William Penn & Vanity by Kelly White

In a 1695 letter to then-fiancée Hannah Callowhill, Governor Penn discusses his faith. Plainness, or simple living, is an important principle within The Society of Friends, and Penn explains, “I am determined to keep my old plainness, that [I] have kept only 9 or 10 [coaches] in my time..” Penn’s wealth seemingly contradicts his supposed modesty. However, Penn’s conception of vanity is nuanced. Quakers value divine revelation, often called the “inner light,” over biblical scripture. Such emphasis on individuality often led to theological discourse.  For example, the 1704 Book of Discipline forbids friends from wearing wigs, unless “necessary.” The next paragraph states that wigs were to be kept short, and reminiscent of the wearer’s natural hair color. However, there is no explanation of the outside factors that would render a wig necessary. The Book of Discipline also discourages Friends from wearing fashionable or trendy clothing, as it wastes God’s given resources.

Furthermore, a Quaker’s plainness extended beyond his physical appearance and into a person’s character. The Book of Discipline also discouraged members from using the pronoun “you.” During the early modern period, wealthy landowners referred to working class people as “you.” This term was meant pejoratively as a second person plural similar to “you people.” Quakers like Penn considered this practice vain and worldly because it creates artificial distinctions contrary to the inner light.  

Penn’s personal definition of vanity extends more towards social interaction than material possessions. According to that same 1695 letter, Penn rarely travels by personal carriage, instead lending out to family members. Perhaps Penn calls attention to his 10 carriages not to highlight his wealth but his generosity. There is a line between hypocrisy and nuance. Many people of faith today struggle to adapt their convictions to an ever-changing world. Spiritual ambiguity remains, and vanity, much like beauty, is ultimately left in the eye of the beholder.  


Works Cited  

Bejan, Teresa. “What Quakers Can Teach Us about the Politics of Pronouns.” The New York Times. Com, November 16, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/16/opinion/sunday/pronouns-quakers.html.  

Diethorn, Karie. “What’s Real? Quaker Material Culture and Historic Site Interpretation.” Essay. In Quaker Aesthetics: Reflections on a Quaker Ethic in American Design and Consumption  288–99. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.  

Hayburn, Tim. “WORDS TO LIVE BY: SOCIETY OF FRIENDS, BOOKS OF DISCIPLINE, 1704–1747.” 369–85. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27778685. 

Penn, William. “New Beginnings 1694-1696.” Chapter. In The Papers of William Penn 1685-1700 3, edited by Richard S. Dunn and Mary Maples Dunn, 3:393–436. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986.  


Volunteer Donates William Penn’s World Activity

A poster displaying the parts of a merchantman ship.

This spring, Pennsbury Manor volunteer Doug Lehnen donated a field trip activity based on his research on the Welcome, the ship that carried William Penn and some of the first settlers to Pennsylvania across the Atlantic Ocean in 1682. Doug wanted students to understand the conditions passengers withstood during the three-month voyage from Europe.


First, he dedicated 100 hours of primary source research to find out who was on board and what life was like aboard the Welcome. According to his research, personal space aboard the ship was approximately 7 feet long, 5 feet high, and 2 feet wide. Nearly one-third of all the ship’s passengers died of smallpox due to the close quarters.
“It was a big gamble to come to the colonies,” Doug said. “No one knew if they were going to make it or not.”
Next, Doug replaced the old panels in the boathouse with new artwork displaying his research. He designed everything except for the model of a merchant ship, which he found online. He then refurbished the panels’ old oak frames to match the wood that the ship would have been made from.
Going back to his days as a teacher, Doug always tried to find creative ways to get the subject matter across.
In keeping with this philosophy, he made Velcro labels that students could match to the parts of the ship. He also built a PVC pipe model of the cabin space each passenger had, so students could stand inside and put themselves in the passengers’ shoes.
“I wanted the students to experience things, not just read about them or talk about them. Not just learning about history, but living it.,” Doug explained.
Doug is happy to see the students experience the activity during William Penn’s World programs. The next enhancement he has planned is to display a trunk containing passengers’ personal effects on top of wooden crates (Doug offered to build the crates).
When asked what motivates him to continue learning, he replied, “Find something of interest. Do your research. Keep growing.”

