As we said in our last blog installment on the 200-year history of Hargrave House, the new county seat took its place at the crossroads in 1813. In January of that year, William Magill sold a portion of his property – Lot E – to David Carr Jr. The transaction was for $310. That lot was a quarter of an acre of land and part of the original Magill farm. Our historical research determined that Carr built the stone house that now hosts our bed and breakfast. After it was completed, he sold the building and property, unlikely that he had ever lived in the house.
The three-story structure was built in the Georgian style of colonial homes. The building was a simple box with side gables and windows in strict symmetry along with a center door – common at the time. Double-hung windows on the first and third floor had 6-over-6 panes, while the arrangement of the second-floor window panes were 9 over 6. As was typical, the upper windows touched the cornice. The roof was a hand-split, pine shingle roof, and the thick, stone walls were covered with stucco. Later additions included a small porch roof along the entire front of the house and a two-story wood frame rear addition. In the early part of the 20th century, the wooden shingled roof was covered with standing seam tin. (Town officials encouraged this action among homeowners after a 1914 fire storm caused several homes to burn.)
Archibald Crawford owned the large parcel of land around the crossroads for about 15 years. Around 1768, he sold a 10-acre parcel to brothers Robert and Henry Magill, recent Scot-Irish immigrants.
The Magill brothers operated a mercantile business at the southwest corner of the crossroads opposite Doyle’s Tavern. In 1776, Henry retired and moved to a farm in Bedminster. He transferred his ownership of the land to his brother, who became sole owner of this parcel.
In 1782, Robert died without a will, leaving behind a wife and one child, William Magill. Young William was only 7 years old when his father died, but his father had requested that his only son be educated and apprenticed to a trade. William apprenticed as a clockmaker and followed that trade for many years, manufacturing large, old-fashioned clocks. He spent his boyhood living with his mother and her new husband, Jacob Troxel, by the crossroads. His education was provided by itinerant schoolmasters and local teachers. As he grew into a young man, he operated his mother’s hotel, The Mansion House, at what would later be State and Main Streets (where Paper Unicorn is today).
William married, had five children, and enlisted in the military service during the War of 1812. He became a captain in a unit known as the Buck County Rangers. He continued as an officer in the militia until his death.
The little crossroads was beginning to grow into a small village. The first stagecoach route between Philadelphia and Easton was established, running directly through the village. The 62-mile trip took 1½ days. In 1813, the county seat was moved from Newtown to the crossroads.
Three streets in the new village were named for the members of the Magill family: Mary Street, Louisa Street and Arabella Street. (Arabella Street eventually became most of what Hamilton Street is now, with the remaining portion becoming Arabella Alley. That’s the current entrance to Hargrave House’s parking lot.) William Magill died in 1824. He had no will.
So after Jeremiah Langhorne died, the executors sold 172 acres of land and 141 perches (which amounts to a little less than an acre in today’s property measurements) to a man named William Scott. Later in the same year, 1753, Scott sold the parcel of land to Archibald Crawford of Warwick Township. The purchase price is not known. Hargrave House now stands on a portion of that land.
As an aside, other owners of large tracts of land around the crossroads that now make up the heart of Doylestown were Joseph Kirkbride, Robert Scott, Edward and William Doyle, Isabella Crawford, and the Flacks.
Like his father, Edward, William Doyle was a tavern keeper. At the time, he went to the county seat – then in Newtown – to petition for a license to allow him to keep a public house. Records indicate he had the recommendations of 14 of his neighbors and friends. The petition asked that no public house be located within 5 miles of where they lived. The Doyles built an inn at the crossroads in 1745. The crossroads were then named Dyer’s Mill Road (now Main Street), running north and south, and Swedesford-Coryell’s Ferry Road (now State Street), running east and west. The inn and tavern was known as Doyle’s Tavern and is where Starbucks is located today.
The family ran the tavern for 30 years before moving to New York state. The country crossroads was called Doylestown in honor of the early pioneer Doyle family.
It’s only a few weeks until summer vacation starts, and soon after, you may hear from your bored child, “There’s nothing to do.” Well, we happen to know that’s not true. We’ve got some very talented people in this town, and while work does keep our thriving merchants very busy, there’s always time for a little fun thrown in the mix.
A few of our neighboring business people are involved in Town & Country Players, a local theater troupe that’s been going strong for 60 years. Aside from their quality productions, the group also plays host to summer theater workshops for youth. Youngsters from ages 8 through 15 can participate in four weekly sessions from July 7 to Aug. 15. Your budding thespian will learn acting, voice, dance and makeup training, culminating in a production on stage. What fun!
Enrollment is open now. The theater is located along Route 263 in Buckingham. And check out the current offering at T&C – “The Girls in the Garden Club.” It looks like a rollicking, good time!
As we said in an earlier blog, William Scott became owner of the land on which Hargrave House was built after prominent legal professional and substantial landholder Jeremiah Langhorne died. As an interesting aside, Langhorne also bequeathed property, a portion of which now lies directly across Main Street from HH, to two slaves he freed, Cudjo and Jo.
