Walking Purchase marker now silent
AL ZAGOFSKY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Three miles northeast of Jim Thorpe, at the summit of Rt. 903, a frame on a blue post is what remains of a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission marker that told the story of the Walking Purchase in which native Lenape Indians were defrauded of their hunting lands by the sons of William Penn.
About three miles northeast of Jim Thorpe, at the summit of Rt. 903, a blue post stands along the roadway holding up nothing buy empty air.
The now-empty Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission marker once held a sign describing how much of northeastern Pennsylvania was acquired.
The marker had read, "In the early afternoon of Sept. 20, Edward Marshall, with an official timer, ended the 'Indian Walk' having covered some 65 miles in 18 hours travel. His stopping place is supposed to have been in this general area."
Here, Marshall threw himself full length upon the ground and grasped a spruce sapling. This became the reference for an area bounded by Wrightstown, just west of New Hope, to Jim Thorpe to Lackawaxen and south along the Delaware River to New Hope, called the Walking Purchase of 1737, a theft of 750,000 acres of the Lenape's prime hunting lands by the sons of William Penn.
According to Howard Pollman of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, there are more than 2,300 historical markers in Pennsylvania.
"Since 1946, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has administered a program of historical markers to capture the memory of people, places, and events that have affected the lives of Pennsylvanians."
A short description of each historic site is set in cast aluminum. Markers tell the stories of Native Americans and settlers, government and politics, athletes, entertainers, artists, struggles for freedom and equality, factories and businesses.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has a contract crew for marker maintenance and sets about repairing or replacing markers when the commission is advised of their damage or loss. If you are aware of a damaged or lost marker, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each year new markers are approved and installed. Traditionally, limited matching grants have been available for the manufacture of markers; however, with the passage of the Fiscal Year 2009-2010 Pennsylvania Commonwealth budget, the PHMC received a substantial reduction in their grant allocation. The program no longer provides matching grants. Nominators will cover the costs of their marker's fabrication.
Nominations for historical markers may be submitted by any person or organization. Nominations postmarked by December 1 are evaluated by a panel of independent experts from across the state and reviewed by PHMC commissioners the following spring.
The Walking Purchase of 1737 was neither a purchase nor involved walking. It was a fraud by Penn's sons to take virtually all the hunting lands away from the native Lenape tribe.
William Penn dealt fairly with the Lenape, purchasing their land rather than seizing it by force of arms. Penn's sons inherited the colony along with their father's debts. Penn's sons began to aggressively sell land, often land that belonged to the Lenape. In 1737, they connived with the Iroquois Confederacy to take the Lenape land using a counterfeit document.
The document said that in 1686, Lenape chiefs agreed that William Penn could purchase land in Bucks County as "far as a man can walk in a day and a half." Everyone alleged to have signed the treaty had died.
Thomas and John Penn, who had assumed the proprietorship in the 1730s, hired three athletes, Solomon Jennings, Edward Marshall and James Yates, to make the "walk" in record time. The three trained for months in preparation for this event. To aid them, underbrush was cut away, horses carried supplies, and boats were arranged to ferry them across streams.
At dawn on Sept. 19, 1737, the three "walkers" set out in a run from the Wrightstown Meetinghouse. Two faltered. Only Marshall completed the "walk." He had covered 66.5 miles in 18 hours of travel when he reached the area indicated by the marker on Rt. 903.