Warminster, Pennsylvania

History of
arminster, Pennsylvania

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Warminster History  
Warminster, Pennsylvania - 1857  

Warminster, Wiltshire, England - 1907

From W.W.H. Davis’ History of Bucks County -1876

 Warminster is the twin township of Southampton, of which lies immediately northwest and adjoining. The two elected but one constable and overseer for several years, and they were not entirely separated in their municipal administration until about 1712. On the three other sides it is bounded by Northampton, Warwick, Warrington, and Montgomery County, from which it is separated by public roads. It has the same limits as when originally laid out, with an area of six thousand and ninety-nine acres.

The name is probably a compound of war and minster, both of Saxon origin, the first meaning a fortress, the latter the church of a monastery.

Warminster [Bucks County, Pennsylvania] was one of the earliest townships settled, and judging from Holme's map the greater part of the land was taken up in 1684, generally in large tracts. Some of these land-owners were not actual residents of the township at this time, nor afterward. Of these was John Bush, connected with the early Harts by marriage, who settled in Byberry, where he lived and died. He was the ancestor of all bearing this name in Pennsylvania. He commanded a troop of horse in Cromwell's army, and after the war married Susannah Lucas, of Oxfordshire, in 1648. In 1660 he embraced the principles of the Friends, and in 1682 he immigrated to Pennsylvania with his wife and children. Himself and his whole family became Keithians in 1691, and in 1697 they joined the Baptists. John Rush died in 1699. He owned five hundred acres in Byberry, and the same quantity in Warminster.

John Hart and John Rush were probably neighbors in England, both coming from Oxfordshire, where Mr. Hart was born, at the town of Whitney, November 16th, 1651. Whitney is situated on the Windrush river, five miles above its junction with the Isis, twenty-nine miles from Oxford. There was a town there at the time of the ancient Britains, and the populution is now 3,000. The church dates back to the twelfth century, and is one of the handsomest of its class in England. For several centuries it has been the seat of extensive blanket manufactories. Mr. Hart came to Pennsylvania in the latter part of the summer, or early fall, of 1682, preceding William Penn a couple of months. The 11th of October, 1681, he purchased one thousand acres of the Proprietary for the consideration of 20, and on his arrival he located five hundred acres in Byberry, and the same quantity in Warminster. He settled on the banks of the Poquessing, and in 1683 married Susannah, the daughter of his friend John Rush. Mr. Hart was a distinguished minister among Friends, but went off with George Keith, and subsequently became a Baptist. He preached to a small congregation at John Swift's, in Southampton, where he laid the foundation of the Southampton Baptist church. About 1695, Mr. Hart removed from Byberry to his tract in Warminster between the Bristol and Street roads, adjoining Johnsville, where he lived the rest of his life, and died in 1714. Proud says he was a man "of rank, character, and reputation, and a great preacher." His eldest son, John Hart, married Eleanor Crispin, of Byberry, in 1708. On the maternal side she was a granddaughter of Thomas Holme, surveyor-general of the province, while her paternal grandfather was William Crispin, a captain under Cromwell, an officer of the fleet of Admiral Penn, his brother-in-law, and the first appointed surveyor-general of the province, but did not live to arrive. John Hart's wife was descended, on the maternal side, from a sister of William Penn's mother. John and Eleanor Hart had a family of ten children, whose descendants now number thousands, and are found in all the states south and west of Pennsylvania. Two of their sons reached positions of distinction, Oliver, who studied theology with William Tennent, of Freehold, New Jersey, and became a famous Baptist minister in South Carolina, and Joseph, of Warminster township, a patriot and officer of the Revolutionary army, who filled many important places in civil life. The committee of safety of South Carolina appointed Oliver Hart, in conjunction with Reverend William Tennent, and Honorable William Drayton, to visit the western part of the state, to try and reconcile the inhabitants to the new order of things. A descendant of John Hart, Samuel Preston Moore, of Richmond, Virginia, was surgeon-general of the Confederate army during the late civil war, and his brother, Stephen West Moore, a graduate of West Point, was inspector-general of Louisiana. They were both officers of the United States army before the war. The Hart homestead, in Warminster, remained in the family an hundred and seventy years, descending from father to son. John Hart, the elder, was one of the first men of this state to write and publish a book. While living in Byberry, in 1692, he and Thomas Budd published an "Essay on the subject of oaths." We have never seen a copy of this work, and do not know that one is in existence. The Hart tract is now owned by Thomas L. Wynkoop, Margaret Twining, Charles Kirk, Isaac Hobensack, and others. Bingley's tract lay in the south-east corner of the township, adjoining John Hart, and contained five hundred acres. It probably extended south-west of the Street road.

