Today’s blog is written by Curatorial Assistant Amanda Rockwood. Amanda has been with the Hagen History Center for a year and a half and is an Ohio native and Edinboro University graduate. Enjoy this look of the Battles’ property, also owned and administered by the Hagen History Center.
Today we are going to take a trip out to Girard, PA. Many of you may have casually passed by the Battles Estate on Walnut Street and never realized the history behind the location. The estate consists of two homes, the Yellow House and the White House, along with 130 acres of farmland.
As the name states, the estate belonged to the Battles family. The land included an orchard and vineyard, it is said Asa Battles did not want anything else grown on the land. The farm also had a variety of animals housed there. Many of them were circus animals belonging to Dan Rice, another famous Girard name.
When Asa died in 1848, he left his wife, Elizabeth and six children. Elizabeth and two of the unmarried daughters, Alsina and Lucina lived in the White House together. All three would be taken care of by the youngest son, Rush, who had inherited the estate. Rush would have the Yellow House built in 1858-1859, for himself, his mother, and two sisters to live in. Both sisters never married and lived in the home until they died in the 1905 and 1909, respectively.
In time Rush become a lawyer, businessman, and eventually partnered with Henry Webster to create the Battles & Webster House of Banking. Along with his company, Rush also had to keep up with the family’s farm. Rush married his business partner’s sister, Charlotte McConnell Webster in 1861. After their marriage the couple would live with his family in the Yellow house.
In 1861, Rush would have the White House built just north of the Yellow House for him and his new wife. There he and Charlotte had three children, Mary, Charlotte, and James. Sadly, only Charlotte survived into adulthood. Her older sister and younger brother passed away in their infancy/childhood years.
When Rush died in 1904, he left his daughter the entire estate along with his business. During the worldwide economic crash in the 1920’s, the bank was under Charlotte’s control. While this was going on, she had been vacationing and had to make sure instructions were sent to her uncle, Charles F. Webster, that the bank was to remain open. It is said that out of 1,147 banks in Pennsylvania, hers was the only one that did not close down. It may have even been one of the few banks to remain open not only in the state, but even the country. Eventually a notice was given to the bank that there must be an immediate closure, and in response Charlotte would say “no.”
Charlotte had been married to C.B. Barber in 1886, but the marriage ended due to his cruelty towards her. The two never had any children and Charlotte never remarried. Charlotte would befriend Georgianna Reed years before her mother passed away. After her mother’s death she and Georgianna lived together in the Battle’s family home. The two would live in the house until Charlotte’s death in 1952. The house was then left to Georgianna, which she lived in for another 30 years. Elizabeth passed away in 1982, not far off from her 100th birthday.
The two homes have been converted into museums. Their outdoor spaces can be reserved for wedding ceremonies and receptions. The inside looks as though the family left without packing anything up. The upstairs of the Yellow House has also renovated and converted into a bed and breakfast. There are also 0.8 miles of trails which are also open to the public for fun hiking adventures.
The Battles Story: The Life and Times of the Battle Family of Girard, Pennsylvania by Sabina Shields