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Searching for the Ancestors of Thomas Fisher of Chester County, Pennsylvania

Chapter III. Thomas Fisher of Kennett

The earliest known record of Thomas Fisher of Chester County, Pennsylvania is a land warrant from William Penn dated March 6, 1701, for 300 acres “near the Brandywine.” The warrant was a joint one for Thomas Robinson and Thomas Fisher, and subsequent records show that it was in the northeast part of the township of Kennett, lying a little to the west of the Brandywine in the part of Kennett that later became Pennsbury.

William Penn arrived on his second voyage to Pennsylvania in 1699, aboard the “Endeavor.” While in Philadelphia, he granted the 300 acres in Kennett, Chester County “near the Brandywine” to Thomas Robinson and Thomas Fisher, then returned soon after to Bristol, England where his wife Hannah was staying with her parents, the Callohills. Two of the Penn sons were born there, recorded in the Bristol Monthly Meeting records. At that time, relatives of a Francis Fisher were members of the same meeting, but were probably not related to Thomas Fisher. (Bristol emigrants generally went to Maryland or Virginia.)

Thomas Robinson, and the early landowners who acquired tracts near that of Robinson and Fisher, are of primary importance in searching for clues regarding Thomas Fisher’s origins. The documents and maps on the following page show the location of the Robinson/Fisher tract and other tracts claimed by 1704. The maps were constructed from original Pennsylvania warrants and surveys, with added data from deeds, court records and genealogies. Gilbert Cope’s 1911 deed map, which showed a much later land history, was used as a guide in placing the surveys. One version of the map shows the origin of the landowners in England. Another shows the landowners at the time of Thomas Fisher’s early years in Kennett (1714-1718). A final version shows the neighbors of Thomas Fisher in 1739, at the time he obtained a re-survey and patent.

Histories of the tracts at the east end of Kennet and their owners, to the extent discovered in researching this book, are included in Chapter VI of this book.

Some of the first land claims in Kennett predated most of the now existing land records, but are sometimes mentioned in later records. The first land purchases in Pennsylvania were made in England in 1681, with the exact location of such land often to be assigned later. The purchasers sometimes never emigrated. They sold the land for profit, through agents in the colony, or deeded parts to heirs and associates. The first known survey in Kennett was in 1686, for Francis Smith. The land, a 500-acre purchase and a 200-acre Old Rent tract, was on Pocopsing Creek, at the northeast extreme of the original Kennett boundaries and only about a half-mile northward from the land that would later be taken up by Fisher and Robinson.

In 1699 William Penn granted a warrant to his daughter Leticia, for 30,000 acres – taking in the greater part of Kennett (excepting the east end near the Brandywine) as well as part of New Castle County and all of the present township of New Garden. This land, called “Letitia’s Manor,” was then sold off in parts. The Fisher/Robinson land was just to the east of this.

The Robinson/Fisher tract was granted at Philadelphia under William Penn’s “Old Rights” provisions for purchasers, requiring a purchase price and an annual quitrent payment of one shilling per hundred acres. There is no indication that this was a “first purchase” made in England or Ireland, and no first purchaser headright land for masters and servants is mentioned.

In December of 1700, a tract of 515 acres in Kennet Township, Chester County was granted by warrant from William Penn to James Wallis, a seagoing merchant of Bristol, England. A few months later, William Penn granted a warrant dated 6 March, 1701 for 300 acres adjoining on the east side of the Wallis tract, to Thomas Robinson and Thomas Fisher. Henry Hollingsworth, formerly of Ireland, surveyed the Wallis tract 27 March, 1701, and the Robinson/Fisher tract 10 December, 1701. The 1701 Robinson/Fisher warrant was for a tract already staked out and claimed by them, and the survey was made in December of that year. The land may have been claimed or occupied for some years before 1701 by Thomas Robinson or Thomas Fisher. The Wallis survey refers to the adjoining “land of Thomas Robinson.” The Robinson/Fisher warrant reads as follows:

“William Penn Absolute Proprietary & Governor in Chief of the Province of Pensilvania and Counties Annexed … At the Request of Thomas Robinson and Thomas ffisher That I would grant them to take up three hundred Acres of Land near Brandywine Creek in Such manner as Shall hereafter be agreed on These are to require thee forthwth to Survey or cause to be Survey’d to them the Sd Number of three hundred Acres of Land not yet Survey’d nor concealed nor Seated by the Indians and make Return thereof into my Secretaries Office. Given under my hand and Seal at Philadelphia the Sixth of ye first Month 1700/01. Wm Penn. To Edward Penington Surveyor General of the Province of Pensilvania and Territories.” (Note: Concealed lands were those reserved for the proprietors.)

