Rev. Richard Townsend

The Quaker family from which we descend, was founded in America (in part) by Richard Townsend, who was born near Cirencester, Gloucester, England, November 30, 1645. With his wife and infant daughter, Hannah, Richard Townsend embarked for Pennsylvania aboard the ship “Welcome” with William Penn. [1]

“Penn’s great project was to establish a home for his -co-religionists in the New World where they might freely preach and practice their convictions… Penn with several of his most intimate friends, leaders of the Society of Friends in England, embarked on the ship ‘Welcome’ September 1, 1682 and landed on the west bank of the Delaware river at New Castle, Dalaware, October 24, 1682 and was received by members of the Society of Friends, who had preceded him and were settlers on both sides of the river… The historian, Mr. Duponceau,  has eloquently described their landing at Newcastle in one of their discourses.

‘See you yon gallant ship, sailing with propitious gales up the river Delaware- Her decks are covered with passengers, enjoying the mild temperatures of our climate, and the serenity of our autumnal sky. They view with astonishmnet the novel scenery which strikes their sight; immense forsests on each side, half despoiled of their red and yellow leaves, with which the ground is profusely strewed. No noise is heard around them, save that of the deer rustling through the trees, as she flies from the Indian who pursues her with his bow and arrow. Now and then a strange yell strikes the ear from a distance, which the echoes of the woods reverberate, and forms a strong constrast to the awful stillness of the scene. Observe the plainness of the dress of those venerable pilgrims, and see them lift their eyes with silent gratitude toward heaven. They are a chosen band of Friends, who have left British shoress to establish here in peace their philanthropic commomwealth; their ship called Welcome, Greenaway commands her, and William Penn is among them.

Now they land at Newcastle, amid the acclamations of the diversified population which inhabit these shores. The English, the Welsh, the Dutch, the Germans, the Swedes, all crowd to hail the great man whom they had been expecting for one long year, and whose fame had already preceded him to thee distant regions. The historian will not omit to describe this pleasing scene, and it will be more than once the favorite subject of the painter’s pencil. He will choose the instant when William Penn has just landed with his principal followers, while the others are still on board the vessel, or in boats, making for the shore… Those on the right, a numerous band, are your honored ancestors…’ “(Historical Collections of the State of Pennsylvania, by Sherman Day, pgs. 302-303)

“With Penn came two of his nearest friends, Richard and Robert Townsend, and they were with Penn on November 30, 1682, when the famous interview with the Indian tribes took place under the large elm tree as Sackamaxon, now Kensington, and when he planned and named the city of Philadelphia.”[2]


Richard Townsend settled at Westchster, about twenty miles west of Philadelphia, where he erected the first mill near Chester, the working gear of which he brought from England with him.

“About a mile and a half northwest from Chester, on the left bank of Chester creek, and a short distance above the mill of Richard Flowers, there still exists an humble cottage, built principally of brick, of which the following is a correct sketch:


This is the original dwelling built by Richard Townsend, for the accommodation of his family while he was tending the first mill built in the province. The mill stood some forty rods above the cottage. The original mill is gone, but the rocks around bear traces of its existence, and the log platform still remains under water at the place where the original ford was, on the road to Philadelphia. Partners in this mill [with Richard Townsend] were William Penn, Caleb Pusey, and Samuel Carpenter and their initials are inserted in the curious antiquated iron wind vane which was once erected on the roof of the mill, and is still engraved in its 144th year of duty on the top of Mr. Flower’s house.

In this cottage, no doubt Penn, Pusey, and Carpenter have often met to count their gains, and to devise plans for the future good of the province. The hipped roof of the cottage was added by Samuel Shaw, who, before the revolution, erected the second mill near this place.” (Historical Collections of the State of Pennsylvania, by Sherman Day, pg. 303)

In 1683 Richard Townsend removed to Bristol township, near Germantown, and built another mill there. He became a prominent minister among Friends, and in 1706 paid a religious visit to England. After his removal to Bristol township he became a member of the Abington Monthly Meeting, of which he was an elder, but in 1713 removed to Philadelphia.

Three other children were born to him: James, born aboard the “Welcome” during passage to Pennsylvania, and who died young; our great grandmother, Mary, three years after their voyage from England in 1685; and Joseph, in 1687.

