History of Warren County, Chapter 7

CHAPTER VII
PENN IN PENNSYLVANIA

 

William Penn Sails for America - His Advice to His Family - The Voyage - Warmly Received at New Castle - The First Assembly - Penn Visits New York and Maryland - Unsatisfactory Conference with Lord Baltimore - The Great Treaty with the Indians - The Walking Purchase - Great Influx of Colonists - Counties Formed - Meeting of the First General Assembly - Sitting of the First Grand Jury - First Conviction - Another Fruitless Interview with Lord Baltimore - Baltimore's Demand - Penn's Anxiety - His Liberal Offer - Baltimore's Adherents Invade the Lower Counties - Penn Determines to Return to England - His Farewell to His Colonists.

Meantime Penn had settled his affairs in England, and in August, 1682, in company with about a hundred planters, chiefly from his native town of Sussex, he embarked on board the ship "Welcome" and began the voyage across the Atlantic. Before leaving the Downs he addressed a farewell letter to his friends whom he left behind, and another to his wife and children, giving them much excellent advice, and sketching the way he wished them to live. With remarkable care he pointed out to his wife how he wished his children to be educated, married, etc. "Be sure," said he, "to observe their genius, and do not cross it as to learning; let them not dwell too long on one thing; but let their change be agreeable, and let all their diversions have some little bodily labor in them. When grown big, have most care for them; for then there are more snares both within and without. When marriageable, see that they have worthy persons in their eyes; of good life and good fame for piety and understanding. I need no wealth but sufficiency; and be sure their love be dear, fervent and mutual, that it may be happy for them." To his children he said: "Betake yourselves to some honest, industrious course of life, and that not of sordid covetousness, but for example and to avoid idleness. Love not money, nor the world; use them only, and they will serve you; but if you love them you serve them, which will debase your spirits as well as offend the Lord. Watch against anger, neither speak nor act in it; for like drunkenness, it makes a man a beast, and throws people into desperate inconveniences."

It required nearly six weeks to complete the voyage, and the weather was pleasant; but the voyagers had not been long at sea ere that loathsome disease, the small - pox, broke out among them, of which thirty died, or nearly one - third of the whole company. This, added to the usual discomforts and terrors of the ocean, to most of whom this was their first experience, made the voyage a dismal one. Here again was seen the true nobility of Penn. He contributed to the necessities of those less fortunate than himself. He moved about frequently among the, sick, and cheered them with his presence and kind words.

His arrival upon the coast and passage up the river was hailed with joyous demonstrations by all classes, including the Swede, Dutch, and English settlers, and especially by his own devoted followers, the Friends. He landed at New Castle on the 24th of October, 1682, and on the following day summoned the people to the court - house, where possession of the country was formally tendered to him; and he renewed the commissions of the magistrates, to whom and the assembled people he announced the purpose of his coming, explained the nature of good government, assured them that their civil and religious rights should be respected, and recommended that they live in sobriety and peace. He then proceeded to Upland, henceforward to be known as Chester, where, on the fourth of the following month, he called a meeting of the people, at which an equal number of votes was allowed to the province and the territories. Here Nicholas Moore, president of the Free Society of Traders, was speaker. As at New Castle, Penn addressed the assembly, giving those assembled assurances of his beneficent intentions, for which they returned their grateful acknowledgments, the Swedes being especially demonstrative, deputing one of their number, Lacy Cock, to say "that they would love, serve and obey him with all they had, and that this was the best day they ever saw." One can well understand with what satisfaction the first settlers upon the Delaware hailed the prospect of a stable government established in their own midst, after having been so long at the mercy of the government in New York, originally termed "New Amsterdam," with allegiance trembling between the courts of Sweden, Holland, and England.

This first assembly was conducted with great decorum, and after the usages of the British Parliament. On the 7th of December, 1682, the three lower counties (now the State of Delaware), which had previously been under the government of the Duke of York's representative in America, the governor of New York, were formally annexed to the province of Pennsylvania. The frame of government, which had been drawn with much deliberation, was submitted to the assembly, and after some alterations and amendments was adopted, and became the fundamental law. The assembly was in session only three days, but the work accomplished was vast and far - reaching in its influence.

Soon after his arrival in the colony Penn made a visit to New York, and subsequently he journeyed to Maryland, where he was entertained by Lord Baltimore with great ceremony. The settlement of the disputed boundaries was made the subject of formal conference. But after two days spent in fruitless discussion, the weather becoming severely cold, and thus rendering it impossible to take observations or make the necessary surveys, it was agreed to adjourn further consideration of the subject until the milder weather of spring again returned.

