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Incorporated District, Boroughs, and Townships in the County of Philadelphia, 1854


A borough crested out of the township of Northern Liberties, incorporated April 11, 1850. Bounded on the northeast by a portion of the borough of Bridesburg and Frankford Creek, which divided it from a portion of Oxford township and Frankford; on the northwest the unincorporated Northern Liberties, and the District of Northern Liberties were boundaries, the latter partly on the southwest; and Richmond district on the southeast and southwest. The name is an abbreviation and alteration from the Native American name of the stream adjacent, called by the Swedes and English, Gunner’s Run. The original name was Tumanaraming, meaning “Wolf Walk.” By cutting off a portion of the head, and omitting two letters in the center and adding an o, the word “Aramingo” was coined.


A district created by act of April 14, 1853. It embraced that part of Blockley Township which lay long the River Schuylkill from the northern boundary-line of West Philadelphia to the northern boundary-line between Philadelphia and Montgomery counties, and had also its western boundary on that line. This district had scarcely time to be organized before the Act of Consolidation of February 2, 1854, put an end to its franchises. The name was derived from Belmont, the county seat of the Peters family, which is now portion of Fairmount Park. The mansion was erected by William Peters about 1743, and the name was descriptive of the fine position of the property and suggestive of the beautiful views of the river and valley of the Schuylkill. The property became the estate of Judge Richard Peters, of the United States District Court; he lived there until his death, August 22, 1828.


A township on the west side of the Schuylkill River, north of Kingsessing township; bounded on the east by the river; extending south from the county line, opposite to, but a little below, the mouth of the Wissahickon, down to the Nanganesy or Mill Creek, below the Woodlands; thence by the same creek up to Chadd’s Ford Turnpike, known in later years as the Baltimore Pike; along the same to Cobb’s Creek; thence by the courses of the same to the county line adjoining Lower Merion township, Montgomery county, and along the same to the River Delaware. It was traversed by the Darby Road, Chadd’s Ford, or Baltimore Pike, the road to West Chester, to Haverford and to Lancaster. Within its boundaries were the villages of Hamilton, Mantua, West Philadelphia, Hestonville and Haddington. The greatest length, 4 miles; the greatest breadth, 5 miles; area, 7,580 acres. The name is supposed to have been derived from Blockley, a parish in England in the county of Worcester.


A village south of Frankford Creek and upon a tract of land formerly belonging to Point-no-Point. It took its name from Joseph Kirkbride, who for many years was land-owner there and proprietor of a ferry over Frankford Creek, and to whom Legislature gave a right to build a bridge and receive toll for passage over the same by act of March 20,1811. On April 1, 1833, the County of Philadelphia bought the Kirkbride bridge and two and a half acres of land annexed for $5,500. Kirkbridesburg was considered too long a name for convenient use, and the shorter one was adopted Bridesburg was incorporated as a borough on April 1, 1848.


A township at the north end of the county, at the intersection of the angle which runs down from the extreme point of the city boundary and Montgomery County. It was of irregular form, and was bounded on the northwest by a portion of Springfield Township, Montgomery County; on the northeast by Cheltenham, Montgomery County. It extended along the latter to Oxford Township, but was bounded mainly on the east by Tacony Creek, on the south partly by the Wingohocking and the township of the northern Liberties, and on the west and southwest by Germantown Township. The Old York Road ran through it to Branchtown and Milestown (now Oak Lane), and thence to Bucks county. Greatest length, 5 1/2 miles; greatest breadth, 3 miles; area, 5,650 acres. The name is derived from the city of Bristol in England.


A township in the extreme northeastern part of the county of Philadelphia; bounded on the east and northeast by Poquessing Creek and Bucks County; on the northwest by Montgomery County; and on the west and southwest by the township of Moreland.  Its greatest length was estimated at 5 miles; its greatest breadth, 2 1/2 miles; area, 4.700 acres. It was settled by a few Swedes previous to the year 1675, and in that year by four brothers Nathaniel, Thomas, Daniel and William Walton who were all young and single men. They had arrived at Newcastle from England early in that year, and, having prospected the land in the neighborhood of the Delaware, chose the country near Poquessing Creek, and settled there.

