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Heralding Our History: Langhorne once hosted a wounded Lafayette


On Sept. 11, 1777, at the Battle of Brandywine near the Birmingham meetinghouse, Marquis de Lafayette was wounded while trying to turn retreating American soldiers around to face the British advance. A British musket ball passed through his left leg below the knee.

After Washington’s defeat, the army retired to Chester. The next day, Lafayette was taken by barge to the Indian Queen Hotel in Philadelphia, which was located near 4th Street and Franklin Court.

The army surgeons decided to send Lafayette to Bethlehem, where, with the aid and cooperation of the Moravian congregation, a General Hospital of the Army had been established.

Lafayette left Philadelphia and was taken up the Delaware River by boat to Bristol. There he was fortunate to meet Henry Laurens, a member of Congress from South Carolina, who offered to transport him to Bethlehem in one of his private coaches, a rare luxury in those days. A group of French officers accompanied him as he traveled up to Bethlehem.

On the first night of his journey from Bristol to Bethlehem, either Sept. 18 or 19, Lafayette stayed at the Joseph Richardson House. The distance between Bristol and Four Lanes End is 7.5 miles. While the French officers slept in the Hicks House, still occupied by Isaac Hicks, Lafayette stayed at the Richardson House.

The Richardsons’ family story was that Lafayette stretched out his leg on the table to have his wound dressed and split the leaf of a table. The table remained in the family until 1927-28, when it was sold.

Lafayette left Four Lanes End on Sept. 20, since it was recorded that he passed through Newtown, probably taking Swamp Road since it was the shortest route to Bethlehem, 54 miles. No reliable information exists on the route taken, after they passed through Newtown.

According to the documentation, if they left Four Lanes End on Sept. 20 and reached Bethlehem on the afternoon of Sept. 21, they traveled about 46 1/4 miles in two days.

Lafayette’s story has always been part of Langhorne’s history. Though a short visit, his stop at the Richardson House supported the importance of Four Lanes End as a center of commerce, craftsmanship, and hospitality.

Today the Joseph Richardson House serves as home for the Peace Center and the Four Lanes End Garden Club and a meeting place for local community organizations.

Visit for tours and events or stop by 160 W. Maple Ave., Langhorne; Wednesdays & Saturdays 10 a.m. to noon, Wednesdays 7-9 p.m., to purchase a self-guided walking tour book.

“Heralding Our History” is a weekly feature. Each month, the Herald delves into the history of one of its towns.

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