William Frampton in Philadelphia

Researched by Lynn van Rooijen-McCullough


Holmes map of Philadelphia showing location of William Frampton property

William Frampton’s arrival in Philadelphia

William Frampton was an early settler of Philadelphia, arriving around 1683. In “City Planning and Political Tension in the 17th Century: the Case of Philadelphia” (Nash 1968) we read that the “City of Brotherly Love” went through many growing pains in its early years, including considerable tension between the proprietor William Penn and the so-called “First Purchasers”. Although Penn’s plan for the founding of Pennsylvania undoubtedly was partially motivated by his desire to provide a place of religious freedom for the colonists, economic considerations quite possibly played an even more important role.

Penn was interested in attracting wealth to his new colony and initially promised the lots in the city of Philadelphia as a bonus to the “first purchasers” of large shares, preferably of 5000 acres or more, with purchasers receiving 10 acres for every 500 acres purchased in the country. Penn was hoping to attract a large component of “lords” or “barons” to help with the government of his colony on a solid footing. Larger purchasers were to receive front Street lots and smaller purchasers and renters received lots further back. However, in effect, the choicest part of the city of Philadelphia was to be reserved for the original and largest investors.

However, in the years between 1681 and 1683, practical and economic considerations began to take precedence. Less land than originally hoped was available in the city, and much less waterfront property was available. Instead of allocating all of the land within the city to the first purchasers, Penn held back about one third of the properties, including much of the waterfront which he expected to become the trading center.

William Frampton was not one of the original purchasers, but Penn was apparently interested in attracting him to Philadelphia, and was prepared to make concessions for Frampton and others like him. According to Nash (1968) “in 1683, Frampton proposed to establish himself permanently in Philadelphia and there could be little doubt, in view of his success in New York, that he would be a valuable asset to the colony.”

During the winter of 1683/4, Frampton had been traveling back and forth between Philadelphia and New York, but was planning on settling permanently in Philadelphia by the end of the Spring, as evidenced by his land purchases. His certificate of removal from the Oyster Bay meeting in Long Island was dated June 20, 1684.

March 17th, 1684 was a busy day for William Frampton. On that day, he received grants for several lots, one which was a lot from Silas Crispin, who had inherited the lot from his father. This gave him a foothold on the waterfront and “First Purchaser” rights. Silas Crispin was born about 1655 and immigrated to Pennsylvania in the Fall or Winter of 1681-2 on the ship “John and Sarah” with his father, an intended Commissioner of Pennsylvania who died en route. Crispin was himself Episcopalian but in 1683, married Hester Holme, a Quaker and the daughter of Capt. Thomas Holme who was William Penn’s surveyor general.

Crispin’s original assignment was Number 43 on Front, near the North end of the town. Instead of taking this, he or Frampton convinced Penn to grant warrants for a lot nearer the center that had been assigned to several London merchants who had decided not to immigrate to Philadelphia (Nash 1968; Crispin 1929). In the Spring of 1684, he sold Frampton this lot, which according to the grant dated 17 March 1684, was located near the Blue Anchor (“Blew Ancar”), on the west side of Delaware Front Street, 162 feet south of Walnut. The price was £ 24. Originally for 40 feet frontage upon the Delaware River, the grant contains the addition that on the 7th of April, 1684, the Governor granted an additional two feet of frontage. This lot is described as being “42 feet on Front Street running back 155 feet on the North line and 201 feet on the South line, bounded on the west by a marsh.” (Crispin 1929). It was to be named “Town Wharf”.

Blue Anchor near property of William Frampton

That same day, a grant was issued to Frampton to survey lot number 10, as well as the unassigned adjacent lot number 9. Frampton’s name appears next to number 10 on the third page of the list of First Purchasers belonging to the Holmes map. These lots, one street behind the Front lots, were to go to purchasers of under 1000 acres. Since at that point in time, the rest of the Front lots had been assigned, Frampton agreed to accept a lot further from the water and intended to build his brew and bake house on this lot.

A certified transcript of the original grant dated 17 March 1684 indicates that the original document was damaged. We can still read that Frampton was granted two lots in return for a purchase of 500 acres, and that these were in the vicinity of John Parson’s lot (“running upon ye swamp (___) John Parsons in ye full length (___)s. and make returns ther(___) Secretary’s Office).

