William and Julia Moulden
William and Julia Moulden, a Black couple, provided crucial support for and helped to found Villanova College in the nineteenth century. Born an indentured servant, William Moulden saved the money he made in freedom to purchase property to support himself, his wife Julia, and the couple’s family. When the Augustinian friars arrived and started a college, Julia and William welcomed the newcomers and invested in Villanova’s success from the first day students enrolled in classes in the fall of 1843 until the Mouldens died in the 1880s. When the Augustinians purchased the property called Belle Air that became Villanova College from John Rudolph in 1841, the Mouldens were familiar with the property and the farm having worked for the Rudolphs. Julia and William worked for the Augustinians for forty years, helping them to build their college from scratch and supporting the school in its early years. They managed a shop in Rosemont where Villanova students bought snacks and sweets. The Mouldens were first to donate money to build the church whose spires give Villanova its distinctive look and where generations of Villanovans have worshipped. At the end of his life, William donated his property, including his family’s home, to Villanova University.
Yet the history of Villanova has been largely scrubbed free of the legacy of William and Julia Moulden. With the exception of a West Campus building named in their honor, the couple has been forgotten, the generous gift and crucial support provided by them is rarely recognized on Villanova’s campus. Working for the Rooted Project, researcher Angelina Lincoln (VU MA ’20) identified the primary source documents like tax and court records, census returns, newspaper articles, and Catholic sacramental records to reconstruct Julia's and William's lives and to understand the nature of their relationship to the school. William’s name appears in a number of documents; evidence of Julia, on the other hand, is more scarce and difficult to identify. The Rooted Project has attempted to identify as many of these fragments as possible and to present them here as a way of getting to the bottom of this history and recovering the truth about William Moulden’s gift to Villanova.
Constructed from these primary sources, the timeline above presents the most complete and accurate account of this relationship. Interested users are encouraged to consult Angelina Lincoln’s “Remembering William Moulden: Villanova University's Black: Founder and Early” in Ohio Valley History for a more in-depth account of William Moulden. All referenced primary sources are available at the "Archive" page above.