The land around what became Northbrook was a favorite of the Lenni Lenape, who used it for camping, hunting, and dancing.  It has been a treasure trove of Indian artifacts, and farmers turned up an arrowhead with every plowing in some fields.  Indian councils were held at a large rock just north of Northbrook, and only a little distance further is a small copse marking the ancient Lenni Lenape burial ground.  Indian Hannah, the last local Lenape Indian, is buried nearby.

European settlement in the area began as early as 1703 with Abraham Marshall, who was granted a large tract of land by William Penn.  Marshall built a one-story home for his family in 1706 on the northwest side of the Brandywine Creek.  They operated many businesses there, including a flour and sawmill. Local farmers, clustering around the mills and other businesses, made it an agricultural settlement until 1870, when the Wilmington and Northern Line railroad came through the village and built a station there.  From a farming village, it became a railroad town, with its future tied to the tracks bringing traffic through the town eight to ten times a day.  The station was originally called Marshall’s Station, but railroad engineers changed that.  They had to toot their train whistles approaching the station “at the north brook,” and that’s the name that stuck.

At least one newspaper report of the 1870’s paints a bucolic picture of village life.  A West Chester Daily Local writer describes a picnic on the banks of the Brandywine, close to the Old Mill in Northbrook.  In the somewhat overblown journalistic style of the day, he reports, “Nowhere could be found a better illustration of the beneficent influence of civil liberty, republican government, free schools, fertile soil and diversified industry, to make a people contented, virtuous, intelligent and prosperous (and gathered at a site featuring) the grand old woods, the fruitful fields, the winding stream and the busy mill.”

These people must have been pretty hungry, because the picnic fare was both ample and varied, according to the Local: “Cold roast beef, cold roast chicken, cold boiled ham, tongue, golden butter on ice, bread, biscuits and rusk, chow-chow, tomatoes, pickles, grape sauce, canned fruit, ice water, hot coffee, grapes, peach pie, grape pie, apple pie, custards, puddings, cakes, preserves, bananas, watermelons, cantaloupes, raisins, almonds, cheese and apples.”

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