WM Pollinator Garden Partnership

Habitat loss and degradation pose a major threat to populations of pollinators. In response, WM converted an unused grass field near Pennsbury Manor into a thriving meadow. WM’s pollinator garden is flush with 44 native plant species as well as pollinators like bees and monarch butterflies. This year, the Wildlife Habitat Council gave the pollinator garden a gold certification.

Pennsbury Manor is a proud partner in WM’s Pollinator Project, a community-wide initiative that includes WM’s pollinator garden and gardens at partner sites like Pennsbury Manor. The project seeks to fill community gardens with native pollen-rich plants like milkweed while combating invasive plant species. They then track the growth of pollinators and educate students about the importance of these unsung heroes of the garden.

For our upcoming William Penn’s World field trips, WM employees will be leading groups of students in an activity about pollinators. We, and especially our bees, appreciate WM’s work to help our gardens flourish!


Feminism and Quakers: Female Ministers

By Caleigh Love

Life for women in the 18th century was restricted in many ways. For most women, their lives were ruled over by their father, husband, or other male figure in their life. Quaker women, by comparison, had a greater sense of freedom. A prime belief among Quakers was that all human beings were equal in the eyes of God. Regardless of gender, all Quakers were encouraged to look to their “inner light” or conscience to guide them in their religious journeys. This belief was key to their progressive views and unprecedented rights for women at the time. Feminism today is based in the belief that women are equal to men socially, politically, and economically.  While this modern notion of feminism would be foreign to 18th century Quakers, Quakers of that period show early gestures towards equality by allowing women to speak out in church and become highly respected ministers.  

Jane Fenn was born  in Chester, Pennsylvania and was raised Anglican. She began her journey into Quakerism after becoming an indentured servant. She had previously criticized women for preaching because as an Anglican she did not believe women could be ministers. She found herself conflicted when she felt the call to preach. Jane was seen as one with a spiritual gift and the local Quaker community formally recognized her as a minister. A visiting English preacher, John Danson, recommended that David Lloyd, a Pennsylvania justice and prominent Quaker, assist Jane in developing her ministerial gift under the condition that she worked for him as a servant. However, she dined with the household and was often noticed by visiting Quakers for her oratory gifts.

While Fenn became a Quaker later in life, Catharine Payton came from a long line of English Quakers. She was educated at home due to her family’s financial hardship and her father’s paralytic disease. She was intelligent and showed a great love for reading plays, romances, poetry, history, and philosophy books, which Quakers deemed dangerous due to their secular subject matter. Her oldest brother had strayed from Quaker teachings, and his rejection of the faith caused Catharine to question the Quaker principles. However, at 16, she was sent to a London boarding school and had a spiritual awakening months after returning home. Her reading materials turned to religious matters rather than personal interests. At 22, she began to preach at local meetings and started to travel the year after. Her travels would take her to England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and the American colonies. During her travels, she published pamphlets on a variety of topics, earning her some criticism from men for straying from “normal” behavior for a woman.  

Abigail Craven also came from a Quaker family, but from the opposite side of the financial world. Her family was wealthy and there is evidence that she was educated. In 1712, she served as companion to fellow Irish minister Elizabeth Jacobs. Abigail made her first appearance as a minister at a Quaker Meeting at age 28. She struggled to rely solely on inspiration and found that she was unable to inspire others using her educational background. However, these struggles are what make her story and sermons that much more effective. She travelled to the American colonies in 1725, where she met Jane Fenn. Abigail became very influential and created a wide-reaching network of friends. 

 All three of these women came from different circumstances that made their preaching more effective, whether it was their background, their location, or their personal struggles. Despite these differences there are striking similarities in their stories as well: all three held prominent authority in their Quaker communities, they had an inward assurance about their beliefs, and they focused on preaching as a central pillar in their lives.  

Welcome to the Team, Jeremy!

Jeremy the new gardener smiling in front of a garden fence.

Meet Jeremy, our new Historic Gardener. Jeremy brings a wealth of experience and a deep passion for nature to his role as a gardener. Prior to joining our team, Jeremy cut his teeth with the renowned Mercer Museum and the National Parks Service, where he not only honed his skills in horticulture but also instilled in himself a commitment to preserving historic grounds.

