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Fitzwatertown, Montgomery County

June 24, 2009

Since learning of its impending demolition, the Upper Dublin Historical Commission has been working to preserve a building connected with one of the founding families of the area.  The building, on Limekiln Pike, is currently owned by the Lulu Country Club.  Formerly used as a residence for the club groundskeeper the building is vacant and is suffering deterioration from deferred maintenance.

The Historical Commission encouraged the club and Upper Dublin Township to make efforts to correct some of the problematic conditions and now that the roof is sealed and other repairs are complete, the building is secure for the time being.
Much of the early history of the family has been lost, though it is known that Thomas Fitzwater sailed from England with William Penn,* who granted him a tract of 1,000 acres, which Fitzwater added to with later land purchases.  Fitzwater’s rich limestone deposits became one of the most important area sources for limestone (the others located in Lower Merion) and led to construction of the first road “into the wilderness” from Philadelphia.  Ordered by William Penn, the road began at the Port of Philadelphia and terminated at a Fitzwater limekiln.  This road, then and today, was known as Limekiln Pike.  According to Suzanne Hilton, author of Yesterday’s People:  The Upper Dublin Story (1975) some of the limestone from these quarries traveled along Limekiln Pike for use in building Independence Hall (built 1732-1753).  The inn along Limekiln Pike, she wrote, “served the needs of mule cart drivers carrying lime from Fitzwater’s kiln to Philadelphia for the  making of bricks eagerly sought by the Colonists for the building of dwellings.”
The photograph above (note the sheep visible to the left of the house) comes from Fort Washington and Upper Dublin (Fort Washington Historical Society, Arcadia Publishing, 2004).  The caption states that the picture was taken in 1896 and that the old Fitzwater Mill is located across Limekiln Pike from the property.  Charlotte, whose husband Robert Potter died in 1884, was the owner of the house at this time, which had once been owned by her grandfather, John Fitzwater.  Research has been unable to determine an exact date of construction.  The July 14, 1898 edition of the Ambler Gazette reported the following:
The Fitzwater Homestead
While it is somewhat difficult to say where was the original Fitzwater homestead, yet it is certain that Mrs. Robert E. Potter now lives at one of the old homes of the family.  This is where John Fitzwater lived [who ran the mill at Sandy Run], and on the west side of the turnpike, a short distance from the store _____.  Here is a large smooth _____ with a modern porch.  Though the house has a new appearance, it has only been modernized, the walls being of the olden time.  A large stone barn stands in the rear.  These buildings are on the south side of Sandy Run.  This is part of the very old grant of 1695, made to Matthew Perrin, of 500 acres, and the subsequent history of which is told in the account of the Stont farm.  It is part of these tracts which in 1768 Samuel Noble and Chas. West by deed of partition conveyed to Aquilla Jones and Elizabeth, his wife, parents of Isaac Cooper Jones.  In 1808 Isaac Cooper Jones sold 90 1/2 acres to Thomas Livezey and John Fitzwater.  The latter conveyed his right to Livezey who was a justice of the peace.  At a different time, Livezey conveyed the property to John Whitcomb.  The latter was landlord of the old hotel at Fitzwatertown, standing where the present one stands, and which was on this tract.  In 1832 Whitcomb sold to Robert McAdams, who held the tavern til his death, in 1846.  His daughters, Julia Ann and Jane, came into possesssion in 1852, who that year conveyed to Robert E. Potter, whose wife had been Charlotte, daughter of John Fitzwater.
In September 1898, the Ambler Gazette featured an item about the death of Charlotte (or “Lottie”) Potter’s brother, John Fitzwater of Philadelphia.  The funeral was held at Charlotte Potter’s home (“a large number of friends of the deceased attended the funeral”) and the burial followed in the nearby family plot on Twining Road. The digitized collection of the Ambler Gazette begins in 1886 and is a wonderful resource for those interested in local history.

