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 41 of 227)
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to Lebanon and Middletown, in 1828. Large quan-
tities of goods, especially coal and lumber, were
shipped over these canals. The enterprise was suc-
cessful through this period, and contributed much
toward the development of the borough.

Railroad. — The Philadelphia & Reading railroad
was projected a.long the Schuylkill through Reading
from Philadelphia to Pottsville in 1833. It was
completed to Reading in 1838, and to Pottsville
in 1842; and then it became an additional factor
with the turnpikes and canals for great local pro-

Banks. — ^A "Branch" of the Bank of Pennsyl-
vania was established at Reading in 1808 (in the
building occupied by the Union Bank) , and carried
on successfully until its suspension in 1857. The
Farmers Bank was organized in 1814, and it has
been maintained successfully ever since, now over
ninety years, and in the same building. The Eck-
erts were prominently identified with it from 1838
to 1908. A third bank was organized in 1836, but
it continued only eight years. It was called the
"Berks County Bank."

Panic of 1837. — A money panic arose in the
borough in 1837, owing to a suspension of prom-
inent banks in the large cities, but the local busi-
ness men published a notice in which they expressed
entire confidence in the Reading banks and a will-
ingness to accept their notes in payment of debts
and merchandise. But the scarcity of money com-
pelled certain merchants to resort to an expedient
for a circulating medium by issuing notes for small

sums, which were called by the people "Shinplas-
ters," "Rag Barons" and "Hickory Leaves." And
the borough council, to relieve the community in.
this behalf, issued loan certificates in denomina-
tions of five, ten, twenty-five and fifty cents, and
one, two and three dollars, redeemable Aug. 1,.
1838. The whole issue amounted to $25,000. They
were loaned to business men on approved security
and subsequently redeemed.

Newspapers. — A number of newspapers were:
started in this period. The first was in 1789. In
1796, there were three others, the Reading Herald
(English) ; the Reading Adler (German), pubHshed.
until now; and the Weekly Advertiser (English),,
published until 1816, when the Berks and Schuylkill
Journal (English) took its place, which is still is-
sued. The Reading Courier (German) was issued,
from 1816 to 1826 ; the Chronicle of the Times-
(English), from 1826 to 1835; Berks County Press
(EngHsh), from 1835 to 1865; Liberal Observer
(German), from 1839 to 1864; Reading Gazette
and Democrat (English), from 1840 to 1878, when
the Reading Weekly Eagle was substituted in its
place, and this has been pubHshed until now; Old
Berks (German), from 1840 to 1848, when it was
transferred to Pottsville and the name changed to
Pottsville Adler. Several others were started but
they had a short existence. The spirit for writing
and publishing during this period was very strong.
The editors exhibited much courage in ventilating
their opinions on jKilitical and social topics.

Churches and Schools. — Besides the three de-
nominations mentioned in the first period, the
Roman Catholics and Protestant Episcopalians
came to erect churches in the second period, and
also the Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Uni-
versalists and English Lutherans. Schools were
carried on successfully, as before until W.835, when
the public system was introduced ; and in 1838 'the
first public school buildings were erected.

Industrial Affairs. — During this period, indus-
trial affairs became the prominent feature of Read-
ing. The small shops were developed into large
factories and mills, and the capital invested in such
establishments increased from several hundred dol-
lars to many thousands. The energy of certain in-
fluential men was directed chiefly toward the manu-
facture of iron, and this stimulated various other
enterprises, particularly in the line of building oper-
ations. The discovery of coal and the application
of steam to motive power for operating machinery
were the direct causes of this marked improvement,
and the canal and railroad were natural results
from their introduction and increasing use. The
large increase in population must be attributed to
them, the growth from 1830 to 1840 having been
over 43 per cent, and from 1840 to 1850 over 87
per cent. The country districts of Berks county
increased only 21 per cent, during the former de-
cade, and only 19 per cent, during the latter.



