Ceramic Nativity preserves memory of prominent Delco family

The Butterworth Nativity can be seen at the home of the Delaware County Historical Society. Submitted photo — Delaware County Historical Society

A ceramic Nativity scene preserves the spirit of the Christmas season as much as it does the history of a prominent Delaware County family.

This set is part of the Delaware County Historical Society’s Butterworth collection. The Butterworths were a Chester family fully engrossed in service to the community, with a strong commitment to civic duty.

Born in England, John Butterworth came to Chester in 1884. He worked at the Vulcan Iron Works and a variety of other steel companies before joining the Atlantic Steel Casting Co. in 1915.

He held many positions in the Knights of the Golden Eagle and served on the school board from 1908 until 1929.

He and his wife, Margaret Gibson, had six children, including two who ended up in the medical field, Thomas and Edna.

Thomas Butterworth received his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1928 and eventually became one of Pennsylvania’s finest dermatologists.

He also created a four-year scholarship to U of Penn for a boy graduate of Chester High School in memory of his father, the John Butterworth Memorial Scholarship.

Thomas’ sister, Edna Butterworth, was a graduate nurse with the American Red Cross Public Health Nursing Service. For some time, she lived at 1003 W. Seventh St. in Chester.

Edna was one of 14 graduating in the Class of 1928 from the Chester Hospital Training School. At the time, it was the largest number of graduates in the institution’s history.

She also completed the training courses of the Citizens Defense Corps and became a designated member of the Medical Corps of the City of Chester.

In 1935, Col. W.V. Carter of the U.S. Army put her on call, and in the event of an emergency, she was to report to Philadelphia as part of a mobilization of large defense forces.

Edna also had a creative side; she is the person who made and painted the 10-piece ceramic Nativity scene housed at the DCHS.

Delicately painted in pastels with tinges of gold, the set includes the infant Jesus laying in a manger with his mother and his father. A pair of shepherds have come to visit with two sheep, a donkey and a cow. Two wise men also pay their respects as an angel oversees the scene.

The Butterworth Nativity can be seen at the home of the Delaware County Historical Society, located at 408 Avenue of the States in Chester. It is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Parking is free in the lot behind the building or across the street in the city’s municipal lot.

For more information or for ways to get involved, call 610-359-0832.

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