In 1681, King Charles II of England gave a New World land grant to William Penn. Penn named the land "Sylvania." The king called it Pennsylvania, after Penn's father, who'd been an admiral and who'd also lent Charles loads of money. Pennsylvania was the king's way of paying back the debt to the family, and also of getting rid of William, who was a Quaker and considered a troublemaker.
Penn set aside land parcels for his family and friends. His son, William Jr., received 7,000 acres, roughly from what we today know as Saw Mill Run, up the river past Barbados Island (West Norriton Township), inland to include what today is East Norriton. Junior never lived on this land, in fact, he seems to have sold off the parcel fairly quickly.
|Isaac Norris, Jr.|
So, for more than its first hundred years, none of the owners of the lion's share of Penn Junior’s land lived on it. That's right, Norristown was begun by absentee landlords.
Apparently, everyone thought the town name was too pretentious or too long. They called us Norristown. We applied to the state to become a borough and the governor signed the incorporation charter on March 31, 1812. Why that date? Possibly that was just when the charter ended up on his desk. It was a Tuesday, if anyone cares.
So, Norristown essentially began with absentee landlords and other outsiders, who made most of the decisions that would effect the residents and shape our town.
In some ways, we don't seem to have evolved much beyond that in 205 years.