Historical Markers
Walking Purchase (2) Historical Marker
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Walking Purchase (2)

Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley


Marker Location:
US 611, at Ottsville

Dedication Date:
January 10, 1949

Behind the Marker

Critical to the success of William Penn's Holy Experiment was his belief that the settlers in his colony could live with the Lenape, Conestoga and other Native Americans as good neighbors. Penn believed he dealt fairly with the Lenape, purchasing their land rather than seizing it by force of arms. He respected them and joined in their harvest feasts, games and rituals.

According to tradition, when Penn made his famous treaty with the Lenape under an elm tree at Shackamaxon, they gave him a large belt of wampum. This belt, made of polished blue and white shell beads, depicted an Indian and a Quaker, holding hands as a sign of friendship. They also gave Penn the nickname Minquon, the Lenape translation for "quill pen," as a term of endearment.

Relations with the Lenape remained friendly as long as the colonists followed Quaker principles. Penn's own sons, however, betrayed the trust of the Lenape in 1737, when they reversed their father's policy of fair dealing.

In 1686, Lenape chiefs agreed that William Penn could purchase land in Bucks County as "far as a man can walk in a day and a half." Both Penn and the Indians understood this to mean about thirty miles. Thomas and John Penn, who had assumed the proprietorship in the 1730s, desired land above the thirty-mile limit, land that the Minisink Lenape refused to sell. In desperation, the Penn brothers in 1737 hired three athletes, Solomon Jennings, Edward Marshall and James Yates, to make the "walk" in record time. The three trained for months in preparation for this event. To aid them, white settlers cut away underbrush, arranged for horses to carry supplies and placed boats to ferry them across streams.

A 1735 portrait of the Minisink chief Tishcohan, commissioned by William Penn's son John, and painted by the Swedish artist Gustavus Hesselius.
Minisink chief Tishcohan, by Gustavus Hesselius, 1735.
The three athletes started their walk at the Wrightstown Meetinghouse, ran up through Plumstead, traveled past "the head of the Perkiomen branch" to the Lehigh River, and then continued into the Pocono Mountains. In thirty-six hours, they covered more than sixty miles, twice the distance originally intended.

Realizing that he had been cheated, the Minisink chief, Tishcohan, ordered his tribe to remain on the land. Outraged at the fraud, the Quaker-dominated Assembly also refused to appropriate the funds that Thomas Penn requested for the forced removal of Indians. But the damage was done. Tens of thousands of English, Scots-Irish and Germans flooded into the territory, and in open defiance of colonial laws that protected Indians, some assaulted the Lenape, stole their property and raped their wives and daughters with impunity.

Demoralized and distressed, many Lenape left southeastern Pennsylvania and relocated far to the west, at Kittanning on the Allegheny River and Logstown on the Ohio River. Those who remained in the east gradually lost their property and were forced either to settle on poor land or to endure a meager existence working for colonists as farm laborers or servants.

The starting Point markerWalking Purchase Marker may be found at the following location: PA 212 and 412, .6 miles south of Springtown.

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