Morton L. (Morton Luther) Montgomery.

Historical and biographical annals of Berks County, Pennsylvania, embracing a concise history of the county and a genealogical and biographical record of representative families, comp. by Morton L. Montgomery .. online

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Online LibraryMorton L. (Morton Luther) MontgomeryHistorical and biographical annals of Berks County, Pennsylvania, embracing a concise history of the county and a genealogical and biographical record of representative families, comp. by Morton L. Montgomery .. → online text (page 13 of 227)
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a traveling companion; and, like agriculture, it has
been transmitted from grandfather to son and
grandson. Their names reveal the fact that the
great majority of them have been Germans or of
German origin.

General Industries. — The industries previously
mentioned were prominent in their several sections
on account of the capital invested and the men em-
ployed to carry them on successfully. But besides
these there were many other industries in the sev-
eral townships. Blacksmith shops and wheelwright
shops were located and conducted in every commun-
ity. They were necessary for the accommodation
of the settlers. Only a few individuals worked
together — mostly a master workman and his ap-
prentice. Grist-mills for flour and feed were situ-
ated along all the large streams. Cooper shops
were also quite numerous. The Welsh were me-
chanics who conducted their trades in small factories
along the Wyomissing. Rope-makers were common
in every section, for ropes and cords were largely
used in the daily affairs of life. This industry was
conducted for many years by individuals at their
homes ; but improved machinery and steam caused
its decline, and small ropewalks were compelled to
discontinue.

Carpenters and builders were numerous. They
were finished workmen, preparing the articles out of
wood by hand. Some of the old buildings, still in
a good state of preservation, attest the excellence
of their workmanship. Doors, windows and frames
of all kinds, used in building operations, were hand-
made. This custom amongst them continued till
the introduction of the planing-mill about 1835,
and then it began to decline. The country sawmill,
run by water-power, was active then in preparing
lumber ; but great steam mills in the lumber regions
have caused them to become less and less active.
Great rafts of logs are no longer towed down the
canals to Reading, especially the Union canal from
the Susquehanna river, to afford emplo3'ment to
'our sawmills. The railroads instead deliver finished
.lumber.

Every community had a weaver, who conducted
his business at his home. He wove carpets and
coverlets (plain and fancy) and linen and cotton
stuffs for domestic use. He did not carry a large
stock on hand; he manufactured articles to order.
So with other trades. Fulling-mills, paper-mills,
oil-mills, and distilling-mills were conducted for
cloths, paper, oil and whiskey, but they were limited
in capacity.

Memorial for National Foundry. — In 1845,
a memorial was presented to Congress, setting forth
reasons why Reading should be selected as a' site
for one of the national foundries. It referred to
the security of Reading in time of war, its central
position with regard to points of defense and sup-
ply of ordnance, its transportation facilities, its sup-
ply of iron, coal and other materials, and its low
wages; and it included an itemized statement of 15



furnaces and 28 forges, with their respective dis-
tances from Reading.

Seven years before, upon the opening of the rail-
road from Reading to Philadelphia, there had been
a similar movement.

INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS

The internal improvements of the county relate
to the several prominent affairs which have been
estaiblished and carried on for the general conven-
ience, development and enrichment of the whole
community. They comprise the following subjects:
Schuylkill River, Bridges, Roads and Turnpikes,
Stages, Canals, Railways, Post-Offices, Telegraph,
and Telephone.

SCHUYLKILL RIVER

In a natural aspect, the Schuylkill river has occu-
pied an important position in the well-being of
the county. We can only appreciate this by
realizing the great adantages which it has af-
forded us in leading away successfully to the Del-
aware river the enormous quantities of water
throughout the year, from the mountains and val-
leys. And its meandering channel is worthy of con-
sideration, inasmuch as the flowing waters are there-
by detained in their onward course, to moisten the
air and vegetation, and to proceed with only such
speed as not to injure the adjoining country.

