Naaman Henry Keyser.

History of old Germantown online

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Dr. Naaman H. Keyser C. Henry Kain
John Palmer Garber Horace F. McCann



Copy u.

Two Coaies Received s

DtC 13 l^^

1 CLASS /4 '_ AAC, «o.
' 'COPY A. !

Copyright, 1907, hy Horace F. McCann.


HE importance of Pennsylvania, the keystone in the
arch of the original thirteen colonies, is well estab-
lished and unquestioned. But the influences ema-
nating from the little settlement at Germantown,
which did so much towards giving to the colony of
Pennsylvania its prosperity and importance, is not so well
known. It was with this thought in mind that the authors of
the following pages about Old Germantown several years ago
took up the task of writing its history. The purpose at that
time was to write but a brief account of the place, giving the
location of its interesting and important buildings in such a way
as to make them easily found and readily identified. The task
became a labor of love, and so much was found that is inter-
esting and important that the work soon outgrew the original
plan. So much remains in Germantown to point out strong
colonial traits, and so many have been the noted events, per-
sons, and ideas closely associated with the place, that no brief
account could possibly do justice to its history. Moreover, the
assistance of many of Germantowm's oldest and best citizens,
who were deeply interested in its history, was soon cheerfully
granted, and valuable contributions to the work have come from
such sources.

With the passing of each generation the difficulty of secur-
ing reliable information on the local afi^airs of earlier days in-
creases. Old landmarks also are rapidly disappearing within
the swirl of our tornado-like new world progress. To work out
and embody as complete a record as possible of this most inter-
esting and important old settlement has been the purpose of the
authors and the many friends who have assisted them. How
well they have succeeded must be judged from their work.

The work has been arranged under three general headings :
I. The general history of Germantown.

II. A detailed account of its buildings and of the noted per-
sons connected with its history.

III. Contributions, reminiscences, and articles dealing with
special subjects.

The special articles of this third part of the history are writ-
ten in the main by recognized authorities on the various subjects
of which they treat. It also contains many detailed accounts
which could not well be embodied in either of the other two por-
tions of the work.

The authors gratefully acknowledge their indebtedness to
the many kind friends who have in various ways furnished
material aid. Our thanks are especially due to the following
persons :

For the loan of maps — Rev. \\"illiam Ashmead Schaeffer,
D. D., Abraham W. Thomas, William N. Johnson, j\I. D., George

For sketches furnished — Charles J. Wister, Edwin C. Jellett,
Rev. Francis Heyl, Rev. William J. Hinke, D. D., Rev„ Joseph
H. Dubbs, D. D., William H. Trueman, D. D. S.. Abraham H.
Cassel. Romaine Keyser, Naaman K. Ployd, John R. Butcher,
AA^illiam H. Emhardt, Sr., B. Frank Kirk, Beatrice Clayton, F. L.
Englehart, Wilbur Biddle Conrow.

For information furnished — Charles B. Adamson, Albanus
C. Logan, Joseph Channon, Charles Bringhurst, Dr. George B.
Cox, J. H. Bockius, Canby S. Tyson, Jacob Keyser, Joseph E.
King, Charles S. Ke5'ser, ]\Iiss Sally W. Johnson, Annie S. Pro-
vest, Ethan Allen Weaver, David C. King.

For the loan of photographs — Francis D. P. Brunner, Jane
R. Haines, Hannah Ann Zell, Samuel Castner, Chas. F. Jenkins.

For sketches, and most valuable aid in looking up briefs of
title, acknowledgment is especially due to B. Frank Harper, Esq.

For the loan of valuable cuts we are indebted to Governor
Edwin S. Stuart, John W. Jordan and the American Book Co.

For valuable assistance and access to important sources of
information we are much indebted to George Scattergood. a
prominent member of the Friends' Meeting, at Fourth and Arch

The illustrations form an important and most valuable part
of the work. The publisher, Horace F. McCann, has had repro-
duced for it a complete set of his priceless collection of drawings
of scenes and buildings of Old German town, made by John Rich-
ards, and re-drawn by Miss L. A. Jamison. To this has been
added a large number of rare illustrations from the rich private
collections for which so many Germantown homes are justly
famous. Most of these illustrations have never before been pub-

Our investigations have convinced us of the marked influ-
ence of our Teutonic ancestors upon the industrial, political, and
religious life of the ^Middle Colonies — and in these colonies
developed the best type of the true American. We owe so
much to their ideas and efforts that a day each year might well
be set aside to commemorate the founding of Germantown,
which was the beginning, as it also remained the center, of
their influence. There could be no more suitable day for this
purpose than the anniversary of the day on which Pastorius
states that he laid out Germantown.

