New Hope History
In this section you will find a short history of New Hope written by Les Isbrandt. You will also find a link to essays written by Jon Gonsiewski’s AP History Classes at the New Hope Solebury High School. In an effort to bring New Hope’s history closer to each of us as individuals, the New Hope Historical Society approached the high school to implement this project. Mr. Gonsiewski graciously offered to get this project rolling and we hope to be able to offer you, the public, a never ending stream of interesting and informative essays on the New Hope area. Feel free to Contact Us with your comments. ~ Marilyn Bullock, Chair, Scholarship Committee.
A Short History of New Hope
by Les Isbrandt
New Hope first came into being in 1700 as a 1000-acre land grant from William Penn to Robert Heath. Heath was required “to build and keep in repair a water corn mill for the use of the neighborhood”. Heath built his mill on Ingham Creek about one mile inland from the Delaware River.
Ingham Creek is the primary geographic reason why the town of New Hope developed. Ingham Creek, which is also called Aquetong Creek, is fed by the Aquetong Spring that produces three million gallons of clear water every day. The volume and consistency of the water flow made Aquetong Creek ideal for milling operations. The creek runs about two miles from the spring and enters the Delaware River at New Hope. Numerous mills, powered by the water flow of Aquetong Creek, were built at various locations on the creek. One of the largest of these mills was Benjamin Parry’s gristmill on the bank of the Delaware River in New Hope.In the early years the settlement took its name from the owner or operator of the ferry. From 1722-1747, the little settlement was known as Well’s Ferry (John Wells is conceded to be the first settler of the area); from 1748 through 1764, it was known as Canby’s Ferry; and from 1765-1790, it was known as Coryell’s Ferry.
This last period spanned the Revolutionary War when George Washington and his Army visited the little town and its ferry on at least four occasions. Coryell’s Ferry was the staging site for George Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware five miles south of New Hope on December 25, 1776 and his victory over the Hessians at Trenton.
New Hope actually received its name from Benjamin Parry in 1790. That year his Coryell’s Ferry gristmill burned to the ground. The whole community was thrown into a depression since the mill was one of the major employers in the area. Benjamin had other mills in New Jersey named the Hope Mill and the Prime Hope Mill. When he re-built his mill he named it the “New Hope Mill” since its operation would bring “new hope” and prosperity back to the area and its population. The name stuck and within a few years the name New Hope began to appear on maps and Coryell’s Ferry disappeared. The Parry gristmill continued operations until 1938 and was converted to the Bucks County Playhouse in 1939.
New Hope’s Ferry Street was a very important thoroughfare. It is actually part of the York Road, which was the major road between Philadelphia and New York. The Pennsylvania section of the York Road ended here at the ferry landing. The Swift-Sure Company stagecoaches running between Philadelphia and New York used this route for the two-day journey. New Hope (Coryell’s Ferry) was the half-way point. Travelers usually took overnight lodging at one side of the river, Logan Inn, or the other at the Lambertville House.
Benjamin Parry was one of the major forces behind and financial backers of the first bridge built across the Delaware River. This bridge, built in 1814, was a covered wooden bridge of six spans and cost $69,000 to construct. Tolls were charged for using the bridge. The flood of 1903 destroyed the original covered bridge. The Roebling steel bridge was built to replace it.
The Delaware canal was opened from Bristol to New Hope in 1831 and its full 60-mile length was completed to Easton in 1832. New Hope was the geographic center and the major hub of the canal system. It had four locks and an outlet lock so that boats could cross the Delaware River and enter the New Jersey canal system at Lambertville. The heyday of the canal occurred before and during the Civil War (the 1850’s and 1860’s). Following this period, the canal system steadily lost business to the railroads. The last commercial canal boat passed through New Hope in 1931. Today you can still take barge rides on the canal, which was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1978. The railroad was completed into New Hope in 1891. Both passenger and freight trains operated daily. The last passenger train ran in 1952. Freight operations continued until the 1980’s.