How did Bedminster Township, Pennsylvania get it’s name? This page provides a brief history about the naming of Bedminster Township, Pennsylvania, the people who settled it, and the industry rising within it.
In the central northern part of the county, separated from Haycock on the northwest and from Tinicurn on the northeast by Tohickon Creek and bounded on the southeast by Plumstead and on the southwest by Hilltown and East Rockhill Townships. The name Bedminster is taken from the town of Bedminster, in Somersetshire, near Bristol, England. In 1741 thirty-five residents petitioned the Court of Quarter Sessions for a jury to lay out the township, which petition was granted. Jurors were appointed, who employed John Chapman as surveyor and reported favorably to the next session of Court. The report was accepted and the Court endorsed it, “Confirmed with the name Bedminster?’ 1 How a township settled almost exclusively by Irish and Germans came to be called by the English name of Bedminster is a nominal mystery. The petitioners were all Irish or German residents and the four jurymen appointed by the Court were of Welsh extraction. No known emigrant from Bedminster, England, was a resident of the township at that date. A conjecture is that John Chapman, the surveyor, made the suggestion. First settlers of the township were Irish from the counties of Donegal and Antrim and perhaps other parts of northern Ireland. They were thrifty people and comprised, among others, the families of Grier, Armstrong, Kennedy, McCalla and Darrah. Deep Run Presbyterian Church, the first of that denomination north of Neshaminy Church, was established by these people before 1725 on a tract of land where the road from Dublin to the Elephant crosses Deep Run. The first church building was a log structure. Rev. William Tennent, founder of Log College, served as first pastor from 1726 to 1738, at which time it was known as his “upper congregation.” It is probable that a second or third church was built about 1776, because in that year a lottery scheme was resorted to for the purpose of securing funds for church expenses and presumably for building purposes. It is interesting to note that Christopher Hughes, a son of James Hughes, first signer on the Court petition for a township and immigrant in It720 from County Ulster, Ireland, subscribed $1,250 for lottery tickets. The will of James Hughes (Christopher’s father), probated in 1777, contains a bequest of one-third of the residue of his estate towards building a meeting house at Deep Run “where me and my children belong to.” James Hughes, znd, Christopher’s brother, was one of the Irish emigrants from Bedminster to Rowan County, North Carolina. The congregation at one time owned 125 acres of land adjoining the church. Pastors who succeeded William Tennent were Revs. Francis McHenry, James Latta, Hugh Magill, James Grier and Uriah DuBois, all of them learned and influential men of their day. Mr. DuBois began his pastorate in 1798, and a few years later the church was merged with the new Doylestown Presbyterian congregation, established by Mr. DuBois about 1808, after which services were held alternately at each place. The present church building at Deep Run was built in 1841. At that time, and for years earlier, it was popularly called the Irish Meeting House, and expressions such as “he lives near the Irish Meeting House,” or “the road leading to the Irish Meeting House” were used in common conversation to designate a definite place or territory. The earliest tombstone in the old graveyard attached to the church is dated 1747, although some of the many unlettered stones no doubt mark earlier burials. Major Kennedy, who was mortally wounded at the capture of Moses Doan in the log cabin of the Halseys on Tohickon Creek, is buried here and his headstone bears this inscription in quaint old-style lettering:
In Memory of
MAJOR WILLIAM KENNEDY
Who died of wounds he received from a
Robber on the First Day of September
in the year of our Lord, 1788, in
the 40th year of his age
Few if any descendants of the old Irish families remain in Bedminster. Before the close of the eighteenth century a number of them migrated to North Carolina, where their names are often found today. On their way southward a few, tradition says, tarried in the Great Smoky Mountains and outlying ranges, eventually settling there, and became the forebears of a portion of that hardy race of mountaineers so graphically described in Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Kephart, and by Charles Egbert. Craddock in her mountain stories. The Mennonites closely followed the Irish into Bedminster. By 1746 they were strong enough to build a log church on a tract of land on a tributary of Deep Run in the southeastern part of the township. This was replaced twenty years later by a stone building. Their early ministers were Abraham Swartz, Jacob Gross, Abraham Wismer, Abraham Overholt and David Landis. It was in the families of these Mennonite ministers that much of the higher grade Pennsylvania German fractur was painted with colored inks, which they themselves made, mostly after formulas brought from the old countries. One of the later ministers was Rev. Abraham Godshall, who published several religious works in German and English editions, copies of which are preserved in the Library of The Bucks County Historical Society. A division in the church in 1849 resulted in the organization of another congregation, which has continued to the present time. It is passing strange that, about the time some of the Irish settlers went south, a few Mennonite families emigrated northwest to Ontario, Canada, where their numerous descendants live today. Another element of the township’s German population founded two other old churches. Tohickon Reformed Church in the western corner of the township on the old Bethlehem Road near Tohickon Creek was probably organized in June, 1745, its first pastor being Rev. John Conrad Wirtz, a native of Zurich, Switzerland. The early records of this historic church, which are of great value, have been translated by Dr. William J. Hinke and published in a large volume by the Pennsylvania German Society. The second old union congregation is that of Kellers Church, founded, in this instance, by the Lutherans in 1744. Both Kellers and Tohickon are now union churches, Lutheran and Reformed congregations worshiping therein in entire harmony. One of the late eighteenth century settlers of Bedminster was John Peter Mickley, who escaped from the vengeance of the Indians at the massacre of October 8, 1763, in Whitehall Township, Northampton County, Pa. He was a son of Jean Jacques Michelet (John Jacob Mickley), who came from Alsace-Lorraine, arriving in Philadelphia on August 28, 1733, and later settling in Whitehall Township. His son, John Peter, who was eleven years old at the time of the Whitehall raid, a younger brother and a sister were picking chestnuts when attacked by the Indians. His brother and sister were killed, but John Peter safely concealed himself in some underbrush in the woods until the Indians left. Later he served in the Revolutionary War and was in the Battle of Germantown. After the war he married and settled (about 1784) in Bedminster, dying there in 1827, aged 75 years. He had a family of two sons and eight daughters. Some of their descendants still reside in the county and others in Philadelphia.
Source: MacReynolds, George. Place Names in Bucks County Pennsylvania, 2nd Edition. Doylestown, PA: The Bucks County Historical Society, 1955.Footnotes:
- In the map collection of the Library of The Bucks County Historical Society is a manuscript map of Bedminster Township, drawn by Warren S. Ely, late librarian, in which land tracts are plotted as they existed immediately following the survey made by John Chapman (1741).[↩]