Marking Time highlights one of the more than 2,500 markers that have been installed throughout the state since 1914 as part of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program, operated by PHMC's State Historic Preservation Office.

Not long after he received the charter for Pennsylvania from King Charles II in March 1681, founder William Penn (1644–1718) thought it prudent to travel to the New World to consolidate his claims and exercise his legal authority. In anticipation, he appointed William Markham (1635–1704) deputy governor and issued a proclamation instructing the colony’s inhabitants to transfer allegiance from the Duke of York (later King James II) to Penn.

Preparations took months until, on August 30, 1682, the last of one hundred passengers, mostly Quakers, boarded the Welcome at the English port of Deal for the two-month voyage. Thirty passengers perished from smallpox during the crossing.

Artists have long romanticized William Penn’s arrival in the New World, their paintings depicting a crowd of congenial Native Americans and European settlers welcoming him. In reality, when his ship arrived at Chester, one historian noted, “neither the hour, the day, nor the manner of his landing is certainly known.” A letter written October 29, 1682, by Penn to Ephraim Hermann regarding the convening of a court at New Castle in present-day Delaware indicates that he had arrived by that date at the seat of government in Upland, the previous name for Chester, in Pennsylvania. Settlers from Sweden had named Upland after the Swedish province of Uppland. Penn’s letter to Hermann documented his arrival at New Castle on October 27, making October 28 the most likely arrival date at Chester. “We arrived at Uplan in pennsilvania, ye [October 28], ‘82,” Evan Oliver, a passenger on the Welcome later wrote.

Penn disappointed local officials at New Castle who had planned a dinner for him. Instead, the proprietor conducted business aboard the Welcome where he accepted the “surrender” of the “lower counties” — present-day Delaware. Penn presented two deeds, grants of feudal title signed by the Duke of York one week before Penn’s departure from England, to John Moll, justice of the court at New Castle. He annexed the three lower counties that remained in the Penn family until after the American Revolution.

Penn spent his first night on Pennsylvania soil at Essex House, the dwelling of Robert and Lydia Wade, an estate originally named Printzdorp when built by Armard Papegoya, a Swedish settler. Wade, the first Quaker to settle in Upland and later elected to Penn’s first Provincial Council and Assembly of Pennsylvania, acquired the house in 1675. Penn immediately set an extremely busy schedule, implementing his frame of government, negotiating borders, completing the plan of the city of Philadelphia, overseeing land patents and warrants, and preparing his residence at Pennsbury Manor in Bucks County. Pennsbury Manor is administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) as a popular stop on the Pennsylvania Trails of HistoryTM. Not long after he arrived, Penn wrote, “I am come well hither, I thank God, and like the land, air, and food very well. . . . I have received universal civilities and congratulations from the people of divers governments. I hope for a lasting concord among us.”

A state historical marker erected by the PHMC, “Penn Landing,” located at Second and Penn Streets in Chester, Delaware County (formed from Chester County in 1789), was dedicated October 13, 1947. The Delaware County Historical Society built a small memorial park near the Delaware River, in the shadow of large industrial buildings, as a place for reflection and rumination where William Penn took his first steps on Pennsylvania soil 325 years ago.

Several organizations and institutions in the Philadelphia area will host the second annual “William Penn’s Welcome Week,” October 13–21, with a variety of special activities and events.