THE name of this township took its origin from the large estate of Growdens which was situated within its limits. Joseph and Lawrence Growden were among the first purchasers, and secured a tract of ten thousand acres, which was located in the upper part of this township. After a short residence in Philadelphia the former erected a mansion on the estate, and proposed to set up a manorial establishment, but thwarted in this he maintained such pomp and circumstance as was possible without the authority of law. The manor house is represented as a large stone-house two stories in height, embodying in its massive walls, deep windows, and interior arrangement the ideas of the projector rather than those in use at that period in this country. A broad avenue extended from the front of the house to the Neshaminy at a point nearly opposite Hulmeville. It is said that there was an orchard of a thousand trees; and the ornamental shrubbery was in keeping with the general appointments of the place. When completed in 1687 this was one of the finest residences in the province. The owner conferred upon it the name of Trevose, by which the country-seat of his family in England was known. This name was subsequently applied to the estate, and still clings to that part of it about the old homestead. Here Joseph Growden lived an active and useful life. He filled positions of honor and responsibility, and wielded a large influence. He was an influential Friend, and assisted many of that persuasion in securing homes. He died in 1730. His son Lawrence succeeded to the ownership of Trevose. He was a member of the provincial assembly, and one of three commissioners appointed to represent the claims of the Penns in their controversy with Lord Baltimore regarding the line of division between their respective territories. Upon his death in 1770 the estate descended to his daughter Grace, the wife of Joseph Galloway, a man of conspicuous ability, but unfortunate in his political affiliations. Born in Maryland in 1730, he began the study of law at Philadelphia, and was henceforth identified with the affairs of Pennsylvania. After his marriage he removed to Bucks county and enjoyed an extensive legal practice. He was several times a member of assembly, and speaker of that body. In 1774 he was elected to the first continental congress, and was active in his advocacy of the interests of the people. Whether he was really sincere in this may seriously be questioned, for at the commencement of hostilities he retired to Trevose, and finally joined the British at New York. His actions were those of a consistent patriot until war became inevitable; he seems to have desired to remain neutral, but was not allowed to do so, and at a time when fortune seemed to be with the British, he espoused their interests and was henceforth bitter in his opposition to the American cause. His Pennsylvania estates were confiscated, but after long litigation a portion was recovered by his wife. He died in England in 1803, in obscurity.

Beside the manor tract, there were a number of others much smaller in extent, surveyed between the Neshaminy and Poquessing prior to 1684. Twelve such tracts are located on Holme’s map. That of Walter Forrest occupied the peninsula between the Delaware and Poquessing; thence, in regular order along that river and the Neshaminy were the surveys of Joseph Growden (not the larger tract referred to), Nathaniel Allen, Duncan Williamson, Nathaniel Hardin, John Bowers, Samuel Allen, Francis Walker, Claus Johnson, John Gray, als. Tatham. John Gilbert owned a small triangular tract adjoining that of Walter Forrest. The Aliens emigrated from Bristol, England, in 1681. Samuel Allen was associated with Governor William Markham in the instructions of William Penn regarding the purchase of land from the Indians. He also held the office of inspector of wooden measures, and in this capacity tested the conformity of such as were manufactured with the standards established by law, and affixed his stamp of approval before they could be sold. He died in 1692. Samuel Allen arrived in the province, December 11, 1681, in the Bristol Factor. He died October 20, 1702, and was buried on his own land. The site of his grave has since been enlarged to a family burial-ground. Duncan Williamson was one of the earliest land-holders in the county. The traditions of the family assert that he came to America in 1660 or 1661. He was a Scotchman. In 1669 he received a grant for land at the mouth of the Schuylkill, which probably embraced the site of Philadelphia, or a portion of it. He settled in Bensalem about the year 1667. He died in 1700, and is buried in the Johnson graveyard, Bensalem. Among the earliest accessions to this English settlement was a Dutch family still numerously represented in the township— the Vandygrifts. Four brothers of that name, Nicholas, Leonard, Johannes, and Frederick, purchased land of the Growdens. They were the first progenitors of the family in Bucks county, and among the first of their nationality in the state. The Vandygrift family graveyard, on the Bristol turnpike near Andalusia, is among the historical localities of this section. The graves of Abraham and John Vandygrift, who died in 1781 and 1765 respectively, are distinguished by weather-worn tombstones; but the burial-places of the generation previous are not known. The Van Zandts appeared somewhat later. In 1698 Joseph Growden sold one hundred and fifty acres each to Garrett and Cornelius Van Zandt. The families of Van Dyke, Van Horne, Van Deusen, and Groesbeck were also among those who removed to this county with the tide of emigration from Long Island in the beginning of the last century.

