An Inventory of the Comly-White Family Papers, 1771-1961

(6 boxes; 3 linear ft.)

RG 5/030

© Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College.  
Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081-1399 U.S.A.  

Seal of Swarthmore College
Table of contents
John Comly, a Quaker minister and school master, was born in 1773. He married Rebecca Budd, a fellow teacher at the Westtown School, in 1803. They operated the Pleasant Hill Boarding School on their Byberry farm from 1804-1815. The collection includes family correspondence, the journal of John Comly's brother, Isaac, other manuscript writings, financial and legal papers, and miscellaneous papers. Also includes the ledger and memorabilia of Pleasant Hill Boarding School and papers of Helen Comly White relating to her student years at Swarthmore College from 1870-75.

Background note:
1773-ca. 1793 John Comly, son of Isaac and Asenath (Hampton) Comly, was born 19 Nov. 1773, shortly after his parents purchased a farm called “Old Sod” of about 140 acres on Thornton Road in Byberry Township, Pennsylvania. John was educated at a Latin School kept by the Baptist minister at Pennypack where he learned some Latin and Greek. He also practiced the life usual for a farming family.
1794-1800, 1801-1803 At age 21, in 1794, he became schoolmaster of the Friends' School at Byberry, with at least 50 students. When he was 27, he went to Westtown Boarding School where he taught grammar, Latin, and reading from April 1801 to November 1802. There he met another young teacher, Rebecca Budd of Mt. Holly, New Jersey, who had been among the first students at Westtown when it opened in May 1799 and was hired in Nov. 1799 to teach arithmetic, grammar, and writing to the female students. John and Rebecca fell in love during his time there, but she was not free to leave her teaching until Feb. of 1803.
1803, 1804-1810, 1810-1815 John and Rebecca Comly were married at Mount Holly Monthly Meeting on June 16, 1803. In the meantime, John had written and published in 1803 his first book, English Grammar. After their marriage they settled on a farm John had purchased in Byberry on Academy Road which they named “Pleasant Hill.” They lived in a small log house on the property while building a house with thirteen rooms, large enough to serve as a boarding school. Pleasant Hill Boarding School for Female Education opened in 1804 with 23 girls. In 1810 it became a school for boys and continued until 1815.
1813-1827 Subsequently, John Comly compiled and published a spelling book, a primer, and a reader which were widely used for many years. He was also a farmer, educator, surveyor, and conveyancer. He was recorded as a minister in July of 1813. At the time of the Separation in 1827, he became Clerk of the new Hicksite Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
1830s-1850s, Aug. 17th 1850 John and Rebecca Comly had two daughters, Ann and Sarah, and two sons, Charles and Emmor. John Comly died at Pleasant Hill on Aug. 17, 1850. Charles Comly inherited Pleasant Hill, to which he brought his wife, Debby Ann Newbold, in Dec. 1830.
1854, 1886 Charles and Debby Ann Comly had ten children, one of whom was Helen Trump Comly. She was born in 1854 and married Howard White in 1886.

Scope and content
SCOPE AND CONTENT OF THE RECORDS The collection contains papers of the Comly-White families, including family correspondence; the journal of John Comly's brother, Isaac; other manuscript writings, financial and legal papers, and miscellaneous papers. Also includes the ledger and memorabilia relating to Pleasant Hill Boarding School and Helen Comly White's student years at Swarthmore College from 1870-75.

Arrangement The collection is divided into seven series:

Added entries

  • Byberry, Pa.
  • Comly family
  • Diaries - 18t and 19th centuries
  • Moreland, Pa.
  • Quakers - Social life and customs
  • Quakers -- Education
  • Quakers -- Pennsylvania
Additional Authors and Contributors
  • Comly, Charles B. (Charles Budd), 1808-1894
  • Comly, Debby Ann, 1812-1882
  • Comly, Isaac, 1779-1847
  • Comly, John, 1773-1850
  • Comly, Rebecca, 1773-1832
  • Pleasant Hill Boarding School (Pa.)
  • Swarthmore College
  • White, Howard, 1844-1916
Processed by: Finding Aid Prepared by FHL staff
Date: 1983
Restrictions: Use Restrictions Copyright has not been assigned to Friends Historical Library All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in to the Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Friends Historical Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by reader.
Sponsor: Encoding made possible by a grant by the Gladys Kriebel Delmas Foundation to the Philadelphia Consortium of Special Collections Libraries


