Schackamaxon To Bristol
( Originally Published 1900 )
Journeying up the Delaware from Philadelphia, we pass Petty Island, where the great Indian chief of the Lenni Lenapes, Tamanend, had his lodge—the chieftain since immortalized as St. Tammany, who has given his name to the Tammany Society of politicians who rule New York City. Petty on the old maps is called Shackamaxon Island, a derivation of the original Indian name of Cackamensi. St. Tammany is described as a chief who was so virtuous that " his countrymen could only account for the perfections they ascribe to him by supposing him to be favored with the special communications of the Great Spirit." In the eighteenth century many societies were formed in his honor, and his festival was kept on the 1st of May, but the New York Society is the only one that has survived. Farther up, the Tawny Creek flows into the Delaware, the United States having a spacious arsenal upon its banks. The name of this creek was condensed before Penn's time, by the Swedes, from its Indian title of Taokanink. Beyond, the great manufacturing establishments of the city gradually change to charming villas as we move along the pleasant sloping banks and through the level country, and soon we pass the northeastern boundary of Philadelphia, at Torresdale. This boundary is made by the Poquessing Creek, being the aboriginal Poetquessink, or " the stream of the dragons."
Across the river, on the Jersey shore, formerly roamed the Rankokas Indians, an Algonquin tribe, whose name is preserved in the Rancocas Creek, which is one of the chief tributaries flowing in from New Jersey. At Beverly, not far above, is one of the most popular suburban resorts, the villas clustering around a broad cove, known as Edgewater, which appears much like a miniature Bay of Naples. Over opposite is the wide Neshaminy Creek, flowing down from the Buckingham Mountain in Pennsylvania, its Indian title of Nischam-hanne, meaning " the two streams flowing together," referring to its branches. The earliest settlers along this creek were Scotch-Irish, and their pastor in 1726 was Rev. William Tennent, the famous Presbyterian preacher, who founded the celebrated " Log College " on the Neshaminy, "built of logs, chinked and daubed between, and one story high," as it was well described. From this simple college, which was about twenty feet square, were sent out many of the famous Presbyterian preachers of the eighteenth century; and from it grew, in 1746, the great College of New Jersey at Princeton, and in 1783 Dickinson College, at Car-lisle, Pennsylvania, besides many other schools which were started by its alumni. William Tennent's son, Gilbert, was his assistant and successor. The great Whitefield preached to an audience of three thousand at this College in 1739. He was attracted there by Gilbert Tennent's fame as a preacher, and of him on one occasion wrote, "I went to the meeting house to hear Mr. Gilbert Tennent preach, and never before heard I such a searching sermon; he is a son of thunder, and does not regard the face of man."
The Delaware River broadens into two channels around Burlington Island, having on either hand the towns of Bristol and Burlington, both coeval with the first settlement of Philadelphia, and Bristol at that early day having had an ambition to become the location of Penn's great city. The ferry connecting them was established two years before Penn came to Philadelphia, and in the eighteenth century they had a larger carrying trade. Bristol began in 1680 under a grant from Edmund Andros, then the Provincial Governor of New York, for a town site and the ferry, which is curiously described in the Colonial records as "the ferry against Burlington," then the chief town in West Jersey. The settlement was called New Bristol, from Bristol in England, where lived Penn's wife, Hannah Callowhill. It was the first county seat of Bucks when Penn divided his Province into the three counties—Chester, Philadelphia and Buckingham. It was for many years a great exporter of flour to the West Indies. Its ancient Quaker Meeting House dates from 1710, and St. James' Episcopal Church from 1712; but the latter, which received its silver communion service from the good Queen Anne, fell into decay and has been replaced by a modern structure. Its Bath Mineral Springs made it the most fashion-able watering-place in America in the eighteenth century, but Saratoga afterwards eclipsed them, and their glory has departed. Prior to the Revolution, Bristol built more shipping than Philadelphia; and, while quiet and restful, its comfortable homes and the picturesque villas along the Delaware River bank above the town tell of its prosperity now.