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William Branson was born June 29, 1684. He came from the parish of Sonning in Berkshire, England three miles from Reading. His father and grandfather, Nathaniel I and II were shoemakers and Quakers. His mother was Mary Bacon of Blewberry, Berkshire.
In 1683, Nathaniel Branson II purchased 1250 acres of land in the "new province" from William Penn for 25 pounds. The elder Branson never came to American but conveyed the property to William on August 28, 1707.
The next year, a young 24-year-old William Branson came to Philadelphia on the ship "Golden Lion" to seek his fortune.
The tract of land deeded him by his father made up the north central portion of what later became East and West Brandywine townships.
Branson was first listed as a "joiner" (carpenter). He must have followed this trade for at least ten years, for he is listed as a Freeman in the Minutes of the Common Council, having purchased his license to operate as an individual tradesman on May 20, 1717.
Later he was called a "shopkeeper" and by 1726, a "merchant." As "William Branson, Trader," he was part of a meeting in Philadelphia in 1729 called to fix the value of European currency used in the colony. In 1744, he was designated "William Branson, Gentleman."
Through the years, Branson purchased considerable property in Philadelphia and Chester County. His holdings in Coventry and Nantmeal townships had rich iron deposits.
He bought the site of Reading Furnace by deed dated Feb. 28, 1723 and was the partner of Samuel Nutt and Mordicai Lincoln--the great-grandfather of Abraham Lincoln. Branson bought out Lincoln in 1725 becoming the principal owner.
William Branson's Daughters
In 1709, Branson lived in Philadelphia on the east side of Second Street, which remained his home all the rest of his life. [See illustration.] He married Mary Tate of Philadelphia, daughter of Robert Tate, probably well before 1715. In 1723, William Branson shed his Quaker faith; his daughters were reared as Baptists.
Three sons died in infancy. Four daughters lived into adulthood:
Mary - who married Dr. Bernardhus Van Leer. Five sons were living when William Branson died in 1760: George, Branson, Benjamin, William, and Samuel.
Rebecca - married Samuel Flowers, who was a justice of the peace and sea captain. They had three children Mary wife of Gerardus Clarkson, Hannah wife of Thomas Assheton, and Samuel Branson, a physician.
Hannah - married Richard Hockley, agent for the Penns, Receiver General in 1753. They had 2 children: William and Mary who married John Wilcocks.
Elizabeth - married Lynford Lardner, brother-in-law of Richard Penn, son of William Penn, the founder of the Penn Colony; he was Receiver General from 1742-1752. Their children were John, Frances, Hannah, William, and James.
William Branson died in 1760, having survived all of his children except Elizabeth. His property was divided among the 15 grandchildren.
Cremers, Estelle, Reading Furnace - 1736. Reading Furance Press, Elverson, Pennsylvania, 1986. Original sources quoted include:
Friends' Records, quarterly meeting of Berks and Oxon.
The American Weekly Mercury, 2/7/1729.
The Pennsylvania Gazette, 10/4/1853, Pg. 1, Col. 3; and Ibid, 6/20/1754.
Philadelphia Archives, City Hall Annex, Vol. 2, Surveys & Warrants, page 60 and others.
Chester County Court House. Recorder of Deeds - Book 3C2-48.
Forges & Furnaces in the province of Pennsylvania, prepared by the Committee on Historical Research, published by Pennsylvania Society of the Colonial Dames of America, 1914. Pages 17 & 18.
"Vanleer Papers," Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA.