Little Bits of History

Walk This Way

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 20, 2014
Walking Purchase historical marker

Walking Purchase historical marker

September 20, 1737: The Walking Purchase walk ends. Also known as the Walking Treaty, or if you prefer, the land swindle. It was an agreement between the Penn family and the Lenape tribe (also know at the Delaware). William Penn’s heirs, John and Thomas Penn, claimed they were in possession of a deed from the 1680s in which the Lenape agreed to sell a tract of land beginning at the junction of the Delaware River and the Lehigh River where modern Easton, Pennsylvania is and which would go as far west as a man could walk in a day and a half. This document may have been unsigned, unratified, or even forged. Land was being sold in the Lehigh Valley despite the fact the Lenape still lived there.

According to popular accounts, the Lenape assumed the greatest distance a man could cover in just 1.5 days was about 40 miles. According to these same accounts, Provisional Secretary James Logan hired three of the fastest runners of the day to cover the distance on prepared trails. Of the three men chosen, only one finished – Edward Marshall. The distance the runners covered was supervised by the Sheriff of Bucks County, Timothy Smith. The walk began on September 19 and finished on this day with Marshall having reached a spot 70 miles distant near present day Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. Smith then drew a perpendicular line on a map back toward the northeast and claimed all the land between these lines to be sold.

There were 1,200,000 acres included within the lines which is about the size of Rhode Island. There are seven present-day Pennsylvania counties located there. The Lenape appealed to the Iroquois confederacy to help with the situation but the Iroquois opted to stand aside, protecting their own interests in the political landscape of the times. The Lenape were forced to vacate even as their leaders protested the arrangement. The natives were forced to move as far afield as the Ohio Country regions. Their trust in the Pennsylvania government was forever lost.

In 2004, the Delaware Nation filed a suit against Pennsylvania in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania seeking 314 acres included in the Walking Purchase to be returned. This was known as Tatamy’s Place. The court granted Pennsylvania’s motion to dismiss. Although the court found it might have been fraudulent, the Treaty was completed prior to the first Indian Nonintercourse Act in 1790 and so it did not have relevance to this case. The case was pushed higher through the system in the ensuing years without any progress. The case has been dismissed up to the level the US Supreme Court.

The Delaware Nation claims in its appeal that the King of England-not Thomas Penn-was the sovereign over the territory that included Tatamy’s Place. Therefore, Thomas Penn could not extinguish aboriginal title via the Walking Purchase and, consequently, the Delaware Nation maintains a right of occupancy and use. – from the Third Circuit case

Penn’s government and practices apparently differed sharply from the Puritan-led governments of the other American colonies. The most striking difference was Penn’s ability to cultivate a positive relationship based on mutual respect with the Native Americans inhabiting the province. – from the 2004 District Court

Penn’s sons were less interested than their father in cultivating a friendship with the Lenni Lenape. – from the 2004 District Court

The Lenni Lenape Chiefs trusted that the “white men” would take a leisurely walk through the tangled Pennsylvanian forests along the Delaware. – from the 2004 District Court

Also on this day: Cannes Film Festival – In 1946, the first Cannes Film Festival is held.
Girl’s Night – In 1973, Billy Jean King won the “War of the Sexes” against Bobby Riggs.
QE2 – In 1967, the British cruise ship was launched.
Across the Deep Blue Sea – In 1519, Ferdinand Magellan began his journey around the world.

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