James Family Archives


•  Researching the Past

•  Education for the Present

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“It must be clearly understood that when David James arrived in Pennsylvania on October 28, 1682 there was no Radnor Township, there was no Chester County, there was no City of Philadelphia, only a vast wilderness of 40,000 square miles with a large swath east of the Delaware River designated by William Penn as the “Welsh Tract.”  Unless this situation is fully grasped, one cannot begin to understand events that transpired over the next 30 years.”


     It was the Fall of 1682, October 28 to be specific.  David James, his wife Margaret (Mortimer) and their seven year-old daughter Mary had just endured a grueling two month voyage at sea having departed Bristol England onboard the sailing ship Bristol Factor, captained by Roger Drew.  The Welsh family arrived at the settlement of Upland (present day Philadelphia) where the they along with three ship loads of fellow Welsh immigrants (the Bristol Factor, Welcome and the Unicorn) greeted a small group of settlers, mostly Swedish in ethnicity, whose arrival had predated their own by only a few years.


David James was a member of the Religious Society of Friends, a group of nonconformist protestant Christians, loathed by English authorities as well as the official Church of England, and affixed with the pejorative moniker, “Quakers” because of the silent and trembling nature of their unlawful worship of God.  Persecution at the hands of the English was nothing new to the Welsh, and David’s family was no exception.


Having come from the parishes of Glascwm and Llandegly where his father and uncle had previously operated a successful water-powered gristmill called Melin Bussnant built by his grandfather James David, the whole James family had found common ground with the teachings of George Fox, founder of the Religious Society of Friends.  For this allegiance, the family had paid dearly, with David’s uncle and namesake, David James, being locked up in prison for his unwillingness to swear allegiance to the Church of England and failing to regularly attend the local parish Church.  Despite being members of the local gentry, the family was forced to sell its gristmill as well as much of their land holdings as a consequence of the persecution and punitive taxation that was levied against them.


David, seeking to escape the persecution his family had faced, sought out a maritime career early in his life.  However, by 1681 word was spreading fast through the counties of central Wales that a benevolent benefactor by the name of William Penn was seeking co-adventurers to help him settle lands in the newly formed colony of Pennsylvania.  Land, large quantities of land, was being offered at bargain basement prices.  No doubt, David saw an opportunity, to not only escape the harassment that had been inflicted upon his family, but the opportunity to rebuild and grow the land holdings of the family as well.  The opportunity was just too good to pass up.


The window of opportunity presented to David was not wide.  Initial offerings for land in Pennsylvania commenced in June of 1681 and were being conducted by a man known as Richard Davies who had already purchased rights to 5000 acres of Penn’s land.  By July 1682 David had purchased and signed an indenture entitling him to 100 acres of land within William Penn’s new colony.  This indenture also entitled him to an additional 100 acres of “head land” and two city lots to be located within the boundaries of the City of Philadelphia.  By August of 1682, David had already packed up his wife and daughter and moved to Bristol while the ship that would carry them to the new world was preparing for departure.  


So hastily was the decision made by David James to leave Wales that he failed to secure two very important documents prior to his departure.  The first, a letter of reference from his home Church, which was considered absolutely essential in these days for anyone planning to move more than a day’s ride from their home.  This letter of reference or “good standing” would be required of anyone before they were welcomed into a new community.  The second document David failed to possess was a valid travel document entitling him to board the vessel that would carry his family to Pennsylvania.


Whether it was by providence or good fortune, David managed to overcome both of these obstacles in a very creative way.  First, he was able to have his name and the names of his wife and daughter added to the certificate of travel issued to the family of Evan Oliver.  Mr. Oliver was a prominent merchant, a former neighbor in the parish of Glascwm as well as a fellow Quaker who had a bill of lading to transport a number of goods with him onboard the Bristol Factor.  Hence, David and his family were permitted transit upon the certificate of travel issued to Evan Oliver.


