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Back in the Day in West Vincent - An Introduction to Our Township

- Historic Resources Committee, August 2023

Historic West Vincent, like its neighboring townships, began in the late 1600s when Welsh, Irish, Scottish, and later Palatinate Germans, created a thriving settlement centered around Birchrunville. Those first settlers shared the land with the Lenape Indians who moved around it seasonally and shared their knowledge about iron and mineral sites and about the clear, swift streams of the French Creek, Pickering Creek, Birch Run, and their tributaries. Farms, mills, mines, and forges followed.

For most of the 18th century, the Vincents (East and West) and Pikeland were engaged in a legal land dispute with the family of William Penn who called these 10,000 acres ‘Callowhill Manor’ and wanted it back. John Ralston, after serving with distinction with George Washington during the Revolutionary War, was the lead lawyer for the landholders of Vincent. The case was resolved in favor of the landholders, and deeds of title were conveyed after 1790.

1790 – West Vincent, by Cremers

In 1777, after the defeat at Brandywine, George Washington’s retreating troops passed through West Vincent on their way to Valley Forge. Local boys and men followed and served throughout the war. Our streams added gunpowder mills to aid the cause of liberty, and the localized citizenry shared depredations throughout the war. Males aged 15 to 50 served in the militia.

In the 19th century, before there was an organized network called the Underground Railroad, local Quakers, most prominently the Lewis family, began sheltering fugitives from slavery. Quakers cited Deuteronomy 23: 15 ‘Thou shalt not deliver up to his master the slave which hath escaped unto thee.’ Neighboring German families appear to have colluded, and thousands are estimated to have sought refuge, some in plain sight, on the farms and in the mills and forges, more in the barns, root cellars, and especially the small stone houses that remain here.

During the Civil War, West Vincent's sons and fathers fought, and many died in battle, especially at Antietam, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, Petersburg, Fredericksburg, and the Wilderness.

Today West Vincent is home to over 300 verifiable historic buildings, including five one room schoolhouses. Its citizens, many of them descendants of those early proprietors, enjoyed the old farm landscapes, wooded hills, and hidden surprises on winding roads, many still unpaved.

The Historic Resources Committee welcomes volunteers to help research the Township’s history. No experience necessary! Just fun. Please contact us at to be connected with a member of the Historic Resources Committee and visit our home page for more historical information and maps.

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