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 14 of 227)
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and Dauphin, $29,000 (individual subscription $63,-
905) ; Centre, $80,000 (individual subscription
$62,000) ; Perkiomen, $53,000 (individual subscrip-
tion $133,000). Length reported: first, 34 miles;
second, 75 miles; third, 28 3-4 miles.

O'ley Turnpike. — The road from the "Old Phila-
delphia Road," near Schwartzwald Church, to the
King's Highway (Pleasantville to Amityville) was
laid out and confirmed in 1755. The "Oley Turn-
pike" is constructed on this road from Jackson-
wald eastward. The company for this superior,
well-kept turnpike was incorporated in 1862. The
road extends from "Black Bear Inn" to Pleas-
antville, ten miles,, and the total cost was $50,000.

Schuylkill Road.— A road was ordered bv the
court of Lancaster county in 1750 to be laid out
from Chester county line, in Caernarvon township,
in a northwestwardly direction to Reading. It was
surveyed by George Boone, and reported in 1751.
This is the road from W^arwick Furnace, bv way
of Plow tavern and Green Tree tavern, through
Union, Robeson and Cumru townships and along
the western bank of the Schuylkill, to the Tulpe-



hocken road opposite Reading. It was twelve and
a half miles in length.

Other Roads. — Neversink Road, from Reading
southwardly to Flying Hill, in 1753.

Alsace Church Road, from Reading northwardly
through Alsace township, in 1753.

Lancaster Road, from Reading southwestwardly
through Cumru township, in 1762.

Sunbury Road, frpm the fork in the Schuylkill
above the Blue Mountain to the fork in the Sus-
quehanna at Sunbury — fifty-five miles, in 1770.

Bern Road, from Reading northwestwardly over
the Schuylkill at a point now occupied by the
Schuylkill avenue bridge, through Bern township,
in 1772.

Alsace Road, from Reading eastwardly through
Alsace township into Oley, to a point in the "King's
Highway" (supposed to be near Friedensburg, and
now called the Friedensburg road) , in 1776.

Plan of Roads to Reading. — The accompanying
plan will indicate in a general way how the promi-
nent roads extended from Reading during its earlier
history, and these have continued to be the chief
thoroughfares for travel till now.

State Highways. — The substantial improvement
of the public roads was a subject of discussion for
many years, but it was not until 1905 that any
special legislation was secured. The taxpayers of
Berks county immediately began to show their ap-
preciation of the State's liberality. Cumru town-
ship was the first to take practical steps by ordering
the improvement of that portion of the Lancaster
road from the Schuylkill river to the Three-Mile-
House in Shillington, commonly called the "Three-
Mile-House-Road," and it was constructed under
the supervision of the State Highway Commissioner
by Adam R. Leader of Reading, as the contractor,
during 1905-06-07, at a total cost of $18,326; of
which the county paid one-sixth and the township
one-sixth. This section of road had been used a
great deal for driving purposes for many years and
this marked improvement increased its use. Some
time before 1905 it had been improved by the ex-
penditure of a considerable sum of money (about
$500) with the assent of the township supervisors,
which had been collected mostly from the drivers of
speedy horses at Reading.

The next township to take up the matter success-
fully was Washington and in 1908 the State Depart-
ment looked after the construction of a new high-
way from Barto to Bally and thence toward Shultz-
ville and Shultz's grist-mill, upward of three miles.
The total cost, including fine concrete bridge, was
about $43,000, of which the county paid one-eighth
and the township one-eighth (the reduced propor-
tion having been caused by the amended road law
of 1907).

And the third township was Amity, for the im-
provement of the road from Amityville, via Weaver-
town, to the Monocacy creek, about two miles
in length. It was constructed in 1908, including a
superior concrete bridge.


The first coach in New England began its trips
in 1744. The first stage line between New York
and Philadelphia (then the two most populous cities
in the Colonies) was established in 1756. The trip
was made in three days. When the Revolution be-
gan, most of these public conveyances ceased to
run, and they did not take the road till the return
of peace.

The first public conveyance at Reading was a
two-horse coadh. It was instituted by Martin Haus-
man in 1789, and traveled weekly between Read-
ing and Philadelphia for the transportation of pas-,
sengers and letters. The distance was about fifty-
one miles, and the passage was made in two days.
The fare was two dollars, and letter carriage three
pence. During that year, he transferred the estab-
lished business to Alexander Eisenbeis, who operat-
ed it two years, and sold it to William Coleman.
From that time onward, for nearly seventy years,
without intermission, the Coleman family were
prominent throughout eastern Pennsylvania for
their connection with this great enterprise.

