How did Falls Township, Pennsylvania get it’s name? This page provides a brief history about the naming of Falls Township, Pennsylvania, the people who settled it, and the industry rising within it.
Falls Township is bounded northwest by Lower Makefield Township, northeast and southeast by Delaware River and southwest by Bristol and Middletown Townships. Falls was one of the townships laid out as a legal subdivision of the county by the commission appointed by the Court in 1692. This commission in their report left the name of this township blank, which seems a bit strange because, if there was any locality in the county well known by its name in provincial times it was the Falls of Delaware. Perhaps it was left blank with the expectation that William Penn, whose Manor of Pennsbury was included within the township lines, would himself suggest a name, but he did not do so. Falls was on the great wilderness thoroughfare between Manhattan and the lower Delaware Valley, traversed by the early Dutch, Swedes and English, and strangely enough the great avenues of travel today between the same points follow very closely the hilly broken trail of almost three centuries ago. The earliest settlers in Falls secured title to their land through treaties with resident bands of Indians, or else through Sir Edmund Andros, representative of the Duke of York, before William Penn came. The first definite knowledge we have of Falls is through the records of Peter Lindestrom, the Swedish engineer, sent out by his government to make surveys of New Sweden. His map and notes, made in 1654-1656, comprise the most valuable early documents extant on the Delaware River region. The territory around the Falls, he says, was called Sanckhickan by the Lenape Indians, a word which has been translated as “flint rock (or gunlock) at the end of the tide.” Sanek-hickan is also said to have been the Lenapes’ name for the Mohawk Indians as well as for gunlock, the association coming about in this wise: When they came down the river from the Mohawk Branch in their canoes, the Mohawk Indians brought with them muskets which they had bought from Manhattan traders, and the Mohawks with their guns were probably first seen by the Lenapes at Sanckhickan, hence the name. The English called the settlement they made in this same territory Crewcorne, probably derived from Crokehorn, Somersetshire, England. Here the first Court in the county was established. “Crookhorn” was a name given by Gilbert Wheeler to his public house at the old ferry. The district around Pennsbury is marked Sipaessinglandt on the Lindestrom map. This word is an Indian and Dutch combination, which has been freely translated to mean “the land of the plum trees.” The Indians may have found the wild plum plentiful there. Falls just escaped becoming a Swedish settlements. 1 At a meeting of the Court at Upland in November, 1677, Lawrence Cock, Israel Helm, Jonas Neelsen and twenty-two other Swedes from the Kingsessing, Wicaco and Shackamaxon districts presented a petition for permission “to settle together in a Towne att the west syde of this River Just below the faalls.” The Court consented to send “the Peticoners Petition to his honor, the governor,” but Governor Andros did not grant the petition because the land had not been bought from the Indians. In lieu of Swedes, therefore, the first permanent settlers were English Quakers, among the earliest being William Biles, William Darke, Lyonel Britany, William Yardley, James Harrison, Phineas Pemberton and William Beakes. One of William Penn’s early instructions to James Harrison and William Markham was to lay him out a “green towne” in the bend of the Delaware. The location was to be at the southeast end of the present village of Fallsington.
Three graveyards in Falls Township are so old that people today know little about them, the Pemberton graveyard on the bank of the Delaware opposite the lower end of Biles Island, where Phineas Pemberton and his wife are believed to be buried; the Watson graveyard near Oxford Valley, and a third, probably a burial place for slaves, on the Burton tract. In early days a timber swamp occupied possibly a hundred acres in the northern central part of the township. As indicated on a map of Falls from John Cutler’s survey of 1702, the swamp was surrounded by tracts owned by Gilbert Wheeler, Samuel Burgess, Thomas Duer and Roger Moon. William Penn regarded this swamp as his own, and when people almost destroyed it by cutting timber without permission, the proprietary scolded about it in language very much stronger than that which usually characterized his mild converse. Much of the land in Falls is flat and very fertile and has been used for many years for trucking on an extensive scale. The 6500-acre farm of the King Farms Company in the northeastern part of the township is the largest vegetable farm east of the Mississippi River. The company markets as far west as Chicago and east to New York City. The usual complement of 500 employs is increased to goo in busy seasons. There is not a horse on the farms, operations being entirely mechanized. A. C. Thompson, production manager of the farms, is also president of the national organization known as the Vegetable Growers’ Association of America. Beneath the township’s rich top soil lies a wealth of glacial deposit, laid down ages ago. The Warner Corporation today owns large tracts south of Morrisville, where they have dredged and excavated into these deposits extensively for sand and gravel. Some of the excavations are forty to sixty feet deep and over a hundred acres in area. As the deposits are readily pervious to water, a string of beautiful lakes have been formed, known as the Manor Lakes. The Falls Township sand and gravel, like other deposits similarly located, have been washed and sorted by running water, a fact that places them among the most valuable material of the kind in the State for commercial development.
Source: MacReynolds, George. Place Names in Bucks County Pennsylvania, 2nd Edition. Doylestown, PA: The Bucks County Historical Society, 1955.Footnotes:
- The Record of the Court of Upland, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1860, pp. 74, 75.