Whitpain is one of the oldest townships in Montgomery County. Richard Whitpaine, a London butcher, purchased a tract of land as part of William Penn’s "Holy Experiment". His 16-year old son, Zechariah, travelled to Pennsylvania on the ship Welcome with Penn in 1682 to settle his father's properties and escape persecution of his Quaker beliefs. By 1685, Zechariah had established a plantation house along Wissahickon Creek near Mount Pleasant, with his bride Sarah Songhurst, whom he had met on the Welcome.
In Holme’s Map of 1681, Whitpain Township is called Whitpain’s Creek. By 1701, when William Penn ordered a survey of all the townships in the Commonwealth, it appeared in public records as Whitpain’s Township.
The borders of Whitpain Township changed dramatically in 1733, when Worcester Township was created, taking away a chunk of land. By 1734, Whitpain Township had 24 landowners. It maintained steady growth for more than two centuries, expanding from 771 people in 1800 to 3,063 people in 1950. In recent years, the township has experienced rapid growth. Today, Whitpain Township is home to over 18,000 residents.
Early settlers to Whitpain Township were farmers. Industry came to the region in 1727, when Jacob Yost began a weaving enterprise in Centre Square. Charles Mather built an additional mill in 1804. Although a rural farming community for decades, the growth of recent years has included business development, making Whitpain Township home to several of the Philadelphia region’s largest corporations, including Aetna US Healthcare and Unisys.
Although today Whitpain Township is home to residents of many religions and nationalities, its earliest settlers were Protestant and Quaker. Prior to the Revolutionary War, the township had two churches: Boehm’s Reformed Church (circa 1740), and St. John’s Lutheran Church (circa 1769).
Whitpain Township earned a place in history during the Revolutionary War, when George Washington and many of his generals spent time in the township. In fact, Dawesfield, a home on Lewis Lane, is considered the most significant historic site in the township, because it was Washington’s headquarters from October 21 to November 2, 1777.
Whitpain Township has been an independent township since 1701. However, for a brief period in 1762, Whitpain and Plymouth townships, by act of the assembly, became one district with one supervisor from each township. Dissatisfaction by the populace of both townships dissolved the act in 1763.
Communities within Whitpain Township
Today, Whitpain Township is a composite of several small communities established before and after the Revolutionary War. They include West Ambler, Center Square, Blue Bell, Broad Axe, Custer, Franklinville, Washington Square and Belfry.
Most of Whitpain Township is covered by the Blue Bell, Pennsylvania ZIP code. In recent years the name "Blue Bell" has become largely synonymous with much of the township, eclipsing many of the older community designations.