ABOUT the year 1684, a violent dispute arose between William Penn and Lord Baltimore, concerning the boundary line between Pennsylvania and Maryland. The dispute continued until the death of Penn, in the year 1718, when it assumed, on the part of the Marylanders, a character of violence and aggression hitherto unknown to it. Their object was to make settlements many miles up into the present state of Pennsylvania; and having thus taken possession of the lands, to hold them by the strong arm of power. With these views they pushed their settlement with great rapidity along the Susquehanna: even in 1722, many of them were within a short distance of the present borough of York.
Such quick work, and energetic proceedings on the part of the Marylanders frightened Sir William Keith, who was then Lieutenant Governor of the province of Pennsylvania. Keith being zealous for the proprietary interest, was anxious to hinder these encroachments on what he believed to be the property of the heirs of Penn; but affairs were so circumstanced, that he hardly knew how to attempt the fulfilment of his strong wish.
The lands had not, as yet, been purchased from the Indians by the proprictor of Pennsylvania, and much less by that of Maryland. The adherents of Lord Baltimore, little caring whether the land was purchased or not, were pressing onward with great eagerness, and were threatening to settle the whole country. The policy of Penn ever had been to grant no rights to lands, and to permit no settlements on them, until purchased of the Indians. Sir William Keith wished to keep off the Marylanders, and yet, by the usage and laws of the province, was unable to grant rights to Pennsylvanians. To extricate himself from this difficulty, he bethought himself of a plan, which in its consequences has been the source of great trouble to the landholders of this county: it was immediately to consult the Indians in the neighborhood of the Susquehanna, and obtain their consent to the making of a large survey west of the river.
Accordingly, Governor Keith consulted or held a treaty with the Indians at Conestogoe, on the 15th and 16th of June, 1722, when they counselled together concerning the making of a survey for the use of Springett Penn, the grandson, and, as then believed, the heir of William Penn.
The following is a copy of the minutes of the council or treaty between Governor Keith and the Indians:
At a Council held with the Indians at Conestogoe, on the 15th of June, 1722 - present
SIR WILLIAM KEITH, Bart., Governor,
COL. JOHN FRENCH,
FRANCIS WORLEY, Esquire,
The Chiefs of the Conestogoes, Shawaizas & Ganaways,
SMITH, the Ganaway Indian, and
JAMES LE TORT, Interpreter.
The Governor spoke as follows:
Friends and Brothers!
The belts which I lately received from the Five Nations, signify that they are one people with the English, and our very kind neighbors and friends. They invite me to come to them, and I purpose in a short time to go and meet them at Albany, and to make the chain between us as bright as the sun. When they see me, they will remember their great friend, William Penn; and then our hearts will be filled with love, and our councils with peace.
Friends and Brothers!
You say you love me because I come from your father, William Penn, to follow his ways, and to fulfil all his kind promises to the Indians. You call me William Penn, and I am proud of the name you give me. But if we have a true love for the memory of William Penn, we must shew it to his family and his children, that are grown up to be men in England, and will soon come over to represent him here. The last time I was with you at Conestogoe, you shewed me a parchment which you had received from William Penn, containing many articles of friendship between him and you, and between his children and your children. You then told me, he desired you to remember it well for three generations; but I hope you and your children will never forget it. - That parchment fully declared your consent to William Penn's purchase and right to the lands on both sides of the Susquehanna. But I find both you and we are like to be disturbed by idle people from Maryland, and also by others who have presumed to survey lands on the banks of Susquehanna without any powers from William Penn or his children, to whom they belong, and without so much as asking your consent. I am therefore now come to hold a council and consult with you how to prevent such unjust practices for the future. And hereby we will shew our love and respect for the great William Penn's children, who inherit their father's estate in this country, and have a just right to the hearty love and friendship of all the Indians, promised to them in many treaties. I have fully considered this thing; and if you approve my thoughts, I will immediately cause to be taken up a large tract of land on the other side of Susquehanna, for the grandson of William Penn, who is now a man as tall as I am. For when the land is marked with his name upon the trees, it will keep off the Marylanders, and every other person whatsoever, from coming to settle near you to disturb you. And he bearing the same kind heart to the Indians which his grandfather did, will be glad to give you any part of his land for your own use and convenience; but if other people take it up, they will make settlements upon it, and then it will not be in his power to give it you as you want it.
My dear Friends and Brothers!
Those who have any wisdom amongst you, must see and be convinced, that what I now say is entirely for your good; for this will effectually hinder and prevent any persons from settling lands on the other side of Susquehanna, according to your desire; and consequently, you will be secure from being disturbed by ill neighbors, and will have all that land at the same time in your own power to make use of. This will also beget a true hearty love and friendship between you, your children, and the great William Penn's grandson, who is now lord of all this country in the room of his grandfather. It is therefore fit and necessary for you to begin as soon as you can to express your respect and love to him. He expects it from you according to your promises in many treaties, and he will take it very kindly.
Consider then, my brothers, that I am now giving you an opportunity to speak your thoughts lovingly and freely unto this brave young man, William Penn's grandson; and I, whom you know to be your true friend, will take care to write down your words, and to send them to England to this gentleman, who will return you a kind answer; and hearts will be made glad to see that the great William Penn still lives in his children to love and serve the Indians.