Charlotte Fitzwater Potter was the youngest child of John Fitzwater. (She was the great-great-great-granddaughter of Thomas Fitzwater.*)  The 1870 census shows 28-year-old Lottie married to Robert Potter, who is listed as a druggist.  Living with them were five children, Charlotte’s mother, Mary, and Charlotte’s brother Jacob, listed as “innkeeper.”
In 1900 the census for Upper Dublin Township lists Charlotte F. Potter as age 64, a widow, who had given birth to 10 children, with seven living.
Based on a preliminary evaluation of architectural evidence, the smaller portion of the structure appears to date from the 18th century and the larger portion facing Limekiln Pike was probably built in two campaigns during the early or mid-19th century.   Since the historic photo was taken, the house has lost the front porch and the addition,  visible on the left portion of the house.
To view photographs taken during an early Historical Commission inspection of the site, please see below or visit the Fitzwater Potter House portfolio.   The Historical Commission, which is pursuing additional research into the history of the property, believes this building merits preservation and is working to develop a viable plan for adaptive reuse.
UPDATE:  Success!  The house will be preserved under an agreement with the Lulu Country Club and Upper Dublin Township.  The site has been separated from the county club parcel and the house offered for sale.  Here’s to the next owners, with hopes they will pursue a thoughtful rehabilitation of the building, earning the thanks of local residents for preserving this part of our local heritage.
*In 1682, Thomas Fitzwater of Hanworth in England sailed with sons Thomas and George and servants John and Henry, aboard the ship “Welcome” with William Penn.  Fitzwater’s wife Mary and two of his children, Josiah and Mary, died at sea.   According to “The History of Bucks County, Pennsylvania” by W.W.H. Davis (1876)  Fitzwater became a member of the first assembly, drafted and signed the first charter.  He died in 1699.
* Yours truly is the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of Thomas Fitzwater.
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22 Comments leave one →
  1. joan shoemaker reed permalink
    August 5, 2010 3:10 pm

    I was really pleased to find this site. my grandmother was CHARLOTTE FITZWATER POTTER SHOEMAKER. I know little about my fathers family due to the fact my parents divorced when I was very young. would love to learn all.

  2. March 20, 2011 8:30 am

    This is so interesting. I’m glad that the house is preserved. Thomas Fitzwater was my 11th great grandfather. And I enjoy learning little pieces of information like this. Thank you so much for the lovely post!

    • Sabra Smith permalink*
      March 20, 2011 10:38 am

      Sabrina — we must be related as I am also a somethingth great granddaughter of Thomas Fitzwater. (And our first names are so similar — Sabra and Sabrina!)

      • Sabrina Jo Baine permalink
        September 2, 2011 6:15 pm

        Sorry for the delayed response~! 🙂 I been rather busy~ I live overseas right now. But yes we totally must be related lol~ I need to do some catching up on your blog. :3

  3. Anonymous permalink
    July 10, 2011 7:02 pm

    way cool, this was my husband of 36 years great x8 grandfather .. hated history in high school .. love it now cheryl fitzwater

  4. Anonymous permalink
    July 10, 2011 7:03 pm

    my hubby is the great 8x grandson of thomas.. cool stuff

    • Sabra Smith permalink*
      July 10, 2011 7:24 pm

      I love how the FItzwaters are coming out of the woodwork. We should rent the Thomas Fitzwater Elementary School in Fitzwatertown for a family reunion! I am a cousin of your husband.

  5. Anonymous permalink
    August 2, 2011 3:55 pm

    hi, i have a whole time line of Thomas Fitzwater and the rest of his tree that i am still working on.. ancestry.com under :1bodyworks (fitzwater tree)

    • Tim permalink
      September 17, 2012 9:53 am

      I looked for your 1bodyworks tree but was unable to find it. I have been using Katherine (Fitzwater) Devine’s 2003 revision of her “Fitzwater Families in America” book.

      My paternal grandmother was a Fitzwater, descending from (Myron, John A, John, Joseph, Thomas, Thomas, Thomas)

      • September 19, 2012 9:49 pm

        Tim: I see Thomas > Thomas > Thomas > Joseph > John > John >…. but I don’t see a Myron?

        If you message me your email address I’ll see if my father has a “bodyworks tree” that I can email to you — I can ask him to pull the specific line that you mention, if you’d like. My email is in the sidebar.

  6. Anonymous permalink
    January 31, 2012 3:37 pm

    I am doing research on Martha Washington and have found that she and George stayed at the Elmar mansion in Whitemarsh which was later owned by John Fitzwater- it appears that this is the residense in the picture and article

    • Sabra Smith permalink*
      January 31, 2012 4:09 pm

      You mean the Emlen property — it is not this house and is in a different location — but is still standing, and yes, the Emlen property was once owned by John Fitzwater.

      • October 17, 2014 1:23 pm

        hi sabra my name is timothy Fitzwater I am the 7th great grandson of Thomas Fitzwater. I was wondering if you have any more info about the Fitzwater family of Thomas Fitzwater

      • Tim French permalink
        November 12, 2014 8:56 am

        Hi Timothy. I am a sixth g-grandson of Thomas. A couple of suggestions for further research on the Fitzwater line: a book by Katheryn Devine, “Fitzwater Families in America” A posting by Katheryn is at: http://genforum.genealogy.com/fitzwater/messages/460.html
        A professional genealogist with a personal connection to the Fitzwater line is Leslie Lawson, who can be found on Linkedin.
        Good luck,
        Tim French

  7. April 7, 2013 11:17 am

    I am very interested in your research as I am also an ancestor of Thomas. 🙂

  8. Joan Fitzwater Jackson permalink
    August 18, 2013 11:59 pm

    Enjoyed the pictures of the Fitzwater Potter house and the story. You can add yet another Fitzwater to your reunion list!! I am his 5x great grandaughter- Thomas-William-Thomas S-Thomas Clark-Adam-Charles-Charles. Like you have managed to find myself inadvertently in the middle of the place my family arrived many years ago. Hope everyone is aware of the Fitzwater Families in America book as it has quite alot of well researched information. Any DAR members out there?

  9. Lorelei Fitzwater Greene permalink
    January 26, 2014 7:19 pm

    Thank you for the pics and info that you have compiled for the Fitzwater history!
    I am a descendant of Thomas Fitzwater arriving in 1682 to US, too! My grandfather is Raymond Fitzwater, son of Myron E. Fitzwater who was son of John A. Fitzwater and Clarinda Pratt from Yates Co.,NY. My great-grandfather and grandfather were born in Brecksville, Ohio.
    I am not finding John A. Fitzwater, Myron E., Raymond or siblings mentioned in :
    https://myowntimemachine.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/fitzwater-genealogy.pdf

    Thought you may want to know. I did find Ira Fitzwater from Brecksville, though.

    • Tim French permalink
      February 15, 2014 5:14 pm

      Hi Lori,

      Myron is also my great grandfather. I descend through one of Raymond’s four sisters: Maude. See my 19 Sep 2012 post above.

      I would like to exchange information about our Fitzwater branch. E-mail: timofrench at aol.com. Looking forward to hearing from you.

      Tim French

  10. June 19, 2014 9:09 am

    Hi Sabra, I’m not a Fitzwater but came acrose your page doing some research on Limekiln Pike for the Horsham Preservation and Historical Association next door to Upper Dublin. Article is at http://horshamhistory.org/Limekiln-Pike. Thanks for your blog, lots of good stuff here

  11. timothy fitzwater permalink
    June 16, 2015 1:54 pm

    December 3, 2014 11:34 pm

    Hi.! my name is timothy neal fitzwater. Thomas Fitzwater Sr. That came to america on the ship “welcome” with William Penn. Is my 9th great grandfather. My line goes

    Thomas Fitzwater Sr.
    Thomas Fitzwater Jr
    Thomas foster fitzwater
    William “soilder bill” fitzwater Sr
    George “flotcher” fitzwater Sr
    William H fitzwater
    Joseph fitzwater
    William fitzwater
    William neal fitzwater

    My family is from west virginia. I was wanting to find more out about my family tree.
    Just look me up on Facebook. I’m the only timothy Neal Fitzwater on there

  12. Vera Fitzwater Shockey permalink
    August 9, 2015 4:28 pm

    I’m glad that this home is being saved! I visited the area in May of 2006, and the house was being lived in and looked to be in pretty good condition. Thanks for your article!

  13. Kenneth and Ambra Evans permalink
    September 18, 2016 11:47 am

    This is my husbands descendants–thank you so much for posting about it!!

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