The Robinson/Fisher survey of 1701 is now lost, but Thomas Fisher’s resurvey in 1739, pursuant to a patent, survives. The resurvey shows that the tract was in the Township of Kennett, Chester County, in the part that later became Pennsbury, north of the old Kennett Quaker meeting house that was built in 1710. The tract, estimated by Henry Hollingsworth in 1701 to be 300 acres, was found to be only 200 acres at the time of the 1739 survey. The new survey was done “according to the ancient bounds,” which if correct means there was simply an error in the original estimate. But it appears that the top of the Wallis and Robinson/Fisher tracts were lopped off in 1714 and given to Ezekiel Harland (75 acres from the Wallis tract and 100 acres from the Robinson/Fisher tract), when a number of surveys were aligned with the bottom of Robert Way’s 1709 survey. If the alignment had been with the top of the Benjamin Chambers tract (see map), it would agree with the original Wallis survey and the Fisher tract would have remained 300 acres rather than 200.

In 1702, the Wallis tract adjoining Robinson and Fisher in Kennett was sold to John Smith, clock maker of Chester County. This John Smith may have been the same as the one who moved from Chester County to Cecil County, Maryland in 1706 with his father William Smith. If so, the immigration of another Thomas Fisher could be of special interest. William Smith was connected somehow to the Henry Baker family who brought a Thomas Fisher as one of his servants in 1684. William Smith was the owner of a tract in Concord which went to Nathan Baker, son of Henry Baker, immigrant on the “Vine” from Walton in Lancashire near Liverpool. William Smith and Nathan Baker both went to Cecil County, Maryland, where William died in 1708. James Robinson Jr., possibly a brother of Thomas Robinson, was an appraiser for the estate of William Smith. In 1708 John Smith, executor for his father, conveyed with Rachel (Baker) (Bunting) Cowgill, two tracts in the township of Concord to Nathan Baker, brother of Rachel, formerly of Lancashire. John Smith died soon after his father. The relationship between the Bakers and Fishers of Lancashire (Liverpool area) and Pennsylvania is still not clear. The Wallis and Robinson/Fisher tracts were both surveyed at about the same time by Henry Hollingsworth, the Irish surveyor of Chester County who at that time was also surveying the new Nottingham township and tracts extending into Cecil County, Maryland.

Thomas Fisher of Concord and Kennett in Chester County, Pennsylvania was a Quaker by May of 1713, when he proposed marriage at Concord Monthly Meeting to Elizabeth Huntley, daughter of William Huntley and Mary Standfield Huntley. The record says they were both members of Concord meeting, implying that this Thomas had not been living on the Kennett tract, where he would have been a member of Kennett (Newark) Monthly Meeting. When Thomas finally requested a patent for the tract in 1739, he had to pay a purchase consideration of 87 pounds 13 shillings plus 38 years of back quit-rent to the sons of William Penn. The quit-rent in arrears was paid to the receiver-general James Steel on January 17, 1739 at William Penn’s “old purchase” rate of one shilling per hundred acres per year, amounting to 76 shillings (3 pounds 16 shillings).

Thomas and Elizabeth Fisher prospered on the Kennet farm and had known children William, James, Elizabeth, Samuel, Francis (male), Thomas, and Mary. They appear many times in the Quaker records of Newark Monthly Meeting (Kennet), which include marriage certificates for James, William and Elizabeth. In 1742 they moved to East Caln, still in Chester County, where they were members of Bradford Monthly Meeting. Samuel, Thomas and Francis were married at New Garden Monthly Meeting. Mary married at Uwchlan Monthly Meeting. The family history is documented in “Descendants and Ancestors of Cephas Fisher Jr.” and other references, available at the Mormon Family History Library at Salt Lake City, Utah.