Upon his arrival in Upland in October of 1682, David was excused by the arriving Quaker community from possessing a letter of reference for a period of one year on the condition that one would be requested from the Quaker meeting in Bristol within the year.  Sure enough, by 1683 David’s letter of reference and good standing within the Quaker community arrived from the Bristol meeting.  This was a very important foundational requirement to be accepted into the Quaker community.  For the most part, however, David and his immediate family were on their own following the first two years of their arrival.  David’s nearest relation, his sister, Margaret James who had married Samuel Miles before coming to Pennsylvania would not arrive until 1684.  But once present in the area identified as Radnor Township she and her family would afford David some measure of familial ties and support during these early critical years.  What becomes clear is that a strong bond and alliance between the James family and the Miles family would quickly form and endure for many years to follow.


Upon their arrival in October of 1682, David, Margaret and Mary had many pressing matters at hand to contend with.  Their arrival in mid Fall provided the family very little time to prepare for the upcoming winter season.  There was no house or shelter waiting for them upon their arrival.  There was no supply of food or fuel.  All that lie before them was an uncharted wilderness with a claim to 200 acres of it - out there somewhere.


After gathering up what provisions he could muster, David led his family about 20 miles inland from the Delaware River, a full day’s walk.  He followed the Schuykill River upstream for about 19 miles and then spotted a hill a little to the east.  He then proceeded for another mile away from the Schuykill toward the hill where he found a cave near a fresh spring of water.  Here is where David would lay his claim and shelter his family during the winter of 1682-83.  Today this location is market by the Church that the James family constructed atop that hill in 1778 – The Radnor United Methodist Church.


One can only imagine the trials faced by the family during that first winter in Pennsylvania, the cold, wild beasts and native indians.  Nevertheless, the family persevered.  Thankfully, the local indians posed no threat to the family as William Penn had done a remarkable job negotiating the peaceful purchase of his lands from the local indigenous population and had managed to establish a working relationship with them based on mutual assistance and respect.


According to the oral history handed down through the family, following the winter of 1682-1683 David James began clearing his land and built a sturdy log cabin that would remain standing for five generations.  The family dwelt in this log cabin for nearly eighteen years from 1683 to 1700.  During this period David’s wife Margaret would give birth to their first child born in the colony, Thomas James who was born on or about 1690.  In the years prior to 1700 David and his family would witness a large influx of new settlers into the area.  


By 1684 the first surveyors hired by William Penn’s land commissioners began mapping the territory referred to as the Welsh Tract.  Following these initial surveys, David and his neighbors were organized into a township called “Radnor” after the county in Wales from which they had come.  Within the township, the land commissioners began “laying out,” that is subdividing the township into parcels that somewhat reflected the amount of lands contained within each of the original patents dating back to 1681.  The problem with this highly subjective approach was that parcels “laid out” by the land commissioners on their maps of Radnor did not always reflect the actual locations where the residents of Radnor had settled.  Such was the predicament of David James whose 100 acres of land including an additional 100 acres of “head land” were placed on the initial maps of Radnor Township directly to the south of where he actually settled.  The problem, however, was not immediately evident as Radnor in these days was sparsely populated.  As a result, the land that had been laid out for David James by the land commissioners ended up being occupied, at least in part, by another gentlemen, Stephan-ab-Evan.  It was an imperfect method of distribution to say the least.


Another problem Penn’s land commissioners quickly confronted was that Radnor Township was placed inside a larger geographic and political unit declared to be Philadelphia County.  This gave the Welsh Quakers a considerable political advantage over local governance, something that Penn was opposed to.  So, in a scheme by the land commissioners to dilute the political influence of the Welsh Quakers, Radnor Township was separated from Philadelphia County and placed into a smaller geographic unit called Chester County.  Through these shenanigans, David and his fellow Welsh Quakers soon found themselves at odds with Penn’s land commissioners and their selfish ambitions.


In 1684, William Penn departed Pennsylvania and returned to England.  The next four years, from 1684 to 1688, the Welsh Tract was left with no colony-wide government in existence.  The lower courts met only a few days a year, and the county officials were private citizens who devoted very little time to upholding the law.  The colony was, during this time, in a de facto condition of individual anarchism.  Nevertheless, the colony seemed no worse for the experience.  The Pennsylvania Assembly passed no new laws after 1686, as it was involved in a continuous wrangle over attempts to increase its powers and to amend, rather than just reject, legislation.


