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The Belfield property in the eighteenth century has a number of connections with Ephrata Cloister, now -- like Belfield -- a national historic landmark. The Cloister, in northern Lancaster County, was a pietistic and mystical religious community of breakaway German Baptist Brethren, including celibate men and women ("the Solitary") and married couples ("Householders"). The community emphasized an ascetic life of prayer, work, worship, hymns, keeping a Saturday Sabbath, vegetarianism (at least in theory), and -- for the quasi-monastic "Solitary"-- sexual abstinence.

Conrad Weber, his wife Magdelena, and her three siblings (who were part owners of the Belfield property), all ended up at Ephrata. One brother, Christian, became the physician (as "Brother Gideon") for the Ephrata community, and he treated the wounded from the Revolutionary War Battles of Germantown and Brandywine, who were taken to Ephrata in open-air wagons. His house survives at Ephrata.


Image of a "Solitary"
Home of Christian Weber

Gravestone at Ephrata Cloister of Conrad and Magdelena Weber

There seem to have been no residential building in the 17th century on what is now considered the Belfield property (which is smaller than the original land grant from William Penn to Thomas Bowman). In 1686, when Samuel Richardson was the owner, the property was administered from a property called Newington (shown above), which once stood on a Broad Street site now occupied by Einstein Hospital. Richardson was an important figure in Philadelphia history, serving as a judge, a member of the Governor's Provincial Council, the Colonial Assembly of Philadelphia. William Penn also appointed him as one of Philadelphia's six aldermen. Richardson's will also indicates that he had five slaves. Thus our Belfield property has a history that includes enslaved Africans.

Below: Revolutionary War Battle of Germantown artifacts found at the site of a British camp (in the vicinty of Belfield). After the Americans' defeat, part of their line of retreat seems to have been across what was then the western edge of the Belfield property.

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