Wilma Brown Rezar, noted Doylestown historian, pieced together some information about Cudjo and Jo in her book “Doylestown … and How it Came to Be.” In handwritten notes documenting research for her book, she surmised that Langhorne possibly tried to prepare Cudjo and Jo for their roles as landowners by having them remain on the Langhorne Park Plantation and share in its profits. Langhorne gave them 10 cows, eight horses, 20 sheep and all of his farming implements, with instructions to limit the amount of grain sowed, except in a tract of 10 acres. That could be used to plant buckwheat and Indian corn yearly. Out of the profits, they were to support the women and children of the plantation and pay 30 pounds annually in rent to the estate executors.
Life as free men and on their own lands began on March 25, 1751. It is not know where Cudjo lived, but, according to Rezar, it seems likely it would be near the crossings of “the two great roads.” Presently, that would be the four corners of State and Main streets in Doylestown. Some of Cudjo’s land bordered on what is now Green Street, as well as Court Street.
Rezar expected that the drastic change of living – spending most of his life on a well-established plantation with other like-families to suddenly becoming isolated in a vast, underdeveloped area – may have been too much for Cudjo to handle.
On Aug. 5, 1791, five months after leaving the plantation, Cudjo gave up the “lifetime rights” to his new land for a “consideration,” or “value received” to the Langhorne executors.
No other information had been uncovered about Cudjo’s whereabouts after that. “Perhaps he returned to the place he knew best – to help the now independent families on the plantation grounds – or possibly he lived with Jo,” she said in her notes.
“It would be nice to know what happened to Cudjo and Jo (and their descendants,” Rezar added in a footnote. “They played such an important part in our history.”
We’ve been fortunate to be part of a lively, cultural community here in Doylestown. There are so many creative, talented folks here – practicing their crafts and running businesses that are unique to the borough. You’ll get a chance to see some of their talents close up during Doylestown Art Days.
More than 60 merchants and organizations will be paired with a variety of artists to show off their skills in photography, painting, music, dance and more. In fact, Hargrave House will display a collection of works from the late noted Doylestown artist David Frame. To see a list of all the participants, visit the Doylestown Art Days website.
The event runs June 5 through June 8 from noon to 6 p.m. daily. It’s sponsored by Discover Doylestown. Some special events are planned, so check the website as the weekend progresses. Plan to stop by HH and see some of the artwork we’re so proud to display!
Jeremiah Langhorne (1680-1742) was one of the earliest settlers and largest landowners in Bucks County. He was a lawyer, or esquire, and held many legal positions in his life. He served as a justice of the peace from 1715-1719, president of the provincial council, and justice of the Supreme Court from 1726-1739. He served as chief justice from 1739 until his death.
As we said in an earlier entry on Hargrave House’s history, Langhorne was a major landholder in central Bucks County.
He also established a manor, or plantation, with many slaves in what is now Bensalem, lower Bucks County. Langhorne purchased two parcels of land totaling 7,200 acres – 5,200 acres sold for the equivalent of almost $4,700 and the remaining 2,000-acre parcel sold for $1,300. Portions of those two sites make up what is Doylestown Borough today.
William Scott became owner to land that Hargrave House sits on now, following Langhorne’s death. But land across the street from our house was bequeathed to two of Langhorne’s slaves, Cudjo and Jo. We’ll talk more about that unusual transaction at that time in history in an upcoming installment on our blog.
Looking for some family fun this weekend? Look no further than Delaware Valley College just outside of town as they head into their 65th annual A-Day.
What started in 1949 as a one-day Activities Day has expanded into a three-day agricultural event that draws thousands of visitors throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. The kids will get a kick out of the tractor parade or milking demonstration. Mom and Dad might learn some gardening or bee-keeping tips. And the livestock and horse competitions are always crowd-pleasers.
Hours are noon to 8 p.m. Friday, April 25; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 26; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, April 27. Don’t forget to try one of A-Day’s famous milkshakes before you leave!
Been dying to try some of Domani Star’s famed meatballs? What about that luscious creamy crab soup served piping hot by Pennsylvania Soup & Seafood House? Here’s your chance. Both are among the more than 20 restaurants participating in the second annual Doylestown Restaurant Week April 21-27.
Special menu options will be showcased, along with the restaurant’s normal culinary fare. You can get a preview of some of the offerings April 17 when Discover Doylestown will hold its brand launch party at The Standard Club.
Our town has so many options when it comes to dining out. From casual to more formal, BYOB places, al fresco dining, and a multitude of ethnic eateries – there’s bound to be something for anyone’s taste!
There is plenty of history behind what is now Hargrave House. And it began with William Penn, who asked England’s King Charles II for land in America as payment for a debt owed to his deceased father. The king granted him 40,000 acres in 1681, which eventually became known as Pennsylvania.
Eleven years later, Penn sailed to America and decided, as a way of enticing people to emigrate here, to offer land at a cheap price – 100 pounds ($166 in today’s U.S. dollars) would buy you 5,000 acres. During that trip, he established both Bucks and Philadelphia counties. He also made a treaty with the Lenni Lenape tribe of the Delaware Indians who are also native to our area.
Realizing the massive amount of land he owned was too large to manage alone, Penn sold about 20,000 acres to The Free Society of Traders, a wealthy group of Quaker merchants in England. The Society had offices in Philadelphia too, close to the Delaware River, in an area that later become known as Society Hill.
In 1724, The Society sold large tracts of land to Jeremiah Langhorne. Nearly half of his land was located in what is now Central Bucks County – Doylestown, New Britain and Warwick townships, to be exact. We’ll talk about that a little more in our next blog about Hargrave House’s history.