BY CYRIL ACKERMAN / SEPTEMBER 2014
William Penn had a dream. He had a father to whom the crown was devoted and he could eventually be given a province of 25-30 million acres. In 1681 he wrote, “I have so obtained it and desire that I may not be unworthy of His love but to do that which may answer His kind providence and serve His truth and people that an example may be set up to the nation.” He gave the province a name “a holy experiment” (a place where society, commerce, education, government of people’s manners, religious assembly, and good roads would be established in townships). The reality was William Penn spent very few years in Pennsylvania and the English System of Judgment and Justice was adopted in the new land. In other words it didn’t exactly turn out as originally planned.
How did we get from Penn’s “holy experiment” to Cumberland Township? Eventually growing to five counties, York County was established Aug. 19, 1749. Cumberland Township existed before 1749 in the Manor of Maske established in 1741. In 1749 a surveyor in York made a “list of remarkable inhabitants fit to discharge public office” in the settlements of the Susquehanna. This official document (according to Dr. Glatfelter) is “abundant evidence that that Cumberland Township came into being in 1749. Cumberland was a small county in northern England, it’s a family name, in Pennsylvania there’s a county, cities, mountains and gaps that share the name. The Manor of Maske was not surveyed until 1766 and warrants (first step in getting a legal claim to land) for property not issued until around 1800. The population in 1762 from first tax list was about 1,025. The dispute between the Penn’s and Baltimores over the southern boundary goes back to 1682. In 1684, Penn went back to England to settle land dispute. Finally in 1765 Mason and Dixon establish a boundary we know today as the dividing line between Maryland and Pennsylvania (and Adams County which includes Cumberland Township). This survey needed approval of Maryland and Pennsylvania governments and finally in 1774 Pennsylvania proclaimed the line to be in effect.
Early settlers of particular note were the Thomas Jameson family arriving in 1740. All family members (except Mary) lost their lives to a raiding party of French and Indians in April 1758. In 1785, Cumberland Township was separated from Franklin. Both townships encompassed such a large area rendering official business very difficult to conduct because of the time it took to travel from one end of township to the other to hold meetings. (Government officials of the township were a Constable, two Overseers of the Poor, and two Supervisors of the highways. These positions were chosen by the county commissioners for 1-2 year terms.) In 1798, John Adams was President and the US Congress instituted a “direct tax” (where all real estate in the country was to be assessed) to fund a threatened war with France. From this 1798 tax document we know there were about 170 log structures, seven stone and three brick dwellings. In 1806, the borough of Gettysburg was divided from the township. Armstrong, Benner, Breaden, Cobean, Dobbin, Hoke, Myers, Gettys, Scott, and Stewart are a few of the familiar early dwelling owners.
Cyril Ackerman is a member of the Cumberland Township Historical Society.