Our earliest townships: Smithfield and Hamilton

Part 2 of a series of articles commemorating the 175th anniversary of Monroe County

By Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association

Smithfield Township

Smithfield Township was founded in 1748 and is named for John Smith, an early colonist who owned large tracts of land in the area. However, the first permanent European settler was Nicholas DePui who purchased 3,000 acres of land along the Delaware River in present-day Shawnee-on-Delaware. Smithfield Township is Monroe County’s earliest township.

Formed in 1682, the area now known as Smithfield Township was once part of Bucks County and was considered the northern extension of the county’s frontier. In 1742, the Bucks County courts designated a large area of land the size of present-day Smithfield and Middle Smithfield townships combined as “Smithfield Township;” this act officially brought the region’s settlers under Bucks County’s jurisdiction.

Four years later, the residents presented a petition to the Bucks County Commissioners to create a new Smithfield Township with updated boundary lines, proposing that the land should "begin at the gap in the mountains where the River Delaware runs through and from thence five or six miles northwest and then by a straight line to the Delaware." It wasn’t until 1748, after a second petition with different boundary lines was presented, that the courts granted the creation of this early township above the Blue Mountains.

Smithfield Township’s borders were not settled, and the municipality was again divided when Northampton County was formed from the northern portion of Bucks County in 1752. Because of the growing population in the area, the municipality was separated into Upper and Lower Smithfield Townships in the 1760s. In 1814, Northampton County divided the township once again, renaming Lower Smithfield Township as Smithfield Township. In 1836, Monroe County was created, and Smithfield Township was included as part of this newly-formed county. After “changing hands” a few times, Smithfield Township remains a vital part of Monroe County today.
Old Stone Church, Smithfield Township

The first church in Smithfield Township was the Reformed Dutch Smithfield Church (also known as the Old Log Church) and was organized in 1737. The Presbyterian Meeting House (also known as The Old Stone Church) was built in 1753 by Nicholas DePui, Samuel DePui and Abraham Van Kampen; the church welcomed all protestant denominations. Interestingly, the builders’ initials appeared on the church’s cornerstone and are part of the foundation of the present church.

The fertile lands along the Delaware River provided Smithfield Township with agricultural opportunities that were difficult to find in the Pocono Mountains. It was reported that Nicholas DePui had thousands of apple trees planted on his property. In addition, access to the Delaware River also allowed massive amounts of timber to be transported downriver to large urban markets.

At the time of the 1850 census, the population of Smithfield Township was 1,283. By 1900, the population increased to 4,692. The 2000 census counted 5,672 individuals that called this oldest township in Monroe County home.

The early villages of Smithfield Township:
  • Craig’s Meadows
    Marshalls Creek
    Minisink Hills

Hamilton Township

Hamilton Township was created on Dec. 24, 1762 and is the second-oldest township in Monroe County. Originally formed by the Northampton County court, Hamilton Township was most likely named in honor of James Hamilton, then the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania.

The earliest deed recorded in Hamilton Township was between the Penn family and Nicholas Weiser of Bucks County for 244 acres. This tract of land was shortly thereafter sold to Richard Peters, who sold the land to John McDowell in 1764. McDowell, an immigrant from northern Ireland, had lived with the Nicholas DePui family in Smithfield Township when he first arrived in the area. McDowell eventually married one of DePui’s daughters.

The earliest road in the township was the Sullivan Road, part of the route that Gen. John Sullivan had taken northward during his famed “march” in 1778 to the Wyoming Valley. The first school was constructed of logs and was located near the Hamilton Church. John Adam Eyer, a popular schoolmaster, taught there, in German, and was paid 50 cents per student per month for his work.
Christ Hamilton United Lutheran Church

The Christ Hamilton United Lutheran Church in Sciota is referred to as the “Mother Church” of Lutheran churches in Monroe County. The history of the congregation dates to 1755, and the first headstone in the church’s cemetery dates to 1778. The cornerstone of the church was laid on May 28, 1829, and the church was officially dedicated on Nov. 6-7, 1830. Sermons were delivered in German through the 1850s. The township‘s oldest burial ground is also associated with the Christ Church.

During the early days of Hamilton Township, agriculture was the inhabitants’ main occupation. There were limestone ridges that provided fertile soil for farm fields. The staple farming products in the 1880 were grains, corn, potatoes, hay, and fruits, including apples, pears, and plums. It was reported that peaches could “attain great perfection” in some regions of the township.

In 1840, the census reported that 1,508 individuals lived in Monroe County. One hundred years later, the population was 1,665. In 2000, the population of Hamilton Township was 8,235 people.

The villages of Hamilton Township
  • Bossardsville