Bensalem has been the residence of some men of local and national prominence. Among the former may be mentioned Richard Gibbs, a native of Wiltshire, England, and subsequently a seaman; he found his way to Philadelphia about the year 1746. He began his career in Bensalem as a schoolmaster, through the influence of a Mr. Stevens, a farmer; within a few years he became assistant to Lawrence Growden, the county clerk, and was sheriff of the county prior to the revolution. Augustine Willett, a native of the township and of Dutch ancestry, rose to some distinction as a soldier. He was captain of the Bucks county light dragoons in 1793, a staff officer with General Murray’s brigade of Pennsylvania militia in 1798, and commander of the troops which escorted Washington through Bucks county in 1797, upon the close of his second term as president. Genera1 Horatio G. Sickel, also of Dutch extraction, is descended from an old Bensalem family. His educational advantages were limited, and for a time he worked at the trade of blacksmithing. In the late civil war he rose to the rank of brevet major-general. In the annals of American financial history the name of Nicholas Biddle appears among those who made Philadelphia the business center of the country fifty years ago. He made this county his permanent residence in 1821, and died at Andalusia, his country residence, February 20, 1844. He was president of the United States Bank from 1823 to 1839, the era of public improvements in this and other states, in many of which he was interested. While a resident here he conducted farming with a good degree of success, introducing Alderney cattle and other foreign breeds, and giving considerable attention to the cultivation of grapes. Anthony Benezet, the philanthropist, and Richard Bache, the son-in-law of Benjamin Franklin, were also among the residents of Bensalem at the beginning of this century.

One of the earliest settled sections of the county, the region between the lower course of the Neshaminy and the county-line, was also the first to enjoy the benefits of township organization. The following appears upon the county records in the report of the jury appointed in 1692 to divide the county into townships: "All the lands between Neshaminah and Poquessin, and so to the upper side of Joseph Growden’s land in one and to be called ‘Salem.’" The boundaries thus defined have never been changed. Southampton adjoins it on the north, Middletown and Bristol on the northeast, and Philadelphia on the west. The Delaware river separates it from New Jersey. Its extreme length is about eight miles, and its extreme breadth about three and one-half miles. The area is eleven thousand five hundred and two acres, divided into several hundred farms. The fertility of the soil is remarkable, considering the length of time much of it has been under cultivation. Agriculture is the principal pursuit, and is rendered profitable by the nearness of a good market, the natural advantages conferred by level land, and the improved methods of practical farming constantly introduced. In 1880 the population was two thousand two hundred and seventeen.

The origin of the name Bensalem has been much discussed, but discussion has usually ended in conjecture. The preponderance of opinion is that the township succeeded to the name of the estate which comprised a large part of its area. Joseph Growden was a member of the jury of 1692, and his wishes would hardly have been disregarded if they indicated a preference for that designation, as is very probable. The name already had a wide popular significance. To the cultured Friend who conferred it it had a meaning that harmonized with his idea of that element of happiness denied to most communities and individuals— peace.

One of the greatest advantages derived from township organization is the facilities thus secured for improving the public roads. In this case there could be no immediate benefit, as the bridle-paths of the period scarcely merited so dignified a name. In 1697 a road was laid out through the northern portion of the township, from the Poquessing to the Neshaminy, which was crossed by ferry near Trevose. This was one of the earliest in the province, and was located by order of the provincial council. It is generally known as the Trevose road. The Byberry & Bensalem turnpike is the principal thoroughfare in the northern part of the township. The state road extends across its southern part, parallel with the river, and at a nearly uniform distance of a half-mile from it. The Frankford & Bristol turnpike extends in the same direction about a mile farther inland. The Hulmeville road crosses the township diagonally from northeast to southwest. It is intersected by the two great highways of travel from north to south, the Street and Bristol roads. The southern terminus of the former is "Dunk’s" ferry, so known from its founder, Duncan Williamson. Baldwin’s ferry, over the Neshaminy, near Bridgewater, was established in 1697, and so named from John Baldwin, who owned the landing on the east side.