Water CoMPANY.-In 1821, a water company of legerdemain performances by himse f , tricks by

was organized to supply the people of the borough a learned dog, and a display of fire-works. Tickets

with water. A reservoir was constructed at the for adults, 50 cents ; for children, 25 cents,

head of Penn street, and the water from "Hamp- In >ne 1808, an elephant eight years old and

den Spring" was conveyed into it by means of ^^^^f ^^^^ ^'^^ ^^^J^?^^:}'^*^'^,^^^ *7"f "r^^f.L^

wooden pipes, and thence distributed through the Daniel Feger; advertised as the only elephant then

place. In 1833, the investment was estimated at
$25,000, and two hundred and fifty families were
supplied. The spring had a daily flow of one hundred
thousand gallons, and the reservoir had a capacity
of one thousand hogsheads. Pumps continued to
be used in all parts of the borough.

Lighting. — The light was obtained from tallow
candles ; also from oil and camphene used in lamps.
The streets were not lighted. Public buildings were
seldom occupied in the night for meetings or en-
tertainments ; and there were no halls.

Fire Companies. — Three fire companies were
organized in addition to the Rainbow : Junior, in
1813; Reading, in 1819; and Neversink, in 1829.
Street Names. — Upon the laying out of the
town, the streets were named as follows: East and
West — ^Penn, extending through the center of the
town; north of Penn, Thomas and Margaret; and
south of Penn, Richard and Hamilton. North and
South- — King, Queen, Callowhill, Prince, Duke,
Earl, Clement, Lord and Vigour.

These names were changed by the borough coun-
cil in 1833, and those substituted were as follows,
Penn having- been retained : North of Penn — Lib-

in the country. Admission, 25 cents.

In November, 1813, Purdy, Carley & Bailey ex-
hibited a menagerie of thirty living wild animals, in-
cluding a lion and lioness, Arabian camels (male and
female), llamas (male and female), hyena, kanga-
roo, tiger, leopard and panther.

On Aug. 1, 1815, a whale was exhibited at the
public house of William Jones ; weight five thousand
pounds. Admission, 12^ cents ; children, half price.
This whale was caught in the Delaware river at
Trenton, on Nov. 11, 1814.

In December, 1838, William Paulin, accompanied
by a lady, ascended from Reading in a balloon
named "Comet" ; and in the following year he made
two successful ascensions.

Circuses gave numerous exhibitions and they
were well patronized; and traveling dramatic
troupes visited Reading, remaining a week at a

Distinguished Visitors. — John Penn arrived at
Reading on April 7, 1788, while on his way from
Philadelphia to Harrisburg. He remained two days
and expressed himself as much pleased with the
town. He stayed at Witman's tavern (southeast
corner Fifth and Franklin streets), and he regarded

erty, Washington and Walnut; South of Penn — the accommodations as worthy of a respectable
Cherry, Franklin and Qiestnut; Across Penn — country town. He dined heartily on catfish, which
Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, vvere plentiful in the river. The next day, he dined
Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh; and what had been ^ith James Biddle, Esq., and a number of citizens
called for a time Bridge and Treat, were changed called to pay their respects. He came here to look
to Front and Second. after his property. On April 9th, he visited Gen.

In 1845, council named the following alleys ex- Thomas Mifflin, on the latter's farm (now Alms-
tending north from Liberty: Pear, Thorn, Rose, House) and took breakfast and dinner with the
A?h, Church, Reed, Poplar, Cedar, Moss, and Black ; family. After dinner, he proceeded on his way.
and south from Cherry: Oak, Apple, Carpenter, President Washington visited Reading on Oct.
Wood, Pear, Plum, Lemon, Peach, Orange, and i^ 1794^ while on his way from Philadelphia to
Maple. Laurel and Willow streets were also named Carlisle during the Whiskey Insurrection. His
then. Bingaman street took its name and diagonal presence caused much social excitement. During
direction from the northerly line of the patent to his sojourn, he stayed at the "Federal Inn," where
Peter Bingaman ; that part beyond Tenth street hav- many people called to pay their respects. A mill-
ing been vacated by an Act of Assembly, passed tary parade was given under the command of Col.
May 8, 1850. Nicholas Lotz (who had taken an active part in

In 1832, the streets were graded according to the Revolution) to signalize the occasion, and the
regulation by Enoch Lewis, under the direction of distinguished visitor reviewed the troops. The
council. "Reading Volunteers" (a company of militia) es-

Eaely Exhibitions. — Exhibitions were given at corted him on the way, and at Carhsle they were
Reading at an early day. retained as his body-guard. When Washington

In October, 1791, a camel was exhibited at Jacob died, in 1799, all the people mourned his loss. The
Grant's tavern. newspapers were printed with heavy black borders ;

In January, 1792, McGrath's Company of comedi- and the people of the borough, to demonstrate in
ans from Maryland and Virginia rendered the a public manner their great sorrow for his death
"Tragedy of Douglass," "Farce of Barnaby Brittle," and great reverence for his name, held funeral
and other plays. services in Trinity Lutheran Church on Sunday,

In January, 1799, a man named Salanca gave a Jan. 5, 1800. A procession was solemnly formed
"curious exhibition" in Barr's ballroom, consisting on Penn Square, and a great concourse of people.



under the head of the miHtia of the borough,
marched to the church.

