Contributed by Nancy Piper
[Source: Historical Collections of the State of Pennsylvania, by Sherman Day, Philadelphia, 1843, Page 150-172]
Bucks County is one of the three original counties established by Wm. Penn in 1682. In Penn's letter to the Society of Free Traders in 1683, he speaks of it as Buckingham co. At that time its northern boundary was the Kittatinny Mountain, or as far as the land might be purchased from the Indians-a very indeterminate line, as the subsequent details will show. The county was reduced to its present limits by the erection of Northampton in 1752. Length 40 miles, breadth 15; area 605 square miles. The population in 1790, was 25,401; in 1800, 27,496; in 1810, 32,371 ; in 1820, 37,842.; in 1830, 45,745; in 1840, 48,107.
The Delaware river forms the northeastern and southeastern boundaries, turning at a right angle near Bordentown. The smaller streams are the Neshaminy, Tohiccon, and Durham creeks, and the sources of Perkiomen creek. All these furnish an abundance of excellent mill-sites. Three distinct geological belts cross the co., each imparting its peculiar character to the soil and surface. The primary strata, comprising gneiss, hornblende, mica slate, and kindred rocks, occupy the southeastern end of the co. as far up as the falls at Morrisville, forming a gently undulating surface, with a soil of but moderate fertility, better adapted to grass than grain. The river margins, however, are very fertile. Next to this region, and occupying the greater portion of the co., is the broad belt, of which the red shale is the most conspicuous stratum, producing an excellent soil, accompanied by sandstones and conglomerates of a less fertile character. To these strata, for convenience' sake, the state geologist has given the name of " middle secondary," " in contradistinction to the Appalachian formations on the one hand, which are now unequivocally our lowest secondary formations, and on the other hand to the green sand deposits of New Jersey and Delaware, which constitute the upper secondary strata of our country." One or two isolated patches of limestone crop out from under this formation west of New Hope and near Centre Bridge, which furnish to the farmers the means of enriching those lands naturally poor, or worn out by cultivation. The third geological belt comprises a group of parallel hills, of moderate elevation, being the outlying ranges of the South Mountain, formerly called the Lehigh hills. They are composed partly of the primary rocks of the gneiss family, and the lower sandstones of the secondary formation, and impart a rugged and sterile character to this region. Enclosed, however, among these hills, are several soft and fertile limestone valleys. One of these is the valley of Durham cr., at the mouth of which is the Durham cave, thus described by the state geologist:
"Its position is a little north of the stream and not far from the Delaware. It has a length of about 300 feet, an average height of 12, and a breadth varying from 4 to 40 feet. The floor of the cave is not level, but descends as we penetrate to the interior. Its rough walls are covered with a few pendants or stalactites. Much of the bottom of this cave is covered with water, the level of which is influenced, it is said, by that of I lie Delaware. About half way down occurs a narrow lateral cavern, terminating in the form of the letter T. The general direction of the main gallery is S. W., becoming S. towards the remoter end. The rocks show an anticlinal axis about 20 yards S. E. of the entrance of the cave, the direction of the axis and the cave nearly coinciding."
In the southern end of the county a dyke of igneous origin, protruded through the primitive limestone, has introduced a number of minerals in its veins, and among others, plumbago or black-lead. Near the Buck tavern in Southampton Township, a mine of it was formerly wrought, but the place is now abandoned and the pit filled up. The mineral was of good quality, but the business did not prove profitable.
Along the right bank of the Delaware, the Delaware division of the Penn. canal comes down from Easton, terminating at Bristol in a large basin. The Philadelphia and Trenton railroad passes across the lower end of the county. The business of the county is chiefly agricultural; and its farmers do not yield in skill and wealth to any in the state. They seem to take far more delight and comfort in their quiet rural homes, than in the noise and wild speculation of a city; and as a consequence of this trait of character, there is no very large town in the co. Even Bristol, with all its advantages for business, contains only a population of 1,500, and still has the rural air which characterizes the county.
|The population of the lower part of the co. is composed of the descendants
of the ancient English settlers; about Doylestown and Deep run, are the
descendants of the Irish Presbyterians, and the northwestern part of the
co. is extensively occupied by the German race.
The shore of the Delaware as far up as Bristol, is lined with delightful country seats, belonging generally to citizens of Philadelphia. One of the most beautiful is that of Nicholas Biddle, Esq., in Andalusia Township, about 12 miles from Philadelphia. In the annexed view, the grapery is seen on the right of the mansion. In the wing on the left, is the library, where probably were written the celebrated letters to Hon. John M. Clayton of Delaware, concerning the U. S. Bank. The mansion and grounds are part of the estate of Mr. Biddle's lady, and have been in the Craig family, some of whom still reside on the adjoining place, for many years. The recent architectural improvements, including the splendid Grecian portico, are from the designs of Mr. Thos. U. Walter of Philadelphia. Near Mr. Biddle's, is the splendid seat of the late Alexander J. Dallas.
There is reason to believe that a part of Bucks co. was settled by Europeans previous to the arrival of Wm. Penn in 1682. It is well known, that for several years previous to that event, a great number of the Society of Friends had made extensive settlements in West Jersey, and had established a meeting at Burlington. It was natural that some of these should be tempted to cross the river and take up the fertile lands on the opposite bank. Robert Proud, in a note to his History of Pennsylvania, says-
" In the records of this people [the Quakers] in early times, among other things I find the following anecdotes respecting the original and regular establishment of some of their religious meetings in these parts, viz.:-The first most considerable English settlement in Pennsylvania proper, is said to have been near the lower falls of the Delaware, in Bucks co., where the Quakers had a regular and established meeting for religious worship, before the country bore the name of Pennsylvania : sonic of the inhabitants there having been settled by virtue of patents from Sir Edmund Andross, Gov. of New-York. Among the names of the inhabitants here at this time or soon after, appear William Yardly, James Harrison, Phineas Pemberton, William Biles, an eminent preacher, William Dark, Lyonel Britain, William Beaks, &c. And soon afterwards, there, and near Neshaminy creek, Richard Hough, Henry Baker, Nicolas Walne, John Otter, Robert Hall; and in Wrightstown, John Chapman and James Ratcliff, a noted preacher in the society. In the year 1683, Thomas Janney, a noted preacher among the Quakers, settled near the Falls, with his family and others who at that time arrived from Cheshire in England. After 12 years' residence here, he returned to England and died there;-a man of good reputation, character, and example.
The Phineas Pemberton above alluded to was clerk of the county; and it is said that he kept a register, and all the first settlers who arrived were compelled to bring certificates of acceptable character, which were there enrolled, together with their names and those of their families and servants, with other circumstances concerning their arrival. This book is still in existence.
Smith, in his Hist, of Penn., under the date of 1684, says-" Anne, the second daughter of John Chapman, in the year 1699, came forth in the ministry, and travelled on that account several times through New England, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, &c., and in Europe.
|The Indian walk forms a prominent feature, not only in the history of
Bucks County, but of the state. A full account of this transaction is given
under the head of Northampton County. The first purchase of the land above
Neshaminy appears to have been made by the agent of William Penn, probably
Markham, in July, 1682. "The following description," says the elder John
Watson, "is taken from the original deed." The parentheses are believed to
be by Mr. Watson in 1815.
" Beginning at a white-oak in the land now in the tenure of John Wood, and by him called the Gray Stones, over against the falls of Delaware river, and from thence up the river side to a comer spruce-tree, marked with the letter P, at the foot of the mountains, (this tree stood 104 perches above the mouth of Baker's creek)-and from the said tree along by the ledge or foot of the mountains west-southwest to a corner white-oak, marked with the letter P, (on land now Benjamin Hampton's)-standing by the Indian path that leads to an Indian town called Playwicky, and near the head of a creek called Towisinick, and from thence westward to the creek called Neshaminah, (this line crosses where the Newtown road now is, at the old chestnut tree below Dr. Isaac Chapman's lane end,) along by the said Neshaminah to the river Delaware, alias Makerickhickon, and so bounded by the said main river, to the first mentioned white-oak in John Wood's land, (above Morrisville,) with the several islands in the river, &c., dated 15th July, 1682.
Four years afterward, in 1686, the purchase was made by Capt. Thos. Holme, Penn's surveyor-general and land agent, of another tract, of which the boundaries were to be ascertained by walking. Mr. Watson in his statement says that many years previous to the actual official walk, an informal and unauthorized walk had been made by a white man and an Indian, probably for their own amusement, or to settle a question of local title.