They gave to it the name Byberry, in honor of their native town, near Bristol, in England.  They were joined after the arrival of the ship Welcome in 1682, by Giles and Joseph Knight, John Carver, John Heart, Richard Collett and their families, and others.  The township of Byberry was established at a very early date after the coming of Penn. It contained very few villages at the time of consolidation, and was the most rural of all the townships of Philadelphia County. Byberry Crossroads, once called Plumbsock, and Knightsville, were the principal villages.


A township formed out of portion of Dublin Township in 1853. Its inhabitants voted at one general election. Its officers were superseded in the next year by consolidation.


Commonly called Lower Dublin, a township in the upper part of the county, adjoining Moreland and Byberry on the south, extending southeast nearly in parallel line to Poquessing Creek and the Delaware River. Bustleton, Fox Chase and Holmesburg were in this township. It was 5 miles at its greatest length; 3 miles in breadth; area, 9,500 acres. This township was formerly called Lower Dublin to distinguish it from another Dublin township, formerly in Philadelphia county, but now in Montgomery county, and there called Upper Dublin. This township was one of the first created in Philadelphia County, but the date is not known.


Situate on Tacony, since called Frankford Creek, in the lower part of the township of Oxford. The name of the village was very likely derived from the title of the Franckfort Company, which took up ground there. This village was incorporated into a borough by act of March 2, 1800. By act of April 4, 1831, the boundaries of the borough were extended.


Afterward called Germantown Township, was laid out by virtue of three warrants: October 12, 1683, for 6,000 acres, to Francis Daniel Pastorius, for the German and Dutch purchasers; February 13, 1683, to Francis Daniel Pastorius for 200 acres; April 25, 1684, to Jurian Hartsfelder, for 150 acres. The first purchasers of Frankfurt in Germany were Jacobus van der Walle, Johann Jacob Schutz, Johann Wilhelm Ueberfeld, Daniel Behagel, George Strauss, Jan Leureiss, Abram Hasevoet. Among them were divided 2,675 acres. The same quality was divided among the first purchasers of Crevelt in Germany, namely, Jacob Felner, Jan Strepers, Dirk Sipman, Ganert Reniks, Lenard Artes, Jacob Isaacs. The township was divided into settlements, called Germantown, Cresheim, Sommerhausen and Crevelt. These Germans were from the palatinates of Cresheim and Crevelt, many of them having become Friends through the preaching of William Penn in Germany. The greatest length of the German township was 5 1/2 miles; the greatest breadth, 2 miles; area, 7,040 acres. The township was bounded on the northwest and northeast by Springfield Township, Montgomery County; on the northeast partly by Bristol Township; on the southeast by Penn Township and Roxborough. Within the German township were the settlements known as Germantown, Cresheim (afterward Mount Airy), Sommerhausen (later called Chestnut Hill) and Crevelt, a rural section north of Chestnut Hill.


A settlement in German township, which was commenced by Pastorius, October 21, 1685. On August 12, 1689, William Penn at London signed a charter constituting some of the inhabitants a corporation by the name of “the bailiff, burgesses and commonalty of German town, in the county of Philadelphia, in the province of Pennsylvania.” Francis Daniel Pastorius was the first bailiff. Jacob Telner, Dirck Isaacs Opdagraaf, Herman Isaacs Opedegraaf and Tennis Coender were burgesses, besides six committeemen. They had authority to hold “the general court of the corporation of Germantown,” to make laws for the government of the settlement, and to hold a court of record. This court went into operation in 1690, and continued its services for sixteen years. Sometimes, to distinguish Germantown from the upper portion of German township, outside the borough, the township portion was called Upper Germantown.