During his journeyings Penn did not forget to preach the gospel wherever there were people to hear him. On his return from Maryland he said: "I have been also at New York, Long Island, East Jersey, and Maryland, in which I have had good and eminent service for the Lord." And again he says: "As to outward things we are satisfied - - the land good, the air clear and sweet, the springs plentiful, and provisions good and easy to come at, an innumerable quantity of wild fowl and fish; in fine, here is what an Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would be well contented with, and service enough for God, for the fields are here white for the harvest. Oh, how sweet is the quiet of these parts, freed from the anxious and troublesome solicitations, hurries, and perplexities of woeful Europe! Blessed be the Lord, that of twenty - three ships, none miscarried; only two or three had the small - pox; else healthy and swift passages, generally such as have not been known; some but twenty - eight days, and few longer than six weeks."

Early in November, during the season known in this latitude as the Indian summer, Penn determined to visit the site of the proposed new city chosen by his commissioners. Accordingly he embarked in an open barge with a number of his friends and was rowed up the Delaware to the present site of Philadelphia, which the natives called Coaquannock. The scattered settlers had gathered to see and welcome the proprietor, and when he stepped upon the shore they extended a helping hand in assisting him up the rugged bluff. Three Swedes had already taken up tracts within the limits of the boundaries chosen for the city, but they were given other valuable lands in exchange, and readily relinquished their claims.

Still Penn did not consider that he had as yet any just title to the soil, holding that the Indians were its rightful possessors, and until it was fairly acquired by purchase from them his own title was entirely void. Hence he sought an early opportunity to meet the chiefs of the tribes claiming possession, and cultivate friendly relations with them. Tradition fixes the first great treaty, or conference, at about this time - - November, 1682 - - and the place under the elm tree known as "Treaty Tree,"* at Kensington. The letter which Penn had sent by the hands of his commissioners had prepared the minds of these simple - hearted inhabitants of the forest to regard him with awe and reverence. His coming, doubtless, had for a long time been awaited, and when at length the day came, the bands from far around had all assembled. It is known that at least three tribes, or nations, were represented - - the Delawares, the Shawanese, who were mostly located along the Lower Susquehanna, and the Mingos, who claimed relationship with the Five Nations.

In making his purchases from the Indians Penn drew up his deeds for land in legal form, and had them duly executed and recorded, so that in case disputes should arise in the future, his proofs of purchase would be definite and positive. Of these purchases there are two deeds on record executed in 1683. One is for land near Neshaminy Creek, and thence to Pennypack, and the other for lands lying between the Schuylkill and Chester Rivers, the first bearing the signature of the great chieftain, Taminend. In one of these purchases it is provided that the tract "shall extend back as far as a man can walk in three days." Tradition says that Penn himself, with, a number of his friends, walked out half of this purchase with the Indians, that no advantage should be taken of them by making a great walk, and to show his consideration, and that he was not above the toils and fatigues of such a duty. They began at the mouth of the Neshaminy and walked up the Delaware. In one day and a half a spruce tree near the mouth of Baker's Creek was reached, when Penn concluded that this would include as much land as he would want for the time being. A line was then run and marked from the spruce tree to Neshaminy, and the remainder left to be walked out when it should be wanted. They proceeded after the Indian manner, walking leisurely, sitting down sometimes to smoke their pipes, eat biscuit and cheese, and drink a bottle of wine. In the day and a half they walked a little less than thirty miles. The balance of the purchase was not walked until September 20, 1733, when the then governor of the province offered a prize of five hundred acres of land and sterling to the man who would walk the farthest. As a result a distance of eighty - six miles was covered, in marked contrast with the kind consideration shown by the original proprietor.

During the first year of Penn's stay in the province the country along the Delaware from the falls of Trenton to Chester, a distance of nearly sixty miles, was rapidly taken up and peopled. They were for the most part Friends, and devotedly attached to their religion and its proper observances. They were, morally, of the best classes, and though they were not generally of the aristocracy, yet many were in comfortable circumstances, had valuable properties, were of good families, educated, and had the resources within themselves to live contented and happy. They built meeting - houses, established schools, were provident and industrious, and had come hither with no fickle purpose. Many brought servants with them, and well - supplied wardrobes, and all necessary articles which they wisely judged could not be procured in a new country.

