A unique piece of local history was officially donated Thursday evening to the Marx Room by the Knights Templar.
Members of Hugh de Payens Commandery No. 19, one of nine masonic groups that occupy the third floor of 22 South Third St., ceremoniously handed over the land patent to library director Jennifer Stocker and Marx Room coordinator Barbara Wiemann after their regular meeting.
The deed dates to 1763 and is for the land on which Easton's first jail, spelled 'gaol' on the handwritten document in the fashion of the time, originally stood. The space is now occupied by the masons' lodge building and was likely given when the order purchased the land after the county prison was moved to Gallows Hill, at the top of South Seventh Street.
It is unclear how many such patents still exist, but they are very rare, Wiemann said, adding that at one time there would have been one for every parcel of land in Easton, but nearly all have presumably been lost or destroyed in the passage of time.
Land patents granted by Penn were often quite generous, with many requiring an annual tribute of far less than was common in the era. Instead of money or gold, it was common for them to require a gift of “a bushel of grain” or “two beaver skins.” In this case, the price was a single red rose, to be delivered annually on March 1.
“Thank you for trusting us with it,” Stocker said as she and Wiemann received the gift on the Library's behalf.
“How many Penn patents do you have?” asked one Templar.
“This is our only Penn patent,” Wiemann replied.
The document, encased in an oak frame between two pieces of glass and folded to show the wax seal on the back along with most of the text, was likely framed sometime in the mid-20th century, and has been locked away in a safe for which the combination has been lost for the last 20 or 30 years, said Louis Starniri.
It was only recently, in cleaning out some old records, when a member of the order came upon a set of numbers that appeared to be a combination. When the Templars tried it on the safe, it was finally opened, revealing a stack of old ledgers and other records, along with the patent.
Stocker and Wiemann said the document, written on what appears to be animal skin vellum or parchment, will be sent to specialist conservators to be dismounted from it's frame and unfolded. It will then be prepared in a way that will ensure its preservation for generations to come and set for display in the Marx Room's climate and temperature controlled setting. The process is likely to take four or five months, they estimated.
“We intend to take good care of it, and you can come visit it,” Wiemann told the Sir Knights.
Stocker said the document may also be digitally copied so it may be viewed online.