One of a Series of Sketches Written by Frank Willing Leach for the Philadelphia North American, 1907-1913, and Brought Down to Date, 1932
Among the old Quaker families which, at the earliest period of its history gave to Philadelphia its distinctive title of the "Quaker City," was that of the Emlens; a name which, for over two centuries, has been a synonym for probity, integrity and approved citizenship–always exemplifying its family motto: "Honestum praetulit utili."
It is a tradition in the family that the Emlens came originally from Wales, though the emigrant ancestor was of English birth. These facts are cited in proof of the conjecture: Emlyn Cantred was one of the divisions of southern Wales, "in the tymes of the Brittaines." Here stood Castle (afterward New Castle) Emlyn on the river Teivi. We are told that "the name (which was common among the Britains anciently and is partly yet retained) was Roman and is the same with Aemillinus, mentioned in Denbighshire, which the Inscription calls Almilini."
This inscription, "Almilini Tovisaci," on a sepulchral stone, has much discussed, and one of the most eminent Welsh scholars and archeologists "considered this stone to be the memorial of a Welsh prince or Leader Emlyn"; moreover, that it dates from the fifth or sixth century: "Tovisaci" meaning "leader" or "general."
In certain Welsh manuscripts appear "Dafydd Emlyn," "Siams Emlyn," etc., 1635. The name also appears in different parts of England in the same century.
From "Some accounts of the Life and Death of George Emlen, as given in writing by his sons Joshua and Samuel Emlen, late of this City, Philadelphia," the following information is gleaned, concerning the founder of the name in America:
He was born in a Town called Shepton Mallet in Summersetshire [Somerset], was apprenticed a vintner in London, and his parents having died when he was young, he was put under the care and tuition of an Aunt, who was Presbyterian–he was one of that people till he arrived at mature age, when embracing the Principles of Truth, as we believe, or turning a Friend, he was deprived of his Aunt's favor, or any expectations from her, who was a Person of considerable substance in the World, when meeting her displeasure, he was necessitated to provide for himself.
The account written by the sons then sets forth that "he came over sea with William Penn"; which expression is a general one, and does not signify that he accompanied Penn on the Welcome, but that he came over in Penn's time, and was among the early settlers in Philadelphia.
The first positive record we have of him as a citizen of Philadelphia is upon the occasion of his first marriage, hereafter referred to, which took place November 12, 1685, which was about three years after Penn's first arrival in the province. We also find him in the first tax list for Philadelphia county, that for 1693, where he is indicated as assessed at the following amount: "150 pounds", which was above the average assessment of his contemporaries.
As we have already seen, his business was that of a "vintner," "in which condition of Life," we are told by his sons, "he conducted with honour and good repute to the cause of Truth and to himself." Upon the occasion of his first marriage, in 1685, he was called "husbandman"–both terms signifying that he was engaged in agricultural pursuits, though the first-mentioned title, "vintner," indicated that he was more particularly engaged in the conduct of a vineyard, and the incidental manufacture of wine.
George Emlen married, November 12, 1685, Eleanor Allen, daughter of Nathaniel Allen, a man of very considerable note, who was named by William Penn, September 30, 1681, as one of the three commissioners authorized to embark for Pennsylvania and lay out the city of Philadelphia.
Three children were born to this first wife, all of whom died young; and the death of the mother occurred shortly after the birth of the third child.
George Emlen married, secondly, June 5, 1694, Hannah Garrett, daughter of William and Ann (Kirk) Garrett, who came to Pennsylvania from Leicestershire, England, in 1684, and settled in Darby, but subsequently moved to Philadelphia. Of her we have a pleasing pen-picture in the words of her devoted sons, who wrote that she "brought up her children with the utmost care and industry–and was a noble example to them of all that was good and laudable–very constant in advice to them to love and fear the Lord." They also tell us:
She was a dutiful child to her Parents & excellent wife to her husband, a loving mother to her children, an entire friend to the Poor & Distressed–undaunted in Danger–Religious and Ingenious–an easy mistress & good neighbor, neither lavish nor penurious–but an example of Industry as well to her own children as servants. Her precepts to virtue were pressing and earnest–her advice was to live in the fear of the Lord & to follow peace with all men, to keep to Truth and Plainness–to frequent religious meetings with great Industry–to act or do nothing but what became the followers of the meek & humble Jesus.
She was well beloved by most that knew her & hath left a good name and dyed in Peace. .. .. .. She as a darling favorite of both her Parents, as well she might be. .. .. .. happy are the children who follow the advice and example of such a Parent.
George and Hannah (nee Garrett) Emlen had eight children, as follows: George, Samuel, Caleb, Joshua, Hannah, Anne, Mary and Sarah. Of these, two died unmarried–Caleb, born June 9, 1699, and Hannah, born February 3, 1703-04.