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Philadelphia County Subdivisions

CHRONOLOGY OF THE POLITICAL SUBDIVISIONS OF THE COUNTY OF PHILADELPHIA, 1683-1854

The first twelve entries list the sources and dates of the earliest mentions in official local records of the existence of Philadelphia County's initial township divisions.


Political DivisionRecord of First MentionDate
BlockleyQS Road Docket, II: 22 June 1705
BristolQS Road Docket, I: 28 October, 1696
ByberryQS Road Docket, II: 12 June1703
GermantownHolme's Map 1687
KingsessingQS Road Docket, II: 43March 1712
Lower Dublin
(reference to"Second Dublin" Township)
QS Road Docket, I: 25 August 1693
MorelandHolme's Map 1687
MoyamensingHolme's Map 1687
Northern Liberties
(Unincorporated)
Holme's Map 1687
OxfordQS Road Docket, I: 25 August 1693
PassyunkHolme's Map 1687
RoxboroughQS Road Docket, II: 31June 1706

Tacony: While indicated as a possible township on some early maps, Tacony is not mentioned in court records, or those of the Assembly after 1700.

Year Political DivisionChangesAuthorityDate
1691City of Philadelphia(apparently never effectuated) Erected by Penn Charter 1691
1691GermantownErected BoroughRoyal approval of Penn Charter of 12 August 1689 30 May 1691
1701City of Philadelphia Established by Penn Charter25 October 1701
1707Germantown Lost Borough status General Court ordered closed by Queen's Attorney Lowther11 January 1707
1762 SouthwarkErected District out of Moyamensing TownshipStatutes at Large, Chapter CCCCLXXXI26 March 1762
1791Northern Liberties Part of the township recognized for certain governmental functions but not incorporated Statutes at Large, Chapter MDXLI 30 March 1791
1794SouthwarkReincorporated DistrictStatutes at Large, Chapter MDCCXLII18 April 1794
1800FrankfordErected Borough, out of Oxford Township Statutes at Large, Chapter MMCXXIII 7 March 1800
1803Northern LibertiesPartially incorporated as District, out of Northern Liberties TownshipLaws of Pennsylvania, Chapter CLII28 March 1803
1808Penn TownshipEstablished out of Northern Liberties Township Quarter Sessions Court Decree13 October 1808
1812MoyamensingIncorporated as townshipLaws of Pennsylvania, Chapter CIV24 March 1812
1813Spring GardenErected district out of Penn TownshipLaws of Pennsylvania, Chapter CVIII22 March 1813
1818Northern Liberties DistrictDivided into 7 wardsLaws of Pennsylvania, Chapter LXII20 February 1818
1819Northern Liberties DistrictFinal incorporationLaws of Pennsylvania, Chapter XC 16 March 1819
1820KensingtonErected as District out of Northern Liberties TownshipLaws of Pennsylvania, Chapter LII 6 March 1820
1827Spring Garden District Enlarged out of Penn Township P.L. 65 2 March 1827
1831Frankford BoroughEnlarged out of Oxford Township P.L. 470 4 April 1831
1831Spring Garden DistrictDivided into 3 wards P.L. 480 4 April 1831
1833Spring Garden District1st Ward divided into 1st & 4th Wards P.L. 457 9 April 1833
1834Kensington DistrictDivided into 5 wards P.L. 47515 April 1834
1836Southwark DistrictDivided into 5 wards P.L. 30831 March 1836
1840Moyamensing TownshipDivided into 4 wards P.L. 41 13 February 1840
1840Manayunk Erected as a borough in Roxborough Township Quarter Sessions Court decree 11 June 1840
1844West Philadelphia Erected borough out of Blockley TownshipP.L. 44 17 February 1844

While the officially accepted act of incorporation of the Borough of West Philadelphia is P.L. 44, 17 February 1844, there is evidence that the borough existed as early as 1837. P.L. 57, passed on 13 March 1837, refers to the Borough of West Philadelphia, the City Archives holds records of its Treasurer dating from that year, and the Act of 1844 refers to an earlier incorporation that was "adjudged defective". There is, of course, no record of an Act of Assembly establishing the borough prior to 1844. By virtue of P.L. 163, 1 April 1834 the Court of Quarter Sessions was empowered to establish boroughs. Unfortunately, that court's relevant records for the years prior to 1844 are not extant.

Year Political DivisionChangesAuthorityDate
1844 Penn DistrictErected out of Penn TownshipP.L. 5226 February 1844
1844 Germantown Borough Erected out of Germantown Township Quarter Sessions Court decree 27 August 1844
1846 Spring Garden District Divided into 7 wards P.L. 41 13 February 1846
1846 Kensington District Realigned into 7 wards P.L. 47 18 February 1846
1846 Germantown Borough Boundaries reduced in favor of Germantown Township P.L. 86 7 March 1846
1846 Moyamensing Township 5th Ward erected out of 4th WardP.L. 867 March 1846
1847Penn TownshipEnlarged out of Penn DistrictP.L. 11417 February 1847
1847Richmond (District) Erected out of Northern Liberties Township P.L. 181 27 February 1847
1847Manayunk Borough Separated from Roxborough TownshipP.L. 21431 March 1847
1848Richmond (District) Enlarged out of Northern Liberties Township P.L. 250 25 March 1848
1848Bridesburg BoroughErected out of Northern Liberties TownshipP.L. 7201 April 1848
1848Moyamensing & Passyunk TownshipsBoundaries changed;
Moyamensing erected District;
Moyamensing 4th & 5th ward boundaries changed
P.L. 3395 April 1848
1848Kensington DistrictEnlarged out of Northern Liberties Township; additional area becomes 8th wardP.L. 35716 April 1848
1849Richmond (District)Enlarged out of Northern Liberties Township P.L. 73 19 February 1849
1849Southwark District5th Ward divided into wards 5 & 6 P.L. 75 19 February 1849
1849Whitehall BoroughErected out of Oxford TownshipP.L. 541 9 April 1849
1850West Philadelphia BoroughEnlarged out of Blockley Township and divided into 3 wardsP.L. 215 14 March 1850
1850 Kensington District 7th Ward increased out of 8th wardP.L. 303 14 March 1850
1850Richmond District Formally designated as districtP.L. 30314 March 1850
1850 Kensington DistrictEnlarged out of Northern Liberties Township; additional area to 8th WardP.L. 448 6 April 1850
1850Aramingo Borough Erected out of Northern Liberties Township P.L. 448 11 April 1850
1850Bridesburg BoroughEnlarged out of Northern Liberties Township P.L. 649 30 April 1850
1850 Southward & Moyamensing DistrictsBoundary adjusted; Southwark decreased in areaP.L. 76215 May 1850
1851West Philadelphia Created a District P.L. 3023 April 1851
1852Penn DistrictDivided into 3 wardsP.L. 7520 February 1852
1852Kensington & Richmond DistrictsBoundary changed in favor of Kensington; area added to 5th wardP.L. 2686 April 1852
1852West Philadelphia DistrictIncorporated as a DistrictP.L. 508 1 May 1852
1852Delaware Township Established out of Lower Dublin Townships Quarter Sessions Court decree 26 June 1852
1853Frankford & Whitehall BoroughsBoundary changed in favor of FrankfordP.L. 3025 April 1853
1853Belmont District Erected out of Blockley TownshipP.L. 42214 April 1853
1854All Districts, Boroughs & TownshipsConsolidated with the City of PhiladelphiaP.L. 212 February 1854


Genealogy of Philadelphia County Subdivisions
Chronology of Philadelphia City Subdivisions 1705-1854
Philadelphia Wards, 1854-1966

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