Riverbend Environmental Education Center
Riverbend and its surroundings have a rich and varied history. In the 16th and 17th century, the local residents were a band of Lenape Native Americans who were part of a loose confederation of the Algonquin Nation. Known as the Unami Tribe, these Lenape established their “summer station” in the curve of the Schuylkill River that gives Riverbend its namesake. The last written record of Native American activity in the vicinity of Riverbend was an encampment at Black Rocks in 1740.
From its inclusion in the 1682 William Penn land grant of 5,000 acres to British settler Joshua Holland, Riverbend was eventually transferred to Welsh Quaker Morris Llewellyn, Sr., a farmer with huge land holdings called “Indian Fields.” Bryn Mawr, Gladwyne, and Bala Cynwyd reflect this period of Welsh influence. At this time, Spring Mill Road was said to lead to a ford and later to a ferry crossing the Schuylkill River and eventually joining up with Spring Mill Road on the Conshohocken side. Although remnants of the old road are still visible on Riverbend's property, access to the river was cut off by the 1950’s construction of the Schuylkill Expressway.
Many visitors are curious about the lovely dry masonry stone walls that intersect both Riverbend and surrounding property. To discover their origins, one must look back to the Civil War era in 1864, when the United States army leased land from local farmers to establish “Camp Discharge.” This camp, whose sentry house still stands at the entrance of Sentry Lane, housed soldiers released from southern prison camps before they returned to civilian life. One way they employed their time was in the construction of the many stone walls around Riverbend.
In the post-Civil War era of America’s Industrial Revolution, the land surrounding Riverbend caught the eye of Conshohocken’s leading steel and iron manufacturer, Alan Wood Jr., whose 300 acres of “Woodmont Farms” came to include the fantastic Woodmont Estate. In 1884, Alan Wood, Jr.’s younger brother, Howard, acquired the adjacent 92-acre farm including “Camp Discharge,” gradually amassing almost 400 acres, including the future site of Riverbend.
In 1974, Howard’s grandchildren, Alice Grey Wood Read, Phebe Wood Conger and Howard Wood III, in their desire to preserve some of the open space that defined so much of their family history, set aside 26 acres in memory of their parents. Four acres was eventually added, thus creating the 30-acre preserve we now call Riverbend.
Riverbend Environmental Education Center is not affiliated with AmericanTowns Media