Ds- John & William Penn Sell Pa Land, Sgd War 1812 Mayor Pa. For Sale
Vellum document, March 31, 1812, Philadelphia, regarding the sale of an alley way in Easton, PA by John Penn, William Penn, and Juliana Catharine Penn (all heirs of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania) to Jacob Hart. Signed by John R(eynell) Coates (1777-1842) on behalf of the three Penns as their Attorney. Also signed by John Geyer (1777-1835) Mayor of Philadelphia during the War of 1812, and Tobias Scheonheit and Frederick Beates as witnesses. The document provides, in part: "This indenture...between the Honorable John Penn of Stoke Poges in the County of Bucks in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland one of the late Proprietaries of Pennsylvania by John R. Coates of ... Philadelphia Esquire his attorney... and the Honorable William Penn, Eldest son and heir at law of Richard Penn deceased who was the Brother and heir at law of John Penn deceased the other of the late Proprietaries of Pennsylvania and Juliana Catharine the wife of the said William Penn... by the said John R. Coates their attorney ... for in consideration of the sum of [$28.03] lawful money of the U.S... have granted... unto Jacob Hart ... a twenty feet wide Alley.... in the Borough of Easton...."
The charter granted in 1681 by Charles II to William Penn vested in the latter and his heirs the absolute ownership of all the land in Pennsylvania, with comparatively slight exceptions. From then until July 4, 1776, all titles to that land were derived either from Penn himself or some of his family. The John Penn (aka John Penn of Stoke Pogis) (1760–1834) referenced in this document was the grandson of William Penn, the founder of PA, and the son of Thomas Penn. He was educated at Eton from 1773-6, and Cambridge from 1776-79. He was the chief proprietor of Pennsylvania just before the start of the Revolutionary War (having inherited 1/2 of the property in PA upon his father's death). He and his 1st cousin, also named John Penn ("John Penn the Governor") held unsold property, of 24,000,000 acres which the Pennsylvania legislature confiscated after the Rev. War. He came to Pennsylvania in 1782 and built a country house called "Solitude" (which today is part of the Philadelphia Zoo). He remained in the U.S. until 1788, returning to Great Britain in 1789 after receiving £95,000, his share of the compensation for the proprietorship by the Pennsylvania government. He also received compensation from Parliament for their losses in Pennsylvania. In England he led the life of a wealthy dilettante, writing plays, poems and literary criticisms. In 1798 Penn he was appointed as High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire. He was a Member of Parliament from 1802-05 and in 1805 he was appointed governor of the Isle of Portland. He died a bachelor in 1834 and his estate went to his brother, Granville Penn. The William Penn (1776-1845) referenced in this document was the oldest son of Richard Penn, Jr. (1734-1811) Lt. Gov. of PA, grandson of Richard Penn, Sr. (1706-71) and great-grandson of William Penn (1644-1718) founder of Pennsylvania. He was entered at St. John's College, Cambridge, but did not take his degree. For a while, he served as a Captain in the Surrey militia. In 1808 he came to Philadelphia with his father, Richard Penn, Jr. and stayed through 1812, the year of this document. In August 1809 he married Catharine Julia (or Juliana Catharine) Balabrega of Philadelphia, the other "Penn" referenced in this document. William pressured the Rev. Dr. James Abercrombie, rector of Christ Church in Philadelphia, to perform the marriage upon a moment's notice, which Abercrombie did, reluctantly. [Abercrombie later published a pamphlet describing the marriage and obtained letters from a Bishop and attorney justifying his performing the marriage]. No reason was given by William for the quick marriage. The Bishop thought the self-imposed "shot gun" marriage was because William had a guilty conscious for having engaged in "faulty conduct" with Juliana, and wanted to make it right. An August 1812 letter from William to John Penn of Stoke Poges (the other person signing this document) indicates that he really was in love with Juliana. In this same letter, William offered to sell all his interest in Pennsylvania to John in return for an annuity from John. John turned the offer down. Upon the outbreak of War with America, William returned to England and lived in England for the remainder of his life. He and Juliana had no children. Back in England he lived above his means, came to love wine too much, and went into debt. When not in debtor's prison, he wrote small articles in various periodicals, such as the Gentleman's Magazine, under the pen name "the Rajah of Vaneplysia." Notwithstanding his financial difficulties, his friends included King George IV and other nobility who appreciated his keen mind and intellect. He died in London in September 1845. Little is known of Juliana and she faded into obscurity.
John Reynell Coates, the Pennsylvania attorney who signs this document on behalf of the Penns, was born in Philadelphia, the son of Samuel Coates, the principal land agent for the family of William Penn, the founder. John studied law under William Rawle and succeeded his father as the agent to oversee the vast Penn Estates He lived at the "Solitude" the estate John Penn of Stokes Pogis in the 1780s and all his children were born at the estate. His wife was Sarah Morton, the daughter of John Morton, Esq., President of the Revolutionary Bank of North America. He visited Europe twice and upon his return on one of the trips carried the original Penn Charter from England back to Pennsylvania after it was determined that it should be in the possession of the Penn descendants. He also served as a councilor on the Philadelphia City Council for many years. Later in life he resigned as the Penn family agent in America and this responsibility was then assumed by Civil War General Thomas Cadwalader. One of Coates close friends was the artist Thomas Sully and Coates was a director of the Philadelphia Academy. John Geyer, who signs this document as a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, was born in Philadelphia and was a printer and publisher of a German newspaper. He was the son of Captain John Geyer (1750-1831) of the Third Regiment of Foot of Philadelphia troops during the Rev. War. He served as Mayor of Philadelphia from late 1812 to 1814, at the height of the War of 1812. Besides being a judge, he served as Register of Wills from 1825-30 and as a Philadelphia Alderman. Frederick Beates (d. 1841) who signs as a witness, was born in Lancaster, PA. He was a scrivener and an associated justice of the Court of Common Pleas. The document is signed on the reverse by the Reverend John A. Probst, a minister and recorder of deeds of Northampton County, PA. Probst was a friend and co-worker of Thaddeus Stevens in his political activities.
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Ds- John & William Penn Sell Pa Land, Sgd War 1812 Mayor Pa.: $27