Physically, Buckingham is the biggest township in the county, covering 33 square miles. Its geography is dominated by Buckingham Mountain which rises to a height of 520 feet, but its landscape is characterized by gently rolling countryside. Blessed by many streams and rich soil, it has yielded bountiful harvests for 300 years.
Prior to European settlement, this area was the home of the Lenni Lenape Indians, and many of our place names - Lahaska, Holicong and Neshaminy, for example - reflect the cadence of their language. Coming at Penn's invitation, English and Welsh Quakers were the principal pioneers in the Township. However, many German-speaking dissenters from high church orthodoxy were also early settlers in the county. As a consequence, the wonderful old stone houses and barns so typical of Bucks County reflect both English and German architectural traditions.
Agriculture has been Buckingham's principal industry since its founding, and the Township still retains a strong farm community. However, since the mid-1970s, there has been a substantial shift in the landscape from rural to suburban. New needs have accompanied the change in character. The Township now provides public parks and recently purchased an additional 40 acres for needed sports fields. The police force has increased threefold to serve a population that grew from almost 9,000 in 1980 to over 16,000 today.
There are Buckingham families who have lived in the Township for generations, but most of us are more recent arrivals. Nonetheless, old and new residents have been united in their desire to preserve the scenic and historic character of the Township. In 1995, voters approved a referendum to borrow $4 million for the purchase of easements on Township farms that prevent their development forever. In 1999, by an even greater margin of support, Buckingham residents approved a second referendum for $9.5 million for the purchase of park land and additional easements. Most recently, in 2008, the voters once again overwhelmingly approved a referendum to borrow an additional $20 million for land preservation. In April 2009, the Township acted on its voters mandate by issuing an additional $7,560,000 in open space general obligation bonds.
There are 3,895 acres of Township farm fields, forests and streams that have now been preserved through the purchase of easements or gifts. Everyone in Buckingham has benefited.
THE OLD GENERAL GREENE INN
Composed by Terry McNealy, Member of the Buckingham Township Historic Commission
There is an imposing structure at the center of the village of Buckingham, at the intersection of the Old York Road (Route 263) and Durham Road (Route 413), and it is arguably one of the most important historic buildings in Bucks County. It is still known to locals as the General Greene Inn, although it ceased operating as an inn or tavern decades ago. It got its name around 1913, when a local historian discovered that on December 19, 1776, General Nathanael Greene, one of General George Washington's most trusted senior officers, wrote a letter at Bogart's Tavern, as the inn was then known. It ordered the collection of Durham boats in preparation for Washington's famous crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas night, in advance of the Battle of Trenton, one of the most significant events in the American Revolution.
That would be reason enough for making this building a historic landmark. But the real reason for this tavern's significance goes far beyond one military officer's brief visit and his writing a letter there. Bogart's Tavern played a crucial role in Bucks County's participation in the Revolution. The committee that directed the county's participation in the Revolution met here. In terms of the county's role in the lead-up to the war, Bogart's Tavern was the place where the plot was hatched.
The First Continental Congress in 1774 called for a boycott of British imports and other measures to oppose imperial oppression. It called on every county in every colony to establish a "Committee of Observation and Inspection" to carry out and enforce its requirements. These committees were often called, more simply, Committees of Safety. They were not legally part of local government, but rather were extra-legal, having no authority under the existing legal apparatus. But the impetus for change was becoming unstoppable, and the old colonial government tried to ignore the coming changes and did nothing.
In Bucks County a public meeting was held at Newtown (then the county seat) on December 15, 1774, and a county committee was chosen. That meeting took place at the old courthouse, demolished back in the 19th century. The committee met a couple of times at Newtown, and then once or twice at Richard Leedom's tavern in Northampton Township (known for years as the Black Bear, and torn down many years ago). After that it moved to John Bogart's Tavern in Buckingham, where it first met on July 21, 1775, and got down to serious business.
The committee raised money for the relief of the citizens of Boston, which was occupied at the time by British troops and besieged by the fledgling American army. It also tracked down and demanded apologies from men who spoke critically of the committee or of Congress, and others who drank to the king's health. Most important, the committee tried to enforce the Congress's rules to enforce the embargo and to encourage American enterprise. When the Congress gave up on peaceful means and requested that the colonies to begin military training, several Quaker members of the committee resigned due to their pacifist beliefs, and replacements were elected.
In the summer of 1775 the committee oversaw the compilation of lists in each township of "Associators," who took part in military exercises, and of "Non-Associators," who refused. At later meetings, it settled disputes among the companies of Associators (one in each township) and coordinated the collection of arms from Non-Associators. In 1776 it saw to the recruitment of a company of soldiers for the "Flying Camp" for active service alongside the Continental Army. That company's service in the campaign around New York City, including the Battle of Fort Washington, was the first by a unit raised in Bucks County.
In May and June 1776 the committee oversaw the choice of delegates to a conference in Philadelphia that called for a convention that drew up a new constitution for Pennsylvania that finally did away with the old regime and with the Penn family's proprietorship.
The new Pennsylvania constitution of 1776 put the revolutionary movement in charge of the new state, no longer a colony. It also made the extra-legal county committees obsolete. The Bucks County committees minutes end on August 29, 1776. The committee met at Bogart's Tavern at least a dozen times during a critically important period in the history of Bucks County, of Pennsylvania, and of the United States. The fact that the old tavern has survived is remarkable, even as the building has been enlarged and changed in the course of well over two centuries. Its preservation is an effort that the people of Buckingham should enthusiastically support.