Categotry Archives: Bucks County

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Edward Hicks & The Founding of Newtown Friends Meeting

Categories: Documents, Graves, Newtown, Painting, Quakerism

Newtown Friends Meeting

The Founding of Newtown Friends Meeting

Among the documents that I recently deposited at the Friends Historical Library was this petition to Middletown and Wrightstown Monthly Meetings for permission to meet for worship as an indulged meeting, which is simply a group that meets to worship but doesn’t conduct any business on its own. This meeting would eventually become Newtown Friends Meeting. In 1815 they began meeting in the county courthouse, which had been abandoned after the county seat moved to Doylestown in 1812. In 1817, they built their own meetinghouse. Interestingly, some of their funding for the construction came from the sale of liquor. Joseph Jenks contributed $100 that he made by distilling apple whiskey, and others reportedly did as well. 

Edward Hicks

This document appears to have been written by Edward Hicks. Today Hicks is remembered as a famous painter, best known for his work The Peaceable Kingdom. During his lifetime, however, he was better known as a preacher. In fact, he faced criticism from fellow Quakers for creating decorative art. He even gave up artwork and tried to subsist by farming and only utilitarian painting, but couldn’t make a living doing so and eventually returned to his art.

Peaceable Kingdom

Hicks was the last to sign the petition, and the certain characteristics of his handwriting seem to match the text of the petition. The “H” in “All Heads of fammilys” following the signatures is identical, a number of the i’s are not dotted in the letter, as in his signature, and the nearly vertical c’s match as well.

Edward Hicks

Hicks’ authorship also fits with what we know about the early history of the Meeting. Hicks was a prominent member of the meeting, and he was the first preacher to speak at courthouse in 1815 as well as the new meetinghouse in 1817.

According to the meeting’s website:

Edward Hicks’ grave, with the low headstone preferred by Friends, may be found near the sycamore tree across from the front porch of the meeting house that he loved so much.

The Petition

While the document is undated it clearly predates 1815, the year in which Friends began meeting in the former county courthouse. It is addressed to both Middletown and Wrightstown Monthly Meetings because Newtown drew members from both.

Hicks writes:

Dear friends

We have believed it Right to revive the subject respecting a Meeting in Newtown, by calling the attention of friends in a Monthly Meeting capacity once more to that important subject, desiring that a [state?] may be sought after of judging wether [sic] the time has not arived [sic] when an Indulged Meeting might be granted might be granted with advantage and safety.

Interestingly, both men and women were listed as heads of families. However, it appears that the names of each couple were written by the same hand, so perhaps the husband signed both names.

They seem to have gotten a positive response from Wrightstown Meeting, which appointed a committee of six men and six women to look into the matter.

Full text below:

Newtown Meeting Petition_back1

Newtown Meeting Petition_frontNewtown Meeting Petition_back2

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The Baby Beneath the Floorboards – 1789

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Categories: Crime, Death, Inns & Taverns, Newtown

In the March of 1789, John Carcaddon made a grisly discovery beneath the floorboards of Hanna’s Brew House in Newtown. Stuffed into a drain beneath the floor was the month-old body of a dead child. He later testified:

he took up a pine Board of the floor to throw the water into it being a drain, and after throwing of a considerable quantity of Water off, the passage appeared to be stopped and upon examining the cause found a hair Cloth under which I found the Infant wrapped in an old piece of Calico

The coroner called an inquest, and a jury was convened to determine the circumstances of the child’s death. Witnesses were called, and suspicion soon fell on a woman named Phebe Stover. Catherine Clucker was called before the jury and testified:

that Phebe Stover was taken Ill in the night about a Month ago, that her husband proposed sending for a Doctor, that she would not consent to it, next day she came into my room continued Ill, that Doct. Torbet was sent for, that he came two different times, that Doct. Asked her how long she had been with Child she answered about four Months and a few days—that she and her Husband frequently quarreled—that she [illegible] this deponent that she thought she had miscarried but would not tell her

The doctor, Samuel Torbet, confirmed her story, reporting:

that he was called upon by the Husband of Phebe Stover that he went with him and found her very Ill, her symptoms I thought were such as threatened a Miscarriage—and found she had been in that situation for some time—and proceeded to treat her as one in that situation—she told me she had been pregnant about four Months and a few days to the best of her knowledge—that he saw no symptoms of her having Miscarried that he told her if she had not already Miscarried she certainly would

It seems clear that the Phebe Stover miscarried, but it’s a mystery why she would attempt to dispose of the body in this disturbing manner.

