John Snowden (1632 - 1736) MP

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Birthplace: Edwinsboro, Nottingham, England
Death: Died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Occupation: West Jersey Proprietor
Managed by: Patricia Jeanne Thomas
Last Updated:

About John Snowden

John Snowden

  • Birth: 1632 - Edwinsboro Co. of Nottingham, England
  • Death: May 3 1736 - Philadelphia, PA
  • Parents: William Snowden, Ann Snowden (born Hooten)
  • Wife: Ann Snowden (born Barrett)
  • Wife: Elizabeth Snowden (born Swift)
  • Children: John Snowden, William Snowden, Mary Wright (born Snowden), Margaret Priestly (born Snowden), Ann Snowden

"Some twenty or thirty years before the ship Welcome brought William Penn to the shores of America, there had sailed up the Delaware another party of Englishmen, who settled among the Swedes at or near what was later known as Old Chester. Among these was one John Snowden, who had been thrown in prison for preaching the Quaker faith at Knaresborough, Yorkshire, England. Upon his release, with a brother and sister, he emigrated to the land of religious liberty ..." (2)

Biography

from The North American, Philadelphia, Sunday, July 14, 1912 "Old Philadelphia Families" by Frank Willing Leach

The Snowdens came to America from Nottinghamshire, though, previously, they had been seated for many generations in Yorkshire. At a still more remote period, they were to be found, it is said, in Scotland, the family name being derived from "Snowdoun," the ancient name of Stirling Castle.

 

Sir Walter Scott tells us, in his "Lady of the Lake," that King James, during his disguise, called himself James Fitz-James, Knight of Snowdoun, and when it was revealed that "Snowdoun's Knight was Scotland's King" he defended himself to Ellen Douglas, as follows:

  • Yes, Ellen, when disguised I stray
  • In life's more low but happier way,
  • 'Tis under name which veils my power.
  • Nor falsely veils-for Stirling's tower
  • Of yore the name of Snowdoun claims
  • And Normans, call me James Fitz-James.

As an American institution, the Snowdens antedate most of the "Old Philadelphia Families" whose names are familiar to us. Indeed, the statement can safely be ventured, as an historical verity, that the first of the name in America was one of the few Europeans, of English antecedents, who were present to welcome the "Welcome". With William Penn and his compatriots on board, when that famous little craft dropped anchor in the Delaware, at the close of October in 1682.

Between 1676 and 1682 a number of English vestles, borne in mind; had ascended the Delaware River, and disembarked their animate cargos. These emigrants it is true, had landed on the eastern side of the river, first, near the present town of Salem, and later, on the site of the thriving city of Burlington. But not a few of those colonists after tarrying awhile in West New Jersey, had drifted across the Delaware, and established themselves in the domain of the Duke of York. Before the exception, March 4, 1681, by Charles II of the "Great Charter" to William Penn, which created a new Commonwealth.

Thus came the Ridgways, the Mifflins, then the Paschalis and others to Penn's Province, before he himself had arrived in the new world, before, indeed, he had acquired title to the wonderful territory which afterwards bore his name.

Thus, likewise, came the Snowdens.

The founding of the sister province of West New Jersey may be said to have resulted from the signing and promulgation of the "Concessions and Agreements of the Proprietors, Freeholders and Inhabitants of the Province of West New Jersey" March 3, 1676.

In the following year, by deed dated July 7, 1677, executed by Richard Mow, of Ratclif, County Middlesex, England, William Snowden, yeoman-the ancient term for "farmer"-of Edwinsboro, County of Nottingham, and John Hooten, of Skegby, of the same county, purchased one-sixth of a share or interest in West Jersey.

"So far as the present writer has knowledge, William Snowden-like others of the early land owners in West New Jersey- never came to the new world. Indeed, he did not survive the date of his purchase many years, he having been an aged man, with adult children, at the time."


We have record of another conveyance dated four or five years later, which throws light upon the movement of the family in the interim. By this deed executed February 6, 1681-82, the granters, Hannah Salter of Tacony, Philadelphia, widow, John Hooten, of Mansfield, West Jersey, and John Snowden, son of William Snowden, of Edwinsboro, County Nottingham, "deceased," conveyed one-half of the above- mentioned one-sixth of a share to John Cripps of Burlington.

"Thus, it will be observed William Snowden, of Edwinsboro, had died in the meanwhile, and his son John Snowden had established himself in the new world. The exact date of his arrival is unknown. Nor do we know the year precisely."