The lot is described as “immediately south of Poole St. next to the stream flowing into the northern corner of the swamp” . This assignment gave Frampton access to the river even without a front lot and was conditional upon the eventual purchase of land in the countryside (Roach 1968). The two lots  were surveyed March 24, 1684, measuring 102 feet wide (Egle 1894).

Two days later after the above grant, there is a grant for a purchase of 500 acres of land in Philadelphia County “by ye Bristoll Friends up Tekony”. In this case, the grant was for simply the required number of acres, not yet apportioned to others. The grant contains a further note: “27th 5m issued to T.F. next to Ja. Southra E.” It is as yet unclear if this means that William transferred the grant to another on that date.

Francis Richardson, another Quaker merchant from New York and associate of William Frampton who had purchased 400 acres, was assigned a lot at the Southwest corner of 2nd and Poole across from Frampton’s brew house. Humphrey Morrey is also mentioned as being another prominent New York Quaker merchant who was assigned a lot at the same time as Frampton.

In 1684, Penn also began to allocate the property between Delaware Front Street and the River, the first lot being surveyed to Samuel Carpenter from Barbados. At the same time, tension was beginning to rise among the First Purchasers, particularly concerning the allocation of waterfront properties to persons who had not been among the First Purchasers. However Penn reasserted his position that anyone who was willing to invest in improving a Bank lot, First Purchaser or not, would be allowed to do so.

That same August he negotiated the lease of two additional Bank lots to William Frampton and Robert Turner “two of the towns principal merchants”. Penn signed the grant for the survey on the 2nd of August 1684, for land “in ye bank of ye Front of Delaware answering his lot of 42 foot, for convenient see of wharfing & building storehouses. … so far into the street as ye surveyor shall see meet, or ye place will admitt of running out into the river no farther than 250 foot…”.  The patent for the lot was signed on August 5th for a period of 41 years and yearly rent of four shillings (HSP 1912; Roach 1968). It was surveyed on August 9, 1684 (Egle 1894). Similar grants were made to Griffith Jones, William Haig and Thomas Budd.

William Frampton merchant, landowner and member of Penn’s council


Philadelphia Harbor

The development of the city apparently progressed quite rapidly and by 1685, contained 600 houses, two of which belonged to William Frampton. “Pennsylvania 200 Years Ago” (1885) contains an excerpt of William Penn’s  “a Description of the Province in 1685”. The section on William Frampton was actually written by Robert Turner (Penn & Turner 1885). This contains the now famous description of William Frampton’s brick house:

“Now as to the Town of PHILADELPHIA it goeth on in Planting and Building to admiration, both in the front & backward, and there are about 600 Houses in 3 years time. And since I built my Brick House, the foundation of which was laid at thy going, which I did design after a good manner to incourage others, and that from building with Wood, being the first, many take example, and some that built Wooden Houses, are sorry for it: Brick building is said to be as cheap; Bricks are exceeding good, and better than when I built: More Makers fallen in, and Bricks cheaper, they were before at 16 s. English per 1000, and now many brave Brick Houses are going up, with good Cellars. Arthur Cook is building him a brave Brick House near William Framptons, on the front : For William Frampton hath since built a good Brick house, by his Brew house and Bake house, and let the other for an Ordinary.”

On November 6, 1685 William Frampton, James Claypoole, Humphry Morrey, William Salway, Robert Turner and several others were appointed Justices of the Peace, although they apparently did not take office until February 1, 1686. In this function, they also had judicial duties. 1685 was also the year that William Frampton took a seat in the Provincial Council, representing Kent County, where he held land interests (Leach 1894). On May 12, 1685 William Frampton and the rest of the commission signed a proclamation of loyalty to the new King James II after the death of Charles (HSP 1904)

In “The Free Society of Traders” (Nash 1965), William Frampton is described as  a “well-established Quaker merchant”:  “the hope entertained by the Free Society of Traders that it might assume and controlling role in the economic development Pennsylvania was quickly lost in the first years of settlement. Only a handful in number, Penn’s merchant associates found themselves swamped by a larger group of entrepreneurs who had no intention of allowing such a closed body to aggrandize the colony’s trade. … From the west Indies, for example, came Samuel Carpenter, Henry Jones, Jasper Yeates, and John Jones. Arthur Cooke, earlier a noted Quaker in London and since 1678 a merchant of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, moved south to the Delaware. New York added George Foreman, William Darvall -the former Anglican Mayor of the city-and three well-established Quaker merchants, William Frampton, Humphry Morrey, and Abraham Whearley. From across the Delaware, in West New Jersey, came William Clarke, Joshua Barkstead, and Anthony Morris, men quick to perceive the economic control which Philadelphia soon would exert over the entire length of the river.”

