TULPEHOCKEN TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Pennsylvania was still a colony under King George II of England when Michael Reis bought 400 acres of land in Bethel and Tulpehocken townships from the family of William Penn, the colony’s founder.
The land was carved out of the Manor of Andulhea, a 5,000-acre Penn family estate near Rehrersburg.
John, Thomas and Richard Penn, sons of the founder, sold the property to Reis in 1742, a decade before the founding of Berks County and 34 years before the American Revolution.
The tract lay along the historic Tulpehocken Path, the Iroquois Indian trail that Conrad Weiser traveled between Shamokin in present-day Northumberland County and Womelsdorf, a village then known as Weiser.
Details of the sale are contained in a deed filed in Philadelphia on March 4, 1742, the 16th year of the reign of King George II over Great Britain.
Joel Zinn, 80, a retired Myerstown insurance broker, recently donated the original deed to the Andulhea Heritage Center, a historical society in Rehrersburg.
After buying it at public sale in the late 1980s, Zinn displayed the deed in his office for many years. Some years ago, to keep it from exposure to light, he removed it and stored it at home.
“Judith and I felt that the deed belonged in a place where someone would appreciate it,” Zinn said of the decision to donate it.
In a very informal ceremony, the Zinns recently presented the framed deed to Andulhea center officers.
“This is a real treasure,” said Dolores Hill, center president, who accepted the deed with board member Sandra Kauffman.
The group posed for a photograph at the old stone three-arch bridge over the Little Swatara Creek, the boundary between Bethel and Tulpehocken townships that runs through the southern half of the deeded property.
“This is from the beginning of Andulhea,” declared Kauffman, who served with Joel Zinn on the board of the Tulpehocken Settlement in Womelsdorf.
Andulhea officials said that the deed will be secured off-site because of its historic value and only displayed on special occasions.
Barry E. Miller of Upper Tulpehocken Township, an Andulhea center board member, said the Penn deed documents important aspects of northern Berks County history.
“This is truly one of the most significant deeds in our region,” he said. “It pulls together all kinds of history.”
Zinn did extensive research on the background of the deed.
The Manor of Andulhea, he found, was warranted in five contiguous 1,000-acre tracts to Richard Penn in London on May 12, 1732.
Richard was the younger brother of John and Thomas Penn.
The deed describes the Penns as “proprietors and Governors-in-Chief of the Province of Pennsylvania.”
In 1748, Richard and Thomas Penn laid out the town of Reading, according to the city’s website. The name was chosen after William Penn’s own county seat, Reading, in Berkshire, England. In 1752, when Berks County was formed, Reading became the county seat.
The rights to Andulhea Manor were granted several months before Sassoonan, leader of the Schuylkill Lenape Indians, formally relinquished the claim of native people to the land between South Mountain and Kittatinny, or Blue Mountain, to the Penn family.
The 400 acres sold to Reis were located on the west side of Andulhea Manor, adjoining a 10,000-acre manor warranted to Thomas Freame, husband of Margaret Penn, second daughter by William Penn’s second marriage.
The tract was along the northeast branch of Swatara Creek in the County of Lancaster – neither Berks nor Lebanon counties had been formed in 1742.
The Tulpehocken Path, also known as the Shamokin Trail, followed the route Conrad Weiser and Chief Shikellamy used to conduct negotiations between the Pennsylvania government in Philadelphia and the Iroquois council at Onondaga in central New York.
After Reis sold the property to George Miller in 1748, it became the site of Weidner’s Mill, the most important grist mill in the area during the 18th century.
Michael Miller, founder of Millersburg, was born on the property in 1769. He founded the town bearing his family name, now Bethel, in 1814.
In pounds and shillings
A masterful document of the mid-18th century, the deed reflects the legal language of the era.
The tract sold to Reis, which was in Lancaster County, begins at “a marked small white oak” along the Freame property and “thence extends north ten degrees and west three hundred sixty-four perches,” it says.
The terms of sale were that Reis would pay “one hundred thirty-six pounds lawful money of Pennsylvania.” And a so-called quitrent of “one shilling sterling for every one hundred acres,” due on March 1 of each year.
The deed gave Reis rights to “all mines, minerals, quarries, meadows, marshes, savannahs” and timber and waters. And, free right to “hawk, hunt, fish and fowl” on the property.
The deed was witnessed by George Thomas, esquire, lieutenant governor of the Province of Pennsylvania, who affixed the “great seal of said Province” on March 4, 1742.
Information from: Reading Eagle, http://www.readingeagle.com/