Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Quakers: William Penn
Although Ben Franklin gets more ink lately, William Penn deserves at least equal rank among the most remarkable men who ever lived.

Quaker Theology
New topic 2016-12-04 04:18:19 description

Times Penn Spent in Delco: by Thomas R. Smith,

The Ghost of William Penn: My Happiest Times I Spent in Delco

By: Thomas R. Smith, a.k.a., William Penn

"William Penn speaking: Almost without saying, marriage and the birth of children rank as life's most pleasurable highpoints. Opposite, in heart wrench, ranks a spouse's death, and defying comprehension - the death of an offspring." This article is my personal telling of my happiest times. Allow me to edge into the topic.

My happiest times came to me by experience felt in (future) Delaware County. These happy times were mirror tinged. I wish to tell shares of happy with sad. The happy overcomes in outcome. Hear me out.

My first wife, Gulielma nee' Springett, I called "Guli."Through her I affirm love can take fast hold at first sight. Poet John Milton's literary secretary Thomas Ellwood touted: Guli's "…innocently open, free and familiar Conversation, springing from the abundant Affability, Courtesy and Sweetness of her natural Temper." For these traits and more I loved her.

I wed Gulielma on April 4, 1672. She bore me seven children, four of whom died in infancy. My great blow, however, was the death of my son, Springett, when but twenty-one years of age. Guli was my support when others were fainthearted and termed Pennsylvania - only a wild pipedream. Her passing urged my wearing of neck locket, which keepsake of her, I worn for the remainder of my life.

I trekked to Pennsylvania in October 1682. My first steps were padded upon future Delaware County. My marriage held fast. In 1692 – in our twentieth anniversary year – Guli passed from this earthly coil. I lost my "dearheart." Pennsylvania lost her most stouthearted champion.

I did find love again. I wed Hannah Calloway in 1696. This was after my return to England. My reluctant return was acted- on to counter efforts to dissolve the Penn family Proprietorship. Years 1696, '97, '98 blended, bidding no allowance for my return to my American "Holy Experiment." Finally, in 1699 I returned; this after Springett's same year death. Happiness parried morose.

Melancholy can be overcome. I found renewal in November 1699 when I made landfall at fond, familiar, Chester. Shortly after my re-arrival a son was born, John. Jubilant the populace dubbed him: "The American."

These told tidings were sad tinged. I could have alluded to them and kept them vouchsafe close. I wanted to vent. I needed to vent. I vented. Now that I have unburdened, I can the better bespeak in terms Happiness.

I landed at Opland, which I renamed Chester, in October 1682. The happiness that occasioned my arrival I can only hint at. I had sent my kinsman William Markham as my advance man. In chief port seat Chester different nationalities thrived, Swedish, Dutch, and a few English Quakers. To these natives came ship loads of new settlers, some with Markham, plus others in the same sailing season, I mean, in 1681. I finally came. I arrived via the last ship that set sail in 1682. In the sailing season preceding my own passage, in 1682, several hundred settlers landed, precedeing me.

My arrival notched the population up by one digit. This notch sum was notched by ninety-nine more, by those who accompanied me. Infant Pennsylvania was bounding in pounds. Mine included, smiles were lengthening in miles. I felt better than I had in years.

I expected to be greeted by Deputy Governor William Markham. I was. I expected prearranged lodging. I was not disappointed. I could not have imagined in a million years, however, the presence of a couple who also greeted me. The same couple held ownership to the finest dwelling in Chester. The surprise couple, who help greet me and who served as my host and hostess were Robert and Lydia Wade.

I was overcome with gladness. Here is some personal history that has somehow eluded being told, in the telling of my life story. Permit me to insert what was known, before I recite the unknown. Biographers relate that Quaker Thomas Loe is to be credited as having been the first Quaker preacher with whom I had contact. Yes, I heard him at an intersection where he leaned against a sign post. From which station he called to passers-by - in verbal pitches - to convert all whom he could to Quakerism. Also, in Ireland, Loe was once a dinner guest in my father's manor. It was custom to break bread with travelers. Loe found welcome, but not support from my father - a confirmed Anglican. Later, myself a Quaker, with Thomas Loe, I sought the relief from unjust persecution, fellow Quakers. All of this has been told. Now, I reel out my Chester store of Penn lore. Loe's pitches hit sensible, but truth be told his mode as a sign-post shouter made him seem somehow untrustworthy. His breed of faith-preacher, were listened to, but held in suspect. Note: I had experienced an internal awakening at age ten. I was overcome with a sureness of a loving, Heaven[y Father. Thomas Loe , in his shouts, informed all about the Quaker tenet that everyone is capable of experiencing a personal, God-sent Inspiration of Enlightenment. The shouts of Loe – resonated in me.

Biographers, with one exception, have missed an early influence. I mean, in 1666, in London, I met Robert and Lydia Wade. The Wades were very early followers of George Fox, founder of Quakerism. I have long forgotten how I met the Wades. I recall with certainty that they impressed me. I wondered over them. In a short time, however, I became aware of what made them special. They were devout Quakers. Short time, I also became a devout Quaker. I owed them. In yet another short time I lost track of them. Someone said the happy pair had removed by ocean sail to West Jersey. The Wades lingered as a fond memory. I owed them. The more-so - they had introduced me to George Fox.

Once over, I was gladdened beyond imagination when I was greeted by Robert and Lydia Wade. We re-met immediately after making my first steps upon Chester. Backing up: In 1676 the Wades had crossed over the Delaware River from West Jersey. In the like of Rhode Island, West Jersey was a Quaker colony. In three years time the Wades claimed the finest dwelling in Opland. In three more years their new home, the "Essex House," became what U.S. historians tag, "America's first salon." ..ln Chester. Insert fact: In numbers, impressive ones, persons in the 1600's criss-crossed, north and south, the Atlantic coast. Among the number: George Fox. Fox afterward had a vision that the thinly settled tract opposite West Jersey would make a fine place for more Quaker to settle.

I responded, "George, I like your thinking." This give away surprises me. I like persons to think I came up with idea for Pennsylvania. – Hmm.. Try to forget I told you different.

Onward: When the Penn family Proprietorship was threatened, I made a hasty, reluctant retreat back to England. My return was longer in coming than I wished. In 1699 I wind sailed again to Pennsylvania. Philadelphia was then fifteen years old. Again, however, I disembarked at Chester. Robert Wade had died a few years before, but Lydia Wade greeted me. This time she was gladdened beyond imagination. She knew of my annual wish to return, and more specifically my wont to come over in 1699. Lydia was surprised because she had written and implored me not to come – "not to come now." Pennsylvania was suffering a virulent attack of "Yellow Fever." -- I came. We hugged. We wept.

This I affirm: The two happiest times in my life were spent in Delco. …In Chester.

The first was in October 1682,

The second was in November 1699.

When in ghost circles I cross flight with the Wades, I say, "I owe you."

Readers, I'll meet with you again in the bye and bye. -- I'll talk more yore. Your Governor thanks you,

William Penn


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