The Upper Bucks area’s first inhabitants were the Lenni-Lenape Indians, followed by Dutch explorers led by Captain Cornelis Jacobsz Mey in 1614. Some time after the Dutch made a home in the area, Swedish settlers took possession of the land, with Peter Lindstrom creating a map of the region by 1654. The Dutch fleet ended Swedish possession soon after, only to be superseded by the British in 1664.
William Penn, a London native and the ultimate proprietor of Pennsylvania, officially founded Bucks County in 1682, naming the new area after Buckinghamshire, the Penn family estate in England.
The area recognized as current-day Upper Bucks County remained virtually unsettled until the early 1700s when English Quakers began to establish settlements in what was at that time known as Richland and the Great Swamp. Soon, Germans, Irish and others began pouring into the area. Pockets of households grew into small villages, which then transformed into developing towns.
Upper Bucks County holds the key to many pieces of vital American history. While no major Revolutionary War battle was fought on Bucks County soil, the area contributed significantly to the war’s outcome. It was here that General George Washington rallied troops for the assault on Trenton in December 1776. The iconic Liberty Bell, in a wagon caravan used to escape past the approaching British Army, was hidden in Quakertown in September 1777 on its way to safety in Bethlehem. Upper Bucks was at the center of the 1798 Fries’s Rebellion—an armed tax revolt led by John Fries, a Pennsylvania farmer.
During the Civil War era, a home found along Main Street in Quakertown stood as a popular stop on the Underground Railroad. Much of Upper Bucks’ rich heritage can still be experienced today. The palisades lining the river lend their name to the Palisades School District. The borough of Quakertown adopted its name from the English Quakers who settled the area, and surrounding Richland has kept its name as a reminder of the early settlers’ initial impression of a distinguished American Indian sanctuary. Nockamixon and Tinicum townships are the only two areas in the county that have retained their original American Indian names (albeit corruptions: Nockamixon could mean “at the place of three huts” or “at the place of soft soil” while Tinicum could be an abbreviation for “along the edge of the island”).
Several remarkable covered bridges representing the county’s bygone days can still be discovered today in the townships of Tinicum, Springfield, Haycock and further surrounding areas.
The Upper Bucks region has worked hard to preserve its rural character in the face of continuous growth and development. Its strategic location near major metropolises has boosted the business community as well as the area’s population, contributing greatly to its recognition as one of Pennsylvania’s fastest-growing counties.