TDISH: The “Walking” Purchase

On September 20, 1737, Pennsylvania colonist Edward Marshall completed a grueling 65-mile “walk” in a day and a half.  This was no ordinary stroll – Marshall’s walk would expand the ever-growing Pennsylvania colony.  William Penn, the founder of the colony, had died back in 1718 and his reputation for fair dealing with the  Native Americans had died with him.  His sons did not share his scruples.  After Richard, John, and Thomas Penn consolidated their influence over Pennsylvania, they evoked an old, conveniently vague, and probably forged “treaty” between their father and the Lenape tribe in which the Lenape “agreed” to sell land to the colonists.  The exact area of land that would be sold would be the land that a man could walk in one and a half days from the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers.  The point that the man reached would then be traced back to the Delaware and the Lenape would leave that land.  Colonists coveted the Forks of the Delaware region and would need someone to cover at least 60-miles to claim this land.  On top of that, they would need to take full advantage of the vagueness of the treaty language.  Instead of measuring across the line of latitude that was reached, the colonial surveyors would draw the line from the point to the Delaware River at a right angle.  So combining a dubious treaty, a particularly fleet-of-foot individual, and some questionable surveying practices, the Penns succeeded in adding an area of almost 1,100 square miles to their territory.

Featured Image: “Map of the Walking Purchase.” Public Domain.
Source: Gilbert, Daniel. “What Ye Indians Call ‘Ye Hurry Walk’.” Fall 2009.

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