Yet it is quite clear that it was shortly after his father's purchase, in conjunction with John Hooten of a one-sixth share from Richard Mew, in 1677. Arriving in Burlington County in the latter year or more probably, a year later, he evidently did not tarry long in West New Jersey, as, under date of March 13, 1678-79, he received a grant of one hundred acres on the other side of the Delaware, as we learn from the records of Upland Court.

 

GOVERNMENT AT UPLAND

For the benefit of the uninitiated, it may be stated that the seat of government of that portion of the territory under the jurisdiction of the Duke of York, subsequently-in 1681-granted to William Penn, was at Upland, at the modern city of Chester was then denominated.

Just where, on the west bank, John Snowden at first located, does not seem to be entirely clear. Possibly, it was within the limits of the present city of Philadelphia, among the Swedes, as by deed dated April 26, 1681, Lawrence Cock and John Snowden conveyed to Alexander Bankson a tract in Passyunk, in the territory occupied by the Swedes; both Cock and Bankson having been prominant representatives of the early Swedish colonists, who preceded Penn's comming to the Delaware by two score years.

If, as has been suggested, he had been living, in the meanwhile, within the limits of what was soon to become the Province of Pennsylvania, he evidently returned to Burlington County, West New Jersey, shortly before the above-mentioned conveyance to Bankson, as in Revell's "Book of Surveys" we find too "return of survey," both dated November 16, 1680 to John Snowden, covering property in Burlington County; one survey embrassing 100 acres "at the hilltop" on "Delaware River," on the road between land already belonging to Snowden, on the one hand, and John Hooten and William Beard, on the other hand; the second survey comprising four acres of "hard land" in a swamp, and six acres of meadow on the marsh" of Crosswick Creek.

In the following year October 21, 1681, Snowden purchased of George Hutcheson one-thirty-second of a share in the First Tenth, excepting thereout certain "town lots" on Burlington Island. A year later, by deed dated August 28, 1682, he bought of John Hooten a tract embrassing one-half one-sixteenth of a share which the latter August 12, 1678 had purchased of George Hutcheson. One hundred acres of this latter tract, Snowden, by deed bearing date October 17-18, 1683, sold to Henry Stacy.

John Snowden's place of residence we find definately stated in a "return of survey," of June 1884, of one hundred and twelve acres adjoining his one hundred acre lot, "whereon he now dwells".

Some years after this-just when we do not know-he again moved across the Delaware, settling in Bucks County, as we find him set down as a resident of that county in a deed of December 9, 1696 wherein he conveys to Richard Allison a plantation of 210 acres, called "White Hill" on the Delaware, above the supassings inland, including the tracts of 6 and 4 acres respectively, mentioned in one of the surveys November 16, 1680 referred to above.

He is likewise spoken of as a resident of Bucks County in a deed of September 26, 1698 wherein he conveys to Robert Pearson two tracts, one of 302 acres in "Yorkshire Tenth," Burlington County, and the other of 10 1/2 acres, near the larger tract. His holdings in Bucks County included also a property comprising 416 2-3 acres, which he had bought March 9, 1697.

From the various citations given, it is clear that Snowden was an extensive land owner, and per consequence, a man of substance and influence in the several communities in which he resided.

As a signer of the "Concessions," heretofore mentioned, and his ownership of certain shares or property interests in the Province, John Snowden was one of the "Proprietors of West New Jersey" whose organisation, two and a quarter centuries old is still in existance.

He was even more prominant in Pennsylvania than in New Jersey. In 1712 he was chosen as a member of the Assembly for Bucks County, and was commissioned a Justice of the Peace December 15, 1715, again, September 10, 1717, and once more, September 6, 1718.Shortly prior to his last commission as Justice he removed to Philadelphia, where he was admitted freeman May 27, 1717.

He had been one of the founders of the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia- the first of this denomination in Pennsylvania- whose original ediface was built in 1704-5 on the south side of High or Market Street, between Second and Third streets This meeting-house, surrounded by some fine sycamore trees, was styled the "Buttonwood Church." Of this John Snowden was one of the three Elders first chosen. He was also a member of the Presbyterian Synod for the years 1717- 27

Originally, before becoming a Presbyterian, John Snowden had been a Quaker, and as such participated in the strenous Keithian controversy of 1692 and thereafter Snowden attended the yearly meeting at Burlington. September 4-7, 1692 and was one of those who signed a vigorous proclamation issued by that body upon the subject indicated.

