explored the caverns of Yucatan and discovered in the United States several new species of extinct animals. He also explored the caverns at Port Kennedy, Montgomery county, discovering their further new species of extinct animals. Before leaving the University of Pa. Dr. Mercer devoted considerable attention to a study and technical comparison of the alleged geological ancient human implements found in America with stone blades of modern North American Indian and of the ancient Pleistocene man of Europe, and made further researches to prove or disprove the geological antiquity of man in America by human and animal remains found in caves and to establish, if possible, lines of early migration by cave remains and other human remains found along the river valleys, considered as pioneer pathways. In these researches the modern Indian stone blade quarries and workshops of the Delaware Valley were discovered and studied and compared with the alleged glacial specimens found in the drift graves at Trenton, N. J. at Abbeville, and the Dordogne Valley in France, Spiennes, in Belgium and San Isidro, in Spain. His "Hill Caves of Yucatan" was published in 1896, and his "Antiquity of Man in the Delaware Valley and Eastern United States" in 1897. In the spring of 1897 Dr. Mercer began the famous collection of what he termed "Tools of the Nation Maker," being tools and implements illustrating the development of domestic industries and the founding of the civilized home. These collections were made for the Bucks County Historical Society, of which he was one of the founders in 1880. As this line of investigation developed, Dr. Mercer realized that the name "Tools of the Nation Maker" did not suitably describe the collections he was making, as the more fully illustrated the development of the early industries necessary not to any one Nation but to all civilized life. This collection is housed in the Mercer Museum here. Dr. Mercer succeeded the late General W. W. H. Davis as president of the Bucks County Historical Society in 1910 and filled that position up until the time of his death. He began the erection of what is known as the Mercer Museum in which are now stored over 20,000 specimens of his collecting, constituting the best illustration of the development of industries in the United States, and probably in the world. The building itself is unique, containing seventy rooms and constructed entirely of concrete, externally and internally. The museum is visited annually by over 10,000 people. The building was erected entirely at the expense of Dr. Mercer, and presented to the society and endowed with sufficient funds for the perpetual support and development of the museum. In 1897 Dr. Mercer started the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works. He discovered and patented a process for coloring and glazing of these tiles not before practiced in the United States, which has been eminently successful. Dr. Mercer was granted the honorary degree of Doctor of Science by Franklin and Marshall College, Pa., in recognition of his Yucatan expedition. In July 1929, Dr. Mercer was granted the honorary degree of doctor of laws by Lehigh University, at Bethlehem, Pa. Dr. Mercer was awarded a bronze medal by the Exposition Historic-American Madrid, 1892, for his "Lenape Stone." He was also awarded a grand prize (for tiles) at the St. Louis Exposition 1904, and a gold craftsmanship medal by the American Association of Architects at Washington, D. C., in 1921. Dr. Mercer has contributed a number of learned papers to leading and historical publications and has published a number of books and pamphlets. "Fonthill," the home of Dr. Mercer was built in 1908 and 1909. It is a unique residence of concrete, with beautiful groined and arched ceilings, upon which has been lavised Dr. Mercer's finest exhibitions of ceramic art, illustrating history and historical subjects, ancient and modern. On his estate east of town is a bird sanctuary and arboretum that annually is the mecca for naturalists and nature lovers for miles around.
DOYLESTOWN, March 14-Several hundred prominent persons representing well known Philadelphia families, college and educational leaders, authors, scientists and other friends yesterday attended the funeral of Dr. Henry Chapman Mercer at his late residence, "Fonthill." Among the local people who attended were close friends of the late builder and donor of the Mercer Museum connected with the Bucks County Historical Society. They included people who were intensely interested in the fine work that Dr. Mercer accomplished along the line of nature study. The service at "Fonthill," where Dr. Mercer died last Sunday afternoon, was conducted yesterday by the Rev. Dr. William Reese Scott, rector of St. Paul's Protestant Episcopal Church. This was followed by a further service at the grave in the Presbyterian graveyard conducted by Rev. George M. Whitenack, Jr., pastor of the Doylestown Presbyterian Church. The honorary pall bearers included Owen J. Wistar, of Germantown, noted novelist and life-long friend of Dr. Mercer, who was one of the last to see him besides members of the immediate household before he died; Henry G. Prengle, Philadelphia bank president; six directors of the Bucks County Historical Society of which Dr. Mercer was the president, including John H. Buckman, Buckingham township; J. Herman Barnsley, Newtown; Colonel Henry D. Paxson, Buckingham; Dr. B. F. Fackenthal, Riegelsville; Warren S. Ely, of Doylestown, and Mathias Hall, of New Jersey. All day yesterday the Bucks County Historical Society buildings were closed out of respect to the late president.