The year 1684 also saw the arrival of several individuals who would have a profound impact on the lives of David James and his family.  In this year Stephan Ab Evan arrived in Radnor Township and settled lands just to the south of David.  David’s brother-in-law Samuel Miles who had married his sister Margaret James as well as Samuel’s brother Richard Miles all arrived and settled in Radnor Township.  To understand the history of David James and his family it is critically important to understand the relationships that developed between the families of David James, Samuel Miles, Richard Miles and David Meredith.  These families would eventually intertwine through the marriage of their children and their common religious beliefs.


By 1687 Penn’s land commissioners had arranged for a second series of surveys to be conducted of the Welsh Tract.  The land commissioners used this occasion to evaluate whether or not the settlers were making the best use of their land.  For those settlers whom the land commissioners determined “were not” making best use of their land – their lands were literally taken from the original purchasers, sold and redistributed to those investors currently in favor with Penn.  The impetus for this behavior was two fold:  first, the land commissioners sought to make as equitable a distribution as possible of the lands originally granted by indenture prior to the arrival of the settlers in 1682; secondly, the land commissioners were compelled by Penn to satisfies the promises or “warrants” granted following his arrival in 1684.  The last decade of the 1600’s saw a considerable shifting of land interests within the Welsh Tract, not always in the best interest of the settlers themselves.


One of those investors who found himself in favor with Penn’s land commissioners was a Quaker gentleman by the name of David Meredith.  Mr. Meredith was born in 1637 and was originally from the parish of Llanbister in Radnorshire, Wales.  He had become a follower of George Fox in his early years and was imprisoned in 1663 because he would not take the oath of allegiance to the Church of England.  Thus David Meredith was a contemporary of David’s uncle David James who had also been bound under similar circumstances.  Meredith would eventually settle in Plymouth Township, Pennsylvania.  In Wales, Meredith had also been a successful businessman, a weaver by trade, and because of his sufferings was a prominent figure among the Quaker community.  Prior to his arrival in Pennsylvania, David Meredith, like David James had purchased rights to 100 acres of land in the Welsh Tract sight unseen.  However, upon his arrival in Pennsylvania he began investing his money and purchasing large swaths of land from Penn through his land commissioners for purposes of development.  Among other holdings, Meredith would acquire up to 980 acres in the vicinity of Plymouth Township.  Of particular interest to the history of David James is that on March 19, 1683 David Meredith was granted a “warrant”, that is a “promise” by William Penn’s land commissioners for an amount of land totaling five hundred and fifty acres within the Welsh Tract.  The only problem with this particular “warrant” was that it failed to specify precisely where that land was to be located.


In 1687 the Welsh Tract was still was still without a “formal government” and politics back in England kept everybody’s attention on the ferment that was leading up to the English Revolution of 1688 that would result in the overthrow of King James, II.  During this time Penn’s land commissioners were free to conduct their business unfettered by any form of governing oversight.  It was in May of 1687 that Penn’s land commissioners decided to “cut” three hundred and fifty acres from Radnor Township in Chester County in order to partially satisfy four warrants, or “promises” for land amounting to five hundred and fifty acres owed by William Penn through his land commissioners to David Meredith.  These warrants or promises had been dated March 19, 1683 and May 17, 1687.  Tragically, the 350 acres “cut” by Penn’s Land Commissioners from Radnor Township included both the 100 acres settled by David James in 1682 and the approximate 100 acres of lowlands that were originally included with the lands purchased by David James in 1682.  Thus David James was legally disenfranchised from the lands he occupied through the land commissioners policy of “best use.”  And because of the anarchic state of affairs in Pennsylvania at the time, there was no viable legal recourse for David to pursue.  Nevertheless, David James remained on his lands and did not abandon them despite the scheming of Penn’s land commissioners.


Despite these unfortunate turn of events, 1687 was not a wholly dark year for the James family.  On October 21, 1687 David James’ sister Margaret James who was married to Samuel Miles gave birth to their first-born daughter, Thamer James Miles, who was reported to be the first white child born in Radnor Township.  Thamer’s birth seemed to herald a change in the wind, for the next year saw tectonic movements both in England and in the Quaker community in Pennsylvania that would usher in significant change in the years to come.


