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Township History

River Road, Shawnee Village River Road, Shawnee Village

Our hope is that the history section keeps increasing. First, we will (hopefully) have more history. Also, contributors are welcome to submit essays or research on their favorite topics about the Township. Much of our history is locked in the memories of residents of old families. We urge them to share it here, and to make this a repository for future generations. 

Pete Sauvigne has been generous to allow us to publish the talk he gave at Shawnee Preservation Society focusing on the history of the village and of his and wife Linda's home. You can find it by scrolling down past History, parts 1 & 2.

History in two parts: archaeology and early history

Part 1: Archaeology 

In 2010 an historical marker was dedicated to the archaeological site along river road, at Minisink Park. The site has had a major impact on our understanding of past cultural behavior in our area.

Don Kline, avocational archaeologist, discovered the site in 1972 and Dr. Charles McNett of American University excavated the site between 1974 and 1977. During that period, over 3900 square feet was excavated to a depth averaging eight feet, producing over 55,000 artifacts.

In 2003, Don Kline and Joe Gingrich returned to the site and worked there for six more seasons. Several hundred square feet were excavated, and thousands of Paleoindian artifacts were recovered.

 Don Kline and young assistantDon Kline and young assistant

The site is stratified and encapsulates nearly 11,000 years of Pennsylvania prehistory, especially of the Paleoindians: a name given to the the first Native American peoples who inhabited America during the final glacial age (late Pleistocene period) when the region was covered with melting ice. (“paleo” comes from Greek and means “old” or “ancient”).

Artifacts found at the site challenge previous assumptions about our climate and the forest cover. It had been thought that early Native Americans in the area were big game hunters stalking mammoths and mastodons and forms of bison (buffalo). However, the charred hawthorn seeds, hickory nuts and fish bones found in the Shawnee Minisink site support the argument that Paleoindians in the East were generalized foragers and gatherers.

The early forest covering the region was thought to be mainly spruce trees. But the presence of charred hickory nuts and charcoal from other deciduous trees in the camp fires suggests that the vegetation was a combination of evergreen trees and leafy trees, much as it is today. The type of trees points to the weather. It must have been mild enough for all these different types to grow. The data from Shawnee Minisink has made a significant contribution to revising our environmental assumptions for what the climate was like at the end of the last ice age.


For more information, visit PAarchaeology.state.pa.us or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

historical signhistorical sign


Part 2: Early History

Creation of the first Township North of the Blue Mountains

More than 25 years before the United States Declaration of Independence, Smithfield Township was created - not born - as a political decision of the Bucks County Commissioners and Court. Many times since then, some authority’s political decision has shaped the scope, boundaries, and social forces operating on this Township.

William Penn technically owned this land and all other territory donated to him by King Charles II. As a matter of personal policy, Penn conceded that the Indians had original rights. He would extend his governance over it only after negotiating a treaty to buy the land.

In order to create Bucks County, William Penn, by Treaty, obtained land northward from Philadelphia County to a line drawn from west to east below present-day Doylestown,. The settlers who bought lands here named their county-seat "Newtown". Newtown endures even though Doylestown replaced it as the county-seat in 1812.

Newtown was the political center in the creation of Smithfield Township. It was from there in 1737 that the Bucks County Sheriff, Timothy Smith, supervised the acquisition of additional territory for his county, reaching north of the Blue Mountains to include what is now Smithfield Township.

William Penn had arranged an Indian Treaty in 1686, before returning to England, that would allow him to purchase more territory as needed for later settlers. The Indians would sell as much land as could be marked off by a person walking northward in 1-1/2 days; and from that point to the Delaware River by a straight line.

Although no one who made that treaty was alive, and the original document could not be found, the "Walking Purchase" was carried out in September, 1737. The walking was done as a contest among three men employed by Thomas Penn and supervised by Bucks County Sheriff, Timothy Smith. The contest winner was Edward Marshall, a part-time surveyor from Newtown. His prize was a sum of money and 500 acres of land within the purchase area.

An extension of the Bucks County frontier, part of what would become Monroe County was a result of the "Walking Purchase". Bucks County brought the area’s settlers under its administration as early as 1742 by creating "Smithfield Township", an area larger than present Smithfield and Middle Smithfield Townships combined.

In 1746, the inhabitants of this large area drew up a petition to the Bucks County Commissioners at Newtown to draw lines for a new Smithfield Township, proposing "to begin at the gap in the mountains where the River Delaware runs through and from thence five or six miles northwest and then by a straight line to the Delaware". Apparently, the County Commissioners did not act on this petition; for, in June, 1748, there was a second petition with somewhat different boundary lines proposed. This time the Commissioners ordered that there be a township in the Smithfield area. Thus, the Bucks County Commissioners, with Court approval, created Smithfield Township. It is said that the extensive acreage owned by John Smith (relationship to Timothy Smith is not known) north of the Blue Mountains gave rise to the name "Smithfield Township".

The Smithfield area is blessed with many natural features that make it a lovely place to live. Miles of riverfront along the Delaware River, the Kittantinny Mountains as our eastern-most view; a unique geologic formation known as Delaware Water Gap provides a “gateway” to Pennsylvania; a portion of the 2,000 mile Appalachian Trail; the River Road, know for thousands of years as a footpath and then as a trail; and acres of valley, forest, and farm lands.

Being the first Township north of the Blue Mountains, Smithfield is mentioned frequently in the various histories written about Monroe County. A longtime resident, Mr.Luther S. Hoffman, took the time to record “The Unwritten History of Smithfield Township” in a booklet published in 1938, copies of which can be viewed at our library and the Monroe County Historical Association. In the foreword of that book, Mr. Hoffman tells us:

“We should hold our ancestors in veneration and be profoundly thankful for the heritage they have passed on to us, and should prove ourselves their worthy descendants.”


NEXT: Pete Sauvigne's History Talk on his home and the development of Shawnee Village. This was first presented at rthe annual meeting of the Shawnee Preservation Society on May 1, 2017. 

Searching an Old House’s History:

The Sittig House in Shawnee 

Want to learn more about regional history?





Monroe County Historical Association

Monroe County Library

Last modified on Monday, 07 August 2017 15:24

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