A LEAF FROM EARLY PROVINCIAL HISTORY.
The Swedes the First Settlers of Pennsylvania—-Their Surrender of Territory to the Dutch—-The Penn Family—-Quakers Immigrate to the New World—-A Vast Province Granted to William Penn—-Origin of the Term Pennsylvania—-Penn’s First Visit to America—-His Proceedings—-Formation of the First (three) Counties—-Penn Returns to England—-Pennsylvania Attached to New York—-Penn visits his Province the Second Time—-Returns to Europe in 1702—-His Death in 1718—-Popular Errors Regarding his Bearing and Characteristics—-Allusions to the Time and Extent of Indian cessions of Territory—-Date of Formation of Counties Preceding the Organization of Bedford.
GLANCING at what various historians have written concerning the early settlement of Pennsylvania, it appears that the first white settlement within the limits of the Commonwealth was made by the Swedes, who, about the year 1638, settled at Christina, on the north bank of Minquas creek, nearly three miles above its mouth. The region claimed by them was styled New Sweden, and they made many improvements from Henlopen to the falls of Alumingh or Santhikans. They laid the foundation of Uplandt, the present Chester, and of other towns, besides building numerous forts. They had purchased the lands of the Indians, and were living on friendly terms with them. Meantime the Dutch Governors of New Amsterdam claimed jurisdiction over, and possession of, the territory occupied by the Swedes, and finally, in 1655, Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam, proceeded with a large force to Fort Christina. The small Swedish garrison gallantly defended the work for fourteen days, but at the expiration of that time the fort was surrendered, as well as all of their towns and places of defense in New Sweden, and the Dutch became virtual masters. In 1664, however, the settlements on the Delaware passed, with New Amsterdam (since known as New York), under the control of the English.
During the sixth year following the first occupation of Pennsylvania by the Swedes, or on the 14th day of October, 1644, William Penn was born in the city of London, England. He was the son of Sir William Penn, a distinguished commander in the British navy, and Margaret Jasper, of Rotterdam. At the age of fifteen young William was sent to Christ Church College, Oxford, where he made rapid advancement, being equally noted for scholastic progress and zeal for athletic exercises. About this time he became interested in the Quakers, whereupon his father, treating him with much severity, sent him to travel, upon the continent, whence he returned when twenty years of age, full of theological learning, "a most modish person, grown quite a fine gentleman." At the suggestion of his father, Penn then entered Lincoln’s Inn as a law student. During the ravages of the plague his serious impressions were revived, and his father, discovering this, sent him to the vice-regal court of the lord-lieutenant in Ireland. The Duke of Ormond wished to make him a captain of foot, a position which be accepted. Nevertheless, he soon became engrossed in the management of his father’s Irish estates, and thus, while in Cork, met Thomas Lee, the Quaker preacher, whom he had known at Oxford.
"It was at this time," says Penn," that the Lord visited me with a certain sound and testimony of his Eternal Word." Drawn into close fellowship with the Friends, his principles secured him the compliment of being thrust into Cork jail. He there wrote a letter to the Earl of Orrery, saying: "Religion, which is at once my crime and mine innocence, makes me a prisoner." The earl ordered his immediate release, whereupon his father called him home, and began anew the task of reclaiming him from Quaker opinion, offering every inducement that
wealth and station could supply; but in vain, for the young disciple of Lee, while continuing to wear his sword and gay apparel, refused to take off his hat in the presence of the Duke of York, being resolved to reserve that degree of deference for God alone. Accordingly, at the age of twenty-three, he was again expelled from his father’s house. Subsequently the admiral allowed him to return, but refused to countenance his peculiar religious opinions.
When twenty-four years of age Penn began to preach, and soon after was locked up in the tower, "for a book I writ, called the ‘Sandy Foundation Shaken,’ undervaluing the principles of one Thomas Vincent, a dissenting minister." For nine months the well-intentioned young preacher languished in the tower for this literary aggression. He then found his way to Newgate, and went thence to the dock of the Old Bailey, where he was fined and recommitted in default. His father, whose life was now drawing to a close, secretly paid the prisoner’s fine, called him to his bedside and parted with him in peace. The son inherited his estate, worth £1,500 per annum. He, however, had to endure another sojourn of six months’ duration at Newgate, the penalty of speaking in an unlawful assembly, after which he visited Holland and Germany.