Today, the County Coroner looks into the death of anyone who dies without being attended to by a doctor. In the early years of Bucks County only exceptional deaths were investigated, and the early coroner’s records are far less frequent and are mostly dedicated to violent, accidental, or otherwise suspicious deaths.

(Source: Bucks County Coroner’s Reports, #20, March 13th, 1789. In the collection of the Bucks County Historical Society)

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Solebury Friends Meeting Cemetery Tour 2013

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Categories: Death, Graves, Quakerism, Solebury

Solebury Cemetery Tour

Next weekend I’ll be leading a tour at Solebury Friends burial ground. It was a big hit last year, with about 80 people in attendance. The press release is below. Hope to see you there!

Quaker Cemetery Tour

WHEN: Sunday, October 27, 12 noon to 1:30 p.m., rain or shine
WHERE: Solebury Friends Meeting Cemetery
2680 North Sugan Road
New Hope, PA 18938

Local historian Jesse Crooks will lead us through the fascinating stories of those buried at Solebury Meeting Cemetery, which opened in 1809. Along with seeing the burial plots of many locally famous Quaker families like Reeder, Eastburn, Paxton, Ely, Comfort, and Kitchen, we will visit the plot sites and learn the histories of freed slaves and the unknowns in Stranger’s Row. Insightful points of Jesse’s talk cover daily elements of people’s lives and how they dealt with the great issues of the Civil War, slavery, pacifism, and the poor.

Please join us for this very popular, free event. Donations, however, are welcome!

Light refreshments will be served.

QUESTIONS? Call 215 297 5091 or email info@soleburyhistory.org.

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Leidytown Schoolhouse 1894

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Categories: Hilltown, Schools

Leidytown Schoolhouse in Hilltown, probably 1894.

Leidytown Schoolhouse in Hilltown, probably 1894.

This photo came from an album belonging to the Fellman family. A note with the original photo identifies two of the students. The first student on the left in the first row is Horace Fellman. The first student in the second row is Walter C. Fellman. Click for a larger version. The schoolhouse still stands today, but has been converted into a church.

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Doylestown Man c.1870

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Categories: Doylestown, Photography

Check out this handsome gent. No name is recorded, but the photographer’s logo on the back of the card shows that the portrait was taken by B. Billian in Doylestown. Someone more familiar with historic fashion trends might be able to come up with a tighter age range based on his apparel, but based on the photographic process (a carte de visite) I’d offer a date of around 1870.

Doylestown Man CDV (front)

The photographer’s logo on the back:

Doylestown Man CDV (back)

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A Bird’s Eye View of Doylestown 1886

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Categories: Doylestown, Industry and Technology, Maps

Doylestown 1886

Check out this interactive map I put together of Doylestown from 1886. You zoom in to find familiar buildings or see places that have long since been destroyed.  Some details I enjoyed were the old fair grounds on the top right, where CB West is now, the fact that the jail (now the Michener Museum) was pretty much in the middle of nowhere, and the road leading out of town called “Lumberville Road”, which I’m guessing is now Cold Spring Creamery. I also wonder what sort of booze they were cooking up at the fruit distillery.

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Oliver Paxson on the Ethics of Settling Indian Land

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Categories: Land Use, Maps, Native American History, New Hope, Quakerism, Solebury

Oliver Paxson's house is marked as #29 in this map from WWH Davis' History of Bucks County

Oliver Paxson’s house is marked as #29 in this map from WWH Davis’ History of Bucks County

Oliver Paxson was a prominent member of the Religious Society of Friends, and was one of the first residents of New Hope. His home, known as Maple Grove, still stands in New Hope immediately to the east of the New Hope-Solebury school complex. He also operated a stable and a salt store, now Hearth restaurant around the corner from Farley’s Bookshop.

