Sunday, April 25, 2010

More on Thomas Wilcox

THOMAS1 WILLCOX was born May 12, 1689 in Devonshire, England, and died November 11, 1779 in Ivy Mills, Pennsylvania. He married ELIZABETH COLE (KOHL) June 3, 1727 in Old Swede Church of the Holy Trinity Wilmington, Delaware. She was born May 10, 1691 in Ireland, and died May 17, 1780 in Ivy Mills, Pennsylvania.


Notes for Thomas Willcox:

The Willcox family was one of the first catholic families to settle in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania had been established as a colony that allowed all religions. The public presentation of a Catholic mass was still forbidden by law throughout the British Empire at this time. It was only allowed in private homes. The chapel in the Willcox home was used for Catholic mass for over a century.

{A Willcox Family History 1689-1981, Including Willcox, Wilcox, and Allied families of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri.} copyright Martha S. Albertson, June 1981

Thomas came to America probably about 1718, though possibly as early as 1712. He located eventually at Concord, Pennsylvania, about 15 miles southwest of Philadelphia, in what was then Chester county, now Delaware County, and was paying taxes in that county in 1725. He evidently brought from England the knowledge of paper making; he built and operated one of the first paper mills in America . "Ivy Mills" was established in 1729 and rebuilt in 1829. Upper Glen Mills was added in 1836; Lower Glen Mills was added in 1845; and the mill was in continuous paper production by Thomas and his descendants until 1866. The mill made papers for such famous people as Benjamin Franklin, a close friend and frequent visitor to the Willcox home. The Willcox mansion, as it was known, became one of the first catholic stations in that section of Pennsylvania, near concord, where Mass was conducted by priests from Philadelphia, and it continued in this capacity until 1837 when the "new mansion" was erected.

According to Lucy Russell (, Thomas arrived on board the ship York out of Bristol, England. I have not seen Lucy's source for this information.

Thomas Willcox, born in Ivybridge, a village some eight miles from

Plymouth, Devonshire, immigrated to the USA in the early 1700s. In 1727 he

built a house and paper mill on Pole Cat Road, Wawa, Pennsylvania. He

planted ivy from his native Devonshire against the mill which became

known as Ivy Mill and the road as Ivy Mills Road. The mill was the second

paper mill established in the USA and the first to use vellum or weave

moulds; papers for Dr Franklin's newspaper came from the Willcox mill.

From the book, "Ivy Mills" by Joseph Willcox, 1919

"So many incidents of future historical interest are associated with the old paper mill, Ivy Mills, that the writer has lately been induced to collect and to put on record, now, whatever data may be available at this late date, realizing the fact that, with each succeeding generation, the more difficult and also more incomplete will be the undertaking of writing its history.

The few old books, letters, and other papers, which could afford any information concerning the operations of the mill, have lately been examined. A few samples only of the many lots of watermarked bank-note and bond papers made at the mill, have survived the ordeal of destruction. Some of the letters and other papers, referred to, have lately been presented to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and have been bound in four volumes labeled "Willcox Papers". In the following incomplete history, references are made to some of these letters and other papers, by the designation of the "Willcox Papers".

In a picturesque and fertile valley, the most widely spread among the hills of Concord ; there flows a stream known as the West Branch of Chester Creek. Three miles or more above its junction with the main stream there stands a paper mill of former times, now idle and silent, awaiting the relentless destiny of ruin, that, in the progress of time, overhangs all the creations of human hands which have served their purpose and outlived their usefulness.

In late years inclement frosts and tempestuous winds have already completed their destructive work among the old ivy vines, and stripped them from the stone walls over which they formerly spread their retentive branches, and appropriately supplied the motive for the name of Ivy Mills. Among the first paper mills erected in America , it was the last of its kind, and had preserved longest in the race of competition when it was abandoned as a hand-made paper mill.

Early in the eighteenth century, Thomas Willcox was attracted to this part of the valley, in Concord Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, which was then covered almost wholly with primeval forests.

His former home, in England, is believed to have been near Exeter, in Devonshire. In the church records, at Poltimore, two miles from Exeter, the name is frequently mentioned, as early as 1712, sometimes spelled Willcox and other times Wilcocks.

It is not known when Thomas Willcox first settled in Concord, but his name appeared among the list of taxable there in 1725.

In 1726 he and Thomas Brown built a mill-dam on the west branch of Chester Creek in Concord, and afterwards leased the land on which the dam was located. The following has been copied from the original paper, which is still preserved:

"This indenture made the tenth day of January Anno Domino 1727 Between Joseph Nicklin of Concord in ye County of Chester & Province of Pennsylvania Yeoman of ye one part, and Thomas Willcox, lawyer & Thomas Brown yeoman both of ye same Town and Country of ye other part, Witnessed that ye said Joseph Nicklin hath and by these presents doth lease, farm, and lett, unto ye said Thomas Willcox and Thomas Brown and to their heirs, Exrs, admrs, or assigns shall have occasion for ye same, for ye use aforesaid". . .

On August 4, 1729 , Thomas Willcox, having erected a paper mill on his property, took Thomas Brown into partnership in the business of making and selling paper. In this agreement, which is still preserved, it was provided that Thomas Willcox, in consideration of his teaching the said Thomas Brown the art of papermaking, was to receive three-fifths of the profits and Thomas Brown two fifths. It is thus apparent that Thomas Willcox had learned the art of making paper before he came to America.

In compliance with this agreement, Thomas Willcox conveyed to Thomas Brown a half-interest in the mill and the two following pieces of land: One tract or parcel lying in the Township of Concord, containing 200 acres, was "laid out on the 5th day of April, AD, 1683, by Charles Ashcorn the then surveyor of the County of the County of Chester, unto Jeremiah Collet, renter, at the yearly quitrent of one penny sterling per acre."


The Willcoxes were slave owners, and slaves probably worked in their paper mill (see "The Paper Maker" p.7). Thomas' will made provision for them, mandating that they never be sold outside the family.

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