top of page

Tinian and Col James Burd

By Ruth Shireman

James P. Burd was born March 3, 1726 near Edinburgh Scotland.  He immigrated to this country when he was twenty-one years old.  His family held some prominence and owned property. James was the oldest of eleven children.  He received a good education and was a worthy scholar.  He was in Philadelphia by the spring of 1748.  While there he rented a storeroom from Samuel Carpenter for forty-five pounds per year and became a merchant.

James Burd met and married Sarah Shippen, the only daughter of Edward Shippen, Esq., the founder of Shippensburg.  They moved to Shippensburg in 1752, which at this time was a frontier village.  Burd managed a plantation for his father –in-law and helped in the fur trade and Indian affairs.

In 1755, James’ friend, George Fisher laid out the town of Middletown near the Swatara Creek and the Susquehanna River.  James moved his family and slaves to land he purchased between Middletown and Highspire overlooking the Susquehanna River and built a 2 1/2 story log home. 










In 1767, James Burd had John Annis of Lancaster built a 2 ½ story  house out of rough stone with thirteen window cases, nine pair of shutters, two door cases (front and back) with a Pediment over the front door.  They called this site “Tinian” after a South Pacific Island that was named for its unsurpassed views.  John Annis also built some of the original furniture, including two large tables in the kitchen, a dough trough, bedsteads, a large double writing desk, and a tea table.

Although he fought in the French and Indian War and was always involved in militia, in 1765, James officially retired from the military.  In 1774, Burd was instrumental in garnering local support for the Colonial Congress in its opposition to the Crown. James Burd helped pen and signed the Middletown Resolves, which was  a group of resolutions formally protesting the oppressive acts of Britain's Parliament against the American colonists, (two years before the war of Independence).  James took part in the beginning of the Revolutionary War and successively became Captain; Major; Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel of the regiments in service to the colony. 


The most notable men of the French and Indian and of the Revolutionary Wars were entertained at Tinian, including George Washington. 


Tinian has a long history in the service of the area.  It became the site of the first courtroom, jail, and bank.  James Burd was a constable of Paxton and he used the third floor for his courtroom.  The bank was a crawl space above the third floor.  It was rumored that neighboring farmers stored their gold and silver there.

A temporary prison was located in the cellar.  There were two-foot-thick stone foundation walls, barred windows, and door.  There was, and still exists, a stone whipping post with stocks.  This indicated the type of corporal punishment given in the late 1700’s.  Even as late as 2012, there is said to be a red stain on one of the cellar walls alleged to be blood from prisoners who were flogged. 

On October 5, 1793, James Burd died at the age of 67.  At that time, he had been one of Dauphin County’s judges.  He was buried beside his wife, Sarah Shippen Burd, in the old Presbyterian Church graveyard at the corner of Union and High Streets. Together, they had eleven children.  On June 4, 1860, their descendants moved their remains to the Middletown cemetery where they are buried today.


In 1836, Michael Ulrich bought Tinian, for which he paid $6,225.  It remained in the Ulrich family until 1924.

In 1924, it was passed to Daniel B Keiffer, whose estate sold it in 1934 to Allen H. and Edward H. Nissley of Middletown for $7,500.  The Nissley brothers operated a large dairy business and owned many farms.

In 1935, Tinian was surveyed by the Historical American Buildings Survey, and their photos showed that the house had started to deteriorate.

In 1950, Tinian was bought by Donald Shope, who gutted the inside, selling most of the furniture to the Philadelphia Museum.  It remained in the Shope family until 2014. 


In 2015, Tinian was bought by Timothy

and Christine Mayersky.

The third floor and cellar still remain intact.


Tinian is located at 2051 Rosedale Avenue in Lower Swatara Township and considered the oldest home in Dauphin County.



Early photo of Tinian still with the front porch.

Tinian about 1933, earliest photo we have

Cellar jail doors.
Present-day photo of Tinian.
Drawing of Tinian

Hand drawing depicting Tinian .

Tinian front and center 1-20-2020.jpg
Tinian 1-20-2020.jpg

Photos taken by Nancy Avolese January 2020


Press and Journal, 6/27/2001 1749

Dauphin County Historical Review, Dec. 1962

Historic American Buildings Survey, Julian Millard, District Officer, State Archives

1985 Middletown Craft Fair booklet          

bottom of page