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 21 of 227)
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chinery, besides a better class of dwellings and
barns. A higher order of taste in the adornment
of persons and places has made its way through
increasing liberality.


Domestic 'habits, in respect to home-made articles,
have changed. Spinning and weaving have been
abandoned. The loom and the factory supply all
the materials required. A change began to be made
about 1840. Before that time, spinning was com-
mon everywhere in the county, for it was one of
the necessary accomplishments of mothers and
daughters. Till then, reels and spinning-wheels
were sold at different stores in Reading. Sales
then declined gradually, and within twenty years
afterward there was no demand at all for these

Gardening is still carried on successfully in the
country districts. Besides supplying vegetables for
family use, it is a source of profit to mothers and
daughters, who dispose of a large proportion of
garden products in the markets at Reading and the

The almanac is a common guide to indicate by
the changes of the moon the proper time for plant-
ing. The practice of consulting the moon's phases
is regarded by many persons as a superstitious no-
tion; but it still prevails. So fences are erected
when the points of the moon are up; shingle roofs
are nailed in position when the points are down;

and woods are cleared when the moon is full. But
the custom is hot so general as it was, especially
in towns and cities, where building operations are
conducted through all seasons; and walls, fences
and roofs are placed in position regardless of the
face of the moon.

A funeral in the country districts is still largely
attended, especially the funeral of a citizen of
prominence. The services are generally conducted
in the German language in the church of which the
deceased was a member, as well as at his home,
briefly. Afterward the guests return to the house
of mourning and participate in a large dinner. This
custom has continued time out of mind. Great
sociability is exhibited upon such an occasion.
Friends travel miles to attend a funeral in order
to show respect for the deceased. And the entire
neighborhood is represented. The burials are gen-
erally made in the burying-ground adjoining a
church. But the first settlers made burials in pri-
vate grounds set apart on farms for this purpose.
It was instituted as a matter of convenience; and
then the funeral service was held at the house. The
change of farm ownership caused this custom to
be gradually abandoned. Seventy years ago, private
grounds were still numerous ; afterward church
cemeteries began to be more encouraged and bur-
ials in them increased.

The country store was a great institution years
ago. But its influence, trade and popularity are
much reduced. This change was effected through
the introduction of competing stage lines and the
railway. Variety of goods and cheapness are con-
siderations which induce the people to visit the
towns and the county-seat for their purchases. It
is noticeable that the railway is drawing the pat-
ronage of Reading to Philadelphia more and more ;
so that as our townships come, to patronize Read-
ing, Reading goes to patronize Philadelphia. This
is apparent elsewhere — the cities attracting the
trade of towns, and the towns that of the country
districts. The trolley lines are particularly useful
and influential in this behalf.

The country inn was also a popular place for
many years. Frolics and dances were common ev-
erywhere years ago ; and they were carried on suc-
cessfully at the inn. The "fiddler" was an impor-
tant person upon such occasions. And "Battalion
Day" brought much profit to the inn that was near
by the place where the military exercise was con-

Military affairs were active throughout the coun-
ty from the close of the Revolution until the be-
ginning of the Civil war, a period covering nearly
eighty years. Companies of men were formed in
every section, and battalions were drilled annually
at the prominent towns, mostly at Reading, Kutz-
town, Hamburg, Rehrersburg, Womelsdorf, Boyer-
town and Morgantown. These exercises occasioned
the day to be called "Battalion Day." They afford-
ed the men much pleasure and a great change in
their daily employment in the field, barn and work-



shop. Many sons of early families became quite
prominent as military men.

The old "Conestoga wagon" is no longer seen
passing over our highways. Seventy years ago it
was in prominent use everywhere. Many were seen


moving together in transporting great loads of
wheat, and other products such as manufactured
articles, whiskey, etc., to distant markets, especially
to Philadelphia. Each one was drawn by four
horses, sometimes by five and six; which attracted
much attention, with jingling sweet-toned bells on
the lead-horse of the team to indicate its movement
on the way. Its capacity was from two thousand
to three thousand pounds. It was covered with a
strong canvas top. In returning, store goods of
various kinds were brought along. After the open-
ing of the railroad in 1838, this business of hauling
in Conestoga wagons gradually ceased. Since then,
the only considerable hauling by farmers is in con-
veying their grain, hay, etc., to the market at Read-
ing; and this is done almost entirely in one wagon
at a time.

