Bye Family

Ranulph and Jerry Bye circa 1990

Ranulph and Jerry Bye circa 1990

Names of interviewees:  Gerard and Ranulph Bye, Margaret Bye Richie, and Tom Richie
Date of birth:  about 1910 to 1920
Interviewer:  Barbara Bye
Interview date:  1990
Interview location:  Byecroft Farm
Interview length:  1 hour 14 minutes
Time span discussed:  1919 to 1960s

Summary:  Ranulph Bye’s daughter, Barbara, gathered her father, her Uncle Gerard, and her aunt and uncle Margaret and Tom Richie to reminisce about their father, Arthur Edwin Bye, their family farm Byecroft, and life in Bucks County. Here is a rich history of life in the county during the 1920s through 1940s, in particular when farms dominated the landscape. The portion of the interview dedicated to restoring the farm house dovetails nicely with Arthur Bye’s 1970 book Bucks County Tales and the story Washington Did Not Live Here, which can be found in STHS library.


Time markers:
00:00:00 – Barbara Bye introduces her family
00:00:28 – Gerard’s earliest memories, about 1919, living with Arthur at Phillips Mill; canal, barges, mules, and swimming in the canal
00:02:12 – Ranulph’s early memories, about 1930, Valley Road guest house
00:03:41 – Margaret’s first visit to Byecroft after her father bought it in 1931, old, run down, visited on weekends
00:05:00 – Ranulph stayed in Swarthmore, art school at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art, 19 years old, parents separated, drove from Swarthmore to Holicong
00:06:14 – father automobile collector, changed cars every few years, routes to Holicong
00:07:33 – Gerard’s reckless driving, stories of his driving feats
00:09:16 – Arthur’s vision to own the family farm, bought in 1931 from cousin Frank Bye
00:11:56 – description of farm, Hillyard tenant farmer family
00:13:14 – Tom Richie teaching at Buckingham Friends, courting Margaret in 1934 when renovation began
00:13:31 – in 1932 the SPCA used the barn, most of buildings uninhabited
00:14:58 – great living at Byecroft, only modern convenience was phone
00:16:13 – no running water, pitcher, basin, and slop bucket in each bedroom; both parents strict about chore list
00:17:35 – tomboy Margaret inside chores, changing the bed linen, helping in the kitchen
00:18:03 – father dedicated to family, anglophile
00:19:46 – many flies at the farm, finally got screens, ceremony to kick over outhouse when plumbing arrived
00:22:08 – Margaret’s story of the tenant farm and his family, insightful about the life of a farmer’s family
00:24:12 – story of Hillyard; worked on the dairy farm, eventually worked at the New Hope hardware store; farm stories
00:29:32 – description of small Bucks County hamlets with blacksmiths, stores, gas stations, one-room schoolhouses, fire houses, “almost everything” in close proximity
00:31:04 – Lahaska Fire Department, carnival, every year; area all farms
00:32:15 – Depression hurt farms, many vacant, no buyers until late 1930s; dairy farms, some orchards
00:34:40 – development of the farms
00:36:28 – Sunday dinners at Phillips Mill with Holmquist School founders; Robert Volks’s farm on Creamery Road, his Ponzi scheme
00:40:45 – Byecroft buildings and their uses; the Companions art group and their meetings
00:43:13 – memories of traveling to Holland with mother, London with father
00:45:05 – no plan for college for Margaret, but she wanted to study, describes brothers, including two who died
00:50:30 – medical advancement in their lifetime astounding; before most families lost one or two children; stories of watching a fire and visiting a neighbor for milk and eggs
00:53:09 – Hans Schipbourg, father’s assistant and close family friend, with for ten years; fond memories; story of his portrait
00:59:05 – positive impact of Bucks County farm living, Gerard there for a year but home and security; Ranulph’s boyhood home, parents encouraged his art career but they preferred portraits, painted scenes nearby
01:07:13 – skip–repeat of earlier section    to 1:23:25
01:07:14 – Gerard’s family houses large, Byecroft very large
01:08:41 – Ranulph loves area, trying to finish book of disappearing scenes
01:09:34 – Bucks County positive influence on Margaret life, democratic community, free of snobbism and artificial standards
01:10:44 – influence of mother’s Dutch nationality, its influence on their lives, influence of Quaker upbringing
1:12:24 – Tom Richie’s enjoyment being part of family for 50 plus years

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