When George Washington's army left for Morristown, New Jersey in January of 1777 to go into winter quarters, this area of Bucks County — which began as a humble ferry crossing and is now known as the town of Washington Crossing — continued to play a role in the events of the American Revolution. Troops from both sides of the conflict patrolled the Delaware River, prisoner exchanges were held in the local area, and both armies continued to move throughout Bucks County in search of supplies or simply in passing as they marched through the landscape. However, as the main focus of the war moved to the southern colonies in 1779, the major military engagements of the Revolution would no longer touch the local soil.
The ferry crossings along the Delaware River, once used by Washington, would not decline into stagnant cross roads reminiscent of a bygone era. Instead, these areas developed into prosperous villages and hamlets as a result of many factors. The most notable factor would be the Industrial Revolution. Visitors to the Park today will learn not only about Washington's time in Bucks County and the events of the Revolution, but additionally they will be enchanted by the story of the growth of the town that developed after the conflict. The place now known as the modern town of Washington Crossing was once known as the Village of Taylorsville.
The Village of Taylorsville developed around the Ferry crossing once owned by Samuel McKonkey. Benjamin Taylor (1751-1832) purchased McKonkey's business in 1777 and began, it is believed, to make vast improvements to the area. His many sons continued in this entrepreneurial style and by the early 1800's, a thriving community had developed. Most notably, his sons Mahlon (1791-1870) and Bernard (1786-1852) lived, built and participated in the area's growth. From building their own homes (the large, yellow Mahlon Taylor house which is included on the regular guided tours and Bernard's home which is today a portion of the privately owned Washington Crossing Inn) to building homes to attract crafters and artisans (the houses known as the Hibbs House and the Frye House) to the community, Mahlon and Bernard literally left their mark on the landscape of the area.
From the 1830's to the 1870's, Taylorsville, at different times could boast such services/professions in town as a doctor, a tailor, a blacksmith, a cabinetmaker, a wheelwright, a shoemaker, a fishery, a butcher, a seamstress, a cooper, a carpenter, a general store, a post office, an inn/tavern, a school, and a church. What else could a person of the 19th century need?
The answer is transportation to bring them into the modern age! The old 18th century ferry crossing and the local roads leading to them would no longer satisfy the village needs. In the 1830's the first bridge to cross the Delaware River at this location was built. It was originally a covered, toll bridge of which Mahlon Taylor was integral in its development. (Local artist Edward Hicks painted the sign for the bridge — his version of Washington Crossing the Delaware — reminding the residents of the important history of the location.) The Taylors were instrumental in having new roads put in throughout the area — opening the space for further development along the Delaware River and connecting the crossroads into the town.
The Delaware Canal, though not yet completed, passed through the village as early as 1832, bringing more activity and commerce to the area. The Delaware River continued, as it always had, to give industry and life to the region, but now the Canal would be the major route of transport. The reliable water levels and straight man-made cut through the land would speed up transportation to a never before known pace. It would eventually be replaced by rail road travel; however both innovations would be seen as examples of the wonders of the modern age.
The 19th century Village of Taylorsville was the quintessential industrialized, self-sufficient town. It had a thriving yet small community. Today, these charming homes speak of progress, life in a village and economic differences between someone of Mahlon Taylor's status and some of the local workers.
In the 20th century, the town's name was changed to Washington Crossing as the Historic Park, as it is known today, was developed in order to memorialize Washington's historic crossing. Though Washington was here during a momentous part in the area's history, it was the Taylor family who made the area what it still is today; an area that graciously and abundantly meets the high standards and needs of the local residents.