Beyond his professional endeavors, Jeremy is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys taking in the beauty of the natural world. Whether hiking Grand Teton in Wyoming or tending to a kitchen garden, he finds pleasure in connecting with nature.
In his role as historic gardener, Jeremy is committed to growing an accurate 17th century kitchen garden. While flowers are great to look at, a realistic kitchen garden on Penn’s plantation would have been used to grow food.
“I think it’s important when we talk about the kitchen garden to understand that there were at times up to 100 people living on this property, so it would have been incredibly important to be able to feed all of those people,” Jeremy says.
Although we do not know exactly what the garden looked like, Jeremy’s goal is to create an environment that facilitates learning for visitors. In the short term, that means making sure that he grows something to interpret. In the long term, Jeremy wants to leave the garden even better than he found it for the next generation to enjoy.

Welcome to the Team, Keli!

Keli Welcome

Meet Keli, Pennsbury Manor’s new Lead Interpreter. Keli is a former Pennsbury Manor intern who recently graduated from Messiah University with a degree in Public History.

The difference between public history and history, according to Keli, is that public history focuses on taking research that can be overly-academic and making it understandable for a general audience.
Keli reconnected with Pennsbury Manor when researching for a school project. She later switched topics to an archaeological expedition of a lost colony in Greece called Washingtonia.
Washingtonia was founded in 1829 as a community for Greek refugees by an American philanthropist named Samuel Gridley Howe. Howe was a Son of the American Revolution, and Greece’s own revolutionary aspirations inspired him to provide humanitarian aid.
The colony existed for just about 50 years and was not rediscovered until now. Keli is a talented videographer and is currently finishing a documentary about her expedition.
As she returns to Pennsbury Manor as a full-time employee, Keli is excited to get back to giving tours. She loves when visitors ask questions and thinks people should approach historic sites with a healthy amount of curiosity. She says that being a tour guide can be difficult when some visitors want to hear an uncomplicated history while the truth is more nuanced.
“I think the truth is hard. And I think it’s really hard for people to accept the truth, which is why I think it makes it so much more important to tell people the truth,” Keli says. “When you want to know about the site, you have to know the good, bad and the ugly.”
Her reverence for truth as a historian carries over into how she tries to live her life.
“Whether I like the truth or not is out of the question. I need to hear it if it makes me either a better person or it educates me.”

Gather Place Museum Preserves the Story of Black Yardley

“I believe Black history is America’s history. I believe the story of African American Yardley is the story of Yardley Borough,” Ms. Shirley Lee Corsey says.

Ms. Corsey is Executive Director of the Gather Place, which is located within a former African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church on a quiet street along the canal in Yardley Borough. Ms. Corsey speaks in a tone that is both friendly and enthusiastic. She believes names reveal histories and tends to append honorifics to those she describes.  One would never have guessed her career was in Computer Science the way her face lights up when telling stories about the past.

A.M.E. Church of Yardley was built in 1877 and served as a place of worship for the small surrounding African American community until the 1990s when one of its last congregants passed away. Soon after, the church was abandoned, and in the subsequent two decades, the church fell into disrepair.

Ms. Corsey renovated the church and repurposed it as the Gather Place Museum in 2022. The interior displays photos and newspaper articles preserving the legacies of Yardley’s Black residents.

Gather place old church
photo credit: gatherplace.org


One of the photos on exhibition is of Ms. Shirley Lee Corsey’s family standing in front of the A.M.E. Church of Yardley in 1958. On the left are the preacher and his wife. In the center are two girls dressed in white. The shorter one is Ms. Corsey’s oldest sister Janice, and the taller one is her cousin Debbie. The little boy, to the right of them, is her brother Kevin.

Acquiring the Church

“I’m from this neighborhood, and I’m third generation. I’m one of 11 children. We were raised right here in Yardley,” Ms. Corsey says.

The Lee home, which was built in 1928, is 3 houses down from the A.M.E. Church. While Ms. Corsey and her family did not worship at A.M.E. Church of Yardley, it was ever-present in her life growing up. She remembers when she and her siblings were out playing her mom would command ‘You don’t go any further than that Church.’

