The early history of Lower Makefield [†] sets the foundation for present-day development patterns. Although understanding this early history plays a lesser role in setting future planning policies, this history is incorporated into the master plan because of its interest to residents and because of the renewed interest in township history in the wake of the Tercentennial commemorated in 1992. The history and development of the early villages should be understood because of their role in determining development patterns and the stated township desire to preserve village character.
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Many of the names of the earliest settlers have been perpetuated in the names of places, creeks, roads, villages, and well-known buildings. Tradition states that the name "Makefield" was chosen by Richard Hough, a provincial councilor, and may have been a corruption of Macclesfield, his English home in Cheshire, England.
Much history predates the founding of the township. Henry Hudson, sailing for the Dutch, discovered the Delaware River in 1609. Dutch settlers established a trading post in 1625, and the Swedes made settlements as early as 1638. In 1664, King Charles II of England granted to his brother, the Duke of York, all the lands from the St. Croix River to the Delaware. Shortly thereafter, the English exercised sovereignty along the Atlantic coast from Maine to Georgia. English settlers arrived along the Delaware as early as 1677.
William Penn, son of Admiral Sir William Penn of the Royal Navy, became persuaded to Quaker beliefs while attending Oxford and was expelled because of it. William Penn suffered the same persecutions visited on all Quakers in England. When Penn's father died, the British government owed the estate the sum of £16,000. In 1680 William Penn petitioned King Charles II for land in America in lieu of money and on March 4, 1681, was granted letters patent to the land that was to become Pennsylvania and a refuge for Quakers. William Penn appointed his cousin, William Markham, Deputy Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Province. Markham proceeded to America to carry out Penn's instructions to select a site for the government and get it organized. Penn's constitution provided for a Council and Assembly to be elected by the freeman of the Province.
In September 1682 William Penn sailed for Pennsylvania in the ship Welcome, arriving in Newcastle on the 27th of October. In 1683 the land along the Delaware was divided into three counties: Chester, Philadelphia, and Buckingham, subsequently shortened to Bucks. During the year 1682, 23 ships arrived followed by more than 50 ships the next year. During the first decade not only English Quakers arrived but also Germans, Welsh, and Scotch-Irish.
Those immigrants settling in what is now Lower Makefield were principally from England. In 1681 Thomas Holme began his survey of the lands on the west bank of the Delaware, and his map of the region was published in London in 1687. Not all the people named on the area of the map covering Lower Makefield actually settled here. Those who settled in Lower Makefield were: William Yardley, George Pownall, George Stone, John Clowes, John Brock, Thomas Janney, Richard Hough, Joshua Hoops, John Palmer, Andrew Elliot, William Beakes, Samuel Dark, William Venables, and John Luffe.
In 1690, The Provincial Council authorized magistrates in the counties to appoint grand juries for the purpose of dividing the counties into townships. Bucks County did not act until September 1692 when the court appointed a jury. Upon the recommendations of this jury, five townships were established: Makefield, Falls, Middletown, Bristol and Bensalem. Bristol was the county seat. Based on a 1693 tax list, Lower Makefield may have had a population estimated at about 100 persons.
Several of the early settlers left an imprint on the area. William Yardley belonged to an ancient landed family in Staffordshire. He settled on a tract of land now located on Dolington Road. He and all his family were stricken with smallpox and died in 1702. His nephew, Thomas Yardley, came over to settle the estate and decided to stay. He is the ancestor of most of the Yardleys living here today. Thomas Yardley acquired all the riverfront land from Dolington Road to the present borough line, which became the foundation of the family's success. Thomas Yardley built the mansion house on North Main Street known as Lakeside in 1728 and established the ferry across the Delaware. The present borough bears the family name.
John Brock came from Bramhall in Cheshire and settled along the creek that bears his name. He built a gristmill and a sawmill and the mill pond known as Lake Afton. His son, Ralph Brock, sold out to John Lambert in 1713 and his son, Thomas Lambert, sold out to Thomas Yardley in 1732. The present mill building was built by Thomas Yardley, Jr. in 1769.
Thomas Janney had a large grant of land extending from the Delaware River into Newtown. His mill pond can be seen on Core Creek where it crosses Route 332. He gave the first section of the Slate Hill Cemetery to the Falls meeting in 1690 and his son, Abel Janney, gave the second section in I 721. The cemetery was deeded to the township in 1990.