President Van Buren visited Reading on June
25, 1839, while on his way from Harrisburg to
Easton. A special committee met him at Womels-
dorf ; and many citizens from different parts of the
county formed a procession on the turnpike some
distance west of the Harrisburg bridge, and joined
the committee in escorting the distinguished visitor
to Reading. He was pleased to receive such an
expressive welcome from the thriving town on the
Schuylkill, which three years before had given
him a strong political support, nearly four to one
against Gen. W. H. Harrison. The procession
paraded through the principal streets. The presi-
dent rode on a fine cream-colored horse, and his
graceful horsemanship attracted general attention.
He sojourned at Herr's hotel. During the evening,
a reception was held at the residence of Samuel
Bell, Esq., where many citizens assembled to show
him honor. He left for Easton, via Kutztown,
on the following morning, a number of prominent
citizens having accompanied him as far as Kutz-
town. In the previous year, he had paid a high
compliment to the borough by selecting Hon. Hen-
ry A. Muhlenberg to be the first minister plenipo-
tentiary to Austria.

Gen. Winfield Scott visited Reading on Saturday,
May 31, 1843, during a great "Military Encamp-
ment" comprising fourteen companies of militia
from Berks, Lehigh and Schuylkill counties, of
which four were from Reading, numbering 157
men. He was accompanied by his aids. They were
met at the railroad station (Seventh and Chest-
nut streets) by a detachment of militia, and escort-
ed to Herr's hotel, where they were cordially wel-
comed and properly entertained. Many citizens
followed the parade. On Monday (33d), he re-
viewed the troops, and left on the next day for
Danville, to review a similar encampment. Dur-
ing the day, medals were awarded for skillful
shooting. He was much pleased with the disci-
pline and appearance of the encampment ; and he
paid a special compliment to the Reading Artil-
lerists. The encampment was held on Penn Com-
mon and was the first at Reading.

Liberty-Poles of 1799. — During the administra-
tion of President Adams, Congress caused a direct
tax to be levied upon houses, which was objection-
able to many persons. In eastern Pennsylvania,
an insurrection arose in 1799, and liberty-poles
were erected to declare the feeling of opposition.
A number of them were erected at and near Read-
ing. While a company of soldiers were on their
way through Reading to Bucks county, several of
these poles were cut down, and the conduct of the
soldiers was severely criticised by an editorial in
the Adler. When the company reached Reading
on its way back to Lancaster, the Captain, hearing
of this criticism, demanded the name of the author.

It was refused, and the proprietor of the news-
paper was taken to Penn Square and publicly

English War of 1813-15. — After the Revolu-
tion, the British government conducted itself in an
ofifensive manner persistently until the complaints
became too loud and the injuries too grievous to
be endured any longer, when President Madison
made them subjects for his message to Congress on
June 1, 1813, and a declaration of war was issued.
Berks county supplied twelve organized companies
in response to the call for troops. The companies
of Capt. Thomas Moore and Capt. Daniel deB.
Keim were composed entirely of men from Read-
ing; and the greater part of the men in the com-
panies of Capt. Jacob Marshall and Capt. George
Marx were also from Reading. The companies
left in August, 1814, and performed military duty
at York, Pa., but they did not participate in any en-
gagements with the enemy. Some of the men re-
mained four months, others six months. Peace was
concluded Dec. 34, 1814. When the event was
made known at Reading, the citizens signalized it
by shooting off cannon during the day and by a
grand illumination at night. During the war, when
the British approached Philadelphia, a number of
English families who lived there were compelled
to move away at least fifty miles, and on that ac-
count they came to Reading. This was in August,

Mexican War. — ^War between the United States
and Mexico was declared in May, 1846. The chief
burgess of Reading presided at a public meeting,
held on May 80th, at which the government was sus-
tained. Three companies of men from Reading
tendered their services, and one of them was accept-
ed, the Reading Artillerists, commanded by Capt.
Thomas S. Leoser. This company left on Dec.
26th for Mexico, and participated in the battles of
Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Chapultepec and Belen
Gate. They returned July 39, 1848, and were given
a brilliant reception.

