Andalusia, Pennsylvania

How did Andalusia, Pennsylvania get it’s name? This page provides a brief history about the naming of Andalusia, Pennsylvania.

Town in the southwest corner of Bensalem Township on the ancient Kings Highway (Route 15o, U. S. 13). Adjacent territory bears the same name. The town is located on Poquessing Creek, the boundary between Bucks and Philadelphia Counties. Across the stream is the town of Torresdale. All the territory from the old Fox Chase Inn, established in 1785 by Alexander Edwards, to the Union House at the junction of the old Milford Road with the Kings Highway, later Bristol Pike, was known as Andalusia and it had a post office before 183o. Stephen Sicard, whose tract adjoined Fox Chase Inn, laid out about 182o a part of his land in lots for a town he proposed to name “Sicardville,” but the project was not successful. The post office in the present town of Andalusia was established February 14, 1871, with William Pickering as postmaster. The country seat of the Biddle family on the River Delaware is also named “Andalusia,” and this gave the name to the town. John Craig, a merchant of Philadelphia, bought the place in 1794, when it was an ordinary old-fashioned country farm. He built the mansion after plans made by his wife, an Irish lady with good architectural taste. A Spanish gentleman named Saramento married Craig’s sister and he and Craig had large business connections with Spanish American provinces, which doubtless accounts for the name Andalusia, from an old province in Spain, or more likely from Andalusia New, a province of Terra Firma, South America, which M. Salmon, in his Modern Gazetteer (1759) describes as “lying on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, opposite the Leeward Islands, having the river Orinoco on the west.” Nicholas Biddle married John Craig’s daughter and thus the estate came into his possession about 1810. The mansion was enlarged by Mr. Biddle in 1832, when the Grecian front with its columns was added to the facade, giving it an impressive appearance from the river. The wings were built at the same time. Nicholas Biddle was president of the Bank of the United States from 1823 until its charter expired on March 3, 1836. His progenitors were among the first settlers of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. His ancestor, William Biddle, was one of the early proprietors of New Jersey. Charles Biddle, Commodore Nicholas Biddle and Captain Edward Biddle were active patriots in the Revolution, Commodore Biddle having been killed when his frigate Randolph was blown up in conflict with British warships. Perhaps no other family has furnished so many men for important public functions.

Its representatives in the executive, military, naval and diplomatic service and in the judiciary have shed lustre on the Biddle family name from provincial times to the present day. Another fine country seat along the river was that of the Bickleys. The mansion was erected in 1809. This property was acquired in 1877 by the Philadelphia Gun Club, successor of the old-time Holiday Shooting Club, as a club house and shooting grounds. A visitor to the club house soon after the opening day thus describes it: “The interior and furniture is in keeping with the place, heavy sideboards, beds and bureaus of solid mahogany, old-fashioned fifty years ago and good for another century. In the hall stand weapons of the olden time, flintlock and arabesque, while around the walls hang arms from India and the ruder weapons of Thibet. The long dining room, the walls of which are covered with sporting pictures, has a large old-fashioned fireplace, which is filled with blazing logs in winter and gives an air of comfort to those who sit around the long mahogany table after a day’s shooting.” 1)The Bristol Pike, by S. F. Hotcbkin, M. A., 1893, pp. 302, 303.

In 1831 and 1832 Andalusia gained unwelcomed notoriety from the sensational murder there of Dr. William Chapman, principal of a school for stammerers which he had founded fourteen years before his death. The crime was alleged to have been accomplished by placing arsenic in the Doctor’s food. He died June 23, 1831. His wife, who bore a spotless reputation in the neighborhood, was shown after her arrest to have been at one time connected with a band of notorious counterfeiters. She and her alleged paramour, an impostor styling himself Lino Amalia Espos y Mina, were arrested a few weeks after the Doctor’s death and charged with murder. Although indicted jointly, they were given separate trials in Doylestown before Judge John Fox and Associate Judges William Watts and William Long. The attorneys were District Attorney Thomas Ross and William B. Reed, Esq., for the Commonwealth; David Paul Brown and Peter McCall, Esqs., for Mrs. Chapman, and Samuel Rush and Eleazer T. McDowell, Esqs., for Mina. The trials attracted widespread attention and crowds jammed the little court room. Incidents of the trial were highly sensational and some mysterious circumstances connected with the crime, for instance how and when the narcotic was administered, were never solved. William E. Du Bois, a young attorney-at-law, reported and published the entire trial proceedings in a volume of 224 pages, now a scarce book. David Paul Brown, Mrs. Chapman’s principal counsel, was one of America’s eminent criminal attorneys and his argument before the jury in behalf of his client is included in his most brilliant forensic speeches, edited by Robert Eden Brown and published in book form by King & Baird, Philadelphia, in 1873. The attorneys tried the case with marked ability. Addresses to the jury consumed a day and a half, District Attorney Ross, who closed for the Commonwealth, speaking from 4 to 6 o’clock on Saturday afternoon, February 25. At a night session Judge Fox delivered his charge, concluding at g o’clock. At it o’clock the jury brought in a verdict of acquittal.

Mrs. Chapman was arraigned at the February Term, 1832. Her trial lasted from February 14 to February 25, one of the longest cases on record in the Criminal Courts of Bucks. It was alleged to have been the first trial in this country for murder by arsenical poisoning. Mrs. Chapman’s case was heard at the February Session, 1832, and she was acquitted. At the succeeding April Session Mina was tried and convicted, the evidence being similar to that submit. ted in Mrs. Chapman’s case. He was publicly executed June 21, 1832, on the county almshouse farm along Neshaminy Creek at Bridge Point (now Edison), two miles south of the county seat.

A prominent resident of Andalusia was Dr. Charles R. King, a grandson of Rufus King, Minister to England for seven years under President Washington. Dr. King purchased “Chelwood Farm” in 1849 and moved there from Philadelphia. He was active in community affairs and in promoting the interests of the Episcopal Church. His private library, one of the most valuable in the country, included a collection of books made by his grandfather while in England.

Source: MacReynolds, George. Place Names in Bucks County Pennsylvania, 2nd Edition. Doylestown, PA: The Bucks County Historical Society, 1955.

Footnotes:   [ + ]

1.The Bristol Pike, by S. F. Hotcbkin, M. A., 1893, pp. 302, 303.

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