He married Gulielma Maria Springett in 1672, and three years later became interested in American colonization. He acted as arbitrator between Fenwicke and Byllinge, both members of the Society of Friends, in the settlement and sale of West New Jersey, Lord Berkley having sold one-half of the province of New Jersey to Fenwicke, who held it in trust for Byllinge and his assigns. The matter being adjusted, Fenwicke embarked with his family and some friends, and their ship, the Griffith, was the first English vessel to reach West New Jersey. The colony under the management of Penn and his associates prospered well, and was joined in 1677—8 by eight hundred emigrants, mostly Friends.
Having gained much valuable experience and information regarding the New World, and despairing of ever being able to obtain toleration and protection for his co-religionists and himself at home, Penn applied to Charles II to grant him a tract of country lying north of Maryland, being bounded on the east by the Delaware, on the west limited as Maryland, and northward "to extend as far as plantable," or, in other words, a region between the parallels of forty and forty-two degrees north latitude, and from the Delaware river five degrees westward. He asked for this grant in lieu of the sum of £16,000 due to his father from the British government. The scheme was objected to by Sir John Werden, agent of the Duke of York, on the ground that the territory west of the Delaware belonged to the government of New York, especially the New Castle Colony. It was known as Delaware county, and was then occupied promiscuously by Swedes, Finlanders, Dutch and English. The Duke of York, however, favored Penn, and March 4, 1681, the patent was signed.
This venerable document, written on parchment, having the lines underscored with red ink, is now preserved in the department of state at Harrisburg, being handsomely decorated with heraldic devices. Penn was highly elated, and in a letter to Robert Turner said, respecting the name of his province, that "Pennsylvania" was "a name the king would give it in honor of my father. I chose New Wales, being, as this, a pretty hilly country, but Penn being Welsh for a head, as Pennmanmoire in Wales, and Penrith in Cumberland, and Penn in Buckinghamshire, the highest land in England, (he) called this Pennsylvania, which is the high or head woodlands; for I proposed, when the secretary, a Welshman, refused to have it called New Wales, Sylvania, and they added Penn to it; and though I much opposed it, and went to the king to have it struck out and altered, he said it was past, and would take it upon him; nor could twenty guineas move the under-secretary to vary the name; for I feared lest it should be looked on as a vanity in me, and not as respect in the king, as it truly was, for my father, whom he often mentions with praise." Yes, it is quite popularly supposed that the name was given in honor of the son.
The preamble of the charter declares that Penn’s application arose out of a commendable desire to enlarge the British Empire, and promote such useful commodities as may be a benefit to the king and his dominions, and also to reduce savage nations, by quiet and gentle manners, to the love of civil society and the Christian religion. The charter consists of twenty-three articles, and Penn was made absolute proprietor under the king, holding in "free and common socage by fealty only." He was to
pay the king two beaver-skins annually, and these were to be duly delivered at Windsor Castle. He was also to pay the king one-fifth of the gold and silver that might be found.
Penn was empowered with the consent of the freemen to make all necessary laws, appoint magistrates and judges, and exercise the power of pardon, except for the crimes of murder and treason, though in this respect he had the power to reprieve. The king was to levy no taxes without the consent of parliament or the people. Penn was made a captain-general, with full powers on land and sea; while, on the application of twenty inhabitants to the bishop of London, a "preacher" should be permitted to reside in the province. By a "preacher" was meant a clergyman of the Church of England. In the face of this provision, though, Gordon speaks of "the spirit of freedom which breathes through this charter," and we are assured that it was drafted by Penn himself, but Janney concedes that "the clause allowing ministers of the Church of England to reside in the province did not emanate from Penn."