Richard Hough came from Macclesfield and tradition states that he gave the Township of Makefield its name. He served in both the Provincial Council and Assembly. His stone house, although altered and enlarged, still stands on Moyer Road and was in the Hough family until about 1850.
John Palmer came from Yorkshire and settled in the west central part of the township. His descendants acquired a large amount of acreage on both sides of Stony Hill Road and owned property in the township in the early twentieth century. The house, now known as "Journey's End," may contain traces of the original Palmer house built in 1682. There are five other houses in adjacent areas that formerly belonged to members of the Palmer family.
In the 18th century Makefield was essentially devoted to farming. Forty-five years after its founding, the upper portion of the township was split off in 1737 to form Upper Makefield, and the original township became known as Lower Makefield. A census taken in 1784 showed the township had a population of 748 persons with 101 dwellings; and at the time of the U.S. House tax collection in 1798, there were 137 dwellings. By 1810 the population had grown to 1,089 persons, representing about tenfold growth since 1693.
In 1774 the first public school in Bucks County was built by public subscription. It was situated in the southwestern part of the township on Oxford Road and was intended to serve pupils from Falls, Middletown, and Lower Makefield. The building was the first octagonal school house in America and was one story with 480 square feet of floor space. The ruins of the building still remain.
In the early part of the 19th century two villages sprang up in the township. In 1807 a plan was drawn up for Yardleyville, the site of the grist and saw mills and the ferry to New Jersey. From Yardleyville the Great Road to Philadelphia, now the Langhorne Road, ran southwest through the township.
Where it intersected the Newtown-Fallsington Road, now Stony Hill Road, the second village developed. The house on the northwest comer built in 1800 by Jesse Palmer and known as Biles Comer for its first owner, Dr. Thomas K. Biles: still stands. On the northeast corner, the blacksmith, Thomas Stradling, had built a house and shop about 1787. The stone house still standing on the southwest comer was built by James Gilkyson about 1810. The vacant lot on the southeast corner was originally the site of a house built in 1798 by Jesse Palmer for Phineas Thackery. At the comer of the Langhorne and Edgewood Roads stands a small house built around 1790by James Doughty, a tailor.
This village was originally called Stradlington and later Summerville. By 1858, the same year it acquired a post office, it was called Edgewood Village, as it is to this day. Most of the other houses in the village were built during the first half of the 19th century. Just to the northeast of the village on the Langhorne Road is the oldest house in the area. The first part of the house was built by Daniel Palmer, Jr., in 1765 and was enlarged by subsequent owners.
During the 19th century Lower Makefield remained largely agricultural with the exception of the village of Yardleyville, which developed as the commercial center in the township. Yardleyville obtained a post office in 1828. In 1831 the Delaware Canal was completed and the village became a transfer point for tons of materials being barged along the canal. The following year the ferry was moved to the foot of Afton Avenue and the White Swan Tavern, now the Yardley Inn,was opened. The ferry was replaced by a bridge in 1835. This was swept away by the great flood of 1841 but was soon rebuilt. During the Civil War the gristmill produced thousands of tons of flour for the Union Army.
The Reading Railroad came to Lower Makefield in 1876 with stops at Stony Hill for Edgewood and Reading Road for Yardleyville. Mark Palmer built a boarding house just north of the Edgewood stop for summer visitors who wished to enjoy the country air. He also provided a boardwalk from the railroad stop to his boarding house, which still stands on Stony Hill Road.
A public library was built beside Lake Afton in 1878. This replaced a reading room above Slack's Store. This library served the area for about 100 years. After a brief occupancy at the municipal building, the library moved to a new library building beside the Lower Makefield Township Building on Edgewood Road.
Yardleyville seceded from Lower Makefield in 1895 and became Yardley Borough. Lower Makefield continued largely agricultural until after World War II. In 1940 the township's population was 1,841 persons, a modest increase from 1,089 persons in 181O. All that changed after World War II, when the township was transformed from essentially agricultural to a suburban community of residential homeowners covering 18 square miles.
‡ Township of Lower Makefield, Comprehensive Master Plan Update, 2003, www.elibrary.pacounties.org, accessed October, 2018.
Nearby Towns: Bristol Twp • Ewing Twp • Falls Twp • Hulmeville Boro • Langhorne Boro • Langhorne Manor Boro • Middletown Twp • Morrisville Boro • Morrisville Boro • Newtown Boro • Penndel Boro • Trenton City • Tullytown Boro • Upper Makefield Twp • Yardley Boro •