In 1688 England was in chaos with the English Revolution.  King James, II was overthrown and voices within the Quaker community in Pennsylvania began speaking out concerning the corruption and unjust practices of those Quakers who had dominated governance and the Land Commission left by Penn to manage the Welsh Tract.  One such voice was George Keith who, in 1688, published an article entitled “Gospel Order Improved,” also referred to as “Gospel Order and Discipline” in later editions, which spoke of potential reforms to the American Quaker church.  Keith’s article emphasized a formal testimony of their experiences of God, and the recital of a creed to solidify their agreement with Quaker beliefs.  Keith spoke of how the Quaker church in America had become infiltrated by false believers and deceivers, who “crept into ye form & profession of Friends’ way, who are not really friends of Truth.”  Keith was a firebrand and put to words the discontent of the Quaker community who saw the ruling Quakers becoming every bit as corrupt as those whom they had left in Wales.  Keith would have a profound impact on David James as well as the families of Samuel and Richard Miles.


In 1689 William Penn made his first significant attempt to collect his “quit rent” from the residents of the Welsh Tract barony.  Although he was not present, he sent a man by the name of John Blackwell to begin collecting these funds from the residents of Pennsylvania.  This effort would come to be known as “The Blackwell Rent Roll of 1689.”  In this year David James was required to pay 10 shillings of “quitrent” to William Penn for his two city lots located along Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th Streets.  These lots were adjacent to the lots owned by his brother-in-law Samuel Miles and good friend William Davis.  All three of these men were identified as “original purchasers” as of 1684 with 49 feet each of street frontage per lot.  Samuel Miles was charged retroactively 1 shilling per annum for five years of ownership of his lot.  David James was charged retroactively 2 shillings per annum for five years of ownership of his two lots.  And William Davis was charged retroactively 1 shilling per annum for five years of ownership of his lot.


In May of 1689 David Meredith would sell a portion of the three hundred and fifty acres previously “cut” from Radnor Township in May of 1687 to satisfy a promise by William Penn to Stephan Ab Evan who has been residing on the land just south of David James since 1684.  Through this transaction Stephan Ab Evan was able to partially settle his legal claim to the land.  Nevertheless, Stephan Ab Evan was still residing on at least a portion of the land that had been originally laid out for David James.


In 1690, the following year, David James’ wife Margaret gave birth to their first child born in the colony, Thomas James.  There were now four in David’s family including his wife, daughter Mary who was about 15 years old and Thomas.  So despite the uncertainty of his situation David James’ family persevered and began to grow.


By 1691 David James had had about all he could stand from the “established” Quaker leadership in Radnor.  In this year David James, Samuel Miles and Richard Miles were among those Quakers who joined with George Keith and departed from the main body of Friends over the issue of “visible sacraments” in what became known as the “Keithian Schism.”  For the rest of the decade the James and the Miles would not associate themselves with the main body of Quakers living in the Welsh Tract.  The following year, in 1692, news arrived from England that William Penn has been “deprived” of his province and had been placed in debtor’s prison as a result of the English Revolution of 1688.  Penn would not officially reacquire his barony again until 1694.


By 1693 David’s daughter Mary had come of age.  She was approximately eighteen years old and David, lacking a son who had reached maturity, appointed his daughter to be his executrix and placed her in charge of settling the family’s lingering property issues.  In this year, Mary sold her father’s interest in lot No. 11 in Philadelphia City to David Powell.  In November 1695 Mary would sell her father’s interest in lot No. 15 in Philadelphia to David Powell as well.  These lots were later consolidated with the remaining lots on the city block and purchased by the State of Pennsylvania for the location of the state capitol or “State House Yard” as it is referred to today.


By 1696, David James had taken the proceeds from the sale of his properties in Philadelphia and was now considering investment in the Ohio Valley.  In this year, David James, his brother-in-law Samuel Miles and good friend William Davis went off to explore the frontier lands in the Susquehanna Valley and found themselves fending off indigenous Iroquois invaders from that region.  In the Spring of that year approximately 450 persons from Pennsylvania and the Lower Counties pledged to pay William Penn in the neighborhood of 4000 pounds for land on the Susquehanna.  Penn’s proposal was particularly popular with the residents of Chester County including David who lived closest to the projected site.  Among those residents of Radnor Township that pledged financial resources to the development were David’s brother-in-law Samuel Miles, David’s good friend William Davis and David James himself.  Samuel pledged 6 pounds while William and David both pledged 5 pounds each.  As reported on page 672 of the “Papers of William Penn, Volume Three 1685-1700” the enthusiasm of these adventurers was dampened in June 1696 when Iroquois Indians from the Ohio Valley raided the Susquehanna region.


