Jericho Mountain in Pennsylvania

How did Jericho Mountain in Pennsylvania get its name? This page provides a brief history about Jericho Mountain in Pennsylvania, the people who settled on it, and the industry rising around it.

An historic crescent-shaped ridge in northwestern Upper Makefield Township, beginning near Bowmans Hill and the Delaware River and curving around about six miles towards Pineville. It formed the northwestern boundary of the Manor of Highlands, and when William Penn became Proprietary of Pennsylvania, it was the northern limit of settled Bucks County. In the Markham survey of 1682, it is mentioned as the mountain “at the foot of the mountains.” General Davis, writing in 1876, says a century ago it was called Great Hills, but he gives no authority and it has not been possible to verify the statement. It cannot be said with certainty how the mountain came by its present name. “No one seems to know how this curiously curved ridge came to be called Jericho, but it was so named long before the Revolution, for old histories speak of Washington having his headquarters in a house (Keith House) still occupied on the southern foot of Jericho Hill (prior to the Battle of Trenton, December 26, 1776). All around Jericho Mountain Orchards are old stone houses embowered in giant maples or peeping out from plantations of ancient, mossy apple trees, which were the headquarters of his (Washington’s) generals. Here lived for weeks Sullivan, Greene, Knox, Hamilton, Fermoy, and others of that devoted and brilliant galaxy. In the old Merrick House, they all gathered for final consultation on the night before crossing the Delaware and the descent on the Hessians. The outcome of that council on ‘the southern foot of Jericho’ decided the fate of America.”

It can be surmised, of course, that the mountain was named for the “divine district” of Jericho, the most luxuriant spot in Palestine. Again, it was a seventeenth-century slang phrase to bid a man to “go to Jericho,” the farthest point away, and so it is conjectured by one who has studied the subject that to call the most distant known northern boundary of his territory “Jericho,” as the word was colloquially used in William Penn’s time, was an easy witticism for the Proprietary. This seems to exhaust the evidence as to the origin of the name, and it is admitted that all told it is not very impressive. Towards the close of the Revolutionary War, Jericho Mountain became a hideout for some of the outlaws who cooperated with the Doans, and one of them, who was hanged at Newtown, was buried there. In the autumn of 1894, a priory of the Community of Saint Benedict was established on the summit by five monks. The Community had just been instituted by Bishop Potter in St. Chrysostom’s Chapel, Trinity Church, New York. The monks built a long one-story frame structure surmounted by a cross, containing sleeping cells, a refectory, and a small chapel. The building was occupied for only a few months but was a landmark on the mountain for several years. Not far from the priory was a schoolhouse on the Stephen Betts farm. This was abandoned in 1835. For a number of years, a distillery was operated on the mountain, and the building is said to be still standing.

In this connection, it may be interesting to note the following inscription on a large photograph of “Jericho,” the ancestral Slack mansion at the foot of Jericho Mountain, presented to The Bucks County Historical Society in 1958 by the late Albert E. Slack:

‘Twas up among the farmers,
In the land of Jericho;
Here once came Father Washington
Bowed down with care and woe.

He brought us down to Trenton
In time for Christmas lunch,
And with some Poles and Irish
We surely “beat the Dutch.”

For further education
To Princeton we were sent,
And after graduation there,
Our steps to Yorktown bent.

There we met a lot of Frenchmen
And learned to “Parlee Vous,”
And with the French and Irish
We beat Cornwallis, too.

Now, glory to the Lord of Hosts
From whom all glories flow,
And to His servant Washington,
And the men of Jericho!

Albert E. Slack, “Jericho,” 1938


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

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