After her parents passed away, the Lee house needed major renovations. Ms. Corsey volunteered to take on the job of fixing it up, and right before COVID, she acquired the home with her family’s blessing. When the pandemic hit, Ms. Corsey used her newfound isolation to dedicate herself to the project of renovating the house.

As Ms. Corsey was in Yardley more and more, she passed the old A.M.E. Church each time on the way to her home. The church was badly in need of repairs: its roof was damaged, its siding needed a fresh coat of paint, its A/C unit was not functional. In January 2022, her brother was working on a pandemic project of his own, collecting photos from their childhood, including the old church.

One day, he called her and asked if she would consider looking into becoming the conservator of the property. According to PA law, if you live within a certain distance of an abandoned property, you can apply to be a conservator and receive permission from the state to make repairs on a property that is considered unsafe.

“I think it was a higher-level calling,” Ms. Corsey says. “I think we’re all called to do something. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a religious calling. I believe everybody has a purpose.”

Ms. Corsey dug into the records and found that the church had no legal entanglements, the title never changed hands, and there was no debt, which is uncommon for old buildings. Ms. Corsey hired a lawyer who took the case to the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas, where she was awarded conservatorship. Attending in support were the children of the last members of the church.

“I wanted to make sure [the church’s] legacy stays,” Ms. Corsey says. “Because since the 1970s, the African American community has dwindled away, but this church will always be here as long as I have anything to do with it, even hopefully after I’m gone.”


Gather place 2020
photo credit: gatherplace.org

Gather place 2022

Black Yardley History is Yardley History


In September of 2022, the nonprofit Gather Place opened to the public with the mission to preserve the history of Black Yardley. However, many people are surprised to find that there is even a Black community history in Yardley to preserve.

“If I had a dollar each time since we’ve opened that someone came in here and said, ‘I had no idea this was here.’ And I know what they’re saying: ‘I had no idea that there was even a Black community [in Yardley].’ That’s why this project is so important,” she says.

Ms. Corsey likes to tell visitors about the history of her family, the Lees, and some other members of the Black community in Yardley, such as the Derry family.

The Derry family is the oldest known African American family from Yardley Borough dating back to Ms. Mary Derry, born in 1790, according to an 1850 Census record. Seven generations of the Derry family have lived in Yardley Borough. In fact, the Derry family is possibly the longest continuous line of not only Black Yardley residents but all Yardley residents.

Ms. Julia Derry Robinson Jacobs, a descendant of the Derry family, and her relatives were the last congregants of the A.M.E. Church of Yardley before Ms. Jacobs’ death in the 1990s. Yardley Borough’s first and only Black mayor, Mr. Edward E. Robinson, is the son of Ms. Julia Derry Robinson Jacobs.

“These are the stories that we love sharing. And people come in here and we talk, next thing they go, ‘Oh, I knew this one, and I knew that one.’ It’s a beautiful community experience and that is my mission,” Ms. Corsey says.

The Derry line in Yardley continues to this day. Ms. Helen Marie Mayo, a Derry descendant, and her husband Mr. Granville Mayo are both 90 years old. Their daughter, Susan Mayo Brown, takes care of them. Ms. Corsey wants to interview the last generation of people who belonged to the church, like the Mayo family, while they are still here. Her dream is to preserve and archive the footage for future generations. She calls the project “Generational Voices.”

Preserving “Generational Voices”


To do it right would require hiring professionals to record videos, edit the interviews, and create an interactive library for visitors to enjoy. This would take resources the Gather Place just did not have. However, Ms. Corsey is not one to let a dream slip away due to a lack of gumption. People she knows often call her a force.

“I believe I take it as a compliment. Not a radical force like I’m going to hit you on the head,” she jokes. “But it’s radical in that I think I’m driven.”

She heard about a National Historic Preservation grant specifically for non-active Black churches to fund programs and interpretation. Her project fit the grant’s description perfectly. This past fall, the National Trust for Historic Preservation awarded Gather Place a $75,000 grant to fund “Generational Voices.” Gather Place was one of 31 Black churches selected out 550 across the country that applied for a National Historic Preservation grant.

“I’m very proud that Gather Place nonprofit, headquartered at the A.M.E. Church of Yardley, is nationally known. That’s a beautiful thing,” Ms. Corsey says.