On the Bristol turnpike, a short distance from the Poquessing, is the Red Lion hotel, one of the oldest hostelries in the county. It was established in 1730 by Philip Amos, and continued by his family forty years. One authority states that it did not receive its present name until 1770. Bowdoin Cushing, Samuel Adams, John Adams, and Robert Treat Paine, delegates from Massachusetts to the first continental congress, stopped here over night, December 9, 1775, and October 13, 1776. In 1781, a part of Washington’s army, en route for Yorktown, encamped in the vicinity over night. The Trappe hotel, at the intersection of the Street road and Byberry & Bensalem turnpike, is also a well-known tavern. John Vandygrift was probably the landlord here in 1774.

Of the villages of Bensalem, Eddington is the most important. It derives its name from Eddington farm, so named in 1770 by Richard Gibbs from a place in his native county in England. It extends for some distance along the Bristol turnpike and the Philadelphia & Trenton railroad, about midway between Andalusia and Bridgewater. It comprises a number of fine residences, occupied principally by persons doing business in the city; the usual stores and local industries, and a Protestant Episcopal church are found here. It is difficult to determine where Eddington ends and Bridgewater begins. The latter is pleasantly situated on the Neshaminy, at Schenck’s station on the Pennsylvania railroad. Andalusia is a prosperous village of about two hundred and fifty inhabitants. The railroad station of that name is about a mile distant. Andalusia landing, on the Delaware, is also within easy distance. The name was first applied by John Craig, a Philadelphia merchant, to his country house, purchased in 1795, and subsequently the residence of Nicholas Biddle. Cornwell, also a railroad station, may be regarded as a suburb of Andalusia. Oakford, on the Bound Brook railroad, at the intersection of the Bristol road and Byberry turnpike, is situated in the extreme northern part of the township. Brownsburg is a straggling village on the Street road, principally in Southampton. Mechanicsville, on the Poquessing, is important as the distributing point for a large section of country. Richelieu, the distinguished French statesman, apparently numbers some of his most ardent admirers among the residents of Central Bensalem. The hamlet that bears his name is scarcely eligible to the title of village, however,

Among the various elements of the early population of the township, the Dutch were the first to provide themselves with church privileges. As early as 1710 the Vandegrifts and Vansants were associated with their co-religionists of Southampton in the organization of "The Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, at Bensalem, Sammany, Yermentown, and outlying villages," of which Reverend Paulus Van Vlecq was pastor. Prior to this, the Swedish settlers in the vicinity were connected with the church at Wicacoa, of which Reverend Andrew Rudman was pastor. Reverend Jedediah Andrews, a Presbyterian minister of Philadelphia, preached and baptized in Bensalem in 1698. In 1711, Thomas Stevenson executed a deed of trust for a church site to Johannes Vandygrift, Herman Vanzandt, Johannes Vanzandt, and Jacob Weston. It seems that a church building had previously been erected, for the record states that in May of the previous year it was opened for worship. The congregation which worshipped here was united in organization with the body since known as "The Church of North and Southampton." The separation occurred in 1719, and was caused by the friction between the Dutch and Scotch-Irish who formed the membership at the former place. In December, 1710, the fifteen members were Henry Vandyk and his wife, Lambert Vandegrift, Christoffel Vanzand, Nicholas Vandegrift, Herman Van Zand, Johannes Vandegrift, Gerret Van Zand, Jacob Elfenstyn, Jonas Van Zand, Janette Remierse, Trintje Remierse, Gurtje Gybert, Lea Groesbeck, and Catalyntje Van Deusen, all Dutch names. The number had increased to forty-two in 1719—20, of whom twenty-seven were Scotch-Irish. The proportion of Dutch names the following year was still smaller, there being but three in the list of communing members. It may be correctly inferred that this was caused by dissatisfaction among them with regard to the introduction of the English language and Presbyterian usages into the church services; and from this time they were employed almost exclusively, and an organization was effected under the name of "The Christian Church of Sammany creek," subsequently known as the Bensalem Presbyterian Church. Its first pastor was Robert Laing, a young English minister from Delaware. It is said that he was suspended by Presbytery for bathing in a creek on the Lord’s Day; but as he pleaded illness, the Presbytery of Philadelphia condoned the offense and restored him. He preached his first sermon December 22, 1723, from the sixteenth Psalm, verses eight to eleven, inclusive.