Soon after Coleman had obtained possession of
this stage line, he extended it westwardly, by way
of Womelsdorf and Lebanon, to Harrisburg; and
northwardly, by way of Hamburg, Orwigsburg,
Sharp Mountain Gap and over the Broad Mountain,
to Sunbury. In 1818, the stages ran twice a week
from Philadelphia to Sunbury. They left Philadel-
phia on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 3 a. m. ; ar-
rived at Reading at 5 p. m., and lodged at Ham-
burg on the same days ; and on the following morn-
ings left at 3 a. m. and arrived at Sunbury on the
succeeding days at 10 a. m. And they ran thrice
a week from Philadelphia to Harrisburg — Tuesdays,
Thursdays, and Saturdays; leaving Ph'iladelphia
at 4 A. M., lodging at Reading, and arriving at Har-
risburg the next evening. The same order was ob-
served in returning.

In 1820 William Coleman died. His widow car-
ried on the stage lines for a year, when their sons
John and Nicholas purchased and conducted them.
In 1823, they ran weekly stages to the southwest
to Lancaster, over a natural road, in length thirty-
two miles; and. to the northeast to Easton, over
a natural road, in length fifty miles.

In 1825, Colder & Wilson ran the "mail stage"
between Reading and Harrisburg three times a
week. The passenger fare was' 50 cents to Womels-
dorf ; $1 to Lebanon, and $2 to Harrisburg.

In 1826, a combination was made between the
Colemans, Jacob Peters, and Colder & Co., to run
a daily line of stages between Philadelphia and
Harrisburg via Reading. The stages left Philadel-
phia daily except Monday at 4 a. m., dined at Read-
ing, lodged at Lebanon, and proceeded to Harris-
burg next morning. Returning, they left Harris-
burg daily, except Tuesday, in the afternoon, lodged
at Lebanon, took breakfast at Reading next morn-
ing and arrived at Philadelphia at 8 p. m. Through
fare, $6 ; to Reading, $3.



From, the beginning till 1826, the stage-coach in
use was called a "steamboat" — an uncovered wagon,
capable of holding twenty passengers. Then a
sharp competition arose between three lines; first,
the "Old Line" (Coleman's), which conveyed the
mails ; second, Reeside & Piatt's ; and third, Milti-
more & Mintzer's. A new and improved stage-
coach was introduced as a consequence, called the
"Troy Coach." It held eleven passengers, with
room for five or more on top. In 1830, the com-
petition was full of life. The rates were reduced
one-half. But the "Old Line" forced the others to
withdraw. Its mail contracts were a great support
and enabled it to bear the pressure. It had a hun-
dred horses always on hand.

Decline of Stages. — The stage business contin-
ued active and profitable in the several directions
from Reading till the introduction of the railways,
when it was discontinued. The stage-coach could
not compete with the railroad train, or horse-power
with steam-power; and in this respect, as in others,
the fittest and strongest survived. The discontin-
uance on the several lines was as follows : From
Philadelphia, 1838; from Pottsville, 1842; from
Harrisburg, 1858 ; from Allentown, 1859 ; from Lan-
caster, 1864.

The following stage lines (all carrying merchan-
dise and passengers, and several also mail) are still
operated to and from Reading to accommodate the
public :

Boyertown line, via Yellow House, daily 17 miles

Friedensburg line, via Stony Creek Mills, daily. ... 9 miles
Pleasantville line, via Oley Tnrnpilce, tri-weekly. .14 miles

Bernville line, via State Hill, daily 14 miles

Terra Hill line, via Angelica, tri-weekly 16 miles

Hummel's Store line, via Green Tree, daily 15 miles

Strausstown and Womelsdorf line, daily 12 miles

Strausstown and Hamburg line, daily 12 miles

Millersburg and Myerstown, daily S miles


Great internal improvements in this country were
first projected in Pennsylvania, and the enterprise
of her early citizens directed public attention to
the establishment of canals and turnpikes for con-
venient transportation. In 1690, William Penn
suggested the idea of connecting the Susquehanna
and Schuylkill rivers by means of a canal, but it
was not acted upon. Seventy years afterward, this
idea was again considered, and then a survey was
made by David Rittenhouse and others. A course
was marked out for a canal between these two
rivers, but nearly seventy j^ears more elapsed be-
fore the great scheme was realized and put into
practical and successful operation.

