West Point, PA


The Purchase of Gwynedd Township

     Robert Turner was a Quaker and merchant who had emigrated to Philadelphia from Dublin in 1683.  He built the first brick house in Philadelphia, at the corner of First and Mulberry streets (now known as Front and Arch Streets).* He had been granted 5000 acres of  land by William Penn in 1681, a tract located about 25 miles north of the city. In 1685  he enlarged this tract with the purchase of 2500 acres from John Gee, and 1250 acres from Joseph Fuller. In 1695 he purchased an adjoining 1250 acres from Jacob Fuller, making his total 10,000 acres. Of this, Penn confirmed to him 7,820 acres.

     On March 10, 1698 William John and Thomas Evan purchased the 7,820 acres from Robert Turner.

     The deciding factors of their selection are presumed to have been fertility of the land, price and availability. The price was "Sixty-one pounds Eight pence three farthings Silver money". (The land was resurveyed in 1702 and found to actually be 11,449 acres. The various landholders then paid for 2,846 additional acres directly to William Penn)

     On the deed the area is called "the Township of Gwinned in the County of Philadelphia". The land was heavily timbered with oak, hickory and chestnut trees, but had no large bodies of water. The Leni Lenape Indians at times dwelt in the area, and the Maxatawney Trail ran somewhat through the center of the tract. Except for this, the land was unoccupied and undisturbed wilderness.

     (The Maxatawney Trail would be widened by the Welsh, then widened again and again in the next 300 years. It is known today as Sumneytown Pike)

                                                                   Click here for a full sized view of map. (1.4 mb)
                                                       Click here for a similar map from 1681
This 1687 map shows the land (shaded green) owned by Robert Turner, John Gee,
Joseph Fuller and Jacob Fuller. By 1695 Turner owned all of it, then sold it to
William John and Thomas Evan in 1698, thus creating Gwynedd Township.

     On April 3, 1698 the Gwynedd Company departed Wales, traveling north about 70 miles till they arrived in Liverpool, England two days later. On April 17 they boarded the ship Robert and Elizabeth which set sail for Ireland the next day. On May 1, 1698 the ship departed for America. The Company arrived in Philadelphia on July 17th, eleven weeks after leaving Liverpool and fifteen after starting from their homes in Wales. Forty-five passengers died of dysentery during the voyage, including William John's sister, Margaret. Gwynedd was thus settled in 1699 by less than 70 persons.

* Some accounts have the first brick house in Philadelphia at 5th Street and Apple Tree Alley, built by the owner and his wife. Today the U.S. Mint building covers the entire city block from 4th Street to 5th Street and from Arch Street to Race Street. Apple Tree Alley would be under the building. At any rate, it was a short distance from 5th and Apple Tree to First and Mulberry, and neither building now exists.

The Benjamen Eastburn 1776 map of Philadelphia shows a Quaker meetinghouse at Front and Mulberry. Could this be the same location as Robert Turner's house, 90 years later?

Another account appears in "Welsh Settlement of Pennsylvania", page 187. It states that Dr. Thomas Wynne, who arrived in 1682 aboard the ship "Welcome," built the first brick dwelling "on the west side of Front Street above Chestnut". Chestnut Street was called Wynne Street at the time.

However, we have it from the pen of Robert Turner himself that his was the first brick house, so we can put the confusion to rest. Read his letter here.

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