" In the year 1692, a white man living at Newtown, and Cornelius Spring, a Delaware Indian, accompanied by several Indians and white people, undertook and performed the walk in the Indian manner ; but by whose authority or by whose direction is not now known. They started from the spruce-tree, and walked up the river; the Indians jumped over all the streams of water until they came to the Tohickon, which they positively refused to cross, and therefore they proceeded up the creek on the south side to its source, and then turning to the left, they fell in with Swamp creek, and going down it a small distance, it was noon on the second day, or a day and a half from the time of setting out.
|About the time that Wm. Penn organized Bucks co. in 1682, he selected
an extensive tract of fine land on the bank of the Delaware, four or five
miles above where Bristol now stands, which he called Pennsbury manor, intending
to establish there his favorite country residence. The original tract contained
8,431 acres in 1684, but was afterwards reduced by various grants. Wm. Penn
always had a strong predilection for country life. In a letter of counsel
to his family he says: "Let my children be husbandmen and housewives. This
leads to consider the works of God and nature, and diverts the mind from
being taken up with the vain arts and inventions of a luxurious world. Of
cities and towns, of concourse beware. The world is apt to stick close to
those who have lived and got wealth there. A country life and estate I like
best for my children."
Upon this favorite spot Wm. Penn had concentrated many a bright vision of quiet enjoyment, in the midst of his own family, and surrounded by the anticipated honors of his station as proprietary. He erected, or caused to be erected during his absence, a magnificent mansion-house, 60 feet long by 40 deep, with offices and outhouses at the sides; fronting upon a beautiful garden which extended down to the river. It was in his day, and for many years afterward, the marvel of the neighborhood. He had the happiness to reside here for a short period with his family in 1700-'01, and entertained much company in his public capacity.
The increasing cares and responsibilities of the colony, and the peculiar state of the times, required his presence in England, and he never afterward enjoyed that quiet retirement for which he had so luxuriously provided. The mansion and outhouses were neglected during his absence. A large leaden water reservoir, which had been erected on the top of the mansion, to guard against fire, became leaky, and injured the walls and furniture of the house, so that it fell into premature decay, and it was taken down just before the revolution.
After the peace the whole estate was sold out of the Penn family. All that now remains on the premises is the ancient frame brew house, a sketch of which is here inserted. Although 160 years old, it is still serviceable as an outhouse, and was not long since in use as a dwelling. Mr. Crozer thinks the shingles on one side of the roof are those originally placed there; at least no renewal has been made "within the memory of the oldest inhabitant." The new farm-house of Mr. Robert Crozer, seen in the picture, occupies part of the site of the mansion-house. In the rear of the farm-house is a row of venerable English cherry-trees planted by Penn himself, still in bearing, but very much decayed.
|Mr. John F. Watson, in his Annals of Philadelphia says: " The same Samuel
Preston says of his grandmother, that she said Phincas Pemberton surveyed
and laid out a town, intended to have been Philadelphia, up at Pennsbury,
and that the people who went there were dissatisfied with the change. On
my expressing doubts of this, thinking she may have confused the case of
Chester removal, Mr. Preston then further declared, that having, nearly 40
years ago, occasion to hunt through the trunks of surveys of John Lukens,
surveyor-general of Bucks co., he and Lukens then saw a ground plot for the
city of Philadelphia, signed Phineas Pemberton, surveyor-general, that fully
appeared to have been in Pennsbury manor; also another for the present town
of Bristol, then called Buckingham."
The following notes of the early history of Buckingham and Solebury townships are from the pen of Mr. John Watson of Greenville.
"The whole of the two townships, Buckingham and Solebury, in early time was called Buckingham, being a favorite name with our first worthy proprietor, Wm. Penn. The name was first given to the township and borough now called-Bristol, but transferred here perhaps about the year, before Cutler's re-survey.
"It appears, by an enumeration of the inhabitants taken in 1787, that Buckingham contained 173 dwelling-houses, 188 outhouses, 1,173 white inhabitants, and 13 blacks. Solebury, 166 dwelling-houses, 150 out-houses, 928 white inhabitants, and no blacks.
"A certain Dr. Bowman, being of a contemplative turn of mind, in the early settlement, used to frequent the fine round top of one of the hills near the river; and, at his request, he was buried there. It is since called Bowman's hill. Many others have since been buried at the same place. Bowman's hill is directly opposite to another on the Jersey shore called Belmount, of the same height, form, and direction.
"The first settlers generally came from England, and were of the middle rank, and chiefly Friends; many of them had first settled at the Falls, but soon after removed back, as it was then called, into the woods. As they came away in the reigns of Charles, James, William, and Anne, they brought with them not only the industry, frugality, and strict domestic discipline of their education, but also a portion of those high-toned political impressions that then prevailed in England.
** At that early period, when our forefathers were building log houses, barns, and sheds for stables, and clearing new land, and fencing it chiefly with poles or brush, it has been said that a hearty, sincere good will for each other generally prevailed among them. They all stood occasionally in need of the help of their neighbors, who were often situated at some distance through the woods.
"Chronic ailments were not so frequent as at present; which was, perhaps, in part owing to the wholesome diet, brisk exercise, lively manners, and cheerful and unrefined state of the mind. But acute disorders, such as fevers, in various degrees-those called ' long fevers, dumb agues, fever-and agues, sore throats and pleurisies, were then much more common than now. The natural small-pox was peculiarly distressing-was mostly severe, and often mortal-and nothing strange that it should be so. The nature of the disorder being but little known, it was very improperly treated by the nurses, to whose care the management was chiefly committed. A hot room-plenty of bedclothes-hot teas-and milk punch, or hot tiff, were pronounced most proper to bring the eruption out, and to make it fill well; and the chief danger was apprehended from the patient taking cold by fresh air or cold drink.
" When wheat and rye grew thick and tall on new land, and all was to be cut with sickles, many men and some women became dexterous in the use of them, and victory was contended for in many a violent trial; sometimes by two or three only, and sometimes by the whole company for 40 or SO perches. About the year 1741, 20 acres were cut and shocked in half a day in Solebury.
"The imposing authority of necessity obliged the first settlers and their successors to wear a strong and coarse kind of dress; enduring buck-skin was used for breeches, and sometimes for jackets; oznabrigs, made of hemp tow at Is. id. per yard, was much used for boys' shirts; sometimes flax, and flax and tow were used for that purpose ; and coarse tow for trowsers ; a wool hat, strong Shoes, and brass buckles, two linsey jackets, and a leather apron, made out the winter apparel This kind of dress continued to be common for the laboring people until 1750.
" Yet a few, even in early times, somewhat to imitate the trim of their ancestors, laid out as ranch to buy one suit of fine clothes, as would have purchased 200 acres of pretty good land. The cut of a fine coat, (now antiquated,) may be worthy of description. Three or four large plaits in the skirts-wadding almost like a coverlet to keep them smooth-cuffs vastly large up to the elbows, open below, and of a round form. The hat of a beau was a good broad-brimmed beaver, with double loops, drawn nearly close behind, and half raised on each side. The women in full mode wore stiff whalebone stays, worth 8 or $10. The silk gown much plaited in the back; the sleeves nearly twice as large as the arm, and reaching rather more than half way from the shoulder to the elbow-the interval covered with a fine Holland sleeve, nicely plaited, locket buttons, and long-armed gloves. Invention had then reached no further than a bath bonnet with a cape.
"Something like this was the fashion of gay people; of whom there were a few, though no4 many in early times, in Buckingham and Solebory. But the whole, or something like it, was often put on for wedding suits, with the addition of the bride being dressed in a long black hood without a bonnet. There was one of these solemn symbols of matrimony made of near two yards of rich black Faduasoy that was lent to be worn on those occasions, and continued sometimes in use, down to my remembrance. Several of these odd fashions were retained, because old, and gradually gave way to those that were new. The straw plat, called the Bee-hive bonnet, and the blue or green apron, were long worn by old women.
"Notwithstanding the antique and rough dresses, and unimproved habits and manners that obtained among the early settlers, yet an honest, candid intention, a frank sincerity, and a good degree of zeal and energy in adhering to religious and civil principles and duties generally, prevailed among the most substantial part of them.
"The first surveys in what was then called Buckingham, were as early as 168_, and the greater part were located before 1703. It is not easy to ascertain who made the first improvement; but most probably, from circumstances, it was Thomas and John Bye; and George Pownail, Edward Henry, and Roger Hartley, Dr. Streper, and Wm. Cooper, came early; Richard Burgess, John Scarbrough, grandfather of the preacher of that name, and Henry Paxson, were also early settlers. John and Richard Lundy, John Large, and James Lenox, and Wm. Lacey, John Worstell, Jacob Holcomb, Joseph Linton, Joseph Fell, Matthew Hughes, Hugh Ely, and perhaps Richard Norton, came from Long Island about 1705.
"The first adventurers were chiefly members of the falls meeting; and arc said to have frequently attended it, and often on foot. In the year 1700, leave was granted by the Quarterly meeting to hold a meeting for worship at Buckingham; which was first at the house of William Cooper, (now John Gillingham's.)
"One of the first dwelling-houses yet remains in Abraham Paxson's yard, on the tract called William Croasdale's, now Henry Paxson's. It is of stone.
