The following manuscript ran as a series of stories in "The Sunbury News" in 1975 and 1976 as part of the nation's Bicentennial Celebration.
The Origin of the Name Sunbury
-and it's application to-
The Village of Sunbury, Delaware Co., Ohio
A compilation of information related thereto by Carleton S. and Dorothy D. Burrer, Sunbury, Ohio, Prepared, September 1975.
From time to time, individuals interested in the history of Delaware County, Ohio, have inquired as to the derivation of the name 'Sunbury' and where it originated.
One request for information came by letter addressed to our late Postmaster, Mr. Hoyt G. Whitney, from Mr. Rudolph F. Bluedorn, of Wolcott, Iowa. This was turned over to Mrs. Dorothy D. Burrer, Librarian, Community Library, Sunbury, for investigation and reply.
The question was also posed by the late Rev. Harry F. Truxall as a part of research he was conducting for inclusion in an historical sketch being prepared, concerning this area.
Most recently, inquiry has been received from Kelsie B. Harder. of American Name Society, The State University College, Potsdam, N. Y.
No doubt, this question has arisen in the minds of others interested in such matters. It may very well be that the origin and/or derivation of the name, and its relationship to our town of Sunbury, has already been positively established by others. Nothing other than the following interpretation is in evidence, however, to our knowledge.
Credit is given, of course to William and Lawrence Myers, two brothers who came to Delaware County, Ohio, from the Forty Fort-Kingston area of the Wyoming Valley, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. They came, as young men from their home on the Susquehanna River, purchased farm land here and platted it into a Town, giving it the name Sunbury, the effective date of record being November 9, 1816. Considerable, well -documented information has been already presented in a very complete and intelligent manner, in verification thereof. Much painstaking and thorough research has been tabulated by competent historians and genealogists. Publications are readily available in local libraries and Historical Societies relating thereto.
Not a great deal has been published, however, and therefore It is not generally realized, that the name 'Sunbury' had been established in Delaware County, Ohio, before William and Lawrence Myers came to the area.
The original County Commissioners Journal reveals that, on February 10, 1808, Delaware County was set off from Franklin County, by act of The Ohio Legislature, and It was directed that on the first Monday, May 1808 there was to be an election held to elect Commissioners and other County Officers. The Act authorized Associate Justices, Moses Byxbe, Thomas Brown, and Josiah McKinney to divide the County into Townships. They divided it into three - Berkshire, Radnor, and Liberty.
Also, on June 16, 1808 the Commissioners formed Sunbury Township, which encompassed all the balance of the County not previously laid out.
The first meeting, according to Commissioners Journal was held June 13, 1808.
Sunbury Township, when originally formed, consisted of what is now Harlem, Trenton and Porter Townships and the East One-Half of Kingston, Berkshire and Genoa. On the North, it included all the area East of Marlboro Twp., i.e., what is now Bennington, Harmony, Peru and Lincoln Twps. of Morrow County; having as the northernmost border, the Indian (Greenville) Treaty Line, east to its junction with the Sixteenth the Eastern Line of Delaware County.
Berkshire Township, prior to 1806, was a part of Sharon Township, Franklin County, Ohio, and its boundaries had changed from time to time, until by the efforts of Major Thomas Brown, it was then organized as a separate Township to include parts of what is now Brown, Kingston, Berlin, Orange Twps., and the west half of Genoa and the present Berkshire Township. It was stated to have been named Berkshire because Major Brown and Col. Byxbe had come from Berkshire County in Massachusetts.
The original boundaries are set forth in the early record and can be easily drawn upon a copy of the 1845 Delaware County Map by following the detailed description set forth in the Commissioners Journal. The resulting lines reveal Sunbury Township to be the largest individual portion of the County as then constituted.
Note: The individuals noted above as Associate Justices, vis., Col. Moses Byxbe, Major Thomas Brown and Judge Josiah McKinney, to divide the County are taken from the History of Delaware County, page 210, and copy of the Original Commissioners Journal years 1808-22 indicates the actual Board to consist of: John Welch, Ezekial Brown and Avery Power with Nathaniel W. Little appointed Clerk.
