Langhorne Boro, Bucks County, PA

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The area comprising Langhorne Boro was known in colonial times, first as "Four Lanes End," and subsequently, Attlebury or Attleborough.

In an April 1882 talk given at a Bucks County Historical Society meeting (held in Langhorne), General Davis (while diplomatically giving due to the Boro's namesake, Jeremiah Langhorne as '... probably the most distinguished man of Bucks County of his period ...') nonetheless laments the name change from Attleborough to Langhorne in his closing, suggesting that had the Historical Society had any say in the matter, "... it would be known as Attleborough while 'water runs and grass grows.'"

Text, below, was adapted from the 1908 publication/collection of talks given at Bucks Historic Society meetings.

About Attleborough [1]

By General W. W. H. Davis (at a Langhorne Meeting of the Bucks County Historic Society, April 18, 1882)

Those who will take the trouble to investigate the history of the settlement of Bucks county, will find that the organization of townships took place by groups. The first of these groups was organized in 1692. The first legal steps taken for this purpose was in 1692, and two years afterward Makefield, Falls, Bristol under the name of "Buckingham," Middletown, Newtown and Wrightstown as one, Bensalem under the name of "Salem," and Southampton and Warminster as one, were declared by the court to be organized townships, and the machinery of local self-government was put into operation.

In the report of the jury in favor of the organization of this group of townships Middletown is denominated "the middle township," that is, midway between Bristol and Newtown, but it was frequently called "Middle Lots" down to 1703, and "Middle Township" as late as 1724. Gradually it came to be called by the name it now bears.

In this brief paper it is not my purpose to give more than a glance at the settlement of Middletown. A few of the original settlers came in the Welcome, among which was Nicholas Walne, of Yorkshire, who took up a large tract between Attleborough and the Neshaminy. The land was generally taken up (in large tracts) in 1684. Nicholas Walne, probably a grandson of the first settler, studied law at the Temple, returned and practiced seven years in this county and elsewhere. It is stated of him by Janney, that after he had been engaged in the trial of a real-estate case at Newtown, Mr. Walne was asked by a friend, on his return to the city, how it was decided. He replied, "I did the best I could for my client; gained the case for him, and thereby defrauded an honest man of his dues." He now relinquished the practice of the law as inconsistent with the principles of Christianity, settled his business, and became a minister among Friends. Among others, who were original, or, early settlers in Middletown, I may mention Richard Amer, Henry Paxson, James, Richard Davis, John Scarborough, Thomas Stackhouse, Robert Hall, Robert Heaton, who built the first mill in the township, John Eastburn, Isaiah Watson, et al. Among the prominent settlers who came into the township at this period, was, Thomas Langhorne, a minister among Friends, from Westmoreland. He died in 1687, leaving a son, Jeremiah, who became a distinguished man.