By 1699 William Penn had finally returned to Pennsylvania and began reasserting his dominance over the colony.  Penn remained in the colony for two years and his efforts to reestablish control over the colony had mixed results.  Just before his return to England in 1701, William Penn agreed with the Pennsylvania Assembly on a revised constitution called the “Charter of Privileges.” This governing document would remain the law of the land through 1776 and in addition to bestowing greater rights of self-governance upon the colony, the Charter of Privileges granted religious freedom and tolerance throughout the colony.  Almost immediately following this proclamation the families of David James, Samuel Miles and Richard Miles departed from their Keithian division of the Quaker Church and then counted themselves among the founders of the Great Valley Baptist Church located in present day Devon, Pennsylvania.


Richard Miles became a Baptist shortly before 1701.  Richard’s home, located in the heart of Radnor Township, is where the first Baptist congregation met prior to the construction of their Church in 1711.  During this time period David James began the construction of a large stone house that would later become known as the “James mansion” thus bringing to an end nearly 17 years of continuous residence in their log cabin.  The construction of the stone house marked a milestone in David’s immigration to Pennsylvania and by doing so he made a more permanent claim to the lands upon which he had settled.


In 1702, David’s daughter Mary James, who had previously been appointed David’s executrix transferred her father’s “Right,” Title & Interest to the 200 acres purchased in Wales before coming to Pennsylvania that had been “laid out” by the land commissioners to the south of where David actually settled to Stephan ap Evan.  This transaction is recorded in Minute Book “G” entitled “Minutes of Property Commencing Ye 19th November 1701” and reported in 1890 in the Pennsylvania Archives published Volume 19 of their Second Series. An important element to the 1702 transaction reported in Minute Book “G” is that the Land Commissioners found that Stephan ap Evan owed Mary James 11 Pounds, and “rent-money” for the land from 1684, and ordered this all paid.  Through this transaction Stephan ab Evan consolidated his legal interest in the lands to the south “laid out” for David James that Stephan had occupied since 1684 and that Stephan had previously purchased from David Meredith in 1689.  These are the same lands that had been “cut” by Penn’s land commissioners from the original holdings of David James in 1687.  Through this transaction David James cashed out all legal interest he held in the lands within Radnor Township.  Nevertheless, David continued to occupy and cultivate the lands immediately to the north of Stephan ab Evan despite the fact that David Meredith now had a legal claim to these lands through the warrants granted to him by Penn’s land commissioners in 1687.


On May 1, 1704 Penn’s land commissioners finally got around to issuing a “patent”, that is “legal title” to David Meredith for the remaining two hundred and fifty acres that had been “cut” in 1687 from Radnor Township, the same land that was occupied by David James.  In addition, the land commissioners found that the remaining two hundred and fifty acres had been underestimated and that this land actually contained an additional thirty-three acres.  All this was “confirmed” and through the patent officially granted to David Meredith.  Consequently, David James now found himself occupying lands that legally belonged to David Meredith.


It is important to note that following David Meredith’s patent of 1704, he did not eject David James from the land or demand his departure.  David Meredith himself had settled in neighboring Plymouth Township and had no interest in actually occupying this land in Radnor Township.  So how to resolve this seemingly impassible quandary?  The solution lie in events that would occur during the following year.


On July 4, 1705 David James eldest daughter Mary James who is now approximately 29 years old married John David/Davies of Gwynedd at the Radnor Quaker Meeting House in Radnor Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania.  John David/Davies was the son of David Meredith, originally of Llanbister, Radnorshire, Wales and presently of Plymouth Township.  So what appeared to be an intractable situation as of 1704 was resolved in 1705 with the intermarriage of the James family with the Meredith family through the union of their children.  Mary would go on to have four children of her own including: Elizabeth Davies, David Davies, Jane Davies and Susannah Davies – all of whom the grandchildren of David Meredith.  Interestingly, on either July or September 12, 1705, the patent to David Meredith of May 1, 1704 was recorded in the “Enrollment Office” in the city of Philadelphia in Patent Book “A,” Volume 3 on page 130.