The names and requested boundaries of these various Townships appear to be by Petition presented by certain individuals, i.e. - June 15th-
"A petition was this day presented by Nathaniel Wyatt & others, praying for a new Township by the 'Name &. Stile' of Marlborough, of the following boundaries," etc.
Regarding the establishing of Sunbury Township, the following is stated:
"Resolved by the board of Commissioners that all that tract or part of country(?) within the following boundaries be created into a distinct and Separate Township by the Name & Style of Sunbury, to wit; beginning at the North East corner of Section No. 2 of Township No. 5 etc., balance of description completed." No related Petition was indicated as to by whom the name was suggested.
At this point it may be well to interject a bit of personal history.
From the 'Shoemaker Book' with which historians concerned with eastern Delaware County do research as to early settlers, it is a matter of record that a Carpenter Family, naming especially Benjamin and Gilbert Carpenter who were very prominent in the early history of Luzerne County; Forty Fort, Kingston and Wilkes Barre area along the upper Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania came to Delaware County before the townships were named. Benjamin had been a well respected Judge and substantial property owner in Luzerne County and his likeness appears along with other officials of historical note in the frieze work of the beautiful and stately Court House in Wilkes Barre. Gilbert Carpenter was a builder (he is reported to have built the Col. Nathan Dennison House, a famous early residence, still standing and in good condition in Kingston. Pa.) and was an early grist-mill builder and owner. Ezekial Brown, also a resident of Luzerne Co., had earlier moved to Franklin Co., Ohio.
Benjamin Carpenter, in JuIy 1806, purchased 2 tracts of land in Delaware County, Ohio, from Col. Byxbe before leaving Pennsylvania. He and his brother Gilbert sold considerable property owned in the Wyoming Valley area and moved in 1807 with their families to the tracts in Delaware County which, soon afterward, became part of the newly established Sunbury Township. Many families moved to central Ohio Counties in 1807.
The date under the likeness of Benjamin Carpenter is, 1750-15 and having lived for most of his life during the turmoil of the struggle of establishing ownership of property in contest with the early settlers from Connecticut, against the claims of the Penn families as proprietors under grants from the King of England, and being of political and legal frame of mind, he could have been vitally interested.
Since it was in 1768 that Richard Penn by virtue of A Warrant dated 29th day of October 1768 surveyed and established the Manor of Sunbury on the North West side of the East Branch of the Susquehanna River., a Twenty Thousand Acre Tract in this Wyoming Valley, there is no doubt that the Carpenters and other settlers in the valley would have been much concerned. Claim was made to the land, 'for the use of the Honorable the Proprietaries' of the Province of Pennsylvania.
The Pennamite Wars were fought over the disputed claims of the early settlers and troubles continued to the issuance of Notice of Hearings on Connecticut Claims- offering compensation to the Pennsylvania Claimants. Act of Assembly, State of Pennsylvania, passed 4 April 1799.
Benjamin Carpenter was appointed Justice of Peace and a Judge of Common Pleas Court, Luzerne County, May 27, 1787. Myers Tavern, owned by Philip Myers, (the father of William & Lawrence Myers) and wherein political matters and affairs of the community were regularly discussed, was located in Forty Fort and in the area encompassed by the boundaries of this 'Manor' of Sunbury. Carpenters Hall was also only a short distance away, as was the 'Old Meeting House' so there can be no doubt the name Sunbury could have been evident in local discussions, In fact, Legal Title of the Manor of Sunbury (and that of Stoke, on the opposite side of the Susquehanna) were known to exist until April 1813.
From 1752 to 1772 the 'territory' of Luzerne was included in the Pennsylvania County of Northampton. In 1772 a new and separate county was formed about 50 miles south-westward along the Susquehanna River and was named Northumberland. Three months after the formation of Northumberland County (1772), Governor Richard Penn and the provincial Council ordered that "the surveyor-general (John Lukens), with all convenient speed, repair to Fort Augusta on the Susquehanna (near the confluence with its west branch), and with the assistance of Mr. William Maclay, lay out a town for the county of Northumberland to be called by the name of Sunbury." The county seat was to be located "at the most commodious place between the fort and the mouth of Shamokin Creek".
Richard Penn borrowed the name of Sunbury from the English village of that name, situated on the Thames about fifteen miles south west of London.
