Great Swamp in Pennsylvania

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

The following description of the Great Swamp is taken from Rev. A. J. Fretz’s Genealogical Record of the Descendants of Jacob Beidler of Lower Milford Township, Bucks Co., Pa., pp. 2, 3. Mr. Fretz doubtless obtained his facts while interviewing members of old Mennonite families residing in the Swamp. “The ‘Great Swamp’ included in its territory several townships and extended into the adjoining counties of Montgomery and Lehigh with Quakertown as the central point. In the early settlement of this then wilderness district, much of the land was decidedly swampy and continued so until the timber was cut down and the land drained. Tradition says early settlers found the place covered with a luxuriant growth of grass, and mostly heavily timbered, while the forests were interspersed with small prairies and a rich soil. Here, not having the facilities for building houses, they erected their rude dwellings of bark. The thrift and industry of the early settlers soon changed the aspect of the Great Swamp wilderness. Land was cleared up and drained, the rude huts disappeared, and in their places were erected more substantial dwellings, with ample barns for crops and cattle, and everywhere abundance prevailed. Wolves, bears, deer, panthers, and venomous snakes were numerous, for years. Rattlesnakes were especially troublesome to mowers, who were compelled to wrap their legs with hay or other material to ward off their bites. There were also Indians located in different places, but they were kindly disposed towards these peaceable followers of William Penn and Menno Simon, and all through the years of bloody and devastating wars with the infuriated and often treacherous red men, there was no clash between them and these peaceable, non-resistant settlers. The wigwams of the Indians were generally along the banks of the creeks, and more particularly along Swamp Creek, a branch of the Perkiomen, not far from the Beidler homestead. Here on Swamp Creek there remained as late as 1770 a remnant of a once powerful race.”


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

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