The year 1705 also saw the birth of David’s third child, a daughter, and second child born in Pennsylvania – Rebecca James.  Rebecca would be the first child born to Margaret James in the James family’s stone house.  So with the departure of one daughter, Mary, 1705 saw the arrival of a new daughter to the James family.


By 1706 the attention of David James and his fellow Baptists has now turned to the divisions that are rising between the various Baptist churches in the area.  On July 22, 1706 members of the congregation of the Welsh Tract Baptist Church meet at the home of Richard Miles in Radnor Township for the purpose of coming to terms with the principles espoused by the main body of Baptists already present in the Welsh Tract in hopes of finding unity between the two bodies.  At this gathering an agreement is entered into and put into writing in which principles common to the two denominational groups are identified.  The agreement contained eight founding principles or “rules” of the Baptist faith that both groups identified as common ground and were willing to adhere to.  This landmark agreement is preserved and recorded among the records of the Welsh Tract Baptist Church.


In 1708 David Meredith decides to turn the property that he owns but is still occupied by David James over to a pair of real estate brokers to make arrangements for its final disposition.  It is not clear whether the men hired by David Meredith were intended to facilitate the sale of the property directly to David James, but what is known is that on May 22, 1708 an agreement is made between David Meredith of the first part, and Robert Jones of Marion Township and Meredith Davies of Plymouth Township of the second part for the benefit of David Meredith’s daughter Sarah and her husband Rees Prees who are described as being of the “third part.”  In this agreement, David Meredith agrees to “rent” this 253 acres of land to Robert Jones and Meredith Davies for a period of one year (1708-1709).  During this one year period Robert Jones and Meredith Davies were to act as real estate agents for David Meredith and sell the 253 acres with the proceeds of the sale to be given to David Meredith’s daughter Sarah and her husband Rees Prees.  Whether or not David James was the intended purchaser “at this time” is unknown but what is clear from the documented record is that these two men, Robert Jones and Meredith Davies made no effort whatsoever to conclude any sales transaction concerning the land.  In fact, the two men literally took no action for a period of ten years before David Meredith would once again take matters into his own hands.


On February 13, 1710 David’s wife Margaret gave birth to their fourth child, a daughter who was named Sarah James.  The family of David James was now composed of three daughters and a son, the oldest of whom, Mary, was already married.  By this time David’s son Thomas is an adult of about twenty years.  Thomas will remain single for another eighteen years during which time the James family homestead will enjoy the benefit of two able bodied men to continue cultivating the land.


By April 1711, the families of David James, Samuel Miles and Richard Miles participate in the construction of the Great Valley Baptist Church located in present day Devon, Pennsylvania.  David would eventually bequeath a sum to be used for the construction of a stone wall around the cemetery that surrounds the Church.  David would also determine that this is where he would eventually be laid to rest.


In February 1712, just ten months after the constitution of the Great Valley Baptist Church a gentleman by the name of Griffith John or “Jones” would settle in the Great Valley.  Before his arrival Griffith had been an ordained deacon of the Rhydwill M. Church of Caermarthenshire, Wales.  Griffith was also well known to Reverend Hugh Davis, the first pastor of the Great Valley Baptist Church who emigrated in 1710 and to the other original constituent members.  The significance of Griffith John was that he had two daughters: Mary and Margaret Jones who would eventually marry David’s two sons: Thomas and Evan James.  Also occurring in 1712, the Pennsylvania Assembly would ban the importation of slaves.  However, by 1730 about 4,000 slaves have been brought to Pennsylvania.


In 1715 David’s wife Margaret would give birth to the family’s sixth and final child, a son, Evan James.  Following the birth of Evan James in 1715 David’s wife Margaret Mortimer disappears from the historical record.  David would eventually go on to marry a woman by the name of “Jane” who is believed to have been died to the David or Davies family.  Nevertheless, David would have no further children following the passing of his first wife Margaret.