In a "moving" by a farmer about April 1st, many
teams are used to convey the whole stock, furniture,
etc., in a day. The long train affords to a certain
degree an idea how the Conestoga teams appeared.

The life of the farmer is comparatively little be-
yond hard, earnest labor and rigid economy through-
out each succeeding year. His daily reflection is
upon his stock and crops. All the improved imple-
ments and labor-saving machinery are devised and
introduced by others for his benefit. He would
have continued in the same manner of conducting
his farming operations practised from 1700 to 1800,
and even till 1850, if inventive genius had
not created new methods for him. The farmer of
our own county has not produced anything to im-
prove his situation in respect to labor. He adopts
what is brought to him. This singular inactivity
keeps him back of the advancing times. Through
it, the products of his labor are permitted to ht
drained to populous places. One of the chief con-
sequences is little remuneration. The men of

thought and energy in cities absorb the greater pro-
portion of the profits. If his daily habits were not
simple and his expenses small, he could not keep
what he has, much less accumulate more. His net
income from actual labor is limited. Compared
with the incomes of business men, agents, officers
of corporations and clerks in cities, it is insignificant.
His manners are the same in this respect as in
others. If we examine them closely and compare
them with the condition of things one hundred
years ago, we find little progress. His household
furniture, bedding, clothing, tableware, social habits
and general customs are generally the same. His
walls are not decorated with costly paintings; his
floors are not covered with fine, soft carpets ; his
beds are not composed of easy springs and hair or
wire mattresses ; his table does not glisten with pol-
ished silver or sparkle with cut glass; his dwelling
is not after the modern style, with arrangements
for health and convenience; and he himself is not
a patron of art, literature or amusements. In towns
and cities, however, we find all these things, not
only in the dwellings of bankers, lawyers and mer-
chants, but also of industrious mechanics, agents
and clerks; and art, literature and various amuse-
ments are largely patronized and encouraged.

This great difference is caused by the spirit of
progress, which obtains more in populous places
where the people are led in numerous ways to inter-
mingle daily with one another. Association creates
the laudable ambition to develop improvements in
the various departments of domestic and social life ;
and it relieves the monotony of daily labor by lit-
erary, musical and dramatic amusements. In car-
rying on its amusements successfully, it is convert-
ing night more and more into day and devising new
methods for social pleasure and excitement. Im-
proved light facilitates and encourages it in the

Traveling is a great agency in stimulating it.
Indeed, in certain respects, it is like steam on the
one hand and electricity on the other — active and
energetic in moving about from place to place, and
brilliant and powerful in providing the necessary
light to accommodate its conceptions. Horse-
power, and locomotion afforded by this means, may
suffice for the people in the country districts, but
steam and railroads afford locomotion which is not
too rapid for the people in the towns and cities.

Restless energy is introducing wonderful changes
in the manners and customs of the people. In the
mountainous and farming districts, where distance
still separates many inhabitants and the means for
rapid intermingling are impracticable, the changes
are imperceptible. Their situation does not warrant
changes, especially such as are constantly going on
in the cities, for it could not support them. The
profits of labor and investment in them are too
slow and too small. Hence their manners and cus-
toms, their dwellings and churches, their roads and
movements, their speech and actions, their dress
and associations, are the same or nearly the same as