My purpose is to treat of Attleborough, now known as Langhorne, where we are assembled. William Huddleson was an early settler at this point, as were also Abraham and Christian Vanhorne, Hollanders. Joseph Richardson settled at Attleborough about 1730, and six years afterward he bought out the Vanhornes. He married a daughter of William Paxson in 1732, and was the great-grandfather of the late Joshua Richardson. Attleborough, built at the intersection of the Durham and Trenton and Philadelphia roads, became an important point in the lower section of the county at an early day. These highways were great arteries of travel between the tide-water on the Delaware and the Lehigh, and the Falls and Philadelphia. It was called "Four Lanes End," because the village was situated at the crossing of the roads mentioned, for a number of years, and some are yet living who remember when the present Langhorne was not designated. When the late name, "Attleborough," was first given it is not known. In all old documents, where the name is met with, it is written "Attlebury," which we believe to be the correct spelling, and was afterwards corrupted into "Attleborough." About 1730-35, Joseph Richardson opened a store in the west end of the building: now the tavern, then a small hipped-roof brick and stone house, which he kept until 1738, when he erected the dwelling on the southwest corner where Joshua Richardson lived and died. It was a fine and costly house for its day. It is related, that while building it, he took a friend to see it, who was about going away without saying anything, when Mr. R. ventured to remark: "Thee does not say what thee thinks about it," to which the friend replied: "All I have to say is, take thee care thee does not get to the bottom of thy purse before thee gets to the top of thy house." The brick house on the southeast corner was built by Gilbert Hicks in 1763. After his treason and flight it was confiscated and sold. During the Revolution it was used as a hospital and about one hundred and fifty dead bodies were buried in the lot close by, then a common. When Lafayette came up through the county, in the fall of 1777, from Bristol on his way to Bethlehem, to be treated for the wound received at Brandywine, he staid over night in the Richardson house. When the British drove Washington's army from New Jersey, in December, 1776, the Legislature of the State left with it, and it was summoned to meet at "Four Lanes End," the last Thursday in December, "to take action on the future." John Fitch, who has the honor of having floated the first boat propelled by steam, left Trenton with the army and came into Bucks county and found an abiding place at the house of John Mitchell, Attleborough, and afterward went to Charles Garrison's, in Warminster, half a mile west of Davisville. In 1783, a tract, on the eastern side of the village to be called "Washington Square," was laid off in building lots, one hundred in all, and streets projected through it. Lots were donated to the denominations of Baptists, Episcopalian and Presbyterian. Among the streets marked on the draft are Lamb, Montgomery, Macpherson, Mac-Dougall, after officers in the Revolutionary army, and Willett. The hopes of the projectors were not realized. The old "Attleborough High School," afterward known as Bellevue Institute, originated in what was known as the "Middletown Boarding School Association." The first meeting was held July 10th, 1834, when steps were taken toward the erection of a suitable building. The Legislature incorporated the school in 1835, but the effort to get an appropriation from the State failed. The school was known as "Attleborough Academy," prior to 1862, although the name of "Minerva Seminary" was born on the books. The name of Bellevue Institute was given to it in 1862, after it had been sold by the sheriff, and passed into new hands. The erection of the school buildings was mainly through the efforts of Mr. Arnold Myers, a scholarly and cultivated man from London, who bought the Simon Gillam farm and settled there in 1825. He was for a long time engaged in mercantile pursuits at Naples and Trieste, and was married at Antwerp. He was the father of Leonard Myers, several years a member of Congress from Philadelphia. Among the prominent men who were in part educated at Attleborough, in the "Academy," or "High School," may be mentioned ex-Speaker Randall, William B. Mann, John Price Wetherill and Dr. Samuel Wetherill all of Philadelphia. A post-office was established in 1805, and Robert Croasdale appointed postmaster.

I have elsewhere mentioned Jeremiah Langhorne. He was probably the most distinguished man of Bucks County of his period. Like his father before him he became a large landowner. His homestead on the Durham road, below Attleborough, containing eight hundred acres, was known in his day as "Langhorne Park," and the remains of it still bear this name. Langhorne owned two thousand acres in Warwick and New Britain, which he purchased of the Free Society of Traders; two thousand acres in Perkasie Manor, and a large tract on the Monockasy, now in Lehigh, but then in Bucks county; he was also one of the founders of the Durham Iron Co. His tract in Warwick and New Britain covered the site of Doylestown. In his will, made May 16th, 1742, he made liberal provision for his negroes of whom he owned a number. Joe, Cudjo and London were to live at the park and the two former had a life estate in lands now that part of Doylestown, east of State street. The Langhorne mansion, a quaint building, has long since gone to that "undiscovered country," where old houses and other worn-out possessions find a final resting place.

The policy of changing the name of this beautiful village, from the one it had borne through its youth and early manhood, is very questionable, and had the matter been within our control it would be known as Attleborough while "water runs and grass grows." It is not a very euphonious name, but has the aroma of the past upon it. The only thing to be said in behalf of the name, Langhorne, is that it is that of an early settler, and thus connects the place with the past.

  1. Hon, Harman Yerkes, Henry C. Mercer, Warren S. Ely, Miss Agnes B. Williams, Clarence D. Hotchkiss, B.F. Fackenthal, Jr., editors, A Collection of Papers Read Before The Bucks County Historical Society: Volume 1, published for the Society by B.F. Fackenthal, Jr., Riegelsville, PA 1908

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