The Walking Purchase

Map of the Area Claimed

According to the heirs of William Penn—John and Thomas Penn—a deed existed from the 1680s in which the Lenape tribe promised to sell to Pennsylvania a tract of land that began at the junction of the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers (present day Easton, Pennsylvania) and extending as far west as a man could walk in a day and a half. The Lenape, aka The Delaware, assumed that distance would be about 40 miles.

On this date in 1737, Edward Marshall (one of three men who had been hired to “walk”—in reality, they were the three fastest runners in the colony) completed a 70-mile trip from Easton to what is today near Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. He was the only one of the three to finish.

In what can only be described as a land swindle, surveyors from the Commonwealth drew a perpendicular line from the finish point toward the northeast, ending at the Delaware River. They claimed all of the land east of the two lines, which resulted in the Lenape losing some 1,200 acres, an area the size of Rhode Island.

In 2004, the Delaware Nation sued Pennsylvania for 314 acres of the original “purchase,” but the U.S. District Court granted the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

You can read more details about this event at the Monroe County Historical Association web site.

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