Plan Of Twenty Two Lots Of Ground Situated In Moyamensing Township and Sold by Joseph John Cowperthwait, Esq. High Sherriff for the City and County of Philadelphia in the State of Pennsylvania May 3, 1786. John Hills.
Plan Of Twenty Two Lots Of Ground Situated In Moyamensing Township and Sold by Joseph John Cowperthwait, Esq. High Sherriff for the City and County of Philadelphia in the State of Pennsylvania May 3, 1786.
Extraordinary John Hills Civil Survey Philadelphia - 1786

Plan Of Twenty Two Lots Of Ground Situated In Moyamensing Township and Sold by Joseph John Cowperthwait, Esq. High Sherriff for the City and County of Philadelphia in the State of Pennsylvania May 3, 1786.

Philadelphia: Author, 1786. Pen, ink and watercolor on vellum, 14.5” x 18.5”, on a 19.7” x 31" membrane. Housed in a tall quarto cloth portfolio with gilt stamped leather spine. (original) and cover labels – DEED BOOK – J. COWPERTHWAIT - 1786. Ink notations on map faded but legible, lightly rubbed, bright color. Very good to near fine overall. Item #100235

During the American Revolution, Lieutenant John Hills served in the British militia as an engineer and prepared regional maps and battle plans of New Jersey for General Clinton. His work was also used by William Faden who subsequently engraved and published the battle plans. Sometime after 1781 Hills assembled twenty of his regional maps of New Jersey into an atlas titled A Collection of Plans &c, &c, &c of the Province of New Jersey which was acquired by the Library of Congress in the 1880’s. According to J. Snyder he also published a Survey of Part of the said State of New Jersey in 1796.

Following the Treaty of Peace in 1783, Hills remained in America and appears to have taken up residence in Philadelphia. In 1788 John Hills prepared two large maps for the city of Philadelphia one being A Plan of Southwark and the other A Plan of the Townships of Moyamensing and Passyunk the District of Southwark in the City of Philadelphia….- see M. Snyder fig. 90 & pp.160-62. Both works are housed in the Philadelphia City Archives. Additionally, a 1786 Philadelphia newspaper advertisement shows Hills offering his services as surveyor and draughtsman and he also appears in Biddles 1791 Philadelphia Directory.
Clearly John Hills was present and active in Philadelphia in 1786 and likely acting in an official capacity. This stands to reason considering Hill was able to compile, construct and have engraved in London his superlative Plan of the City of Philadelphia and Environs available in America in 1796. In addition to his notable battle plans and the map noted above, Hills produced numerous regional maps of Pennsylvania and New Jersey along with a few covering New England and Maryland. All are quite rare today and only appear infrequently.

John Hills Plan Of Twenty Lots…. shows 137+ acres subdivided by court order into “twenty two small convenient Lots or Parcels and Numbered in the Plan thereof “lying in the lowlands of south Philadelphia, being the grassy meadow peninsula situated between the Schuylkill & Delaware Rivers. At the time this area was primarily occupied by Free Blacks, tenement farmers and Swedes although south of the subdivision is noted simply “Quakers”. Several improved roads are shown with two being named, Moyamensing Ave and South Street as well a Mansion House, Spring House, Stable and Barn in parcel No. 17 labeled M. Cox. Hollanders Creek is shown in blue partially bisecting the acreage. Parcel size and tenants noted on each lot. The precision and attention to detail displayed here reflect Hills expertise gained during his British military tenure in the Revolutionary War. This Plan constructed by Hills, on an approximate scale of 12 perches to an inch, is a detail view of a portion of Moyamensing Township included on his large manuscript "A Plan of the Townships of Moyamensing and Passyunk the District of Southwark in the City of Philadelphia…." described and illustrated by M. Snyder Philadelphia 131.

Captain Joseph Cowperthwait, a.k.a High Sheriff, was also a participant in the War of Independence, as Commander of the First Philadelphia Battalion of Militia and also as Colonel in the Philadelphia Militia during the Whiskey Insurrection in the 1790’s. In a 21 January 1795 letter, regarding the investigation of Secretary of War Henry Knox, from Alexander Hamilton to George Washington, Hamilton states that -
"Mr Copperthwait, the person mention’d in the communication of the Commissioner of the Revenue, is gone upon the business with more extensive powers. If I may rely on the accounts given of him by several of the most intelligent men of business of this City, he will answer every reasonable expectation".

The map was drawn on the verso of writ of execution which reads in part:

"I JOSEPH COWPERTHWAIT ESQUIRE HIGH SHERIFF of and for the City and County of Philadelphia in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, To all to Whom these presents shall come Greeting. Whereas Joseph Johnson now deceased in the Supreme Court in said Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by consideration of the Honorable Justices of the same court on the twenty fourth Day of December in the year of our Lord One Thousand seven hundred eighty four recovered against Henry Howell and his Wife late Mary Patterson who survived her husband Thomas Patterson and William Walker Terre-Tennant of the Tenements here described the Sum of One Thousand Nine Hundred and Thirty Five Pounds Principle and Interest of the Debt ascertained by the Verdict of a Jury and Judgment of said court…."

Cowperthwait continues by establishing the chain of debt to Thomas and Mary Patterson. The writ then indicates that William Forbes was high bidder at public sale on parcels No. 1, 2 & 3 and concludes with an official mortgage and payment terms. The whole fully docketed and recorded from 1784 to 1787 with state and city seals.

We have not identified a singular occurrence of a John Hills manuscript map appearing in auction or dealer catalog in the last 75 years. A handsome and exceptionally rare document with fascinating association.

Ref: M. Snyder "Philadelphia" 131; M. Snyder "Philadelphia" pp. 106, 160-62, 204 & fig.90; J. Snyder "Mapping of New Jersey" pp 84-86; Emily Cooperman, Phd ARCH "Philadelphia City Planning" pp. 6-10; National Archives-Washington Papers.

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