An excerpt from “Ancestors and Descendants of Cephas Fisher Jr.,” with revisions to reflect new findings:

Thomas Fisher married Elizabeth Huntley between April 13 and May 6, 1713, at the Concord meeting house, Chester County, Pennsylvania. Her parents were William Huntley and Mary Standfield, who were married in 1692 at Concord Monthly Meeting. Elizabeth was born about 1692, apparently the eldest of five William Huntley children.

Thomas and Elizabeth moved their Quaker membership to the west side of Brandywine Creek in early 1714. In January of 1714, Thomas Fisher requested a certificate from Concord Men’s Meeting for himself and wife, from Concord to Kennett (Newark Monthly Meeting). It is not known if they had settled on the Robinson/Fisher tract in the previous year. It is not known if Thomas had been a member of Kennett (Newark) meeting at any earlier time. Kennett meeting records show that their son William was born in May of 1714. Elizabeth Fisher requested a similar certificate from the Concord Women’s Meeting for herself, to Newark Monthly Meeting.

All the Fisher children must have been born at Kennett, but the Fishers do not appear in the meeting minutes between 1714 and 1728, and only William’s birth was recorded. At Kennett, the Fishers were surrounded by Elizabeth’s relatives. Her sisters Deborah, Mary and Sarah Huntley all married at Kennett, and her only brother, Frances Huntley, died there, apparently unmarried, in 1723. A number of Elizabeth’s Standfield aunts and cousins lived within a few miles of the Fisher farm. Elizabeth (Standfield) (Hope) Horn, Hannah (Standfield) Few and some of the Few cousins lived in Kennett. Grace (Standfield) (Chads) Stevenson and some Chads cousins lived across the Brandywine, at the ford in Birmingham Township. Sarah (Standfield) Bennett lived in Thornbury Township, just east of Birmingham. Deborah (Standfield) Woodward also lived in Thornbury.

The minor Huntley children were supposed to go to Thomas and Elizabeth Hope and Edward and Sarah Bennett when William Huntley died in 1708, but unfortunately Thomas Hope also died
only a few weeks after William Huntley. The widow Elizabeth (Standfield) Hope married William Horne in 1709 and stayed at Kennett. The widow Mary (Standfield) Huntley returned briefly to Marple and then to Birmingham Township in 1709, probably staying with the Bennetts. When her daughter Elizabeth married in 1713, Mary married Richard Fletcher and lived on his land adjoining the south side of the former Huntley land in Kennett.

Children mentioned in Thomas Fisher’s will were William, James, Elizabeth, Samuel, Thomas, Francis and Mary.

1. William, b. 8 May 1714 mar. Deborah Roberts, 24 Oct 1739, at Kennett; d. 30 Mar. 1748 at Kennett.
2. James, b. [1715], mar. Alice Standfield of Lurgan, N. Ireland, 14 Feb 1736 at Kennett.
3. Elizabeth, b. [1716], mar. Joseph Wilkinson of Ballynacree, Ballymoney Parish in North Ireland, 31 Oct 1740 at Kennett.
-- (multi-year gap) --
4. Samuel b. [1729], mar. Ann Lamborn, 21 Nov 1749 at New Garden.
5. Thomas, b. [1731], mar. Elizabeth Lamborn, 26 Oct 1752 at New Garden.
6. Francis, b. [1732], mar. Rachel Wickersham, 16 Nov 1753 at New Garden.
7. Mary, b. [1734], mar. Abel Johns, 8 Oct 1755 at Uwchlan.

Susannah Fisher, who was at the weddings of the two oldest children, was probably another of the older children, born about 1717. She may have died before 1740.

Thomas Fisher would have been called upon to help when the Kennett meeting house was remodeled in 1719. Elizabeth suffered the loss of her only brother, Francis, in 1723. Elizabeth visited her home meeting of Concord in 1716, to attend the wedding of Samuel Painter and Elizabeth Buxcey, and Thomas accepted a civil appointment in 1725, as overseer of the poor in Kennett Township. The last Huntley sister was married off in 1727. The Fishers managed to avoid any controversy or transgression that would have brought them mention in the meeting records of this period. Most of the Fisher birth records are missing, but there is a record of the oldest son William’s 1714 birth date, which was entered years later, after his death. Thomas Fisher’s tax rates for Kennett Township have been found for many of the years from 1715 until he moved to East Caln in 1742. (Colonial tax records for Chester County after 1740 are lost.)

