It may seem inconceivable today, but Lower Southampton was once known around the world as a great source for precious metals.
Long before it was divided into two municipalities in 1928, the township named after the borough and port town of Southampton, Hampshire, England, served as an agricultural community between Neshaminy and Pennypack creeks.
But in the 18th century, iron, titanium and other minerals were abundant in a small bed of limestone between Feasterville and Langhorne.
Frenchman Ralph Drackit was the first to discover black lead, or plumbago, on a ridge near Feasterville in 1750.
Drackit was described by those who knew him as “in low circumstances, but remarkable for ingenuity, intelligence and sagacity, being fond of drink, but was considered an innocent and inoffensive man, who was much in his element when plodding about in bye places alone, searching for something nobody else was looking for.”
His “plodding” paid off at John Naylor’s farm, where Drackit used the nightfall to secretly mine the newly discovered mineral.
He inevitably got caught, but the farmer allowed Drackit to continue working.
By 1826 others began excavating and exporting the materials to Europe.
Except for one mine in England, it was found to be the purest plumbago in the world.
After years of mining, the yield diminished and the quarry was filled in by 1840.
Despite the loss of the “renowned” quarry, the township continued to grow in the villages of Feasterville, Trevose, Oakford and previous known hamlets of Siles, Brownsville and Scottsville.
Originally called Ridges as far back as 1817, Trevose was once only two large tracts of land that straddled Lower Southampton and Bensalem.
Also known as Brownsville, the village didn’t get its official name until the New York branch of the Reading Railway set up a station there in 1873.
Feasterville, the village named after early 18th-century settler John Feaster, has historically centered around the crossroads of Bustleton Pike and Street Road.
Since the 1960s, the village has seen residential and commercial growth with one of the few constants being The Buck Hotel – an early stagecoach tavern and colonial landmark dating back to 1735.
At Playwicki Farm a stone monolith stands today commemorating the Lenni Lenape town of Playwicki, the site of William Penn’s 1683 land purchase from the Native Americans.
Places of significance:
- Playwicki Farm;
- Playwicki Park;
- The Buck Hotel.
Sources: Places Names in Bucks County Pennsylvania by Mac Reynolds published 1942, Postcard History Series: Lower Bucks County by Andrew Mark Herman published in 2000, Lower Southampton Township and Playwicki Farm.