At a council held on the following day, TAWENA, a chief, replied as follows, in behalf of the Indians;
They have considered of what the governor proposed to them yesterday, and think it a matter of very great importance to them to hinder the Marylanders from settling or taking up lands so near them upon Susquehanna. They very much approve what the governor spoke, and like his counsel to them very well; but they are not willing to discourse particularly on the business of land, lest the Five Nations may reproach or blame them.
They declare again their satisfaction with all the governor said yesterday to them in council; and although they know that the Five Nations have not any right to their lands, and that four of the towns do not pretend to any, yet the fifth town, viz., the Cayugoes, are always claiming some right to the lands on the Susquehanna, even where they themselves now live: wherefore they think it will be a very proper time, when the governor goes to Albany, to settle that matter with the Cayugoes, and then all parties will be satisfied.
They asked the governor whereabouts, and what quantity of land does he propose to survey for Mr. Penn? It is answered, from over against the mouth of Conestogoe creek, up to the governor's new settlement, and so far back from the river, as that no person can come to annoy or disturb them in their towns on this side.
They proceed and say, that they are at this time very apprehensive that people will come when the governor is gone to Albany, and survey this land; wherefore they earnestly desire that the governor will immediately cause the surveyor to come and lay out the land for William Penn's grandson, to secure them: And they doubt not but the governor's appearance and conduct afterwards at Albany, will make all things easy there.
Having obtained the consent and approbation, of the Indians, the governor delayed not; but on the 18th of the same month, while yet at Conestogoe, issued the warrant for the survey under his private seal. On the same day with the issuing of the warrant, he wrote a letter, which he sent by express, to the Gentlemen of the council, giving them information of the whole transaction. On the 19th and 20th of that month (June 1722) the first survey of Springettsbury Manor* (now called "Keith's Survey," or "the survey of '22,") was made. On the 23d, governor Keith wrote a letter to the governor of Maryland, giving him an account of all the proceedings concerning the manor of Springettsbury, and sending him likewise a copy of the warrant, survey, &C.: this letter was sent by express.
Not long after the survey, settlements were made under Pennsylvania rights: but as the lands were not fully purchased of the Indians until 1736, licenses to settle and take them up were in the mean time granted by Samuel Bluntson **, who had been commissioned by the proprietaries, and in some cases too by Thomas Penn himself.
A warrant to re-survey the manor of Springettsbury was issued on the 21st of May, 1762, by James Hamilton, then lieutenant governor of the province. The re-survey however on account of the uncertainty of the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland was delayed about six years. But the line run by Mason & Dixon being completed in the year 1769, and the boundary between the two provinces being thereby first determined, James Tilghnian, Secretary of the land office, afterwards (on the 13th of May, 1768) wrote to John Lukens, surveyor general, requesting him to proceed with all expedition on the re-survey. Lukens accordingly resurveyed the manor of Springettsbury on the several days from the 12th to the 30th of June 1768. This re-survey is known by the name of "Hamilton's survey," or "the survey of '68."
On the 27th of November 1779, the legislature passed an act for vesting the estates of the late proprietaries of Pennsylvania in the commonwealth. But there was an exception of all proprietary tenths or manors which had been duly surveyed and returned into tile land office before the 4th of July 1776. The consequence was that Springettsbury manor remained the private property of the Pcnns; and as such it has been held, for the most part, down to our times.
Of the warm and tedious disputes which have existed during the last twenty-five years between the landholders in Springettsbury Manor, and tile agents of the Penns, we speak not here: - the best account of them is to be found in the books of reports which furnish the lawyer's library. The disputes, however, may well be likened to the border wars connected with the Maryland encroachments on the territory of Pennsylvania previous to the year 1768.
* The manor received the name it now bears from its being originally laid out for the use of Springett Penn, son of William Penn, Junior, and grandson of the William Penn who was first proprietor of the province. William the "father" died in 1718, and William the "son" died about 1720, it was thence supposed in 1722, when the survey was made, that Springett Penn was of right the proprietor of the province.
** In order to counteract the Maryland encroachments, It was the policy of the proprietory agents, to invite and encourage settlements on the borders. Such settlements were made within the manor of Springettsbury. There was a contract that titles should be made to the settlers whenever the lands should be purchased of the Indians. Certificates or licences were accordingly issued, promising patents upon the usual terms for which other lands in the county were sold. A commission was issued to Samuel Bluntson on the 11th of January 1738-4, to grant licenees to settle and take up land on the west side of the Susquehanna. The first license issued by Bluntson is dated on 24th January 1732-4 and the last on 31st October 1737. All of the numerous licences prior to the 11th of October 1736 were for lands out of the Indian purchases; yet these grants, though at first rather irregular, were of right to be confirmed by the proprietors as soon as the lands were purchased of the Natives. The early settlement In York county commenced In quarrels, and the effects of those quarrels have descended unto our days.
Source: Page(s) 3-9, History of York County From its Erection to the Present Time; [1729-1834]; New Edition; With Additions, Edited by A. Monroe Aujrand, Jr.