Nicholas Scull II

1687 - 1761

Nicholas Scull, an American surveyor and cartographer, was born in 1687 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father, a surveyor and an Irish immigrant, moved to Philadelphia in 1685. At the age of 10, Nicholas assisted his father in surveying the Old York Road. The involvement of a child assisting in a surveying project caught the attention of the current Surveyor-General, Thomas Holme. Thomas Holme took the young Nicholas under his wing and mentored him.  

Nicholas used his newly acquired skills to survey the wilderness north and west of Philadelphia. In 1708, he married Abigail Heap and together raised three sons and a daughter. During this time he learned the language of the Delaware Indians in order to communicate with the Lenni-Lenape.

Scull was appointed deputy surveyor of Philadelphia in 1719. From there he surveyed the Schuylkill River, the Lehigh River and handled land disputes in the Delaware River Gap region. Nicholas Scull would act as an interpreter during Indian conferences, frequently being called upon to assist in land disputes involving Native Americans along the Susquehanna. In 1730, he was elected into Junto, Benjamin Franklin’s philosophical society.

Scull had large impact in the passage of the Walking Purchase on September 19th, 1737 where he used his skills of communicating with the Indians and surveying the wilderness to assure the agreement was executed fairly, although some would dispute the fairness of the purchase.

In 1744, Scull entered the political field and ran for sheriff of Philadelphia County. He won the election and from 1744-1746 served as sheriff. In 1746, he was asked to replace William Parsons as Survey General. Scull served as Pennsylvania’s Survey General from 1748-1761. His son, Edward, took over his old position as Deputy Surveyor of Philadelphia and Bucks counties.

Nicholas Scull died in 1761, and was buried in Whitemarsh Township. His most famous piece of work was his map of Philadelphia that was adapted and republished in 1777 by William Faden.