The year 1718 turned out to be a benchmark year for David James.  On March 14, 1718, nearly ten years following the agreement of May 22, 1708 between David Meredith, Robert Jones and Meredith Davies, David Meredith finally took matters into his own hands.  Jones and Davies had been given one full year to dispose of Meredith’s land in Radnor and, after ten long years, had still not sold the 253 acres to David James or anyone else.  Pursuant to their agreement of 1708 Jones and Davies were required to surrender the land to Meredith’s son-in-law Rees Prees by 1709.  But that had never happened.  Consequently, on March 14, 1708 Robert Jones and Meredith Davies were compelled to sign a legal document surrendering and delivering up all their rights in the property to Rees Prees.  The following month, on April 14, 1718 David Meredith and his son in law sold all of the 253 acres of land in Radnor Township to David James at a considerable discount, the same land that had been occupied by David James had occupied since 1682.  With this transaction, David James finally secured full legal title to the lands he actually settled upon his arrival and had been developing over the past thirty-six years.  A very important provision within the indenture is the full forgiveness and exoneration of any potential rent moneys that may have been legally owed to David Meredith by David James for his occupancy of the land prior to 1718.


David’s final and complete legal acquisition of his lands in Radnor could not have come at a better time.  In the decade to follow, the 1720’s the Colony of Pennsylvania would enjoy an unprecedented period of economic prosperity.  It is during this time, the 1720’s that David’s agricultural operation in Radnor came into fruition and the James family began to amass wealth following thirty years of struggle.  These were the happy days for David as he watched his children grow as well as his flocks of sheep and his fields of grain.  Over the next two decades David’s agricultural operation would grow significantly.  He would also acquire additional lands in the neighboring township of Upper Merion, which he would give to his eldest son Thomas.


Beginning in 1730, David would see the rest of his children begin building families of their own.  The next child to leave the nest was David’s daughter Rebecca James, who in 1730 married John Miles, the son of Richard Miles and Sarah Evans.  This union would cement an already lifelong tie between the James family and the Miles family of Radnor.  Rebecca would go on to have six children including: James Miles, Enos Miles, John Miles, Sarah Miles, Rebecca Miles and Hannah Miles.


In 1731 Benjamin Franklin would open the first library in the colonies in the City of Philadelphia.  In the year 1733 David’s sons Thomas James and Evan James were baptized at the Great Valley Baptist Church. By 1735 David James was married to his second wife Jane for on December 30, 1735 we know that David his wife Jane deeded to David’s son Thomas James a plantation called “Small Springs” in Upper Marion Township.  The transaction is recorded in Philadelphia Deed Book H on pages 12 and 283.


On February 18, 1736, David’s daughter Sarah James married John Thomas (1713-1790) in Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.  John was a Baptist minister and the son of William Thomas and Ann Griffith.  Sarah would go on to have four children including:  Anna Thomas, Rebecca Thomas, Leah Thomas and Sarah Thomas.


In 1737 David James and his eldest son Thomas are listed on a document entitled “A Subscription Towards the Supporting of ye Ministry in ye Great Valley In the Year 1737.”  Both men are listed as contributing three pence to the support of the ministry at the Great Valley Baptist Church.  The year 1737 also saw a contingent from the congregation of the Welsh Tract Baptist Church migrates south to the Pee Dee River in South Carolina to establish a new Welsh Baptist settlement.  This settlement was named “Welsh Neck” after the pioneers’ former residence and later give birth to the Welsh Neck Baptist Church.


In 1738 David’s eldest son Thomas at the ripe age of 48 would wed Mary Jones (1716-1745), the daughter of Griffith and Catherine John who are now living in Tredyffrin, Pennsylvania.  Thomas and Mary would go on to have three children:  Enoch James, Leah James and Elias James.  Mary would die shortly after giving birth to Elias in 1745 and Thomas would wed, yet again to Sarah Henderson, daughter of Alexander Henderson in that same year who would bear him two more children: Daniel and Jonathan James.


