Did you know that present-day Langhorne was once home to an early settlement for former slaves? Believe it or not, the village of Parkland was once a camp founded by spiritualists.
These are some of the quirks and oddities that make up the history of Middletown and the four boroughs at its center – Langhorne, Langhorne Manor, Hulmeville and Penndel.
The township next to the Neshaminy Creek was founded in 1692 when Bucks County divided the land into five municipalities: Bensalem, Bristol, Falls, Makefield and Middletown.
Its name, deriving from its location in the county, was Middle Lots before 1703 and Middle Township as late as 1714. The Swedes and Dutch were the first to settle in the land in the late 17th century. English, Welsh, German, Scottish and Irish immigrants soon followed.
Before William Penn arrived from England on the Welcome, English Friends had already begun meeting at a house “on the bank of Neshaminy Creek a mile west of Langhorne.”
According to Friends’ historian, “meetings for worship were first settled at Neshaminy in 1682, and held at the houses of Nicholas Waln, John Otter, and Robert Hall, until 1690, when their first meeting house was built.”
By 1706, the name changed to Middletown Meeting.
The villages of Edgewood, Glenlake, Maple Point, Neshaminy Falls, Oxford Valley, Parkland and Woodbourne formed by the late 19th century.
The most unique of these communities was Timbucktoo, an 18th century settlement established by former slaves at the intersection of Flowers Avenue and Pine Street (known then as Timbucktoo Road) in present-day Langhorne.
The name derived from a town in the West African Republic of Mali known for its16th-century gold and slave trade.
From this former town grew the Bensalem African Methodist Episcopal Church, which served as a vital part of the Underground Railroad.
Still situated at Pine Street in Langhorne, the church is the oldest place of worship established by African Americans in Bucks County.
The village of Parkland was named after the First Association of Spiritualists of Philadelphia, which bought 114 acres off the Neshaminy Creek in 1880 as a resort for annual gatherings.
The village near a Reading Railroad Station attracted out-of-towners for séances, mesmerism, hypnotism and exhibitions of clairvoyance.
“There were many accounts of knockings, whisperings, table-tipping and suspension, coals of fire applied to the flesh did no burn. Wraiths appeared almost I body, bells rang, slates were written upon,” according to historian Mac Reynolds.
Another village along the rail line was Woodbourne, named after the Woodbourne Farm owned by the Moon family.
Once home to 18th century farmhouses, the rural village disappeared in the mid-20th century following the construction of highways and shopping.
By the late 1800s, Langhorne, Langhorne Manor, Hulmeville and Penndel were incorporated as boroughs.
It was at the center of two Native American trails that one of Bucks County’s first major commercial villages was established.
The crossroads town between Philadelphia and Trenton known as Four Lanes End was founded by English and Dutch settlers in the early 18th century.
One of the earliest settlers was Joseph Richard, whose general store helped draw more settlers to the town by the late 1800s.
Sometime in the 18th century the town’s inhabitants began calling it Attleboro, or Attleborough.
Historian Mac Reynolds wrote that the name change might have been made to honor then-resident William Richardson Atlee, who helped finance a fire engine for the town.
Sixteen years later the town adopted Attleborough as its name when the post office was established.
The last name change was spurred in 1876 by a dispute between Attleborough and Hulmeville residents, each wanting to name a new branch of the Reading Railroad after their town.
The railroad president ended the debate by discarding both proposals and instead choosing Langhorne after former state Supreme Court Justice and early settler Jeremiah Langhorne.
Soon after borough adopted the name Langhorne after the rail line. Soon after the name after the rail line was adopted when Langhorne was incorporated as a borough.
The small town named after the manor of the Langhornes was incorporated as a borough in 1890.
Langhorne Manor began as a residential development started by prominent business professionals from Langhorne and Philadelphia.
It grew in large part due to the aid of the Langhorne Spring Water Company, which occupied a 50-acre tract on the southwest edge of the borough. It later became home to Cairn University, which relocated from Philadelphia in 1979.
The borough south of Langhorne Manor has had many names throughout its history.
First settled by Thomas Langhorne and Henry Paulin following a land purchase from the Lenni Lenape, it served as a farming town until the Philadelphia Reading Railroad established a station there in the late 19th century.
The village took the name Eden after its post office as homes and business grew around the station. It was known as Attleboro after the borough to the north changed its name to Langhorne in 1876.
It was incorporated as Attleboro in 1889, but changed its name again – this time to South Langhorne – in 1919. It wasn’t until 1947 that the borough got its current name.
Originally called Milford by founder John Hulme Jr. for the mill at the ford across the Neshaminy, the village began with only one dwelling.
Hulme, an “energetic and a man of much business capacity,” purchased the land that encompasses the town in 1796. Within a few years 30 houses and several mills and workshops were built.
Hulme’s five sons – two storekeepers, a miller, a tanner and a farmer – each worked to help advance the little town. A post office opened in 1809 and was appropriately named Hulmeville.
With Hulme’s help, Bucks County’s first bank opened in the village in 1814. Around this time the Pennsylvania Assembly “paid him the compliment of changing the name of the town to Hulmeville in his honor.”
Sources: Places Names in Bucks County Pennsylvania by Mac Reynolds published 1942, Bucks County History: Fact of Fiction? by Jeffrey L. Marshall publishing in 1993, Postcard History Series: Lower Bucks County by Andrew Mark Herman published in 2000, Middletown Township, Hulmeville Borough, bethlehemamechurch.homestead.com.