That part of the township of the Northern Liberties which lay between Cohocksink Creek and Gunner’s Run, in the neighborhood of the road to Frankford, and between that road and the Delaware River. It was a tract of land lying on the River Delaware above Hartsfield, subsequently a part of Northern Liberties, lying north of Peg’s Run. Shakamaxon was known as a town before November 12, 1678, when Lawrence Cock made a grant of 300 acres there. In the deed it is stated that the whole tract of land surveyed at Shakamaxon was 1800 acres, of which Lawrence Cock, Moens Cock, Gunner Rambo and Michael Neilson were owners. It began to grow into a settlement soon after the village of the Northern Liberties felt an increase of population. Kensington was a straggling, scattered region of streets running parallel with the Delaware from southwest to northeast, and crossed by others from southeast to northwest. It was inhabited principally by fishermen and ship-carpenters. On March 6, 1820, the Legislature created a new corporation, called the “commissioners and inhabitants of the Kensington district of the Northern Liberties.” Their jurisdiction extended over the ground which commenced at the mouth of Cohocksink Creek (Brown Street) and the Northern Liberties line, along the River Delaware to the south line of Gibson’s land, and thence along that line to Gunner’s Creek, and across to the south line of the land of the Norris estate, then along the same crossing Frankford Road, to the Germantown Road, down the eastwardly side of the latter to the middle of Sixth Street, and then down said street to the line of the Northern Liberties, which touched Sixth Street at Cohocksink Creek, and then along that creek to the place of beginning. The name is derived from Kensington town and parish of Middlesex, England, and a western suburb of the city of London.

The town hall, or rather Commissioners’ hall was in the centre of a plot of ground extending from Frankford Avenue to Front Street, from Master Street northward. From the consolidation of the city in 1854 and for a long period afterwards it was used as a police station.


A township in the extreme southwestern portion of the city bounded on the north by Blockley; on the east by Mill Creek and Schuylkill River; on the south by Delaware River and Bow Creek; and on the west by Darby Creek and Cobb’s Creek; shaped irregularly. It embraces the site of the old village of Kingsessing, by no settlement of any size except Maylandville. It was traversed principally by the Darby Road and the road to Lazaretto. Its greatest length, 5 miles; greatest breadth, 2 1/2 miles; area, 6,800 acres. This was the oldest settled portion of the country of Philadelphia.  Kingsessing, or Chinsessing (a place where there is a meadow), was the name of a place lying on the west side of the Schuylkill River, below the western abutment of Penrose Ferry Bridge, and not far distant therefrom.  Kingsessing became the name of the township in which the original Indian and Swedish village stood. The Kingsessing settlement was called a town by the Swedes, and was the first village entitled to that appellation made by white men within the territory of Philadelphia. The township of Kingsessing was created at very early date after the settlement by William Penn.


A Native American Indian name which means “our place for drinking” and applied to the Schuylkill River, was a borough situate near the Schuylkill, south of the Wissahickon. The original name was Flat Rock, from a peculiar flat rock lying on the lower side of the bridge, which was subsequently called Flat Rock Bridge. The settlement had its origin from the construction of the dam, canal and locks there by the Schuylkill Navigation Company. These works were finished about the end of the year 1818, and, the water-power being extensive, the Navigation Company sought for lessees of the power for use in mills and factories. Capt. John Towers was the second person who bought a water right and erected an oil-mill. After that purchases of water-power and the erection of mills and factories increased greatly, and the place became famous as a manufacturing village. After a time the inhabitants became dissatisfied with the name Flat Rock, and held meetings on the subject. On such an occasion, in 1824, it was resolved to adopt for the place one of the names of the River Schuylkill, and from that time the village was known as Manayunk. The borough of Manayank was incorporated June 11, 1840.


A manor of 9,815 acres on a branch of Poquessing Creek. It was in most northern portion of the county of Philadelphia, in the neighborhood of the Delaware, and lay to the west ward of Byberry Township. It extended over into Bucks County, and was divided into two townships, one in each county and each called Moreland. The rise of Moreland Township in Philadelphia County was 5 miles, its greatest length; 2 miles in width; area, 3,720 acres. The principal village was Smithfield or Pleasantville, afterward called Somerton, which was partly in Moreland and partly in Bayberry.


Originally a tract of ground on the fast land of the Neck, lying between Passyunk and Wicaco. It was granted by the Dutch governor Alexander d’Hinoyossa, to Martin Clensmith, William Stille and Lawrence Andries. The title was confirmed in 1684 by William Penn to Lassey Andrews, William Stille, Andrew Bankson and John Matson. Moyamensing Township included this ground and Wicaco, except such parts of the latter as were included in Southwark. It extended from about Schuylkill Sixth (Seventeenth Street) and South Street over to the Delaware below the built parts of Southwark. In 1816 the greatest length of Moyamensing was estimated to be 3 miles; the greatest breadth, 2 miles; area, 2,560 acres. By act of March 24, 1812, the inhabitants of Moyamensing were incorporated by the style of “the commissioners and inhabitants of the township of Moyamensing.” By act of April 4, 1831, the township was divided into East and West Moyamensing. The township was one of the earliest created after the settlement of Pennsylvania.


