The Jacobsburg Tract

In the bicentennial year of 1976, the Jacobsburg Historical Society hired the Museum Historical Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania to try to make sense of a bewildering history of land transfers related to the original Jacobsburg Tract. The report, prepared by Helen Schenck and Jeff Kenyon, was submitted in March 1977. We make it available here, along with five maps that accompanied it, for interested researchers and genealogists.

Jacobsburg Tract Traced Through Time

Prepared for the Jacobsburg Historical Society by Helen Schenck
Jeff Kenyon, Principal Investigator, Museum Historic Research Center
March 1977


An explanation of the procedure followed by the Museum Historic Research Center, and a description of the problems which arose at each stage of this project, may aid in the understanding of the form of the final report, and ensure fruitful utilization of the maps and report. We at the Center were supplied with xeroxed copies of all the indentures used in the preparation of the maps. For the exhaustive efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Lopresti in tracking down, copying, and forwarding these documents, the Center is deeply grateful. The Loprestis provided yeoman service in this cause.

Upon receipt of the deeds we transcribed the descriptions of the courses of the various lots of land onto index cards, together with all information which might aid in their placement in connection with other pieces of land, most notably the recitation which commonly appears in a deed to explain how a grantor acquired the property. There were remarkably few deeds which were unusable owing to problems stemming from such initial procedures as transcription and copying. There were a few deeds that area illegible due to the script of the original transcriber, the amount of reduction of the copy, and the degree of pressure exerted when making the copy. Some of the deeds had already been transcribed by others when we received them; ambiguities and inaccuracies did arise in some cases to do the unwitting omission on the part of these transcribers of pertinent or useful information. In a very few cases, maps of properties were forwarded without their deeds, and in some cases without essential data such as date of transfer, parties to the transfer, etc., being noted on the map.

Once the bounds of a tract of land are transcribed, it is plotted on transparent paper. These flimsy shapes are then worked with, using recitations, the names of bordering property holders, and any fixed points of reference such as roads and creeks to fit them together and follow their variations through time. The process is much like fitting together a jigsaw puzzle. Joan Gallagher and Kaytee Umbreit at the Museum Historic Research Center provided invaluable assistance at this stage of the work.

The problems which arise at this stage of the analysis are the most frustrating. Often the original county clerk made mistakes in the copying of a description of the courses of a piece of land: a misreading of the numbers, either of degrees or of perches, is extremely common. Even when the description is to be trusted, which is usually indicated when the map of the tract of land forms a closed shape, there may be some difficulty in fitting together accurately two pieces which from all indications should conform perfectly. In this county the land tracts seem to have been resurveyed with some frequency; thus, even when the same piece of property is involved, two very different surveys may result in remarkably different configurations. This lack of conformity is understandably much increased over time.

In making up the final base-maps, we chose to have every piece of property in concordance with every other; therefore very few of the tracts on the final maps are precisely in accordance with their description in a specific deed. The configuration of any of the bounds of the properties on the maps is a composite of all the descriptions for that bound in all of the deeds for the properties on both side of it. We believe that this course of action will make the maps and thus the changing face of the entire Jacobsburg tract through time more intelligible to the user of this information.

Not all of the pieces of property for which we were supplied deeds are placed on the maps. In a number of cases, it could not be determined if, and if so where, a particular tract would fit in. This fact is noted on the relevant deeds. Every property that could be placed on the map, was; in the report, however, only the pieces which are in or immediately adjacent to the Jacobsburg tract are traced. In the first two maps when the transactions are relatively straightforward, the plots are identified with simply the name of the grantor(s) and the grantee(s); in the last three maps when the transferrals are increasingly complex, the deed reference, date, acreage of the piece under discussion, and the parties to the transferal are all included for each tract.

Deed references, the maps of the warrants, and two township maps of Bushkill and Plainfield Townships were used to place the approximate location of the Bushkill Creek and its tributaries, and the roads that ran, perhaps still run, through the area. Hopefully, these fixed points will aid in the visualization of the pieces of property in connection with the physical geography of the area. The course of a road is not indicated on a map when it is concurrent with a property boundary.

The biggest problem that arose when the time came for the putting together of the jigsaw puzzle was the non-availability of certain important deeds. This is not fault of either the collectors or of the analysts, but is merely a function of the two-part, two-party format in which this project was organized and carried out. Ordinarily the collection and fitting together of the pieces of property would take place at the same time, which each deed leading to its precursors and successors. Despite the lack of some deeds, however, the maps are clearly accurate and to be depended upon for those property transfers they detail.