" It appears in an old account-book of my grandfather, Richard Mitchel's, who had a gristmill and store in Wrightstown, from 1724 to 1735, that his charges are as follows: Wheat from 3s to 4s; rye one shilling less ; Indian corn and buckwheat, 2s.; middlings, fine, 7s. and 8s.; coarse, 4s. 6d.; bran 1s.; salt, 4s; beef, 2d.; bacon, 4<2.; pork was about 2d.
"Improved land was sold generally by the acre, at the price of 20 bushels of wheat. Thus wheat 2s. 6d., land 2l. 10s; wheat 3s., land 3l; wheat 3s. 6d., land 3l. 10s; wheat 5s., land 5l.; wheat 7s. 6d., land 7l. 10s.; wheat 10s., land 10l. When provender could be procured to keep stock through the winter, milk, butter, and cheese became plenty for domestic use. Swine were easily raised and fattened. Deere, turkeys, and other small game made a plentiful supply of excellent provision in their season. Roast venison and stew-pies were luxurious dishes, which the hunter and his family enjoyed in their log cabins with a high degree of pleasure.
"Having generally passed over the era of necessity that attended the first settlement about 1730, and for some time before, they mostly enjoyed a pretty good living, were well fed, clothed, and lodged.
"The new stone meeting-house being built about 1731, several stone dwelling-houses were built about that time, and soon after; as Joseph Fell's, Thomas Canby's, John Watson's, Joseph Large's, and Henry Paxson's. Several frame-houses were also built, enclosed with nice-shaved clapboards, plastered inside. One of these yet remains standing on Thomas Watson's land, now John Lewis's. The boards for floors and partitions were all sawed by hand, and the hauling done with carts and sleds, as there were not many, if any, wagons at that early period.
"Most of the original tracts were settled and improved before 1730; and in 1730 the lands up the Neshaminy and in Plumstead were settled; and in New Britain by Welsh generally.
"The winter of 1740-41 was very severe. The snow was deep, and lay from the latter end of December to the 4th of March.
"Houses for school were very few, and those poor, dark, log-buildings; the masters, generally, very unsuitable persons for the purpose; and but little learning obtained at school. Schooling was 20*. a year, and the master boarded with the employers.
"Indian corn, not being an article of trade, was not raised in quantities before 1750, nor until some years after.
" Before this time, no cross occurrence happened materially to disturb the general tranquility; everything, both public and private, went on in an even and regular routine-moderate wishes were fully supplied-necessaries and conveniences were gradually increased ; but luxuries of any kind, except spirituous liquors, were rarely thought of, or introduced, either of apparel, household furniture, or living. Farm carts were had by the best farmers. Thomas Canby, Richard Norton, Joseph Large, Thomas Gilbert, and perhaps a few more, had wagons before 1745, and a few two-horse wagons from then to 1750 were introduced; and some who went to market had light tongue-carts for the purpose. These were a poor make-shift, easily overset, the wild team sometimes ran away, and the gears often broke. John Wells, Esq., was the only person who ever had a riding chair. He and Matthew Hughes were the only justices of the peace, except Thos. Canby, who held a commission for a short time-and there were no taverns in the two townships, except on the Delaware, at Howell's and Coryell's ferries, (which was owing probably to the disposition and manners of the inhabitants,) and but one distillery a short time.
"The preceding account will apply with general propriety to the state of things until 1754, when a war began between England and France concerning lands on the west and northwest of Pennsylvania. In general the war introduced a more plentiful supply of cash. Trade and improvements were proportionably advanced; the price of all kinds of produce was increased; wheat was from six shillings to a dollar a bushel, and a land tax was raised to sink the debt; yet the burden was not sensibly felt, as there was such an increasing ability to bear it.
"As the quantity of cash increased during the war, so also there was a much larger importation of foreign goods. Bohea tea and coffee became more used, which were not often to be found in any farmer's house before 1750. Tea, in particular, spread and prevailed almost universally. Half silks and calico were common for women's wearing, various modes of silk bonnets, silk and fine linen neck handkerchiefs; in short, almost every article of women's clothing was foreign manufacture. The men wore jackets and breeches of Bengal, nankeen, fustian, black everlasting, cotton velvet, as the fashion of the season determined the point, which changed almost every year. Household furniture was added to, both in quantity and kind; and hence began the marked distinction between rich and poor, or rather between new-fashioned and old-fashioned, which has continued increasing ever since.
"The subject of old and new fashions bore a considerable dispute, at least how far the new should be introduced. Some showed by their practice that they were for going as far as they could ; some stopped half way; and a few trying to hold out as long as they could, were not to be won upon by any means more likely to prevail than by the women, who had a strong aversion to appearing singular; so that at the present time, and for these SO years past, there are but few men, and fewer women, left as perfect patterns of the genuine old-fashioned sort of people."
" Until a sufficient quantity of grain was raised for themselves and the new-comers, all further supplies had to be brought from the Falls or Middletown; and until 1707, all the grain had to be taken there, or to Morris Gwin's, on Pennepack below the Billet, to be ground. In that year Robert Heath built a grist-mill on the great spring-stream in Solebury. This must have been a great hardship-to go so far to mill for more than 17 years, and chiefly on horseback. It was some time that they had to go the same distance with their plough-irons and other smith work. Horses were seldom shod ; and blocks to pound hominy were a useful invention borrowed from the natives.
" In 1690, there were many settlements of Indians in these townships-one on the lowland near the river, on George Pownall's tract, which remained for some time after he settled there- one on James Streiper's tract, near Conkey Hole-one on land since Samuel Harold's-one on Joseph Fell's tract-and one at the great spring, &c.
"Tradition reports that they were kind neighbors, supplying the white people with meat, and sometimes with beans and other vegetables; which they did in perfect charity, bringing presents to their houses and refusing pay. Their children were sociable and fond of play. A harmony arose out of their mutual intercourse and dependence. Native simplicity reigned in its greatest extent. The difference between the families of the white man and the Indian, in many respects, was not great-when to live was the utmost hope, and to enjoy a bare sufficiency the greatest luxury.
"While the land was fresh and new, it produced good crops of wheat and rye; from 15 to 25 or 30 bushels per acre.
|Daring many years after the first settlement of Bucks co., the kindhearted
and industrious Friends cleared and cultivated their lands in peace; contented
with their own lot, and having no cause of quarrel with others. Between them
and the Indians who dwelt among them, hospitality and other kind offices
had always been reciprocated; and although the black cloud of Indian warfare
was rumbling and thundering beyond the Blue Mountains in 1755-17G0, yet the
Quakers had little to fear from it. During several generations, the simple
history of the colonists of Bucks co. was that they lived, improved their
farms, begat sons and daughters, and were gathered to their fathers. But
at length people of other races, and different religious and political opinions,
began to settle among and around them; and in process of time the desolating
tide of the revolutionary war swept to and fro across their once quiet county.
The American army, late in the year 1776, retreated across New Jersey into
this county. Gen. Washington defended all the passes of the river from Coryell's
ferry to Bristol. His head-quarters were at Newtown, while he was urging
upon congress the necessity of reinforcing the army. The following extract
is from a history of the American revolution, in the Pennsylvania Journal,
The affairs of America now (Dec. 1776) wore a serious aspect. New York, with several posts in the neighborhood, and a considerable part of New Jersey, were in possession of the enemy. The American army had lost during the campaign near five thousand men by captivity and the sword; and the few remaining regular troops, amounting only to 2,000 men, were upon the eve of being disbanded-for as yet the enlistments were for the short term of only one year. Gen. Howe had cantoned his troops in several villages on the Delaware, in New Jersey. His strongest post was at Trenton. It consisted of 1,200 Hessians, under the command of Col. Rahl. Gen. Washington occupied the heights on the Pennsylvania side of the river, in full view of the enemy. A few cannon shot were now and then exchanged across the river, but without doing much execution on either side. The two armies lay in these positions for several weeks.*
In the mean while the spirit of liberty, inflamed by the recital of the ravages committed in New Jersey by the British army, began to revive in every part of the continent. Fifteen hundred associators, for as yet most of the states were without militia laws, marched from the city of Philadelphia to reinforce the expiring army of Gen. Washington. This body of men consisted chiefly of citizens of the first rank and character in the state. They had been accustomed to live in all the softness that is peculiar to the inhabitants of large cities. But neither the hardships of a military life, nor the severity of the winter, checked their ardor in the cause of their country. The wealthy merchant and the journeyman tradesman were seen marching side by side, and often exchanged the contents of their canteens with each other. This body of troops was stationed at Bristol, under the command of Gen. Cadwallader.