Fishing and Navigation. — In a practical aspect,
it has been valuable in various ways — two especially,
fishing and navigation. In respect to fishing, it was
a source of profit and subsistence to the early set-
tlers who occupied the adjoining properties. They
discovered this fact immediately after settling here ;
and, to facilitate the catching of large quantities of
fish with little labor and expense, they erected weirs,
racks and dams in the river, into which the fish
were driven by fishermen, who either waded afoot
or rode on horseback through the water. And in
respect to navigation, it was likewise a source of
advantage in enabling them to carry conveniently
by boats, flats and canoes, at little expense, great
quantities of grain and goods of all kinds, to the
market at Philadelphia. Canoes were of consider-
able size so as to carry a large quantity of wheat.
They were hewn out of the trunk of a tree. The
growth of the trees in the wild, extended forest of
that early day was very large. William Penn
stated in a letter, written in 1683, that he had seen
a canoe made from a poplar tree which carried four
tons of brick. Penn had hardly landed here before
he found that navigation in the'river was obstructed
by fishing weirs and dams ; and believing them to be
objectionable, he encouraged legislation against
them. Various Acts were passed, but the "weirs
and dams were not abandoned.

There was no trouble along the Schuylkill above
the mouth of the Manatawny creek in reference to
weirs and dams, though fishing was carried on to
a great extent, especially by citizens of Reading.
There were two fishing-pools which were particu-
larly famous for their' supplies of fish. "Levan's"



INDUSTRY OF COUNTY



29



and "Lotz's," the former at the foot of "Never-
sink Hill," and the latter a short distance above.
Fishing was continued successfully for seventy
years in these pools, until the construction of the
dams in the Schuylkill canal, which forced their



abandonment. Fishing with nets was common.



It
was a regular pursuit with some people.

Navigation Encouraged. — The Schuylkill river
forms the western boundary of Reading. In its
natural state, before it was contracted on both sides
by the construction of the Schuylkill canal along
its eastern bank, and of the Union canal along its
western, it was over six hundred feet wide. Its
bed was capable of confining a large body of water.
It was useful in the transportation of merchandise
by boats to Philadelphia. Spring was generally
selected as the time when the shipment of goods
could be most conveniently and satisfactorily made,
for then the water was higher than during the other
seasons of the year. Heavy cargoes on flat-boats
would float down the- river with ease, requiring only
proper and careful steering. The steersmen were ex-
pert in keeping the boats in the channel, and very sel-
dom failed to reach their destination successfully.
Besides the long paddle at the stern of the boat, for
guiding purposes, there were polemen at the bow
with long, stout poles, who directed the boat to
the right or left as necessity required. Poling was
not generally required to propel the boat with the
current; this labor was practised in returning
against the current. There were no tow-paths thai.
The improvement of the river to facilitate navi-
gation was a subject of consideration by the early
inhabitants, both of the county and county-seat, for
many. years. The matter was of such importance
as to gain the attention of the Provincial Assembly
in 1760 and secure appropriations for that purpose.
The river, notwithstanding these early efforts, re-
mained about the same as to navigation for many
years. The only substantial improvement worthy
of mention was effected sixty years afterward, by
the construction of the Schuylkill canal; and dur-
ing that time the inhabitants continued to transport
their grain, merchandise and productions on boats
and flats, as they had done before.

The navigation of the river induced the organi-
zation of the first Board of Trade at Reading. A
number of prominent business men of the borough



assembled on March 13, 1807, to consider this sub-
ject, and then they formed a society under the name
of "The Society for Promoting the Clearing of the
River Schuylkill"; but nothing was accomplished
Eighteen years afterward, the difficulty was so ved
by the construction of a narrow channel for slack
water, with numerous locks whereby to overcome
grade and detain the water in certain levels to facili-
tate navigation.










