How Hatboro, Pennsylvania got its Name

Hatboro was incorporated August 26, 1871, and contains an area of about six hundred acres, taken wholly from Moreland township. Its extreme length from north to south is one and a half miles; greatest breadth, three-fourths of a mile; and extends on the Bucks County line nearly half said distance. The main part of the town is situated along the old York road, which is now called York Avenue, opened through from Philadelphia to the present Centre Bridge in the fall of 1711. The Hatboro’ and Warminster turnpike was completed in 1850, and extends from the Willow Grove to the Street road, a distance of four and a half miles.

The name of the place is said to be derived from one of the first stone houses built here, which was about 1705, and in which, shortly after, John Dawson followed for many years his occupation of making hats.

This building likewise became a tavern, and had for its sign a crooked billet, suggested by a popular inn then kept in Water Street, Philadelphia. It stood near the centre of the present town, on the old York road, where is now the dwelling-house of Oliver Watson, and into which, on being modernized, a portion was incorporated.

Loller Academy -- Hatboro's First School

Loller Academy — Hatboro’s First School

We know from records that John Dawson was still residing here in 1734 on a lot of three acres, and that a Daniel Dawson at that time owned four acres. The earliest mention of the name we have found is on Lewis Evans’ map of Pennsylvania and the adjoining provinces, published in 1749, where it is called “Hatboro’,” precisely as it is now written.

In an advertisement in Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette of October 12, 1752, it is mentioned as the “Crooked Billet.” The library records in 1755 call it “Hatborough,” and the meetings are mentioned as being held at the house of “David Reese, at ye Crooked Billet.”

Our next authority in the order of time is Nicholas Scull’s map of Pennsylvania, published in 1759, on which it is “Billet;” the same also on William Scull’s map of 1770. Washington, in his letter to Congress from this vicinity, dated August 10, 1777, mentions therein the “Billet tavern.”

General Lacy, in his correspondence of 1778, calls the place “Crooked Billet,” as also Majors Simcoe and Stedman, who were British officers in the skirmish here. Reading Howell, in his township map of 1792, calls it “Hatborough,” and also Joseph Scott, in his Gazetteer of 1795.

Now, carefully considering these several authorities, we come to the conclusion that the proper name of the place or village from the beginning was Hatboro’, and by the Billet or Crooked Billet was more particularly meant the tavern that had here this sign, which conclusion is sustained by the library records and Washington’s correspondence.

Memorial image used above is Battle of Crooked Billet monument in present day Hatboro, PA.


History of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Edited by Theodore W. Bean as found in the  Pennsylvania County Histories in our American County Histories collection.

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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