In this letter, published in the first volume of Friends Miscellany (1831), Paxson considers the issue of settling land that has been expropriated from the Indians by force. Paxson presents a surprisingly nuanced and empathetic perspective on the conflict between Indians an European settlers. He believes that Indians own the land they lived on, and that Europeans who want to rightfully occupy that land must purchase it from the Indians on mutually agreeable terms. This stands in sharp contrast to the view of many of his contemporaries, who believed that Indians didn’t actually own the lived on because they didn’t use it properly (“wasting” it as hunting grounds, etc.) and that Europeans farmers were therefore justified in appropriating it. Paxson also believes that capturing land in war or compelling Indians to sell their land through force of arms does not bestow a legitimate right of ownership. When the government has taken Indian land by force Quakers still have an ethical obligation fairly compensate the rightful owners. Otherwise, they’re complicit in the theft of native property.

To support his argument, Paxson cites instances in which Europeans appropriated native land by force resulted in violent reprisals and outright war, and compares that violent outcome to the peaceable outcome that occurred when Quakers made agreements with the Indians to purchase their land on fair terms. William Penn knew that his royal grant did not absolve him of purchasing the land from its true owners, and when a group of Quakers settled in Virginia on land that hadn’t been fairly purchased, the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting raised money to compensate the Indians, “which had a good effect among the tribes.”

He then cites the biblical precedent in the story of Naboth. In that story, the Jews had a different theory of land ownership than the Baalist king. Naboth owned his farm by right of inheritance, and was required by Jewish law to pass it on to his own heirs in turn. Ahab demanded to purchase it as one would purchase an alienable commodity. Because Naboth couldn’t sell his land, Ahab murdered him and stole it, and the prophet Elijah brought God’s wrath upon his family. Quakers, Paxson implied, should not go the way of Ahab.

The letter probably dates to 1802.

TO JOHN SIMPSON OHIO.

New Hope, 5th of 4th mo.

DEAR FRIEND,

I have had a share of thy kind remembrance, with many other friends in the place of thy nativity, which I have no doubt has been gladly received by all the friends thou hast written to; and I thought I felt under some obligation to answer thee. But alas! what shall I say? When I think of writing a letter of social friendship, there is a subject that more or less, for fifty years, hath exercised my mind, and greatly so, of latter times:–that is, the situation of the Indians, unto whom this great and populous country once belonged.

Thou hast often heard and read of the wars in New England and Virginia, in conquests over them, and taking their lands. Not so, when William Penn came to Pennsylvania:–a man who had learned his Master’s lesson, “to do unto all men as he would they should do unto him.” This made his name honourable among the Indians, and it remains so to the present time. But after some time one of his successors, not keeping strictly to this rule, overreached them in a purchase in an extraordinary (or shall I say extravagant) day’s walk, and they revenged it many years afterward, when an opportunity offered, by killing and taking into captivity, many of the white inhabitants. Thou and I can remember these things. How our very ears were made to tingle!

Well, time passed on, till the revolutionary war began. The poor Indians hardly knew what part to take, fearing they should lose all their country in the quarrel between nations of white people; especially if it should turn in favour of the United States (as it finally did) and some of the Seneca Chiefs addressed General Washington near the close of the war, made their submission, and remain peaceably on their reservations in the State of New York.

What comes next to be considered is the state of the country thou livest in. About this time, the white people near the Ohio river went over and made settlements on their lands. They complained of their land and game being taken from them, and found no redress. At length they took up the hatchet, and skirmishing on both sides of the river ensued. The President by this time, thought it his duty to endeavour to put a stop to it, and appointed commissioners to treat of peace, and purchase their land. They met, divers Friends attending, viz. John Parrish, Joseph Moore, Jacob Lindley, and some others. The Indians appeared in a hostile, angry mood, and told the commissioners, they would sell them no land;–but required them to remove the white people that were already settled over the river. The treaty broke up, without doing any thing, and hostilities continued: in consequence of which, the President ordered an armed force to defend the frontiers, and bring the Indians to terms. Sinclair their general. About this time the Meeting for Sufferings was sitting, and a heavy exercise came over the meeting on this account, and a committee was appointed to wait on the President, to intreat him to stay the sword:–which they did in a solemn manner, but all in vain. The expedition was pursued. Sinclair defeated, and many fell in battle. But it did not stop here. A greater force was raised, and a general appointed, more skilful in fighting the Indians, and effectually subdued them; and many of the rightful owners of the country, fell down slain in battle, in defending their just rights:–terms of peace were offered, which they declare, they were forced to accept, it being a price very inadequate to its value.

