Pennsylvania and the North Midlands: a Loving Neighborhood

On the day after William Penn arrived in Pennsylvania, he called his colonists together, and solemnly pledged to protect their full “spiritual and temporal rights.” In return, he asked only two things. The first was that they should try to stay sober. The second was that they should keep up a “loving neighborhood” with one another.

This notion of “loving neighborhood” was an ideal of high importance in the Delaware Valley. It became the cultural cement of a special type of comity which combined Quaker ideas and North Midland traditions. This Delaware comity differed from those of New England and the Chesapeake in many ways—in patterns of settlement, migration, association and social bonding.

The ideal settlement in the Delaware Valley was one where every famaily lived separately upon its farmstead, but was not entirely isolated from others. Houses were to be built in small clusters which became the nuclei of rural neighborhoods—a pattern still to be seen through the Pennsylvania countryside.

This form of settlement had long existed in the north of England—a pattern equally distinct from the town life of East Anglia and the manorial villages of Wessex. Nucleated towns were comparatively rare in the North Midlands. So also were landed estates with a great house surrounded by a cluster of close-built cottages. The economy of the northern counties required smaller units of land and more open settlements.