DOYLESTOWN, March 15-A large portion of the fortune of Dr. Henry Chapman Mercer, ethnologist of international reputation, who died at his home here last Sunday, will benefit the public at large through generous bequests made in his will. An estate estimated to be valued at close to $1,000,000 although it has been listed a $200,000 and upwards is disposed of in the will of the late scientist filed for probate late yesterday in the office of the Register of Wills. The will was dated Sept. 22, 1925. The Mercer home on the "Fonthill" estate, Dr. Mercer's home, is bequeathed to the public for their benefit to be used as a museum. It was endowed for $100,000. The famous Mercer Museum connected with the Bucks County Historical Society in this borough, erected and maintained by Dr. Mercer, is bequeathed to the Bucks County Historical Society and is endowed with $130,000 to be used for maintenance and the proper operation of the Mercer Museum building exclusively. The residue of the estate of Dr. Mercer is also bequeathed to the Bucks County Historical Society. The beautiful grounds surrounding "Fonthill" are given to the Doylestown Nature Club to be used for an aboretum to be maintained form the $100,000 "Fonthill" fund. Numerous other public bequests are made. The largest individual bequest is received by Frank K. Swain, manager of Dr. Mercer's Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, who is bequeathed the entire pottery plant and business and $100,000 absolutely. Another $100,000 bequest is made to finance an expedition to the Far East which is now in progress, the results of which will benefit the Bucks County Historical Society. The will and a number of codicils were filed yesterday by two of the executors, Henry G. Brengle, president of the Fidelity-Philadelphia Trust Company, and Dr. B. F. Fackenthal, Jr., of Riegelsville. The third executor named, William Stuckert, a former Doylestown attorney, is dead. The estate was filed before Deputy Register of Wills Harry S. Hobensack. In the opening paragraph of the will, covering more than a dozen typewritten pages, Dr. Mercer bequeaths his castle home, "Fonthill," to a board of trustees for the benefit of the public. This board is to consist of the President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County (Judge William C. Ryan); the president of the Bucks County Bar Association (E. Wesley Keeler); the president of the Bucks County Historical Society (vacancy existing now); the pastor of the Doylestown Presbyterian Church (Rev. George M. Whitenack Jr.) the principal of George School in Newtown (George A. Walton); and to their respective successors and to Frank K. Swain, of Doylestown, and to one other person to be elected by the majority of the directors. With "Fonthill" is bequeathed all tiles now in the building, all tapestries, paintings, drawings, etchings engravings, works of art, all the books, and other papers as well as all other exhibits and decorations in trust for the purpose set forth as follows: "(a) That no part thereof ever shall be sold, alienated or encumbered by the trustees or their successors in the trust. "(b) That trustees and their successors are to care for, maintain and preserve forever the said buildings and tract of real estate. " © The said real estate surrounding the buildings is to be utilized by the trustees as to them may seem proper for farming or for a public park. (This paragraph is rescinded in a codicil filed with the will and gives the grounds to the Doylestown Nature Club to be used as an arboretum) "(d) That the tiles now in the buildings and all other tiles which may be placed there from time to time shall be preserved and cared for with the object and design of illustrating the meaning and history of ornamental tiles as applied to architecture. "(e) Provides that works of art and the library and all other furniture and fixtures shall be cared for by the trustees. "(f) That the buildings and grounds shall at all times be open to visitors for study and instruction to the end that an opportunity will be afforded to the public of viewing and studying the history and meaning of tiles as applied to architecture. "(g) That in order that the trustees and their successors in the trust may carry out the above purposes and designs I bequeath to the Girard Trust Company of Philadelphia $100,000 in trust to invest same and pay out the income as follows: "(1) A reasonable sum for maintenance. "(2) A sum not exceeding $1000 may be used in the purchase of tiles during any one year, the same to be placed when so purchased in the buildings, and any unexpected balance at the end of each year shall be paid annually to the Bucks County Historical Society; that is to say, providing the said income of the trust fund of $100,000 is not all expended in the management, care and maintenance of the grounds and buildings and in the purchase and placement of tiles as aforesaid; then and in that event, whatever unexpected balance of the income remains at the need of each year, shall be paid over annually at the beginning of each year to the Bucks County Historical Society." In another paragraph of the will is the following paragraph: "It is my hope that my house called 'Fonthill,' thus left to the public for their benefit, may be of lasting good to them as a museum for exhibition and study of decorative tiles, decorative art, of engravings and woodcuts and of the technical and artistic process of concrete house construction. Therefore it is my clear and earnest wish that 'Fonthill' shall not be altered, reconstructed, modernized, refitted or changed, but allowed to remain inside and out as it is; that the furniture and books remaining in it at my death shall not be sold or distributed, removed or replaced except temporarily if necessary for purposes of repair. "Frank King Swain, present manager of my Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, and his wife, Laura M. Swain, or his or their successors chosen by him or them shall be given the option of residing for the terms of their lives rent free in this my house, and if they act as caretakers they shall receive a suitable salary." SOCIETY PRINCIPAL BENEFICIARY The Bucks County Historical Society is the principal beneficiary in the will. They receive the Mercer Museum and $130,000 on which to operate it, and the residue of the estate that may make the total bequest to the society reach $300,000 or more it is estimated. Dr. Mercer