The Liberties was term applied by William Penn to certain tract of land lying north and West of the city. It contained what was called “the liberty land or free lots” because the proprietaries gave to the first purchaser of ground in the colony, according to the extent of their purchaser, a portion of the land within those limits free of price. The original idea of Penn was to lay out a great town of 10,000 acres; but when the commissioners came to survey this space of ground it was found somewhat difficult, and when Penn arrived in 1682 he determined to divide the great town into two parts, one to be called the city and the other the Liberties. The city contained about 1,820 acres. The Liberties extended north of Vine Street to the mouth of Cohoquinoque Creek or Pegg’s Run and up the same so as to go round the lands of Jurian Hartsfelder, which had already been granted away before Penn came to the colony. There were also Swedish, Dutch and English grants of land made before Penn came to be proprietary that had to be respected, so that the Liberty lands were very irregular in their boundaries, and ran by various courses along the Cohocksink, Wissinoming, Tacony, Wingohocking and other streams, and Germantown and Bristol townships, to the Schuylkill, and over the same and out to Cobb’s Creek, and down the same and along the west side of the Schuylkill to a point opposite Vine Street, at the north city line, and along the same to the place of beginning. This survey was made in 1682, and the Liberties contained on the east side of the Schuylkill, 9,161 acres; west side, 7,074 acres; total, 16,235 acres. These liberty lands on the east side of the Schuylkill became a township nearly from the time of survey, and were call the Northern Liberties, while the western Liberties, beyond the Schuylkill, became a portion of the township of Blockely. The territory between the Delaware and Schuylkill was subsequently divided; the western part was called Penn Township, and the eastern part was sometimes called the Unincorporated Northern Liberties. Whenever so spoken of, the reference was to that portion of the township which had not been taken up by the formation of districts, and by the time of consolidation the area of the township was very small, the districts of Northern Liberties, Spring Garden, Kensington, Penn, Richmond, and the township of Penn and the boroughs of Aramingo and Bridesburg, having been carved out of it. In 1854 the township or Unincorporated Northern Liberties was the space of land north of Kensington, west of Richmond and Aramingo, and a portion of Frankford, south of a portion of Oxford and Bristol townships, and east of Penn Township. A part of it was west of the Frankford Road, and all it was east of Germantown Road.


A portion of the township of the Northern Liberties, was first the object of particular care by Act of Assembly of March 9, 1771, which provided for the appointment of persons to regulate streets, direction of buildings, etc. By act of March 30, 1791 the inhabitants of that potion of the Northern Liberties between Vine Street and Pegg’s Run and the middle of Fourth Street and the Delaware River were empowered to elect three commissioners to lay taxes for the purpose of lighting, watching and establishing pumps within those bounds. On March 28, 1803, the Legislature passed an act to incorporate that part of the township of the Northern Liberties lying between the west side of Sixth Street and the Delaware River and between Vine Street and Cohocksink Creek. Under the Consolidation law this district ceased to exist in 1845, and become a part of Philadelphia. The Northern Liberties was principally composed of a tract of land originally called Hartsfield. This was a title given in a patent to the ground granted March 25, 1676, before the arrival of William Penn, to Jurian Hartsfelder. It included all the ground bounded by the River Delaware between Coakquenauque (Pegg’s Run) and the Chocksink Creeks, and extended westward about as far as the line of Ridge Road. In the tract were nearly the whole of the ground afterward the Northern Liberties, and a portion of Spring Garden and Penn Districts. Hartsfelder sold a portion of this property in 1679-80 to Hannah Salter, and another portion to Daniel Pegg in 1683-89, he having previously bought Hannah Salter’s interest. William Penn pardoned the whole Hartsfelder tract to Daniel Pegg in 1689.


