West Point, PA
  History  

 

Chapter 1
Early History
  

      West Point Pennsylvania, part of Gwynedd Township in Montgomery County, was officially named sometime in 1878. This is a brief history of some of the events leading up to and after the forming of the village. While pondering when this history should start, it was decided that it should begin with the first family to live in the area, the events and causes which led up the purchase of Gwynedd, and the creation of West Point 180 years later.
 

      Therefore, our story starts in the latter half of the 17th century in Wales, United Kingdom. The Welsh Friends (also known by the then derogatory name as "Quakers") were being persecuted in their own homeland for their religious principles. By act of British Parliament (the Quaker Act of 1662) their public worship was forbidden on penalty of heavy fines and imprisonment. Because they would neither swear the Oath of Allegiance or pay tithes to the Church of England they were beaten, stoned, arrested and left to rot for years in filthy and overcrowded prisons. Their property was confiscated and their cattle, horses, and crops were seized.

     In 1681 William Penn, a Quaker theologian and minister, was given the rights to all of what is now Pennsylvania and Delaware in payment of a debt owed to his father by King Charles II of England. (During the reign of this same king,  more than 450 Quakers died in prison of disease, exposure and malnutrition. Penn himself was arrested and jailed numerous times, and on one occasion was imprisoned in the Tower of London for eight months. )


     In America, Penn began his “Holy Experiment" in governing - guaranteed religious liberty and toleration for all who "shall confess and acknowledge one Almighty God to be the Creator, Upholder and Ruler of the world." It is not surprising then, that between 1682 and 1700 the Welsh Quakers were the most numerous body of immigrants arriving in Pennsylvania.

     In the year 1683 an energetic and influential Quaker minister named Hugh Roberts arrived with the first wave of Welsh immigrants in what is now Merion, Pennsylvania. Merion was part of the "Welsh Tract" of 40,000 acres located near Philadelphia. In 1697, on his second visit back to his old home in Merioneth Shire in Gwynedd, he convinced a number of inhabitants to return with him to Pennsylvania. The Gwynedd Company of Friends was formed for this purpose. (Also called the Gwynedd Company of North Wales). This company consisted of about 9 families and 40 other individuals.

     In 1698 William ap John and Thomas ap Evan, two cousins from Merioneth Shire, sailed to Pennsylvania in advance of the main company. They preceded the other immigrants to choose land, according to the habit of the Welsh at the time. Why Hugh Roberts didn't secure the new settlers for the Welsh Tract is not known, however these "Gwynedd Welsh" did not all profess to be Quakers. All but three of the original households were Anglicans. Many of them did eventually join the religious society after they had settled in the new land.
 


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