The king made known by proclamation what had been done, and Penn wrote to the people of the province assuring them of his good will, the proclamation and letter being taken out by his cousin, William Markham, commissioned to act as his deputy. On the 1st of August, Markham purchased of the sachems an ancient royalty, and commenced the building of Pennsbury, which was founded more than a year before Philadelphia. Having, meanwhile, made all his arrangements, Penn embarked at Deal in the ship Welcome, August 30, 1682. He had made every provision for the comfort of the people during the voyage, but the smallpox broke out in mid-ocean, and nearly every person on board was more or less sick. Of the one hundred passengers, thirty died, and the voyage was ever after remembered with a shudder. The vessel arrived in the Delaware, before New Castle, October 27, and the following day Penn received possession of the town and county adjoining by "the delivery of turf and twig and water, and soyle of the river Delaware." He was greeted enthusiastically by the people of the different nationalities assembled, and they listened with delight to the man who had come with feudal powers, yet promising a free government and all its attendant advantages. He next went to Uplandt and changed the name of the place to Chester. He then proceeded to lay out the metropolis which existed in his mind before he left England, the present city of Philadelphia. We are told that he purchased the land* of "three Swedes" by whom it was then occupied. He desired to form there a handsome and stately "greene country towne."
On the last day of November, 1682, a treaty of friendship was made with the Indian sachems under a large elm-tree at Shackamaxon, now Kensington, and before the close of the same year the boundaries of the three original counties of the province, namely: Bucks, Chester and Philadelphia, were defined. At a time, however, when all was going well in the province, Penn’s wife lay sick in England, while his enemies there were busy. Accordingly, he felt that he must at once return if he regarded the welfare and stability of his government. Therefore, summoning the Indian tribes to meet him at Pennsbury, he renewed the pledge of good faith separately with each tribe, gave them much wholesome advice, and left them sorrowing for his departure. While in the country he made treaties with no less than nineteen tribes. In England he then struggled for the greater portion of twelve years. At times he was accused of bad designs. He was also declared a "Papist." He was brought to trial and barely escaped imprisonment, and frequently to avoid the storm he remained in retirement. In April, 1693, William and Mary having succeeded King James, the former took away Penn’s authority over Pennsylvania and attached the province for governmental purposes to that of New York under Fletcher. But Penn finally emerged from the cloud, and August 29, 1694, William ordered Sunderland "to strike the name of Pennsylvania out of the list of condemned provinces."
These struggles, however, do not properly fall within the scope of this article, therefore we hasten on to say that meanwhile the storm-center had shifted to Pennsylvania, where Colonel Markham, Penn’s representative, had managed to create much ill-feeling. Accordingly, on September 9, 1699, Penn again embarked for America, accompanied by his second wife,
*According to Watson’s paper in the "Memoirs of the Pennsylvania Historical Society" (Vol. III, Part II, p. 128), the land was purchased of the Indians, and not until July 30, 1685, Penn at that time having returned to England. Again, Chalmers, in his "Political Annals" (Ed. 1780, p. 644), says that Penn’s policy of buying the land of the natives was urged by "the good bishop of London."
Hannah Callowhill, his first wife having died several years before. Upon his arrival at Philadelphia, now grown to a flourishing town, he was received with great enthusiasm. He soon afterward purchased the Indian royalty known as Pennsbury of the natives, and there built a fine mansion, which was appointed and furnished in keeping with his position as the owner and governor of a great province. Pennsbury was situated on the Delaware above Philadelphia, and the estate originally comprised three thousand four hundred and thirty-one acres. The house cost £7,000. It was of brick, two stories in height, with a frontage of sixty feet facing the river. This mansion was torn down about the period of the Revolutionary war. Penn also occupied what was known as the slate-roof house on Second street, Philadelphia, as his city residence. In the latter was born John Penn (son of Richard and grandson of William Penn), the only member of the family born in America. Concerning the difficulties that he had to contend with in his province, they were largely due to acts of maladministration in his absence though the question of raising money for the fortifications, so unpalatable to the Quakers, and the condition of the blacks and Indians weighed upon his mind.
A new constitution for the province was adopted in November, 1700, and April 23, 1701, a genuine treaty was made with the representatives of the Five Nations at Philadelphia. In August following, the money for the fortifications asked for by the king was refused. Soon news came that a plan was on foot in parliament for the reduction of all proprietary governments; and the members of the Penn family, weary of the novel life in the wilds of America, were anxious to return to England. Penn formed his resolution, and sailed for the mother country October 28, 1702. One of his later official acts was to create Philadelphia a city, by a charter signed October 25, 1701. Anne was now queen, but under her reign misfortune pursued him, and in 1712 he mortgaged his province for £12,000. His health was now broken, yet he survived until July 30, 1718, when he expired at his home in Rushcombe, in the seventy-fourth year of his age. His remains were buried in the little rustic graveyard of the old Quaker meeting-house at Jordon’s, near the village of Chalfont St. Giles, in Buckinghamshire, distant twenty-four miles from London.
