Lowther Manor Castle Circa 1880
Lowther Manor Castle & Gardens Today
The historical basis for the naming of the lodge.
The name "Lowther" has its origin in the name Anthony Lowther, the man who married Margaret Penn, sister of William Penn, the Founder of Pennsylvania. The name Lowther was used in central Pennsylvania in the 1750's when William's sons directed the laying out of Carlisle and named a principal street after their uncle, Anthony Lowther.
William Penn, the Founder, was a Quaker, and therefore probably never became a Mason. He did have two sons who figured in American history. One son, Richard, is known to have been a Mason and was a visitor in a Philadelphia lodge on June 25, 1733. Another son, John Penn, was also a Mason. John was the only member of his generation to become active in the administration of the Province of Pennsylvania. Thus, two of the Penns were connected with American Masonry two centuries ago.
Back in England the Penns contributed to Masonry as well. Springett Penn, the grandson of William Penn’s first wife, was the first known Deputy Grand Master of Ireland. His cousin, Margaret, married the Marquis of Carnavon, who became Grand Master of England. He was responsible for the constitution of the second provincial Grand Lodge in South Carolina in 1754, with which Pennsylvania has particularly close Masonic connections.
Some historians, based on correspondence, believe William Penn the Founder actually visited our area. It is more likely that the first visit by a member of the Penn family was made by Thomas Penn. In 1732 he came here to persuade the Shawnee to forsake French wine and return from "Alleghening" (near Pittsburgh) to settle in the Manor. Unfortunately at that time the West Shore of the Susquehanna was then a barrens "without a tree in a thousand acres". The Shawnee declined the invitation and remained at the forks of the Ohio.
The last of the Penns rode through here in 1792. His diary speaks of riding up the Great Road to Carlisle past the home of John Harris' brother-in-law, Robert Whitehill. This is now the oldest known house in the Manor, the structure at 19th and Market Streets in Camp Hill, PA.
A letter, found in 1957, contains one of the earliest references to "Lowther Manor." Thomas Penn wrote in 1750, "the lands in York are, you know, to be held of the Manor of Mask and in Cumberland of the Indian Manor which we will have called Lowther." This was before the town of Carlisle was laid out or finally decided upon as the county seat. The previous year a provincial official had suggested that the Manor itself become the seat of the county government, a suggestion which was rejected because of the storm of protest raised by the settlers.
Fourteen years later, with the Indians still avoiding the area, the proprietors decided to divide the 12 square miles into lots. Col. John Armstrong, Indian fighter turned surveyor, ran the lines around 28 "plantations," including an area just west of Wormleysburg which was reserved for the Penns themselves. The Manor was bounded on three sides by water; on the North by the "Conidogwanet" as Armstrong spelled it, on the South by the Yellow Breeches, on the East by the Susquehanna and on the West by St. John's Road. All of the land within these bounds were part of the Manor except 600 acres between 16th street, New Cumberland, and the Yellow Breeches, between the Susquehanna River and a line drawn parallel to it three-quarters of a mile inland.
The six hundred acres of West Shore land which was excluded, New Cumberland, had been surveyed on May 2, 1740, for the enigmatic Peter Chartier. The half-Shawnee Chartier had been living where the Yellow Breeches meets the Susquehanna for the ten years prior. He had defected to the French with his mother's tribe, who accepted him as a chief.
Unquestionably, the first man to arrive in the Manor and stay was Tobias Hendricks, who was here as early as 1727 and later built a tavern on the property at 24th and Market Streets. A second structure was erected about 1735 near the end of the Market Street Bridge to accommodate patrons of the Harris Ferry. The third structure, and only other place built before 1764, was a building located on Simpson Ferry Road. On this site lived William Hendricks, the son of Tobias, who led Cumberland County riflemen in the French and Indian War and was killed at Quebec. An historic marker attesting to this event is located at the south end of Willow Park in Camp Hill on Market Street.
The first person to build a stone house, the only known pre-Revolutionary structure known to be still standing, was Robert Whitehill. He and the man whose lot in Lowther Manor adjoined his, James Wilson, were both Masons. Both were figures of top national importance at the time. James Wilson was the only Pennsylvanian to sign both the Declaration and the Constitution. Robert Whitehill served in public office - at the pinnacle President of the Senate.
At a crucial moment in American history, these Lowther Manor neighbors and brother Masons faced each other as spokesmen of their parties in a battle which still has significance for us today. The year was 1787 and the issue was whether Pennsylvania should join the proposed United States of America. At the Ratification Convention Whitehill urged delay until the Constitution could be changed to guarantee civil rights for the people. Wilson on the other hand, demanded immediate action and, with the prestige of Brother George Washington behind him, forced the vote which made Pennsylvania the second State and Keystone of the Union.
Wilson’s memory lives on as a venerated "Founding Father." Robert Whitehill is all but forgotten as a man, but his amendments, which we call the Bill of Rights, remind us of him, the greatest man of our Manor.
Why John Penn chose "Lowther" for the name of his second Manor in Cumberland County is intriguing. (His first had been called "Eden.") Perhaps he had in mind the town which still lies 20 miles down the Great Road from Carlisle, England. There, located relatively in the same spot down a similar Great Road, lay the Castle Lowther on the banks of the Lowther River. There lived the Seventh Earl of Lonsdale - the Viscount and Baron Lowther, whose family is the same as that which found alliance with the Penns. The present Lord Lonsdale rendered important services to Lowther Manor Lodge, and it was through his good offices that we opened contact with Freemasons in Lowther where his father, the Sixth Earl, was prominent in lodge affairs.
The following poem was penned many years ago by one of England's greatest poets, William Wordsworth, following a visit at the castle. The words were prophetic. In 1957 word came from the Earl of Lonsdale that this 360 room castle would be demolished that April, with only a facade left to memorialize the structure. Since the time of William the Conqueror, the Lowther family has lived in the area.
Lowther! In thy majestic Pile are seen
Cathedral pomp and grace, in apt accord
With the baronial castle's sterner mien;
Union significant of God adored,
And charters won and guarded by the sword
Of ancient honor; whence that goodly state
Of polity which wise men venerate,
And will maintain, if God His help afford.
Hourly the democratic torrent swells;
For airy promises and hopes suborned
The strength of backward-looking thoughts is scorned.
Fall if ye must, ye Towers and Pinnacles,
With what ye symbolize; authentic Story
Will say, ye disappeared with England's Glory.