William Penn

Above Wilmington, the Delaware River is a noble tidal stream of about a mile wide, flowing between gently sloping shores, and carrying an extensive commerce. The great river soon brings us to the famous Quaker settlements of Pennsylvania. William Penn, who had become a member of the Society of Friends, was bequeathed by his father, Admiral Sir William Penn, an estate of £1500 a year and large claims against the British Government. Fen-wick and Byllinge, both Quakers, who had proprietary rights in New Jersey, disputed in 1674, and submitted their difference to Penn’s arbitration. He decided in favor of Byllinge, who subsequently be-came embarrassed, and made over his property to Penn and two creditors as trustees. This seems to have turned Penn’s attention to America as a place of settlement for the persecuted Quakers, and he en-gaged with zeal in the work of colonization, and in 1681 obtained from the king, for himself and heirs, in payment of a debt of £16,000 due his father, a patent for the territory now forming’ Pennsylvania, on the fealty of the annual payment of two beaver skins. He wanted to call his territory New Wales, as many of the colonists came from there, and after-wards suggested Sylvania as specially applicable to a land covered with forests; but the king ordered the name Pennsylvania inserted in the grant, in honor, as he said, of his late friend the Admiral. In February, 1682, Penn, with eleven others, purchased West Jersey, already colonized to some extent. Tradition says that some of these West Jersey colonists sent Penn a sod in which was planted a green twig, to show that he owned the land and all that grew upon it. Next they presented him with a dish full of water, because he was master of the seas and rivers; and then they gave him the keys, to show he was in command and had all the power.

When William Penn was granted his province, he wrote that ” after many waitings, watchings, solicitings and disputes in council, this day my country was confirmed to me under the great seal of England.” He had great hopes for its future, for he subsequently wrote : ” God will bless and make it the seed of a nation; I shall have a tender care of the govern-ment that it will be well laid at first.” Some of the Swedes from Christina had come up the river in 1643 and settled at the mouth of Chester Creek, at a place called Upland. The site was an eligible one, and the first parties of Quakers, coming out in three ships, settled there, living in caves which they dug in the river bank, these caves remaining for many years after they had built houses. Penn drew up a liberal scheme of government and laws for his colony, in which he is said to have had the aid of Henry, the brother of Algernon Sidney, and of Sir William Jones. He was not satisfied with Upland, however, as his permanent place of settlement, but directed that another site be chosen higher up the Delaware, at some point where ” it is most navigable, high, dry and healthy; that is, where most ships can best ride, of deepest draught of water, if possible, to load or unload, at the bank or key-side, without boating or lightening of it.” This site being selected between the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, and the city laid out, Penn, with about a hundred companions, mostly Welsh Quakers, in September, 1682, embarked for the Delaware on the ship ” Welcome,” arriving at Upland after a six weeks’ voyage, and then going up to his city site, which he named Philadelphia, the ” City of Brotherly Love.”

The first explorers of the Delaware River found located upon the site of Philadelphia the Indian settlement of Coquanock, or “the grove of long pine trees,” a sort of capital city for the Lenni Lenapes. Their great chief was Tamanend, and the primeval forest, largely composed of noble pine trees, then covered all the shores of the river. The ship ” Shield,” from England, with Quaker colonists for Burlington, in West Jersey, higher up the river, sailed past Coquanock in 1679, and a note was made that “part of the tackling struck the trees, whereupon some on board remarked that ‘ it was a fine spot for a town.'” When Penn sent out his advance agent and Deputy Governor, Captain William Markham, of the British army, in his scarlet uniform, to lay out the plan of his projected city, he wrote him to “be tender of offending the Indians,” and gave instructions that the houses should have open grounds around them, as he wished the new settlement to be ” a green country town,” and at the same time to be healthy, and free from the danger of extensive conflagrations. Penn bought the land farther down the Delaware from the Swedes, who had originally bought it from the Indians, and the site for his city he bought from the Indians direct. They called him Mignon, and the Iroquois, who subsequently made treaties with him, called him Onas, both words signifying a quill pen, as they recognized the meaning of his name. Out on the Delaware, in what is now the Kensington ship-building district, is the “neutral land of Shackamaxon.” This words means, in the Indian dialect, the ” place of eels.” Here, for centuries before Penn’s arrival, the Indian tribes from all the region east of the Alleghenies, between the Great Lakes, the Hudson River and the Potomac, had been accustomed to kindle their council fires, smoke the pipe of deliberation, exchange the wampum belts of ex-planation and treaty, and make bargains. Some came by long trails hundreds of miles overland through the woods, and some in their birch canoes by water and portage. It was on this ” neutral ground” by the riverside that Penn, soon after his arrival, held his solemn council with the Indians, sealing mutual faith and securing their lifelong friendship for his infant colony. This treaty, embalmed in history and on canvas, was probably made in November, 1682, under the ” Treaty Elm” at Shackamaxon, which was blown down in 1810, the place where it stood by the river being now preserved as a park. Its location is marked by a monument bearing the significant inscription : ” Treaty Ground of William Penn and the Indian Nation, 1682—Unbroken Faith.” Thus began Penn’s City of Brotherly Love, based on a compact which, in the words of Voltaire, was “never sworn to and never broken.’ It is no wonder that Penn, after he had seen his city site, and had made his treaty, was so abundantly pleased that he wrote :

“As to outward things, we are satisfied, the land good, the air clear and sweet, the springs plentiful, and provision good and easy to come at, an innumerable quantity of wild fowl and fish ; in fine, here is what an Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would be well contented with, and service enough for God, for the fields here are white for harvest. O, how sweet is the quiet of these parts, freed from the anxious and troublesome solicitations, harries and perplexities of woeful Europe.”

The Lenni Lenapes, it is stated, told Penn and his people that they often spoke of themselves as the Wapanachki, or the ” men of the morning,” in allusion to their supposed origin in the lands to the eastward, towards the rising sun. Their tradition was that at the time America was discovered, their nation lived on the island of New York. They called it Manahatouh, “the place where timber is got for bows and arrows.” At the lower end of the island was a grove of hickory trees of peculiar strength and toughness. This timber was highly esteemed for constructing bows, arrows, war-clubs, etc. When they migrated westward they divided into two bands. One, going to the upper Delaware, among the mountains) was termed Minsi, or “the great stone ;” and the other band, seeking the bay and lower river, was called Wenawmien, or ” down the river.” These Indians originated the name of the Allegheny Mountains, which they called the Allickewany, the word meaning ” He leaves us and may never return “—it is supposed in reference to departing hunters or warriors who went into the mountain passes.