From acquiring her family home, to the pandemic, to receiving an auspicious call from her brother, to finding out nobody had a claim to the church, the confluence of events that led to Ms. Corsey opening the Gather Place has been serendipitous to say the least. However, she believes it was fate.

“Everything comes together in life when you get my age. Your professional skill, your passion, and your heart and your soul all come together,” Ms. Corsey says. “When you know it and you follow it, and it’s successful, that’s when you know it was meant to be.”



Welcome Michael and Roger!

Pennsbury Manor has some new residents! We are pleased to introduce our members, volunteers, visitors, and the rest of the Pennsbury community to Michael and Roger, two oxen who are joining our team of animal ambassadors. Some of you may notice a resemblance to Bill and Red, Pennsbury’s former oxen team. That’s because Michael and Roger are related to them – we are glad to keep their family line going here at Pennsbury!

Michael and Roger round out our farm, which already has geese, sheep, horses, and of course a barn cat. All the inhabitants of the stables at Pennsbury are animals that William Penn would have had when he lived here. Penn would have used oxen on his farm to clear and plow his fields. Oxen are better suited to ploughing difficult ground as their cloven (or “split”) hooves give them better traction on rocky soil than horses, and they don’t tire as easily. Before the land could be plowed, they had to remove trees – and Michael and Roger were trained to pull logs in Maine before they joined us here. Just like some of us enjoy regular pedicures at the salon, Michael and Roger recently had a visit from the farrier who trimmed their hooves to keep them healthy and strong. 


Trimmed hooves!
In the farrier’s tilt table.

Michael and Roger won’t be ploughing any of Pennsbury’s 43 picturesque acres though – they are here to enjoy a life of peace and semi-retirement. They will be active members of our interpretive and educational programming where they will demonstrate team handling and ploughing in their beautiful handmade yoke from New England Ox Supply

Michael and Roger modeling their handmade yoke.


Just like your pets at home, Michael and Roger have their own personalities. Now that they are settling in to their new home, their demeanors are starting to shine through. Roger is very serious and reserved, focused on the tasks our animal husbandry lead Carole gives him. Michael is the class clown – he likes to goof off, have fun, and test his caretakers’ limits. Roger’s horns point up whereas Michael’s are more spread out – see if you can tell who is who! 


Caring for oxen takes a lot of work, which is why we are so grateful to Carole and our dedicated team of volunteers who help her. A typical day includes feeding, grooming, cleaning stalls, moving animals to new corrals, scheduling veterinarian and farrier appointments, and keeping watch on their overall health – it’s a very labor intensive job! There are a lot of costs involved as well. A bale of hay is $6 and 100 bales lasts 3-4 weeks. A gallon of fly spray costs $70 and Pennsbury animals use 7 gallons per season. Not to mention medicine, veterinarian appointments, farrier appointments for the hooved animals, and more. The yearly cost of caring for the animals is around $15,000.

That’s why we are asking for your support. The animals at Pennsbury Manor play an important role in the overall interpretation of William Penn and daily life in 17th century Pennsylvania. The Pennsbury Animal Fund helps provide for the ongoing care of the animals at Pennsbury Manor, maintaining existing animal programming, and developing new interpretive programming for our living collection of farm animals. Pennsbury Manor’s Animal Program is completely volunteer-operated and is supported solely by the Pennsbury Society, a non-profit 501C(3) support organization, and donations from our community.

If you would like to donate, please follow this link and be sure to indicate that you would like your donation to go toward the Animal Fund. You can also mail cash or check to 400 Pennsbury Memorial Road Morrisville, PA 19067. Better yet, you can come visit Michael and Roger in person, and drop your donation off in the Visitor Center while you’re here! 

We hope you will continue to follow along on Michael and Roger’s journey by following us on Instagram and Facebook (@pennsburymanor) and by checking our website for new updates.


Good Old Fashioned Clean: Five Facts about Colonial Soap by Kelly White

While colonists may not have bathed as often as most modern people, they still performed basic sanitary practices. Read on to learn about how 17thcentury folk made soap. 

 1. Good clean fun! 

From a chemical perspective, most modern “soap” available in drug stores is actually a form of detergent. Real soap, like the kind that would have been made in Penn’s day, is the result of a chemical reaction called saponification: when a fatty substance comes in contact with an alkaline substance.  