Among the succeeding pastors were Reverends Malignus Sims, William Tennent, and James Boyd, the pastorate of the latter, a period of forty-five years, closing in 1817. The record of the following fifty years is one of frequent vacancies, numerous supplies, and long vacancies. In January, 1871, Reverend Michael Burdette, P.D., was installed as pastor, and an era of greater prosperity was begun. He resigned in May, 1884, and Reverend Francis Heyl became his successor, preaching his initiatory sermon the last Sabbath in October of the same year. The most important event in his administration is the organization of the Eddington church. The first step toward this was made in 1883, when, through the liberality of two of the residents of the village, assisted by others, a house was purchased with lot adjoining suitable for a church site, and held as a private trust until such time as a building should be erected. Nothing further was done until October, 1885, when a meeting of the citizens of Eddington was held in the chapel at Bridgewater; it was there decided to erect a church, and committees to attend to various details of the work were appointed. Ground was broken in May, 1886; the corner-stone was laid June 30, and the building was occupied in December of the same year. The style is pure Gothic; the walls are built of white sandstone, with brownstone trimmings. The seating capacity is two hundred; of the Sunday-school room, one hundred. The interior is substantially and tastefully furnished. The spire rises to a height of eighty feet. The Eddington Presbyterian church was organized October 26, 1886, by the North Philadelphia Presbytery, with twenty-three members. A call was extended to Reverend Heyl, and he was installed as pastor, January 18, 1887. The prospects of the new organization are promising.

In 1771, during the ministry of Reverend William Smith at Oxford, Philadelphia, a congregation of Swedes was gathered in the neighborhood of All Saints’ church, Lower Dublin, where a church edifice was built in 1787. The limits of All Saints’ parish extended from Frankford to Neshaminy creek, along the Delaware. In 1844 the parish of Holmesburg was formed from the territory south of its central portion; and a corresponding change was attempted in the territory to the north, which ultimately resulted in the formation of the parish of Christ church, Eddington. At that place (then known as Oak Grove) a number of the members of All Saints’, feeling the need of a place of worship, procured, through the liberality of the Misses Moore, of Holmesburg, and the energy of Mr. Lawrence Lardner, a lot of ground from Mrs. Lloyd, in August, 1842, and having obtained by general subscription a sufficient sum of money, built a neat stone chapel, which was dedicated March 7, 1844, by Bishop Henry V. Onderdonk. In 1845 a parsonage for the rector of All Saints’ parish was built in the rear of this chapel, and was occupied by the rector, Reverend Frederick W. Beasley, for many years; services being held regularly in the morning at All Saints’ and in the afternoon at Christ’s. Considerable friction between the vestry of the parish and the congregation at Eddington resulted froth this arrangement, but through the efforts of Bishop Potter harmony was restored. The parsonage was enlarged in 1851, and in 1852 a Sunday-school room was furnished in the basement of the chapel. In 1857 the ground between the church lot and the railroad was purchased. In 1862 the vestry-room was built and the parsonage still more enlarged. The building of a chapel at Andalusia in 1861 rendered the services of an assistant rector necessary. Two services could thus be held at Christ chapel each Sabbath. Reverends Charles R. Hale, Thomas W. Martin, William F.C. Morsell, and J.B. Burk were successively incumbents of this position. In 1875 the rector removed to a parsonage near All Saints’ church, and his assistant, Reverend John M. Windsor, was placed in charge of Christ chapel. During his ministry it was extensively beautified at considerable expense by Mr. J.H. De Victor. Mr. Windsor resigned in May, 1879, and was succeeded in May, 1880, by Reverend Edwin I. Hirmes, the present rector. To his efforts may be attributed in great measure the prosperous condition of the parish. At his suggestion, a belfry was erected and a bell placed therein, upon which is inscribed the following: "In memory of Frederick W. Beasley, rector of this parish for forty years; he being dead, yet speaketh." The bell was first rung on Christmas day, 1880. In 1852 a legacy of one thousand dollars was received from the executors of Mrs. Maria Smith. In the same year the congregation addressed a communication to the vestry of All Saints’ parish, stating that with a little help they believed they could sustain an independent position, and requesting their consent to a separation. This was acceded to; and thus, after being forty years a mission and connected with two different parishes, it became a strong, vigorous, and self-supporting church. The division was formally effected April 7, 1883, and the parish was incorporated the following year. Important improvements in the property have since been made involving an outlay of some thousands of dollars.

