The West Family, 1776 to 1784
• The Revolutionary War Era
During the years of the Revolutionary War, the property was owned by William West, Sr. (1724-1782), a Philadelphia merchant. Born in Ireland in 1724, West immigrated to Pennsylvania around 1750 and quickly made a name for himself by developing a prosperous dry goods business as well as by trading with the Indians and investing in land in western Pennsylvania. He was also active in Pennsylvania governmental circles.
In 1753 West married Mary Hodge, the daughter of a well-to-do merchant. West became a member of the American Philosophical Society and helped found the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and was president of that organization in 1773 and 1774.
From the beginning of the Revolutionary War West sided with the American cause. He was a signer of the non-importation agreement in 1765. He mingled with the delegates and local leaders and entertained John Adams at his home. His nephew, William West, Jr., was a founding member of the First City Troop of Philadelphia in 1776.
Made uneasy by the approach of the British forces, both Wests moved to the newly acquired property in Whitemarsh which had been purchased by William West, Sr. in October, 1776. William, Jr. served with the Continental Army where he was commissioned a major. Taken prisoner in mid-November, he was released on parole in July, 1777 and rejoined his family. While it cannot be firmly established when the Wests moved to Whitemarsh, it must have been between October, 1776 and April, 1777.
Following the engagement at Brandywine, Washington's army assembled in the Whitemarsh area and, after a few skirmishes, took up positions among the Whitemarsh hills at Fort Hill and Militia Hill. This encampment lasted more than five weeks, the second longest encampment of the war. Washington next moved the army to Valley Forge, for the war's longest encampment.
Although it has not been established whether the West family lived at the estate during this period of time, the mansion itself was occupied by Dr. John Cochran, Surgeon General to General Washington, as well as some other army officers. William West, Jr., after an uneasy career in the army in which at one point he was even accused of treason, was twice captured by the British. Once he was exchanged but he he spent the remainder of the war on a prison ship following his second capture. After the war he was released and moved to Baltimore and did not return to Whitemarsh.
William West, Sr. was considered so much of a patriot that John Fitzgerald, aide de camp to General Washington, issued an order protecting West's woodlots from being used by the troops who were encamped nearby. West continued to live at his Whitemarsh home in comparative luxury. He had a carriage and a chariot, a silver tea urn and silver plate, a family of slaves and also servants who were paid weekly wages. He farmed the land raising rye, oats, wheat and barley and owned a bull and calf.
William, Sr. died at his Whitemarsh estate on October 28, 1782. The surviving family did not remain at the farm and the property was sold in 1784 for 4,650 pounds, Pennsylvania money, to Henry Hope.