Rutledge was founded in 1885 by a group of Philadelphia businessmen, and incorporated as a Borough in 1887. Here is how the community was described in an 1897 promotional brochure:
“Located ten miles from Philadelphia, on the line of the Central Division of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, three minutes walk from Morton Station – it is reached in from 20 to 30 minutes by 21 trains daily… To the west lies the magnificent Swarthmore College, and to the southeast, three miles away, lies the Delaware River… its school is one of the finest in the county; its houses are neat and attractive, and their owners take great pride in their homes and the adornment of their grounds.”
Since then, there have been a few name changes. The train line is SEPTA’s Regional Rail Media/Elwyn line, which provides 26 trains on weekdays from Philadelphia to what is now called the Morton-Rutledge Station. But in many ways, this description still holds true today. The schools in the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District are still among the finest in the county, and the homes, many of them dating back to the late 1800s, are still kept with pride by their owners.
How did Rutledge get its name?
Was it named for Ann Rutledge, early sweetheart of Abraham Lincoln, as the street sign at the corner of Swarthmore and Morton Avenues suggests? The earliest reference to the name “Rutledge” occurred on June 19, 1885, when the Rutledge Mutual Land Improvement Association was created as a corporation under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. According to the 1897 souvenir booklet authored, it is supposed, by founders of the Borough, a different story is told. “…the English novel-reading world was surprised and delighted by the appearance of the story of Rutledge by a then unknown author; and so it came to pass that when, a few years ago, a company of Philadelphians associated themselves in an organization for the purpose of establishing rural homes, and came to fix upon a name for their proposed town-one who had read the story suggested Rutledge”.
According to the Delaware County Observer and Morton Chronicle Anniversary Supplement 1937, the lawyer for The Solar Tip Mutual Land Improvement Association, “Thomas Jefferson Hunt, Esq. now deceased, was commissioned to advertise for the land for the association. He had been reading the novel Rutledge a southern tale, when he thought of the advertisement to be placed for the association; laying the novel aside, he wrote the advertisement for the Philadelphia Ledger and upon its completion wondered to whom he would have the answers sent, when his attention was attracted to the novel which he had been reading, and which he had been much interested in, and at once wrote, send answers to “Rutledge” in care of the Ledger.” Other ideas have surfaced from time to time but the “novel” idea seems to be the correct one.
The novel Rutledge by Miriam (Coles) Harris is a mystery/romance novel first published anonymously in 1860 and still available today. The story centers in 1850’s New York City and Rutledge Plantation in the NY countryside and concerns how a 17 year old orphan struggles to find her place in the world.
Thanks to Randall Poe and Mary E (Lynn) Woodling for preparing this Borough history.
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