Union Canal. — In 1791, the Legislature of
Pennsylvania passed an Act incorporating the
Schuylkill and Susquehanna Navigation Company,
for the purpose of connecting the two rivers by a
canal, and facilitating traffic; and in 1792, another
company was chartered, under the name of the Del-
aware and Schuylkill Canal Company, for the pur-
pose of extending a canal from the eastern termi-

nus of the canal mentioned at Reading, along the
Schuylkill to the Delaware river at Philadelphia.
These canals were to be part of a great scheme
conceived by an association of enterprising individ-
uals in order to promote internal improvements,
whereby Philadelphia and Pittsburg were to be
connected by water communication.

On April 2, 1811, an Act was passed to incor-
porate "The Union Canal Company of Pennsyl-
vania." The name was chosen because the new
corporation was really a union of the old Schuyl-
kill and Susquehanna and the Delaware and Schuyl-
kill Canal Companies. The preamble recited that
those corporations had made strenuous efforts to
carry out the objects of their charters, but failed.
A new company was formed by the stockholders
of the old corporations, but seventeen years passed
before the canal was finished. The first canal-
boat, which went west, left Philadelphia on March
20, 1828, by way of the Schu3dkill canal to Read-
ing, and thence by the Union canal to Middletown,
arriving at the latter place on the 23d. The event
was duly celebrated at jMiddletown. There were
seventeen Union canal boats in service in July, that
year, and over two hundred were in operation be-
fore the end of the j'ear.

The length of the canal was 79^ miles, with 91
locks, 8 basins, 93 bridges, 16 dams, and 17
aqueducts. From the summit (four miles east of
Lebanon) to the mouth of Tulpehocken creek the
distance was 37 miles. This section of the canal
was 26 feet wide at bottom, and 36 feet at water
surface; depth of water, 4 feet, and width of tow-
ing path, 10 feet.

The number of locks required to overcome the
fall of 310 feet was 53. The locks were faced with
dressed sandstone; chambers 8| feet wide and 75
feet long ; and lifts varying from 5 to 8 feet. About
1855, the locks were enlarged to correspond with
the locks of the Pennsylvania canal, from the Swa-
tara eastwardly to Reading.

The success of this canal was dependent upon
the construction of a similar canal along the Schuvl-
kill, in order to encourage traffic from the Sus-
quehanna to Philadelphia bv way of Reading. A
company had been chartered in i815 for this pur-
pose, which began the improvement desired, and
finished it in 1825.

In 1830, the canal was extended along the west-
ern bank of the Schuylkill, three miles below Read-
ing, to the Little Dam, having its outlet in the
Big Dam, about a thousand feet farther down. But
this portion was washed so badly by the freshet
of 1850 that it was rendered useless, and connec-
tion wasjnade with the Schuylkill canal at a lock
near the Harrisburg bridge. At this point, about
1S28, the company had constructed a dam called
"Union Dam" (commonly known as "Lotz's
Dam"), for the purpose of forming a connection
with the Schuylkill canal; and this was the only



connection till 1855, when the canal was extended
to a point opposite "Jackson's Lock," at the foot
of Sixth street, where connection was afterward

In order to form an idea of the extent and growth
of the business over this canal, soon after it was
completed, the following statistics are presented:

For the week ending May 27, 1831, 80 boats passed

■ Reading going down, 45 loaded with lumber and coal,
and the others with flour, whiskey, castings, etc. ; and
60 passed going up, 17 loaded with merchandise. For the
week ending June 14, 1835, 125 loaded boats passed down,
and 112 loaded boats passed up. Some years after-
ward, the tonnage and tolls were as follows:

Tons Tolls

1847 139,256 $91,356

1848 153,222 95,953

1§49 148,332 86,800

The boats were diminutive, being only 18 tonb'
capacity at the opening of the canal ; afterward, in
1828, increased to 23 tons ; and afterward, the size
was increased until 1845, when the capacity was
€0 tons.

