September 20, 1737: Walking Purchase

William Penn was normally fair in his dealings with the Indians, but he did not pass this trait on to his sons. in 1737 they produced a deed purportedly from 1686  which the Lenape tribe promised to sell a tract beginning at the junction of the Delaware River and Lehigh River (modern Easton, Pennsylvania) and extending as far west as a man could walk in a day and a half.   Whether the deed was a forgery remains a matter of controversy Unwisely the Lenapes agreed to abide by the deed, assuming that a man couldn’t walk far in one day.  The Penn’s land office agent James Logan gained their agreement by use of a map which misrepresented the Tohickon Creek for the Lehigh River, which, if accurate, would have produced a far smaller amount of land ceded by the Indians.  He also had a dotted line on the map purporting to show the short distance that could be walked.  The Indians reasonably assumed that only about 40 miles could be walked. (more…)

Published in: on September 20, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on September 20, 1737: Walking Purchase  
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Unlucky Chambersburg

Most Northern cities and towns came through the Civil War unscathed, far from the combat that raged in the Confederacy and the Border States.  Not so Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, located only 13 miles north of the Maryland border in southcentral Pennsylvania which would be occupied three times during the Civil War.

The first occupation occurred on October 10, 1862 when General Jeb Stuart, launching a raid in the aftermath of Antietam, captured it with 1800 cavalrymen, destroying a quarter of a million in railroad property and seizing hundreds of horses.

During the Gettysburg campaign in 1863, the town was occupied by the Confederates for a number of days in June, with General Lee establishing his headquarters for a time in a nearby farm.  Once again railroad property was destroyed along with several warehouses.

On July 30, 1864 for the third and final time, with much of the town burned when a ransom of half a million dollars could not be raised.  This was done in retaliation for burnings carried out by the Union in the Shenandoah Valley.  Go here to read an article in defense of the burning which appeared in The Confederate Veteran in 1903. (more…)

Published in: on October 10, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Unlucky Chambersburg  
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May 25, 1738: Ending of the Conojocular War



Boundary disputes were quite common between the colonies, but few got as violent as the boundary line war between Pennsylvania and Maryland from 1730-1738.  Pennsylvania’s charter (1681) provided for its southern boundary as follows:  “on the South by a Circle drawne at twelve miles’ distance from New Castle Northward and Westward unto the beginning of the fortieth degree of Northern Latitude, and then by a streight Line Westward”.  Subsequent surveys established that Dover was a full twenty-five miles south of the 40th Parallel.  Maryland insisted on the 40th Parallel which would have made Philadelphia a Maryland town.  Pennsylvania pushed for a boundary at 39 degrees, 36 minutes which would have taken a strip out of what is northern Maryland.  The dispute simmered for decades breaking out into open conflict in the 1730s with the settlement of the Conejohela Valley west of the  Susquehanna River.  Maryland and Pennsylvania settlers in the disputed territory quickly came into conflict with raids and counter raids by the militias of the two colonies.  The leader of the Maryland settlers was Thomas Cresap, a tough and fearless man as the French would later have reason to attest during the French and Indian War.  Cresap was captured by the Pennsylvanians.  Upon being paraded through the streets of Philadelphia prior to being imprisoned, Cresap remarked:   “Damn it, this is one of the prettiest towns in Maryland!”. (more…)

Published in: on May 25, 2016 at 3:25 am  Comments Off on May 25, 1738: Ending of the Conojocular War  
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Pennsylvania 1780 Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery

1780 Act


In 1780 the State of Pennsylvania passed the first law in the Western hemisphere for the gradual abolition of slavery.  All slaves prior to the passage of the Act remained slaves.  (An Act passed in 1847 freed the few survivors of this group.)  However, all children of these slaves were to be freed when they attained the age of 28, and no new slaves who would reside in Pennsylvania for  longer than six months could be brought into the State without being granted their freedom after the six month period.  Legislation passed in 1788 cut off loopholes such as masters selling pregnant slaves out of state.  It wasn’t a perfect Act, but it succeeded in eliminating slavery in the Keystone State.  Would that such legislation had resolved the question of slavery peacefully throughout the country!  Here is the text of the Act: (more…)

Published in: on January 3, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (7)  
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Benjamin Franklin on German Immigrants

Colonial Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century witnessed a huge influx of German settlers, the Pennsylvania “Dutch”, mostly from the Palatinate.  Much strife occurred between English and German settlers.  On May 9, 1753 in a letter to Peter Collinson, Pennsylvania’s most famous resident, Benjamin Franklin, gave full vent to this frustration.  However, note how at the end Franklin states that he does not want to stop such immigration, but rather to aid in the assimilation of the German settlers through the founding of schools to help teach them and their children English.  Some issues in American history constantly recur, and the issue of immigration is one of them.  Here is the relevant passage from Franklin’s letter: (more…)