restricted access John Churchman, Jr. of Nottingham
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JOHN CHURCHMAN, JR. OF NOTTINGHAM By A. Day Bradley* JOHN CHURCHMAN (1753-1805), surveyor, self-taught student of magnetic phenomena, and cartographer, was a birthright member of Nottingham Monthly Meeting. The Churchman family was long associated with the Nottingham community of Friends, established in 1701 by William Penn as a means of holding the lands in dispute between Maryland and Pennsylvania. The "Nottingham Lots," as the Penn grants were called, consisted of about 20,000 acres, practically all of which became Maryland territory when the boundary was established by Mason and Dixon. Consequently the East Nottingham Meetinghouse , built about 1706 on land given by William Penn, is located at Calvert, Maryland.1 John Churchman (b. 1666), an emigrant from Saffron Waiden , Essex, was one of the original Nottingham settlers. His son John Churchman (1705-1775) was the noted Quaker minister whose ministry is recorded in the Gospel Labours and Christian Experiences of John Churchman. George Churchman (17301814 ), the "Founding Father of Westtown," was the only child of John the minister.2 George Churchman's oldest child was John, born Fifth Month 29, 1753 at Nottingham. This John Churchman , grandson of John the minister, and great-grandson of John the emigrant, is not infrequently confused with his grandfather and is sometimes called John Jr. or John the scientist.3 * A. Day Bradley, a member of Scarsdale Monthly Meeting, is Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Hunter College. 1 Kirk Brown in Bi-Centennial of Brick Meeting-House (Lancaster, 1902), pp. 30-82. The East Nottingham Meetinghouse is known locally as the "Brick." A. Day Bradley, "The Churchmans of Nottingham Lots," Friends Intelligencer, Sixth Month 28, 1952. 2 An account of George Churchman's part in the founding of Westtown is given in "Letter from the Past" No. 101, Friends Intelligencer, Fifth Month 28, 1949. His unpublished journal has been discussed by Henry Cadbury in the New England Quarterly, XXIII (1950), 396-400. 3 The writer's attention was directed to John Churchman by "The Son of Westtown's Father------Letter from the Past" No. 120, Friends Intelligencer , Twelfth Month 22, 1951. 20 John Churchman, Jr., of Nottingham21 Land surveying was a popular vocation in the Churchman family. Records of numerous surveys made by three generations of the Churchman family are preserved in the collection of Churchman papers made by the late Kirk Brown, now at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.4 George Johnson in his History of Cecil County says that George Churchman was the most popular surveyor of the county and that his sons, John, Milcha, and Joseph were also surveyors.5 Quite possibly his knowledge of surveying led John Jr. to further study of the properties of the magnetic needle. Perhaps some of his motivation came from observing the work of Mason and Dixon, since as a young lad of thirteen he may well have seen the Pennsylvania-Maryland line established through the original Churchman grant. John Churchman's ambitions, both scientific and material, soon extended beyond the practice of surveying. Various records in the Kirk Brown Papers show that he was actively engaged in buying and selling land as well as other business ventures. On July 23, 1779, "Mr. Churchman gave in a memorial [to the American Philosophical Society] relative to a map of the peninsula between the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays, asking its examination and recommendation to publish." The Philosophical Society appointed an examining committee consisting of David Rittenhouse, John Lukens, John Ewing, Owen Biddle, and Dr. William Smith. The committee reported a month later that "we are of the opinion that he is possessed of sufficient materials . . . to construct an accurate map, and have no doubt but that he has executed his design with exactness and care, but cannot help expressing our desire of seeing the map laid down upon a much larger scale, which would render it more serviceable for promoting the Knowledge of Geography."6 Before approaching the American Philosophical Society John Churchman had signed an agreement with Daniel Few or Tew, 4 Hereafter cited as Kirk Brown Papers. 5 History of Cecil County, Maryland (Elkton, Maryland, 1881), p. 525 6 "Early Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society . . .Compiled by the Secretaries from the Manuscript...