This is one of the scarce 1681 grants for land in Philadelphia, sold (or perhaps given) to his own sister’s children
The first Penn land grant to a relative we have ever seen
Upon receiving his grant for Pennsylvania from King Charles II in March 1681, William Penn immediately set about attracting investors and settlers. To pay expenses and realize a profit from his enterprise, Penn had to sell land. The “First Purchasers”...
The first Penn land grant to a relative we have ever seen
Upon receiving his grant for Pennsylvania from King Charles II in March 1681, William Penn immediately set about attracting investors and settlers. To pay expenses and realize a profit from his enterprise, Penn had to sell land. The “First Purchasers” who responded to his promotional tracts provided essential economic support for Penn’s “Holy Experiment”, in which he believed so wholeheartedly. To arouse interest in Pennsylvania, Penn, in April, 1681, just after the charter was issued, published his first promotion tracts, “A Brief Account of the Province of Pennsylvania” and “Some Account of the Province of Pennsylvania in America”. These tracts were quickly followed by eight others, all of which were printed before the end of September 1681. Penn, the Proprietor, convinced that land must be made available to rich and poor alike, offered tracts in denominations as small as one hundred twenty-five acres. As further evidence of his sincerity he refused, in September 1681, the offer of £6,000 from a Maryland group for a tract of 30,000 acres and a monopoly of the Indian trade within the area from the Delaware to the Susquehanna. Penn was to have two and a half per cent of the profits on the trade, so he gave up a lot to make his dream commonwealth a reality.
As Penn traveled about propounding his Holy Experiment during the spring of 1681, it seemed wise for him to enter into a formal agreement with those who would become First Purchasers. Consequently, in July 1681, the Conditions and Concessions were issued. On his part, Penn agreed to clear the Indian title on 500,000 acres of land, then to lay out a principal city wherein each purchaser would receive ten acres of land for each five hundred purchased. For those settling in groups, two hundred acres would be set apart for a village in each tract of 10,000 acres. The several towns and villages would be connected by highways, the right of way being donated by the Proprietor. Each man’s land would be located with access to a navigable stream and to a village. Penn reserved 10,000 acres of every block of 100,000 acres for his own use and, later, many of these tenths became proprietary manors.
In 1681 Penn told prospective Pennsylvania colonists, “You shall be governed by laws of your own making, and live a free and, if you will, a sober and industrious people. I shall not usurp the right of any, or oppress his person.” He promised, “Whatever sober and free men can reasonably desire for the security and improvement of their own happiness I shall heartily comply with…” The response to Perm’s offer to sell lands to prospective colonists was amazing. By May 1682, when the first lists of purchasers were compiled, 566,000 acres had been sold. Penn offered for sale initially fifty blocks of land, each of which contained 10,000 acres. Parcels of land sold to individuals ran as small as one hundred twenty-five acres. The most popular denominations were for 125, 250, 500, 1,000, 1,250, 1,500, 2,500, and 5,000 acres. As land sold at the rate of £100 for 5,000 acres, the large purchasers paid £100 or more; the medium-sized purchaser paid £20 for 1,000 acres; while the small purchaser paid £10 for 500 acres or half that sum for 250. During the founding period, then, Pennsylvania was a colony of settlers, not of land speculators. Indeed, more than fifty per cent of the First Purchasers actually came to Pennsylvania and settled there. Many were members of the Free Society of Traders in Pennsylvania, Quakers who invested in the new colony and intended to have a say in its direction.
Who were among the first people to buy land in Pennsylvania? The article “The First Purchasers of Pennsylvania, 1681-1700” by John E. Pomfret contains the answer. Pomfret writes, “William Penn disposed of blocks of 5,000 acres to his relatives, the Peningtons, the Lowthers, the Crispins, William Markham, and Richard Penn; to outside friends like Petty and Ingoldsby; and to close associates, such as Philip Ford, Thomas Rudyard, James Harrison, and Thomas Holme. There were few speculators among the larger purchasers; most of them were men in the full tide of the Quaker interest.”
The Lowther family was close kin to Penn. Anthony Lowther married Margaret Penn, William Penn’s sister. The Lowther children included William, Margaret, Ann Charlotte, and John, who were thus Penn’s nieces and nephews. The Lowthers obtained 10,000 acres, all in the names of the children, and since the Lowthers were not wealthy investors, and the children were likely minors at the time, there is a chance they were given the land by their uncle, rather than having their parents pay for it.
Pennsylvania records show that by two deeds dated 23 October 1681, William Penn granted to William Lowther and Margret Lowther jointly, and to John and Ann Sharlot Lowther jointly, his nieces and nephews, each 5,000 acres per group of two. This confirms an early source that states that Penn’s sister’s family received 10,000 acres of land in Pennsylvania. The estate given to John and Ann Charlotte came to be known as the Manor of Carlton, in Germantown, now part of Philadelphia.
Large document signed, England, October 23, 1681, being the original indenture for the plot of land in Pennsylvania granted to John and Ann Charlotte Lowther, with Penn’s seal intact, one of the earliest grants Penn signed. The document gives the parties as, “William Penn of Warminghurst in the County of Sussex, Esq., on the one part, and John Lowther and Ann Sharlot Lowther, two of the children of Anthony Lowther, Esq., by Margaret his wife”, and grants them “5,000 acres bounded by the Delaware River”.
This is the first Penn land grant to a relative we have ever seen.
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