Table of Contents

Part I

Influences Preceding the Settlement of Germantown
The Settlement of Germantown :

1. The Importance of Germantown

2. The Origin of the Settlement .

3. The Founding of the Settlement
The Borough of Germantown
Occupations of the Early Inhabitants
Religion .......

Schools and Schoolmasters .

The Sprogell Trouble ....

Interesting Events ....

Growth and Development
Manners and Customs














• 93-




. IIO-




Part II

Detailed History of Properties and Streets, beginning
at "Stenton" and continuing from \^^ayne Junction
alone the Main Street to Chelten Avenue . . 130-371

Part III

The Old Roberts Mill . . . • • • • 375-377

The Town of I\Ianheim 378-380

The Early History of the German Reformed Church

at Germantown .....•• 381-402
The Death and Burial of General Agnew and Lieuten-
ant-Colonel Bird 403-407

The "Cross Streets" of Germantown .... 408-413

The First Protest Against Slavery 414-420

School House Lane 4^1

Carlton 422-426

Sower's Newspaper 427-437

The Germantown Library Company .... 438-439

Hat Making 440-442

Francis Daniel Pastorius 443-44^

Friends' Preparative Meeting 447-449

Biographical Sketch of Major Philip R. Freas . . 450-453

List of Illustrations

Roberts' (Townsend's) Mill Frontispiece

William of Orange 14

Birthplace of David Rittenhouse 22

Roberts' (Townsend's) Mill 23

Seventeentli Century Ship 29

Rotterdam Port 30

Cave Dwelling 31

Fac-simile of deed 35

Town Hall 51

Germantown Seal 54

Bullet-riddled fence 56

Fac-simile of letter of Pastorius to his son Henry 59

Stenton 61

Title page of Saur's Almanac 62

Portrait of David Rittenhouse 65

Thomas Godfrey's sun dial 67

Gilbert Stuart


Charles Willson Peale 69

Mennonite Church ''^l

Mennonite Communion Table '''2

Dunker Church and Sexton's house '''3

Germantown Academy • 81

Call to Arms 83

Old Poor House 86

Elwood ( Armitage ) School 88

Fire Engine— "Shag Rag" 102

Burying Ground of the Logans at Stenton 105

Battlefield of Germantown 107

Old Conestoga team Ill

Mail Stage advertisement 114

Old Ironsides 115

Dutch doorway of Johnson House 119

Spinning 121

Stenton, General appearance of 137

Details of 141

Roberts Mansion at Wayne Junction 147

Naglee House 149

Loudoun 151

Toland House 158

Inscription on window pane of 159

Mehl and Lorain Houses 160

Mechlin-Wagner House 163

Inscription on window pane of Ottinger house 163

Dedier House 165

Wachsmuth-Henry House 167

Entrance to Hood Cemetery 171

View of Lower Burying Ground (Hood's Cemetery) 173

John Richards 177


Jacob Ployd 180

Philomathean Hall 1§2

Edward Royal House 183

Duy's House and George Royal's House 184

Fleckenstein's 185

Frederick Fleckenstein y 186

"Freddie" Fleckenstein's shop 1 187

General Wayne Hotel and Sommers' carriage shop 190

Captain John Waterhouse 191

View at Manheim and Main Streets ., 193

White Cottage 196

Residence of Commodore Barron 201

Lesher's Tavern 203

" building in rear of ; 204

Roebuck Inn 205

Henry Squires' Drug Store and Bockius House 208

Barracks on Collom Street 210

"Corvy" — Wm. Wynne Wister's residence 211

Ruins of Stuart's Studio 212

First building of St. Stephen's M. E. Church 216

Rev. Newton • Heston 218

Conyngham and Howell (Hacker) Houses 220

Inscription on window pane of Howell House 221

Christopher John Jungkurth's House 222

Christopher John Jungkurth 223

Joseph Handsberry 227

Plan showing division of lot No. 5 228

Handsberry (Endt) House, Bechtel House, Van Lauchet House,

Indian Qneen Inn 231

Title pages of Bechtel's Catechism 234, 235

Call for Meeting to organize Moravian School 237

Bringhurst's "Big" House 241

Provest Houses 243

Naaman Keyser's Store 246

Naaman Keyser 247

Residence of Christopher Sower 249

Trinity Lutheran Church 256

