by Kevin Duffy
Special to The Morning Call
Folks visited a historic landmark Sunday to honor one of America’s founding fathers and an individual of regional significance.
George Taylor, who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, was honored with a celebration of his 300th birthday in the Catasauqua home which he had built after arriving in America from his birthplace in Ireland.
Historical records don’t reveal the exact date of Taylor’s birth, but it was sometime in 1716 and the celebration Sunday was meant to herald the start of the 2016 event calendar at the George Taylor House.
Wet weather forced the cancellation of a parade down Front Street to the 331-acre site on Lehigh Street, purchased by the borough in 2009 from the Lehigh Valley Historical Society.
“It’s beautiful, very educational,” said Brenda Benner of Coplay, after watching a handwriting demonstration with quill and ink well by Benjamin Franklin, portrayed by Christopher Black of The Bachmann Players.
Like many who came out Sunday, Benner, who drives by the house every day on her way to work, said she didn’t know much about the man for whom the house takes its name.
“Only that he signed the Declaration of Independence,” she said.
Charlotte Arey, a borough resident, said she knew that “he’s 300-years-old,” as she prepared to enter the home, designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1971.
“That’s about all I know,” said her husband, Calvin.
The son of a Protestant clergyman, Taylor arrived in Philadelphia at age 20 in 1736. To pay for his voyage, he worked as a laborer for Samuel Savage Jr., an ironmaster at Warwick Iron Furnace and Coventry in Chester County. By 1739, he had advanced to bookkeeper.
“His first job was as a filler,” said Rick Guth, a tour guide and re-enactor who donned breeches, leggings and weskit Sunday to portray George Taylor.
A filler, he explained, would climb atop the mouth of the furnace and dump charcoal into it for fuel.
When Savage died in 1742, Taylor became manager and took his late benefactor’s wife, Ann, for his bride.
He then leased Durham Furnace in upper Bucks County, which later produced cannon balls and other artillery for the colonists during the Revolutionary War.
Taylor became ironmaster and rose to justice of the peace in Bucks County from 1757 to 1763, and later justice of the peace in Northampton County in 1764 after moving to Easton.
He then purchased land in Catasauqua overlooking the Lehigh River, where the George Taylor House was completed in 1768.
He returned to Durham Furnace after his wife died shortly after the couple took residence, and was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly and installed as a colonel in the 3rd Battalion Militia in 1775 as hostilities with the British broke out.
He died in poverty in 1781 after returning to Easton because he had provided all of the ordnance from his forge for the war with no compensation from the Pennsylvania Assembly.
Borough resident Nigel Andre said he decided to join the celebration Sunday with his daughter, Sophia, 7, after she brought home a flier from Sheckler Elementary School, where she is in second grade.
“We thought we’d check it out,” he said. “We’ve lived here 10 years and we’ve never been here.”
Daniel Chuko, also of Catasauqua, said he’s visited many times and enjoys coming back.
“I love history, and they keep adding to it,” he said.
Kevin Duffy is a freelance writer.
About George Taylor: Born in 1716, he arrived in Pennsylvania from England in 1736, eventually working his way up from clerk to manager at Warwick Iron Furnace and Coventry in Chester County. In 1742, he married Anne Taylor Savage. He served in the Pennsylvania Assembly and was appointed to the Continental Congress to replace Pennsylvania delegates who refused to sign the Declaration of Independence. He was involved in the Durham Furnace, which produced cannon balls for the patriots during the Revolutionary War, and later with the Greenwich Forge in New Jersey. In the newly formed Northampton County, Taylor helped establish a court house in Easton, where he died in 1781.
About the mansion: Upon buying 331 acres along the Lehigh River, Taylor hired the Philadelphia Carpenters to build a two-story Georgian stone house in 1768. The home, which now is a National Historic Landmark, has symmetrically paired brick end-chimneys and a gable roof, along with a two-story kitchen wing and a detached brick summer kitchen. The home, at Lehigh and Poplar streets in Catasauqua, was acquired by the borough in 2009.
Sources: National Park Service,Borough of Catasauqua
Article originally posted in the Morning Call