Header:Philadelphia History

Incorporated District, Boroughs, and Townships in the County of Philadelphia, 1854

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A manor of 9,815 acres on a branch of Poquessing Creek. It was in most northern portion of the county of Philadelphia, in the neighborhood of the Delaware, and lay to the west ward of Byberry township. It extended over into Bucks county, and was divided into two townships, one in each county and each called Moreland. The rise of Moreland township in Philadelphia county was 5 miles, its greatest length; 2 miles in width; area, 3,720 acres. The principal village was Smithfield or Pleasantville, afterward called Somerton, which was partly in Moreland and partly in Byberry.


Originally a tract of ground on the fast land of the Neck, lying between Passyunk and Wicaco. It was granted by the Dutch governor Alexander d'Hinoyossa, to Martin Clensmith, William Stille and Lawrence Andries. The title was confirmed in 1684 by William Penn to Lassey Andrews, William Stille, Andrew Bankson and John Matson. Moyamensing township included this ground and Wicaco, except such parts of the latter as were included in Southwark. It extended from about Schuylkill Sixth (Seventeenth Street) and South Street over to the Delaware below the built parts of Southwark. In 1816 the greatest length of Moyamensing was estimated to be 3 miles; the greatest breadth, 2 miles; area, 2,560 acres. By act of March 24,1812, the inhabitants of Moyamensing were incorporated by the style of "the commissioners and inhabitants of the township of Moyamensing." By act of April 4, 1831, the township was divided into East and West Moyamensing. The township was one of the earliest created after the settlement of Pennsylvania.


The Liberties was term applied by William Penn to certain tract of land lying north and West of the city. It contained what was called "the liberty land or free lots" because the proprietaries gave to the first purchaser of ground in the colony, according to the extent of their purchaser, a portion of the land within those limits free of price. The original idea of Penn was to lay out a great town of 10,000 acres; but when the commissioners came to survey this space of ground it was found somewhat difficult, and when Penn arrived in 1682 he determined to divide the great town into two parts, one to be called the city and the other the Liberties. The city contained about 1,820 acres. The Liberties extended north of Vine Street to the mouth of Cohoquinoque Creek or Pegg's Run and up the same so as to go round the lands of Jurian Hartsfelder, which had already been granted away before Penn came to the colony. There were also Swedish, Dutch and English grants of land made before Penn came to be proprietary that had to be respected, so that the Liberty lands were very irregular in their boundaries, and ran by various courses along the Cohocksink, Wissinoming, Tacony, Wingohocking and other streams, and Germantown and Bristol townships, to the Schuylkill, and over the same and out to Cobb's Creek, and down the same and along the west side of the Schuylkill to a point opposite Vine Street, at the north city line, and along the same to the place of beginning. This survey was made in 1682, and the Liberties contained on the east side of the Schuylkill, 9,161 acres; west side, 7,074 acres; total, 16,235 acres. These liberty lands on the east side of the Schuylkill became a township nearly from the time of survey, and were call the Northern Liberties, while the western Liberties, beyond the Schuylkill, became a portion of the township of Blockely. The territory between the Delaware and Schuylkill was subsequently divided; the western part was called Penn township, and the eastern part was sometimes called the Unincorporated Northern Liberties. Whenever so spoken of, the reference was to that portion of the township which had not been taken up by the formation of districts, and by the time of consolidation the area of the township was very small, the districts of Northern Liberties, Spring Garden, Kensington, Penn, Richmond, and the township of Penn an the boroughs of Aramingo and Bridesburg, having been carved out of it. In 1854 the township or Unincorporated Northern Liberties was the space of land north of Kensington, west of Richmond and Aramingo, and a portion of Frankford, south of a portion of Oxford and Bristol townships, and east of Penn township. A part of it was west of the Frankford Road, and all it was east of Germantown Road.