Note to Researchers: To request materials, please note both the location and box numbers shown below:

Ser. 1. Biographical and genealogical material, 1765-1920

Charts and lists Box 1

Pocket almanac, printed by Benjamin Franklin
Births of the children of Stacy and Sarah Budd are listed in the almanac. Also births of John and Rebecca (Budd) Comly's children, listed on a small paper folded inside the almanac.
1765 (miniature) Box 1

Marriage certificates
All removed from the collection, cataloged, and filed in oversize chart case. See separated material.
Box 1

Marriage intentions of Howard White and Helen Trump Comly, presented to Byberry MM,
Includes notes of consent of parents, in 1886. Also Howard White's certificate on account of marriage issued by Mt. Holly MM.
6 May 1886 Box 1

Marriage license issued by the Orphan's Court of Philadelphia for Howard White and Helen T. Comly
Includes marriage certificate issued by the Court, 29 Jun. 1886
28 May 1886 Box 1

Birth certificate by Baltimore MM (H), for Edith Lewis 1886 Box 1

Fortieth anniversary invitation by Beulah and Barclay White 30 Dec. 1892 Box 1

Tenth anniversary certificate for Barclay and Edith White 30 Sept. 1920 Box 1

Baby book of Mary Elma White, born 1914, daughter of Barclay and Edith (Lewis) White ca. 1914 Box 1

Obituaries for John Comly and Debby Ann (Newbold) Comly (printed) Box 1

Ser. 2. Correspondence, 1826-1902

Letter in rhyme, sent to Beulah Shreve 1 Apr. 1826 Box 1

Letter from John Jackson to Joseph John Gurney 2 Apr. 1838 (ms. copy) Box 1

Letters to Barclay and Beulah White and their children 1855-1889 Box 1

Letters to Helen T. Comly from her family 1863-1868 Box 1

Letters to Helen T. Comly while she was a student and teacher at Swarthmore College 1870-1876 Box 1

Letters of Charles and Debby Ann Comly and their family
Includes correspondence of Howard and Helen (Comly) White, 1879-1904.
1865-1894 Box 1

Letters of Sarah (Comly) Haviland to her nieces and nephews 1894-1902 Box 1

Envelopes and old stamps Box 1

Ser. 3. Manuscript Writings, 1691-1952, n.d.

“Memoirs,” Josiah White (1705-1780), author unknown
Small notebook, mostly concerning his efforts at healing with roots and herbs. He was a weaver, and built a fulling mill in Mt. Holly, NJ. “Journal” of Isaac Comly (1779-1847), covering the years 1796-1819. He lived at the family farm in Byberry Township, called “Old Sod”, and was schoolteacher, farmer, and author. He was a great walker, and often averaged 30 to 40 miles a day, going on foot to Washington, DC, or to the Black River Settlement of Jefferson Co., NY, where his brother, Ezra Comly, had settled for five years. He married in 1811 to Meribah Barton of Haddonfield, and they had a son and a daughter, both of whom died in 1819.
Box 2

“Testimony of Robert Barrow at George Fox's funeral” 1691 (copy) Box 2

“On the Atonement” by Edward Stabler (ms. copy) Box 2

Diagram of solar eclipse, by John Comly 1831 Box 2

School essays of Daniel Smith White (1853-1935), son of Barclay and Beulah White, while a student at Friends' Select School Box 2

Commonplace book, owner unknown n.d. Box 2

“History of Pleasant Hill” and the Comlys who lived there
By Sarah (Comly) Haviland, a sister of Charles Comly. Presented to her niece, Susan Comly Shallcross, 19 Jan. 1903.
Jan. 19, 1903 Box 2

Travel diary of trip to England, France, Switzerland, and Italy.
Probably kept by Edith B. White while traveling with Daniel S. White and his wife, Serena (Aunt Rena). Also includes notes for a talk based on the diary, 1925.
10/3-12/31, 1925 Box 2

Notes taken at Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, probably by Edith L. White ca. 1952 Box 2

