based on "Talamore at Oak Terrace" by Dr. James Hilty. Edited for the web site. The complete paper with references is available in our archives.
The golf-course community of Talamore at Oak Terrace lies in Horsham Township, Montgomery County in southeastern Pennsylvania, twenty-nine miles from Philadelphia City Hall. Situated in the Schuylkill and Lower Delaware River basin, Talamore lies just beyond what geographers call the American Coastal Plain, on the northeastern edge of the American Piedmont, below the glacial ridge where the Uplands meet the Triassic-Jurassic Lowlands. Resting upon bedrock more than 200-million years old, the land surface in the region abounds in stately deciduous trees, set apart by basaltic ridges and rolling, well-drained fertile surfaces, with scattered marshes and wetland habitats. All of which provides near-ideal land for a golf course and for a residential community close to nature.
Before there were golfers and before the first Europeans arrived in Pennsylvania, the Lenni Lenape (also known as the Delaware) Indians hunted, trapped, fished, and foraged for food on or near the land that is now Talamore at Oak Terrace. In 1610 Dutch explorers were the first Europeans to set foot in the area, but it was a group of Swedes who established the first permanent settlements in the 1630s, followed closely by the English who dominated the area by the 1670s. The area attracted a large number of Quakers eager to flee intolerant English Puritan rule. In 1681 King Charles II granted William Penn (1644-1718) a large, vaguely defined parcel of about twenty-eight million acres in the New World. The land grant was intended to settle a debt the King owed to Penn’s father. To honor his father, William Penn named the land Pennsylvania.
Many of the area’s earliest settlers were Welsh Quakers. A first wave arrived in 1683 and settled in Lower Merion, Radnor and Haverford Townships, followed a few years later by settlement of a second “Welsh Tract” in an area they called Gwynedd (Welsh for "white" or "fair land"), which today encompasses both Upper and Lower Gwynedd. Some Welsh property owners held parcels that overlapped between Gwynedd and Horsham. Welsh Road the oldest thoroughfare in the area (circa 1712) divides Horsham and Gwynedd. Built to give Welsh settlers in Gwynedd and North Wales access to the Pennypack Mills in Moreland Township, the road was originally called Pemmapecka Road (the Indian name for Pennypack Creek) but was changed to Welsh Road in 1750.
Penn divided his colony into townships and one of the first was Horsham, named after Horsham, England. Horsham Township first appears on the 1687 map of Thomas Holme (Surveyor General of the colony of Pennsylvania). One of the oldest townships in Pennsylvania, Horsham was formally incorporated in 1717, which is sixty-seven years before Montgomery County split away from Philadelphia County.
William Penn divided Horsham in roughly four equal parts and between 1682 and 1686 sold each, in turn, to George Palmer, Joseph Fisher, Samuel Carpenter, and Mary Blunston. Talamore is wholly contained within land included within the original Joseph Fisher Tract. In 1684 Fisher purchased 5,000 acres for ten cents an acre and then immediately began selling off large portions for ever-increasing prices, reaching $2 to $2.50 an acre in 1708, and passing other portions to his son.
In 1716 three Welsh farmers purchased the land that became Talamore. Robert Humphrey acquired 210 acres along Welsh Road and approximately 200 acres extending along what later became McKean Road. Abel Thomas bought a 200-acre parcel running along what became McKean Road extending as far as Horsham Road.
Rowland Hugh - Cold Spring Farm
A third purchaser, Rowland Hugh acquired two hundred acres from Joseph Fisher’s estate in 1716. The year before, according to one source, Rowland Hugh erected a log house at the site of what is now 921 Tennis Ave (recently the residence of John van Steenwyk: Cold Spring Farm) situated behind St. Matthew’s Church and to the right of Talamore Drive as you enter from Tennis Avenue. A stone house with two and one-half stories, eight-rooms and seven fireplaces currently stands on the site. Evidence inside the house indicates that part of the current house was built over a log house around 1795 and the remainder of the house was completed in 1810, making it one of the older structures in Horsham Township. By comparison, the Keith mansion, the only surviving residence of a Colonial Pennsylvania governor, was built in 1722. Today, the home can be glimpsed through the trees from the intersection of Talamore Drive and Woodbrook Drive and seen from the golf course to the right of the cart path next to 14th green and leading to the 15th tee.
By the time Rowland Hugh started to build his house the game of golf had long before been established in Scotland and the British Isles. No one can be certain when or why golf started. Some attribute it to the Dutch. Others mention a similar game played in China. Scots claim the game (or some version of it) was played there as early as 1100. The first proper golf courses, the first established rules of the game, and the first golf clubs were developed in Scotland’s linksland regions along and around the Scottish coast. First written mention of the game occurred in 1457 in St. Andrews, Scotland. Mary Queen of Scots played in the sixteenth century. King James VI of Scotland, who became King James I of England and authored the King James Version of the Bible, was a golf enthusiast. King James enjoyed hitting the links but forbade his subjects from playing on Sundays. All of this occurred before the English settled Jamestown.
While the Scots industriously developed the game of golf bringing it to a high order of perfection in the 18 th and 19 th centuries, Talamore’s land passed through several owners, who used it principally for farming and grazing.
Dr James Hilty
Dr. James W. Hilty, retired Professor of History and Dean of Temple's Ambler campus, has written extensively about American politics, including Robert Kennedy: Brother Protector (Temple). He has provided political commentaries for various publications, including the Philadelphia Inquirer and served as historical consultant to various news media, including C-SPAN, NBC News, NPR, and others. A Temple faculty member since 1970, Hilty also wrote the introduction to Marvin Wachman's The Education of a University President (Temple).