New Hope

Oral History

New Hope is the oldest town in Solebury Township, Bucks County. A grant of land from William Penn to Richard Heath in 1710 included the site of the borough. There were two tracts of 500 acres each, known as the Mill Tract and the Ferry Tract. The earliest ferry across the river was built in 1719 but the best-known was Coryell’s Ferry, which also was the name of the settlement until 1790 when a great fire destroyed the flour, linseed oil and lumber mills of businessman Benjamin Parry. With determination and renewed hope for the future, Parry at once rebuilt his mills and called them New Hope Mills.

Coryell’s Ferry was an important river crossing during the Revolutionary War and was heavily fortified by General George Washington. It was just a few miles upstream of McConkey’s Ferry where Washington’s troops crossed the river, marched to Trenton and surprised and defeated a large Hessian force on Christmas night, 1776.

New Hope Mills grew following the great fire of 1790. On a map made for Benjamin Parry in 1798, there were thirty-four buildings including dwellings, stores, shops, barns, a tavern, stables and saw mills. A post office was established in 1805 and the town was incorporated as New Hope in 1837.

The Delaware Canal at New Hope, which opened in 1831, contained four locks (8, 9, 10 and 11) in a half-mile stretch of the canal. Their combined drop was more than 30 feet, which reflected the quick drop of the Delaware River through the treacherous rapids at the south end of town. Along the river’s banks in this general area were lumber yards, facilities for making boat repairs, and accommodations for the work boats used by the canal maintenance crews.

At Lock 8, boats could leave the Delaware Canal and cross the Delaware River by cable ferry to the Delaware and Raritan Canal in Lambertville, New Jersey. In order to increase the amount of water in the Delaware Canal, Josiah White designed water wheels at Union Mills, just south of the town. The wheels were constructed in 1832 and pumped 3,500 cubic feet of water per minute into the canal from the Delaware River. The wheels operated until 1932 when the canal went out of operation.