Newtown Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania

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Newtown Township is a township in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States (prior to 1789 it was part of Chester County). Newtown Township is the oldest township in Delaware County. The population was 11,700 as of the 2000 census.

Contents

History

Newtown Township was settled in 1681 and incorporated as a Township in 1684.[1] In 1681, William Penn planned the "first inland town west of Philadelphia" at the intersection of Goshen Road (laid out in 1687) and Newtown Street Road (laid out in 1683). The Township was laid out around a center square, or "townstead" of approximately one square mile surrounded by farmland. Original purchasers of land in the Township received 1-acre (4,000 m2) in the townstead for every ten acres of surrounding farm land. Penn has planned New Town while still in England and was able to sell a considerable number of tracts before leaving England. However, many of these people "...never lived on the land," the properties changed hands many times, and thus, early growth of the Township was slow.

Newtown was organized as the Townstead with the majority of early settlers being Welshman. These Welsh "Friends" (Quakers) needed a road to facilitate their journey to meeting, the only established road at the time being Newtown Street Road, which ran north and south. As such, in 1687, an east-west road was laid out (Goshen Road) so the Friends could attend either Goshen or Haverford Meeting. By 1696, these friends had become numerous enough to hold their own meeting in Newtown and continued to meet in a private home until the completion of the Newtown Friends Meetinghouse in 1711. In the 18th century, Newtown was basically a farming community. Blacksmith and wheelwright shops emerged on the main arteries to service horse and buggy travelers. Taverns and inns were also opened to accommodate local patrons as well as drovers taking their livestock to the markets in Philadelphia.

During the 19th century a number of mills sprang up along Crum Creek (the western border) and Darby Creek (in the northeast corner of the Township). These included saw mills, paper mills, shingle mills, and a woolen factory. In the Darby Creek area a number of tenement houses were built as well as a general store to service the needs of the mill workers.

In 1860, the population of Newtown Township was 830; the population of Philadelphia was approximately half a million. At this time, the railroad, so called the "Iron horse," was laying track out of Philadelphia in all directions with service to Chester, Media, West Chester, and Radnor...but not Newtown. As these towns, as well as stops along the way, grew and prospered, mills closed and businesses declined in Newtown. By 1890, the population had fallen to 648.

As an agricultural community, stone farmhouses graced the country landscape throughout the 19th century. Additions were made to the early simple dwellings as families grew and more living space was required. Prosperity, due to a growing market, also enabled property owners to make additions, not only to their own homes, but on the property as well as in the form of tenements and outbuildings.

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