OLD PENN STREET BRIDGE

Freshets. — Numerous freshets have swept down
the river and its tributaries which inflicted great
losses upon the adjoining property-holders. Those
worthy of special mention are the following :

Rise

1757 15 feet

1786 20 feet, 7i inches

1822 13 feet, 9i inches

1839 17 feet, If inches

1841 19 feet

1850 25 feet

1862 17 feet

1869 23 feet

1902* ..35 feet

♦ Shortly before this great freshet, there was a very cold spell
of weather, after a fall of rain and snow, which caused large quan-
tities of ice to form on all the trees, and the weight of the ice
broke off the tops and branches of thousands of trees throughout
Berks county and the surrounding counties, the evidence being
still visible in 1909.

BRIDGES

Long before the first settlements in this vi-
cinity, there had been a ford across the river at
Reading, and this was the only convenient ford for
some distance above and helow. It was used for
seventy years after the town had been laid out. The
only step in advance of the first settlers was the
introduction of a ferry-boat.




LANCASTER BRIDGE



30



HISTORY OF BERKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA



Penn Street Bridge. — In 1795, a petition was
presented to the court to order the grand jury to
consider the advisability of causing the erection of a
stone bridge over the river at the foot of Penn
street. The grand jury recommended an appropria-
tion of $33,000, but this sum was deemed insuffi-
cient. In 1796, the petitioners tlien devised the plan
of raising sufficient money by a "lottery," but it
proved unsuccessful. In 1801, another application
was made to the Quarter Sessions for a view, and
an appropriation, the petitioners concluding with a
prayer for a "wooden bridge," and estimating the
probable expense af £6,000. The grand jury recom-
mended an appropriation of $16,000, to be assessed
at three yearly payments. The court approved of
their action on Aug. 6th, and the county commis-
sioners proceeded to cause its erection. The con-
tract was awarded, and the contractor began opera-
tions in earnest, but he failed at the piers. The
county commissioners had expended $30,000, and it
was estimated that $70,000 more would be required
to complete the bridge, if built of stone.

In 1805, a third unsuccessful effort was made, but
for six years afterward this necessary improvement
lay in idleness; then (Feb. 32, 1812) an Act was
passed, authorizing the county commissioners to
build a stone bridge and charge toll ; and providing
that, when the principal invested in its construction
was realized from the tolls, it should be declared
free. Still the matter halted, and another Act be-
came necessary, which was passed on Feb. 21, 1814,
modifying the previous Act by giving the commis-
sioners the power to build either a stone or wooden
bridge. Then operations were resumed 'and the
bridge was so far completed in December, 1815, as
to be passable, and it was finished at last in 1818.

It was 600 feet long, three spans of 200 feet each,
covered bv a roof. The first passage over it was
made by Coleman's stage-coach on Dec. 20, 1815.
Many persons were present to witness the occur-
rence and they demonstrated their joy 'by loud ap-
plause. Such was the exertion, and so long was
the period, to obtain the "Penn street bridge," the
first public improvement of the town beyond the
court-house and the prison !

The subject of a "Free Bridge" was agitated as
early as 1821, just three years after the bridge had
been completed, but this related more particularly
to persons, and, to accomplish this purpose, a peti-
tion was presented to the Legislature in February,
1821. It continued to be agitated for over thirty
years and the county bridges (Harrisburg, Lancas-
ter and Poplar Neck) were not declared free till
1883. This great step forward was obtained
through the city councils of Reading, an earnest
and successful application in this behalf having been
made to court, upon the representation that the tolls
received exceeded the cost of erecting and maintain-
ing them, and the judges decided that the bridges
must be declared free under the legislation which
authorized their erection. The adjudication was
made on March 28, 1883.



In 1884, this bridge was demolished by the Penn-
sylvania Schuylkill Valley Railroad Co., and this
company erected in its stead a superior iron bridge
at an expense exceeding $100,000, the county com-
missioners appropriating $33,000 toward the cost.
The new bridge became a necessity, owing to the
railroad improvements along the river.