On the evening of the 25th of Dec., Gen. Washington marched from his quarters, with his little army of regular troops, to M'Konkie's ferry, with the design of surprising the enemy's post at Trenton. He had previously given orders to Gen. Irvine, who commanded a small body of the militia of the Flying camp, to cross the Delaware below Trenton, so as to cut off the retreat of the enemy towards Bordentown. He had likewise advised Gen. Cadwallader of his intended enterprise, and recommended it to him at the same time to cross the river at Dunk's ferry, three miles below Bristol, in order to surprise the enemy's post at Mount Holly. Unfortunately, the extreme coldness of the night increased the ice in the river to that degree that it was impossible for the militia to cross it, either in boats or on foot. After struggling with the season till near daylight, they reluctantly abandoned the shores of the Delaware, and returned to their quarters.
Gen. Washington, from the peculiar nature of that part of the river to which he directed his march, met with fewer obstacles from the ice, and happily crossed the river about daylight. He immediately divided his little army, and marched them through two roads towards Trenton. The distance was six miles. About eight o'clock an attack was made on the picket-guard of the enemy. It was commanded by a youth of eighteen, who fell in his retreat to the main body. At half an hour after eight o'clock, the town was nearly surrounded, and all the avenues to it were seized, except the one which was left for Gen. Irvine to occupy.
An accident here had like to have deprived the American army of the object of their enterprise. The commanding officer of one of the divisions sent word to Gen. Washington, just before they reached the town, that his ammunition had been wetted by a shower of rain that had fallen in the morning, and desired to know what he must do. The commander-in-chief, with the coolness and intrepidity that are natural to him in action, sent him word to "advance with fixed bayonets." This laconic answer inspired the division with the firmness and courage of their leader. The whole body now moved onward in sight of the enemy.
An awful silence reigned through every platoon. Each soldier stepped as if he carried the liberty of his country upon his single musket. The moment was a critical one. The attack was begun with artillery, under the command of Col. (afterwards Gen.) Knox. The infantry supported the artillery with spirit and firmness. It was now the tears and prayers of the sons and daughters of liberty found acceptance in the sight of heaven. The enemy were thrown into confusion- in every quarter. One regiment attempted to form in an orchard, but were soon forced to fall back upon their main body. A company of them took sanctuary in a stone house, which they defended with a field piece judiciously posted in the entry of the house. Capt. (afterwards Col.) Washington-a relation of the general-was ordered to dislodge them. He advanced with a field-piece, but finding bit men exposed to a close and steady fire, he suddenly leaped from them, and rushing into the house seized the officer by the collar who had the command of the gun, and claimed him as his prisoner. His men followed him, and the whole company were immediately made prisoners of war. The captain received a ball in his hand in entering the house. In the mean while victory declared itself everywhere in favor of the American arms, and Gen. Washington received the submission of the main body of the enemy by means of a flag. The joy of the American troops can more easily be conceived than described.
This was the first important advantage they had gained over the enemy in the course of the campaign, and its consequences were at once foreseen upon the affairs of America. Great praise was given to the behavior of both officers and soldiers, by Gen. Washington, after the battle, in his letter to congress. The Philadelphia light bone distinguished themselves upon this occasion, by their bravery and attention to duty. They were the more admired for their conduct, as it was the first time they had ever been in action.* *
The loss of the enemy amounted to near one hundred in killed and wounded: among the former was their commander, Col. Rahl. Above one thousand prisoners were taken, together with six field-pieces, and a considerable quantity of camp furniture of all kinds. Private baggage was immediately rendered sacred by a general order. About one hundred of the enemy escaped by the lower road to Bordentown. The American army had several privates and only one officer wounded. After having refreshed themselves, and rested a few hours in Trenton, they returned with their prisoners and other trophies of victory, to the Pennsylvania side of the river, by the same way they came, with the loss of only three men, who perished with the cold in recrossing the river-an event not to be wondered at, when we consider that many of them were half naked, and most of them barefooted.
* Of all events none seemed to the British more improbable, than that their late retreating half naked enemies should, in this extreme cold season, face about and commence offensive operations. They indulged themselves in a degree of careless inattention to the possibility of a surprise, which, in the vicinity of an enemy, however contemptible, can never be justified. It has been said that Col. Rahl, the commanding officer in Trenton, being under some apprehension for that frontier post, applied to Gen. Grant for a reinforcement; and that the general returned for answer, " Tell the colonel he is very safe: I will undertake to keep the peace in New Jersey with a corporal's guard."-Ramsay.
* *An anecdote is mentioned of Samuel Morris, Esq:, the captain of the troop of horse in this action, which, though it discovers his inexperience of war, does singular honor to his humanity. In advancing towards the town, he came up to the Hessian lieutenant who commanded the picket-guard. He lay mortally wounded, and weltering in his blood, in the great road. The captain was touched with the sight, and called to Gen. Greene "to know if nothing could be done for him. The general bid him push on, and take no notice of him. The captain was as much agitated with the order as he was affected with the scene before him; and it was not till after the fortunate events of the morning were over, that he was convinced that his sympathy for a bleeding enemy was ill-timed.
It is remarkable that out of these 1,500 citizens of Philadelphia, there died with sickness only one man during a six weeks' tour of duty. Few veteran troops perhaps ever endured more from cold, hunger, watching, and fatigue, than this corps of city militia.
|A few additional particulars are stated by Marshall, as follows:-
Gen. Washington accompanied the upper column, and arriving at the outpost on that road precisely at eight, drove it in; and in three minutes heard the fire from the column which had taken the river road. The picket-guard attempted to keep up a fire while retreating, but was pursued with such ardor as to be unable to make a stand. Col. Rawle, who commanded in the town, paraded his men and met the assailants. In the commencement of the action he was mortally wounded; upon which the troops, in apparent confusion, attempted to gain the road to Princeton. Gen. Washington threw a detachment into their front, while he advanced rapidly on them in person. Finding themselves surrounded, and their artillery already seized, they laid down their arms and surrendered themselves prisoners of war. About 20 of the enemy were killed, and about 1,000 made prisoners. Six field-pieces and 1,000 stand of small-arms were also taken. On the part of the Americans, two privates were killed, two frozen to death, and one officer, Lieut. Monroe, (since president of the United States,) of the third Virginia regiment, and three or four privates wounded. Count Donop, who commanded the troops below Trenton, on hearing the disaster which had befallen Col. Rawle, retreated by the road leading for Amboy, and joined Gen. Leslie at Princeton. The next day Gen. Cadwallader crossed the Delaware, with orders to harass the enemy; but to put nothing to hazard until he should be joined by the continental battalions, who were allowed a day or two of repose after the fatigues of the enterprise against Trenton. Gen. Mifflin joined Gen. Irvine with about 1,500 Pennsylvania militia, and those troops also crossed the river. Finding himself once more at the head of a force with which it seemed practicable to act offensively, the general determined to employ the winter in endeavoring to recover Jersey.
The Quakers of Bucks co. would willingly, in accordance with their principles, have kept entirely aloof from both contending parties. But this very neutrality was regarded with suspicion by the more active partisans on the American side. Suspicion soon broke out into rancorous political hostility, and as the war continued, political hostility ripened into personal bitterness between near neighbors. During the progress of the war, many unprincipled men, who did not choose to enlist openly with the royal army, found a more profitable employment in secret acts of treachery and piracy among their own neighbors; for which they were well compensated by the British officers at Philadelphia and New York. Among these outlaws the Doane family became notorious.
|The Doanes were a Quaker family, living in Plumstead township during
the revolution. The father was a worthy man; but his six sons, as they grew
to manhood, abandoned all the noble principles of the sect with which they
had been reared, and retaining only so much of its outward forms as suited
their nefarious schemes, they became a gang of most desperate outlaws. They
were professedly tones, and they drove for a time a very profitable trade
in stealing the horses and cattle of their Whig neighbors, and disposing
of them to the British army, then in Philadelphia. One of the brothers, Joseph,
was teaching school in Plumstead; and Mr. Shaw, now of Doylestown, was one
of his scholars, together with two of the Doanes, then about 18 or 20 years
Two of the brothers had joined the British in Philadelphia, and through them the stolen horses were disposed of, and the proceeds shared. The Doanes at school were often displaying their pockets full of guineas, which were at first supposed to be counterfeit; but subsequent events proved their genuineness, and disclosed the source from which they had procured so suspicious an amount of gold. Suspicion had long fastened upon the family; they were closely watched; and eventually, about the year 1782, (as our informant thinks, though others say it was in 1778,) the stealing of a horse belonging to Mr. Shaw of Plumstead, the father of the present 'Squire Shaw of Doylestown, was distinctly traced to them. This brought upon Mr. Shaw, and a few others who were active in their detection, the combined malignity of the whole banditti; and it was not long before they obtained their revenge.
