>> Monday, January 11, 2010
In 1682, Barnabas WILCOX, a Quaker from a family of shipbuilders and outfitters in Bristol, England, came to Philadelphia with 13-year-old son Joseph, arriving shortly before William Penn.
Barnabas soon established the city's first rope walk to produce the heavy ropes every ship required.
If you've ever made a "rope" of yarn, the process is a miniature of the making of nautical rope. The halfway point of long strands of hemp was secured at one end of an open shed, then the ends stretched tightly and rotated while being "walked" to the other end, resulting in a rope several inches thick.
According to early maps of Philadelphia, the rope walk was two city blocks long - "at the north side of the town, running westward from Front to Third, north of Vine Street".
In 1684, Joseph and Barnabas returned to England to fetch wife Sarah and the rest of their children. They possibly made the voyage in the originally-French ship Hope, which had been scheduled to be scrapped but the Philadelphia Council sold "by inch of candle" [meaning 'at the last minute'?] to Barnabas for £59 s10 d6.
While they were away, the premium lots assigned to Barnabas as one of Penn's First Purchasers, on which he intended to build a home, was given to someone else. After his return, he was eventually given land in a less desirable location. As recently as 20 years ago, the resulting lawsuit was still used as a model case in real estate law at one U.S. law school.
In 1706, Barnabas and Sarah's daughter Rachel, b. in Philadelphia in 1685, married Elisha GATCHELL, Sr., son of Jeremiah and Elizabeth (Boude) Gatchell.