fbpx

History and Beauty at London Purchase Farm

June 25th, 2024 News and Events

Click the image below to view the full gallery.

One would be hard pressed to find a property that exceeds London Purchase Farm in beauty and history! Certainly there are other beautiful historic properties, but London Purchase Farm’s direct connection with the Revolutionary War and the fateful crossing of the Delaware River in the winter of 1776, makes this property unique. London Purchase Farm recently served as the backdrop for a photo shoot as George Washington, Henry Knox and Alexander Hamilton visited the property

As the junior officer, Alexander Hamilton was appropriately the one to knock on the door. A broad smile beamed across the face of property owner Dr. Roger Pomerantz, as he welcomed the distinguished visitors to his home. Roger graciously showed the reenactors throughout the house, including a good deal of time spent in the Hamilton bedroom. Afterwards, the officers went to the dining room and got down to the business of reviewing maps in preparation for the upcoming battle, fortified by glasses of Madeira.

Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River and his attack on Trenton on Christmas 1776 is one of the most important events of the American Revolution and American history. Following a series of defeats, Washington and his army retreated across New Jersey into Pennsylvania. These photos can help you imagine what a special moment it was for those lucky enough to experience seeing Washington, Knox and Hamilton in the actual room where they stood at one of the most critical periods of our history.  

Colonel Henry Knox made his headquarters at the Chapman House. While Knox was not a General Officer, he was in command of the continental artillery. Artillery Captain Alexander Hamilton served with Knox and stayed in the house as well.

The history of the property does not begin with the American Revolution. The property, which was originally part of William Penn’s Manor of Highlands, and then part of the 5,000 acre tract owned by the London Company, was settled by the 1730s. Because land records are incomplete, it has been impossible to document when the London Company tract was first settled and no deed from the company for the future London Purchase Farm was recorded. The property was owned by four generations of the Chapman family that originally settled in nearby Wrightstown Township, including three generations of men named John Chapman.

The pioneer ancestor of the Chapman family, John Chapman, purchased 500 acres of land in the present township of Wrightstown while still living in England. His son was known as John the Surveyor, as he served as Deputy Surveyor of Bucks County. John owned this property as well as family land in Wrightstown, 300 acres in Durham Township, Bucks County and 200 acres in New Jersey.  He also owned partial interests in a saw mill in Wrightstown and a grist mill northwest of Doylestown. John Chapman’s name appears on the 1733 tax list for Upper Makefield and on a 1736 survey for a road in the township as the owner of the property. 

His son, Dr. Chapman, received his medical degree in Philadelphia and married Mercy Beaumont in 1767. She was the daughter of John Beaumont, who owned all of the land to the north of the Chapman property extending down to the Delaware River, as well as a large tract of land with extensive frontage along the Delaware south of his other land. This tract included a ferry landing that became known as Beaumont’s Ferry and the site of the future village of Brownsburg. After John Beaumont’s death in 1782, his heirs divided his 600-acre Upper Makefield property.  His daughter Mercy and son-in-law, Dr. John Chapman, inherited 155 acres of the property on the opposite side of Lurgan Road from London Purchase Farm.

Dr. John Chapman was an important leader in the community.  He served roles in national, state, county, and local politics. He was elected as a Representative to the Fifth Congress (March 4, 1797-March 3, 1799) from Pennsylvania as a member of the Federalist Party. According to the Biographical Dictionary of Congress, Dr. John Chapman was commissioned justice of the peace on February 25, 1779, and judge of the court of common pleas of Bucks County the same year. After moving to Upper Makefield, he was later elected as a member of the State Assembly between 1787-1796.  Beginning in 1774, as the crisis with England escalated, Chapman served on the Committee of Observation and the Committee of Correspondence. As the situation was moving towards a more revolutionary course, Dr. John Chapman was one of the Quakers that resigned from the committees.

The significance of the house has been long appreciated. Historian W. W. H. Davis wrote: “The Chapman mansion, the quarters of Knox and Hamilton, and now (in 1905) owned by Edward Johnson…is in excellent condition, and is the best house of the Revolutionary period we have seen in the county.  Knox occupied the first floor of the east end, then divided into two rooms, but now all in one, 25 by 17 feet. Hamilton, then a captain of artillery, lay sick in the back room. The late Peter G. Cattell, who lived and died on an adjoining farm, used to relate that he saw Washington at Knox’s quarters.”

Dr. John Chapman lived on the farm until his death. He wrote his will in 1800 dividing his property between his three sons, John, Seth and Josiah Chapman.  His son and namesake, John, received the portion of the property directly related to the Revolutionary War headquarters. Dr. Chapman’s second wife and widow, Margery, lived in Upper Makefield until 1805, when she moved to Middletown where her daughter Mary and son-in-law, William Jenks, lived. Their son, John Chapman (born 1768-died 1840), was the fourth generation of the same name to own the property.

This John Chapman moved to Bristol and offered the Upper Makefield property for sale on several occasions. The September 25, 1821 Pennsylvania Correspondent newspaper advertised a two-story stone house 52 feet by 28 feet with a good stone kitchen adjoining; a two-story tenant house, good stone barn measuring 45 by 23 feet, and a carriage house. The dimensions of the house in the advertisement verify that the three historic sections of the house were constructed by 1821. John Chapman never found a buyer for the farm and he died still owning 195 acres of land.  

On November 23, 1842, Samuel Atkinson, as executor of his estate, advertised the property for sale in the Pennsylvania Correspondent as required by the Orphans’ Court. The advertisement stated “the improvements are a large two story stone house with four rooms and an entry on the first floor, and five rooms on the second, with a kitchen and wash-house adjoining, a large stone barn, stone wagon house, and frame carriage house.” There was no mention of the stone tenant house and log barn noted fourteen years earlier. Persons wishing to view the premises previous to the day of the sale, were to call on William R. Chapman on the premises.

The purchaser of the property was John Chapman’s son, William R. Chapman. William R. Chapman apparently lived near Mt. Holly, New Jersey and did not move back to the family farm. He quickly subdivided the property. He sold 90 acres that included London Purchase Farm to Kinsey B. Tomlinson of Newtown in 1843. The property went through a series of owners.  Ralph L. Atkinson; Silas L. Atkinson; Niles Martin until 1856. Niles Martin acquired adjacent land and sold approximately 162 ¾ acres to Edwin Johnson in 1859.

The property passed by will from Edwin Johnson to his son Benjamin E. Johnson. The 1876 Atlas of Bucks County labels the property as being one of two farms comprising 234 acres with Samuel Johnson’s name, despite his not being the recorded owner of the property. Samuel Johnson’s association with the property is perpetuated by the fact that a wide board with his name on it was reused in a tavern room within the house. The 1891 Atlas of Bucks County shows the Edw. Johnson estate as the owner of 72 acres including London Purchase and 84 acres across Eagle Road from the subject property.  In 1912 Benjamin E. Johnson sold the 157 acres.  

The property went through several owners until 1973 when London Purchase Farm, then totaling 24.39 acres, was sold separately. Again, the property went through a series of owners until  Dr. Roger Pomerantz and Dr. Cathy Colt bought the property. The historic buildings, surrounded by land generously permanently protected by Dr. Roger Pomerantz and Dr. Cathy Colt, still, and always will, provide an appropriate context for this historic property.

 


 

Written by Jeffrey Marshall. Marshall has more than 25 years of combined experience in land protection and historic preservation and is the author of Early History of Upper Makefield Township, Bucks County, PA.