Uniting with themselves another villain of kindred spirit, the whole band, seven in all, including Moses Doane, who was their captain, and Joseph, the schoolmaster above mentioned, fell upon Mr. Shaw at the dead of night, in his own house, bruised and lacerated him most cruelly, and decamped with all his horses and many valuables plundered from the house. Mr. Shaw, (now of Doylestown,) then a lad, was dispatched by his father, who was almost exhausted with his wounds, to the nearest neighbors for assistance, and to raise the hue and cry after the robbers. But these neighbors being Mennonists, conscientiously opposed to bearing arms, and having besides an instinctive dread of danger, declined interfering in the matter. Such was the timidity and cautiousness manifested in those times between the nearest neighbors, when of different political sentiments.
The young man, however, soon raised a number of neighbors, part of whom came to his father's assistance, and part armed themselves and went in pursuit of the robbers. The latter, after leaving poor Mr. Shaw, had proceeded to the house of Joseph Grier, and robbed him; and then went to a tavern kept by Col. Robert Robinson, a very corpulent man. Him they dragged from his bed, tied him in a most excruciating position, and placing him naked in the midst of them, whipped him until their ferocity was satiated. They subsequently robbed and abused several other individuals on the same night, and then escaped into Montgomery co. Here they were overtaken, somewhere on Skippach, and so hotly pursued that they were glad to abandon the fine horses on which they rode, and betake themselves to the thicket. Joseph, the schoolmaster, was shot through the cheeks, dropped from his horse, and was taken prisoner. The others effected their escape, and concealed themselves.
The prisoner was taken to Newtown and indicted, but while awaiting trial escaped from jail, fled into New Jersey, and there, under an assumed name, taught school for nearly a year. The federal government had offered a reward of $800 for him or his brothers, dead or alive; and while in a bar-room one evening he heard a man say that he would shoot any one of the Doanes, wherever he might see him, for the sake of the reward. Doane's school-bills were settled very suddenly, and he made his way into Canada.
Moses, the captain of the gang, with two of the brothers, had concealed themselves in a secluded cabin, occupied by a drunken man, near the mouth of Tohiccon cr. Mr. Shaw, the father, learning their place of concealment, rallied a party of men, of whom Col. Hart was made the leader, and surrounded the house. Instead of shooting them down at once, Hart opened the door, and cried out, " Ah! you're here, are you ?" The Doanes seized their arms, and shot down Mr. Kennedy, one of the party. Two of the outlaws went through the back window, which seems not to have been sufficiently guarded, and made their escape into the woods. Moses, the captain- who by the way was more of a gentleman than either of the other brothers-surrendered; but immediately on his surrender he was shot down by one of the attacking party. The person who shot him was not, however, voluntarily of the party, but was suspected of being implicated with the Doanes in their ill-gotten gains; and it was supposed he shot him to close his mouth against the utterance of testimony against himself. The other two were afterwards taken in Chester Co., hung in Philadelphia, and brought home to be interred in Plumstead township.
The Doanes were distinguished from their youth for great muscular activity. They could run and jump beyond all competitors, and it is said one of them could jump over a wagon.
Many years afterwards, the young lad Shaw, who had himself received many a severe flogging from Doane the schoolmaster, became a magistrate in Doylestown, and rejoiced in the dignified title of "'Squire" Shaw. Sitting one day at his window, whom should he see entering his gate but old Joseph Doane, the traitor to his country, the robber of Shaw's father, the old schoolmaster who had so often flogged him, the refugee from prison; and now a poor, degraded, broken down old man. Mr. Shaw assumed his magisterial dignity, and met him bluntly at the door with the question, "What business have you with me, sir?" Some inquiries passed, a recognition was effected, and a cold formal shaking of hands was exchanged. The old scoundrel had returned from Canada to bring a suit against an old Quaker gentleman in the county, for a small legacy of some $40, coming to Doane; and he had the cool impudence to require the services of a magistrate whose father he had formerly robbed and nearly murdered. It is creditable to 'Squire Shaw's high sense of honor, and respect for the law he was sworn to administer, that the man recovered his money, and returned quietly to Canada. The meeting between the plaintiff and the defendant is said to have been quite amusing. Their conversation was still conducted, on both sides, in the " plain language" of Quakers; but nevertheless they abused each other most roundly-the one alleging his authority from government to blow the other's brains out, or to take him " dead or alive;" and the other claiming his money, so long, as he thought, unjustly detained. Subsequently, a sister of the Doanes, with her husband, also returned from Canada, and made a similar claim for a legacy before 'Squire Shaw.
|Doylestown, the county seat, is situated on a high hill commanding an
extensive view of the fertile country around it. It is a pleasant and quiet
town, inhabited by intelligent and orderly citizens. Satisfied with the dignity
of the seat of justice, it has been kept aloof by its geographical position
from the railroad and canal projects of the last fifteen years ; water lots
it has none, and there is no extensive water-power immediately at the town
for manufacturing purposes. The citizens, therefore, have escaped in a great
measure the ravages of the recent crisis, and can appreciate the value of
that slow but steady prosperity based upon agricultural improvement. It became
the county seat in 1812, when the public documents were removed from Newtown,
and the new county buildings were erected. The annexed view exhibits these
buildings, which are well built of sandstone. The town also contains a bank,
Presbyterian, Methodist and Mennonist churches, an academy, an Academy of
natural science and three or four weekly newspaper offices. Population in
1840, 906. A Doylestown paper of 1833 says -
As far back as the year 1778, there were but two or three log buildings in the place; the oldest of which occupied and kept as a sort of public house, for the "entertainment of man and horse", and stood nearby or perhaps quite, on the site where the handsome new building of Pugh Dungan now stands. No trace of this venerable building was to be observed for a number of years, saving a small cavity which designated the spot occupied by the cellar and a well, which has been re-opened by Mr. Dungan. The next was a low log building, which subsequently gave place to the "Mansion House" of Mrs. Magill. These were perhaps the only buildings in the place at that time. The most particular event which signalized the history of Doylestown at that period, was the encampment of the American army a few nights previous to the memorable battle of Monmouth, which took place on the 28th June, 1778. The army was divided into three encampments: - the first of which was stationed in the rear of a row of cherry trees that extended westward from the last-mentioned building, which was occupied during the night as Head Quarters, and which bore the imposing insignia of "Cakes and Beer;" the second was placed near where the Presbyterian church stands; and the third on the farm of Mr. Callender, about half a mile from the village on the New Hope road. The next morning was occupied until near noon before the army and baggage wagons were completely under day. The place soon after this began to manifest the appearance of a village and received the name of Doyle Town from a family who owned the principal part of the property. Traces of the family still remain in the neighborhood.
This region was originally settled by people from the north of Ireland, of the Presbyterian denomination. As early as 1732, a log church was founded at Deep run, 8 miles northwest of Doylestown, of which Rev. Francis McHenry, from Ireland, was installed pastor in 1738. He died in 1757, and was succeeded in 1761 by the Rev. James Latta,-to whom, and to his successors in the ministry, Hon. William Allen, of Philad., gave the lot of ground occupied by the church and parsonage. Rev. Hugh McGill, in '76, Rev. James Grier in '91, and Rev. Uriah Du Bois in '98, succeeded to the charge ; and under the latter, public worship began to be held interchangeably at Deep run and Doylestown in 1804-he being also principal of the academy at Doylestown. The Presbyterian church here was dedicated on the 13th August, 1815. Mr. Du Bois died in 1821. The successors have been Rev. Charles Hyde in 1823, and Rev. Silas M. Andrews in 1831, who is still in charge.
|There is a tradition very current in Bucks county, as well as in
Philadelphia, that the renowned Indian chief Tamane, Tamaned, or St. Tammany,
as modern politicians have it, is buried by the side of a spring on Capt.
Roberts' farm, about 3 1-2 miles west of Doylestown. That some aged chief
was buried there is quite certain, but whether it be the great Saint of the
Bucktails is somewhat doubtful. The spring gushes out in a ravine on the
side of Prospect hill, and after running a short distance empties into the
Neshaminy, which winds beautifully round at the foot of the hill. From the
summit above the spring may be seen for a great distance the beautiful farms
and cottages that adorn the northern slope of the Neshaminy valley, formerly
the cherished hunting grounds of the Delawares. The noble old chief had returned
to lay his bones in the land of his nativity, while the scattered remnants
of the tribe were doomed to retire, and again and again retire before the
encroachments of the pale-faces, until the distinct traces of the nation
are nearly lost. The well-authenticated tradition of the Shewell family is,
The aged chief (whoever he might be) was proceeding, with other chiefs and followers, to attend some important treaty-perhaps at Philadelphia, or Easton. He was taken sick on the road ; but such was his anxiety to be present at the treaty, that his friends carried him for many days, until at last, wearied with their burden and anxious to fulfill their engagement, they were compelled to leave him and hasten on to the treaty, to be held the next day. The old chief was left with his daughter in a wigwam near the spring where he was buried. Such was his chagrin at being thus deserted by his followers, and his mortification at not being able to attend the treaty, that he attempted to set fire to his wigwam; but frustrated in that attempt, he sent his faithful daughter to the spring for some water, and, during her absence, plunged his knife into his own heart and expired. Mr. Walter Shewell, grandfather of the present Nathaniel Showell, Esq., lived near the spring at the time, and, on being informed of the old chief's death, proceeded with one or two companions to perform the rites of sepulture. His son Robert, (the father of Nathaniel Shewell,) was a "little boy" at the time, and wished to go to the funeral, bat his father would not permit him. He informed Capt. Roberts that the grave was at the foot of a big poplar tree, by the side of a spring on his farm. Capt. R. found the poplar stump, and threw a few stones over it to mark the spot The stump has decayed, the stones have been scattered by the plough, and nothing now remains to mark the precise spot but Captain Roberts' recollection.
