Located on Boxcartown road about 1/4 mile from the
intersection of School Road South. No parking facilities
Click on map to
saddle-shaped 20-acre property is located along Boxcartown Road
with two arms stretching to School Road South. Currently there
is no parking lot or any trails. The land is mostly on slope
with a level shrub meadow of gray and flowering dogwood on top.
Being abandoned pastureland it is colonized by pioneer trees and
invasive plants. The area bordering Boxcartown Road is still
meadow which gradually gives way to shrubs and trees as you
ascend the hill. The trees slowly increase in maturity as you
approach the summit. Although highly disturbed in the past we
are surprised at some of the plant diversity and need to spend
more time there. Since the majority of the trees are red maple,
tulip poplar and sassafras, it is probably the most colorful
reserve in the fall season and worth just a drive by. As yet
there are no trails or parking lots planned for Flinn and it is
not marked yet with an identifying sign.
One of our Conservancy members asked a local real estate agent
to be on the lookout for a parcel of land that could be
subdivided into a building site and a larger plot for gifting to
the Conservancy. After locating a suitable parcel, the agent
contacted the owners who live in California telling them what
the prospective buyer had in mind. The owners, Paul and Mary
Ellen Finn who had lived in Murysville twenty years earlier,
liked the idea so much that they gifted their twenty-acre parcel
to the Conservancy to create the Flinn Nature Reserve on
While living in Murrysville the Flinns bought a 62-acre
parcel from the estate of Mildred V. Keister. In 1806 Mildred's
ancestors bought lot number 18, a 481-acre parcel, from the
George Woods subdivision in 1784 of the Manor of Denmark which
encompassed 5772 acres. It was the last of the 92 manors to be
sold off under the Divesting Act of 1779 that were owned by John
and Richard Penn, sons of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania.
Paul and Mary Ellen Flinn purchased a 64-acre property on
Boxcartown Road from the estate of Mildred V. Keister in 1960.
This property was part of a larger parcel purchased by Philip
Keister on March 18, 1806 from Alexander Cobean, a land
speculator from Gettysburg, who had acquired a larger tract of
3580 acres from agents for John and Richard Penn, sons of
William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. In 1769, the Penns
established by proprietary warrant and survey a 5000 acre tract
called the Manor of Denmark when the sale of lands from the New
Purchase of 1768 was authorized. In 1784 the Penn’s had the
Manor subdivided into eighteen lots by George Woods. Philip
Keister purchased Lot No. 18 of the subdivision of 1784. The
“5000” acre tract encompassed 5771 acres.
By virtue of the charter granted in 1681 to William Penn by
Charles II in consideration of the debt owed his father, all of
Pennsylvania was deeded to the Penn family as a proprietary.
However, the Penns had to acquire land rights from Native
Americans at their own expense. The New Purchase of 1768 was the
latest wave in the march westward that started when William Penn
began the colonization of Pennsylvania in 1682. The deed granted
by Charles II to the Penns permitted the continuance of certain
elements of feudal law with the concept of manors or tenths to
be set aside as the personal property of the Penns. In all, 92
manors were established, five of which were in southwestern
Pennsylvania with two of these in Westmoreland County. The idea
was simple. Set aside the choicer land and sell off the
surrounding land to drive up the value of the set-aside. The
revolutionary spirit of the times decried ownership by the Penn
family of such vast tracts. In 1779, the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania passed the Divesting Act that preserved the Penns
private estates and manors but returned unsettled lands to the
public domain. The Penns were paid 130,000 pounds sterling in
compensation for this taking. The Divesting Act also abolished
the quitrent. This was a nominal rent, often one pepper corn per
year if demanded, used to insure that principal title to the
land remained with the Penn family.
Between 1791 and 1805 the Penns were able to sell six of the
eighteen lots in the Manor of Denmark. Alexander bought the
remaining twelve lots which he managed to sell off by 1814. The
Westmoreland County Patent Map No. 89 shows the boundaries of
the northwest corner of the Manor of Denmark, namely, Lots Nos.
17 & 18, and the northern portions of Lots Nos. 14, 15 & 16.
Using the sub division boundaries you can locate the parcel
acquired from Mildred Keister and the Flinn Nature Reserve.
Some of the information here was obtained from an Indenture
on loan to us which showed a conveyance between Alexander Cobean
and Philip Keaster. An early plot plan of the Manor of Denmark
has the name Geo. Philip Keister written in lot No. 18 and John
Mochnick’s book refers a Philip Keister as having bought lot No.
18 on March 18, 1806. The two spellings must refer to the same
person. The indenture between Alexander Cobean and John Coates,
an agent of the Penns helped with this information. We also
obtained information from the Westmoreland County Patent Map and
the Mochnick’s chapter on the history of the Manor of Denmark.
The connection of the Flinn Reserve with the Manor of Denmark
will help to make the community more aware of its colonial past.