Wister Homestead and Fry House 259

Charles J. Wister, Senior 260

Charles J. Wister, Junior 261

Home of John Panning Watson 269

Shoemaker House 274

Shoemaker's First Farm, (Rock House) 277

Site of East Coulter Street 282

Circular saw used by Bockius 284

Charles Spencer 285

House of Christopher Bockius 286

James S. Jones 287

St. Luke's Church 288, 289

Friends' Meeting House on Coulter Street 295

Friends' Library 297

William Kite 299

Osier House and Mullen (Harmer) House 300

Deshler-Morris House 305

John Ashmead House , , , 309


Count Zinzendorff ^^^

Choir Angels

Old Bell ^J^g

Weathercock .

Old Market House, Market Square ^^-^

Corners of Germantown Avenue and School House Lane as they ap- ^

peared in 1852 ^

Soldiers' Monument, Market Square -^f^'

De La Plaine's House • ^^

Northwest corner of School House Lane and Germantown Avenue oo6

So-called Indian Head in wall at 5506 Germantown Avenue 341

Old Sign of King of Prussia Hotel f^i

Fireplace in basement of King of Prussia Hotel f'^'

Christian Lehman House ,/

Harriet Livermore ^'.^

**TllG PiiiGs"

Ancient view of Main Street looking south from Armat Street 3o9

House of Wyndham H. Stokes ^^^

Site of Walker Hall ^^

Rev. Charles Karsner, M. D f"

Southeast Corner of Germantown and Chelten Avenues ^bb

Captain Francis Acuff f^^

Barr or Kurtz House ^°^

Spencer Roberts ^

Rev. Michael Schlatter ^nt

Rev. Albert Helffenstein, Jr., ^UZ

Rev. Jacob Helffenstein ^nl

Eastern end of DeBenneville Graveyard as it was in 1904 404

Northeast corner of DeBenneville Graveyard 406

Fac-simile of Grant to hold Market on Cross Street 410

Fac-simile of First Protest against Slavery 416, 417

Advertisement from old Philadelphia Newspaper 419

Carlton „

Inscription on window pane ^-^^

Tablet in wall ^^*

Tenement Houses 4-5

Friends' Meeting House (Hicksite), School House Lane 448

Major Philip R. Freas "^^^


General History of Germantown




It is easy to attach undue importance to an historical event
when it is removed from its setting and considered apart from
its causes and effects. On the other hand, we often stand
amazed at the train of consequences of some seemingly in-
significant event : the balancing of a magnetized needle upon
a steel point makes the boundaries of the known world grow
suddenly larger; a new combination of sulphur, saltpeter, and
charcoal requires the political history of the world to be writ-
ten anew ; letter forms are carved upon movable wooden
blocks and mankind advances a thousand years in wisdom. But
the causes leading to such events are usually important and the
preparation of favorable conditions for their reception may have
begun centuries before. At least this is true of the settlement
of Germantown. This little colony of some thirty persons in
itself seems scarcely worthy of notice. But the influences at
work in the preparation of its colonists for their settlement had
their beginnings far back in the first pages of European history,
and embrace in their train many of the ideas and ideals that had
such an important bearing upon most of the significant events
in the foundation and establishment of our nation. Born under
the shadows of a struggle for human freedom such as the world
had never before witnessed, and with a sense of individual worth
and responsibility which had been the development of the cen-
turies, they came to Pennsvlvania as the divinely opened land
where they might establish homes and build up a communit}'
more in accordance with their free and enlightened spirits. They
were skilled artisans of the highest type, and in energy, fru-
gality, intelligence, and strong religious feeling, were well fitted
to establish the train of influences which contributed so much
to the material and spiritual welfare of their adopted common-


