Twining Farm: Home to One of the Most "Intelligent" Farmers in Bucks
Twining Farm, which was located at South Sycamore Street and Cambridge Lane, was the homestead of the prominent Twining family and Quaker preacher and artist, Edward Hicks.
You can’t travel far in Bucks County without running into the name Twining – Twining Avenue, Twining Bridge Road, Twining Ford Road, etc.
“Twining” means “two meadows,” however, the meaning and relationship of the name and family to Newtown are so much more important. In fact, the David Twining Farm is not only listed on the Newtown Heritage Walk but also the National Register of Historic Places.
It was David Twining’s grandfather, Stephen, who according to a 1703 survey, had bought up 690 acres of land establishing the family in Newtown. That acreage included a 500-acre tract of fertile farmland bordered by Swamp Road, the Newtown Creek and the Neshaminy Creek.
David Twining was a farmer, a businessman and a two-term member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. He also served as a librarian and founding member of the Newtown Library Company. In its early days, the library’s books were kept at Twining’s house.
Newtown historian Edward R. Barnsley likened Twining to Benjamin Franklin when it came to libraries.
“David Twining carried the same relationship to Newtown Library Company that Benjamin Franklin did to the Library Company of Philadelphia,” Barnsley wrote in Newtown Library Under Two Kings.
Twining and his wife, Elizabeth, also became foster parents to the acclaimed artist and Quaker preacher Edward Hicks after Hicks’ mother died in 1871 when he was 18 months old.
Hicks’ Memoirs give us a glimpse at the relationships he had with the Twining family.
The artist called David Twining, “one of the most respectable, intelligent and wealthy farmers in the county of Bucks” and credits his foster mother, Elizabeth, for his path to ministry.
“How often have I stood or sat by her, before I could read myself and her read (the scriptures),” he wrote. “It was there that all the finer feelings of my nature were concentrated in love to my blessed Saviour.”
In fact, of the four known paintings Hicks created of the farm, Hicks drew himself in each standing at the knee of Elizabeth Twining, the elderly woman sitting in a chair and reading the Bible.
It is believed that Hicks created the paintings in his later life based on memories of his youth at the Twining Farm.
In at least one version of the painting, Hicks also painted his foster-sister, Beulah, in the doorway. Though they remained friends throughout the artist’s life, we glean from his Memoirs that he disapproved of Beulah’s excessive reading of novels while a teenager.
In January 1999, one painting of the Residence of David Twining sold at auction at Christie’s for $1,432,500. Other valuable artifacts include a weathervane and deed to the farm appraised at between $30,000 and $70,000.
Today the only remaining structure of the Twining Farm is the historic barn at the Brookside housing development at 99 Black Oak Mews.
To see one of Hicks’ paintings of his childhood home, visit http://www.folkartmuseum.org/?p=folk&t=images&id=4138