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Uwchlan Township
715 N. Ship Road; Exton 19341

Downingtown Area School District

The name Uwchlan is Welsh, and signifies "upland," or "higher than or above the valley."  It is spelled in old writings Ywchlan.  These townships were principally settled by Welsh Friends about the year 1712, and later, under the aspices of David Lloyd, of Chester, who took up large tracts of land, which he sold to settlers.  John Cadwalader purchased 250 acres from him by deed, June 2, 1715, and on Jan. 16, 1716, he sold the same lands to Thomas Fell, "excepting a small piece of ground on the side of the King's road, which the said John Cadwalader allotted for a burying-ground, and to set a meeting-house for the use of the people called Quakers."  In 1722 this property (then owned by William Harvey) was conveyed to Evan Evans, and the same reservation made.  This piece of ground thus reserved is that now occupied by the Friends' meeting-house and graveyard at Lionville.

Among the early settlers were Griffith John and Samuel John, both ministers in the society, neither of whom could ever speak English free from a strong tincture of their native dialect.  They were sons of John Philip, or Philips, and Ellen, his wife, taking their father's Christian name for their surname, as was the custom among the Welsh.

A large tract of land in Uwchlan was purchased by Evan Evans, who came from Treeglws, in Montgomeryshire, Wales, in 1722.  His grandson, of the same name, was a member of Assembly from this county from 1780 to 1783, both inclusive, and his descendants are among the prominent citizens of these townships at the present day.

Among the early settlers of Uwchlan were David Cadwalader, John Evans, James Pugh, Cadwalader John, or Jones, Robert Benson, John David, Morris Rees, James Rees, David Evans, Humphrey Lloyd, David Lloyd, Griffith and Samuel John, Joseph Phipps, Noble Butler, Rees Jones, David Davies, Evan Evans, Thomas John, and the Philips family.

The reader will notice on the map of Upper Uwchlan that on the eastern side of it there is an extension of the township into West Vincent, the latter township surrounding that part of Upper Uwchlan on three sides.  That portion of Uwchlan originally formed a part of the lands belonging to Sir Mathias Vincent, Dr. Daniel Cox, and others, now constituting the Vincents, and which were originally known as "Cox and company's 30,000 acres."  The taxes on this land remaining unpaid from the 29th of September, 1687, until the 29th of September, 1715, suit was brought for their recovery by John Simcock, clerk of the county courts, in the name of William Penn, and a writ of execution was granted by the court Aug. 30, 1717, and a portion of the tract of 30,000 acres, containing 467 acres, was seized, and sold by Nicholas Fairlamb, sheriff, to David Lloyd, of Chester, for 50 (pounds), and confirmed to him by deed of Feb. 24, 1717-18.  This tract thus sold for taxes is that part of Upper Uwchlan to which reference is made as being surrounded on three sides by West Vincent, and which thus passed to the ownership of David Lloyd.

About the year 1738 the boundaries of Uwchlan were (rather loosely) defined by the court, as is shown by the following record in the office of the clerk of the courts:

"Upon the petition of the inhabitants of the township of Uwchlan, praying that the limits of the said township may be fully determined; its ordered that the said township includes all the lands surveyed or taken up on the east side of the North Branch of Brandywine Creek, with the lands of Richard Webb and Nathan Evans, on the said Branch, and all the lands surveyed or taken up (on this side of the mountain behind the land of William Philip) from the said Branch to the upper corner of a tract of land laid out to one Dr. Daniel Cox & Company, and then the said township to be bounded by the line of the said tract to the land now or late of David Lloyd, formerly taken in execution and cut off from the said tract laid out to the said Dr. Cox & Company, and then by the lines of the said land now or late of the said David Lloyd, round to the aforesaid line of the land of the said Dr. Cox & Company, and then by the said Cox's line to the land of Joseph Pyke, (Pike) and by the said Pyke's line to the top of the Valley Mountain, and along the top of the said mountain, including all the lands surveyed, taken up or settled in the said mountains to the said Branch of Brandywine creek."

It will be seen from the above record that in defining the bounds of Uwchlan that part of Vincent township then known as Cox and company's lands, which had been sold for taxes and purchased by David Lloyd, was included within the limits of Uwchlan, and thus became part of it.  This was probably done at the instance of David Lloyd, who had large interests in Uwchlan, or of whoever had then become the owner of the lands.  The associations of those residing thereon were probably more with the inhabitants of Uwchlan than of Vincent, and hence the desire to have those lands attached to the former township.

