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Pennsylvania 1630-1700

By Rudolph J. Walther, revised by ushistory.org

Before European settlement, Pennsylvania was inhabited by many Indian tribes, including the Erie, Honniasont, Huron, Iroquois (especially Seneca and Oneida), Leni Lenape, Munsee, Shawnee, Susquehannock, and unknown others.

In the period of European exploration, there was a flurry of activity in North America. The English (1497, John Cabot), the French (1524, Verrazano), the Spanish (1492, Columbus in the West Indies, and other Spanish explorers reaching North America perhaps by 1520), and the Dutch (1609, Henry Hudson, an Englishman in the service of the Dutch East India Company, on his ship the Half Moon) all claimed lands.

In 1608, English Captain John Smith visited the Susquehannock Indians in Pennsylvania. In 1609, Henry Hudson sailed into Delaware Bay, thus giving the Dutch their claim to the area. In 1610 Virginian Captain Samuel Argall visited Delaware Bay (he named it for Lord de la Warr, governor of Virginia). Dutch navigator Cornelis Jacobszoon May was provided a patent to explore the Delaware region more thoroughly and Dutch trading posts were established up and down the Delaware Bay starting in 1620.

The New Sweden Company was chartered and, in 1638, established The Colony of New Sweden at Fort Christina, in what is today Wilmington, Delaware. In 1643, Governor Johan Printz arrived and built Fort Elfsborg and Fort New Gothenburg at Tinicum Island, nearby today’s Philadelphia airport. A small park with a statue to Printz commemorates the location. This marks the first permanent settlement by Europeans in Pennsylvania.

In 1655, Dutch troops, under the command of Governor Peter Stuyvesant of New Amsterdam (New York), took control of the Swedish colony and held it until the British Duke of York seized control of it and all of New Amsterdam in 1664. The Duke granted New Jersey to two loyal friends, Sir George Carteret and Lord Berkeley of Stratton.

King Charles II of England owed $80,000 to Admiral Sir William Penn. In 1681, as payment for the debt, the king granted what is today Pennsylvania to the admiralís son, also named William Penn. Penn named the territory New Wales. A Welsh member of Englandís Privy Council objected, so Penn called it Sylvania (woods). The king changed the name to Pennsylvania, in honor of the admiral.

The founding of Pennsylvania, about 40,000 square miles, was confirmed to William Penn under the Great Seal on January 5, 1681. Penn induced people to emigrate, the terms being 40 shillings per hundred acres, and "shares" of 5,000 acres for 100 pounds. These generous terms induced many to set out for the New World.

William Penn set sail from England in August, 1682, with Captain Greenway, in the ship Welcome. The ship was filled with additional passengers, mostly Quakers, with good estates. They arrived at New Castle on October 27, 1682, the next day arriving at Philadelphia. Penn and his friends came up from Chester in an open boat and landed on the low and sandy beach at Dock Creek, it is believed. Penn at that time was 38 years of age.

Within a few days Penn made a treaty with the Leni Lenape to purchase his grant of land from them, even though there was no law requiring him to do so. The treaty's duration was for "as long as water flows and the sun shines and grass grows." Penn and Taminend, Leni Lenape chief, exchanged wampum belts under the Shackamaxon elm in Philadelphia.

A plain and simple monument stands in Shackamaxon, at Penn Treaty Park, in Kensington, a modest memorial of a momentous act, the spot where was signed an unbroken treaty.

The town of Philadelphia was located in 1682, "having a high and dry land next to the water, with a shore ornamented with a fine view of pine trees growing upon it."

Pennsylvania's first constitution, the Frame of Government was drafted in April, 1682, providing for an upper house and lower house of the legislature. The assembly approved the second Frame of Government in 1683.

It is recorded that some newcomers would find caves for shelter for their families and effects, then get warrants of survey and wander about for their choice of localities.

In the years 1683-84, emigration increased, welcoming pioneers mostly from England, Ireland, Wales, Holland and Germany. Enslaved Africans and Enslaved descendants of Africans were brought into Pennsylvania, mostly by the English, Welsh, and Scotch-Irish.

Penn returned to England in 1684, but shortly thereafter conflicts arose between the upper and lower houses. A deputy governor, Captain John Blackwell, was assigned, but shortly he resigned.

In 1696, after a tumultous time back in England, having been arrested several times for disloyalty, Penn returned to Pennsylvania and established the landmark Charter of Privileges, which was approved in 1701.

Penn returned to England in 1701 and died there in 1718.

Additional Resources

©1995-2014 by the Independence Hall Association, a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, PA founded in 1942. Publishing electronically as ushistory.org.; online since July 4, 1995.
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