A township running from the county line in southeast direction to the Delaware River, and along the same southwest to Frankford Creek, and up the same northwestwardly to Tacony Creek, which it followed until it reached the county line near were the northwestern boundary joined it. Frankford, White Hall, Fox Chase, Cedar Grove and Volunteer Town were in this township, and it also took in the former township of Tacony. Greatest length, 3 miles; greatest breadth, 4 miles; area, 7,680 acres. It was one of the earliest townships established. The township was surrounded by the waters of the Delaware and Frankford Creek on two sides, and was traversed by the Little Tacony and Sissamocksink (Wissinoming) or Little Wahauk Creeks.


Passyunk, spelled in old deeds and records Perslajingh, Passayunk, Passyonck, Passajon, Passajungh, Passaming and Paisajungh, the name of a Native American village, and afterward of a tract of land computed at 1,000 acres, was originally given by Queen Christina, August 20, 1653, to Lieut. Swen Schute in consideration of important services rendered to the King of Sweden by the said gallant lieutenant. On January 1, 1667-68, Governor Richard Nichols, of New York, granted Passyunk to Robert Ashman, John Ashman, Thomas Jacob, Dunkin Williams, Francis Walker, and others, at a quit-rent of ten bushels of wheat per year. Passyunk was the first tract of land above the marsh-land in the Neck, which latter has since become fast land. It fronted on the Schuylkill River from Point Breeze up to a little stream called Pinneys Creek. From the head of Pinneys Creek the boundary extended in a straight line towards the southeast, to a point which formed the boundary of Moyamensing, thence south by west to the limit of the fast-land and over in irregular shape to the Schuylkill. The northeastern boundary was about on the parallel of Twelfth Street.

Passyunk occupied something more than a full quarter of the fast-land south of the city. It became a township at a very early period. The limit of the township was extended from the south Street city line along the Schuylkill and the Delaware and back Channel to a point beyond the eastern end of League Island, whence it ran north by west and struck the city line at South Street between Schuylkill Fifth (Eighteenth) and Sixth (Seventeenth) Streets. The township was estimated to be in its greatest length 3 3/4 miles; greatest breadth, 3 miles; area, 5,110 acres. There were no villages in this township, but it was at no time a favorite place for country-seats. It was Traversed by the Federal Road, afterwards called Federal Street, from the Delaware to Grays Ferry, by a portion of Moyamensing Road across to Greenwich Island, Passyunk Road, Long Lane and the Irish Tract Lane.


Penn District, that portion of the township of Penn which lay north of the north boundary-line of Spring Garden between Delaware, Sixth Street and the River Schuylkill and between a line parallel with Hickory Lane (formerly Coates Street, now Fairmont Avenue), west of Sixth Street as fare as Broad Street, and then due west to the Schuylkill, and along the same to a line parallel with, and at a distance of one hundred feet north of Susquehanna Avenue, and thence to the middle of the sixth Street. It was created a district by Act of February 26, 1844, as “the Commissioners and Inhabitants of the district of Penn”.


Penn Township was formed from the western portion of the township of the Northeastern Liberties by order of the Court of the Quarter Sessions in the year 1807. It was north of Vine Street, bounded on the east by Sixth Street to the intersection of the road to Germantown; thence by the same north by west to the foot of Logan’s Hill; southwest to the township line road; along the same to a point a short distance above Manheim Lane; then over in a southwest direction to the Schuylkill, and down the same to Vine Street. Its greatest length was four miles; its greatest width three miles; area, 7680 acres. The districts of Spring Garden and Penn were created out of this township, and it included portions of Rising Sun and Nicetown and Fort St. Davids, afterward called Falls Village. It was traversed in a northwestern direction by the Ridge Avenue, from Nine and Vine Streets, and northeastwardly from the Schulykill, between Fairmount and Lemon Hill, by Farmers’ Lane, which ran into the Germantown Road, and by Nicetown Lane, from the Ridge Road below the Falls, and over to Nicetown, Germantown and beyond.


Port Richmond, originally the name of a tract of land in the township of Northern Liberties, adjoining the Delaware north of Ball Town and south of Point-No-Point. It was incorporated as a district on February 27, 1847. It extended along the Delaware River to a point some distance northwest of the upper end of Petty’s Island; then northwest nearly to the point where Frankford Creek makes its most southerly bend; thence southerly bend; thence southwest to Westmoreland Street; northwest along the same to Emerald Street; southwest along the latter to a lane running from Frankford Turnpike to Nicetown Lane; along Frankford Turnpike to the north boundary of Kensington, and down the same to Gunners’ Run, and along that stream to the Delaware River. The area was 1163 acres.