Hamburg Bridge. — ^During the progress of the
"Penn street bridge" at Reading, the subject of a
bridge was discussed at Hamburg, and the spirit
created thereby was sufficient to result in the pas-
sage of an Act of Assembly on March 19, 1816, for
its erection, but no practical results flowed from
this first effort. Eleven years afterward (April 14,
1827), an Act was passed appropriating $6,000 by
the State for the erection of a bridge over the
Schuylkill, near Hamburg, on the State road from
Jonestown (Lebanon county) to Northampton
county. The bridge was erected during the follow-
ing year by the commissioners of the county, and
confirmed by the court on Jan. 12, 1829. Toll was
charged till December, 1883, when it was made a
free bridge.

Lancaster Bridge. — The county commissioners
were authorized by an Act passed April 23, 1829,
to erect a bridge over the river at Gerber's ferry,
on the road from Reading to Lancaster. It was
finished in 1831. Its length was 352 feet, in two
equal spans. It has been known since as the "Lan-
caster bridge."

In 1839, a part of the bridge was swept away by
the freshet ; in 1850 two spans were swept away ;
and in 1869, the eastern half. In 1876 (July 9th)
the bridge was destroyed by fire — the act of young
incendiaries. Shortly before, there were loud com-
plaints about its insecurity and darkness and its
unpleasant condition on account of dust. The coun-
ty commissioners caused a fine iron bridge to be
erected in its stead, which was opened to travel on
Jan. 2, 1877. It was the first large iron bridge-
structure erected in the county. It was declared
free of toll in 1883.

Poplar Neck Bridge. — After the completion of
the "Lancaster Bridge," the Legislature, in 1832,
authorized the erection of a county toll-bridge
across the river at "Poplar Neck," about three miles
below Reading. And a covered wooden bridge was
accordingly buih during 1832 and 1833. It was
declared free in 1883. At this place a ferry had
been conducted for many years, known as "Lewis's
Ferry."

Other County Bridges.— Since the agitation and
establishment of free bridges, the county authori-
ties have caused the erection of other necessary
bridges across the river as follows :—Stoudt's No.

2, ; Cross Keys, 1891; Schuylkill avenue, 1892;

Exeter, 1893; Bern Station, 1896.

There are now altogether eighteen county bridg-
es crossing the river; fourteen, the Tulpehocken



INDUSTRY OF COUNTY



31



creek; nine, the Manatawny creek; twelve, the
Ontelaunee creek ; and sixty-four, the other streams
in the different sections of the county; making a
total of 117.

The building of concrete bridges has latterly been
encouraged by the county commissioners ; for, from
1905 to 1909, they caused the erection of thirteen
bridges, twelve of which were re-enforced concrete,
costing together upward of $40,000. The Dauber-
ville bridge, crossing the Schuylkill, built in 1908,
is a particularly fine sample; four arches, each 75
feet, costing upward of $30,000.

Private Bridges. — The following private bridges
were erected across the Schuylkill by individuals or
stock companies, and toll was exacted until they
were purchased by the county and made free :

Windsor Haven (Shoemakersville) 1862

Mohr's (Mohrsville) 1837

Althouse's ( Leesport) 1 835

Stoudt's Ferry (Tuckerton) ] 857

Leize's I833

Kissinger's (now Schuylkill Avenue) 1810

Bell's (at Tulpehocken) 1833

Birdsboro 1845

Monocacy 187i

Douglassville 1832

LARGEST COUNTY BRIDGES
SCHUYLKILL RIVER, IS



MANATAWNY CREEK, 9







JZ








Style


4>


'5








iJ


a


u.