The question now arises as to the identity of the chief with Tamane. By an examination of the grave-stones in a neighboring churchyard, we learn that Walter Shewell, the grandfather of Nathaniel, and the one who buried the chief, died 23d Oct. 1779, aged 77-consequently born in 1702. Walter Shewell, his son, and uncle of Nathaniel, died in 1822, aged 96-consequently born in 1726. Robert Shewell, also a son, and the " little boy" at the time of the funeral, was the father of Nathaniel, and died 23d Dec. 1825, aged 84-consequently born in 1741. Nathaniel Shewell is still living within two miles of the old chief's grave. The treaty referred to, therefore, could not have been that of 1742, when Cannassetego made his taunting speech to the Delawares; for Robert was then but a year old. In Aug. 1749, Cannassetego, with 280 others-Onondagas, Tutelos, Delawares, Nanticokes, &c.-went to Philadelphia to pay their respects to the new governor, Hamilton. On this occasion a purchase was made of the land beyond the Blue Mountain, now comprising the anthracite coal region. Robert was at this time eight years old, and this probably was the date of the chief's death. There was a grand conference at Albany, N. Y., in 1754, at which Sir William Johnson attended-at Easton in 1756, and at Easton and Philadelphia in 1758.
Mr. Heckewelder, in his historical account of the Indian nations, says,
All we know of Tamened is that he was an ancient Delaware chief who never had his equal. It is said that when, about 1776, Col. George Morgan, of Princeton, visited the western Indians by direction of Congress, the Delawares conferred on him the name of Tamany, as the greatest mark of respect which they could show to that gentleman, who they said had the same address, affability, and meekness as their honored chief. In the revolutionary war, his enthusiastic admirers dabbed him a saint, and he was established under the name of St. Tammany, the patron saint of America. His name was inserted in some calendars, and his festival celebrated on the first day of May in every year. On that day a numerous society of his votaries walked together in procession through the streets of Philadelphia, their hats decorated with bucks' tails, and proceeded to a handsome rural place out of town, which they called the wigwam, where, after a long talk or Indian speech had been delivered, and the calumet of peace and friendship had been duly smoked, they spent the day in festivity and mirth. After dinner, Indian dances were performed on the green in front of the wigwam, the calumet was again smoked, and the company separated. Since that time Philadelphia, New York, and perhaps other places, have had their Tamany societies, Tamany halls, &c. &c. In their meetings these societies make but an odd figure in imitating the Indian manner of doing business, as well as in appropriating their names upon one another.
Mr. Drake says he infers from Gabriel Thomas, (who resided in Pennsylvania about 15 years, and who published an historical and geographical account of the province at London, in 1698,) that Temeny, as Thomas spells it, was a Delaware chief of great renown, who might have been alive as late as 1680 or 1690.
If Tamaned had been living as late as 1749, he could hardly have escaped the observation of the Moravian missionaries, who settled in the Forks of the Delaware as early as 1742, and explored the Susquehanna country soon after. The inference is, that the chief buried by Mr. Shewell must have been some other individual.
|Hartsville is a small village on the Willow Grove turnpike, about six
miles south from Doylestown. About half a mile northwest of the village is
the "Neshaminy church,"(Presbyterian.) The original congregation which worshipped
here was organized under the charge of Rev. Wm. Tennent, about the year 1730.
This was the site of the celebrated Log College. Our only information respecting
this institution, is derived from notes in the Rev. Dr. Miller's "Retrospect
of the 18th century," and his "Life of Dr. Rogers."
Rev. Wm. Tennent, an emigrant from Ireland, about the year 1730 established at Neshaminy an Academy, which was more particularly intended for the education of ministers for the Presbyterian Church. This institution continued to flourish for some time, and was the means of forming a number of good scholars, and a number of distinguished professional characters. When it began to decline, the Rev. Mr. Roan, a learned and able divine, also of the Presbyterian Church, erected another Academy at Neshaminy in the vicinity of the former.-Retrospect of the 18th century.
|Bristol, the largest town in the county, and formerly the seat of justice,
is beautifully situated on an elevated flat, on the right bank of the Delaware,
at the mouth of Mill creek. It is opposite Burlington, and 20 miles from
Philadelphia. The Delaware branch of the canal from Easton terminates here
in a spacious basin, bringing to the place an extensive coal trade. The
Philadelphia and Trenton railroad passes in the rear of the town. Steamboats
are constantly touching at the landing place. There are here an Episcopal
Church nearly 100 years old, a Methodist church and Quaker meeting-house,
the Farmers' Bank of Bucks county, an extensive flouring-mill, hotels, stores,
&c. All steamboat travelers to Philadelphia retain a lively recollection
of the beautiful river bank at Bristol, adorned with tasteful country seats,
and shaded with weeping willows. The distinguishing characteristic of the
place, notwithstanding the advantages for business introduced by recent public
improvements, is its quietness and rural beauty. It has long been a favorite
resort of the citizens of Philadelphia, and was formerly celebrated for a
chalybeate spring, situated in the marsh northwest of the village, but now
abandoned. The fever of modern speculation, though it caused a few additional
lots to be laid out here, as elsewhere, and a few gardens to be planted with
Multicaulis, has left no very distinct trace of its ravages. The population
in 1840, was 1,438. Scott, in his geography, (of 1806,) says Bristol contained
then about 90 houses. By the census of 1800, the population was 511-in 1810,
628-in 1820, 908.
Bristol was incorporated as a borough by Sir William Keith, governor of the province, on the 14th Nov. 1720. The charter, which may be found at length in Hazard's Register, 3d vol. 312, recites a number of interesting historical facts.
It appears that the petitioners for the charter, " owners of a certain tract of land formerly called Buckingham in the county of Bucks," were Anthony Burton, John Hall, Wm. Wharton, Joseph Bond, " and many other inhabitants of the town of Bristol;" that they had already laid out streets, erected a church and meeting-house, a courthouse, and a prison, and that the courts had for a long time been held there, &c. Joseph Bond and John Hall were appointed burgesses, and Thomas Clifford high constable. This original charter continued in force until the revolution. A new one was granted by the state in 1785.
In these office-hunting times a provision like the following would hardly be considered necessary in a borough charter.
And we do by the authority aforesaid grant unto the burgess and their successors, mat if any the inhabitants of the said town and borough shall hereafter be elected to the office of burgess or constable as aforesaid, and having notice of his or their election, shall refuse to undertake and execute that office to which he is so chosen, it shall and may be lawful for the burgess and burgesses then acting, to impose such moderate fines upon the refusers, so as the burgesses' fine exceed not ten pounds, and the constables' five pounds; to be levied by distress and sale of the goods of the party so refusing, by warrant, under the hand of one or more of the burgesses, or by other lawful ways, to the use of the said town. And in such case it shall and may be lawful far the said inhabitants forthwith to choose others to supply the defects of such refusers.
The fairs held in virtue of the following provision, are still remembered by the old residents. They were kept up until late in the last century, but were abolished at length as being scenes of riot and dissipation. They were held, for some years previous to their abolition, for three consecutive days following the 9th of May. Similar fairs were held at Lancaster, of which a more detailed description may be found under that head.
And we do further grant to the said burgesses, &c, That they and their successors shall and may for ever hereafter, hold and keep within the said town in every week of the year one market on the 5th day of the week called Thursday; and also two fairs there in every year; the first of than" to begin the eighth day of May, and to continue that day and one day after; and the other of said fairs to begin the twenty-ninth day of October, and to continue till the thirty-first day of the same month, in such place or places in the said town as the burgess from time to time may appoint.
Oldmixon, who described Pennsylvania in 1708, speaks of "Buckingham co., where the first town we come to (going down the river) is Falls township, and consists of 20 or 30 houses. Next to it is Bristol, the capital of the co., consisting of about 50 houses. 'Tis famous for the mills there of several sorts, built by Mr. Samuel Carpenter, an eminent planter in the co., formerly a Barbadoes merchant."
