The town of Marlborough in Wiltshire, England, gave its name to one of William Penn’s carefully planned colonial townships. The boundaries of Marlborough, Chester County, Pennsylvania, included most of modern East and West Marlborough Townships, as well as a small portion of modern day Pocopson Township. The Proprietor Penn himself is said to have laid out the road bisecting Marlborough Township, which extended westward from the village at the Red Lion inn to the Friends Meeting House at London Grove. Early land grants in Marlborough conformed to a regular pattern of rectangles and squares. The uncurving “Marlborough street” separated plantations on its north and south, giving settlers convenient access to the interior lands to the west. Because of this “street road” (a name which has survived to this day), what is now West Marlborough township developed in the earliest years almost as fast as did what is now East Marlborough. Extending Street Road due west at London Grove was decided against, perhaps because of the steep hill or (as some records suggest) an ancient Indian cemetery at the top of the hill.

Penn’s settlers were not the first to inhabit this land. The smoke of Indian campfires and the beat of their signal drums filled the air. This was the home of the Delaware Indians-the Lenni Lenape. An arrowhead record of their presence was found by local high school teacher/amateur archealogist Carl Fitzcharles about one mile west of London Grove village on the north side of Street Road where it first crosses a branch of the White Clay Creek. More than a century after Penn arrived, a village of Shawnee Indians existed where Routes 82 and 841 now meet within modern West Marlborough Township. A number of early deeds described land in modern West Marlborough as being in Hilltown township. The source of that name is clouded in passing history, though the rolling terrain of the vicinity might have suggested such a title. West Marlborough became a distinct municipality from East Marlborough on May 27, 1729, when a number of local citizens asked the court in Chester for a partition. The court approved a south-to north dividing line: “beginning at the western corner of Caleb Pusey’s land, in the line of New Garden; thence northward, between Caleb Pusey and Joseph Pennock, to Marlborough Street; thence east along the street to a corner of land late of James Treviller; thence north by the said land, and land late of Robert Jones, Walter Cock, and John Simcock, to the land of John Bennet; thence west to the southwest corner of the latter, and north, between Bennett and Henry Hayes, and land late of John Simcock and vacant land, to the northwest corner of Hayes’ land; thence east by the same to the society line.” The “Society’s lands” were those of the English company known as the “Society of Free Traders”, present day Newlin Township. The northeast boundary of West Marlborough had been previously limited when in 1681 the Society had bought a tract of land in central Chester County. The Society’s lands were sold as a whole in 1724 to a miller from near modern Glen Mills named Nathaniel Newlin, whose surname the tract has had ever since. Newlin’s colonial era mill in present day Delaware County can still be visited along the Baltimore Pike. South of West Marlborough Township was a tract that became London Grove Township. This land had been purchased from Penn in 1699 (patented in 1718) by “the London Company”.

The procedure in colonial Pennsylvania for acquiring land was to purchase a “warrant” which only set forth the acreage of land, then to have a survey performed from which a “patent” (deed) was prepared describing the precise boundaries of the tract.) The western and northwestern boundaries with current Highland and Londonderry Townships evolved slowly over the years. They were subject to dispute until as late as 1875 when the court in West Chester resolved the disputes. A small tract south of Street Road and west of Newark Road was annexed from London Grove Township in the 1930’s at the request of the Sharpless family.

Penn’s Commissioners began along the northern edge of the London Company tract when surveyors located plots west of present day London Grove village. Thomas Parsons received 455 acres to the west of what is now Newark Road, north of the Longon Company tract. Apparently due to a surveying error in the clouds of colonial history, the southern boundary of these 455 acres, although parallel to the rest of the London Company northern boundary, was 99 feet north of the same.

Peter Brittain was purchaser of a 500 acre square-shaped tract west of Parson’s land. He purchased his property in 1702 from Philadelphia brewer John Budd, Jr., a few days after Budd secured it from Penn’s land commissioners. John Davidson was patented 200 acres west of Brittain, and Joseph Pennock, a farmer soon to be a colonial statesman, received 1250 acres which extended further westward into present day Londonderry Township. Evidence of the original locations of these tracts of land still may be seen in the modern lines of land ownership.

