If you’re searching for a haunted locale to visit this Halloween, you might try “John Wister’s Big House” located in Germantown.
This stately home dating to 1744 is also known by another name. Can you guess what it is?
John Wister (originally Johannes Wüster), one of the signers of the Non-Importation Act of 1765, emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1727. He settled in Philadelphia, originally at 3rd and Market streets, but he eventually moved to a “country” residence in Germantown. He built a large stone house near the intersection of what is now East Bringhurst Street and Germantown Avenue. The house became known as “(John) Wister’s Big House,” and later, “Grumblethorpe.”
During the Revolutionary War, British forces occupied Philadelphia from September 1777 to June 1778. One general, James Agnew, took up quarters in Grumblethrope. In October 1777 he made out from the nearby (former) residence of the Chew family, Cliveden, but was shot. His orderly brought him back to Grumblethorpe where he bled to death in the house’s parlor.
Agnew’s ghost is reported to haunt the halls of Grumblethorpe still. Visitors to the historic house may witness his bloodstain, the remnants of which remain on the floor in the very spot where he died.
HSP has several collections of Wister family papers, which document the lives of various family member and their activities from the 18th to the 20th centuries. Additionally, the society is an excellent source for anyone wishing to learn more about the history of Germantown, one of Philadelphia’s earliest settlements.