William Penn Grants One of the Original Plots of Land in Pennsylvania to a Persecuted Quaker Minister

William Gibson, a key associate of Penn in planning the Quaker migration to America, receives one of Penn's first land grantsĀ .

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He "hath erected the said tract of land into a province or signory, by the name of Pennsylvania, in order to the establishing of a colony"

William Gibson, born in 1629, was a Puritan and soldier in the Parliamentary army during England's Civil Wars. He and three other soldiers heard that a...

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William Penn Grants One of the Original Plots of Land in Pennsylvania to a Persecuted Quaker Minister

William Gibson, a key associate of Penn in planning the Quaker migration to America, receives one of Penn's first land grantsĀ .

He "hath erected the said tract of land into a province or signory, by the name of Pennsylvania, in order to the establishing of a colony"

William Gibson, born in 1629, was a Puritan and soldier in the Parliamentary army during England's Civil Wars. He and three other soldiers heard that a Quaker meeting was being held nearby, and they decided to go there to harass the preacher.  Instead, Gibson became a convert. In 1660 he became a minister, and went on to become one of the foremost Quaker ministers of the day. This was at a time when being a Quaker would subject you to persecution, and he was imprisoned at Lancaster for refusing to disavow his faith.  The next year, while traveling to a Quaker meeting at Denbighshire, Gibson and several other Quakers, were attacked by a group of soldiers and sent to jail.  The others were soon released by the local court, but Gibson was imprisoned and abused by his jailers. He is listed in Besse's "Sufferings of the People Called Quakers."

Gibson moved to London and there he was imprisoned, fined and distrained of his goods many times.  A letter he wrote dated August 8, 1679, protesting the eviction of Quakers from Danzig, Holland, suggests that Gibson was involved in ministerial work in Holland that year. His name also appears with those of noted Quakers William Penn, George Whitehead, William Barclay and others as a signer of epistles sent to the monthly meetings.  Gibson was a colleague of Penn himself, and correspondence between Penn and Gibson on religious matters appears in scrolls of manuscripts in England. The book "William Penn and the Dutch Quaker Migration to Pennsylvania" suggests that Gibson was involved with Penn in planning the settlement of Pennsylvania, as a prominent Quaker is quoted as stating that Gibson had spoken with Penn "of the plans of Penn and William Gibson in connection with the expedition which was to start two months later to found Philadelphia."

King Charles II owed William Penn £16,000, money which his late father Admiral Sir Penn had lent him. Seeking a haven in the New World for persecuted Friends, Penn asked the King to grant him land in the territory between Lord Baltimore's province of Maryland and the Duke of York's province of New York. With the Duke's support, Penn's petition was granted. The King signed the Charter of Pennsylvania on March 4, 1681, and it was officially proclaimed on April 2. Penn then set about finding people to help him populate these areas, and he did so by selling tracts of land. By July 1681, Penn announced his plan of land distribution, and his first land sale followed soon thereafter. Penn was joined by Gibson as investor in the project of populating his new territory. Gibson was not only a confidant and collaborator with Penn, he was one of the "First Purchasers" of Pennsylvania, one of 24 men who received one of Penn's fall 1681 plots.  This is a testament to Gibson's commitment to the New World and his trust in Penn.

Document signed, London, November 8, 1681, being an original indenture for a plot of land in Pennsylvania, with Penn's seal intact, one of the first grants Penn signed.  It reads, in small part, "…. Whereas king Charles II… hath given and granted unto the said William Penn, his heirs and assigns, all that tract or part of land in America… together with divers great powers, pre-eminences, authorities, royalties, franchises and immunities; and hath erected the said tract of land into a province or signory, by the name of Pennsylvania, in order to the establishing of a colony and plantation in the same: And hath thereby also further granted unto the said William Penn, his heirs and assigns, from time to time, power and license to assign, alien, grant, demise, such parts and parcels of the said province or tract of land, as he or they shall think fit, to such person or persons as shall be willing to purchase the same in fee-simple, fee-tail, or for term of life or years, to be holden of the said William Penn….Now this indenture witnesseth, that the said William Penn, as well for and in consideration of the sum of tenn pounds sterling, monies to him in hand paid by the said William Gibson." This document is a larger format document than one often sees and a very uncommon example.  It is approximately 2 feet by 2 feet.  Early, original land grants from Penn are increasingly uncommon, particularly given the relationship between Penn and Gibson.  Only a handful ever sold are this large.

When Gibson passed away, he was eulogized by fellow Quakers: "A zealous and courageous Sufferer in the Cause of Religion" and as one who had been "often beaten and imprisoned for Christ's sake." Over 1,000 people attended his funeral.

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