Lottery Privileges. — The amount of money

■ raised in the course of the prosecution of the
canal enterprise, between the Schuylkill and Sus-
quehanna rivers, was enormous, not so much from
the actual cost of the improvements as in the waste-
ful way in which the money was raised, and the
amount taken from the community which did no
good to the undertaking. The capital of the two
companies was insufficient for the execution of
the work, and the Legislature granted them power
to raise money "by way of lottery." The whole
amount specified in the grant was $400,000, of
which the Schuylkill and Susquehanna Company
was to have two-thirds, and the Delaware and
Schuylkill Company one-third. This Act was passed
April 17, 1795, and under it the companies exer-
cised the privilege of issuing lottery tickets. Un-
til 1810, the companies had realized only $60,000,
a sum wholly insufficient for their purposes. They
complained that their affairs "had fallen into dis-
order and embarrassment; that they were covered
with reproach and ridicule," and that the public
confidence was impaired. This led to the union
of the two corporations in 1811. In the Act, the
lottery privileges were renewed; and, as the com-
pany had not made much by their own management,
they were empowered to sell or assign their lottery
rights to any persons whom they might select.
So the company leased out the lottery privileges and
under this arrangement the lotteries became very
successful. The managers took in large amounts
of money, but the Canal Company did not have
much added to their funds, and a report to the
Legislature stated that the lottery managers made
many millions, while the Union Canal Company
got but $269,210. This caused great scandal.

An Act was passed for the suppression of lot-
teries in Pennsylvania after March 1, 1833, which

declared that the lottery rights of the company
were exhausted, and prohibited the sale of lottery
tickets of any kind after Dec. 31st of that year.
But, as a compensation for the privileges taken
from the company, the Governor was authorized
to subscribe for one thousand shares of stock on
behalf of the State of Pennsylvania.

The lotteries of the Union Canal Company were
drawn at stated periods from the gallery of the
stairs in the tower of the State-house, which led
to the upper chambers, and the drawings were at-
tended by hundreds of persons.

The canal was supposed to be the only possible
means of conveyance, except by the common road,
long after all the companies connected with the
navigation of the Schuylkill had been chartered.
But the Columbia railroad, under the management
of the State, began to be a rival of the
Union canal in bringing produce and passen-
gers from the Susquehanna as soon as it
was finished. The movement for its establish-
ment commenced in 1826, when a company
was incorporated to build a railroad from Lancas-
ter and Columbia to Philadelphia. The plan not
proving successful, in 1828 the State authorized
a survey and followed it up in after years by ap-
propriations, under which the work was carried on.
The road was finished to Lancaster in April, 1834,
and opened through to Columbia in the summer of
1835. Just as soon as this means of transportation
was finished, the Union Canal Company lost a large
share of its business and prospects. The railroad
offered a shorter route and quicker method of com-
munication between the Susquehanna and Delaware
rivers. The opening of the Lebanon Valley rail-
road from Reading to Harrisburg in 1857, through
the same section of territory, proved the final and
crushing blow to the Union Canal Company. From
that time onward it began to decline more and
more until it was finally abandoned, about 1890.

Schuylkill Canal. — The Schuylkill Canal Nav-
igation Company was incorporated on March 8,
1815, for the purpose of transporting coal, lumber,
merchandise, produce, etc., by a system of canals
and slackwater navigation, by appropriating the
water of the Schuylkill river from Mill creek, in
Schuylkill county, to Philadelphia. The transporta-
tion of articles was then carried on over the Centre
turnpike to Reading, and the Perkiomen and Ger-
mantown turnpikes to Philadelphia. Certain com-
missioners were named in the Act, and they were
directed to open subscription books at various places
in May, 1815. The par value of a share of stock
was fixed at fifty dollars, and twenty-five hundred
shares were to be subscribed at Reading — one-fourth
of the total shares.

The first board of directors was elected at Nor-
ristown on Oct. 5, 1815. It included two members
from Berks county — Lewis Reese, of Reading, and
John Wiley, of Maiden-creek. Samuel Baird, of



Pottsgrove (now Pottstown), was also a member,
but he soon afterward removed to Reading and
practised law.

The construction of the canal was begun in 1817,
and completed in 1832, from John Potts's, at tlie
mines, to within one-half a mile of Hamburg, be-
low the Blue Mountain. The lower section, from
the Schuylkill bridge at Philadelphia to Reading,
had been finished. "Boats carried during 1821 over
the completed portion of the canal, from the coal
mines to the vicinity of Hamburg, large quantities
of coal, which were deposited there and sold out
by the ton to the country people from the neigh-
borhood and for many miles distant. The unfin-
ished oortion of the canal was reported to have
been completed during the year 1822 ; and this was
the first completed navigation in the country.

The total length from Mount Carbon to Phil-
adelphia was 105 miles (62 of canal and 43 of
pools in river), with a fall of 588 feet; in-
cluding 120 locks (81 above Reading and 39 be-
low) ; 28 dams, 17 arched stone aqueducts, and a
tunnel 450 feet long, cut through solid rock. The
total cost was $1,800,000.