Southwark was the oldest district in the county of Philadelphia. It began to grow much earlier than the northern portions of the county beyond the city limits. In this increase the section was very much aided by the Swedish settlements of Wicaco and Moyamensing. This region was the first which required the attention of the General Assembly. By agreement the inhabitants had continued some of the principal streets of the city running north and south through their territory. In regard to the cross streets there was not always as much unanimity, and for the want of such regulations the inhabitants applied to the Assembly by petition. On May 14,1762, an Act was passed to create a municipality in the southern suburbs to be called the district of Southwark. The bounds commenced on Cedar (South) Street and the River Delaware, and proceeded thence west to Passyunk Road; along the latter to Moyamensing Road; thence by Keeler’s Lane to Greenwich Road; thence to River Delaware, and along the several courses of the same to the place of beginning. The greatest dimensions were 1 1/4 miles in length by 1 1/4 miles in breath; area 760 acres. The name was adopted, partly, in allusion to the situation of the district south of the city of Philadelphia, but it was also adopted from the name of a borough in the county of Surrey, England, immediately opposite the city of London.


Spring Garden appears in Varie’s map of 1796 as a small settlement between Vine Street and Buttonwood Lane and a point on a line with Seventh Street, and extending as far west as Ridge Road. There was a street (now known as Franklin Street) which ran north from Vine Street across Callowhill, and stopped opposite a house half-way between Callowhill, and Buttonwood Lane. The Street now known as Eighth Street (then called Garden Street) ran through the centre of the district, and the street now called Darien, formally Garden Street (then called Spring Street) ran from Vine to Buttonwood. The district was incorporated March 22, 1813, as “the Commissioners and Inhabitants of the district of Spring Garden.” The original boundaries were Vine Street on the south; the middle of Hickory Lane (afterwards Coates Street, now Fairmount Avenue) on the north; Broad Street on; the west, and the middle of Sixth Street on; the east. On March 21, 1827, the district was enlarged by adding; that part of Penn Township beginning at the middle of Sixth Street to a point 210 feet north of the north side of Popular Lane; thence northwest, parallel to the lane, at a distance of 200 feet from the latter, to the middle of Broad Street, thence parallel with Vine Street to the River Schuylkill. The meaning of this was that whilst the upper boundary of the district took a course from Sixth Street west by north to Broad Street, the line beyond the latter ran due east and west to the Schuylkill. It extended by the course of that river to Vine Street, and along the latter to Broad, where it met the old district line. By this addition the size of Spring Garden was more than doubled. At the time of consolidation the area of the district was estimated to be 1100 acres.


Tacony, Toaconing or Toaconick, a small township situate in the bend between the River Delaware, Wissinoming Creek on the northeast and Frankford Creek and Little Tacony Creek on the south and west. It lay east of the town of Frankford, and at an early date was incorporated in Oxford Township.


West Philadelphia, in the township of Blockley and west of the Schuylkill River, was created a borough on February 17, 1844, and embraced Hamilton and Mantua villages and the ground between. On April 3, 1853, its title was changed to the district of West Philadelphia and its boundaries considerably enlarged.


White Hall, northwest of Bridesburg, extending from the United States Arsenal (Frankford Arsenal) westward, contained in the bend made by Frankford Creek and Little Tacony, and adjourning Frankford. It was situate in the old township of Tacony and the later township of the Northern Liberties. It was incorporated into a borough on April 9, 1849.

Did you know that in 1800, not L.A., not New York, but Philadelphia was our largest city, a distinction it held until 1830.  The top five were Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, Boston, and Charleston, S.C.  But we defy anyone to name the sixth largest American town in 1800. It was Northern Liberties, now part of Philadelphia.  And seventh was Southwark, now also part of the present Philadelphia. Read here about the early days of the City of Brotherly Love.

The City of Philadelphia

Incorporated District, Boroughs, and Townships in the County of Philadelphia, 1854

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