Thomas Penn

The Walking Purchase of Pennsylvania

The Walking Purchase (or Walking Treaty) was a 1737 agreement between the Penn family, the proprietors of Pennsylvania, and the Lenape (also known as the Delaware). By it the Penn family claimed an area of 1,200,000 acres (4,860 km²) and forced the Lenape to vacate it. The Lenape appeal to the Iroquois for aid on the issue was refused.

This account appears in History of Northampton County, Pennsylvania, with Illustrations Descriptive of its Scenery by Peter Fritts, 1877. This volume can be found in our American County Histories: Mid-Atlantic States collection.

The Walking Purchase

It is not within the scope of this work to give a detailed account of the conflicts which led to the expulsion of the Indians from Northeastern Pennsylvania, but a brief account of the “Walking Purchase,” and the dissatisfaction of the Indians which followed, will be traced, until the final overthrow of the Six Nations.

The first release of title by the Indians in the Province of Pennsylvania was made in 1782 (this is a typo in the original text, it should probably be 1682), before Penn’s arrival, by his Deputy-Governor, William Markham. It embraced all the territory between the Neshaminy and the Delaware, as far up as Wrightstown and Upper Wakefield — about the centre of the present county of Bucks.

William Penn

William Penn

In 1683 and 1684 Penn himself made other purchases. On the 17th of September, 1718, the Lenni Lenape made another treaty, confirming their sales heretofore made, and extending them from the Delaware to the Susquehanna.

In 1736 the Iroquois released their assumed claim to a belt of country lying north of the former purchase and south of the Blue Mountains, and extending southwesterly from the Delaware to and beyond the Susquehanna, including the northern parts of the present Northampton, Lehigh and Berks, and the whole of several counties farther west.

The Lenni Lenape grew restive under these assumptions of the Iroquois, and after consultation with the proprietaries they agreed, August 25, 1737, that a former alleged purchase, which had been made from the Delawares, should he decided in a novel manner.

The proprietaries were to receive such portion of the Indian territory as should be included within a line drawn northwesterly from a point in or near Wrightstown, as far as a man could walk in a day and a half, and a line drawn from his stopping-place straight to the Delaware, which was the eastern boundary.

It is said that a preliminary walk was had, and that the trees were blazed along the route in 1735, in order that no distance should be lost in wandering out of a straight line. Edward Marshall, James Yeates and Solomon Jennings, noted walkers, were chosen to make the walk. They started at a large chestnut tree near the Pennsville and Durham roads. Yeates led, with a light step, followed by Jennings, and Marshall brought up the rear, carelessly swinging a hatchet. Jennings and Yeates both gave out before the walk was finished. Jennings was injured for life by his over-exertion, and Yeates died three days after.

The Walking Purchase and other Pennsylvania Land Purchases

The Walking Purchase and other Pennsylvania Land Purchases

Marshall went on and completed the walk, at noon the second day. He threw himself’ on the ground and reached to a sapling, which was taken as the point from which the line was run to the Delaware. The Indians who accompanied the walkers, to see that everything was done fairly, frequently called out for them to stop, not to run, and finally left in disgust before the walk was completed. They had expected that the walk would be conducted in a leisurely manner, that they would stop, and talk, and smoke, like Onas (Penn) did, but the over-reaching policy of Penn’s descendants began to manifest itself, and the Indians saw that they were losing their lands.

Instead of running the line directly to the Delaware River at the nearest point, Eastburn ran the line at right angles with the path taken by Marshall, which caused the line to strike the Delaware near the mouth of the Shohola. This included the Minisink, the chosen home and council-seat of the Lenni Lenape. The Indians murmured at this unfair treatment, but the proprietaries had sold ten thousand acres of these very lands to William Allen, and he in turn was selling them to settlers as early as 1733, or four years before the “walking purchase.” Thus it appears that the proprietaries had determined to ignore the Lenape and their claims, and in order to make their humiliation more complete, the Governor complained to the deputies of the Six Nations, and Canasatego, one of their chiefs, repaired to Philadelphia, accompanied by three hundred warriors, in 1742, where a great council was held, at which the injured Delawares were also represented.

The Penns had applied to the Six Nations to compel the Delawares to surrender their ancient home, and Canasatego stood up and made a very insulting speech, calling the Delawares women, and upbraiding them for presuming to sell the lands. Said he, “You deserve to be taken by the hair of your heads and shaken till you recover your senses and become sober. We have seen a deed signed by your chiefs above fifty years ago, for this very land. But how came you to take upon yourselves to sell land at all? We conquered you; we made women of you.” After talking for some time in this strain, he commanded them to remove from the land instantly, and gave them their choice to go to Shamokin or Wyoming. He then gave them a belt of wampum and ordered them to leave the council.

These arbitrary orders they dared not disobey. They were between two great powers,— the rapacious whites whom they had welcomed to their shores as messengers of peace, on the one hand, and the powerful Six Nations, their old enemies, on the other. They left their wig-warns on the Delaware and sadly took their march westward. A portion of them went to Shamokin, where Sunbury now is. A few of them settled on the Juniata, near Lewistown, but the greater number of them, under Tademe, went to Wyoming, below Wilkes-Barre, where they built a village in 1742. The Monseys occupied the Lackawanna Valley under their chief, Capoure.

Thus was the power of the once proud and warlike Lenni Lenape broken forever.

Just twelve years after the unfortunate “Walking Purchase” was made, and while the contention in regard to it was still carried on, a portion of the territory which it covered and very much more was secured from the Delaware, or Lenape, and the Six Nations by purchase, the consideration being 3OO pounds — “lawful money of Pennsylvania.”

This purchase included a belt of country stretching from the Delaware to the Susquehanna; having as its south boundary the Blue Mountains. In this scope of’ country thus obtained, lies the whole of’ the present Monroe County, the greater part of Pike, a very small portion of Wayne (the extreme tip of its southern pan-handle), the whole of Carbon and Schuylkill and parts of Lackawanna, Luzerne, Columbia, Northumberland, Dauphin and Lebanon.

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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