96 – Joseph Jervis (7G) Comes of Age

In 1693, Joseph Jervis was about 21 years old.

Old enough to acquire land, pay taxes, and go to court.

A Freeman

In 1693 a provincial tax was levied of one penny per pound on estates, and six shillings per head on freemen.

Joseph appears on the 1683 tax list for Middletown Township. He’s a “freeman”. That means he’s not married. And he’s not a landholder. Freemen were taxed a flat rate of 6 shillings.

Middletown Township Tax List – 1693

It’s interesting that Elizabeth Jervis Cookson isn’t on this tax list. I don’t know what to make of that. She or her husband Joseph Cookson is on the tax list for later years.

And it’s interesting that there are fourteen people on the tax list for the township, a rather small number of people nine years after Elizabeth settled here.

Joseph Buys Land

In 1695, Joseph purchased 200 acres of land from Richard Barnard. The land was just a short distance south of Elizabeth’s land.

Joseph Patents Land

In 1701, Joseph applied for and received 150 acres of land from William Penn the Proprietor. It had never been warranted to anyone, so Joseph could acquire it directly from the proprietor’s land commission. (See Extra Credit for more detail)

This land was between Joseph’s 1695 land and Elizabeth’s land.

Joseph’s two land holdings are like Elizabeth’s – rocks and trees and creeks and valleys and hills. But between them they held 500 acres of land. That’s a lot.

Old Middletown Road runs through Joseph’s properties, so we can see what the land looks like today. It’s an area of wealthy suburbs 12 miles west of Philadelphia, and Joseph’s land holds stately old homes separated on acreages.

Old Middletown Road was originally laid out in 1687 as Edgemont Road. It went from Chester at the south end up to Concord and Providence at the north.

By 1701, Joseph Jervis was about age 28, and his sister Ruth 21. Elizabeth was about 48. Joseph Cookson had died, but his son and two daughters with Elizabeth were young teenagers.

So between Elizabeth, Ruth, and Joseph Jervis, and Daniel, Hannah, and Mary Cookson, there were lots of hands to work.

Joseph pays taxes…

Now that Joseph is an adult, and a landowner, he’s gotta pay taxes.

He appears on the tax list in Middletown in 1696 and again in 1698.

… and goes to court

Joseph was appointed constable for Middletown Township in 1696 and 1698.

And he was involved in court cases, the earliest of many over his life. Lots of settlers were in court. There were land transfers and constant disputes over properties. There were innumerable disputes over debts.

I’m surprised at the number of residents in each court session for such a small population.

And Joseph was in the mix. Perhaps he was a bit of a scoundrel about debts he owed. He was in court dozens of times, defendant much more often than plaintiff.

Here are a few early examples of Joseph’s court cases.

John Worrall of this county complains Against Joseph Jervis of the County in a plea That Whereas the said Dft the Eight day of January Anno Dom 1698/9 became justly indebted to the pltf in the sum of thirteen pounds,…

John Worrall v Joseph Jervis – January 8, 1699

Here’s a court case that gives a bit of insight about Joseph. He has a servant. Who would have guessed?

Chester 26, 3 mo, 1702

We the grand jury for the body of Chester do present Benjamin Pattison now or late servant of Joseph Jervis of Middletown the county aforesaid for some time in the second month last past breaking into the house of Joseph Baker and taking away a certain sum of money containing two pieces eight.

Benjamin Pattison being called to answer the presentment aforsaid appeared and confessed the fact, the court gave judgment for two pounds eight shilling to be paid to Joseph Baker with lawful fees and to be whipt with eleven lashes on his bear back and wear a T according to law of yellow color.

And this Court considering the damages that Joseph Jervis hath sustained by the said Benjamin Felony Orders the said Benjamin to serve Jervis one year and a half for the said damages…

Chester County Court of the Quarter Sessions – 26 day of the 3 month 1702

And another case that offers insight about Joseph. He owns a silver watch. Who’d have thought?

Hugh Frazer being called appeared to answer the presentment of the Grand Jury last court and pleads guilty of stealing a silver watch from Joseph Jervis ordered that Hugh Frazer be whipt with 21 lashes on his bare back and that his master Thomas Jones shall pay unto Joseph Jervis forty shillings

Chester County Court of the Quarter Sessions – thirtieth day of May 1704

I had some pre-conceived ideas that Joseph was a peasant farmer. Not so. He’s a planter, but also a miller and perhaps an entrepreneur trader.

We’ll visit more of Joseph’s notable court proceedings in future posts.

Nibbles Extra Credit

Recall that obtaining land from William Penn consisted of five steps:

  • Application – a request (typically oral) was made for a parcel
  • Warrant – this granted the land, set a price, and ordered a survey
  • Survey – the survey was done
  • Return – the return included survey and measurement notes
  • Patent – applicant applied, and patent was granted

In the case of Joseph’s 1701 land, we’ve found the complete set of documents for the process. That’s amazing.


In February 1701, Joseph requested a warrant for 150 acres of vacant land adjacent and between Elizabeth’s land and his own 200 acres. He claimed that the land hadn’t been taken because of its “barrenness”. From the looks of the land today, I suspect that “barrenness” meant there was no arable land for crops.


At the land commission meeting in Philadelphia on September 27, 1701, William Penn acknowledged Joseph’s request and granted him a warrant. The price is to be determined by Caleb Pusey and Nathaniel Newlin, two Middletown neighbors.


The order to survey Joseph’s land warrant was sent to Isaac Taylor by Surveyor General Edward Penington in Philadelphia on October 9, 1701.

The land was surveyed March 1, 1702 by Isaac Taylor. You can see the adjacent land is owned by Elizabeth Cookson.


The survey was returned, and Joseph applied for a patent. The price had been set by Pusey and Newlin at £12 per 100 acres. So Joseph paid £18. At the land commission meeting June 8 and 9, 1702, it was ordered that “a patent be accordingly granted.”


Here is the patent recorded in the Patent Book on July 16, 1702. This is the government’s copy. Joseph would also have received his own copy.



  • Middletown Township Tax List – 1693 – Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
  • Excerpt of a 1695 deed from Richard Barnard to Joseph Jarvis – Record of the Courts of Chester County, Pennsylvania
  • Joseph Jervis – Warrant – Land Commissioners meeting – Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
  • Joseph Jervis – Survey Order and Survey – Taylor Papers – Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
  • Joseph Jervis – Patent application and grant – Minute Book G – Land Commissioners – Pennsylvania State Archives – Harrisburg, PA
  • Joseph Jervis – Patent – Patent Book A – Pennsylvania State Archives – Harrisburg, PA
  • Image – Lawyer and Villagers – Engraving by Knesing, ‘La Ilustracion’, 1882
  • Image – Settler – Abraham Martin (portrayed by artist Charles Huot in 1908)
  • Image – Settler – An Italian Peasant, with landscape sketch verso

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