Since Richard Penn laid out the 'Manour' of Sunbury and the 'town' of Sunbury within the short span of 4 years, it is reasonable to assume that both places were named after Sunbury on Thames. This is especially valid since it may be remembered the Manors of Sunbury and of Stoke were of similar size and on opposite sides of the Susquehanna, and in England, Sunbury and Stoke-Poges (where some of the Penn family are buried) are only a few miles apart. Also, in his will, Richard Penn states that he is the holder of an interest in Batavia House, in the parish of Sunbury, in the county of Middlesex. Mr. George Freeman, Historian of Sunbury and Shepperton Local History Society, and publisher of 'A History of Sunbury-On-Thames' states that Batavia House was located therein and points out its location on a map.
Letter from, and a personal visit with, Mr. Charles F. Snider, Exec. Secy. The Northumberland County Historical Society, Sunbury, Pa., gave us the first information on the Manor of Sunbury and he was of the opinion that since no one, to his knowledge, had ever migrated to our part of Ohio, it was very doubtful that his town of Sunbury had any part at all in the early history of our area. We found him to be a very fine gentleman and very well informed in all historical matters regarding families and institutions in the State of Pennsylvania. He is also an author of various publications and a lifetime resident of his area.
Until discovery of the existence of the Manor of Sunbury and its relationship to the area from whence many of our early settlers came, it had been assumed that since these settlers came down the Wyoming Path (now Route 11) along the Susquehanna, or by raft or boat, past the town of Sunbury on the river itself, the name might have been carried forward from there. Investigation indicates no valid connection between the city of Sunbury, Pa., and either the township or Village of Sunbury, Ohio.
Derivation of the name SUNBURY.
On a trip to England in 1968, two years after celebration of the Sesqui-Centennial of the founding of the Village of Sunbury, in traveling the road from Heathrow Airport to London from the window of our Coach it was quite a surprise to see a sign pointing the way to SUNBURY somewhere off to our right.
A few days later we obtained a small car, located this Sunbury on a map, and found that, in spite of very heavy flooding along parts of the Thames and in the south of England, there should be no trouble in reaching that particular area which is only a very short distance from Hampton Court Palace, famous as a residence of King Henry VIII and Cardinal Woolsey.
Our approach to the town was from the north-west, by-passing Sunbury Cross which is on a main road from Windsor, thru Staines to Hampton Court. On seeing a Church Steeple we made for it, knowing that, in England, most of the towns have a church or cathedral in the center.
St. Mary's Church was found to be located near the river between Thames and Green streets, and one of our pictures of the front of the old church provides the following, most interesting, information:-
St. Mary the Virgin
Sunbury on Thames
1000 years of service.
In 967, Archbishop Dunstan obtained the manor of Sunbury, giving it to the Abbey of Westminster. The Parish is mentioned in the Domesday Survey. The Saxon building was replaced by the present one in 1752, it being enlarged in 1865. The register dates from 1565.
The Vicar will be pleased to show visitors the church and its records.
Since it was raining and the air damp and cold we drove around the area and took some pictures of other buildings and the river-front park (which was mostly under water from the flood), from our car window. The church was locked and due to the weather we made no attempt to locate the Vicar to gain entry and inspect the records.
The town and its buildings, some of which appeared to be very old, were very well kept, having good streets with much green area. We adjudged it to be comparable in size to our Westerville, Ohio.
On our next visit to England, we again drove to Sunbury-on-Thames. and this time found the church closed for repairs. We had brought along the name and address of an antique dealer, hoping that he might provide some historical information of the area or advise the name of someone who could. When located, however, he proved to be most un-cooperative, and in fact disrespectful - which is unusual in England. Our desire to proceed further in the matter being somewhat cooled, we drove around a while, revisited the roadside park - quite an attractive place with benches along the river, with a view across to a marina on the other side where colorful boats of various types were moored. Quite a number of ducks were along the shore, being fed pieces of bread and other items, evidently brought for the purpose by local residents. Being pressed for time we then continued on our way.
On our third trip, this time in 1972, we allocated more time, and made a point of obtaining descriptive data. This time we came by the main road to Sunbury Cross, which is really a part of Sunbury-on-Thames but located to the north, away from the river and near the railway station and Kempton Park Race Course and Park. Here we found a completely redeveloped business area complete with shopping mall, apartment buildings, a new Post Office, and most important to us, an attractive new Library.