In his old age Richard went to live with his nephew, Joseph Townsend, in East Bedford, Chester county, and before he died there, in 1732, he blessed those of us who are fortunate enough to be counted among his descendants, with his now famous “Testimony”, originally delivered at a Friend’s Meeting in 1727, and still preserved for us in writing. You must read it in it’s entirety to find your blessing:

The Testimony of Richard Townsend / A Public Friend

In the year 1682, several ships being provided for Pennsylvania, I found a concern on my mind to embark with them with my wife and child. I went aboard the Welcome, in company with my worthy friend, William Penn, whose good conversation was very advantageous to all the company. His singular care was manifested in contributing to the necessities of many who were sick on board, of small pox, of whom as many as thirty died. [What a loss!] After a prosperous passage of two months, having had in that time many good meeting on board, we arrived there.

At our arrival, we found it a wilderness; the chief inhabitants were Indians, and some Swedes, who received us in a friendly manner, and though there was a great number of us, the good hand of Providence was seen in a particular manner in that provisions were found for us by the Swedes and Indians, at very reasonable rates, as well as brought from divers other parts, that were inhabited before.

Our first concern was to keep and maintain our religious worship, and in order thereunto, we had several meetings in the houses of the inhabitants; and one boarded meeting-house was set up, [the place of the bank meeting] where the city was to be near Delaware, and where we had very comfortable meetings; and after our meetings were over, we assisted each other in building little houses for our shelter — [meaning such as the caves and cabins.]

After some time, I set up a mill on Chester creek, which I brought ready framed from London, which served for grinding corn and sawing of boards; and was of great use to us. Besides, I, with John Tittery, made a net, and caught great quantities of fish, which supplied ourselves and many others; so that although three thousand persons came in the first year, we had no lack. We could buy a deer for two shillings, and a large turkey for one shilling, and Indian corn for 2s.6d. per bushel. The Indians were to us very civil and loving.

As soon as Germantown was laid out, I settled my tract of land, which was about a mile from thence, where I set up a barn and a corn mill, which was very useful to the country round. But there being few houses, people generally brought their corn upon their backs many miles. I remember, one man had a bull so gentle, that he used to bring the corn on his back. In this location, separared from any provision market, we found flesh meat very scarce, and on one occasion we were supplied by a very particular providence, to wit: As I was in my meadow, mowing grass, a youn deer came and looked on me while I continued mowing. Finding him to continue looking on, I laid down my scythe and went towards him, when he went off a little way — I returned again to the mowing, and the deer again to its observation. So that I several times left my work to go towards him, and he as often gently retreated. At last when going towards him, and he not regarding his steps whilst keeping his eye on me, he struck forcibly against the trunk of a tree, and stunned himself so much as to fall, when I sprang upon him and fettered his legs. From thence I carried him home to my house, a quarter of a mile, where he was killed, to the great benefit of my family. I could relate several other acts of providence, of this kind.

Being now in the eighty-fourth year of my age, and the forty-sixth of my residence in this country, I can do no less than return praises to the Almighty for the great increase and abundance which I have witnessed. My spirit is engaged to supplicate the continuance thereof; and as the parents have been blessed, may the same mercies continue on their offspring, to the end of time.


1. Colonial and Revolutionary Families of Pennsylvania, Volumes I-III, by John W. Jordan

2. History of Chester County, Pennsylvania with Genealogical and Biographical Sketches, by  John Smith Futhey

3. Historical Collections of the State of Pennsylvania, by Sherman Day


One Response to Rev. Richard Townsend

  1. It has been found that Richard Townsend was not born near Cirencester, Gloucester, England. That was an error made by early historians. A proffessional genealogist travelled to England and looked up the birth, death and marriage records and established that the family came from Buckelbury, Berkshire, England. Richard Townsend came over on the Welcome in 1682, he went back and convinced his brother John Townsend to come over around 1712 and also his brother William Townsend’s two children Joseph and Joan Townsend. It was at this Joseph Townsend’s house that Richard died. Richard and John Townsend are listed as brother’s in Hugh Lowdon’s will. And Richard Townsend’s mill was originally named Buckelbury Mill.

    The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, Volume 42 – Number 2, Fall/Winter 2002

    “Will of Hugh Lowdon” Wills: Abstracts, Book D : 1714 – 1725/6: Philadelphia Co, PA

    Margaret Townsend scully’s Trunk, Part III: The Townsends, by Florence C. McLaughlin.

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