Yardley Borough municipal offices are located at 56 South Main Street, Yardley PA 19067; phone: 215-493-6865.
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Thomas Yardley, the nephew of William who settled with his family in Lower Makefield Township in 1682, arrived in Pennsylvania in 1704 with the power of attorney to settle the family estate. Uncle William and his family had died in a smallpox epidemic in 1702-03. In 1706, Thomas married Ann Biles at Pennsbury Manor; they would have ten children.
In 1710, Joseph Hanney, acting for Thomas, bought "Prospect Farm," the family estate on Dolington Road; the property was immediately conveyed to Thomas. In 1726, he purchased an additional 500 acres from Thomas Lambert; the property included "a grist mill, mill pond, mill races, mill stones and edifices." Lambert had acquired the parcel in 1713 from Ralph Brock who in 1704 inherited his father John's property. Water for the mill was supplied from Lake Afton.
In 1722, the Pennsylvania Assembly passed an act "to erect and establish a ferry on the lands of Thomas Yardley ... for the better accommodations of passengers traveling in this province." It is probable that Thomas was already operating a ferry. The statute, however, set rates: "For every horse and rider, seven pence, and when a greater number shall be carried together, six pence ... For every single person on foot, three pence ... For every ox, cow, or heifer, nine pence." The statute also provided separate rates for sheep, hogs, sleds and loaded or empty wagons.
A five pound fine was specified for violations of the law - "if the said Thomas Yardley ... shall not maintain and keep such a sufficient boat, as aforesaid, with sufficient and able hands; or shall not be given constant and due attendance on the service of said ferry; or shall demand any greater, or other fees ..." The ferry license was for a term of 14 years and prohibited operating a ferry "within a space of two miles either above or below." Although the exact location of the ferry site has not been determined, it is believed to be south of Afton Avenue between Ferry Street and Letchworth Avenue. It is also probable that the actual landing may have occurred at various points along the river due to currents and other conditions. At some time a ferry house and tavern were constructed.
Thomas Yardley was a good businessman who could "appreciate the industrial values of the waterworks and mills on Brock Creek." He expanded the Yardley grist mill and established a saw mill. In 1733 he also acquired 600 acres in Newtown and the Heath mills, erected in Solebury in 1707. About 1728 he began the construction of "Lakeside," adjacent to the Yardley Mills.
Like his uncle William, Thomas was active in the provincial assembly and was a justice in the Bucks County Court. On his death in 1756, his property was divided among his children. William, who married twice, Ann Budd and Sarah Kirkbride, and had 12 children, received the Prospect Farm property outside of town. He died in 1774. Samuel received the land and mills in Solebury. Thomas, who was married to Mary Field, inherited the Lambert lands including the mills and "Lakeside;" the other children received land and cash.
Thomas Yardley's will also made provisions for his slaves. "Items I give and dispose of my Negroes in manner following" William was given Tom and Charles; Thomas was given Isaac and Jem; Samuel was given Dan, Bob, and Jo; Sarah was given "the Girl Nancy." Thomas was to keep "old Nancy and Flora so long as old Nancy shall live and after old Nancy's death then Flora to have her choice to live with either my son William or Thomas or Samuel and there to live and remain until she shall arrive at the age of 35 years and then to be set free and at liberty."
In 1769, young Thomas rebuilt and expanded the grist mill which he operated until 1795. Since he and Mary did not have children, they began to sell off property. The mills and 410 acres were sold to Cornelius Vansant. The deed reads: "... unto Cornelius Vansant ... All that Mansion House ... which the said Thomas Yardley and his wife have heretofore lived and the water grist and saw mill and the following described tract of land ... together also with the full and free liberty and privilege of rafting and boating, importing and exporting in the said river onto and off of the other lands of the said Thomas Yardley below the mouth of said creek all such mills forever and so as not to injure the said Thomas Yardley his heirs of assigns in the same kind of business and ferrying."
In 1800 Thomas sold a 25 acre "ferry" tract, including a tavern and ferry house, to Joseph and George Green. Joseph petitioned the Court of Quarter Session: "That your Petitioner ... purchased of Thos. Yardley his tavern at the riverside known by the name of Yardley Ferry for the purpose of continuing said tavern and ferry with the courts permission and as this house has been for several years licensed he prays the court for their recommendation so that he may obtain a license to open and keep there a tavern according to law."
Thomas sold another 18 acres above the ferry tract to John Stapler, yeoman of Lower Makefield. This property was soon bought by Elijah Leedom and his wife, Lucy, of Lower Makefield who sold it to Cornelius Vansant in 1805. For ten years Vansant had been busy buying up much of the real estate in what would become Yardley Borough. In several instances he built homes and then sold the parcel. Along the river he constructed a large, stone Federal mansion known as "Lanrick Manor" where he lived until 1810 when the property was sold to George Green.
Thomas Yardley died in 1803. His mills, tavern, and ferry were the beginnings of the village of Yardleyville. In 1721 a road had been established from Yardley's Ferry to Four Lanes End (Langhorne). In 1734, there was a road from Yardley's Ferry to Newtown; in 1744 a road from Kirkbride's Ferry below the Falls, along the river to the "great road above Thomas Yardley's" and in 1752 a road from Falls Meeting to Yardley's Ferry.
Davis, in his "History of Bucks County," wrote: "Yardleyville began to develop into what Americans call a village about 1807. An old map of the place of that date shows a number of building lots, and streets laid out above the mouth of the creek, and running back from the river, and on the south side were several lots at the intersection of the Newtown and Upper River roads. The only buildings there were the old tavern near the river bank, and the dwellings of Brown, Pidcock, Eastburn, and Depue ... the first store house was built by the widow of Thomas Yardley. An old tavern stood at this side of the ferry, kept by John Jones, and subsequently, Benjamin Fleming."
When the ferry was moved to what would be Bridge Street (later East Afton Avenue), a tavern (later the White Swan and Yardley Inn) was built by one called Grear. In 1835, a covered bridge replaced the ferry. "Lakeside" and mills were subsequently owned by Richard Mitchell, Atlee, Mahlon Dungan and William Yardley.