There is evidence that David Lloyd tried to get possession of this land several years before, and it is quite possible he may have suggested what part of Cox's tract it would be well to seize for taxes.

In 1728 he sold to John Vaughan 200 acres, which afterwards became the property of his son, Jonathan Vaughan.  The latter, with his wife Ann, on Sept. 21, 1761, conveyed the same to Dennis Whelen, with the brick house thereon, known as the "red Lion."  Whelen also purchased other lands adjoining, and had the following advertisement inserted in a Philadelphia newspaper of 1762:

"Whereas, DENNIS WHELEN, at the sign of the RED LION, in the county of Chester, hath purchased a considerable Interest in Lands at the Place aforesaid, which is so situate on the Provincial Road leading from Philadelphia to Harris' Ferry, where several other considerable Roads also meet and join the same at and near Uwchland Meeting-house, as to render the situation very suitable for a Town, and a number of Persons having applied for Lots for that purpose; in consideration whereof the said Dennis Whelen hath laid out a Number of Lots to accommodate the Appliers, where the conveniences are so large that several Hundreds of Builders or Tenants may be served with dry and wholesome Lots.  Those of them now laid out are 60 feet wide and 250 deep; proposed to be lett at three Dollars per Annum yearly Rent, or he Value thereof, with a Condition that the Tenants may purchase when they please, upon paying 20 Years Rent.  The said Town to be named WELSH-POOL, after a place in Wales, from whence the late Judge David Lloyd come, who had been formerly Owner of this Place.  It is proposed that when 20 Tenants come and enter, then the said Dennis Whelen, for himself and his Heirs, shall enter into the necessary Articles to secure the Tenants in their Possessions, with the Streets, &c.  It may be further observed that the Place aforesaid proposed for the Town, is situate in a populous Part of the Country, numerous Travellers daily passing the repassing, and many saw-mills and Merchant-mills on every side ofthe same, not far distant, with Stone, Timber and other Materials for Building, &c--Persons of one religious Society, to the Number of 20, taking so many several Lots in said Place, shall have one Acre of Ground freely given for a Place of Worship, Burying-ground and School-house, provided they make timely Application.  A Plan of the Beginning of the Allotment is to be seen on the Premises, where the Provincial Road is to be the Main Street, and enlarged to 80 feet wide.--It is further proposed, that upon the Tenants taking up two hundred of said Lots, they shall be entitled to 10 Acres of Ground for a Common, clear of any Rent.

The expectations of Mr. Whelen were not realized, and instead of the large and populous town of Welsh-Pool we have the pleasant village of Lionville.

In 1827 the line between the southwestern part of Charlestown and the townships of East and West Whiteland and Uwchlan was altered, the former survey having been defective or incorrectly reported, and in 1828 the line between West Whiteland and Uwchlan was altered, and run from the southwest corner of Charlestown, as established the year before, south 71 degrees west 1100 perches to the reputed northeast corner of East Caln.  In 1853 the line between Wallace and Uwchlan was altered so as to include in Uwchlan a part of Wallace which extended down between East Brandywine and Uwchlan.

The township of Uwchlan was divided in 1858, and a new township formed from the northern part, to which the name of Upper Uwchlan was given.  In this case we have a name made up of two words belonging to different tongues but meaning almost the same thing,--a pleonasm arising from not adverting to the signification of the word Uwchlan, that word, to the people at large, no longer conveying a clear and definite meaning.

The present inhabitants of the Uwchlands are largely the descendants of the early settlers, and a glance at the map will show that a considerable number of the land-owners are of Welsh extraction.  This is indicated by the fact that many of the surnames are ordinary given or Christian names.  Persons bearing such surnames as Thomas, Lewis, Williams, James, Richards, Roberts, Philips, Davis, John or Jones, Owen, Griffith, and others of like character, are almost always of Welsh extraction.  The reason why this is so may be thus briefly explained:

In early times a single name was given to each individual, and that name was generally invented for the person, in allusion to the circumstances attending his birth, or to some personal quality he possessed, or which his parents fondly hoped he might in future possess.  In process of time the love of imitation led persons to adopt names which had been and were borne by others, and in order to obviate the inconveniences resulting from the difficulty of distinguishing contemporaries designated by a common appellative, some additional name or names became necessary, and our present system of surnames grew gradually into use.