School Notebook of Charles Comply, Jr. 1858-59 Box 2

Ser. 4. Financial and legal papers, 1783-1952

Will and inventory for Henry Comly, d. 13 May 1684 (photostats) Box 3

Wills (copies), bequests, estate accounts, concerning Thomas Hanson, Isaac Comly, Martha (Comly) Knight, Ann S. Budd, Charles Comly, Susan (Comly) Shallcross, Anna Comly, George N. Comly, Charles Comly Jr., and Edward Comly. 1783-1924 Box 3

Will of John Comly probated 28 Oct. 1850 (copy) Box 3

Power of attorney for the children of George Brandt of Upper Darby, deceased, given to Mary B. Brandt of Philadelphia 5 Aug. 1884 Box 3

Ledgers and account books of John Comly 1803-1805, 1803-1808 Box 3

Ledger of Pleasant Hill Boarding School
Includes a list of the girls who were pupils beginning 1 May 1804.
1807-1810 Box 3

Surveyor's record book of John Comly
This is of genealogical interest for the Byberry and Moreland area, since it gives lines of succession of title to property, occupations of owners, and some marriages.
1812-1846 Box 3

School accounts, school not identified. 1868-1869 Box 3

Records of Hilldate Country Club, near Aldan, Delaware Co.
Includes account book; Constitution and Bylaws, 3 Jul. 3908; Minutes, 1908-1915; accounts.
1908-1915, n.d. Box 3

Darby Creek Footbridge Association, Minutes and papers 1907-1939 Box 3

Financial correspondence, Barclay White III 1952 Box 3

Ser. 5. Swarthmore College, 1816-1964

Salutatory Address given at Commencement by Helen T. Comly
2 manuscript copies, in English and Latin.
15 Jun. 1875 Box 4

Memorabilia, Class of 1875
Includes 2 ms. copies of Helen Comly's Salutatory Address, an honorary membership card for the Somerville Literary Society, 26 Sept. 1875, a crepe paper “beanie” worn at the 50th Reunion parade, 13 Jun. 1925, ms. poems, and clippings.
1875-1925, n.d. Box 4

Copybooks of Helen T. Comly while a student at Swarthmore 1871-1874?, 1874-1875 Box 4

Constitution and Bylaws of the Class of 1875 Box 4

Minutes, Class of 1875
Includes minutes of class reunions up to the 60th, on 1 Jun. 1935, with a gap between 1885 and 1925.
11/15/1873-6/13/1875 Box 4

Book of manuscript histories of members of the class Box 4

The Poetical Works of the Rev. Dr. Edward Young, vol. 2, Philadelphia
Given to Helen Comly by her mother, Debby Ann Comly, 18 Jul. 1875
1816 Box 4

Halcyon, Class of 1912
The Halcyon (yearbook) belonged to Anna Deborah White (1889-1931), daughter of Howard and Helen (Comly) White.
Box 5

Campaign and fund-raising material 1930, 1946-1948, 1945-1949, and 1964 Box 5

The Garnet Letter 1947-1948 (4 issues) Box 5

Class of 1906, 40th Reunion poem and obituary of a class member. 1951 Box 5

Ser. 6. Pictures, 1854-1877, n.d.

50th anniversary of wedding of Josiah White (1841-1914) and Mary Kirby Allen (1841-1923)
Held at the Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel in Atlantic City in 1912, filed with oversize pictures. Josiah White was a son of John J. and Mary K. (Shoemaker) White, and a first cousin of Howard White.
Box 5

Group of Indians in Nebraska,
Taken while Barclay White was Superintendent of Indian Affairs there, accompanied by a certificate signed by White on 1 Jan. 1872 to Asa Coleman as Chief of the Winnebagos, Omaha NE.
1871-1877 Box 5

Copies of engravings of Elias Hicks and Isaac Collins Box 5

Pictures of members of the Class of 1906, Swarthmore College (5 pictures) Box 5

2 colored drawings of a boy's boarding school on Mt. Lebanon, run by E.H. Watson. Box 5

Pencil drawing of a house called “Bunwood” ca. 1854-1857 Box 5

Ser. 7. Memorabilia, ca. 1860-1895, n.d.

List of books from the library of John Comly, distributed among his grandchildren in 1918. Box 6

Pleasant Hill Boarding School for Girls, Byberry, terms and conditions and list of students Box 6

Album of clippings ca. 1860-1895 Box 6