A Brief History of Cheltenham
In 1976 Elaine W. Rothschild wrote and published A History of Cheltenham Township. (Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 75-40685) This book was dedicated to Maxwell Whiteman, Chairman of the Cheltenham Historical Commission who requested the project and supervised its completion. Much of the information in this section is excerpted from that book.
In the introduction to the book, Elaine W. Rothschild, herself a member of the Cheltenham Historical Commission stated, “The purpose of this history is to make known Cheltenham’s past. It is the sincere hope of the author that this book will be a small contribution to American local history.” The authors of this work paraphrase her when we state, The purpose of this site is to make known La Mott’s past and its contributions to American history, both local and national.”
It all started in the House of the Lord
When King Charles II of England chartered Pennsylvania in 1681 in payment of a debt he owed to William Penn he set off a series of events that culminated in the founding of a “free colony for all mankind.” This “Holy Experiment” as it is more commonly known was founded by Penn in 1682 as a haven for those seeking religious freedom.
“The colony was planned as a refuge for Quakers seeking to escape the harassment and persecution they suffered because of their steadfast refusal to substitute man-made law for the law of God.” The infamous Tower of London had housed Penn for a period of time for heresy.
“Quaker“, became the popular name for members of the Society of Friends organized in England by George Fox. (www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/REquakers.htm) “Their religious philosophy, one of fundamental tolerance, is essentially the same today as it was then. The core of their belief is the Inner Light the spirit of God that is in every man to guide him into the truth. Violence in any form is not tolerated. From the earliest days of the movement, women as well as men have been traveling Friends and have participated in Quaker religious services or ‘meetings’ as they call them.”
“Until 1700, Pennsylvania was populated and governed mainly by Quakers who had emigrated from England, Wales, Ireland and Holland. In his Conditions and Concessions of 1681 Penn had agreed that any group, whose combined land purchases were 5,000 to 10,000 acres could arrange to have their plantations –rural land grants-placed side by side as a township. The first purchasers who formed Cheltenham Township were fifteen English Quakers who took advantage of Penn’s offer to take part in his experiment in the New World. Two of these First Purchasers came from the town of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and named their new township after their English home that stands on the edge of the Vale of Severn, which runs down the central west of England.” (www.cheltenham.gov.uk)
The record of the names of the First Purchasers as of March 22, 1682 who each also received an allotment of land in Philadelphia that comprised two percent of his total land Pennsylvania land grant are shown. The plots in Cheltenham were long and narrow and varied from 100 acres to 500 acres, the size difference being reflected in their widths. Interestingly, the Township still retains the general shape it had three hundred years ago, which can be seen on a survey map produced by Thomas Holme. This survey map of the Province of Pennsylvania was drawn up at the request of William Penn.
“Pennsylvania historians have determined that only fifty per cent of Pennsylvania’s First Purchasers came to America. Based on research to date, it seems likely that all but one (John Ashmead) Cheltenham First Purchaser emigrated to Pennsylvania although only six apparently lived in Cheltenham.” There are many reasons why these First Purchasers may not have lived in Cheltenham and for these the viewer is referred to the book by Elaine W. Rothschild.
In her book, author Rothschild also delves deeply into the history of these original Settlers and Their Descendants.
Viewers of this site may order a copy of this book from:
The Township of Cheltenham
8320 Old York Road
Elkins Park, PA 19027-1589
Telephone 215-887-1000; Fax 215-887-1561
In the ensuing years many famous names in the history of Philadelphia became synonymous with Cheltenham. Humphrey Morrey was appointed Mayor of Philadelphia in 1691 and served until 1701. Thus the first mayor of Philadelphia was one of Cheltenham’s First Purchasers. Thomas Wharton, Jr. a successful merchant and an active patriot during the Revolution was a resident of the Township for a short time before his death in 1778.