In a brief period ships with colonists from London, Bristol, Ireland, Wales, Cheshire, Lancashire, Holland, and Germany came, to the number of about fifty. Among those who were particularly conspicuous at the time was a company of German Friends from the Palatinate, and a sufficient number of the descendants of the ancient Britons from Wales to people four townships. The latter were also Friends, and today their descendants are among the most worthy and respected citizens in Philadelphia and vicinity. Such a large increase in population caused a scarcity in many kinds of food, especially of meats. More time was required for bringing forward flocks and herds than for producing grains; but Providence seems to have provided for them, in a measure, for it is recorded that the "wild pigeons came in such great numbers that the sky was sometimes darkened by their flight, and, flying low, they were frequently knocked down as they flew, in great quantities by those who had no other means to take them, whereby they supplied themselves, and having salted those which they could not immediately use, they preserved them, both for bread and meat."

The Indians, too, often furnished them with game, for which they would accept no compensation.

In 1682 the counties of Bucks, Chester, and Philadelphia were organized, also the three lower counties, or, as they were then termed, the "territories" of New Castle, Kent, and Sussex. Sheriffs were appointed and writs issued for the election of members of a General Assembly - - three from each county for the Council or Upper House, and nine from each county for the Assembly or Lower House. The members elected convened and organized for business at Philadelphia, on the 10th of January, 1683. As an example of the crude and impracticable propositions brought forward by some of these newly - fledged law - makers, the following may be cited as specimens: That young men shall be obliged to marry at or before a certain age; that two sorts of clothes only shall be worn - - one for winter and the other for summer. The session lasted twenty - two days.

On the 2d of February, 1683, was summoned the first grand jury to sit in Pennsylvania, to inquire into the cases of some persons accused of issuing counterfeit money. The Governor and Council sat as a court. One Pickering was convicted, and sentenced as follows: "That he shall make full satisfaction, in good and current pay, to every person who shall within the space of one month, bring in any of this false, base, and counterfeit coin, and that the money brought in shall be melted down before it is returned to him, and that he pay a fine of forty pounds towards the building a court - house, stand committed till the same be paid, and afterward find security for his good behavior."

During the early part of 1683 there was great activity throughout the colony, and especially in the new city, in selecting lots and erecting dwellings the surveyor - general, Thomas Holme, laying out and marking the streets. In the center of the city was established a public square of ten acres, and in each of the four quarters one of eight acres. A large mansion, which had been undertaken before his arrival, was built for Penn, at a point twenty - six miles up the river, called Pennsbury Manor, where he sometimes resided, and where he often met the Indian sachems.

His plans of government and settlement were now fairly in operation, but there was another matter which caused him unceasing anxiety. As we have seen, the visit of Penn to Lord Baltimore, soon after his arrival in America, for the purpose of settling the boundaries of the two provinces, after two days' conference proved fruitless, and an adjournment was had for the winter, when the efforts for a settlement were to be resumed. Accordingly in May, 1683, the proprietors again met at New Castle. Penn proposed to confer by the aid of counselors and in writing. But to this Baltimore objected, and, complaining of the sultriness of the weather, the conference was broken up. In the mean time it had come to the knowledge of Penn that Lord Baltimore had issued a proclamation offering settlers more land, and at cheaper rates than Penn had done, in portions of the lower counties which Penn had purchased from the Duke of York, but which Baltimore now claimed. Besides, it was ascertained that an agent of his had taken an observation and determined the latitude without the knowledge of Penn, and had secretly made an ex parte statement of the case before the Lords of the Committee of Plantations in England, and was pressing for arbitrament. This condition of affairs caused much uneasiness in the mind of Penn, especially as the proclamation of Lord Baltimore was likely to bring the two governments into conflict on territory mutually claimed.

Lord Baltimore, it appears, was not disposed to be content even with diplomacy. He determined to pursue an aggressive policy. He accordingly commissioned his agent, Colonel George Talbot, under date of September 17, 1683, to go to Schuylkill, at Delaware, and demand of William Penn "all that part of the land on the west side of the said river, that lyeth to the southward of the fortieth degree." This bold demand would have embraced the entire colony, both the lower counties, and the three counties in the province, as the fortieth degree reaches a considerable distance north of Philadelphia. Penn was in New York at the time Talbot arrived, and the latter made his demand upon Nicholas Moore, Penn's deputy. Upon his return, the proprietor made a dignified but earnest rejoinder. While he felt that the demand could not be justly sustained, yet the fact that a controversy for the settlement of the boundary was likely to arise gave him disquietude, and he plainly foresaw that his skill and tact would be taxed to the utmost to defend and hold his claim before the English court. If the demand of Lord Baltimore was to prevail, all that he had done would be lost, as his entire colony would be swallowed up by Maryland.

