Horsham Township is named after the town of Horsham in Sussex County, England. Horsham is one of several townships in Montgomery County whose name and size were determined by master survey lines drawn by William Penn’s engineers as they first plotted this part of the colony for sale and settlement. Parallel lines, projected at intervals of a mile and a half and extending in a northwesterly direction from settlements along the Delaware, served not only as base lines for measurement of individual land grants but also as courses for future highways. County Line Road, Horsham Road, and Welsh Road are examples of highways so laid out. The effect of these survey lines upon the development pattern of Eastern Montgomery County is very much in evidence today.
In 1684, the entire township of 17 square miles was made available to individual purchasers. Samuel Carpenter, from the town of Horsham in Sussex County, England, after which the township is named, purchased five thousand acres, forty two hundred of them within the present boundaries of the township. In 1709, Carpenter, then Treasurer of Pennsylvania, began to sell tracts of land to migrating Quakers. In 1717, Horsham Township was established as a municipal entity by a vote of the people.
In 1718, Sir William Keith, then Provincial Governor of Pennsylvania, acquired twelve hundred acres of Carpenter’s land on which he erected a house in keeping with the dignity of his office. The development of Keith’s “plantation” proved to be a step in establishing closer ties between Horsham and neighboring communities, particularly those of Hatboro and Willow Grove. He was responsible for the construction of the present Easton Road (U.S. Highway 611) from the old York Road junction at Willow Grove to his mansion on County Line Road in 1722.
The first significant settlement in the Township centered around the junction of Horsham and Easton Roads and was known as Horshamville. Keith’s extension of Easton Road prompted the establishment of the Horsham Friends Meeting House.
The township’s early social and economic life revolved around this Meeting House. In a similar way, Prospectville, originally known as Cashtown, was established at the junction of two roads, Limekiln Pike and Horsham Road. This portion of Limekiln Pike was an extension of the original segment established in 1693 to provide a thoroughfare between Old York Road and the limekilns of Thomas Fitzwater in Upper Dublin Township. Prospectville, on a high elevation point within the township, offering a resting spot with a tavern for those traveling along either Limekiln Pike or Horsham Road. Here lived several generations of the Simpson family, one of whom was the mother of Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States.
The hamlet of Davis Grove grew at the intersection of Keith’s Road (now called Governors Road) and Privet Road and was once a focal point of community life. It was here the residents of the township came to vote, discuss politics, and attend community meetings. The “Golden Ball Inn”, which at one time was used for housing guests of Governor Keith, enjoyed much Revolutionary splendor. The two roads were formerly through links. Keith’s Road extended from Easton Road to Keith Valley Road and Privet Road, from Horsham Road to Easton Road. Expansion of the Willow Grove Naval Air Station caused the closing of these roads and the absorption of the hamlet. Today, there are virtually no remaining signs of the original settlement.
Through most of the early and the middle 19th Century, Horsham’s population grew slowly. Its character was not altered in any significant way until about 1872, when the North Pennsylvania Railroad extended a rail line from Glenside to New Hope and established a station in the nearby community of Hatboro, two and three-quarter miles east of the nucleus of Horshamville. Horsham-Hatboro-Byberry Road provided easy access to Hatboro’s station and, as a result, residential development began along the road virtually linking the two communities together. By 1890, the township’s population reached 1,300.
In 1896, the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company’s northern extension of the Philadelphia-Willow Grove trolley service was extended to Doylestown along Easton Road from the Willow Grove Amusement Park at Easton and Welsh Roads. This provided various connections to other trolley lines.
In 1926, Harold F. Pitcairn, a pioneer in the development of the autogiro, a forerunner of the helicopter, outgrew his flying field in Bryn Athyn and purchased 191 acres of farmland along Easton Road in the vicinity of Graeme Park. The new “Pitcairn Field” remained in operation for testing “autogiros” until 1942 when the United States Navy purchased the field. Today, the base is still in operation and, after the acquisition of additional land for the expansion of facilities; it has become one of the largest Naval Air Stations in the nation.