The chapel of the Redeemer, at Andalusia, is in the parish of All Saints’ church (Protestant Episcopal), at Lower Dublin, Philadelphia, and was built in 1861, mainly through the liberality of Mrs. James S. Biddle. It is a stone structure, fifty-one by twenty-five feet, and was consecrated September 29, 1877, after receiving the addition of a chancel in that year. Reverend Frederick W. Beasley read the sentence of consecration, stating that "in the providence of God and in gratitude for his mercy in restoring him to health after serious illness," a worshipper in the chapel had "put the building in repair, decorated its walls, and extended it in length."

Methodist preachers visited Bensalem as early as 1803. A camp-meeting was held in 1806 in General Willett’s woods near the camp grounds of the Simpson Grove Association. The time at which the first class was formed cannot be fixed, the records having been lost. Prior to 1810 meetings were held at private houses. In that year, a church building was erected about the center of the township upon land given for that purpose by Joseph Rodman. It has since been enlarged and remodelled twice. Thomas Boring and William S. Fisher, who travelled Bristol circuit, filled the pulpit once in four weeks. The society is in a flourishing condition. There is also an African Methodist church near Bridgewater, but no data concerning it are available.

The educational interests of this section of the country are fully abreast of its material wealth and religious advantages. The construction of the school-houses indicates rare adaptability to the purpose for which they are intended. In 1885 eight public schools were in operation for a term of ten months, employing eight teachers at the uniform salary of four hundred and twenty-five dollars. The total amount expended was about six thousand dollars, more than any other township in the county, with a single exception. It has also numbered among its educational advantages Andalusia College, at Andalusia, and Potter Hall, a boarding-school for boys, at the same place. When completed, St. John’s Industrial School for boys, Eddington, will rank with the leading eleemosynary institutions of this country. The corner-stone of the chapel was laid with impressive ceremonies on the afternoon of Sunday, November 14, 1886, by Archbishop Ryan, assisted by a number of the Roman Catholic clergy, in the presence of a numerous concourse of people from the immediate vicinity and from Philadelphia. This institution, several of the buildings of which are now (1887) approaching completion, was founded by the Misses Drexel, daughters of the late Francis A. Drexel. It is beautifully situated on a tract of land comprising about two hundred acres, four miles southwest of Bristol and quite near Eddington. The different structures comprising it, ground for which was broken in July, 1886, consist of a main building, two hundred and seventy by eighty-four feet on the ground floor, designed for class-rooms, school-rooms, dormitories, etc., additional buildings for culinary purposes, laundry, and workshops of various descriptions. The amount of surface covered by all the buildings aggregates forty-one thousand square feet, or nearly one acre. Among the clergy present at the laying of the corner-stone of the chapel were Reverend I.F. Horstman, D.D., chancellor of the diocese; Very Reverend M.A. Walsh, LL.D., Vicar-General; Very Reverend P.A. Stanton, D.D., and others. Addresses were made by Dr. Horstman and Archbishop Ryan; the latter placed in the corner-stone, among other things, a Latin document of which the following is a translation: "To the greater honor of God. On the 14th day of November, 1886, the feast of the patronage of the B.V. Mary, Most Reverend Patrick John Ryan, Archbishop of Philadelphia, laid the corner-stone of the chapel of St. John’s Industrial School, under the invocation of St. Francis of Sales, in presence of a great concourse of the clergy and laity."


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