Gettysburg (WHTM) If you drive along Route 30 in Adams County, you will encounter a pair of state historical markers-one to the east of Gettysburg, the other to the west. They mark the boundaries of a piece of land that predates not only Gettysburg, but Adams County. Welcome to the Manor of Maske.
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In 1681 Charles the Second, King of England, struck a deal with William Penn. The King owed Penn a ton of money because his father, the late Admiral William Penn, sank a lot of his own cash into keeping the Royal Navy afloat. In exchange for cancelling the debt, the king gave Penn an enormous tract of land in the New World-Pennsylvania.
The charter contained a provision which allowed the Penn family to create Manors:
“Wee give and grant licence vnto the said William Penn, and his heires, likewise to all and every such person and persons to whom the said William Penn, or his heires, shall at any time hereafter, grant any estate of inheritance as aforesaid, to erect any parcels of Land within the pvince aforesaid, into mannors, by and with the licence to be first had and obteyned for that purpose…”
While most land in Pennsylvania was sold for a set price per acre, prices in Manors depended on the quality of the land, and what sort of deal you could make with the proprietors.
The Manor of Maske was established in 1741, though it didn’t get surveyed until 1766. It was named after the Yorkshire, England estate of one Anthony Lowther, husband of William Penn’s sister Margaret. Somewhere along the way, the spelling got changed; the original Yorkshire estate is named the Manor of Marske. (The manor house, Marske Hall, is now a residential care home.) The Penn’s Manor of Maske measured over 40,000 acres, and took up a large chunk of Adams County, including Gettysburg and a large part of the Gettysburg Battlefield, keeping in mind that Adams County wouldn’t be split off from York County until 1800, and Gettysburg wouldn’t be founded until 1806, and the battle wouldn’t happen until 1863.
But the manor had ceased to be, long before any of those events. When the thirteen colonies declared independence in 1776, that was the end of royal governance-including the Penn Proprietorship. In 1779 the Pennsylvania legislature passed the “Divesting Act”, which confiscated any land the Penns hadn’t already gotten around to selling-except for the manors. The Penn family sold off these blocks of land, and by the early 1800s the Manor of Maske was a footnote in Pennsylvania history.