A Tory Story


Here in the greater Philadelphia region, we love to celebrate the role our section of the country played in the American Revolution. The Continental Congress, the army at Valley Forge, and Washington’s crossing of the Delaware, are all well remembered by modern American patriots.  But what about the people who didn’t want independence?

Known as Loyalists or Tories, their side of the story is told in a small collection of papers in the Historical Society’s collection. The Henry and Barbara Junken Papers came to the Historical Society through John F. Reed, who wrote an article on the papers in the Bulletin of Spring, 1965.

Henry Juncken, who was originally from Germany, lived in Springfield Township with his wife Barbara and kept a tavern in Philadelphia.  He seems to have been a prosperous man.


A “Henry Younkin” appears in the 1769 tax records for Springfield Township (from Ancestry Library Edition)

When the Revolution began, in 1775, Juncken was not silent about his feelings on independence, and in the spring of 1776, he was arrested and jailed.  In July, he was released on parole with a pass to allow him free movement in Philadelphia.


Henry Juncken’s parole pass

When the British left Philadelphia in 1778, the Junckens went with them to New York. They moved all the way to England after Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown in 1781, settling in London. From England, they corresponded with Barbara’s nephew, John Rees, who stayed in New York.  His letters show that even after Yorktown, the Loyalists were still hopeful.


Portion of a letter from the Juncken’s nephew, John Rees

In the end, of course, the treaty recognizing American independence was signed in 1783.  The Rebels (or Patriots) sold Juncken’s 116 acres at auction for the benefit of the state of Pennsylvania.  Juncken petitioned the British government for reimbursement of his lost property.  It’s possible that he received some kind of payment or allowance, but neither Reed nor I could find out what it was.  Several drafts of his petitions are with his papers.  I found the actual petitions addressed to Lord Shelburne on Ancestry.


A draft of Henry Juncken’s petition to the British government

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A note certifying that Henry Junkin [sic] is a “firm friend to his Majesty.” (from Ancestry Library Edition)

Eventually, the Junckens settled in Canada as so many Tories did. After Henry died in 1803 and Barbara  returned to Springfield Township where she lived among relatives until her death in 1812.


The Gray Ladies

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Here is a picture of what I thought at first were a group of nurses. In fact, they’re Gray Ladies, Red Cross volunteers who worked in hospitals all over the county in non-medical rolls.  This group is from Montgomery Hospital.

The Gray Ladies, who were originally known as the Hostess and Hospital Service and Recreation corps, were founded during World War I.  Facing a great expansion of its volunteers, the Red Cross created color-coded uniforms, and the “Gray Ladies” quickly became a source of comfort to wounded soldiers.  After the war, the program expanded to civilian hospitals, like Montgomery.

The Gray Ladies first came to Montgomery Hospital in 1939, so this photograph is of the first group.  At that time they were under the direction of Mrs. Warren L. Irish.

They served many roles in the hospital, including the running the reception desk and the patient library.  They also worked in the children’s ward, as reported by the Times-Herald in 1955.


From blood drives to Christmas parties,  the Gray Ladies made the hospital a warm, welcoming place.  In 1947, the Red Cross changed the name of the group to the Gray Lady Service.

The Red Cross continues to provide support services to hospitals across the country, but the Gray Ladies themselves have gone.  In the 1960’s, the Red Cross unified it’s various volunteer corps, and a single blue uniform was issued.


Some Musical Discoveries


Before streaming  and iPods, even before vinyl LP’s or Edison cylinders, when people wanted music, they often made it themselves.   At the turn of the last century, Norristown had several music stores, which not only sold instruments and sheet music, but also published original compositions.

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Several songs were written in honor of Norristown’s centennial in 1912.  If you have a piano handy, you might want to play “Ring Those Bells – Hang Out the Flag,” by Joseph N. King or “Dear Norristown” by Samuel Stevens.


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Stevens also wrote a song just for Norristown High School, which was played by the high school’s mandolin club, called, “The Diploma March and Two-Step.”  I can’t help but wonder how a march sounded on mandolin, or how long Norristown High School had a mandolin club.

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Samuel Stevens

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Willow Grove Park, once famous for it’s summer concerts, had its own march by Eugenio Sorrentino.

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Not all of the pieces were about places in the county.  William M. Wood composed “Teddy the Tried and the True,” in honor of Theodore Roosevelt and “Teddy’s Army” a scouting movement he started.

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Finally, we have a piece of music called “Waters of the Perkiomen.”  This one wasn’t written by locals, but by F. Henri Klickmann (perhaps best known for “Kitten on the Keys”) with lyrics by Al Dubin who wrote the lyrics for many songs for Hollywood musicals.



I managed to find a recording of “Waters of the Perkiomen.”  You can check it out here.

Nowadays, we have a world of music at our fingertips, but looking at all this amazing local music, I wonder if we’ve lost something, too.