Douglassville


Wooden


340


1832


1885


Monocacy


Iron


302


1870


1887


Birdsboro


Wooden


4fi2


1845


1886


Exeter


Iron


440


1893


1893


Poplar Neck


Wooden


504


1832


1883


Lancaster Avenue


Iron


555


1876 (1831)


1883


Penn Street


Iron


924


1884 (1815)


1883


Schuylkill Avenue


Iron


674


1892 (1810)


1892


Leize's


Wooden


236


1833


1890


Stoudt's No. 1


Wooden


240


1857




Stoudt's No. 2


Wooden


45






Cross Keys


Iron


354


1891


1891


Leesport


Wooden


170


1835


1886


Mohrsville


Wooden


3fiS


1837


1886


Shoemakersville


Wooden


194


1862


1886


Bern Station


Iron


20fi


1896


1896


Hamburg


Wooden


202


1828


1883


Dauberville


Concrete


300


1908





TULPEHOCKEN CREEK, 14



Bushong's
Wertz' Mill
Van Reed's
Reber's
Blue Marsh
Stamm's
Speicher's
Conrad's
Schaeffer's Ford
Sunday's Mill
Krick's Mill
Charming Forge
Womelsdorf
Scharff's



Wooden

Wooden

Wooden

Wooden

Wooden

Iron

Iron

Wooden

Iron

Iron

Beam Deck

Wooden

Stone Arch

Concrete Arch



330




204


1867


144


1866


129




120


1846


153


1887


200


1878


145


1839


75


1889


90


1903


74


1900


186


1872


153


1816


180


1902



Egolf


Iron


141


1882




Glendale


Wooden


101






Pine Iron Works


Wooden


154


1855




Weidner's


Iron


103


1898




Fisher's


Wooden


129


1854




Heist's


Iron


142


1878




Earlville


Wooden


130


1856




Baum's


Iron


134


1878




Griesemer's Mill


Wooden


124







ONTELAUNEE CREEK, 12



Schlegel's


Wooden


101


1812


Wiley's


Iron


202


1883


Maiden-creek


Stone Arch


311


1854


Evansville


Tubular


165


1874


Moselem


Wooden


145


1851


Virginville


Wooden


164




Dreibelbis


Wooden


irs


1869


Lenhartsville


Wooden


182


1868


Greena wait's


Wooden


103*


1875


Albany


Iron Pony


78


1884


Kempton


Wooden


103


1887


Trexler's


Stone Arch


161


1841



I



Railroad Bridges. — Thirteen substantial bridges
have been erected across the river by the several
railroad companies operating in the county, viz. :

Philadelphia & Reading Railroad, four — one
near Tuckerton — high arch, built of stone; one, of
iron, at Birdsboro ; and two, of iron, on "Belt Line,"
one above Reading and the other below.

Lebanon Valley Railroad, one, within limits of
Reading, built of iron.

Berks County Railroad (now Schuylkill & Le-
high), three — one at and two below Reading, built
of wood.

Pennsylvania Schuylkill Valley Railroad, five —
one near Hamburg ; one at Reading and two below ;
and one at Douglassville ; all built of iron.

ROADS AND TURNPIKES

Indian Paths.— There were paths through this
section of country long before Reading was laid out.
The "Schuylkill Ford" was a central point for the
Indians. Nature would seem to have selected the
site for the town rather than the Penns.

Tulpehocken Road. — The earliest mention of a
road in this vicinity is the road which was marked
out in 1687, from the Delaware at Philadelphia to
the Susquehanna, by way of this ford, and was
known for many years as the "Tulpehocken road."
In 1768, a road was regularly laid out from Read-
ing to the Susquehanna, at "Fort Augusta," by way
of Middletown (now Womelsdorf) and Rehrer's
Tavern (now Rehrersburg) , over the Blue and
Broad Mountains, in pursuance of a petition from
a considerable number of inhabitants of the county.
The report was presented to the executive council
on Jan. 19, 1769. The road began "at the east end
of Penn street, in the town of Reading, and extend-
ed through the same to the banks of the river Schuyl-