wealth and country. Nor is this magnifying the importance of
this Httle settlement or making unwarranted assumptions m its
behalf, for its origin and influence are marked and characteristic.
To understand this it is necessary to trace the development of
the Germanic tribes of the north Rhine Valley from the time of
the Roman invasion to the rise of a United Netherlands, and
then to follow the little band of Dutch settlers as they led the
way to the New World and there established, by their industry
and ideals, new methods of prosperity and enlightened influence.
As the Romans extended their invasions towards the north,
they met with unexpected and unusual resistance from the Teu-
tonic tribes. Fearless, war-like, energetic, and possessing great
moral vigor, these tribes for some time successfully opposed the
Roman legions. The bravest of these tribes, the Batavians,
turned from their successful contest with the German Ocean to
battle with these new foes. It was the custom of their young
men either not to cut their hair or to wear shackles around their
necks until they had slain an enemy. Cowardice was the only
crime that they punished by death. In common with other
Teutons, they were purer in morals and less superstitious than
the Gallic tribes living near them. The importance and influ-
ence of the family were also stronger and the power of priestcraft
less arbitrary than among the Gauls. Although they recognized
hereditary sovereignty to the extent of choosing their princes
from among the nobility, their rulers were little more than war
chiefs who were obliged to submit all important questions to
their subjects who, drawn up in line of battle, signified their
assent by striking upon their shields with their spears. This was
a noisy assertion of the principle of individual liberty, which
from the earliest times was the heritage of the German warrior
and which led him to exercise the right of choosing the ruler to
whom he gave allegiance in return for support and protection.
Many of these fearless war-men jQund?^€ir way Into the Roman
ranks, where they rec^ved a training which in later days
enabled them to overthrow the Roman power and to seize upon
the fruits of the civilization of the fallen empire. But these they
did not understand and used as mere toys. Moreover, while they
recognized the justice of the details of Roman law and adopted
some of its ceremonial, the Latin idea that the king was the
source of all law was repugnant to tribes among whom all


authority was vested in the assemblage of the people. Hence,
with the fall of Rome, its civilizing influences rapidly died out
and darkness began to set in. This grew more complete as wicked
leaders gathered about them forces to rob the husbandmen of
the fruits of their labors and to oppress their weaker neighbors
in defiance of all law and justice. Even the Church sufifered
during this dark period and came, if possible, to greater degra-
dation than the civil authority. Many of the clergy were unable
to read and write, and they probably rendered their best service in
establishing monasteries which served as places of refuge for
the oppressed. To many of these they gave clerkships and thus
formed bonds of union between the church and the common
people. These monasteries were often founded on waste land
which the monks brought into a high state of cultivation by their
own labors, thus giving a dignity and importance to agriculture
in the German countries which it has never lost.

Charlemagne efifected a temporary stay in the general
demoralization of the times by his endeavor to found a great
Frankish empire. He restored order, did what he could to put
the Church on a higher plane, opened schools, and secured a
grammar of the German tongue. But the influence of these
reforms was largely lost after the death of this strong-handed
ruler, and night again began to settle down upon Europe. It
would have become complete but for the embers of liberty
left as a result of the wise orders of Charlemagne to his gov-
ernors not to interfere with local laws and customs in the
different parts of his empire. Local pride was thus preserved
and the entire crushing out of the German spirit of independence
was prevented. The Franks Avere too few in number to absorb
their subject races as the Normans did in England, and local
patriotism, which survives many disasters, again began to
develop. The spirit of individual liberty also soon began to
assert itself anew. And now arose Feudalism, as a complete
triumph of the German practice whereby a man could exchange
his allegiance for protection and other benefits, without sacri-
ficing his dignity or imperiling his liberty. Those who were
tmable to protect themselves from the robber-barons could now
place their possessions in the hands of leaders amply able to
protect them, and from whom they could receive them again as
fiefs. The free life of the castle broke down many of the barriers


of rank ; the common dangers and common interests of the camp
drew lord and vassal into a closer union and greatly fostered
the vassal's sense of personal worth.