CITY, 1847 TO 1909

Reading in 1847. — Reading was incorporated in-
to a city on March 16, 1847. At that time it was in
a flourishing state. Shops, factories and stores were
numerous. The population numbered about twelve
thousand. The tendency of local development was
to the south of Penn street and to the west of Ninth.
At that time there Were thirteen churches, seven to
the north of Penn, and six to the south.

The railroad deserves especial mention. A de-
cade had not fully elapsed since its introduction,
yet it demonstrated to a remarkable degree its pow-
er in accelerating the growth of everything. Anoth-
er railroad had been projected in 1836 to extend
westward to Harrisburg, but it was not as yet be-
gun. The canals and stages occupied a prominent
position. The former consisted of two lines, the
Schuylkill and the Union; and the latter of three
lines, to Easton, Harrisburg, and Lancaster.



A prominent social movement was then percep-
tible. This was the secret society, and thoug^h first
started in 1794, it had not begun to rnake a marked
impression till toward the close of the second per-
iod of Reading. The Independent Order of Odd
Fellows was particularly active. As a beneficial
organization, it extended its branches in various di-
rections with remarkable earnestness and success.

The fire company was active. Four volunteer
companies were conducted successfully. Rainbow,
Junior, Reading and Neversink, partly through pe-
cuniary assistance from the municipal government,
but mainly from the spontaneous efforts of their

The system of common school education was ac-
tively conducted, there being 17 schools, 31 teach-
ers, and 3,064 scholars. Five newspapers were pub-
lished successfully. Advertising was a prominent
feature in all of them. The political sentiment of
the inhabitants was favorable to the Whigs in local
affairs, but to the Democrats in State and nation-

The public markets were largely attended. The
market-men came regularly twice a week, Wednes-
days and Saturdays. Councils had proposed no im-
provement beyond the advantages first afforded in
1766; and rents were still collected.

The semi-annual fairs were kept up. Dancing,
drinking and fighting were conspicuous features.
The militia spirit maintained its activity ; and exer-
cise was carried on annually in May, on what was
known as "Battalion-Day."

Most of the people were domestic in their daily
Hfe. Gardening was carried on either in lots, upon
which the dwellings stood, or in out-lots. Fruit
trees were numerous, and plums, peaches, pears,
cherries, quinces and apples were plentiful. "Pre-
serving" fruit was common, not "canning" as now.
And nearly every family boiled apple-butter in an
open fire place in the fall of the year. Home-made
sausage, pudding, scrapple, hams, mince, and sauer-
kraut were in every household. About Christmas
time the cellars of housekeepers were well stocked.

The fuel for domestic purposes such as cook-
ing and heating was almost wholly wood, and, this
was consumed in a "ten-plate" stove ; and sawing
of cord-wood by hand was a common occupation.
Coal had been known to the community for nearly
forty years, but it was not used for domestic pur-
poses, its consumption having been principally in
public places, shops and factories.

The light was produced from fluid, oil and tallow,
even common fat, the first two having been used
in stores, and the last two in dwellings, especially
of the poorer classes of inhabitants. The streets
were not lighted up in the evening. Lanterns were
carried to shed light upon the roadway. There were
no street-crossings. The customs of the residents
had not yet come to convert night into day for
amusements of various kinds. Dramatic entertain-
ments were just starting out, and the demands for
an improved light were gradually growing greater.

The town was not large. The principal portion
lay between Walnut street on the north and Chest-
nut on the south ; Ninth street on the east and Third
on the west. Business of all kinds wlas done almost
entirely during the daytime, and merchants derived
their chief support from the farmers. Two consta-
bles were watchmen of the night, and for several
hours before and after midnight they called out the
hour and the condition of the weather in a monoton-
ous, low tone of voice.