33



HISTORY OF BERKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA



kill, west 346 perches; thence south 87 degrees, west
33 perches across said river ; thence four courses
westwardly with a total distance of 1,457 perches
to Sinking Spring Town; thence by tifteen courses,
westwardly, a total distance of 2,814 perches
to Second street, in Middletown (now Womels-
dorf) ; thence across the Tulpehocken creek, and by
way of John Rice's tavern and Nicholas Kinser's,
northwestwardly to Godfried Rehrer's tavern (now
Rehrersburg) , and thence by way of Henry Derr's
house to Fort Henry, and. over the Blue mountain,
etc., in a northwestwardly course to Fort Augusta."
Berks and Dmipliin Turnpike. — Fifty years after-
ward, this road from Reading to Middletown, and
thence westwardly through Dauphin county, be-
came a turnpike, a company for this purpose hav-
ing been incorporated in 1805, under the name of
"Berks and Dauphin Turnpike Company." The
turnpike, however, was not begun until in 1816,
just after the Penn street bridge had become passa-
ble. It was finished in 1817, and it was maintained
successfully for nearly ninety years. In 1905, the
company voluntarily released the toll charge for use
of pike by removal of toll-gates, to a point two miles
west of the bridge ; and it was freed to Werners-
ville, eight miles, in 1906 by the assessment of dam-
asres.




PLAN OF ROADS TO READING

Maiden-creek Road. — A road was surveyed by
Samuel Lightfoot in 1745, from Francis Parvin's
mill, near the mouth of the Maiden creek, south-
wardly to the ford, the present site of Reading,
in almost a straight line about six miles in length,
and confirmed in June of that ^ear. In 1753, it
was regularly laid out from Reading northwardly,
and extended to Easton by commissioners from
Berks and Northampton counties who were ap-
pointed by the executive council at Philadelphia.

Centre Turnpike. — A turnpike was constructed
on this road from Callowhill street in Reading, over
the "'long hill" (at cemetery) to the mouth of the
Maiden creek, and thence northwardly by way of



Hamburg and Schuylkill Gap ; and northwestwardly
over Broad Mountain, by way of a point now Ash-
land, to Sunbury. A company for this purpose
was incorporated in 1805, called "Centre Turnpike
Company." The turnpike was completed shortly
before 1812. It was operated successfully and tolls
were exacted until 1885, when it was abandoned.

Oley Road.— In September, 1727, a petition was
presented to the court at Philadelphia for a road
to extend from the "Lutheran Meeting-house" ar
the Tulpehocken creek to the highroad at the
"Quaker Meeting-house," near George Boone's mill,
in Oley. Eight years afterward, the court appoint-
ed Mordecai Lincoln, Marcus Hulings, James
Thompson, Peter Robeson, Benjamin Boon and
Thomas Potts to lay out this road from the high-
road westwardly to the Schuylkill ford. They re-
ported a road at June session, 1736, which began
at the ford, and proceeded a little south of east,
in almost a direct line, to a road called the "King's
Highway." Its eastern terminus was at a point
now Amityville.

Perkiomen Turnpike. — The road just mentioned
was the road to Philadelphia for many years, until
a road from a point near the "Black Bear Inn," by
way of Bishop's Mill, to a point near Molatton
church, now at Douglassville, was substituted. In
1810, a turnpike was authorized to be constructed
on this latter road from Reading, by way of "White
Horse Tavern" (Douglassville) and Pottsgroye. to
Perkiomen Mills, at Perkiomen creek. In 1811,
commissioners were named, and they immediately
commenced its construction, completing it in four
years at an average cost of $7,000 per mile. It was
made free in 1902.

In 1822 the State held subscriptions of stock in
the three turnpike companies, as follows : Berks



Online LibraryMorton L. (Morton Luther) MontgomeryHistorical and biographical annals of Berks County, Pennsylvania, embracing a concise history of the county and a genealogical and biographical record of representative families, comp. by Morton L. Montgomery .. → online text (page 13 of 227)