John Roberts of Pencoyd (Maltster)
John Roberts came to the area of Pennsylvania called Merion in November of 1683. In January 1684, John wed Gaynor Roberts, a fellow passenger on the sailing ship Morning Star, in the first marriage ceremony performed at Merion Friends Meeting. Of the three men named John Roberts who came on the same voyage of the Morning Star, this John Roberts is called “The Maltster” for the crop he raised, barley for malt. John was pleased to discover well-timbered land, a clear spring, plenty of stone for building and soil which was “good and fat.” He called his farm “Pencoid”, later spelled Pencoyd, which in Welsh means “head of the woods,” an apt name because his large stone farmhouse was nestled at the top of the rise of land overlooking the Schuylkill River. His property extended from the Schuylkill River to Conshohocken State Road along City Avenue.
The dynasty which he founded produced many civic leaders; a physician, a president of the Pennsylvania Railroad and a state senator. The industries that John Roberts’ descendants started include a model dairy farm (Penshurst) and an iron works (Pencoyd Iron Works).
Roberts family proprietors
- Founder of Pencoyd: John Roberts, 1648 (Wales)-1724.
- Second Proprietor of Pencoyd: Robert Roberts, 1685-1768.
- Third Proprietor of Pencoyd: John Roberts, 1710-1776.
- Fourth Proprietor of Pencoyd: Algernon Roberts, 1751-1815.
- Fifth Proprietor of Pencoyd: Isaac Warner Roberts, 1789-1859.
- Sixth Proprietor of Pencoyd: George Brooke Roberts, 1833-1897.
- Seventh Proprietor of Pencoyd: T. Williams Roberts, 1877-1962.
For safe keeping, in 1999 members of the Roberts family presented The Lower Merion Historical Society with many of their family records. This collection consists of more than 280 items: indentures, letters, diaries, bibles, and account books, some dating back to the first settler, John Roberts.
Lower Merion and the Roberts family histories are joined together and intermingle over a span of 300+ years. Rarely does a collection of papers from one family mirror so closely the development of the community in which they lived and worked. For the past three years, a group of volunteers working for the Lower Merion Historical Society took on the task of organizing and cataloguing these materials. The lead researcher was Ann Bagley of Merion who was assisted by Charles Timm of Narberth, Philip Eidelson of Merion, and Gerald Francis of Bala Cynwyd.