they were a hundred years ago. Their energy is open fireplace for the production of hght in a simple
inseparable from the plow and the hoe and muscu- and inexpensive way; in the other, these have long
lar exertion. But the cities produce and support passed away, especially for public purposes, and
these changes, and in them energy partakes more the people have light from electricity. In the one,
of the mind than of the body. And these changes, thousands of inhabitants are scattered over miles
and this mental energy, are more active amongst of territory, but in the other thousands are concen-
their inhabitants. trated upon a few acres, if not in a few very large
In comparing the situation of the people of Al- buildings. In the one, a few hundred dollars suffice
bany and Caernarvon townships, districts located to make the inhabitants contented and happy; but
at the extreme northern and southern ends of the in the other, millions of dollars are invested and
county, thirty miles apart ; also of Hereford and expended to carry out successfully the manners and
Bethel townships, districts located at the extreme customs of its inhabitants and such changes as am-
eastern and western ends, forty miles apart, with bition, competition and rivalry produce,
the situation of the people of Reading, the county- Contentment would seem to be the companion of
seat, the difference is apparent at a glance. One slowness, if not of stillness ; but discontentment, of
hundred years ago they were alike, or nearly so. energy and activity. In the one, the expense of
But just as Reading is in advance of the districts a few extra dollars in travel or amusement is looked
mentioned, so is New York, the great metropolis of upon as luxury, if not extravagance ; but in the
our vast country, in advance of Reading. other, thousands of dollars are expended as a mat-
By contrasting the two extremes, our mountain- ter of necessity for the same purpose. These
ous districts with the great metropolis, the differ- strong contrasts enable us to see our own manners
ence in the manners and customs of the respective and customs as they are or were or as they will be,
inhabitants is truly wonderful. And yet the fore- more especially in the more populous places, the
fathers of each, as immigrants, started alike. In nearer that steam and electricity come to be con-
the one, oil and tallow are still used, and even the nected with us in our material progress.


ELECTION DISTRICTS' till 1789. During this time the county comprised

one election district; and all elections were directed

Provision was made for free and voluntary elec- to be held at the Court-House, in the county-town,
tions by William Penn in the laws agreed upon in Then the county was divided into five election dis-
England in 1682, for the government of Pennsyl- tricts, and the electors of the 'several townships
vania and the right of election was given to every were required to vote at the places named :
freeman of the province. A freeman was defined Reading; 1st District, at the Court-House
to be "every inhabitant that is or shall be a pur-
chaser of one hundred acres of land or upward ; and Readmg H^^d^lb
every person who shall have paid his passage and ^^^^^ Maiden-creek
taken up one hundred acres of land at one penny Brecknock Oley
an acre, and have cultivated ten acres thereof; and Caernarvon Robeson
every person that hath been a servant or bondsman Cumru Ruscombmanor
and is free by his service, that shall have taken up Kutaiown, 2d District, at 'public house of Philip Gehr
fifty acres of land and cultivated twenty thereot ; „ . , i,^ .
and every inhabitant, artificer, or other resident that g^/Xd Rich^on^
pays scot or lot to the government." Longswamp Rockland

At that time, the territory comprising Berks

county was occupied by Indians. Not a single white Hamburg; 3d District, at public house of John Moyer

man had yet settled upon it. There was no need Albany Brunswick

for election laws then, nor for districts to facilitate Bern, Upper Windsor

elections. But in one hundred years afterward, „ ,^ , , ,,u n- . ■'<. ^ i,i- t. r r- jr

i iii 1. J „i.,_„,i ).u^ to^.-;f^^-.T Tulpehocken, 4th District, at pubhc house of Godfrey
many permanent settlers had entered the territory, ' Roehrer

and the necessity for government in all its forrris

had become apparent. Townships had been organ- Bethel Tulpehocken

ized and the county had become erected with all its Pme-Orove

offices in that interval of time. Independence had ^„,ity^ 5th District, at public house of Wm. Witman—

been declared ; government established ; and elec- called "White Horse "

tions of various local officers held. a™;*,, Tr,^i

_,. ,. , ^ . , ■ liji Amity Jiarl

The elections for county officials were held at Colebrookdale Union

Reading from the beginning of the county in 1752 Douglass



There were then twenty-nine townships and one
borough, Reading. In the performance of this poH-
tical duty many electors traveled a distance of fif-
teen miles. But this was an improvement on what
had been required four years before — those living
in the townships farthest removed from Reading
having been required to travel from twenty-five to
thirty miles.

Subsequently, until now, additional districts have
been established to facilitate elections. As a matter
of historical interest they are presented in the order
of priority; in the subdivisions of the county (as
made in Chapter I).

Manataivny Section

Muthart's, 1794 — comprising Colebrookdale, District
Earl and Hereford.

Hereford, 1811.

Keely's, 1812 — ^comprising Douglass, Amity, Colebrook-
dale and Earl.

01 ey, 1814.

Ruscombmanor, 1815.

Rockland, 1816.

Pike, 1816.

Earl, 1817.

Reading, two wards, 1817.

District, 1818.

Amity, 182.2.

Douglass, 1824.

Colebrookdale, 1827.

