Bucks County was one of the three original counties in Pennsylvania. It was named by William Penn in 1682 after Bucks County also called Buckinghamshire in England, the county where he lived. Bucks is the abbreviation for Buckinghamshire, and both names are used interchangeably in England. Penn’s home, Pennsbury Manor, is located within Bucks County.
Place names in Bucks County derived from places in Buckinghamshire include Buckingham, Chalfont (named after Chalfont St Giles), Wycombe and Solebury (spelled Soulbury in England). Buckingham was the former county town of Buckinghamshire; Buckingham, PA, (now known as Bristol, not to be confused with the present village of Buckingham, near Doylestown) was the county seat of Bucks County from 1705–1726. Chalfont St. Giles in Buckinghamshire was the parish home of William Penn’s first wife, and the location of the Jordans Quaker Meeting House, where Penn is buried.
Bucks County was originally much larger than it is today. Northampton County was formed in 1752 from part of Bucks County, and Lehigh County was formed in 1812 from part of Northampton County.
General George Washington and his troops camped in Bucks County as they prepared to cross the Delaware River to take Trenton, New Jersey, by surprise on the morning of December 26, 1776. Their successful attack on Britain’s Hessian forces was a turning point in the American War of Independence. The town of Washington Crossing and Washington Crossing Historic Park were named to commemorate the event.
Law and Government
The executive government is run by a three-seat board of commissioners, one member of which serves as chairperson. Commissioners are elected through at-large voting and serve four-year terms. In cases of vacancy, a panel of county judges appoints members to fill seats. The current commissioners are Charles H. Martin (R) (Chairman), Robert G. Loughery (R) (Vice-Chairman), and Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia (D). The current terms expire in January, 2016.
As of the 2010 census, there were 625,249 people. The population density was 1,034.7 people per square mile. The racial makeup of the county was 86.6% White non-Hispanic, 3.9% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 4.1% Asian (2.1% Indian, 1.1% Chinese, 0.7% Korean, 0.5% Filipino, 0.3% Vietnamese, 0.1% Japanese, 0.4% Other Asian) 0.1% Pacific Islander, 1.7% were two or more races, and 1.5% were of other races. 4.4% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
As of the census of 2000, there were 218,725 households, and 160,981 families residing in the county. There were 225,498 housing units at an average density of 371 per square mile (143/km²). 20.1% were of German, 19.1% Irish, 14.0% Italian, 7.5% English and 5.9% Polish ancestry according to Census 2000.
There were 218,725 households out of which 35.30% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.20% were married couples living together, 8.80% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.40% were non-families. 21.50% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.69 and the average family size was 3.17.
In the county, the population was spread out with 25.70% under the age of 18, 7.00% from 18 to 24, 30.70% from 25 to 44, 24.30% from 45 to 64, and 12.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 96.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.40 males.
The median income for a household in the county is $59,727, and the median income for a family is $68,727. Males had a median income of $46,587 versus $31,984 for females. The per capita income for the county was $27,430. About 3.10% of families and 4.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.80% of those under age 18 and 5.50% of those age 65 or over.
Like the rest of the Philadelphia region, Bucks County has experienced a rapid increase of immigrants since the 2000 census. Known for its very large and established Eastern European population, most notably the Russian community, but also for its Ukrainian and Polish communities, Bucks County is now seeing a rapid surge of other immigrant groups. A 2005 population estimate of Bucks, showed that the Indian and Mexican populations have already doubled since 2000. Bucks County also is home to large and very prominent Roman Catholic and Jewish populations.
The southern third of the county between Philadelphia and Trenton, New Jersey, often called Lower Bucks, resides in the Atlantic Costal Plain, and is flat and near sea level, and the county’s most populated and industrialized area. Bucks County shares a western border with Montgomery County, and also borders Philadelphia to the southwest, and Northampton and Lehigh Counties to the north. From north to south, it is linked to Warren, Hunterdon, Mercer, and Burlington Counties in New Jersey by bridges.
Tohickon Creek and Neshaminy Creek are the largest tributaries of the Delaware in Bucks County. Tohickon Creek empties into the river at Point Pleasant and Neshaminy at Croydon (Bristol Township).
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 622 square miles (1,611.0 km2), of which 607 square miles (1,572.1 km2) is land and 15 square miles (38.8 km2) (2.37%) is water.