SOON after the first arrival of William Penn in the province of Pennsylvania, which was in the year 1682, he took measures to have the river Susquehanna and all the lands lying on both sides of it, purchased of the Indians for the use of him and his heirs. The lands were not then the property of the Indians who dwelt on them: for in a war some years preceding that time, the original inhabitants along the banks of the Susquehanna had been conquered by their more powerful though not more warlike enemies. The Indians of the Five Nations, who dwelt principally in what is now the state of New-York, were conquerors in the savage war; and in right of such their victory, they had or claimed a right to all the lands possessed by their southern neighbors. It was to them, therefore, that Penn was to apply in making a purchase of the lands on both sides of the river Susquehanna.
As Penn's time was wholly occupied by affairs immediately within the limits of his infant province, he had not leisure to visit New-York and there make a purchase of the Indians in person. Being so circumstanced, he employed as an agent, upon this occasion, Colonel Thomas Dongan, who had been governor of New-York, and was, afterwards, earl of Limerick, in Ireland.
Dongan held a number of councils with the Indians, and at last purchased, or had given him, "all that tract of land lying on both sides of the river Susquehanna, and the lakes, adjacent, in or near the province of Pennsylvania," "beginning at the mountains or head of said river, and running as far as and into the bay of Chesapeak." What Dongan gave the Indians for this land, we do not know; but, having purchased it, he conveyed it to Penn on the 13th day of January, 1696, "in consideration of one hundred pounds sterling."
Dongan's deed was confirmed on the 13th day of September, 1700, by a deed given to Penn by WIDAGH & ADDAGYJUNKQUAGH, Kings or Sachems of the Susquchanna Indians." This deed is "for all the river Susquehanna and all the islands therein, and all the lands lying on both sides of the said river, and next adjoining to the same, to the utmost confines of the lands which are, or formerly were, the right of the people or nation called the Susquehanna Indians."
The Conestogoe Indians were displeased with the sale made by the Five Nations, believing that the latter tribe had no right to make it. They accordingly complained to Penn; and he, in their presence, took out the deed of parchment, and, laying it on the ground, told them that the lands should still be in common between his people and them. The Conestogoes again made complaints concerning this purchase at their treaty with Sir William Keith in 1722.
As yet the lands on the west side of the Susquehanna were not considered as purchased of the Indians; for the words in the deed of 1700, "next adjoining to the same," were inconsistent with an extensive westward purchase; and the Indians of the Five Nations still continued, notwithstanding their deeds, to claim a right to the river and the adjoining lands. The sachems or chiefs, with all the others of the Five Nations, met in the summer of 1736, at a great council held in the country of the Onondagoes; and as the old claims had not as yet been adjusted, they resolved, that a conclusion should be put to all disputes connected therewith. They accordingly appointed their sachems or chiefs as plenipotentiaries to repair to Philadelphia, and there, among other things, settle and adjust all demands and claims connected with the Susquehanna and the adjoining lands. After their arrival at Philadelphia, they renewed old treaties of friendship, and on the 11th of October made a deed to John, Thomas and Richard Penn. The deed, which was signed by twenty-three Indian chiefs of the Onondagoe, Seneca, Oneida and Tuscurora nations, granted "all the river Susquehanna, and all the lands lying on the west side of the said river to the setting of the sun, and to extend northward up the same to the hills or mountains called, in the language of the Five Nations, Tayamentesachta, and by the Delaware Indians, the Kekachtanamin hills." On that day, (the 11th of October, 1736,) and not before, do we find the lands of this part of Pennsylvania clearly the property of the Penns, and freed from all Indian claims.
It is a thing which may well excite wonder that a hundred years ago the Indians possessed the fields and the valleys which we not cultivate, and that at present there is hardly a trace or a mark of such beings ever having existed. They seem to have passed away like the beasts that then inhabited the wilderness, leaving no monument of a former existence.
When Springettsbury Manor was laid out in 1722, this part of Pennsylvania was (with the exception of the Maryland intruders) inhabited by none but Indians. in the year 1736, when the lands west of the Susquehanna were purchased of the Indians, the only white settlements in the county, were firstly, under Pennsylvania rights, within the limits of Springettsbury Manor, and secondly, under Maryland rights, in the southern part of this county, and of what is now Adams county, including the region round about Hanover. The rest of the lands was in the undisturbed possession of the Indians. Even in the white settlements the Indians still had huts.
Source: Page(s) 1-3, History of York County From its Erection to the Present Time; [1729-1834]; New Edition; With Additions, Edited by A. Monroe Aujrand, Jr.