In “Quaker Merchants and the Slave Trade in Colonial Pennsylvania” (Wax 1962), the activity of William Frampton in this area is described: “Friend William Frampton, a merchant and operator of a “Brew house and Bake house” in Philadelphia, was involved in the Negro trade as early as 1686. In that year, he received instructions from the Bristol firm of Charles Jones, Jr. and Company to sell six Negroes brought from the coast of Africa on the ship Isabella.  Quaker participation in the Negro trade prompted the Yearly Meeting in 1696 to advise “that Friends be Careful not to Encourage the bringing in of any more Negroes.” “

As far as I have discovered, this one incident is the only documented reference to William Frampton and the slave trade.

William Penn left the colony in 1684 and due to political turmoil in England, did not return until 1699. During the intervening 15 years, he relied upon his Council members to keep him informed of progress in the colony. Two of the most neutral members of the Council, William Markham and Thomas Holme, wrote long, detailed letters to Penn in this period, several of which were only discovered in the second half of the 20th century (Nash et al. 1966). Unfortunately, these begin only a month or so before William Frampton’s death.

A letter of August 22, 1686, mentions two departures for Barbados in conjunction with Framptons activities. First, Markham states that on July 11 the “Dellaware”, Capt. Taylor’s ship from Bristol, arrived at Philadelphia, and reloaded for departure to Barbados. Thomas Taylor was employed by Jones and Company, for which William Frampton and Andrew Robeson where the Philadelphia agents (Geiter 1997). Markham then mentions accompanying the boat the “Shield of Stockdon” from New Castle to Philadelphia on July 22-23, at which time William Frampton hired the boat and loaded it for Barbados. In a footnote to this letter, Nash mentions that William Frampton was “perhaps the most active trader on the Delaware” at this time.

William Frampton’s demise

Further evidence of the broad scope of activities in which Frampton was involved can be seen in Markham’s introductory paragraph of his letter to Penn on October 5, 1686. He begins the letter by explaining that the amount of time that has passed since his last letter was the result of delays in the shipping schedules due to William Frampton’s death and “the many Irons William Frampton had in the fyre”.

He continues with the goings-on of the Council on September  1 and 2nd, and then reports that the meeting the next day (presumably September 3rd) was held at Robert Turner’s house due to his being “very ill”. He reports that the meeting ended in haste because the participants wanted to go to the Burlington Meeting, presumably the Yearly Meeting. Markham only devotes a half sentence to the demise of William Frampton, simply stating “the 11th was buried William Frampton, the next day the French minister that came out of England in Conway” (Nash et al. 1966). Since Frampton’s nuncupative will was made September 9th, this would place his death on either September 9 or 10th.

In a book of legislative biographies, the (unverified) value of William Frampton’s personal estate is given as £812 and his 6000 acres of real estate at £2022. A 1979 article in Winterthur Portfolio describing the furniture of early Philadelphia (McElroy 1979), claims that the earliest reference to Bermuda chairs was found in the inventory of William Frampton. These were apparently chairs made of red Cedar with a cane seat that were imported from Bermuda.



Crispin, M. J. 1929, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 53(4), p.294

Geiter, M. K. 1997, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 121(1/2), p.101–122

Hagley-web: Hagley Library : Exhibits : The DuPont Company on the Brandywine, http://www.hagley.org/library/exhibits/brandywine/founders.html (accessed 11 February 2013)

HSP 1904, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 28(2), p.242

HSP 1912, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 36(4), p.506–507

Leach, J. G. 1894, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 18(4), p.419–428

Little, C. J. 1996, The Business History Review, 70(1), p.95

McElroy, C. J. 1979, Winterthur Portfolio, 13, p.64

Nash, G. B. 1965, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 89(2), p.159

Nash, G. B. 1968, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 112(1), p.68, 72

Nash, G. B., Markham, W., & Holme, T. 1966, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 90(3), p.314–352

Penn, W., & Turner, R. 1885, A Description of the Province in 1685, in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Pennsylvania Two Hundred Years Ago, 74

Roach, H. B. 1968, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 92(2), p.143–194

Wax, D. D. 1962, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 86(2), p.146–147

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