 2. Cheap as dirt…or soap! 

Many working class colonists opted to make soap themselves because it made use of materials they already had on hand. Lye, the alkaline substance needed for saponification, could be made by pouring water over ashes from the fireplace. This was typically done in a special basin, called a leaching barrel or an ash hopper. For the fatty substance, colonists used animal fat left over from cooking or butchering.  

 3. Blood, sweat, and tears 

The process of making soap was surprisingly dangerous and all around unpleasant. Once folks  made  their lye, they concentrated it by boiling it over a fire. Lye is a corrosive chemical so colonists had to work carefully to avoid burns. Next the animal fat had to be rendered, melted, and mixed with water. This process cooked any bits of gristle still clinging to the fat and prevented the finished product from going rancid. Due to the heat and odor involved, soap was made outside. 

 4. It only takes a taste!  

Once the lye and liquified fat were combined, the soap was left to cool. Salt was optionally added to create solid bars of soap. One way to test the strength of the product was to perform a “zap test.” A person would lick the finished bar of soap, and if he or she felt a zap or a slight sting, the lye concentration was too strong and the soap should not be used on a person’s skin. 

 5. Ladies and gentlemen…don’t try this at home! 

No one likes the taste of lye or the sensation of caustic burns, so authentic soap making is best left to the professionals. To create a similar experience at home, you can purchase a melt-and-pour soap making kit from a craft store or online retailer.  


Works Cited :

Ellis, Marietta, and Arthur Ellis. “Colonial Soap Making—Its History and Techniques.” garyolds.com. Gary Olds Art and Fine Crafts. Accessed May 11, 2020. http://www.garyolds.com/files/ColonialSoapMaking–HistoryTechniques.pdf. 

Kaktins, Mara. “Good Clean Fun: An Experiment in Colonial Soap Making.” Lives & Legacies. Historic Kenmore, June 1, 2017. https://livesandlegaciesblog.org/2017/06/01/good-clean-fun-an-experiment-in-soap-making-colonial-style/. 

Colonial Baby Names by Kelly White

As days grow longer and flowers open, spring is a time for joy and new life! So our thoughts today turn to welcoming a new life into the 17th-century home.  Parents had many important decisions to make, including what to name the infant.

Family-oriented Quakers often named their children after relatives, as was the case with Governor William Penn who was named to honor his father, Sir Admiral William Penn. Friends favored common English names like Phoebe or Catherine, and often looked to the Bible for inspiration. Popular monikers of the time included John, Thomas, Mary, and Ester.  Along similar lines, “virtue names,” like Grace and Lettice were given to girls. Yes, Lettice! While the name may remind some people of salad, Lettice comes from the Latin word for joy. William Penn’s oldest surviving daughter was named Letitia, a variation of Lettice. 

William Penn’s first wife was named Gulielma Maria Posthuma Springett.  Gulielma (pronounced Goo-lee-al-ma) is the feminine of the French “William.”  She was named after her father, William Springett.  Posthuma means “after death” and sadly memorializes her father’s death, just two weeks before Gulielma’s birth.

If some of these Quaker names are unusual, then Puritan baby names are downright wacky! Traditionally  more austere than their Quaker counterparts, some God-fearing Puritans chose to name their children after sin and suffering. After a difficult delivery, Puritan parents may decide to name their baby Joy-in-sorrow.  English economist Nicholas Barbon was reportedly christened If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned. No wonder he went by Nicholas!

Keep checking out our blog to learn more historic fun facts!


Fisher, David Hackett. Albion’s Seed: Four British Folk Ways in America (version Erenow). Oxford University Press, 1989. https://erenow.net/.

“Home.” Name Meaning, Popularity, and Similar Names. Accessed March 17, 2020. https://nameberry.com/babyname/Lettice.

Norwood, Joseph. “A Boy Named ‘Humiliation’: Some Wacky, Cruel, and Bizarre Puritan Names.” Slate Magazine. Slate, September 13, 2013. https://slate.com/human-interest/2013/09/puritan-names-lists-of-bizarre-religious-nomenclature-used-by-puritans.html.

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