About this time the influence of commerce began to be felt
in the German states and especially in the Dutch provinces
along the North Sea. Located as they were almost in the center
of Europe, and yet on a great arm of the ocean, they enjoyed
peculiar facilities for commerce. Nor were material products
the only articles they exchanged in their trade with other lands.
With their increase in knowledge and the coming in of new
ideas, manufactures and other industries sprang up and resulted
in a great increase in the wealth and importance of the indus-
trial classes. Now occurred the Crusades, and, during the
absence of the nobility, the kings, who had come to be little
more than nominal rulers because of the feudal barons, were
able to strengthen their position. But to do so they were
obliged to borrow money from the artisans and tradesmen, who
in return received chartered privileges for their guilds and for
their cities. Under these charters arose the free burgher classes
and the free cities, while the guilds served to further the cause
of freedom by their free discussion and their promulgation of
church and state policy.With increased prosperity the condition
of the serfs was also greatly improved.

There were now three classes of people in the European
countries — the clergy, the nobility, and the common people ; and
there were three forces at work in society — religion, war. and
gold. The clergy and the nobility still remained the dominant
powers, but in Germany and the Netherlands they could not
unite their forces, and the common people, through the products
of their industry, made rapid strides in power and influence. In
England, on the contrary, clergy and nobility joined hands and
secured from King John the great charter of liberty. But Eng-
lish respect for hereditary rights of dominion were unafi^ected by
the Magna Charta, and it only remained to be settled what great
house should rule. This was decided on Bosworth Field, in
1485, in favor of the Tudors. The latter half of the fifteenth
century saw the rise of strong kingdoms also in Spain, France,
and Austria. Only Germany remained under the feudal condi-
tions of the Middle Ages.

A most potent influence in the cause of freedom had by this


time appeared. This was the art of printing. Both the Dutch
and the Germans claim the credit of its invention, but in either
case no more favorable soil for its development could be
imagined than these countries along the Rhine. More prosper-
ous and intelligent than their neighbors, of a strong religious
tendency, and with the traditions of personal freedom as a com-
mon heritage, the Rhine countries were peculiarly ready for this
great medium of interchange of thought. The movements of
their soldiery were free, and the people stood near to the sources
of law, owing to the large number of small municipalities. More-
over, superstition and sorcery were very prevalent in these days
and, where governments were strong, men of advanced ideas
were in danger of the prison — the}^ were even in danger of the
stake, at which so many who dared to think diflerently from the
accepted views of the church and the state perished ; Germany,
the Netherlands, and Switzerland, with their small and independ-
ent governments, became places of refuge for scholars and men
with thoughts in advance of their times. Erasmus in the Nether-
lands and Zuinglius in Switzerland soon advanced ideas that
prepared the way for the Reformation and a curtailment of the
power of the thoroughly organized despotism into which the
church of Rome had developed. The art of printing had paved
the way for independent investigation of the Scriptures : for a
Bible, which in manuscript form cost five hundred crowns,
could be printed for five crowns. The night of superstition was
soon pierced by the rays of the coming morning; the newly
awakened sense of individual responsibility to God aroused its
twin brother, the sense of the worth of the individual soul inde-
pendently of the accidents of birth. There were thus two new
champions in the arena for the cause of rights divine as opposed
to Divine rights. Luther now made his famous pilgrimage to
Rome, and came back determined upon measures of reform
which would make the leaders of the Church, and their teachings
and practices, more like those- of Christ and His Apostles. The
Church, alarmed, rallied its forces at the Council of Trent and
started a new order, that of the Jesuits, whose followers had
avowedly but one object in life, that of furthering the interests
of the Church. To this they devoted their fortunes, their entire
thought, and when necessary their lives ; but the order was a
deadly foe to independent thought and action, and hence to the



cause of freedom both civil and religious, for it aimed at temporal
as well as spiritual power. Philip II. of Spain, who had come
into hereditary possession of the low countries on the North Sea,
was an ardent Catholic, and he at once determined to stamp out
the various "new reprobate and damnable sects" that had arisen



in these possessions as a result of the Reformation. The Nether-
landers had gotten their new religious ideas by the way of
Protestant France which was dominated by Calvinistic rather
than by Lutheran thought. Calvin had gone to Geneva, and,
carrying out to their logical conclusion Luther's ideas of the
right to free investigation of the Scriptures and of salvation by
faith, had announced the doctrines of predestination and the right
to independence in religious thought and practice. These ideas


were fatal to a general church organization and government, and
fostered the greatest freedom in what has always been the most
potent factor in ruling men's thought and practice, religious
belief. Philip remained on friendly terms with the German

Online LibraryNaaman Henry KeyserHistory of old Germantown → online text (page 1 of 35)