Marlborough street was such a useful improvement that plans developed to extend it along the London Tract northern boundary. The extension was connected to the original street at the London Grove graveyard, however, by a crooked path over the hills. The place where the winding connecting road met the corner of the Peter Brittain grant was marked by a gum tree in the days of Penn. Later, it was marked by a stone monument, now no longer visible. A parchment document survives, however, here quoted without spelling corrections:

Be it remembered that on the second day of the tenth month 1813 was put in, in the middle of the Street Road in the place where a Antient marked gum tree stood A Large Lime Stone marked 1813 with the letters G U M under the above Date-and with the consent of Allen Chandler, Aaron Martin, Joshua Baily, David Lamborn, Maris Taylor : William Weeks COOPER , Jonathan Peirce, Pennock Edwards, Joseph Chandler, Wm. Chandler, Junior, John Martin, Abraham Pennock, Thomas Martin, Job Lamborn, Lewis Baily, James Chandler who ware all present at the puting in thereof this wrote by Aaron Martin on the Day of the above date.

North of all these plots was granted another large section of present day West Marlborough Township, land once owned by John Simcock. Gilbert Cope, in his Genealogy of the Baily Family, (1912: Lancaster, PA), at pages 27-28 recounts how the Baily homestead descended from Penn land grants.

“John Simcock, a purchaser of 5000 acres of land from William Penn, had a tract of 2875 acres surveyed to him in what was at first called Hilltown, but later was largely included in West Marlborough. Of this 1000 acres became the property of his son John and the remainder was divided between his son Jacob and daughters Elizabeth and Hannah. On November 24, 1713, John Kingsman and wife, the said Hannah, conveyed her 625 acres to their son-in-law John Dutton, and the latter on May 3, 1715, conveyed 207 acres to Richard Barnard, and by another deed December 20, 1718, the remainder to the same person. Richard Barnard, by deed of April 3, 1726, conveyed 350 acres to Joel Baily   , who on April 10, 1730, executed a deed of gift to his son Thomas for 143 acres thereof.”

Penn had signed amicable treaties with the local Indian tribes, so life on this frontier would have been peaceful as well as productive. After clearing virgin forests, settlers uncovered fertile soil which sustained abundant crops and relatively comfortable living. Fresh water springs and streams punctuated the cleared lands, and fishing must have been excellent. Native limestone outcroppings sweetened the soil and insured fertile pastures and croplands.

Native field stone provided suitable material with shich to build spacious plantation houses, to replace cramped log shelters. Some settlers even could afford brick imported from England with which to construct stately mansion houses, or “messuages” for their plantations. It was customary for settlers to erect a large dwelling house near the middle of each farm, after living for a short time in rude log shelters.

Penn’s Commissioners patented rectangular plots wherever possible, and the locations of old houses in the Township often mark today the centers of the larger farms of the past. One of the most famous of all these early mansions was “Primitive Hall,” the ancestral home of the Pennock family. The name is thought to devolve from the native American Indians who were there entertained, and with whom the Quaker settlers lived in peace and harmony. It was built around 1737 by Joseph Pennock as an addition to his first stone house dating from circa 1710. In her Survey of Chester County, Pennsylvania, Architecture: 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries (at page 69), Margaret Berwind Schiffer describes the building: “the bricks are laid in Flemish bond and there are arches over the doors and windows. There is a plaster cove cornice and pent eaves on three sides. The roof is of medium pitch and covered with wood shingles. The house does not have dormer windows, the large attic being lighted only by windows in the gable-ends. The door and window openings are not symetrical. The front entrance has a batten door over which there are lights. The windows have twelve over twelve lights on both the first and second stories. There are panelled shutters on the first story but there is no evidence of there having been shutters on the second story windows.”

Tranquility was not without exception, however. In defiance of the pacifist principles of the Quaker population, armed struggle intruded. During the Revolutionary War, one group of Hessian mercenaries plundered the vicinity of Doe Run. It is known that West Marlborough residents suffered the following losses, among others;

This page update on March 1, 2009