"Atkinsons of Lancaster, PA" Atkinson family story
The story of Stephen Atkinson and Anne Wilton
Stephen Atkinson @1680-1739 was probably English and may have arrived in America aboard the Elizabeth and Judith out of Liverpool in 1700. He was obviously a man of means. His name, along with the designation, "occupation clothier", appeared 5/27/1717 on a list of persons admitted to the status of "freemen" in Philadelphia. To obtain this status, a man had to be "a free denizen over 21 years of age, owning 50 acres of land for two years or more and be a resident in the province." Aspirants paid for the privilege of becoming freemen, a social and political rank that allowed them to vote and hold office.
Stephen Atkinson maintained a clothing business in Philadelphia, but he had other plans as well. In 1716 he began acquiring land along the Conestoga Creek in Lampeter Twp. in Lancaster where he owned 300 acres, according to tax records. By 1728 he had settled there and built a dam and a fulling mill which was the first water works in Lancaster. Fulling mills were used to bleach fabric as part of the process of making clothes, and this mill may have been connected to Stephen's clothing business in Philadelphia.
His neighbors lacked enthusiasm for the project and let him know it. According to a contemporaneous account:
"After Mr Atkinson built his dam, it proved to be a complete barrier against the ascent of shad and other fish to the upper part of that stream. The citizens residing along the water course above the dam came down in the night-time and tore the dam away. The legislature then compelled Mr. Atkinson to construct a passage way in his dam to allow the fish to ascend the stream."
Stephen's wife was Anne Wilton @1690-1750. There were some Quaker Wiltons in eastern Pennsylvania in the early 1700s, and she may have been related to them. Although there is no evidence of Stephen and Anne having membership in a Quaker meeting, there is documentation that they attended Quaker weddings, so they may have been close to the Quaker community.