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Thu, 18 May 2006
Early Shippensburg History / Edward Shippen & James Burd
With my election to the position of Historian for the Lambda Delta chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi secure and my instillation as an officer of the chapter's Executive Board, I am now finally free to advance my idea of exploring and compiling the rich cultural and music history of Shippensburg and the greater Cumberland County area for the benefit of my fraternity, my band, and my university.

Over the past year I have designated at least three vital historian institutions that will be instrumental in the creation of this project: The Lancaster County Historical Society, the Shippensburg Historical Society, and the Cumberland County Historical Society. All of which, in my opinion, hold keys to this great history-gathering undertaking. I had the opportunity on May 17 to visit the Lancaster County Historical Society in the hopes of gaining information on local musical trends here and how they might have influenced its sister county (information familiar to me thanks to my research through the Tri-M Music Honors Society), information on the town's founder and namesake (Lancastrian Edward Shippen), and any pulmonary information available on current musical groups or trends established in Shippensburg such as the Shippensburg Town Band, etc.

The first grouping of information I'd like to report on is the pulmonary information I have gathered on Edward Shippen. Shippen was a renowned elder statesman in Lancaster during the days of the American Revolution and his influence on local history is something I have read a lot on through my work at the Discover Lancaster County History Museum in Lancaster and the Lancaster Historical Society had a wealth of information to share. Born on July 9, 1703 to Massachusetts Quakers Joseph Shippen and Abigail Grosse, Shippen was destined to be a character in Pennsylvania history thanks to the example of his father. Due to his father's strong political feelings, his multiple re-marriages, and his constant "qurrel[ing] with the Boston Quakers", the elder Shippen (who probably worked as an attorney) moved his family further south to Philadelphia where he would go on to serve as the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1699 and Philadelphia's second mayor (following the Penn-appointed Humphrey Morrey thus making him Philadelphia's first legitimately elected mayor) from 1701 to 1703.

Being the eldest son, Edward followed his father into the practice of the law, opening his own practice, and gaining a position in the Philadelphia City Council in 1732. He also began to establish himself as a prosperous merchant, going into business with renowned Indian diplomat and colonial secretary James Logan and eventually becoming his business partner in 1732. In 1744, Shippen was elected mayor of Philadelphia. He would not hold the position long however. In close-knit Philadelphia society, Shippen had sparked rumors of his fitfulness for office when he had divorced his first wife, Sarah Plumley, and married a much younger woman, Mary Gray, before his first marriage was nullified. The gossip sparked a damaging scandal to Shippen's reputation within the conservative Quaker Assembly and Shippen left Philadelphia in 1745. During his time as a merchant, his business dealing had taken him to a small frontier town called Lancaster where he had negotiated the local fur trade. Shippen moved his new family there and began to build not only a prosperous private law practice, but also a vibrant civic resume serving as Recorder and Register of Deeds, Paymaster, and city burgess (the colonial equivalent of mayor) for Lancaster City.

When the American Revolution began, Shippen was a hesitant patriot. He objected to the taxes placed on the American colonists by the British Parliament, but believed (as his fellow Pennsylvanian Benjamin Franklin did) that if King George III was informed of these protests that he would act on the colony's behalf. In the meantime, he served on the local Committee of Correspondents, which helped to strengthen unity and communication between the colonies, and he organized a relief effort for the benefit of his old hometown of Boston when the British army closed the harbor and occupied the city following the Boston Tea Party. Following the fighting at Lexington and Concord, he chaired a committee that helped to organize and arm Lancaster's patriots to fight the British and oversee the day-to-day activities of the local POW camp that was organized to house British and German "Hessian" soldiers. Though Shippen would applaud the Declaration of Independence, his eldest son (who was also named Edward) did not share his father's zeal for the patriot cause and took a much more neutral stance from his home and merchant business in Philadelphia. His daughter Peggy, Shippen's granddaughter, would eventually marry an American general-turned-traitor named Benedict Arnold and become instrumental in his failed plot to sell out the American base at West Point to the British. Other interested facts that came to light about this elder Pennsylvania statesman included his love of gardening and books (he had one of the largest libraries in the colony) and his habit of brewing his own beer in the basement of his mansion!

While he was a public servant in Philadelphia, Shippen had purchased, in 1737, twelve hundred to thirteen hundred acres of land in what is today Cumberland County in the hopes of starting a town that would be beneficial to his business in the fur trade. He laid out the town carefully in accordance with local settlers in the area and heavily traveled Indian paths (one of which was the basis for King Street in Shippensburg). The new town would be named Shippensburg, after himself. Assisting the elder statesman and merchant in the day-to-day administration of town would be his son-in-law Joseph Burd, who was known in official records as the "superintendent" of affairs. Burd had been born in 1726 in Edinburgh, Scotland and had immigrated to America via London in 1747, establishing a prosperous merchant business and marrying Shippen's daughter Sarah, from his first wife, in 1749. Following a disastrous business venture in Jamaica in 1751, Shippen took pity on his son-in-law and sent him and his family west to Shippensburg to work in the growing farming and milling industries there a year later. When the French and Indian War erupted, Burd became an invaluable servant both to Shippen and the colonial government as he organized frontier defenses and strengthen military supply lines. Commissioned as a captain in the provincial militia, Burd oversaw the construction of roads for General Edward Braddock's ill-fated march on Fort Duquesne and helped to build many frontier forts, including Shippensburg's Fort Morris. He also served as a mediator and justice of the peace between the Native Americans and American settlers and between competing European settlers from Pennsylvania and Connecticut in the disputed Wyoming Valley. Following the war, he served as a magistrate in Lancaster, worked with his father-in-law on the Boston relief effort, and help an honorary commission in the Continental Army. Burd and Shippen's correspondents have been wonderfully preserved at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia and offer a wealth of insight that might also hold clues to Shippensburg's early musical history.

Posted by Gerry at 7:06 PM EDT
Updated: Thu, 18 May 2006 7:09 PM EDT
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