sets forth in his will: "The privilege to do so having been granted to me the Bucks County Historical Society, it has been one of the pleasures of my life to erect upon the grounds of the society property in Doylestown, a reinforced concrete fireproof building used as a safe depository of the ethnological collection of the tools and implements of the pioneer settlers of America, a large collection of which has already been made and is now in the possession of the society, and which may be added to from time to time. "It my wish" and purpose that the society shall not only own this building and its appurtenances, all right, title and interest in which said building I hereby give and bequeath to the society forever, but that a fund shall be provided for the care and preservation of all specimens and collections of implements, tools and utensils of the pioneer settlers of America illustrating the life of colonial days and of the early settlement of the United States. "Pursuant to this my desired purpose I bequeath to the Girard Trust Company of Philadelphia, the sum of $130,000 in trust, the income of which is to be paid to the Bucks County Historical Society. The will further directs that the income is to be used for "salary of a curator or director, whose duties shall be to preserve, maintain, develop and increase and catalogue the collection." The income will apply strictly to the Mercer Museum building. Frank King Swain is given the entire plant of the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works in Doylestown township, the plant that has furnished ornamental glazed tiles in practically every country in the world where there are famous buildings. ENDOWS AN EXPLORER In memory of his uncle, Timothy Bigelow Lawrence, Dr. Mercer stipulates a sum of $100,000 shall be paid by the executors of the estate to Rudolph P. Hommel, late of the American Electro-Chemical Society Lehigh University, now conducting an expedition in the countries of the Far East, where he is collecting tools and implements and utensils employed in the daily life in those countries which will probably soon be superseded or abandoned owing to the alteration in social and economic conditions introduced there by Western Nations." Under a contract made in 1921 with Dr. Mercer, Mr. Hommel, according to the will, is to furnish the Bucks County Historical Society with photographs or drawings of the implements "so that the cause of science advanced by my uncle's family as in their foundation of the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard University," might be promoted. Mr. Hommel, under the contract, is to publish an illustrated book descriptive of his findings and to furnish the Mercer Museum with classified copies for the archives. It is directed that if for any reason this work should be interrupted in China or could not be completed or if it may seem advisable, the work of the expedition may be continued in other countries and at the completion of the work any part of the $100,000 remaining should be given to the publication fund of the Bucks County Historical Society. The collection when housed in the Mercer Museum shall be known as "Records of Chinese, Oriental and other primitive industries dedicated to the memory of Timothy Bigelow Lawrence, of Boston, by Henry Chapman Mercer." The original illustration manuscript and also the book or books above mentioned publishing and illustrating the collection shall be named and dedicated as follows: "Records of Chinese, Oriental and other primitive industries being the result of an expedition begun in the year 1921 and planned, equipped and directed by Henry Chapman Mercer. PERSONAL BEQUESTS Other bequests are as follows: Emily Stewart Smith, of Phila., a cousin, $20,000; Laura M. Swain, Doylestown $5,000; Louisa Jamison, Doylestown formerly in the employment of Dr. Mercer, $1,000; Clarence Rosenberger, Doylestown, employed at the Moravian Pottery, $5,000; Benjamin H. Barnes, Doylestown, employed at the Moravian Pottery, $3,000. The American Anti-Vivisection Society receives $6,000 and a similar gift is given to the Pa. Society for the Preservation of Cruelty to Animals. Sophia Lyman Pratt and Miss Marian Lyman, cousins of Dr. Mercer each receive $300. The Home For the Aged and Infirmed Deaf, formerly located here but now in Phila., is bequeathed $5,000. Under the original will the residue of the estate was bequeathed to the only surviving brother, William R. Mercer, of "Aldie," Doylestown, but a codicil filed with the will and dated June 24, 1927, revokes that bequest and leaves the residue of the estate to the Bucks County Historical Society. Another codicil dated November 16, 1928, sets aside the farming or public park idea mentioned in the will and creates on the grounds at "Fonthill" an arboretum, planted with trees native to eastern United States and to be under the care of the Doylestown Nature Club, and to be financed from the $100,000 Fonthill trust fund. In a codicil dated April 17, 1929, it is provided that none of the collections in the Mercer Museum shall be loaned for exhibition purposes. If this ruling be violated, the money left to the Bucks County Historical Society will revert to the "Fonthill" fund.
DOYLESTOWN, March 18-It became known this morning that a caveat had been filed by William R. Mercer with the Register of Wills against the probating of the will of his late brother Dr. Henry C. Mercer, in which several large bequests were made. It was explained by Thomas Ross, counsel for the caveator, that while it is a general caveat, it is directed principally against the codicil made in 1927 which changed a bequest of the residue of the estate to Mr. Mercer so that the balance will go to the Bucks County Historical Society in addition to a bequest of $130,000 for maintenance of Mercer Museum in the original will. The residue of the estate has been estimated at $300,000. The caveator, it was explained, feels that at the time the codicil revoking the main bequest was made Dr. Mercer as in extremely poor health and in a very much disturbed state of mind, and that the historical society was already sufficiently endowed through the bequest giving it the museum and its collection and $230,000, for its maintenance. It was explained that the attack upon the will may be withdrawn, but that in any event it is not intended to affect any of the bequests except that of the residue to the Bucks County Historical Society.