A portion of the township of the Northern Liberties, was first the object of particular care by Act of Assembly of March 9, 1771, which provided for the appointment of persons to regulate streets, direction of buildings, etc. By act of March 30, 1791 the inhabitants of that potion of the Northern Liberties between Vine Street and Pegg's Run and the middle of Fourth Street and the Delaware River were empowered to elect three commissioners to lay taxes for the purpose of lighting, watching and establishing pumps within those bounds. On March 28, 1803, the Legislature passed an act to incorporate that part of the township of the Northern Liberties lying between the west side of Sixth Street and the Delaware River and between Vine Street and Cohocksink Creek. Under the Consolidation law this district ceased to exist in 1845, and become a part of Philadelphia. The Northern Liberties was principally composed of a tract of land originally called Hartsfield. This was a title given in a patent to the ground granted March 25,1676, before the arrival of William Penn, to Jurian Hartsfelder. It included all the ground bounded by the River Delaware between Coakquenauque (Pegg's Run) and the Chocksink Creeks, and extended westward about as far as the line of Ridge Road. In the tract was nearly the whole of the ground afterward the Northern Liberties, and a portion of Spring Garden and Penn Districts. Hartsfelder sold a portion of this property in 1679-80 to Hannah Salter, and another portion to Daniel Pegg in 1683-89, he having previously bought Hannah Salter's interest. William Penn pardoned the whole Hartsfelder tract to Daniel Pegg in 1689.


A township running from the county line in southeast direction to the Delaware River, and along the same southwest to Frankford Creek, and up the same northwestwardly to Tacony Creek, which it followed until it reached the county line near were the northwestern boundary joined it. Frankford, White Hall, Fox Chase, Cedar Grove and Volunteer Town were in this township, and it also took in the former township of Tacony. Greatest length, 3 miles; greatest breadth, 4 miles; area, 7,680 acres. It was one of the earliest townships established. The township was surrounded by the waters of the Delaware and Frankford Creek on two sides, and was traversed by the Little Tacony and Sissamocksink (Wissinoming) or Little Wahauk Creeks.


Passyunk, spelled in old deeds and records Perslajingh, Passayunk, Passyonck, Passajon, Passajungh, Passaming and Paisajungh, the name of a Native American village, and afterward of a tract of land computed at 1,000 acres, was originally given by Queen Christina, August 20, 1653, to Lieut. Swen Schute in consideration of important services rendered to the King of Sweden by the said gallant lieutenant. On January 1, 1667-68, Governor Richard Nichols, of New York, granted Passyunk to Robert Ashman, John Ashman, Thomas Jacob, Dunkin Williams, Francis Walker, and others, at a quit-rent of ten bushels of wheat per year. Passyunk was the first tract of land above the marsh-land in the Neck, which latter has since become fast land. It fronted on the Schuylkill river from Point Breeze up to a little stream called Pinneys Creek. From the head of Pinneys Creek the boundary extended in a straight line towards the southeast, to a point which formed the boundary of Moyamensing, thence south by west to the limit of the fast-land and over in irregular shape to the Schuylkill. The northeastern boundary was about on the parallel of Twelfth Street.

Passyunk occupied something more than a full quarter of the fast-land south of the city. It became a township at a very early period. The limit of the township was extended from the south Street city line along the Schuylkill and the Delaware and back Channel to a point beyond the eastern end of League Island, whence it ran north by west and struck the city line at South Street between Schuylkill Fifth (Eighteenth ) and Sixth (Seventeenth) Streets. The township was estimated to be in it's greatest length 3 3/4 miles; greatest breadth, 3 miles; area, 5,110 acres. There were no villages in this township, but it was at no time a favorite place for country-seats. It was Traversed by the Federal Road, afterwards called Federal Street, from the Delaware to Grays Ferry, by a portion of Moyamensing Road across to Greenwich Island, Passyunk Road, Long Lane and the Irish Tract Lane.

See also: Petty's Island