How did Buckingham Township, Pennsylvania get it’s name? This page provides a brief history about the naming of Buckingham Township, Pennsylvania, the people who settled it, and the industry rising within it.
The whole area within the present lines of Buckingham and Solebury Townships was originally called Buckingham. The source of this name has already been explained. As most of the first settlers of the township were from Falls Township and members of Falls Monthly Meeting, it was natural for them to adopt this name for their new settlement. The Falls Friends referred to the district to which these people migrated as New Buckingham, and so recorded it in their minutes. Historians are not agreed upon the date when Buckingham and Solebury were separated. It is presumed that Buckingham was known by that name before 1700 and that Solebury was detached very soon after that date. We know positively, however, that the separation was complete by 1703, for in that year John Cutler, Deputy Surveyor, in his resurvey of Bucks County, made separate drafts of Buckingham and Solebury, and so named them. Buckingham must have been well settled by that year, as shown by the following landholders (all that are plainly legible) taken from the Cutler draft:
now Jos. Gilbert’s
|John Large now|
Jos. Large, Jun.
|Francis Rozill now|
|John Watson and Heirs|
of Thomas Watson
|Margaret and Alice Henderson||500|
|Richard Hough, Joseph Fell|
and Joseph Linton
|Elizabeth Archibald (vacant)||580|
Of course, some of these tracts were not then settled and some vacant land is so marked. The immense Bromley, Mayleigh and Archibald tracts, all on the western border and comprising nearly a fourth of the township, were unoccupied and owned by non-residents. It should be remembered that the Cutler survey was a resurvey. There were earlier surveys, about which we know little. Dr. John Watson 1 says: “The first surveys in what was then called Buckingham were as early as 168-, and the greater part were located before 1703. It is not now easy to ascertain who made the first improvement; but most probably, from circumstances it was Thomas and John Bye; and George Pownall, Edward, Henry and Roger Hartley, Dr. Streaper, and William Cooper, came early; Richard Burgess, John Scarborough, grandfather of the preacher by that name, and Henry Paxson, were also early settlers. John and Richard Lundy, John Large, and James Lenox, and William Lacey, John Worstall, Jacob Holcombe, Joseph Linton, Joseph Fell, Matthew Hughes, Hugh Ely, and perhaps Richard Norton, came from Long Island about 1705. . . . The first settlers generally came from England and were of middle rank, and chiefly Friends. Many of them had first settled at the Falls, but soon after removed back, as it was then called, into the woods. As they came away in the reigns of Charles, James, William and Ann, they brought with them not only industry, frugality and strict domestic discipline of their education, but also a portion of those high-toned political impressions that then prevailed in England.” The earliest white settlers of Buckingham found a number of Indian settlements. Dr. Watson mentions one on George Pownall’s tract, which remained for some years; another on the Streaper tract near Konkey Hole or Holicong Well, one on Joseph Fell’s land, one at Aquetong Spring and one on the lowlands along the river. After 1705 incoming settlers rapidly took up large homestead tracts. They were mostly farmers and artisans. The soil being fertile and abundantly productive, the township flourished from the beginning. Before 1700 the settlers attended Friends’ Meeting at the Falls, traveling the entire distance and return on horseback. Owing to the inconvenience of these journeys, in 1701 they made application to Bucks Quarterly Meeting “for weekly worship among themselves and others that might think fit to viset them,” and they were graciously “at present left to their liberty.” Meetings were held at the homes of William Cooper, Dr. James Streaper and Nathaniel Bye until 1705, when, Dr. Streaper “having made a deed of trust to several Friends to build a meeting house on,” Falls Monthly Meeting “proposed the building of a meeting house at New Buckingham, which this Meeting (Bucks Quarterly) approved and left the care of it to Falls Meeting.” “And on a clear grassy spot on the west side of a path or road that went winding up the hill,” says Dr. Watson quaintly, “they built a log meeting house near the lower side of the present graveyard,” on Old York Road (Route 202). This was in 1706. This building was succeeded in 1720 by another, which seems to have been a stone addition to the old structure. In the same year Buckingham’s petition to Falls Meeting for a Monthly Meeting of its own was granted. Some members as early as 1729 became dissatisfied with the old building and started to raise a fund for a new one, but this did not bear fruit until 1768, when the old building burned and necessity forced the issue. Under the superintendence of Thomas Smith and Joseph Ellicott, the new building was erected by Matthias Hutchinson, mason, and Edward Good, carpenter, both master mechanics of the old school. At the two hundredth anniversary celebration of Buckingham Monthly Meeting, Fifth-day, Eighth-month 16th, 1923, Mrs. Alice Atkinson Kirson read an important paper on the “History of Buckingham Meeting,” in which she gave the following charming description of the meeting house: “The building that came from their hands (Hutchinson’s and Good’s), almost the same today as it was in 1768, with its fine proportions, its walls of warm colored stone quarried from the neighborhood, its deep cornice, its hooded doorways, its many-paned windows with their heavy sashes, and the white cedar woodwork of its interior, with the satin finish age has given, has been called by a visiting Friend one of the most substantial and imposing country meeting houses in seven of our States.” Buckingham Township has always been at the forefront in education matters. Dr. Thomas Watson, who moved to Buckingham in 1704, is said to have soon thereafter established a school for Indians, which was later abandoned because small-pox destroyed most of his pupils. Nothing is known today about such a school and it seems to be doubtful whether it ever existed. Buckingham Friends’ School House was erected on the meeting house grounds in 1793 or 1794.