Bartholomew Longstreth, a Friend, son of Christopher, born in Longstreth Dale, Yorkshire, England, 1679, immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1698.   The first 400 he saved, he lost in a venture to the West Indies. In the course of time he purchased three hundred acres on Edge hill, which he began to improve, but soon sold it, with the intention of returning to England. Changing his mind he purchased five hundred acres of Thomas Fairman, in Warminster, for 175, and came into the township to live in 1710. This tract lay in the square bounded by the Bristol, Street, southern line of township, and the Johnsville roads. He added to his acres until at his death he owned one thousand. He immediately built a log house on his tract. In 1727 he married Ann Dawson, of Hatborough, then the Crooked Billet, and after leading a useful and active life he died suddenly, August 8th, 1749, and was buried at Horsham. His widow married Robert Tompkins, of Warrington, who both ill-used her and wasted her fortune. She died in 1783. Bartholomew Longstreth had eleven children, and at his death left the homestead farm to Daniel, the eldest son living, who was born in 1732. He occupied his father's place in society, and was twice married: to Grace Michener, of Moreland, 5th month, 22d, 1753, who died 4th month, 16th, 1775, and then to Martha Bye, of Buckingham, 2d month, 2d, 1779. He had nine children by his first wife, and died in 1803. His son Joseph, born in 1765, inherited the homestead, but learned the hatting business, which he followed several years at Hatborough. He married Sarah Thomas in 1797, had six children, and died in the house where he was born, in 1840. Daniel, the eldest son of Joseph Longstreth, born in 1800 and died in 1846, was a man of intelligence and culture, and a useful citizen. He was twice married: to Elizabeth Lancaster, of Philadelphia, in 1827, and to Hannah Townsend in 1832, and was the father of nine children. In 1840 he opened a boarding-school in his house at Warminster, which he conducted with success for several years. He devoted considerable of his time to surveying and conveyancing, and died in the home of his ancestors March 30th, 1846. Of his live living children, four, John, Samuel, Edward, and Anna reside in Philadelphia.

The old homestead was owned by five generations of Longstreths, and only passed out of the family a few years ago. The house was built at three different times, the middle part by Bartholomew, in 1713, the east end by his son Daniel, in 1750, and the west end by the same in 1766. It was built by Philadelphia workmen, and when finished was considered the finest house in that section. In 1850 it was sold to Isaac Rush Kirk, and is now owned by his widow.   In 1873 she had the middle and eastern parts taken down, and erected a new dwelling on their site. The Longstreth family retain the metal-moulds in which Bartholomew run his pewter spoons, like other farmers of that day, and have also the iron old John Dawson used to smooth beaver hats. Bartholomew Longstrcth was a man of influence in his generation. He first opened the York road from the Neshaminy down to Hatborongh. The Longstreths owned land in other townships.

The land located by John Rush was probably not confirmed to him, or he may have sold it to Bingley, to whom it was patented, for the tract of the latter covered what is in Rush's name on Holme's map. Henry Comly, who came with wife and son from Bristol, England, in 1682, located five hundred acres in the north-west corner of the township, between the county line and Street road, and adjoining Warrington. The grant was made to him by William Penn before leaving England. Comly died in 1684, and his wife who re-married in 1685, died in 1689. His son Henry married Agnes Heaton in 1695, and soon afterward purchased five hundred acres in Moreland, near Smithfield, where he died in 1727, leaving eleven children. He is thought to have been the ancestor of all who bear the name of Comly, in this state. Sarah Woolman's tract of two hundred and fifty acres joined that of Henry Comly, but we do not know what year she came into the township, but before 1684. Nathaniel Allen was also a large land-owner in Bristol Township, but probably never lived in Warminster.