In Wales persons bearing the same name were distinguished from each other by being known as the son of a particular person.  Thus if a person bearing the name of Thomas had a son William, and a person called Lewis had a son William, the sons would be respectively known as William, the son of Thomas, and William, the son of Lewis, or as it was briefly expressed in the Welsh language, William ap Thomas, and William ap Lewis, the particle ap signifying "the son of."  If it so happened, as it frequently did, that fathers bearing the same name had sons of the same name, so that they could not be distinguished by the appellations of their fathers, they were distinguished by the names of the grandfathers, thus:  William ap Thomas ap Richard, and William ap Thomas ap James; and the list of names was run farther back, if necessary, to effect a distinction.  It was not unusual in Wales, even as late as the middle of the seventeenth century, to hear of combinations carried up through several generations; so that a man might be said to carry his pedigree in his name.

Until a comparatively recent period no subnominal adjunct beyond this particle ap was used in Wales.  This mode of distinguishing persons from each other becoming with the increase of population and intercourse, very inconvenient, it became necessary to effect a change, which was done in this wise:  The particle ap was dropped, and the personal name theretofore borne became what we know as the Christian name, and the distinctive appellative became what we call the surname.  Thus Richard ap Thomas became Richard Thomas, and William ap Lewis became William Lewis.  Thenceforward the children were given the surname of the father; thus the children of Richard ap Thomas, or Richard Thomas, bore the surname of Thomas, and the children of William ap Lewis, or William Lewis, bore the surname of Lewis.

This accounts for a thing very noticeable in Welsh communities, and in places where Welsh names are prevalent,--that of many families bearing the same surname, and yet standing in no degree of consanguinity to each other.  When the change in the mode of naming took place, and the appellative by which they were distinguished from each other became the surname, there were, from the very nature of the case, many families bearing the same appellative, but not in any manner related to each other.  All those whose fathers bore the name of Thomas, under the old system, were called Richard ap Thomas, Joseph ap Thomas, or any other Christian name which they happened to bear.  Under the new system the particle ap was dropped, and they were respectively called Richard Thomas, Joseph Thomas, etc., although belonging to different families, and bearing no relation to each other.  In consequence of this custom, and of the fewness of personal or Christian names, their adoption as surnames became common to so many families that Wales to this day suffers under the inconvenience and confusion of a paucity of names.

Before the change took place in Wales many Welsh families had emigrated to this country.  Here the old system was at once dropped, and the children bore the same appellative which distinguished their fathers from each other.

Uwchlan Rate, 1715.

Taxables in 1753.


William Denney, Joseph McClure, John McClure, Richard Evans, Robert Carson, John Lewis, John Evans, Matthias Keely, Wm. Millhouse, Miles Davis, Robert Alison, Charles Reede, Wm. Byers, Eliaser Evans, Peter Wills, Thomas Guest, David Pugh, William Owen, Joseph Philips, Wm. Dillins, John Smith, Robert Smith, Ruth Roberts, Robert Beaty, Robert Beaty, Jr., David Beaty, Jacob Moses, John Whelan, Israel Whelan, Daniel Evans, William Butler, Noble and Benjamin Butler, Enoch Butler, John Buler, David Lloyd, James Packer, John Benson, Jr., James Benson, James Benson, Jr., John Miles, William Griffith, Stephen Philips, Joseph Bentley, Thos. Evans, William Hiddings, Christian Treat, Jacob Neeler, Dennis Whelan, John Young, David Philips, James Adams, Elizabeth Davis, Evan Jones, John Philips, Thomas Thomas, Jacob Haines, Christian King, Cadwalader Jones, Samuel Bond, Samuel Griffith, Reuben John, Daniel John, Griffith John, George Phipps, Aaron Phipps, John Phipps, Jonathan Phipps, Peter Ashifeler, Jonathan McVeagh, Dugal Cameron, Reif Gatlive, Jacob Tisney, Thomas Martin, John Hoskins, Richard Thomas, David Owen, David Davis, Robt. McMinn, David Evans, Edward Owen, Richard Downing, Isaac Lewis, Esther Crosby, David Evans, Jr.,

History of Chester County, Pennsylvania; Futhey & Cope; Louis H. Everts; Philadelphia; 1881.



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