Our suggestions for further research would emphasize these important missing deeds. They can be easily pinpointed in the endnotes as being those deeds followed by a reference to a recitation in another deed. It is recommended that some, at least, of these deeds be obtained, plotted, and fitted into the existing structure; for example E-4-282 which presumably specifically delineates the land granted to Matthew Henry by his father William. The period after 1850 is also sparsely represented in the deeds with which we were supplied. Finally, it is hoped that with further research some of the lots of land which we were unable to place in connection with the complex of properties would be able to be joined, thus extending the historic base-maps beyond the confines of the Jacobsburg tract and supplying a basic historic resources for the whole of the pertinent townships.

Map 1 | The Hublers’ Transactions, 1788-1801

Jacob Hubler had patented to him in May 1788 a piece of land in present day Bushkill and Plainfield Townships containing 432½ acres, known as the “Jacobsburg Tract.”[1] The excavations carried out this summer and previous summers are at a site within the tract; its transmogrification through time is detailed in this report and delineated in these maps. The tract includes within its bounds a good stretch of the Bushkill Creek, together with the confluence of a number of its tributaries; it is no doubt for this reason that the land has such a complex history of transferrals and occupations, supporting at various times a forge, furnace, foundry, grist mill, saw mill, and tannery, not to mention the usual agricultural pursuits.

In his will, written a year after his acquisition of the Jacobsburg tract, Hubler left it to his sons, Abraham and Isaac.[2] They in turn sold off the entire property within eight years: an approximately 50 acre piece to George Drum in September 1791 [3], 5+ acres to John Huff for £5 in March 1792 [4], and to Samuel Rees 14+ acres at some point before October 1796. [5]. The bulk of the property, however—almost 361 acres—the Hubler brothers had first sold to Jacob Christ, Hatter, Jacob Eyerly, Esquire, and William Henry, Esquire in May 1790 for £177. At this time what they actually sold was a “messuage, tenement, and tract of land” [6], which wording indicates that there was on the land and included in the sale a dwelling house or other structure, possibly with appurtenant outbuildings.

The three men, Christ, Eyerly, and Henry, immediately added to their Hubler holding with the warranting in July of the same year of 56½ acres [7], and the purchase in November 1791 of 22½ acres from Jacob Repsher [8]; the former piece adjoined the Jacobsburg tract on the southwest, the latter on the east.

Out of these three pieces of land owned by the three men in common, Eyerly sold his undivided third to William Henry in November 1792 for £50. This transaction was confirmed in October 1800 by a deed of release from Eyerly’s executors to Henry [9]. Meanwhile Jacob Christ had sold his undivided third to Nathaniel Michler [10]. Apparently to assist in the surveying and dividing of Henry’s two-thirds from Michler’s one-third, a certain John Roth was called in. On July 4, 1801, Henry and Michler granted their entire jointly owned property to Roth for five shillings [11], who on the same day sold the principal part of it (messuage and 419½ acres) back to William Henry for another five shillings [12]. This included the warranted property and the bulk of the Hubler property. Roth also sold land to Michler on the same day, presumably the residue of the three jointly owned tracts. This residue certainly included the Repsher property and a 26½ acre piece of the Jacobsburg tract in the northwest [13].

Map 2 | William Henry’s Transactions, 1796-1819

Previously to these negotiations, William Henry had acquired in October 1796 the 14+ acre piece of land which the Hublers had sold to Rees. At the same time, he purchased from Rees a tract of almost 151 acres adjoining it on the west. Both these pieces together cost him $330 [14]. He also had patented to him in January 1798 a tract of land of about 100½ acres called “Wheatfields” [15]. This adjoined the Jacobsburg tract on the north. He divested himself of the whole o this patented land within eight years, selling almost 36 acres of it to Andrew Stocker in April 1798 [16] and 72+ acres to Abraham Heller in November 1806 [17], the former piece for £12 and the latter for $1441.

In June 1818 William Henry conveyed 470½ acres of his land holdings to his son Matthew Schropp Henry. This tract of tracts certainly included the bulk of William Henry’s 419½ acres (primarily) from the Jacobsburg tract, as well as Rees’s 14+ acre piece from the same [18]. What other pieces of property acquired by William Henry went into the making up for the 470½ acre grant to his son, we cannot determine at this time.

William Henry had earlier bought two pieces of property adjoining the southern part of the Jacobsburg tract: a piece of unstated acreage from Daniel Striner in July 1810 [19] to the southwest, and close to 27 acres from John Ward in November 1815 for $656.33 to the southeast [20]. Now, in June 1819, he sold these two pieces together with that section of the Jacobsburg tract between (which bordered on his son Matthew’s recently acquired property on the north) to his two sons, John Joseph Henry, Gunsmith, and William Henry, Jr., Gunmaker, for $10,000. This indenture specifically transferred “messuages or tenements, barns, stables, mills and other outbuildings and 167 acres” [21].