The Nobles were among the very earliest settlers in Bucks County. We find Richard Noble on the Delaware in 1675, where he held a local office under the Duke of York. He settled in Bristol Township, and took up a tract of land on the river above the mouth of Neshaminy, and was a surveyor. His son Abel was an original purchaser in Warminster, where he owned six hundred and ninety-five acres at the re-survey in 1702. The original Noble tract lay on both sides of the York road, that on the upper side running up the county line, and not reaching the Street road, and that on the lower side extending down it to within half a mile of Johnsville. In 1743 Abel Noble conveyed one hundred and sixty-five acres to his son Joseph, who in turn sold it and a few acres more in 1763 to Harman Yerkes, the first of that family in Warminster. Abel and Job Noble, sons of the first purchaser, were owners of considerable of the ancestral tract at that time. Job was a man of many peculiarities. He left the grain ungathered in the corners of his fields for the birds. At the family mansion, in English style, with hip-roof, on the site of the dwelling of the late Andrew Yerkes, on the York road, he built a stone apiary with the back to the road, and intended to have cut upon it the ten commandments, but it was never done. The story is told of one of his Irish servants, who, discovering a tortoise in the field, ran breathless to the house and reported that he had found "a snake in a box," nor would he return to his work until some one went out to "demolish the craiture." He died in 1775, leaving two daughters, one of whom married a Gilbert and the other a Moland. Job Noble was a Seventh Day Baptist. The remains of the Noble family burying-ground is below the York road, and near the county line, on the farm now owned by Justice Mitchell, on a knoll that overlooks a meadow in front. Half a dozen graves, with a few feet of the old wall, are all that mark the final resting-place of these Warminster pioneers.

John and Isaac Cadwallader were in the township quite early. John bought two hundred and fitly acres on the county line. Isaac died in 1739. Warminster had a sprinkling of Hollanders at an early day, who probably came from Long or Staten Island instead of direct from Holland. Among, them we find the Cravens, Vansants, Garrisons, Corsons, and other families. The Cravens probably came first, and James was an owner of land in the township as early as 1685, for we find that the 9th of April, 1740, he paid to James Steel, receiver of taxes for the Proprietaries, "four pounds, two shillings and six-pence, in full for fifty-five years" quit-rent due on one hundred and fifty acres of land in Warminster. The Cravens were living in the township in 1712, and James and Thomas were there in 1730 and 1737. In 1726 one of the name came into Warminster from Richmond county, Staten Island. In January, 1725, he bought a farm of one hundred and fifty acres of William Stockdell, adjoining lands of Peter Chamberlain and Bartholomew Longstreth, for 290. Possession was given the 1st of June, 1726. The Corsons came from Long Island, the first of the name being Benjamin, whose receipt of July 1st, 1723, states that he had received 7. 6s. of one Wessells, "on account of Jacob Kraven." Harman Vansant was brigade-inspector in 1821, afterward brigadier-general, and died September 13th, 1823, aged sixty-six years.

The Yerkes family made their appearance in Bucks county and settled in Warminster about an hundred and fifty years ago, when Harman Yerkes bought one hundred and eighty-one acres of the Noble tract on the Street road.

About 1700 two brothers, Herman and Anthony Yerkes, came from Germany and settled on the Schuylkill. Anthony was one of the three burgesses of Germantown, December 28th, 1703, and the two brothers were naturalized by act of assembly in 1729. Herman, or Harman, as the name was pronounced, settled on the Pennypaek, in Moreland Township, Montgomery county, near Shelmire's mill. He had two sons, Harman and Anthony, and the former added eight sons to the tribe, Anthony, the eldest, adding four sons and three daughters more. One son, Joseph, married Sarah Purdy, who descended from the common ancestor of the Southampton family of that name. Most of the descendants of Anthony Yerkes, with some of the Purdys, removed to Seneca county, New York, in 1799, and thence to Michigan. Our Warminster family have descended directly from Harman, a grandson of Harman the first, through two Harmans and Stephen to the present generation. The last Stephen married Amy, daughter of the Reverend Thomas B. Montanye, and was the father of Harman Yerkes of the Bucks county bar. The family furnished number of soldiers to the Revolution, and on the rolls are found the names of John, Silas, Herman, Elias, George, Anthony, Jonathan and Stephen from Philadelphia county, which then included Montgomery county, and Edward and Henry from Bucks. Seven out of the eight sons of Harman entered the military service, judging from the names they bore. In 1769 Thomas Banes owned two hundred acres on the north side of the Street road, extending from Johnsville upward.

There is a private graveyard near Johnsville, on the farm lately owned by Eliza Vansant, to whose family it belonged.   In it lie buried the remains of the early Holland settlers of that section, the Vansants, Garrisons, Cravens, Sutphins, McDowells, Vandykes, and others, the relations or immediate friends. The oldest stone marks the resting place of Harman Vansant, who died in 1769, at the age of eighty-four, and Giles Craven, died September 8th, 1798, in his eightieth year. A handsome marble slab is erected to the memory of Doctor William Bachelor, a native of Massachusetts, and surgeon in the army of General Gates, who died September 14th, 1823, aged seventy-five years. His wife was a daughter of Silas Hart, of Warminster. Doctor Bachelor lived in Hatborough, and had an extensive practice. On one occasion he was called upon to visit a man whose leg was badly hurt. The doctor wanted rum to bathe it, and a quart was sent for. After the limb had been duly dressed, the patient, who was fond of a drop, was told by the doctor that he might take a little internally, whereupon he smiled his blandest smile and said, "Doctor, I always did admire your judgment."

