Early owners of Abington: the lecher, the surveyors, and the secretary

Samuel Clarridge owned the largest single tract, over 2500 acres, almost a quarter of the township. He never came to Pennsylvania. A wealthy Dublin merchant, he became a Quaker and was thrown into prison more than once, along with other Dublin Friends like Robert Turner and Thomas Holme. When Penn opened up the land in Pennsylvania for purchase Clarridge bought 5000 acres, as a gesture of support and in hopes of  a profit. With properties and a family in Dublin he probably did not consider emigrating. His good standing with Friends was seriously threatened when his maid became pregnant and he sent her to England to have the child, earning him a sharp reprimand. Clarridge sold his Pennsylvania land to Thomas Holme. 1

Thomas Holme, the map-maker and Surveyor General, was a colorful character, with a different background than many of the emigrants. As a soldier in Cromwell’s army he helped to conquer Ireland. One of his services was to rebuild a castle devastated in the fighting; he also surveyed the county of Kerry. After the war he bought land in Waterford and raised his family there instead of returning to England. Perhaps repelled by the devastation he became a Quaker. As a Quaker he was persecuted for his beliefs; he was fined and thrown into prison like so many others. But in 1682 he set off for Pennsylvania to be Surveyor General for William Penn’s new province. Holme came in September 1682 on the Amity, along his grown children, several indentured servants, and William Crispin’s son Silas. William Crispin, a cousin of Penn, had been Penn’s first choice for Surveyor General, but he died on the voyage and was replaced by Holme. Silas Crispin inherited his father’s lands, including two large tracts in Abington.

Another tract belonged to Thomas Fairman, a contentious and difficult man, whose services were valuable to Penn and Holme in the early days. When Penn and his commissioners arrived in 1682 Fairman rented out his house, billing Penn for the cost of putting them up. While Holme was staying with Fairman he must have recruited Fairman as one of his surveyors, since there was too much work for one man. Fairman incurred Holme’s anger for some sharp dealings as a surveyor, but Holme needed him even though he distrusted him. Thomas’ brother Robert invested in Pennsylvania land, including a tract in Abington, but he never immigrated, and Thomas sold his lands for him.

William Penn knew Thomas Holme and Silas Crispin personally, and he certainly came to know Thomas Fairman. But there was one Abington purchaser whom he relied upon and worked with intimately. This was his private secretary Philip Theodore Lehnmann. Lehnmann probably came with Penn on the Welcome in 1682. He attended the Council sessions, handled correspondence, and stayed behind when Penn returned to England in 1685? to defend his colony against the boundary claims of Lord Baltimore. But when Penn arrived in London and looked for the evidence he needed, he made a discovery that gave him a shock. Lehnmann had forgotten to pack the all-important depositions. As Penn put it, “Phil Lemain has most carelessly left behind ye York papers [that] Lloyd brought and should have come as the ground and very strength of my coming so yt I am now here with my finger in my mouth, he could not have done me a worse injury nor Balti[more] a greater service, if he had had ye bribe of 10000 to do it.” 2 Needless to say Penn fired Lehnmann after that. Lehnmann died, a widower and childless, in 1687. He left many debts and part of his Abington tract was seized by the sheriff and sold to pay them.

Next: the women of Abington

  1. Dublin’s Quaker Merchant, by Richard Greaves, a biography of Clarridge’s associate Anthony Sharp.
  2. Papers of William Penn

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