Powelton’s history includes a surprising number of prominent individuals. However, the lives of the majority of Poweltonians have never been chronicled. Despite this, the histories of many families have emerged. One such family is the Butler-Dent family, three generations of whom lived in the same house in Powelton over a period of about 100 years.
James P. Butler was born in Connecticut about 1821. In 1850, he was living in Philadelphia. He went through a number of occupations: “cork henster” (whatever that is), bookbinder, coal dealer, and silversmith and jeweler. His first wife, Emma M. Foering, died in 1858 at age 33 leaving him with two young daughters, Mary Ella (born 1853) and Fanny (1856). He soon married Mary Baker. In 1860, they moved to 3401 Baring St. and about 1862-‘63, they moved to 202 N. 35th St. where the family lived for about 100 years.
About 1871, his daughter, Mary Ella Butler, married Joseph H. Dent. Dent was orphaned at a young age. His parents, Elizabeth and Joseph W. Dent, a gold beater, apparent died in the 1850s. In 1860, Joseph, age 10, was living with his aunt and uncle, Lydia (Hansell) and Samuel Lloyd. Lloyd was a successful brick maker. At age 10, Joseph was listed in the census with real estate valued at $10,000. In 1870, he and the Lloyd family were living at 3322 Bridge (Spring Garden) St. and he was working as a store clerk.
Mary and Joseph Dent had three children: Mary (1872), Joseph (about 1873), and Ella (1877). They also lost an infant son in 1876 when they were living at 3626 Powelton Ave. Joseph began working as a real estate agent. Tragedy struck again in 1879 when Joseph died suddenly. In 1880, Mary and the three children were living with her parents at 202 N. 35th St.
In 1900, James Butler (now 77) and Mary (80) were still living with Mary Dent and her two daughters. Grandson Joseph H. Dent was a 2nd Lieutenant in the U. S. Army living in the Philippines where the Philippines-American War was just coming to an end. On August 28, 1902, the New York Times reported
What the Times failed to mention is that the Savage family was just in Atlantic City for the summer. They lived at 3425 Race St., right across 35th St. from the Butler and Dent families. Anna Savage was the daughter of Albert and Ida Savage. Albert was born in Virginia in 1859. It appears that he was practicing law in 1880, but by 1900 he no longer listed an occupation. They moved to Powelton about 1898.
James Butler died in 1901 at 78 and Mary died two years later at 83. In 1930, Mary Dent was 76 and living in her parents house at 202 N. 35th St. with her daughters. Mary Emma and Ella were 57 and 52 and neither had married. Mary Emma worked as a public school teacher and then at the Board of Education. Ella never listed an occupation.
Meanwhile, their brother, Joseph, remained in the Army until 1909. In 1910, he and Anna were living with her maternal grandparents in Baltimore. Joseph worked as a bookkeeper and, later, an auditor. When he died in the 1920s around age 50, Anna moved back to Philadelphia with three of their five children.
In 1950, Anna Savage Dent (age 65) was living at 3425 Race St. where she spent her adolescence. Her sister-in-law, Mary E. Dent was still living across the street in her grandfather’s house where she had lived almost all of her 74 years.
It is many families like these that make Powelton a village.
A shorter version of this appeared in the Powelton Post, January, 2012