Walking Purchase: 1737

An action by which Pennsylvania authorities, lead by Thomas Penn, William Penn’s son, defrauded the Delaware Indians of land in the Lehigh and Delaware Valleys. The Delawares had been the most friendly tribe to William Penn when he founded the colony. The Colonial authorities claimed to have found a lost treaty, of 1686, unsigned, ceding a tract of Delaware tribal land between the forks of the Delaware and Lehigh rivers that extended as far as a man could walk in 1 1/2 days—about 40 miles, starting from Wrightstown, Pa and going north. Penn hired the three fastest walkers in the colony and offered a large prize to the one who could cover the most land. The winner, running on a carefully cleared path, crossed more than twice the land the Delaware had anticipated—causing the tribe to lose about 1,200 square miles (3,100 square km) of their land. At Thomas Penn’s request, members of the Iroquois Confederacy helped enforce this unpopular decision. In reaction to this and other frauds, the Delaware joined the French in the Ohio country and returned to ravage the Pennsylvania frontier during the French and Indian War (1756–63). In 1758 the northern half of the purchase was relinquished to the Iroquois Confederacy; the Delaware received £400 in compensation for it four years later.

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