Exeter, 1839.

Alsace, 1840.

Washington, 1840.

Reading, 1840, four wards ; 1844, fifth ward.

Muhlenberg, 1850.

Boyertown, 1866.

Reading, 1864, nine wards; 1875, eleven -wards ; 1885,
thirteen wards; 1892, fifteen wards; 1894, sixteen wards.

Alsace, Lower, 1888.

Mt. Penn, 1904.

Ontelaimee Section

Croll's 1790 — comprising Albany and Greenwich.

Maiden-creek, 1817.

Longswamp, 1817.

Albany, 1819.

Perry, 1821.

Richmond, 1823.

Greenwich, 1827.

Windsor, 1S30 (at Hamburg).

Hamburg, 1837.

Maxatawny and Kutztown, 184].

Ontelaunee, 1850.

Fleetwood, 1873.

Topton, 1877.

Lenhartsville, 1887.

Titlpehockcn Section

Womelsdorf. 1797 — comprising Bethel, Tulphocken and

Bethel, 1803.

Tulpehocken, 1809.

Shartle's, 1812 — comprising Upper Bern and Upper Tul-

Bern, Upper, 1822.

Tulpehocken, Upper, 1829.

Bernville, 1829.

Heidelberg, Lower, 1834.

Heidelberg, 1839.

Bern, 1840.

Penn, 1842.

Centre, 1843.

Marion, 1843.

Heidelberg, North, 1845.

Jefferson, 1851.

Centreport, 1884.

Tilden, 1887.

West Leesport, 1901.

Schuylkill Section

Forest, 1791 — comprising then Caernarvon, Robeson and

Marquart's, 1798 — comprising same townships with Breck-
nock added.

Caernarvon, 1818.

Union, 1829.

Robeson, 1829.

Brecknock, 1829. •

Cumru, 1840 (at Reading).

Spring, 1850.

Birdsboro, 1872.

Wyomissing, 1906.

West Reading, 1907.

Mohnton, 1907.

Shillington, 1908.

Section beyond the Mountain

Pine-Grove, 1797 — comprising all north of the Blue

Orwigsburg, 1798 — comprising Brunswick and Man-

Mahantango, 1802 — comprising that township.

The election districts in the county now (1909)
comprise 16 wards of Reading, 2 wards of Birds-
boro and 2 of Hamburg; 1.5 boroughs, and 43 town-
ships, altogether 78.


Before 1820, it would seem that the major part
of the voters of the county did not show so strong
a partisan spirit in reference to the election of their
representatives to Congress as they did afterward.
Joseph Hiester was a very popular man with his'
constituents, and he maintained their confidence
and political support through a period embracing
thirty years, notwithstanding his identification with
the Federal party and the publication of certain
letters in local newspapers reflecting against his
political character. He succeeded in accomplishing
what no other man in the history of the county ha's
been able to do; for, besides securing his repeated
election to Congress on- the ticket of the minoritv
party, he even influenced the suflfrage of the Dem-
ocrats in the county in his own behalf against their
own regular nominee for Governor to such an ex-
tent as to be elevated to the highest executive c<fice
of the State.

During the period from 1829 to 1844, Rev. Hen-
ry A. Muhlenberg (the son-in-law of Hiester) was
the most prominent political representative. By a
reelection to Congress for five consecutive terms
he evinced much popularity. In ISo.o, he received
the nomination of the Dem'ocratic party for Gover-
nor ; but he was not elected, owing to the action
of an independent element in the party which was
led by Governor Wolf, the incumbent then in the
executive office and concluding his second term.



At that time, the Anti-Mason party was strong
in the State, and, through the division of the Dem-
ocratic party, it was enabled to elect its candidate,
Joseph Ritner. Muhlenberg polled the largest vote
of the three candidates in the county.

Several years afterward, Presideiit Van Buren
appointed Muhlenberg to be the first minister to
Austria, and, upon accepting this distinguished ap-
pointment, he resigned his seat in Congress. This
was the first honor conferred by a President of
the United States upon the county of Berks, and
the people appreciated it highly. In 1844, Muhlen-
berg again became the regular nominee for Gov-
ernor on the Democratic ticket, but he died before
the election.

