Today is the 270th birthday of General Andrew Porter. And you're asking why you should care, right?
I've been saying for decades that one of Norristown's best economic resources could be our history. I've traveled a lot, and I've learned that history buffs, particularly Civil War history buffs, are the most reliable of tourists. No matter how lousy the economy, history fans will make pilgrimages to all sorts of places to hear the stories of great people and events.
Of course, no big battles were fought here, but we've got plenty of stories to tell about Norristonians who made huge contributions to American history: 2 Pennsylvania governors, a Presidential candidate, several Civil War generals, at least 7 US congressmen and one senator (plus baseball players, authors, musicians, etc.) Norristown was also a MAJOR hub on the Underground Railroad.
So we should be glad Selma Mansion is still standing, though
developers have tried to level it over the years. Selma was the name
for the "plantation" that took up most of what is now Norristown's West
End. Andrew Porter retired there after the Revolution and built on to
the existing small house to create the Selma Mansion we see today,
located at Airy and Selma Streets. To get an idea how grand this place
was, drive up Airy Street, past Buttonwood. If you look to the right, up the
alley before Hamilton, you'll see the original stone pillars that
marked the end of the mansion's drive, almost a quarter mile from the
After the war, he was offered the mathematics
chair at the University of Penn, but preferred to stay on in the
Pennsylvania Militia. He served as a state commissioner, helping to set boundary lines in
Pennsylvania. In 1801, he was promoted to brigadier-general, then
major-general, then appointed as the state's Surveyor-General in
1809. He died in 1813.
However, he also gave us his sons: Robert
Porter, who became president judge of the 3rd District Court; David
Rittenhouse Porter, who served as Pennsylvania's 9th governor; George Bryan
Porter, who was appointed governor of the Michigan Territory; and James
Madison Porter, who served as Secretary of War under President Tyler,
as well as president judge of both the 12th and 22nd districts, and
principal founder of Lafayette College.
If you want Civil War
connections, Andrew Porter's great-granddaughter was Mary Todd Lincoln
(yes, THAT Mary Todd Lincoln), and two of his grandsons were General
Horace Porter and Civil War Brig. General Andrew Porter.
went on long after the Porter family. I'll cover that in another
blog. But today--Andrew Porter Day--we need to make a commitment to
preserving and restoring Selma Mansion. It would make, I think, the best
place for compiling and presenting our town's historical stories. In
doing so, we could probably attract history buff tourists, and that can
only help our economy.