Cornwells Heights, Pennsylvania

How did InsertName, Pennsylvania get it’s name? This page provides a brief history about the naming of InsertName, Pennsylvania, the people who settled it, and the industry rising within it.

Large village in southwestern Bensalem Township between Andalusia and Eddington on the old Frankford and Bristol Turnpike Road (Route 130). It had a post office, established under the name of Maud and so continued for a few years, and was then changed to Cornwells Heights. The village gets its name from Cornwells, a station at that point on the New York Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad, but how the station came to be so named is not easy to determine. The name Cornwells Heights does not appear on any map of Bucks County except highway maps of late date. As to the name of the station, the Philadelphia and Trenton Railroad was chartered by the Pennsylvania Legislature February 23, 1832, formally opened November 1, 1834, and construction was fully completed from Morrisville through Bristol to Kensington early in 1835, but information is lacking as to whether Cornwells was one of the original stations. The property of the Philadelphia and Trenton Company was transferred to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company by lease December 1, 1871, and Cornwells was then a station. The Halfway House, for which John Vandegrift was granted the first license in 1744, has been a famous hotel at Cornwells since that date. Rev. F. S. Hotchkin, the historian of The Bristol Pike, says “Cornwells was a halfway house between Philadelphia and Bristol.” 1)Papers Read before The Bucks County Historical Society, Vol. II, p. 109. He seems to be using the word “Cornwells” as a name for the hotel, but there is so much doubt about it that it cannot be considered as a source for the village name. There is a possibility that the name comes from the well-known Cornwell family, yet there appears to be no record of any member of that family having lived in Bensalem Township. It has been suggested that, as the Growdens of Bensalem came from Cornwall, England, Cornwells may be a corruption of that name. An ancient landmark in Cornwells Heights is the Vandegrift graveyard, laid out in 1775 on the 214-acre tract granted by Joseph Growden to Nicholas Vandegrift in 1697. The large stone St. Elizabeth’s Convent, Motherhouse and Novitiate of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People, is located at Cornwells Heights. It was founded in 1891 by Rev. Mother Mary Katherine Drexel, second daughter of the late Francis A. Drexel, of Philadelphia. Mother Drexel was also founder of the fine large Holy Ghost Missionary College, located on spacious grounds fronting the highway just east of the village. Holy Providence House was organized December 2, 1892, by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament as an elementary school for boys and girls and is connected with St. Elizabeth’s Convent. The 1940 enrollment showed 16 Sister instructors and 115 pupils. St. Catherine’s Training School for teachers, founded in 1927, is affiliated with Villanova College and is known as the Cornwells Heights Division of the Villanova College Extension School. The only Protestant house of worship is that of the Cornwells Methodist Episcopal Church, which was built in 1888 and dedicated April 7, 1889.

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

Footnotes:   [ + ]

1.Papers Read before The Bucks County Historical Society, Vol. II, p. 109.

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