Mr. Alexander Graydon, whose father was president of the court in this co., says in his Memoirs:
My recollections of the village of Bristol, in which I was born on the 10th of April, N. S., in the year 1753, cannot be supposed to go further back than to the year 1756 or 1757. There are few towns, perhaps, in Pennsylvania, which, in the same space of time, have been so little improved, or undergone less alteration. Then, as now, the great road leading from Philadelphia to New York, first skirting the inlet, at the head of which stand the mills, and then turning short to the left along the banks of the Delaware, formed the principal and indeed only street, marked by anything like a continuity of building. A few places for streets were opened from this main one, on which, here and there, stood an humble, solitary dwelling. At a corner of two of these lanes was a Quaker meeting-house, and on a still more retired spot, stood a small Episcopal church, whose lonely grave-yard, with its surrounding woody scenery, might have furnished an appropriate theme for such a muse as Gray's. These, together with an old brick jail, (Bristol having once been the county town of Bucks,) constituted all the public edifices in this my native town. With the exception of the family of Dr. Denormandie, our own, and perhaps one or two more, the principal inhabitants of Bristol were Quakers. Among these, the names of Buckley, Williams, Large, Meritt, Hutchinson, and Church, are familiar to me.
The Bulkley-house, in the northern part of the borough, now occupied by the Misses Willis, was erected at a very early date. Lafayette spent some time there while recovering from his wound received at the battle of Brandywine. Mr. Bessonet, an aged resident, is descended from the Huguenots. His father kept a tavern on the site of the large one now kept by Mr. Kinsey. It was called " The King George," having a sign with that monarch's portrait. Another tavern here was " The King of Prussia." When the American army passed through the place, they riddled poor King George with bullet-holes, so that Mr. Bessonet was forced to adopt the more popular device of " The Fountain." His new sign, representing the fountain, was considered a master-piece of art by his rustic guests.
About the year 1830-31, a Fellenberg or agricultural school was founded by Mr. Anthony Morris, at the Bolton farm, near Bristol. It was under the superintendence of F. A. Ismar, a pupil of the celebrated Hofwyl school, and was associated with the classical institution of Rev. Wm. Chatterton, at the same place. In 1833, the Bristol college, an institution under the patronage of the Episcopal church, was founded at a beautiful tract of 400 acres, 3 miles below Bristol, called the China Retreat. It was under the presidency of Rev. Chauncy Colton, D. D., and at one time had about 80 or 100 scholars. It languished, however, as a college, and became afterwards a classical school. Within a year past it has been opened as a military college.
The word multicaulis, mentioned above, suggests an interesting topic, concerning which, for the benefit of posterity, it may be proper to record a few facts, although they have no special connection with the history of Bristol, but rather with that of the surrounding region. Thirty years hence the young generation of that day will scarcely credit the facts stated in the following extracts.
Annexed is a correct statement of the number, prices, and proceeds of the morus multicaulis sold Sept. 18, 1839, at auction, at the Highneld Cocoonery, Germantown, Pa. The trees were sold as they stood in the ground, those under 12 inches to be rejected. Owing to a thin soil and close planting, the sizes of trees were generally small, and the branches few; the average height, according to an estimate made on the ground, being about 2 ½ feet. The purchasers were generally from a distance, the largest portion being from Illinois, Missouri, and other western states. [260,000 trees were sold at prices varying from 17 ½ to 37 ½ cents per tree-averaging 31 23-100 cents per tree, or 12 ½ cents per foot in length of stalk; the total sale was $81,218 75.] - Haz. U. S. Statistical Register, 1839.
About the same month trees sold at Columbia, Pa., at 50 cents; at Unionville, Chester co., 2,500 trees, " averaging four feet," at 40 cents ; other sales, in the same neighborhood, at 47 to 50 cents; at Westchester, Pa., 18,000 trees at 10 cents per foot. Sales in Jersey, and in New England at about the same prices, and in the southern states, some as high as $1 per tree. A nurseryman in Jersey, who advertises 30,000 trees, very kindly adds, " twenty-five per cent in cash will be received on any purchase of $1,000 or upwards, and the balance may remain for a term of years at legal interest, secured by bond and mortgage." Mr. Morris's "Silk Farmer," published in Philadelphia, Sept. 1839, after enumerating many actual sales, gives as the proceeds of 15 acres, $32,500; of other 2 acres, 88,000; of other 10 acres, $38,000.
It will be seen that the sales of trees reported in a single week exceed 300,000, and that prices are continually advancing, in the face of a pressure for money severe enough to depress the price of both flour and cotton. The selling season is moreover not half gone, yet at least one quarter of all the trees in the country have been sold, some of them two or three times. At this time last year, no one thought of buying trees; but now, before they are half grown, and before the purchaser can tell what size the trees he is buying will attain to, the demand at home and at the west is rapidly taking the stock off the grower's hands. The naked fact is this-the people of this country have become so thoroughly satisfied of the great profit to be realized by growing silk, that the mighty movement in that direction, which is now urging on all classes to embark in it, cannot be repressed until our whole country is luxuriant with mulberry trees; and the day is fast approaching when in advertising a farm for sale, it will be as indispensable a recommendation to it, to say that it contains five, ten, or twenty acres of Multicaulis trees, as that it contains as many of meadow or woodland.-Morris's " Silk Farmer " Sept. 1839.
In the year 1838, a new chapter in the history of the silk culture was to be unfolded. There is little reason to doubt that, at this time, a combination of some principal individuals, deeply interested in the Multicaulis in the. United States, was formed, in order to force the sales of this tree at high prices. By every species of finesse, and by the grossest imposition, the public pulse was quickened to a rapidity and intensity of circulation almost unparalleled in the history of the excitements of the human mind. The selling of spurious seed, the disposal of trees under false names, the selling for .Multicaulis that which did not even belong to the species of the mulberry, and especially the getting up extensive auction sales of Multicaulis trees, with no other view than that of wholesale imposition upon the public, present facts in the history of our community equally remarkable and disgraceful. They are instructive monuments to mark the extremes to which, under the influence of an unbridled avarice, the cunning of some men will proceed, and the credulity of others may be led. In these circumstances the public attention was directed exclusively to the growing of trees. The production of silk did not enter into the calculation. Thousands and thousands of acres were planted, and immense importations of these trees have been made from foreign countries. By the caprices and fluctuations incident to all human affairs, and by no means unexpected in a case of such violent and extravagant speculation, as that of which I have been speaking, it has happened that the ebb has gone down in proportion to the elevation of the flood. This speculation is at an end; and though all the growers and speculators in Moras Multicaulis, from Florida to Maine, should pump at the bellows together, they are much more likely to blow out the last embers that remain on the hearth, than to fan them into a flame. It is feared that in too many cases the exposure of the speculation, as it was termed, would present only humiliating examples of fraud and credulity; and it would be an invidious and ungrateful task to rake open the ashes for the sake of seeing the burnt bones and carcasses of those who have perished in the flames. The Multicaulis is no longer in quick demand, and may be purchased at a price far below its actual and intrinsic value.-Third Report on the Agriculture of Mass., copied in Hazard's U. S. Register, Oct. 1839.
During the height of this speculative epidemic, many fortunes in this section of Pennsylvania and in New Jersey were gained, and others lost. In every village numerous gardens and out-lots might be seen planted with Multicaulis. In 1843 these trees had become a worthless encumbrance, and in many instances were rooted up and thrown away. Still the manufacture of silk has steadily progressed as a branch of family industry, and promises profitable results to the country.
|New Hope is a flourishing village on the right bank of the Delaware,
11 miles N. E. from Doylestown, and 34 from Philadelphia. It contains, by
the census of 1840, 820 inhabitants, several churches, 2 cotton factories,
with 7,000 spindles, 2 flour) ng-mills, 2 saw-mills, stores, taverns, &c.
There is a fine bridge across the Delaware, 1,050 feet long, erected in 1814.
The individual subscription was $160,000. A portion of the capital was employed
in banking, formerly on the New Hope side, but now at Lambertsville, at the
Jersey end of the bridge. The water power which drives the manufactories
at and near this place, is derived from a copious spring, called by the natives
Aquetong, and by the whites, Ingham's, or the Big Spring. It gushes out between
the slate and limestone rocks about 3 miles west of New Hope. It seldom freeze's
in winter. It falls 110 feet in two miles.
The Delaware canal passes through the town. A navigable feeder to the Delaware and Raritan canal connects with the Delaware 4 miles above, passing through Lambertsville. Great exertions have been made for many years to get Pennsylvania to construct an outlet lock at Black's Eddy, but hitherto without success. It would open a passage to the Lehigh coal through the Jersey canal to New York. The project is opposed by the interest of Bristol and Philadelphia.
The annexed view was taken from a house on the opposite side of the river. The ferry represented here was kept up while the bridge was undergoing repairs after the great freshet of 1841.