From that year until 1832 Buckingham Meeting had from one to four schools constantly under its care. Tyro Hall, a noted school near Holicong, was founded in 1792. The Buckingham Boarding School for Girls, founded at Holicong in 18330 and supervised by Martha Hampton and Hannah Lloyd, sisters, had a notable career. 2 Joseph Fell, though not a native of the township, resided on the Fell homestead for fifty years and for more than that length of time was an outstanding figure in the township’s educational cirdes. He was a noted teacher, member of the first school board of Buckingham, elected the first County Superintendent of Public Schools in 1854 and the following year organized the first county and township teachers’ institutes. 3 Hughesian Free School, established on land and by funds bequeathed in 1811 in the will of Amos Austin Hughes for that purpose, was founded for the education of children of poor parents, but there were no such children in the township, and the trustees therefore rented it in 1841 for private school purposes. It was opened as a public school in the fall of 1851, with Joseph Fell as its first teacher. It is now occupied by Buckingham High Schoo1. 4 In his reminiscences of Buckingham contributed to local newspapers Seneca W. Ely says, “Above the Thornton farm I dimly recollect that of Martin Marshall. He was a lineal descendant of the Marshall elected to make the great ‘Walk’. . . . Martin was the largest man I ever saw, weighing between 350 and 400 pounds, and well proportioned. Before 1825 he moved to the neighborhood of Dayton, Ohio, where a number of his descendants reside.” Buckingham Township has several active social and civic organizations. A Parent-Teacher Association is influential in educational work. Friendship Thimble Social’s endeavors reach out far beyond township confines, while Tyro Hall Grange, Patrons of Husbandry, is one of the oldest and strongest farmers’ organizations in the county.
Source: MacReynolds, George. Place Names in Bucks County Pennsylvania, 2nd Edition. Doylestown, PA: The Bucks County Historical Society, 1955.Footnotes:
- Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1826, Vol. I, Part 2, pp. 285, 294.
- In an advertisement of this school in the Doylestown Democrat, autumn of 1832, it appears the study branches were orthography, reading, writing, grammar, composition, geography, the use of globes, history, arithmetic and the elements of astronomy and natural philosophy. Board and tuition were $23 per quarter, with an additional charge of 75 cents for fuel and candles. Use of books in the library was free. Patrons of the school were John Wilson; John Watson and William H. Johnson, Buckingham; Dr. John H. Watson, Quakertown; Richard Price and John Townsend, Philadelphia, and Thomas Ellicott and John Duer. Baltimore.
- The first teacher’s certificate issued by County Superintendent Fell is in the collection of similar material in the Library of The Bucks County Historical Society.
- Hughesian School had a printing press on which the students printed the school organ, The Excelsior, a diminutive weekly folio, 5 x 6 inches. It advertised “The Hughesian Press prints 25 fancy cards for 15 cents, 25 plain cards for to cents.” The Library of The Bucks County Historical Society has the issues from March 7, 1877 (Vol. I, No. 1), to July 2, 1877 (Vol 1, No. 16).