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Horsham Preservation & Historical Association

...the Future of Horsham's Past

History of Horsham

History of Horsham

photo of Samuel Carpenter

Horsham is a saxon word meaning "place of horses" or "a horse settlement", (91) and is named after the boyhood home of Samuel Carpenter in Sussex England. Other Horshams include the original in England, and another in Australia.

The following is taken fromThe History of Horsham by Maury Craven. (39)

Horsham is one of the original townships laid out, but not named, on the first published map of William Penn’s settlement in Pennsylvania. This map, commonly known as Holme’s map was printed during the year 1687 by Penn’s London land office, from reports submitted before the end of the previous year by his Land Commissioners, resident in Philadelphia, and by Thomas Holme, his Surveyor General for the Colony.

Holme used a simple method of blocking out land in the east end of Montgomery and Bucks Counties. He ran parallel lines northwestward from the Delaware River at intervals of one and one-half miles; each alternate line established a division line between townships. The intervening lines formed median or base lines within the townships, from which individual grants of land were measured.

photo of Thomas Holmes Map of Pennsylvania

Horsham, therefore, forms a somewhat irregular parallelogram, with an average width of slightly more than three miles. The average length is somewhat more than five and one-half miles, and the total area is about 10,750 acres, or a little less than 17 square miles.

Through highways were projected along each of the parallel lines on Holmes map. When actually laid out, these highways occasionally deviated from the straight lines of the survey, due to irregularities of terrain. In a general way, most of the southeast-northwest roads in the eastern end of Montgomery County and the adjacent section of Bucks County follow the old survey lines laid down more than 250 years ago. Township Line Road or Cottman Avenue, Susquehanna Road, Welsh Road, Horsham Road, County Line Road, Street Road, and Bristol Road all follow closely the base lines found on Holme’s map.

As is usual when new lands are opened to settlement, relatively few of the first land buyers intended to settle on their purchases. They were speculators, depending on a rapid influx of bona fide settlers to make their investments profitable. Almost all the available land within 30 or 40 miles of Philadelphia passed into private ownership before the end of the year 1686, and so was plotted on Holme’s map. The district which later became known as Horsham Township had been allotted to four individuals; George Palmer, Joseph Fisher, Samuel Carpenter, and Mary Blunston. A member of the family later settled on the Palmer tract; the other three purchasers lived elsewhere, and sold off their land to others as rapidly as opportunity offered. (The restored Novotny House is one of the last original homes on the Blunston tract.)

The formal organization of the Township is said to have taken place in 1717. It is probable that the permanent limits were fixed, and a name selected at that time, Samuel Carpenter, once the owner of nearly half the Township, was born in Horsham, Sussex, England, and it is supposed that the name of the township comes from there. Carpenter had died in 1714 so perhaps this was a tribute from his wife or children. (see the Indenture where Carpenter's land is bequeathed to them)

Villages grew up around the intersection of major highways in the township. Over the years five such villages (Horshamville, Babylon, Davis Grove, Hallowell, and Prospectville), each having a general store, a blacksmith shop, a wheelwright shop, and a few log cabins and fieldstone houses came to be designated by name, and were focal points in the community. Later, the villages of Horsham, Babylon, and Prospectville could boast of having a school house.

The village of Davis Grove, located within one-half mile of the Bucks County Line at the intersection of Governor and Privet Roads, gained prominence early in the history of the Township because of its proximity to Governor Keith’s estate, now known as Graeme Park. The Golden Ball Tavern, located here, was built about 1787, and served as an Inn and assembly hall until 1857. Thereafter, it was used as a private dwelling. It has been demolished and the land of Davis Grove absorbed by the Willow Grove Naval Air Station.

When the Doylestown-Willow Grove Turnpike was made a public highway north of Privet Road in 1839, the village of Davis Grove lost its position as a strategic crossroads. At the same time, the settlement along the turnpike near Justinian K. Hallowell’s hotel became important. This became known as the village of Hallowell.

Babylon was located in the center of the township in its earliest years. The village consisted of three Log Cabins, a school, a store, wheelwright shop, blacksmith shop, and a stone farm house. Members of the Kenderdine family made up the largest part of the population. A grist mill and a saw mill were built to utilize Park Creek which flowed through the area. (the reference to the saw mill is from Maury Craven's book but we can not find any other information on this mill. Please contact us if you have anything to add,)

Prospectville, located at Limekiln Pike and Horsham Road, was formerly called “Cashtown.” Three theories have been put forth as possible explanations of this name. Some say that veterans of the Civil War received their pay here, while others think that the storekeeper insisted on cash. Perhaps because a man by the name of Cash lived nearby, the village took his name. By 1871 the settlement was officially designated as Prospectville on county maps. At that time the village consisted of a wheelwright shop, two blacksmith shops, a store and post office, a schoolhouse, and a community hall.

The village of Horsham, once known as Horsham Ville was centered on the <710>Friends Meetinghouse, located near the junction of Horsham and Meetinghouse Roads and the Doylestown-Willow Grove Turnpike (now called Easton Road). Numerous houses lined the turnpike, in addition to the blacksmith shop, the wheelwright shop, and a store and post office. There were two school houses: the Friends’ School, and the Horsham Public School.

Samuel Carpenter
Samuel Carpenter purchased 5000 acres of land from William Penn, 4200 of which lie in the what is now Horsham Township
photo of Samuel Carpenter
Thomas Holmes Map of Pennsylvania
A Mapp of Ye Improved Part of Pensilvania in America, Divided Into Countyes, Townships and Lotts...." (published circa 1687) by Thomas Holmes for William Penn
photo of Thomas Holmes Map of Pennsylvania
Horsham Preservation and Historical Association
The Future of Horsham's Past
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