William Henry had picked up a number of pieces of land from sheriffs’ sales before this time. These included much (all?) of a Michael Herring’s estate, which he obtained in two adjoining tracts (100 acres in October 1802 for £55 [22] and 25½ acres in March 1804 [23]), and 103 acres in October 1802 from Frederick Bruch’s estate [24]. According to Articles of Agreement between himself and John Frederick Wolle, Storekeeper, dated March 1817, Henry’s executors sold in February 1825 the Herring property to Wolle for $1500. At this transaction the piece is described as containing 130+ acres [25]. In accordance with the same articles of agreement, Henry’s executors also sold Wolle on the same day 95+ acres from the Bruch property for $1500 [26].

Thus at the time William Henry made his will in March 1820 [27], he had either sold off or agreed to sell off all of the pieces of land we have traced so far with the possible exception of the c.151 acres he had bought from Rees [28]. The original Jacobsburg tract was being held by his sons, with Matthew in the northern section, John Joseph and William Jr. in the southern section. Nathanial Michler was in possession of his two pieces adjacent to and within the tract, and John F. Wolle his two large lots to the north of it.

Map 3 | Matthew Henry’s Transactions, 1818-1829

Matthew Henry, Iron Manufacturer, shortly after his acquisition of part of the Jacobsburg tracdt in 1818, proceeded to sell off select pieces of it. To Thomas Kitchen in January 1821 he sold for $330 33+ acres—the piece being principally made up of the western half of the 1790 warrant to Christ, Eyerly, and William Henry [29]. In June of the same year he conveyed to Johnathan Knecht, Tavern-keeper, for the sum of one dollar a piece of land of almost 43 acres [30]. This deed appears to describe a legal transferal of the property, but it must have been some sort of legitimization of a lease, mortgage, or some such contract, because Henry retained control of the land. He sells a piece of land of equivalent acreage though not identical bounds in the same area some sixteen years later for a substantial sum of money. The lengthy and complicated reservations in the 1821 deed concerning Knecht’s limitation to “swell” the water (of the Bushkill Creek or branch thereof) either on his own land or other land of Henry’s with his mill dam, and Henry’s limitation to do the same with his forge dam, may hint at the real concern which resulted in the drawing up of the indenture.

Matthew Henry obtained the eastern section of the 130+ acre piece from Herring’s estate which his father William had sold to John F. Wolle. Wolle sold almost 70 acres of this tract to Matthew in February 1826 for $350. (Wolle had previously sold the western 60+ acres to John S. Haman.) [31] Henry obtained as well a small tract (5 acres, which at one time was or contained a messuage) directly to the southeast of this piece. It was sold to him by Frederick Germantown in March 1829 [32].

Isaac Sidman’s property lay to the north between the two “horns” of the Jacobsburg tract. Matthew  Henry picked up a probably substantial piece of the estate at a sherrif’s sale in January 1822. He sold the western portion of this (some 41 acres) to Peter Maurer, Inkeeper, in March 1826 [33]. Nathanial Michler had sold that northwestern portion of the Jacobsburg tract which he had retained at the division of 1801 to Peter Maurer in March 1822 [34]. Now, in March 1827, Peter Maurer sold these two pieces of property, which adjoined each other, one of which contained a messuage or tenement, to Frederick King for $3,000 [35].

Map 4 | Matthew Henry’s Transactions, 1825-1845

It appears that Matthew Henry began to run into financial difficulties after the first quarter of the nineteenth century. He took out two mortgages on what now begins to be referred to in the deeds as the “forge and furnace tract.” This was made up of the greater part of the remainder of his purchase from his father, the 70 acre tract from Wolle, and, presumably, the section of the Sidman estate between these two parcels of land. One mortgage was to the Society of the United Brethren for Propagating the Gospel among the Heather for $17,000; this mortgage was for a “forge, furnace and four several tracts or pieces of land” [36]; the other was to Andrew Benade for $6,000, and this document mentions again the forge and furnace, but only one tract of land [37]. Both mortgages were taken out on the same day in November 1825.

He then either sold or leased the forge and foundry tract described above to William H. Wolle and Peter Kern, Iron Manufacturers (tenants in common at Bushkill Foundry), in September 1833. The property encompassed 326½ acres. With this large parcel of land he sold/leased the final residue of his father’s granted property, an oddly shaped parcel of 45+ acres spread out along a western branch of the Bushkill Creek, in the area formerly included in the western “horn” of the Jacobsburg tract. These two pieces contained “messauges” as well as the forge and foundry, and $30,000 was the amount given for the whole. [38]. Again, though the identure format is that of an actual deed of sale, it is plain that Mathew Henry retained some degree of possession and/or control, because in further transactions involving the properties he appears with Wolle and Kern as part grantor.

