Historical Markers
Bucks County Historical Marker
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Bucks County

Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley


Marker Location:
Courthouse, East Court Street, Doylestown

Dedication Date:
October 29, 1982

Behind the Marker

While riding horseback along the trails of his new colony, one day, William Penn pondered how he could attract settlers to his sparsely-populated province. Pausing at the present site of Newtown, Bucks County, he was struck by the beauty of the rolling hills and winding creek, and allegedly declared "This is the place proposed for my new town!" The name caught on, and Penn planned a host of other new towns to surround his City of Brotherly Love at Philadelphia.
A map of Bucks County based on the original Thomas Holme map of 1681.
A map of Bucks County based on the original Thomas Holme map of 1681.

To encourage settlement, Penn offered to give settlers common grazing lands and town plots equal to 10 percent of the size of the township lot that they purchased. The incentive worked. By 1716, nearly forty acres of land bordering Newtown Creek were owned commonly for water and pasture.

Most of the people who heeded Penn's call for settlement were English Quakers, who transformed Bucks County into a bustling community rich in farmland and centered around the market town of Bristol, which became the county seat in 1705. Penn himself established a country residence at markerPennsbury Manor, a courtly estate in lower Bucks County.

The first purchase of land from the Lenape occurred in Bucks County in July 1682. Relations between Penn's Quaker co-religionists and the Lenape remained friendly, even as colonists from a variety of ethnic and religious traditions followed. German Catholics, Lutherans, German Reformed and Mennonites, Dutch Reformed, Welsh Baptists, Scots-Irish Presbyterians, French Huguenots and Irish Catholics all established settlements on the Delaware River and along the banks of the Neshaminy and Perkiomen creeks.
Black and white image of stone mill under tree on the right, with a cloudy sky.
The the Cuttalosa Mill in Solebury Township, Bucks County, PA, circa 1910.

By the 1730s, increasing European settlement compelled Penn's heirs, Thomas and Richard Penn, to move the county seat from Bristol to Newtown, and to obtain title to more Indian land. In 1737, Penn's sons deceived the Lenape by manipulating an older deed (or quite possibly drawing up a phony one) which conveyed to the proprietorship "as much land as a man could walk northward in a day and a half," beginning at Wrightstown. By hiring three runners to make the "walk," the Penns claimed roughly 1,200 square miles of land, cheating the Lenape out of some 750,000 acres of their homeland.

This fraudulent markerWalking Purchase marked the beginning of the deterioration of relations between the whites and the Lenape which grew into anger, hostility, and resentment that the Lenape expressed in raids on Pennsylvania farms during the French and Indian War.

]Located between New York and Philadelphia, Bucks County played a critical role during the American Revolution. In December 1776, George Washington and the Continental Army found refuge from the British Army in the region after their retreat across New Jersey. After resting his men, Washington delivered a military and psychological masterstroke by markercrossing the Delaware on Christmas night to surprise a Hessian detachment at Trenton.
Color image of The Fonthill Museum
Color image of The Fonthill Museum

During the nineteenth century, Bucks County became an important conduit for coal and other products from upstate Pennsylvania to Philadelphia. The Delaware Division of the Pennsylvania Canal, constructed between 1827 and 1832, allowed industry and commerce to thrive in villages along the canal's route. Once again, the county seat was relocated, this time from Newtown to Doylestown, where it remains today.

Doylestown was also home to markerHenry Chapman Mercer, an architect, collector and ceramist, who built two sprawling castles in the county seat. One structure, the Mercer Museum, houses his extensive collection of American artifacts, displayed on six levels with ceilings of varying heights. The other castle was Mercer's home, Fonthill. This medieval style mansion of forty-four rooms reflects his love of historical research, archeology and tile-making.

Together with the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, the James A. Michener Art Museum, and the artists' colony at New Hope, Mercer's castles allow Bucks County to boast of some of the finest art collections in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
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