By 1738, David James is reaching his twilight years and realizes that his time left on Earth is limited.  On March 10, 1738 David James prepares his last will and testament setting forth the terms of the distribution of his considerably large estate.  On June 8, 1739, just weeks before his passing, David’s son Evan married Margaret Jones, the other daughter of Griffith John. Evan and Margaret would go on to have five children:  Rebecca James, Griffith James, Samuel James, Hannah James and Rachel James.  Evan would be the one to inherit the main body of his father’s land in Radnor Township.  Evan’s elder brother Thomas having already been given lands by his father in neighboring Upper Marion Township in 1735.  On June 27, 1739 David James dies.  He is laid to rest in the cemetery of the Great Valley Baptist Church, the Church he helped construct.  And although he is approximately 79 years of age at the time of his death, his tombstone reports him to be 70 years of age.




David James’ Indenture to 100 Acres of Land in Pennsylvania from Richard Davies of Welch Poole, Montgomery County, Wales to David Meredith of Llanbister, Radnor County, Wales, June 21, 1682.


“Certificate of Removal of David & Margaret James from Radnorshire Men’s (Quaker) Meeting”, July 20, 1683, Volume 1, Page 308 of the Records of the Haverford Monthly Meeting of Friends John M. George, Recorder.


Patent for 33 Acres of Land in Radnor Township, Pennsylvania with Confirmation of 253 Acres to David Meredith from William Penn through His Land Commissioners in Philadelphia dated 1704.


Indenture and Title to 253 Acres of Land, In Radnor Township, Pennsylvania, Conveyed by David Meredith of Plymouth Township, PA and Rees Prees of Merion Township, PA to David James of Radnor Township, PA, April 14, 1718, Acknowledged in Chester County, PA, April 12, 1749, Recorded in Delaware County, PA December 23, 1862.


Last Will and Testament of David James (c. 1660-1739) Including an Accounting and Inventory of his Estate.


Last Will and Testament and Estate of Jane James (-1750) of Radnor Township, Pennsylvania, January 19, 1750, From Abstract of Wills and Administrations of Chester County, Pennsylvania, Page 519, And, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Will Book J, page 348, Analysis by Larry P. James, March 17, 2012.


“History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, From the Discovery of the Territory Included Within It’s Limits to the Present Time, With a Notice of the Geology of the County, and Catalogues of It’s Minerals, Plants, Quadrupeds and Birds” by George Smith, M.D., publication date 1862, published by Henry B. Ashmead, Philadelphia. pages 474-475 and 535.


“First Recorded History of the James Family”, From Memorial of Thomas Potts, Junior Who Settled in Pennsylvania With An Historic-Genealogical Account of His Descendants To The Eight Generation, by Isabella Batchelder James, Privately Printed in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1874, Chapter Entitled, “Fourth Generation, No. 59, Henrietta Potts,” Page 251.


"Merion in the Welsh Tract With Sketches of The Townships of Haverford and Radnor," by Thomas Allen Glenn, Publication date 1896. Published by Norristown, pages 37 and 55.


"Welsh Founders of Pennsylvania" by Thomas Allen Glenn, publication date 1911, published in Oxford, England, pages 42 and 78.


"Welsh Settlement of Pennsylvania" by Charles Henry Browning, publication date 1912, published by W.J. Campbell, Philadelphia, pages 217, 222, 227-228, 231, 256, 424, 438, and 498.


“Radnorshire Settlers in the Foundation of Pennsylvania”, Published in The Radnorshire Society Transactions, 1959, volume 29, pages 3-19, by Frank Noble, B.A.


The James family “Mansion House” of Radnor Township (circa 1700-circa 1980)


The Welsh Tract in Pennsylvania Considered Especially in Regard to The Causal Inclusion Therein of Easttown and Tredyffrin,” by Franklin L. Burns, published by Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society, History Quarterly Digital Archives, January 1982, Vol. 20, No. 1, pages 3-11.


“David James (c.1669-1739) of Radnor Township, Pennsylvania, An Analysis of Past and Current Research”, December 10, 2005; Rev. October 15, 2006, by Larry P. James.


“The Impact of ‘A Rare and Pleasing Thing...’ On the History of David James”, 2006, by Larry P. James.

Building America - The Colonial History of David James (c.1660-1739)

of Llandegley and Glascwm parishes, Radnorshire, Wales


2015, Revised January 10, 2021

by Larry P. James