This new development, we found, was to accommodate the northern terminus and major interchange of the new M-3 Motorway which will extend through historic Winchester to the great port of Southampton and facilitating travel to Portsmouth and the resort areas in the south of England.
On making ourselves known to the head Librarian, and having stated the purpose of our visit, we were welcomed and made to feel completely at home. She recalled the recent publication compiled by Michael J. S. Collins entitled:- A History of the Church and Parish of Sunbury-on-Thames, and presented us with a copy. We had a very pleasant conversation with the librarian and after strolling about the Mall and admiring the unusual 'Town Clock' and pedestal, which has been preserved by being installed in the center of the shopping area, we again drove to St. Mary's Church. Finding it locked, we located the Vicar's residence but found no one at home, and on inquiry from passers-by, could not learn where he might be or when he might return. It was disappointing not to be able to go into the church but, having obtained the booklet and learned more about the area, we felt satisfied to continue on our trip.
In May of 1974, by contacting the Library (which is maintained by the County of Middlesex) we were put in touch with Mr. George Freeman, 41 Green St., Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex (we had evidently passed his house many times) who sent his publication:- A History of Sunbury-on-Thames, together with a map of the area and recent Newsletters of the Sunbury-on-Thames Society.
Here follows, then, excerpts from these two publications which provide the English historians' explanation of the origin of the name-Sunbury.
The Saxons were, in fact, the true founders of Sunbury. We know this through a remarkably informative Saxon document known as the "Sunbury Charter," by which King Edgar (959-980) granted to his faithful kinsman Aelfheh "in perpetuity, a certain parcel of land, Vis., 10 cassati (hides) at the place commonly called aet Sunnanbyrig". The boundaries of the grant are described by a number of landmarks, including the 'Cloven Barrow', which not only tell us the extent of early Saxon Sunbury, but also the origin of the place name.
The Charter's description hinges on its reference to "Sunna's Burh" and "Sunna's Haw." These Saxon terms suggest that it was a Saxon theign, or lord, called Sunna who founded the community and gave it his name, as he or a namesake, gave it to Sonning and Sunningdale. Sunna settled his followers around his own pallisaded residence, or "haw", on the raised ground between the present church and the Flower Pot Inn. His "burh" has been interpreted as a fortified place, which would suggest that Sunbury was founded during the reign of King Alfred (871-899), in line with the King's defense policy against the Danes. However., I believe the word "burh" to be a corruption of the word "beorg" or hill", and refers to the distinctly higher ground around the Vicarage, which would have been even more prominent in those far off days. At any rate, whatever the truth, we can see how Sunna's Burh evolved, by the time of the Charter, to Sunnanbyrig, and within a hundred years to Suneberie; and, finally in the course of centuries, to Sunbury.
(the above statements of opinions by author, Michael J. S. Collins)
Apart from Sunna, the Sunbury Charter suggests other early prominent inhabitants of Sunbury in its mention of Eadbrybt's burial mound, Dudde's byre and Eccelsbrook. The actual ownership of the manor can be traced from the reign of King Eldred (946-955) onwards.
Here follows the text of the Sunbury Charter, a document preserved in the muniment room of Westminster Abbey(London). This Charter, written mainly in Latin, but with names and descriptions in Anglo-Saxon, records the grant of land at Sunnanbyrig by King Edgar to his kinsman. A rough translation of the Charter is given below.
I, Eadgar, King of Britain, have granted in perpetuity, a certain parcel of land at the place commonly called Sunnanbyrig, to my faithful kinsman Aelfheh, for his faithful service, so that as long as his life lasts, he may realize his desires and possess it with all its advantages, to wit, meadows, pastures and woods, and at the end of his life leave it undiminished to whatever heirs he may desire. If anyone should desire to divert this our gift to another purpose than that which we have determined, let him be deprived of the fellowship of God's Holy Church and be for ever punished with the eternal flames of the miserable pit, together with Judas, Christ's betrayer, and his accomplices unless he satisfactorily amend his transgression against our decree.