The famous "Log College" was in Warminster, on the York road half a mile below Hartsville, on the fifty acre tract given by James Logan to William Tennent, his cousin, in 1728. When Mr. Tennent first went there Mr. Logan was obliged to purchase and send him provisions from Philadelphia, which argues that his congregation provided him a slim living. He lived on the property that lately belonged to Cornelius Carrell, and the college was on the lot now owned by George Hanna. In the fireplace of the old Carrell house is a fire-crane used by William Tennent. Part of the old wall, two and one-half feet thick, runs across the end of the kitchen. A few years ago three English pennies, bearing dates from 1710 to 1719, were found on the premises. Mr. Tennent, who died May 9th, 1746, left by will all his movable estate to his wife "Kathren," and at her death his real estate was to be sold and the proceeds divided among his heirs.

Warminster has two villages, Johnsville, at the junction of the Newtown and Street roads, a mile from the lower line of the township, and Hartsville on the York road where it crosses the Warwick line. Johnsville had its foundation laid in 1814, when James Craven built a store-house for his son John, on the only corner not covered with native forest trees, and in which a store is still kept. It took its name from John Craven. The village contains about twenty dwellings.   Twenty-five years ago Robert Beans established an agricultural implement factory there, which employed a number of hands, principally engaged in making mowing and reaping machines. It was burnt down within a few years and not re-built. Hartsville lays along the York and Bristol roads, the major part of it being in Warminster. The old name was "Cross Roads," and it was only called Hartsville within the present generation, after a family of Harts which lived there a number of years. It contains a store, tavern, Presbyterian church, which came of the division at Neshaminy in the war of "schools," forty years ago, a hall for public lectures, and twenty-five dwellings. The Hartsville Presbyterian church is known as the "Neshaminy church of Warminster," and the constituent members were originally members of the Neshaminy church in Warwick. In consequence of the choice of Reverend James P. Wilson by a small majority of this congregation as their pastor, in November, 1838, one hundred persons withdrew from this church in a body, on Saturday, February 10th, 1839, and held worship in the school-house at the graveyard, claiming to be "the Neshaminy church and congregation." On that day Reverend Mr. Howard preached for them as a supply. They worshiped for a time in private houses, and then in a temporary frame structure, called the "Tabernacle," erected in the woods at the top of Long's hill, on the Bristol road. The question of title to the original church property was tried in the Court of Bucks County, but finally decided by a compromise in the winter of 1841-42. It was sold and bought by the congregation now worshiping there. The pastors, in their order, have been Reverends Thomas B. Bradford, installed April 29th, 1839, and resigned March 9th, 1841, Henry R. Wilson, from 1842 to his death in 1849, Jacob Belville, from 1850 to 1860, and Alexander M. Woods, from 1860 to 1870. The Reverend Gersham H. Nimmo followed Mr. Woods, and is the present pastor. The church edifice was erected in 1842. The congregation is large and flourishing.

The tavern at Hartsville, in Warwick, was kept for many years, at the close of the last and beginning of the present century, by William Hart, who had for his sign the human heart, and probably he gave the present name to the village. He was one of the captors of the Doans, and died in 1831, aged eighty-four years. A post-office was established there in 1826. The old stone bridge over the Neshaminy on the York road, above the village, built in 1793, had a heart cut on the date-stone. Hartsville was an educational centre going back to the days of the Log college, an hundred and forty years ago. The schools of the Reverends James P. Wilson and Robert Belville, and the Messrs. Long enjoyed a wide reputation for many years, and laid the foundation of the education of many prominent and useful men. Samuel Long, at one time principal of one of the schools, met a sad fate in being killed by the limb of a tree falling upon him on a Saturday afternoon, after the boys were dismissed, in December, 1835.

A new village, at the present terminus of the Hatborough branch of the North Pennsylvania railroad at the Bristol road, called Ivyland, has sprung up within a few years, which consists of a few dwellings, a tavern, and a store. A Friends' meeting-house, erected thirty years ago, stands on the Street road, half a mile above Johnsville.

