Pennsylvania's Great Walking Purchase
Created | Updated Jan 28, 2002
Pennsylvania's Great Walking Purchase was a means to increase the size of Pennsylvania by 1,200 square miles, as a result of the duplicity of William Penn's* famous sons.
In 1732, William Penn's son, Thomas, inherited the deed to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which at the time stretched from the Delaware River westward to the Susquehanna River, and from the Maryland and Delaware borders northward to roughly the base of Blue Mountain.
To expand the state, Penn met with Delaware Indians in Philadelphia and produced a deed from 1686 which stated that the Delaware Indians sold the white settlers all the land west of the Delaware River, north as far as a man could walk in a day and a half. The Indians were puzzled, held a powwow and eventually agreed to the terms of the deed. This was possibly because they figured that no man could walk far through the tangled forests of Pennsylvania.
Penn hired the three fastest runners in the colony to do the walking, with the agreement that the man who went farthest would receive five pounds sterling and 500 acres of land. The walkers were James Yates, Edward Marshall and Sol Jennings.
For the next two years, the Quaker settlers held trial runs for the walk, and cleared a long pathway through the forests for the runners.
On the day of the run, 19 September, 1737, three Indians, a group of officials and the three walkers gathered at the meeting house in Wrightstown to start the walk. At the sound of the gun, the three men took off.
Immediately the Indians protested that the white men weren't walking.
After the first 18 miles, Jennings was overcome by fatigue and quit. The other two walkers kept on running. That night, fearing Indian reprisals, they slept under armed guard near Northampton. The following day they continued north until Tobyhanna Creek, where Yates collapsed, blinded, only to die a few days later.
Marshall continued through the mountains until 'time' was called 65 miles from the starting point. The Deed of 1686 set the limits of the purchase at right angles to the line of the walk, giving the colonists 1,200 square miles of the Poconos. Marshall never received the land he was promised and Indians killed his wife and son in separate attacks.
The Indians protested to the King of England, who ordered an investigation. The investigation went on for a few years until the Delaware Chief Tedyuscung's weakness for alcohol was discovered. After 15 months of constant drinking, he withdrew his accusations. A year later, he burned to death in his wigwam.
Over 100 years later, experts examined the Deed of 1686 and found that it was in fact a forgery.