New Hope was formerly called Coryell's ferry, and several of the Coryell family are still living in the place and vicinity. Mr. Wm. Maris of Philadelphia came to New Hope soon after the last war, and gave quite an impetus to the place by establishing a large manufactory and mills upon the waters of the big spring. The bridge was built, a bank connected with it, and the place continued to thrive until a few years since, when the restricted state of pecuniary affairs caused the mills to suspend: the bank passed into other hands, and was moved to the opposite side of the river, and since then the village has been somewhat stationary. It still has within it, however, ample elements of prosperity, in its fine water power, in the limestone quarries in the vicinity, and in two convenient canals to reach two great markets.
|The 8th of January, 1841, will be long remembered on the Delaware for
one of the highest and most destructive floods ever known along that river.
"Houses, barns, fences, furniture, haystacks, coal-boats, saw logs, bridges,
and cakes of ice, were borne upon its destructive tide. Not a bridge was
left standing between Easton and Trenton, nor on the Lehigh between Easton
and Mauch Chunk. Those at Reiglersville, Centre bridge, New Hope, Taylorsville,
and Yardleyville, all yielded to the flood. The guard lock of the feeder
at Bool's island was torn away. Johnson's town, a short distance below, was
entirely swept away, with the principal part of its contents. Lambertsville
was threatened by the Jersey feeder, and the citizens were preparing to leave
their houses, when the waste weir at Holcombe's basin above town providentially
gave way, and saved the village.
Centre bridge came floating down in two massive pieces just before noon. One piece struck New Hope bridge about midway, with an awful crash, carrying away one arch ; the other piece took an arch on the Jersey side. The Jersey pier soon gave way, when the third arch followed, and lodged a short distance below. The other part on the Pennsylvania side remained. The mills at Lambertsville escaped without injury.
George B. Fell, who happened to be on Centre bridge, was carried away with it. Fearing danger from the crushing of its timbers over head, he succeeded, with the aid of a plank, in reaching a broken portion of the roof floating near him thus freeing himself from the main structure. When he passed New Hope Bridge he was upon a loose plank, and was obliged to lie flat upon it to avoid touching the bridge. Attempts were made in vain to rescue him at that and various other places. At Yardleyville he struck a pier, and got splashed with water. When he had passed under that bridge and floated a few yard* below, the whole structure was precipitated into the stream. He continued to float, gathering pieces of lumber, which he kept together, forming a sort of raft, by which he was enabled to steel into the still water about 3 miles above Trenton, where he was taken up in safety. On his return to Lambertsville, he was received with shouts and the discharge of a cannon.
|Morrisville is a pleasant village directly opposite Trenton. The population
in 1830 was 531, in 1840, 405. It was incorporated as a borough in 1804.
It has the advantage of an extensive water-power from the Delaware, and several
important public improvements passing through it-the Delaware canal, and
Philadelphia and Trenton railroad. The bridge across the Delaware here, is
1,100 feet long, 36 feet wide, consisting of 5 arches, supported on piers.
The floor is supported by perpendicular iron rods depending from the arches.
It is not devoid of historical interest. It was finished as early as the
year 1806 at an immense cost-and was regarded by engineers, both in this
country and Europe as one of the finest specimens of bridge architecture,
of wood, in the world. The flood of 1841, described on a preceding page,
which left it unharmed, bore testimony to its superiority over the frail
structures of modern years. The annexed view from the Jersey side shows this
bridge, with its ancient front, and its quaint roof. Morrisville took its
name from Robert Morris, the distinguished patriot and financier. He resided
here for some time in a splendid mansion- . house. The estate was afterwards
purchased by the French royalist
Gen. Victor Moreau, who spent about three years of exile here. The neighbors remember him as a kind-hearted sociable man, who delighted in roaming about the banks of the river, fishing and hunting. The mansion took fire, and was consumed. The general returned to Europe, joined the allied armies, and was killed at Dresden. The grounds still remain in a rather dilapidated condition, and the immense carriage-house, which looks like a state arsenal, is used as a workshop by the railroad co.
Victor Moreau gained great advantage over the Austrians under Kray at Mosskirk. He signalized himself in many celebrated victories and successful military operations on the frontiers of Italy and Germany in the campaigns of 1796-99, and invaded Germany in 1800. Here, in co-operation with Bonaparte, he resumed an offensive campaign. Subsequently, on the 3d December, he gained the decisive victory of Hohenlinden. By a turn of circumstances Moreau is found, in 1813, in alliance with Bemadotte, his early companion in arms, who commanded the army of the north in Germany against Napoleon. On 28th Aug. Napoleon came out of Dresden with 130,000 men to attack the allies. In the assault on the preceding day Napoleon observed Moreau conversing with the emperor Alexander, and some other officers. Turning to a cannoneer, and pointing out the object of his displeasure, he said, "Send a dozen balls upon that man!" The officers obeyed-a ball struck Moreau, shattering both his legs and tearing open the belly of his horse. He bore the amputation of both his limbs with great firmness, and was carried in a Utter formed by the lances of the Cossacks to Toplitz, where he expired.
|Newtown is a pleasant village on a small branch of the Neshaminy, ten
miles northwest from Bristol. It contains about 120 dwellings, a Friends'
meeting-house, and a Presbyterian church. It was for some years, until 1813,
the county seat; and the public buildings still remain. Population about
Newtown has been settled many years. Rev. James Boyd was pastor of the Presbyterian church, in connection with that at Bensalem, for 45 years. The church was founded in 1769; repaired in 1818. The annexed view, reduced from a larger painting by Mr. Hicks of New York, was taken from a point east of the town. While the American army were guarding the river from Coryell's ferry to Bristol, in 1776, Gen. Washington had his head-quarters at Newtown, in the house now belonging to Dr. Lee, on the west side of the creek; Gen. Mercer was at the house of Mr. Keith, a little out of town; and Gen. Greene at the large brick house, now Mr. Hough's hotel. One of the aged and respectable citizens of this place is Edward Hicks, a distinguished Quaker preacher of the Hicksite persuasion.
Both Mr. Hicks's father and grandfather were attached to the British interest during the revolution. His grandfather made no secret of his attachment to that side, and was proscribed; his fine property was confiscated, and he fled to Nova Scotia, where he was murdered by a highway robber. Edward, however, is a warm Whig, (as regards the revolution,) and a great admirer of Gen. Washington's character. In addition to his other accomplishments, he adds that of painting. A specimen of his self-acquired skill in the fine arts, as well as of his high-souled patriotism, may be seen on the tavern-sign in the village. It is no ordinary specimen of village art, but is really the spirited production of a skilful artist. On one side is represented the crossing of the Delaware, after Sully's design; but, with true historical accuracy, the general is represented as mounted upon a chestnut-sorrel horse, and not upon a white horse, as is usual in paintings of that scene. It seems that the distinguished white charger, so well known to all, was a great favorite with the commander-in-chief; and being somewhat in years, the general selected for the arduous service of that night a younger and more vigorous animal. On the other side of the sign is the declaration of independence, after Trumbull's design.
Mr. Hicks relates that Gen. Washington left Newtown the same night that he crossed the Delaware. He also says that the night preceding Gen. Mercer told Mrs. Keith that he had dreamed of being attacked and overpowered by a huge black bear. A few days afterwards he was indeed attacked and killed, at Princeton, by the British or Hessians. Soothsayers may draw their own inferences.
The following anecdote was related to the compiler by a highly respectable Quaker of Delaware co.:-
An aged painter of that sect was once called on to paint a sign for a stage proprietor and tavern-keeper, living somewhere in Bucks co. The device was to be a fine coach-and-four, driven by the proprietor himself, who remarked that occasionally he had driven his own stages. The work was done admirably-the proprietor called in to take a preliminary look, and give his approval. The likeness of the driver's face was perfect; but he appeared to be lolling over as if half inclined to drop from his box. His whip hung slouchingly down-the reins were loosely held; and still he did not appear to be asleep, but had a remarkably good-humored expression all over his ruddy countenance. "But how is this?" said the proprietor; "that is not the way for a driver to sit." " Doesn't thee get a little so sometimes ?" shrewdly inquired the old Quaker The man burst out into a foaming passion; but the painter cooled him down, and agreed that if M would promise to quit his cups forever, he would rub out the driver and paint him as he should of , and the affair should be hushed up. It appeared that the habit of the man was not generally suspected, and was known only to the painter and a few other friends. The reformation is said to have been prompt and permanent. The Washingtonians could not have done it more gently.
|It would quite exceed the limits of this work to notice all the pleasant
rural towns and villages in Bucks co. The principal villages not enumerated
above, along the Delaware, are Monroe, Lumberville, Centre Bridge, Brownsburg,
Taylorsville, Yardleyville. It was near Taylorsville that Gen. Washington
crossed the Delaware to attack Trenton.
On the Neshaminy are Harlington, Newport, Hulmeville, formerly the site of the bank now at Bristol; Attleborough, Bridgetown, Bridge-Point, &c.
In other parts of the county are Wrightstown, Centreville, Greenville, Fallsington, Line-Lexington, Strawhntown, Quakertown, Hartzville, Houghville, Andalusia, &c. &c.
Back to Pennsylvania Trails History and Genealogy