I do not mean by this, to arraign the government. The United States is a warlike nation;–and conquests made by the sword, are commonly applied to the account of the conquerors. So that in this view of things, it may be considered as an act of generosity in the government to pay the Indians twenty thousand dollars, for a country worth an hundred times that sum. But this wont do for thee nor me, who profess to be redeemed from the spirit of war, so as not even to buy a coat, if we know it to be a prize article. Thou may remember the concern brought on our Yearly Meeting by a few families of Friends in Virginia, who were settled on land not fairly bought of the Indians, and a sum of money was finally raised by Friends in Philadelphia, as a compensation, which had a good effect among the tribes.

I must close this singular epistle, by just observing, that when thou wast concerned some years ago, to publish the glad tidings of the Gospel of peace and salvation to the inhabitants of Ohio, my heart went with thee. And had that been thy sole concern when thou went last, I could again have said Amen. But when I took a view of thy wife and children, going with thee to settle in the country, to buy and sell, and get gain, I was not able to go thy pace. My heart is, nevertheless, filled with tender affection and sympathy for thee, thy dear wife, and her children; and I am persuaded, thou hast not seen the thing in the light I view it, or thou would hardly have taken so much pains to induce Friends to settle, in such numbers, in a land obtained in the manner I have mentioned. Naboth must die, because he refused to sell his inheritance to Ahab; though Ahab offered to give him the worth of it in money, or give him a better for it; yet he would not sell it.1 Mark the sequel. If the Province of Pennsylvania must be visited with the horrors of an Indian War,–many of its inhabitants slain, and many carried into captivity–for one man’s offence, in overreaching the Indians in the purchase of land from them;–what may we then expect in the instance before us? The Indians did refuse to sell their inheritance, till many of them were slain, and they were compelled to it. And would it be a strange thing, if an opportunity should offer for the Indians to revenge their wrongs–if the earth, that hath opened its mouth to receive the blood of the rightful owners of the soil, should again open its mouth to receive the blood of white inhabitants? Which judgment may be averted by acts of righteousness, is the sincere desire of my soul. From thy friend,

OLIVER PAXSON.

1In the Old Testament, Naboth owned a small vineyard next to the palace of King Ahab, who wanted to buy the land. Naboth was forbidden from selling the land by Jewish law. After his offer was rebuffed, Ahab had Naboth killed in order to seize his land. As a result, the prophet Elijah prophesies Ahab’s destruction as punishment for murdering Naboth and stealing his land. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naboth)

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Solebury Friends Meeting Burial Map

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Categories: Death, Graves, Maps, Quakerism, Solebury

SoleburyFriendsMeeting-Burial Map-1907(small)

This map of the Solebury Friends Meeting graveyard was drafted in 1907, based on an earlier map from 1866. Unfortunately the 1866 map has suffered some damage and it’s difficult to make out most of the handwriting. The handwriting matches that in the burial book in the Swarthmore archive, which also dates to 1866. That book makes reference to a previous burial chart used as a reference for the 1866 map. It cites “extracts from the old chart” about decisions the meeting made about laying out the graveyard. There are also sections in the list of graves in which the writer of the 1866 book omits names, stating that they were illegible on the old chart.

Illegible on Old Chart

In all likelihood this original map no longer exists, and the names omitted on the 1866 map are probably lost forever.

The 1866 and 1907 maps were almost lost as well. My great-grandfather used them as a reference when creating the modern burial map in the 1960s. Apparently he never returned the maps to the meeting, and I found them in a box of maps that had been stored in my family’s barn.

I deposited them in the archive of the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College along with the rest of the meeting’s original records. While there, I used their excellent overhead scanner to digitize the maps. Click on the map above to see the full image.

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