In 1827-28, the canal was extended to Mill creek,
making the total length 108.23 miles; and, by an
enlargement in 1846, the number of locks was re-
duced to 71, with a total fall of about 620 feet.
The size of the locks was 18 by 110 feet; width
of canal, 60 feet; depth of water, 6 feet. The
capacity of boats waS 180 tons.

The cost of transportation by land from Read-
ing to Philadelphia was 40 cents a hundredweight ;
by canal it was reduced to 12-| cents. The toll on
coal from Mt. Carbon to Philadelphia in 1825 was
6 cents a bushel or $1.68 a ton.

Horses or mules were not used for towing boats
previous to 1826. The boats were first towed
through the canals by men at the end of long tow-
lines. Two men drew- a boat after them by press-
ing their shoulders or breasts against a stick fast-
ened crosswise to the end of the tow-line. With
such locomotion, a trip from Mount Carbon to
Philadelphia and back generally required six
weeks. At this time there were no tow-paths along
the pools of the navigation ; hence the necessity
for man-power.

The following statistics show the great traffic
over the canal during the first five years after its
completion :

Passed down Canal | 3S26 I 1827 | 1828 I 1820 I 1830

Barrels of flour

Tons of coal

Tons of iron ore

Tons of iron

Tons of whiskey

Total tons descending . .
Total tons ascending . . .
Total tolls received . . . .

21,2451 31,4.361 66,8351
16,787| 31,630| 47,2841


















1 5,0231 1 7,799
79,973f 89,984













1 In tons.

The traffic continued to increase from year to
year. In 1842, it was over 500,000 tons, and the

tolls over $400,000. Ample dividends were made;
and shares, which cost originally $50, were sold
as high as $175, and even $180. In 1851, the total
tonnage was 842,097 tons, of which there were
579,156 tons of coal; and the total toll was $285,-
621. After 1861, the canal tonnage reached in some
years nearly 1,400,000 tons of coal and 3_{)0,000 tons
of merchandise and miscellaneous articles. The
capacity of the canal was estimated at 1,800,000 tons
descending, and at least 500,000 tons ascending.

The boats were from 17 to 17^ feet wide, and
100 to 101 and 102 feet long, with a maximum
capacity of 190 tons.

After the year 1858, the company oftered prem-
iums for dispatch in transportation. Two boats
competed energetically and proved that a trip from
Port Carbon to New York and return could be made
in seven days. This was regarded as an extraordi-
nary performance. The interest taken in this con-
test was so great that a boat came to be loaded at
the canal landings in eighteen minutes from the
time the boat reached the wharf till the trip was
resumed. Finally, trouble was anticipated from
this rivalry and the company put an end to it. The
company continued to operate this great enterprise
till 1870, when they leased it to the Philadelphia
and Reading Railroad Company for a term of nine
hundred and ninety-nine years.

Packets. — In 1835, John and Nicholas Coleman
introduced the system of running packets through
the canal from Reading to Philadelphia. Trips were
made three times a week. The fare was $2.50, and
a trip was made in a day. The packets had no
berths for sleeping purposes, but a large dining-
room. Cooking was done aboard, and meals were

These packets were well patronized, and contin-
ued in successful operation till about 1832, when
the increasing traffic on the canal forced them to
be withdrawn. Theretofore boats, loaded and emp-
ty, would turn out or lay over for an approaching
packet, which was given the right of way.

The first steamboat on the canal came from Phil-
adelphia to Reading on Dec. 5, 1826. Twenty years
afterward, a line of Steam Packets was begun be-
tween Reading and Philadelphia. The first packet
arrived on Sept. 28, 1846. It was built of iron, with
two Ericson propellers, 85 feet long, and 13-} feet
wide. They departed from Reading every day, ex-
cept Sunday, at 2 p. m., and arrived at Philadelphia
the next morning. And they departed from Phila-
delphia and arrived at Reading on the same time.
The fare was $1 a trip. But this enterprise did not
continue long in operation.


The first railway in Pennsylvania was built in
1837 from Mauch Chunk to Summit Hill, in length
nine miles. It was constructed to complete the
transportation of coal from Mine Hill to Philadel-



phia. From Mauch Chunk to Philadelphia a canal
had been constructed shortly before by the Lehigh
Coal and Navigation Company. But the canal could
not be extended to Mine Hill ; so the company was
compelled to build a railway to take the place of
ordinary rdads. Soon afterward, The Little Schuyl-

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 14 of 227)