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Walking Purchase Park
40 36' 86 N
75 24' 53 W

In 1683, William Penn arrived in Philadelphia, a small colony of 2000 people. Penn strategically set out to settle the unfamiliar lands. He encountered Indians who had lived on the land for many years. Penn vowed to treat them fairly and pay them for their land. His “honest treaties” with the Indians prevented many battles between the two sides. Unfortunately, after Penn’s death, his practices were not maintained.

Few Europeans had ventured into the Lehigh Valley prior to the 1720s. By 1730, William Penn had died and the entire population of immigrants was under 10,000. Eventually, European settlers began to inhabit the Lehigh Valley region. Having already lost a large area of land to European settlers, the Lenape Indians were reluctant to lose more land. William Penn’s sons and other settlers were persistent and cheated the Lenape in the Philadelphia Treaty, better known as the Walking Purchase of 1737.

Penn’s sons presented a copy of a document that had signatures of three dead Indian chiefs. The document promised the sale of a parcel of land up to the Blue Mountains or as far as a man could walk in one and a half days. At the end of the walk, a line would be drawn eastward to the Delaware and down the river to the starting point in present day Wrightstown, PA. The walkers were James Yates, Solomon Jennings, and Edward Marshall. To ensure the walkers success, a team spent nine days clearing a trail. A reward was offered to the man who traveled the farthest.

Jennings stopped at the Lehigh River at the end of the first day. At the beginning of the second day, Yates collapsed, was stricken with blindness, and died three days later. Finally, after 36 hours, Marshall arrived just outside present day Jim Thorpe. He had traveled over 65 miles, 35 miles farther than the Lenape had anticipated. The Europeans drew the line to the Delaware at a right angle to the river instead of the straight line they had promised. They took thousands of acres more than they should have received from the Walking Purchase. The Lenape refused to move from the Walking Purchase lands.

Thomas Penn persuaded the Lenape to sign a document which acknowledged the Walking Purchase, but did not force the Lenape off the land they presently inhabited. As soon as the Lenape signed the treaty, the Penns arranged for the Iroquois Indians, the dominant Indian nation, to force the Lenape off their land for not honoring the original agreement held in the Walking Purchase.

No matter how many concessions were made to the Lenape after the Walking Purchase, the damage had been done. The Lenape would continue to resent the unfairness of the Walking Purchase. In the 1760’s Lord Jeffery Amherst deliberately infected the Indian tribes with small pox. As a result, the Lenape declared war on the settlements. Lives were lost on both sides.

After the thirteen colonies had been declared the United States, a treaty was written to declare an Indian Territory in Ohio and make it a fourteenth state. However, Congress did not ratify the treaty. By 1778, most Indians had been forced out of Pennsylvania. Some moved to New York and then to Canada. Others moved to Ohio and then to Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Mexico.

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