When Henry transferred these two pieces of property to Wolle and Kern he did so with the forge and foundry still encumbered with the two mortgages, totaling $23,000. Though he did not grant them the whole of the mortgaged property, Wolle and Kern did take on the whole of the lien. Henry now wanted to sell the remainder of the property he had mortgaged to Jacob Cope, and therefore obtained in November 1833 releases for this residue from both the Society of the United Brethren and from Andrew Benade [39]. This freed Henry to sell to Cope in the same month the grist and saw mill and almost 47 acres of land for $4,000 [40]. This piece of land, as mentioned earlier, was in precisely the same locale as the close to 43 acres Matthew Henry seemed to have transferred to Knecht. This 1833 transaction, unlike the Knecht one, was assuredly binding a final, and it left Matthew Henry with little more than his part ownership, which may have been of a nominal character, in the two tracts tenanted by Wolle and Kern.

It is indicative of the increasingly straightened circumstances Henry found himself in that John and Jacob Wolle became his trustees by their voluntary Indentures of Assignment dated November 1833 “for the use and benefit of all the creditors of the said Matthew Henry” [41]. They sold off various pieces of his remaining holdings [42], including the 5 acre piece from Germantown which went to James Searle in May 1839 for $180 [43]. Ultimately it seems not to have been enough. Matthew Henry, William Wolle, and Peter Kern defaulted on a debt of $9,351.21 owed to the Society of the United Brethren (presumably a payment due on the mortgage); as a result, in January 1842 Peter Steckel, High Sherriff, seized and sold to Owen Rice at auction the furnace and seven tracts of land. The first tract of the seven is one of 191+ acres with the furnace on it; it is essentially the northern half of the forge and foundry tract described above. The second tract is the other piece of land (45+ acres) which Henry had granted to Wolle and Kern. The other five pieces apparently do not adjoin the complex of properties we are engaged in tracing. The entire seven tracts fetched $5,880, $3,600 for the first tract with the furnace, $800 for the second tract [44].

In quick succession the exact same seven tracts with furnace were sold by Owen Rice to William Henry Van Vleck, Clerk, in October of the same year (at which point they garnered for him $5,580) [45], and Van Vleck sold the furnace and first two tracts (i.e., those pieces were are concerned with) to Jacob Cope for $4,000 five months later in March 1843 [46].

The final blow was dealt Matthew Henry when he failed to pay Andrew Benade a debt of $3,418.50, which Benade recovered against him (again, this was most likely monies owed on the mortgage). Samuel Adams, sheriff, was brought in and put a “forge, furnace and tract of land” of 135½ acres up for auction July 1845. Benade purchased it for $1,010 [47]. This tract of land was the southern half of the forge and foundry tract described earlier, i.e., that piece of land between John Joseph Henry’s possessions in the south and Cope’s recent purchases in the north. It is worth noting that the piece of land described as a “forge and foundry tract” (in 1825), when subdivided includes a “furnace” on the northern half (in 1842) and a “forge and furnace” on the southern half (in 1845). It is hard to say if we are dealing here with additional structures or industries or simply with ambiguous terminology. The 1845 deed is remarkable and valuable for archaeological work in that it lists in detail the structures then present on the property, to wit:

a large frame forge thirty by forty feet, a large two story stone house, five3 one story stone or log houses, a stone office sixteen by twenty feet, a frame coal house thirty-five by forty fee3t, a frame stone house, a large frame barn forty by seventy feet, and five stables some log and some frame. There are two apple orchards and a spring of water on the premises. [48]

At this time, therefore, Jacob Cope owned the bulk of the Henry property, in three adjoining tracts laid out in the rough shape of a U, with Frederick King and John Haman’s lands lying between the two arms. Two northern branches of the Bushkill Creek came together in his property; the road from Nazareth to the Windgap of the Blue Mountains ran through one section, and bounded another section of his land. He had at least a grist and saw mill and a furnace on his land. Andrew Benade owned the middle section of the original Jacobsburg tract; the Bushkill Creek ran through his land, as well as a road leading from the Nazareth-Windgap road to the Easton road. The Nazareth-Windgap road bordered his property on the west. John Joseph Henry still held the southern portion of the Jacobsburg tract, through which continued the Bushkill Creek.