Like nearly all his contemporaries John Snowden had been a husbandman, scarcely any other occupation being open to the pioneer of that or any other period. Furthermore he had felled timber utilizing a portion of it in the construction of his various farmhouses, and auxiliary buildings, while the surplus he had disposed of to such of his neighbors as had been less fortunate in the extent of their holdings of timber-land. In addition, he had conducted extensive tanneries in Bucks County, which, aside from his other sources of revenue, had brought him large returns. Thus, at the time of his decease, he was possessed of a considerable estate.

John Snowden, the first of the name, was twice married, first, to Anne Barrett, who was living as late as September 26, 1698, as she is named in the deed of that date, previously mentioned, he married, secondly, August 11, 1718, Elizabeth Swift, of "Penneypack Creek." The latter was probably closely related to John Swift, a noted Bucks County settler, who, for almost forty years represented, first that county, and , later, Philadelphia in the provincial Assembly.

The founder of the Snowden Family died May, 1736 in Philadelphia. What his exact age was, we do not know; 104 years according to some, who give 1632 as the year of his birth. If born in that year, he would have been fifty years old at the time of his first marriage, and four score years when he was chosen an American Assemblyman.

His will, dated March 3, 1736, was proved June 1, 1736. He names therein five children, and mentions grandchildren and great-grandchildren, without naming them.

So far as known, John Snowden, the founder, had only the five children named in his will, all by his first wife, as follows: Anne, Margaret, John, William, and Mary.

Of the three daughters, Anne probably died single. Margaret married, January 5, 1813-14, John Priestly. Mary, became the wife, August 3, 1736, of Benjamin Wright. Of the two female lines the writer possesses no knowledge.

  

Of the two sons, William, probably the younger, married, April 12, 1711, Abigail Woolley. Concerning his offspring, if any, the present chronicler has no definite information.

It is with the other son, alone, John Snowden, with whom we have to deal, as the ancestor of the Snowdens of today.

Of John Snowden, the younger, we have less detailed information than of his father, the colonist. He was born in 1685, probably at "White Hill," the Snowden homestead, in Burlington County, West New Jersy, or, according to another authority, in Falls township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

The son removed to Philadelphia from Bucks County before his father. Like the latter, he was identified with the First Presbyterian Church for many Years.

He established his home on Second Street-old number 141- below Walnut, his property extending from Second Street to Dock Creek. He had purchased it, March 19, 1705 of Edward Shippen, who, in turn, October 24, 1701, had bought it of William Penn. John Snowden devised the property to his son Isaac Snowden, and the latter, in turn, left it to his son of the same name, Isaac Snowden, Jr., who retained the ownership of it for many years. Indeed, for considerably over a century it remained in the Snowden family.

A younger son of the first Isaac Snowden, Rev. Nathaniel Randolph Snowden, who was born in the old house in 1770, left, in his diary, a very interesting description of the place. He wrote of the beautiful stream-Dock Creek-that flowed behind his fathers garden, with grand old trees on both sides, and recalled with fond memories his boyhood days, when he and his brothers went fishing in Dock Creek, and gathered quantities of fine blackberries that grew behind the stream.

Like his father, John Snowden was twice married, first, November 10, 1709, at the First Presbyterian Church, to Mary Taylor, who died January 27, 1720. He remained a widower less than a year, apparently, marrying, October 4, 1720, at Princeton, New Jersey, Mrs. Ruth Harrison, Nee Fitz Randolph, widow of Edward Harrison, and daughter of Benjamin and Sarah (nee Dennis) Fitz Randolph.

By this union, the Snowdens became identified with another Nottinghamshire family. Edward Fitz Randolph of that County, became a member of the Leyden Congregation, and was among the early emigrants to Massachusetts, he being mentioned as the owner of a house at Scituate in 1634.

Having married Elizabeth Blossom, May 10, 1637, he removed, a third of a century or more thereafter, to East New Jersey, settling at Piscataway......

notes

Birthplace also seen as "John was born in Knaresborough, Yorkshire, England ... "

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John Snowden's Timeline

1632
May 3, 1632
Edwinsboro, Nottingham, England
1682
April 13, 1682
Age 49
Burlington, Burlington County, New Jersey, United States
1685
December 12, 1685
Age 53
Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
1689
1689
Age 56
Trenton, NJ, USA
1693
1693
Age 60
1718
August 11, 1718
Age 86
1736
1736
Age 103
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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