In 1682, the price was ten pounds of sterling.
That’s what William and Jane Yardley paid Bucks County founder William Penn for a 519-acre tract that would later encompass the Yardley area.
The riverside community and the surrounding municipality that now houses roughly 35,000 people began with the Yardley family’s log cabin called Prospect Farm which previously sat off Dolington Road in present day Lower Makefield.
Smallpox took William and some of his sons in the winter of 1702, forcing his nephew and heir Thomas Yardley II to migrate from England to head the estate.
By 1710, Thomas helped spur growth in the river town by establishing a ferry at present day Letchworth Avenue.
Hester Yardley, widow of William Yardley’s son Thomas, remarried Richard Hough, who was credited with naming Makefield Township after his native home of Macclesfield in Cheshire, England.
The township was officially founded in 1692 when Bucks County divided land into five townships: Bensalem, Bristol, Falls, Makefield and Middletown.
Its boundaries were divided in 1737 when Lower and Upper Makefield were separated into two municipalities.
By this time main roads were established around estates of roughly 100 Quaker settlers who subdivided their land among family members.
In Yardleyville, as it was known at the time, lots were laid out at the turn of the 19th century.
By 1831 the newly constructed Delaware Canal helped usher in trade with the inclusion of a spoke and handle factory, sawmill, felloe factory, plate and plaster and flour mills.
During the Civil War the town became a station of the Underground Railway, with local legend proclaiming that slaves hid under eaves of the then Continental Hotel, in warehouse bins along the canal and in the brick-walled cellar of Thomas Yardley’s Lakeside home.
The town’s name was shortened to Yardley in 1883 when the newly constructed Reading Railroad petitioned for the change to avoid confusion with nearby Yardville, New Jersey.
It was incorporated as a borough in 1895.
By the early 1800s in Lower Makefield, the population of nearly 1,100 people focused on harvesting wheat, corn, rye, oats, hay and some flax on 150-acre tracts.
Soon after specialized crops like exotic vegetables and flowers as well as livestock and milk spurred commercial activities at Edgewood Village, which comprised of a tavern, tenant houses, blacksmith shop, livery, dance hall and a schoolhouse.
The village, also known as Stradlington, Biles Corner, Summerville and Woodside, later expanded at the crossroad of Stony Hill and Route 432 (Yardley-Langhorne Road) to include handicraft shops and artisan operations that supported the local farming community.
The area would later foster a minor tourism industry with the help of stagecoaches and the Reading Railroad before the village fell into obscurity by the mid-20th century.
Recently the area has undergone a rebirth with new eateries and shops.
The surrounding area of sprawling farms have since transformed into suburban housing with the development of nearby industries and expansion of Route 1 and Interstate 95.
One Lower Makefield tradition from the 1800s still remains – prohibition.
As part of the Bucks County Temperance Movement, the township banned the consumption of alcohol and stayed dry even after the end of Prohibition in 1933.
Places of significance include:
- Delaware Canal;
- Edgewood Village;
- Underground Railroad;
- The Old Library by Lake Afton;
- Slate Hill Cemetery.
Sources: Lower Makefield Township, Lower Makefield Historical Society and dla.library.upenn.edu/dla/pacscl/index.html.