James Potter Owns An Entire County

James Potter Owns An Entire County

James Potter was a Colonel in the Pennsylvania Militia during the Revolutionary War.

Potter also served time as a politician in his home State, including spending a year as Vice-President of Pennsylvania.

James Potter

James Potter established himself as a reliable military man during the French and Indian War.

A firm Patriot, he was commissioned as a Colonel by the Pennsylvania Militia at the onset of the American Revolution. In this position Potter excelled, participating in the New Jersey Campaign and eventually being promoted to Brigadier General.

James cemented his reputation by participating in small, yet important engagements during the Revolutionary War. On at least on occasion he intercepted supplies which were bound for the British Army.

Another time, while the Continentals were on their way to set up camp in Valley Forge, he held off the enemy until the main body of troops could escape.

Potter took a leave of absence in 1778 to take care of his unhealthy spouse. He returned a few months later, but not before General Washington anxiously wrote, “I shall be exceedingly glad to see him,” in anticipation of his return.

Vice-President of Pennsylvania

James Potter had participated in politics as early as 1776, when he was a member of the Convention which drafted Pennsylvania’s first constitution.

By 1780, Potter had left the battlefield upon receiving election to the State’s Supreme Executive Council.

Unlike most States, which had a Governor, Pennsylvania’s executive branch was occupied by a board. This was done due to the fear of tyranny which was prevalent at the time, however, within a decade it was realized that there were ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ and Pennsylvania would write a new constitution with one person as governor.

While it existed, Potter spent time as a member of this Council. In fact, he spent a year as Vice-President of the Council (basically what we would today consider Lieutenant-Governor).

Center County

Although Potter considered himself a farmer, he would more accurately be described as a surveyor or speculator.

James purchased and scouted an impressive amount of land in central Pennsylvania.

His landholdings became so large that Center County is made up entirely of Potter’s property (I suggest you look at a map to see just how large his land was).

Despite his incredible success, James Potter was still a real nice guy. So nice in face that it killed him.

While helping a friend raise a barn (and in his 60’s), he was injured in a fall and passed away a day later.

If you’d like to learn more about other large landowners in the early Republic, check out our stories on William Bingham and Uriah Forrest.

While I’ve had trouble finding any books specifically about James Potter or Central Pennsylvania, you might want to read ‘Old Westmoreland’ which covers the development of Western Pennsylvania. You can pick up a copy through our affiliate link below.

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