There was a great difference between Hiester and
Muhlenberg ; the former was a Federalist in a Dem-
ocratic county, successful in winning . and ' holding
a strong political support for himself, and a stanch
advocate of a protective tariff, of the free school
system, and of the United States B;ank (of which
it is probable that he was one of the original sub-
scribers of stock) ; but the latter was a Democrat,
and opfHDsed to the rheasures mentioned.

Twenty years after Muhlenberg's time in Con-
gress, the first considerable dissatisfaction arose in
the Democratic party in the county, which resulted
in the defeat of Hon. J. Glancy Jones, the regular
nominee. He had been the representative from this
district since 1851, and while serving his fourth
term announced his candidacy for re-election. But
a great political change was then working its way
amongst the people throughout Pennsylvania, and
to a certain extent this change was manifesting
itself also in Berks county. It was created princi-
pally by the action of Buchanan's administration on
the Kansas question, and Jones — one of Buchan-
an's ablest supporters — ^having been intimately asso-
ciated with it, the leaders of the opposition naturally
took advantage of the situation to extend their feel-
ing into the county so as to operate against him.

Though Jones had made the nomination before
the County Convention almost by acclamation, im-
mediately afterward certain influential Democrats
of the county developed sufficient strength against
him to be able to call another convention and ex-
press opposition to his re-election — the principal
ground being his course on the subject of the tariff.
The Independent Democrats therefore nominated
John Schwartz — a prominent ironmaster of large
ability and experience, and a highly respected sur-
vivor of the war of 1812-15.

The Republicans united in supporting Schwartz,
and this co-operation caused the defeat of Jones
by a small majority — the first real defeat which the
Democrats had met with in the history of the party
in the county.

The defeat of Jones was both a surprise and a
disappointment to President Buchanan, and immed-
iately after hearing it he appointed Jones to the
Austrian Mission. Jones accepted this appointment
and thereupon resigned his seat in Congress. He

represented the national government at Vienna for
two years with great distinction.

But the political activity in the campaign of 1858
was not permitted to subside with the defeat of
Jones. His resignation having caused a vacancy
which the electors were obliged to fill the Democrats
nominated Joel B. Wanner, Esq. (who had,_ two
years before, served a term as mayor of Reading),
and the Republicans nominated General William H.
Keim, a man highly respected for his business qual-
ifications and very popular throughout the county
in military affairs. A special election was held in
November, 1858, but the vote was small, especially
for the Democratic candidate, and Keim was elect-

Previously, on two occasions, in respect to coun-
ty offices, a simitar result had occurred. In 1846,
David Yoder, a prominent and influential farmer of
Oley and a descendant of one of the first families
in that township, was elected, as a Whig, to the
office of county commissioner, because the nominee
on the Democratic ticket was alleged to have been
an Irishman, the Irish as a class not being par-
ticularly appreciated by the German element in the
county. And in 1853, Charles Van Reed, also a
prominent farmer and paper manufacturer of Lower
Heidelberg township, was elected as a Whig to the
office of county treasurer. The nominee on the Dem-
ocratic ticket was Adam Leize, who had held the
office from 1849 to 1851. The incumbent during
the election was William Ermentrout, whose son
was married to Leize's daughter. Many Democrats
thought that one family was obtaining too much
political preferment and therefore they opposed the
election of Leize.

Between 1789 and 1820, Daniel Messersmith and
Johp K. Messersmith had continued to hold the
office of treasurer alternately for a period of thirty
years ; David Bright from 1823 to 1835 ; and Peter
Nagle from 1835 to 1843. The office was filled by
appointment until 1841, when it became elective.

In 1841, the Hon. John Banks (then the president
judge of the courity) was the nominee of the Whig
party for Governor. The Democratic party was
at that time under thorough organization and Gov-
ernor Porter was elected by a largely increased ma-
jority, in the county as well as in the State. Sub-
sequently, in 1847, while the Whigs were in the
majority in the State Legislature, Judge Banks was'
elected to the office of State treasurer for one year
by the united support of all the Whigs.

Between 1850 and 1860, there were two promi-
nent representatives from the county in the State
Legislature — William M. Hiester, in the Senate
from' 1853 to 1855, serving as speaker during the
latter year; and J. Lawrence Getz, in the House
for 1856 and 1857, also serving as speaker during-

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 21 of 227)