Hilltown Township, Pennsylvania

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

In the northwestern part of the county on the Montgomery line, bounded northwest by West and East Rockhill, northeast by Bedminster, southeast by New Britain and southwest by Hatfield and Franconia Townships, Montgomery County. It was the first township northwest of Buckingham to be organized. Part of it was originally within the Manor of Perkasie. The date of the township’s organization is uncertain, though it was probably 1722.1 No authority is given for this date and the evidence is confusing as to whether 1722 or 1723 is correct. “Aberystwith,” the suggested name for the new township, is found in an old road petition, a document so interesting it is quoted entire herewith:

To the Eclesisscal (Ecclesiastical) Court which is held at Bristol:

March 1723 Honoured Sirs:-

Whereas we the Inhabitants of Perchici whose names are hereon Subscribed thought it necessary for us and others that live back to have a Lawful Rode cout (cut) from us to Richard Michel (Mitchell) his mile (mill).

The Cours that our Surfayer and other men of disgresion thought fit and likewise this Rode will be usefull for us to come down to Bri(s)tol to give our atenance (attendance) when ocations call upon us to come if it would be granted to us throught the Court: We will be so ready as we can to cout (cut) our part of this Rode.

So much at this time Wishing you all hapiness from our meeting together at the h(o)use of Evan Griffyth March ye 9 1722.

Joan van der Wostine William Thomas Evan Griffyth Bernard Yong John Johnson Thomas Morris Evan Evans Lewis Evans

Lewis Thomas
Margaret Jones
James Lewis
John Kelly
Evan Thomas

We agree that our Township should be called Aberystwith unlless it be any ofence to our Jestis Lanorn (Justice Langhorne)

This petition is written in an old-style chirography that puzzled local historians. They stumbled especially over the word “Aberystwith,” and not without reason. General Davis in his history transcribed it “Aberystruth” and Librarian Warren S. Ely wrote it “Aberyefouth” on the back of the photostat copy of the petition in possession of The Bucks County Historical Society. The word, however, is quite legible in the manuscript itself as “Aberystwith,” with an old-style script “w” and an undotted “i.” Nearly all the petitioners were Welshmen and naturally they chose for their prospective township a good old Welsh name. Aberystwith is a town in Cardiganshire, South Wales, at the mouth of the river Ystwith on the Irish Sea and was once a great resort with an agreeable bathing place. Today Aberystwith may be considered a word too formidable as a name for a township, yet one cannot help regretting that Bucks is alone among the three original counties in which there survives not a single Welsh place name to remind us of a hardy and adventurous race of early settlers who helped found two large and populous townships, Hilltown and New Britain. It will be noticed in the petition just cited two dates are named, 1722 and 1723. It may be that 1722 is correct, because it appears that in August of that year another petition to the Court for a township was presented, in which the names “Society” and “Muscamickan” are protested. What action gave rise to the suggestion of these names is not known. The objection to the name Society can be understood because the lands of the Free Society of Traders were located mainly in what are now New Britain and Doylestown. The word Muscamickan is mysterious, as it appears for the first and only time in this document.

Most of Hilltown Township lies on a broad ridge with an elevation of 500 to 800 feet, affording magnificent panoramic views of the lower country, especially to the south and east. It would be convenient to accept the popular and seemingly natural notion that the township’s name was suggested by its hills. However, for at least its first thirty years its name was not Hilltown, but Hilton Township.2 Its present name seems to be a misspelling or an adaptation of its first name, the origin of which has not been determined. In a few old documents it is called “Hill Township.” Hilltown was settled first by Welsh immigrants, the Germans coming into the township at a later period. One of the earliest was Rev. William Thomas, born in 1678 in Llanwenarth, Monmouthshire, Wales, who arrived with his wife and son in Philadelphia February 14, 1712, and located for the time being in Radnor Township, now in Delaware County. On February 18, 1718, he bought 440 acres of land in Hilltown and probably settled there soon afterward. He subsequently increased his real estate holdings to 1,258 acres. He founded the Hilltown Baptist Church in 1737, and, upon a lot which he presented to the congregation, with his own hands he erected the first building of stone and logs, laboring among his people for forty years as their pioneer pastor. The first church was demolished in 1771, when a larger structure was built. The present brick church was erected in 1858. Another eminent pastor of this church was Rev. Joseph Mathias. Both the Thomas and Mathias families were large and influential and their descendants are numerous throughout the country. The Evans, Owen, James and Griffith families were also early settlers.


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

  1. Davis, Vol. I, P. 349. []
  2. In his return of a survey of a 1000-acre tract for James Logan, dated 10th day of 3 mo. 1714, Deputy Surveyor John Cutler locates the land in “Hilton Township.” Likewise, sixteen years later, April, 1730, Surveyor John Chapman, in his return of survey of William Allen’s great tract of 6,534 acres “in the right of Springett Penn,” locates it “near the mannor of Perkesy, scituate in the Township of Hilton.” Originals of both returns are on file in the Land Office Bureau at Harrisburg. Surveyors Cutler and Chapman, as intelligent men with an intimate acquaintance with the county, must have known the correct names of districts in which they made surveys. It is curious to note that it was called a “township” in these official surveys at least eight years before its alleged formal organization as such. “Ton” is Saxon or Celtic for “town.” []

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