This is the Sunbury Charter of A.D. 962. The last sentence of the preamble reads:- "This Charter was written in the year of Our Lord's incarnation 962 with the consent of the witnesses whose names are noted below." One of the signatures was St. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury.
The next recorded mention of Sunbury is in the Domesday Book, or Survey which was a folio of 760 pages measuring 15 1/2 by 10 1/2 compiled by the Normans after their Conquest of England by Edward the Confessor (1043-1066). The entry for Sunbury reads:
The Abbot of holds the manor of Sunberie which is 7 hides. The land is 6 carucates. 4 hides are in demense on which there is one plough. The villeins have 4 ploughs. The priest has 1/2 virgate. 8 villeins have one virgate each, two other villeins have a virgate between them. The meadow land is equal to 6 carucates and there is pasture for the cattle of the manor.
Applying modern designations and values, the Survey can be translated thus:- "The Abbot of Westminster owns the manor of Sunbury which comprises about 840 acres. The ploughed land is about 600 acres. 480 acres are occupied by freeholders who have one plough between them and the tenants have four ploughs. Eight tenants have 32 acres each, and the other tenants 16 acres each. The priest also has 16 acres. The meadow land is equal to about 600 acres and there is pasture for the cattle of the manor.
(the text of the Sunbury Charter and information from the Domesday Survey are from the booklet by Mr. George Freeman).
The descriptions and information in the two booklets can be read in the Community Library, Sunbury, Ohio. They provide much greater detail than can be included in this compilation.)
The history of Sunbury in England is described as going back to the Roman Era, the Saxon Invasion, and warring between the Saxons and the Danes. Then through the Norman Conquest and continuing to the present day.
The 'Manour of Sunbury', established as a Proprietor's holding., by the Penn Family, was in evidence from 1768 to about 1813 in the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania, and encompassed the area from whence came the earliest pioneer families to settle in Delaware County, Ohio. Richard Penn and his brother, John Penn, came from Middlesex in England, which included The Parish (or Manor) of Sunbury. Richard Penn held interest in Batavia House in this Parish of Sunbury and identified himself with the areas of Stanwell and Stoke, also in Middlesex.
There is no doubt that Judge Benjamin Carpenter was acquainted with Moses Byxbe, Major Brown and Ezekial Brown and possibly others who were responsible for naming the Township of Sunbury in Delaware County, Ohio in 1808. Benjamin Carpenter, having purchased 2 tracts of land from Mr. Byxbe while still residing in the area of the Manor of Sunbury, in the Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania had the deeds (1806) acknowledged by Ezekial Brown, Esquire, then a Justice of the Peace in Franklin Co., Ohio. Ezekial Brown, originally from Luzerne Co. in Penna., was also named as executor of Judge Carpenter's will. John S., son of Ezekial Brown, married the daughter, Sarah, of Judge and Mary Ferrier Carpenter, in 1812 after the families had moved to Ohio and were residing in the Township of Sunbury. Either of these men could have been responsible for carrying forward the name Sunbury from Pennsylvania to Ohio and establishing it in 1808. By 1826, Carpenter Families owned 1350 acres in Delaware County.
This Township of Sunbury, set off in 1808, was later diminished, piece by piece, in the formation of what is now, Bennington., Harmony, Lincoln and Peru Twps., north to the old Greenville (Indian) Treaty Line in Morrow County, in addition to: All of Harlem, Trenton, Porter and the east half of Berkshire & Genoa Townships. By 1821, it had been whittled until all that remained was the east half of Berkshire Twp. and all of Trenton. Sometime between 1821 and 1832 (the record of Commissioners Proceedings for the period 1822-1835 stated to have disappeared) when the present Trenton Twp. was named, the western one half section was added to Berkshire Twp. to compensate it for its prior loss of two quarter sections, one to Brown and one to Kingston. (Paragraph above is from The History of Delaware County (1880) Baskin).
In contradiction to the alleged 'Disappearance of Commissioners Proceedings'- Books No. 2 & 3 relating to the above period, do exist, and establish the following: From Book No. 2 - Page 79; Dated March. 8., 1826 - Ordered by the board, that all that part of Sunbury Township which lies in the 17th Range, U. S. Military Lands, be and the same is, attached to and made a part of Berkshire Township.
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