The pump was used throughout the place, not-
withstanding the general supply of superior water
afforded by the Reading Water Company. It was
convenient in every block, if not on or near every
street corner. At least one hundred pumps were
in daily use. Penn street was especially well sup-
plied. Ice had come to be furnished in small quanti-
ties for about ten years, but not for drinking pur-

The events which have transpired since the incor-
poration of Reading as a city, have been so numer-
ous that a narration of them must be necessarily
brief. They will be mentioned by decades in the
order of their occurrence as near as possible, re-
ferring the reader to other parts of this chapter
for a more extended description of them.

184/-3/.— During the decade from 1847 to 1857;
business affairs grew more active, and continued to
do so till toward the close, when a panic ensued.
Gas was introduced for lighting- purposes in 1848.
The first large hall was erected by the Odd Fellows
in 1847, which provided a meeting place for the
society and accommodations for the public in respect
to entertainments. The Charles Evans cemetery was
founded in 1848 ; the Trinity Lutheran and Roman
Catholic cemeteries on the northern slope of Mt.
Neversink were laid out in 1849 ; and the Aulenbach
cemetery in 1851. Interments were then made in
these cemeteries; and the remains of many buried
persons, in graveyards in the central parts of the
city, were transferred to them. Numerous buildings
were erected, both dwellings and industrial estab-
lishm,ents, the latter including prominent enterprises
which have been continued until now.

Two railroads were constructed in 1857, the
East Penn to the northeast, and the Lebanon Valley
to the west. The militia system was active and
battalion days were devoted to military exercise.
The fair days at the market-houses passed away
without regret from any one, and in 1852, an agri-
cultural society began holding a county fair for an
improved annual exhibition of goods, live stock, etc.
An exciting topic at this time was the discovery of
gold in California, and several parties went there
from Reading, but their discouraging letters dis-
pelled the charm, and the excitement subsided. Var-
ious poHtical questions agitated the people, and one
of them, that of slavery, caused the Presidential
campaign of 1856 to be particularly enthusiastic.

A public high school was established in 1852, and
the taxpayers realized the promises of its projectors
in affording advanced education to such as attended



the common schools. The greatest freshet in the
Schuylkill Valley occurred in 1850, and the people of
Reading suffered damages estimated at more than
$500,000. On Jan. 8, 1854, the Philadelphia and
Reading Railroad Company machine shops on Sev-
enth betwieen Franklin and Chestnut streets were
destroyed by fire, causing a loss of $50,000, which
was the most destructive fire at Reading until that
time: and on April 20, 1857, the roof of the same
shop broke down for a space of 40 by 180 feet by
reason of a great fall of snow on the day before
(Sunday), followed by rain, this happening while
three hundred workmen were underneath, all of
whom escaped unhurt.

1857-67. — In the decade from 1857 to 1867, the
Civil wtar was the most engrossing subject which en-
gaged the attention of the people. Many companies
of men were enlisted here, and the excitement on
many occasions was intense. The people of the city
supported the government devotedly and liberally in
its great efforts to suppress the Rebellion. • In 1863,
houses were numbered by councils by an admirable
system through the efforts of Jacob Knabb, post-
master, to facilitate and dispatch the delivery of let-
ters. The streets were regulated by a topographical
survey from 1864 to 1867, and the fixing of lines and
grades encouraged building operations, especially in
the northern section of the city. The waterworks
were purchased by Councils in 1865. Efforts were
made to improve the city charter by amendments in
1861 and 1864.

The Firemen's Union was organized in 1861.
The co-education of boys and girls in the high school
was started in 1859, and all the wards were consoli-
dated into one district for school purposes in 1864.
The people were active and energetic in every de-
partment of life, and the wealth of the community
was increased millions of dollars. Weekly news-
papers became more thoroughly circtilated, and the
daily newspaper was successfully established in
1858. Postal facilities were increased to the great
convenience of the people ; and another railroad was
extended to the southwest in 1864, affording direct
communication with Lancaster and Columbia. Poli-
tical excitement reached the highest point which the
community was able to bear without resulting in
a public disturbance.

1867-77. — In the third decade from 1867 to 1877,
general enterprise was very active in the beginning
and continued so for several years, but then it began
to decline and finally showtd marked effects from
the financial panic which prevailed throughout the
country. Great fires at Chicago in 1871, and at
Boston in 1873, destroyed much property, resulting
in losses amounting to more than $200,000,000, and
a large proportion had to be paid by fire insurance

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 41 of 227)