So far as we have any means of knowing, Warminster has never had more than one public house, and probably the site of the earliest was on or near where the present one stands. As early as 1730 one Thomas Linter petitioned the court for a recommendation for license 44 to keep a house of entertainment for man and horse." In this he states that he is an inhabitant of Warminster, "county de Bucks," and owns a house and good plantation on the York road, near the cross roads, and not far from "ye forks." In 1732 Thomas Davids, of Northampton, attorney-in-fact for Thomas Linter, sold his farm of an hundred acres to David Howell, of Philadelphia, whereupon he removed to New York. In more modern times the Warminster hostelry, located near the junction of the York and Street roads, has been quite noted. Half a century ago, when horse-racing was much more common than now, it was frequented by those who indulged in this sport. It was then kept by Thomas Beans, a famous horseman. At elections and militia trainings a half-mile track was cleared upon the Street road, where favorite nags were put upon their speed. Mr. Beans had a fine circular half-mile track laid out on his farm, back of the buildings. The death of a rider at one of the races down the Street road did much to break up the practice, which was wholly discontinued many years ago. Warminster is the only township in the county without grist-mills, nor is it known that it ever had one. This arises from its surface being so generally level, that there are no streams of sufficient size and fall to drive a mill. Many years ago there was a saw-mill on the farm of Robert Darrah, near Hartsville, but now long out of use. The west branch of Neshaminy cuts across its north-east corner, near the Warrington line, and affords a good mill site in the latter township, where a mill was built nearly a century ago.

Warminster is well provided with roads, having one on each of its four rectilineal sides, three of them, the Bristol and Street roads and the Montgomery county line, part of Penn's system of great highways laid out on north-west lines. These are intersected by lateral roads, laid out and opened as they were required. Of these cross-roads that between Warminster and Warrington was opened about 1785, by one of the Longs who had lately built a grist-mill, and was then building a saw-mill where this road crosses the Neshaminy. The road that crosses the township half a mile above Johnsville, and at that time the line of travel between Horsham and Wrightstown, was opened in 1723, and the one on the Southampton Township line in 1769. As early as 1709 a road was viewed and laid out to allow the inhabitants of Warminster to reach the new mill on the Pennypack. The road across by Johnsville was probably opened about 1724.

An institution for the education of male orphan children of African and Indian descent is located in Warminster, on a farm of one hundred acres on the Street road, a mile below the Warrington line. It is known as the Emlen institute, and was founded about thirty-five years ago by Samuel Emlen, of Burlington, New Jersey, who gave $20,000 to trustees for this charity. The institution was first organized in Ohio, soon after the founder's death, but was afterward removed to a farm of fifty-five acres, in Solebury. In 1872 it was again removed, to Warminster. By careful management the original fund has been increased to $30,000, several thousand of which have been expended on the present property, improving the buildings, etc. The pupils are instructed in the mechanic arts, and other useful pursuits. The income is sufficient to maintain and educate about twenty pupils.

The earliest return of the inhabitants of Warminster that has met our notice was made over a century ago, but the exact date is not given. It comprises a list of housekeepers and single men, with the quantity of land owned by each, the acres in with corn, with the cattle, sheep, etc. There were then but fifty-eight housekeepers and twelve single men in the township. Joseph Hart was the largest land-owner, four hundred and thirty-five acres, with three hundred acres cleared and sixty in with corn.   He owned twenty-four cattle, eight horses and thirty-five sheep. Daniel Longstreth was the next, who owned four hundred and ten acres, two hundred cleared and forty-four in with corn. He was the owner of thirteen cattle, three horses and twenty-three sheep. This return gives two thousand eight hundred and one acres of cleared land, of which six hundred and seven were planted with corn. The whole number of domestic animals was two hundred and thirty-six cattle, sixty-five horses, sixty-seven mares, and two hundred and seventy-eight sheep. There were but eleven negro slaves in the township. In 1784 the township contained 368 white inhabitants and 28 blacks, with 66 dwellings. The population at stated periods since 1784 was as follows: 1810, 564; 1820, 695; 1830, 709, and 155 taxables; 1840, 934; 1850, 970; 1860, 987; 1870, 840, of which 32 were of foreign birth.

The first post-office in the township was established in 1823, and Joseph Warner, who lived on the Street road just above Davisville, was appointed postmaster. The office was removed to Davisville about 1827. Warminster is the middle of the three rectangular townships bordering the Montgomery line, and is four miles long by two wide. After rising from the valley where some of the headwaters of the Pennypack have their source, the surface of the township is generally level, with but little broken or untillable land. There is no better land in the county than the plains of Warminster, which extend eastward to the hills of Neshaminy, and the inhabitants are employed in agricultural pursuits. It can boast of good roads, rich and well-cultivated farms, and an intelligent and happy population.


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