Question of the Week

What ship carried William Penn and some of the first settlers to Pennsylvania across the Atlantic Ocean in 1682?

Sunday, 10/23/11

Answer: The Welcome.


William Penn and the first settlers of Pennsylvania sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on the ship Welcome. The Welcome departed from Deal, England, on August 31, 1682, and arrived at the mouth of the Delaware River (now New Castle, Delaware) on October 27, 1682, completing the Atlantic crossing in 57 days which was slow by 17th century standards. The voyage did not end without incident; nearly one-third of all the ship’s passengers died of smallpox. On October 28, 1682, the ship anchored at Upland (now Chester, Pennsylvania) on the site that had been chosen by Thomas Holme, Penn’s surveyor general.   

King Charles II of England granted Penn ownership of the land in order to pay off a large debt to Penn’s father, Admiral Sir William Penn. The younger Penn had first called the area Sylvania (Latin for woods), which the king later changed to Pennsylvania in honor of the elder Penn. One of the first counties of Pennsylvania was named Bucks County after Buckinghamshire (Bucks) in England, Penn’s family seat and the hometown of many of the first settlers.

The Welcome was one of 22 ships that crossed the Atlantic Ocean to bring the first 2,000 settlers to Pennsylvania between 1681 and 1682.  An original passenger list has not survived, but much research has been done to record who may have sailed with Penn. Descendants of those ancestors who traveled to America in 1682 may join a lineage organization known as the Welcome Society of Pennsylvania.

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania holds a large collection of Penn family papers (#485).  The Society also has the first printed map of the city of Philadelphia by Thomas Holme and several graphic items related to the Welcome.

Image: “The Ship Welcome, bearing William Penn and Colonists arriving in the Delaware River,” print from calendar by Home Insurance Company of New York (1935), Society print collection (Collection V89), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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