1715 1S/10d 1722 7S/6d 1729 5S 1736
1716 1723 1730 7S/6d 1737 3S
1717 1724 8S 1731 1738
1718 4S 1725 6S 1732 3S 1739 1S
1719 5S/4d 1726 6S 1733 1740 1S
1720 7S/6d 1727 1734 3S
1721 6S/3d 1728 1735 3S

A Thomas Fisher was on the tax list for Haverford Township in 1732. John Fisher of the London Grove list in 1730 was probably a mistake for Fincher. George Fisher was listed in Nottingham Township in 1729. The Thomas Fisher in Haverford is of interest because Obadiah Bonsall was also taxed there in the same year. Obadiah Bonsall was a brother-in-law of Martha (Fisher) Bonsall, daughter of John and Sarah Fisher of Kingsess on the lower Schuylkill River. Martha’s brothers were John and James Fisher of Kingsess.

Several small children of Thomas and Elizabeth must have died about 1727. There is a long gap in the apparent ages of the children, based upon the marriage dates. One would expect the grandparents and parents to be honored with the first four children’s births. A child named for Thomas Fisher’s mother may have been one of those that died, as well as early children named Thomas and Mary, whose names were used again later. Unfortunately, the Kennett birth records for most of Thomas Fisher’s children are missing.

In 1735 Thomas bought 15 acres on the northern boundary of his land from Ruth Harlan, which greatly increased his frontage on Savier/Parkersville Road.

The Fisher farm was in the Parkersville rural community in Pennsbury, a short distance north of the old Kennett Meeting House. A view of the eastern part of the 15-acre addition of 1735 can be found between the present intersections of Street Road with Graychalk Road and Parkersville/Savier Mill Road. Street Road runs through the land. The Crosslands senior home on Street Road lies in the lower part which was sold to William Webb in 1741. Deeds for the land were signed by both Thomas and Elizabeth by their marks, showing that neither were educated.

Thomas was on the Kennett tax lists beginning in 1715, and finally purchased the land and cleared the title via a patent from the Penn sons in 1739. He had to pay 38 years of arrears in the quitrents (L3:16:0d), and a purchase price of eighty pounds 13 shillings. Thomas farmed the land with his two oldest sons, William and James, until 1740. In 1740, the upper 118 ¼ acres were sold to the oldest son William. In 1741, the remaining 81 acres were sold to William Webb. All the Fishers except William moved northward to the northwest part of East Caln (now West Brandywine), a distance of less than 20 miles. The Quaker meeting records are silent concerning the Fishers from 1714 until 1728. From 1728 onward, the meeting records of Kennett and Caln (Bradford Monthly Meeting) are filled with references to Thomas and Elizabeth and their family.

In August of 1728, Thomas Fisher and his wife’s cousin James Few were chastised by Kennett meeting, for threatening to bring suits in a civil court (it is not clear if they were suing each other or someone else). This may have concerned the boundaries of the Fisher and Few lands which adjoined at the northeast part of the Fisher claim, or it may have concerned the disposition of the old Huntley farm in Kennett, which the Few family had bought from Elizabeth Huntley Fisher’s widowed mother. After months of persuasion by the Quakers, Thomas agreed to a statement to the congregation, which was accepted as giving satisfaction. James Few remained adamant and was placed in the care of his father, Isaac Few.

“1728/9 4th of 11th Mo. (Jan 7, 1729) At our Monthly Meeting of Newark held at Center. The ffrnd appointed to read the Testimony given into Last meeting by Tho: ffisher report he hath done it which here under followeth. “To the Monthly Meeting of Newark held at Kennett ye 7th of ye 10th moth 1728. Inasmuch as I have been guilty of fetching a warent for one in Communion with me Contrary to the good order Established amongst us for which disorderly act I am sorrey and gives this as a testimony against the same as witness my hand. Thomas ffisher.” (Note: Thomas Fisher in 1740 signed his deed with a mark (x). The clerk or copier here may have omitted any notation of “his mark.”)

The Fishers stayed in Kennett until the marriage in 1740 of their eldest daughter Elizabeth Fisher to Joseph Wilkinson of East Caln. All the family except William, the eldest son, decided to follow Elizabeth to East Caln. They made preparations to take up land at the western end of East Caln, at a distance of less than 20 miles northwest from the Kennett homeplace.