Penn's anxiety to hold from the beginning of the fortieth degree of latitude was not founded upon a desire for a vast amount of territory, for the two degrees which he held unquestioned, so far as amount of land was concerned, would have entirely satisfied him; but he wanted this degree chiefly that he might have the free navigation of Delaware Bay and River, and thus have untrammeled communication with the ocean. He desired also to hold the lower counties, which were now well settled, as well as his own counties rapidly being peopled, and his new city of Philadelphia, which he regarded with especial fondness. So anxious was he to settle the controversy, and to hold the land on the right bank of the Delaware to the open ocean, that at the second meeting he asked Lord Baltimore to set a price per square mile on this disputed ground; and, though he had purchased it once of the crown and held the king's charter for it and the Duke of York's deed, yet rather than have any further wrangle over it he was willing to pay for it again. But this Lord Baltimore refused to do.

The year 1684 opened favorably for the continued prosperity of the young colony. The cultivation of the soil was being prosecuted with grand success. Goodly flocks and herds gladdened the eyes of the settlers. An intelligent, moral, and industrious yeomanry was rapidly being welded as a symmetrical body or community, where all were warmly interested in the welfare of each other. Emigrants were pouring in from different European countries. The government was becoming settled in its operations and popular with the people, and the proprietor had leisure to attend to the interests of his religious society, not only in his own province, but in the Jerseys and New York.

Baltimore, however, was bent upon bringing matters to a crisis; hence, early in the same year (1684), a party of his adherents from Maryland made forcible entry upon the plantations in the lower counties and drove off the owners. Thereupon the Governor and Council at Philadelphia sent thither a copy of the answer of Penn to Baltimore's demand for the land south of the Delaware, with orders to William Welch, sheriff at New Castle, to use his authority to reinstate the lawful owners, and issued a declaration plainly stating the claim of Penn, for the purpose of preventing such unlawful incursions in the future.

Feeling assured, nevertheless, that the controversy between himself and Lord Baltimore could be settled only by the crown, Penn decided to return to England and defend his imperiled interests. Without a doubt he took this step with much regret, as he was contented and happy in his new country and was most usefully employed. He empowered the Provincial Council, of which Thomas Lloyd was president, to act in his stead; commissioned Nicholas Moore, William Welch, William Wood, Robert Turner, and John Eckley provincial judges for two years; appointed Thomas Lloyd, James Claypole, and Robert Turner to sign land patents and warrants, and William Clark as justice of the peace for all the counties, and on the 6th of June, 1684, sailed for England.

His feelings on leaving his colony are exhibited by a farewell address which he issued from on board the vessel to his people, of which the following are brief extracts: "My love and my life is to you, and with you, and no water can quench it, nor distance wear it out, nor bring it to an end. I have been with you, cared over you and served over you with unfeigned love, and you are beloved of me, and near me beyond utterance. I bless you in the name and power of the Lord, and may God bless you with His righteousness, peace and plenty all the land over. Oh! now you are come to a quiet land; provoke not the Lord to trouble it. And now liberty and authority are with you, and in your hands. Let the government be upon His shoulders, in all your spirits, that you may rule for him under whom the princes of this world will, one day, esteem it their honor to govern and serve in their places.

And thou, Philadelphia, the virgin settlement of this province, named before thou wert born, what love, what care, what service, and what travail has there been to bring thee forth, and preserve thee from such as would abuse and defile thee! So, dear friends, my love again salutes you all, wishing that grace, mercy, and peace, with all temporal blessings, may abound richly among you - - so says, so prays, your friend and lover in the truth, "WILLIAM PENN."

Having thus shown in this and the preceding chapter how and when the province of Pennsylvania was granted and settled, its extent, natural advantages, etc., besides the narration of many other interesting incidents connected with its early history, the reader's attention is again directed in the following chapters to the operations of the French, the Iroquois, and the English in their struggle for control in Canada and New York, in the lake region, and finally in that part of Penn's province lying west of the Allegheny Mountains, including the Conewango and Allegheny valleys.

* The memory of the "Great Treaty" was long preserved by the Indians, and the novel spectacle was reproduced on canvas by the genius of Benjamin West. In this picture Penn is represented as a corpulent old man clad in Quaker garb, whereas he was at this time but thirty - eight years of age, tall and active, and not at all inclined to corpulency. The "Treaty Tree" was preserved and guarded from injury with almost superstitious care. During the Revolutionary War, when Philadelphia was occupied by the British troops, and their details were scouring the country for fire wood, General Simcoe had a sentinel posted at this tree to protect it from mutilation. It stood until 1810, when it was blown down, and it was then ascertained, by its annual concentric accretions, to be two hundred and eighty - three years old. The Penn Society erected a substantial monument on the spot where it stood.

 

 

SOURCE: Page(s) 49 - 56, History of Warren County, J.S. Schenck & W.S. Rann, Syracuse, New York: D. Mason, 1887