Says a late writer, in speaking of his habits and characteristics: "Penn is often thought of as a very staid, solemn personage, incapable of bending or taking off his hat; yet the contrary is the truth. He was of a most lively disposition, and from his youth fond of athletic sports. Hence, when he came into the American forests, from taste as well as policy, he entered into the games of the red men with zest, and would run and jump with them in their matches; which he could not have done if he had been the original of the stout individual seen in the treaty picture by West. Of such a person, essaying the role of an athlete, the Indian queens would have been obliged to say, as the Queen of Denmark said of her son Hamlet, ‘he’s fat and scant of breath,’ though he generally appears upon the stage an attenuated individual with slim legs. The character of William Penn, as popularly conceived, is, in the main, just, though most persons are inclined to identify him too closely in appearance and manners and mode of life with the modern members of the Society of Friends. Yet, whatever may have been his principles, Penn was, to a great extent, at least for a large part of his life, a courtier and man of the world, the latter phrase being used in its best sense. Indeed, he entertained broad and grand ideas apart from the principles of religious liberty and the needs of his province. His Philadelphia was to be no pent-up Utica, while a boundless continent engaged his thought, as we know from his proposition, made in 1697, to bring all the colonies under one central control, thus forecasting the American confederation."
Of the Penn family we will have but little more to say in this volume, for, although the heirs of William Penn continued as owners of the province until its transformation into a free and independent commonwealth during the war of the revolution, yet the subject is one which can only be treated properly in a work covering a much greater expanse of country than the counties in which we are now interested. We make haste, therefore, to speak of some of the most important civic events which transpired in the province prior to the formation of the county of Bedford, but which had an intimate bearing or relationship thereto.
Always conceding that the Indians were the original proprietors of Pennsylvania, the Penns and their agents made various purchases of land
of the chiefs of the Five Nations, afterward termed the Six Nations, and some years before the beginning of the revolutionary war the Indians had ceded to the proprietaries about two-thirds of the present commonwealth. Thus on September 17, 1718, a treaty was made whereby previous purchases were relinquished to the Indians, the latter then ceding territory now embracing Bucks, Philadelphia, Delaware, Chester, Montgomery, Lancaster, and parts of Lebanon, Berks and Lehigh counties. Following this came the organization of the fourth county of the province, Lancaster, which was formed from Chester, May 10, 1729, but the treaty of September, 1718, was not confirmed until October 27, 1736. The council-fires at this meeting were kept burning from October 11 to October 26, 1736, and before its close the Indians also ceded lands forming the present counties of York, Adams and Cumberland, and the major portion of Franklin, Dauphin, Lebanon, Berks, Lehigh and Northampton. The fifth county, York, was formed from Lancaster, August 19, 1749, and October 22 of the same year a narrow strip of territory extending from the Delaware to the Susquehanna, and lying north of the cession of 1718 (confirmed in 1736) was relinquished by the Indians to meet the demands of constantly encroaching white settlements. Cumberland, the sixth county of the province, was created from Lancaster, January 27, 1750, and about two years later, or March 11, 1752, Berks from Philadelphia, Chester and Lancaster, and Northampton from Bucks, were organized as the seventh and eighth counties.
By the terms of a treaty held July 6, 1754, and confirmed October 23, 1758, territory stretching from the Susquehanna westward to the crest of the Alleghenies, and now embraced by the counties of Bedford, Fulton, Huntingdon, Blair, Perry, Juniata, Mifflin, and parts of Franklin, Snyder, Union, Centre and Somerset counties, was ceded by the Indians. Meanwhile, events had transpired which led to the terrible "French and Indian war" then in progress, and as within the original limits of Bedford county the contending armies marched and alternately suffered in defeat or rejoiced in victory, it is deemed pertinent to notice briefly in chapters immediately succeeding this the operations of the British and Americans under Washington, Braddock, Armstrong, Forbes and Boquet as opposed to the French and Indians.
SOURCE: History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, pp. 20-24.
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