The Tale of Freed Slaves Cudjo and Jo

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.”

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Plan a Visit to Doylestown Art Days

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!

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Hargrave House Land Part of Jeremiah Langhorne Property

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.

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Ponies and Chickens and Sheep – Oh, My!

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!

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Burgers to Filet – Discover Doylestown Restaurants

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!

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William Penn and His Land

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.

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Howdy, Pardner!

We have so many wonderful little shops around town – anything you can imagine, really. And we’ve got one as a new neighbor, right around the corner from us, to which we’d like to extend a heartfelt welcome. Cowgirl Chile Co. Jewelry just relocated to 4 W. Oakland Ave. Laura Rutkowski handcrafts her own designs of jewelry, but you’ll also find an eclectic mix of women’s accessories, vintage items, artwork, hot sauces and lots of other cool stuff. Stop by their grand reopening this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for some goodie bags and live music. Your own zest for life may just mirror the boutique’s own celebration of cowgirl spirit.

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Researching Our Past

Doylestown is a treasure box filled with all kinds of interesting historical nuggets. We stumble on them now and again as we look into Hargrave House’s past and celebrate its 200th year at what is now 50 S. Main St.

J. Kurt Spence of Doylestown Historical Society pieced together our 200-year history through various sources. It’s much like detective work. One lead points the way to another. Property deeds, found in the Bucks County Courthouse, show land transfers, with some going back to the late 1700s. The records give the names and addresses of the buyers and sellers, description of the property and the purchase price. Sometimes maps were even attached.

Federal census information – gathered every 10 years since 1790 – is also culled. Where you were born, if you immigrated to the United States, when you were married, your occupation and your approximate personal worth were all recorded. (One of those curious historical tidbits from the 1930 census even notes whether a resident owned a radio!)

Other particulars came from old maps, tax records, newspapers, books, local publications, and, yes, the Internet also was used as a research tool.

Spence also credited the late Wilma Brown Rezer, an avid Doylestown historian, for providing firm groundwork in researching early Doylestown land transfers and history.

In the upcoming months, we’ll let you in on some more HH history – who some of its owners were, problems with a property line and renovations along the way. It’s a fascinating trip through time.

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Celebrating 200 Years of History in Doylestown

This year is an important year in Hargrave House’s history. We’re celebrating the building’s 200th anniversary!

According to historical research, the three-story stone building was erected sometime between 1812 and 1814. The house itself has had several owners with varied professions during that time period, including a doctor, a Bucks County judge, a family whose young son would grow up to be a noted Doylestown reporter, and a successful marble carver whose surname has graced the building in its most recent existence as a flourishing bed and breakfast.

Join us over the course of 2014 as we share some of what we’ve learned of our past and what that means to our future in Doylestown. We’re looking forward to having you celebrate with us!

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Only a Few Weeks Left to Enjoy Grace Kelly Exhibit

The holidays are past us. Perhaps you’ve just put away the last of the Christmas decorations. Time to settle in to what could be a few long and cold winter months. (We don’t even want to HEAR an utterance of the recent polar vortex weather oddity!) A good way to chase away those winter blues would be a visit to Michener Museum’s exhibit on actress-princess Grace Kelly. If you haven’t yet gone, you better hurry. The exhibit closes Jan. 26. Step through a portion of her world via film clips from some of her best onscreen roles, home movies from her growing-up years in Philadelphia and, of course, those spectacular designer gowns she wore. (Don’t we all wish for a 21-inch waist?) Call ahead for tickets.

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