Map 5 | Andrew Benade’s Transactions, 1845-1853

Despite what seems to be a focal and potentially productive locale, the owners of the tract did not necessarily flourish. Andrew Benade, Clergyman, followed essentially the same course as Matthew Henry had before him: he sold off his land in bits and pieces, he obtained trustees, and finally he fell irrevocably into debt, and had the remaining portion of his property seized and sold at sheriff’s sale—and all this within six years of his acquisition of the plot.

Benade first sold the southwesternmost corner of his property: a messuage or tenement and almost 5 acres of land to Aaron Meyer, Blacksmith, in April 1847 for $57.60. [49]. then the southernmost corner—a tiny tract of 1+ acres—was sold to John Wright a year later for $42.75 [50]. The rest of the western “square,” encompassing a messuage or tenement and 28½ acres, Benade sold in the same month to Jacob Cope for $739.59 [51]. These sales not being sufficient, Benade two years later in October 1850 sold to Cope for $2,097.81 two pieces of property. The larger of these, 55+ acres, came from the Jacobsburg tract, the smaller, close to 5 acres, from a piece of land which Benade had bought in 1847 from Aaron Meyer [52].

Benade ultimate was, “owing to sundry losses and misfortunes, … at present unable to discharge his just debts.” Therefore he assigned to John Semple and John Transue in October 1850 his remaining property for the sum of one dollar, “for the purpose of making a just distribution of his estate and effects among his creditors” [53]. A year later in August 1851 John Bachman, sheriff, took possession of that remaining land, which amounted to 48½ acres, and sold it with the forge and foundry to Henry S. Edmonds, Founder, William Koch, Distiller and Millwright, and Wolloughby Koch, Forge Man [54].

While the three held this property in common, they sold to Jacob Cope in April 1852 a tiny (53 perches) “messuage and barn lot” for $300 [55]. This adjoined his (Cope’s) land to the west and was bounded by roads on two sides; on the west, the road leading into the Easton road, on the south, a road to the forge of Koch, Edmonds, and Company. Willoughby Koch did not remain with the company long. The sheriff soon seized three pieces of his property, among them his undivided third of the forge and foundry property, to levy a debt of $516.89, which Koch owed to a certain Joseph Ruck. In a deed primarily concerned with the sale of another of the three tracts of Koch’s to John Keller [56], there is a list of the improvements situate on the forge and foundry property:

a frame forge 40 ft. by 60 ft. and necessary machinery, a frame coal house 35 by 40 ft., a stone dwelling house 20 ft. by 30 ft. and 2 stories high, a stone office 16 ft. by 20 ft. and one story high, a frame blacksmith shop 20 ft. by 20 ft., a frame store house 15 ft. by 15 ft., 2 log houses each 20 ft. by 30 ft., frame house 18 ft. by 40 ft. and one and a half story high, five small stables, a frame shop 20 ft. by 30 ft.

Comparing this list with that dating from the 1845 transaction, it can be seen that the structures on the property changed little over the eight years. The forge only seems to have doubled in length. Probably the two log houses, the frame house, and the frame shop can be equated with the “five one story stone or log houses” of 1845. The frame barn was no doubt on the barn lot sold to Cope a year earlier.

Ultimately Willoughby Koch’s third was bought by Edmonds in April 1853 [57]. Edmonds and William Koch were then concerned to make a division between their two-thirds and one-third, which they accomplished with a deed of partition of the “messuages, tenements, hereditaments and premises of forge and foundry property and 48 acres 99 perches of land” [58]. The deed was made in May 1853; Koch got 13+ acres, Edmonds 35+ acres. Koch sold his third to Cope on the same day for $1,100 [59]. Jacob Cope, then, was left as the big landowner in the area, now owning approximately 385 acres, in seven tracts, which included the bulk of the original Jacobsburg tract.

AFTER 1850

The deeds dating after 1850 are very few and it was not possible to trace the Jacobsburg tract forward in time. The most that can be said of the land transactions in this area after that date is that a piece of land of 14½ acres that passed from William Koch to Charles Colver in March 1857 (for $1,050) [60], thence to John Wright, thence to Charles Fehr in April 1866 [61], thence to Charles Fox in 1869 (for $1,700) [62], which apparently is part of the Hughses Slate Quarry ultimately, was located between the Jacobsburg tract and John Ward’s land (formerly) to the east. Clara Henry sold to Granville Henry in March 1896 two pieces of land, one of 4+ acres, one of 139½ acres, for $1,050 [63]. These pieces were in the same area as John Joseph Henry’s tract in the south of the Jacobsburg tract, and basically covered the triangle of land between the road from Belfast to Henry’s gun foundry and the road from Jacobsburg to Belfast.