History snippets


This week we will discuss another of our early citizens, Elias K. Freed.

Elias K. Freed was born in Harleysville, July 1, 1830. He was educated in the township schools and after leaving school he learned the shoemaker trade. The work was not to his liking, however, and he engaged in the lumber business at Harleysville with an uncle.

Elias K. Freed

In 1855 the North Penn Railroad was completed from Philadelphia only as far as Gwynedd station. All freight, including lumber, had to be hauled from there. Passing through what was later the borough of North Wales on his way to the railroad, Mr. Freed foresaw advantages that would follow the completion of the railroad through the Gwynedd Tunnel.  That year Mr. Freed opened a lumber yard at the junction of Main Street and the railroad. At that time a hotel and blacksmith shop, with a few scattered farmhouses, were the only buildings.

Mr. Freed soon built up an extensive business and his trade grew rapidly after the tunnel was completed and the railroad opened.  In 1858 he opened a grist mill and for over fifty years operated a mill where the present planing mill property stands [139 S. Main Street]. We have discussed this mill in our previous articles.

A portion of the E. K. Freed mill building still stands, at 139 S. Main Street. The railroad siding with the Globe Line boxcar is now the site of Papa John’s Pizza

At various times Mr. Freed was interested in other businesses here and he was one of the organizers of the First National Bank of Lansdale in 1864. He was soon after selected president, which position he held for forty-five years, retiring in January 1912 on account of failing health, when he was elected vice president. He always took an active part in the affairs of the bank as well as every other concern with which he was connected. He was one of the organizers of the North Wales Building and Loan Association and for many years served on the finance committee. He was a director of the Pennsylvania Millers Insurance Company and one time served as treasurer of that company.

The stucco-clad brick building built by E. K. Freed for his electric power plant still stands on Third Street south of Montgomery Avenue

Mr. Freed helped to organize the North Wales Water Company and the Green Lawn Cemetery Company, being a director in both. For nearly a half century he was a member of the Commercial Exchange. When the necessity of better lights for the borough was apparent, Mr. Freed installed an electric plant at his mill. He later constructed an electric power plant on the site later occupied by Stainless. Inc., on Third Street, south of Montgomery Avenue.  His plant supplied the borough with lights. [As of 2022 Mr. Freed’s power plant building still stands.]

Although never taking on active part in politics, Mr. Freed several times was elected to borough council. For over a half century Mr. Freed had been a banker, counselor and friend for hundreds of people in the community. His judgment was sought by men in all walks of life and his advice was always given generously. His acquaintance throughout the county was large.

The pharmacy at 107 S. Main Street occupies the space that was once the porch and front yard of the Freed residence

In April of 1908 he ceased operating the flour and feed mill and moved his office to the little building on Second street in the rear of Wheelers Drug Store [107 S. Main Street]. There the business of the mill, which had been in continuous operation for a half century, ceased.

Mr. Freed died at his home on Main Street [107 S. Main] on May 27, 1912, at the age of eighty-one years ten months and twenty-eight days.

The funeral was held on May 30, from the house. Interment was made at the Lower Salford Mennonite Burying Grounds, where the wife and parents of the deceased are buried.

[In 1959] Mr. Freed has one living descendant in North Wales, a granddaughter:  Mrs. Corrine Freed Lewis, wife of the writer of these articles [Leon T. Lewis].

This post is sourced from a column entitled Early North Wales: Its History and Its People penned by long-time North Wales resident historian Leon T. Lewis. The article appeared in its original form in the June 30, 1959 issue of the North Penn Reporter.


Main Street’s Shearer Square building was well-known for many years as the Main Street Hotel. Located at 123 S. Main Street, it is the oldest building in North Wales, and for about a century existed as a hotel and tavern.

The Shearer Square building at 123 S. Main Street was a hotel and tavern for many years

The grounds which were attached comprised 121 square perches [3/4 acre] and extended back to Second street. The property included stabling, over which was a public hall, which in 1908 was used as a place of worship by the Reformed congregation. The grounds extended 140 feet along Main street and from there bounded by an alley 200 feet to Second street and for 175 feet along the latter. The building was large, and of stone, with porches on two sites and the public room at the south corner.

An inviting from porch once graced the building, for hotel guests to relax on. The wood utility pole supported overhead wire for the Allentown trolleys that ran out front. Their steel wheels would have squealed loudly around a sharp curve here, as the trolley track turned from Main Street onto Shearer Street

A hotel license was first granted at about the time of the completion of the North Pennsylvania [SEPTA] Railroad in 1856, or soon thereafter. Previous to that time there had long been a frame house on this site.

The more modern history of the property, dating back for 170 years, begins in 1789, when a farm and 72 acres was seized by Sheriff Francis Swaine. The sheriff sold to Jacob Wismer, a German. It is not supposed that there was then a house on this site. In 1790 Wismer sold to Jacob Dilcart, who came from Lehigh county. The latter paid 365 pounds, Pennsylvania Currency, or in those days about $960. Then in 1803, Dilcart sold for a greatly enhanced price, or 850 pounds, or about $3,000. Perhaps he had built a house. He was a blacksmith as well as a farmer. It was then the Snyder property for a long while, or until 1829. Then Snyder sold to Philip Hurst, a wheelwright, 50 acres. Hurst bought additional land in 1832 from George Martin and Daniel Fleck. There is a farm house mentioned in the deed of 1829.

This photograph was made soon after Harry Hallmeyer took over as hotel proprietor in 1898

The death of Philip Hurst took place in 1855, after an ownership of 26 years. In 1857 his administrators sold to David Moyer and Jonas Moyer a house and 70 acres. There was then no town of North Wales and its present site was farm land. The price was $6339. It was under the Moyer ownership that the house became a hotel. Values became greatly enhanced by the coming of the railroad. In 1865 David Moyer sold to Daniel S. Price the hotel and three-quarters of an acre for $11,968. Two years later, in 1867, Price obtained $12,200 from Enos Gerhart. He sold it in 1868 to David Jones for $14,250. With one brief interruption Jones was the owner for fourteen years. In 1872 he finally sold to Charles D. Gold, who was then the owner for five years. In 1897 he sold to Mrs. Mary Earnest for $13,000. The latter was divorced from her husband in 1900 and later married again becoming Mrs. Heavener. In 1906 she sold to William Blank for $15,500.

In 1857 the farm house of Philip Hurst was raised a story higher, otherwise remodeled and fitted for a hotel by Jonas and David Moyer, who procured the first license.

Gentlemen congregate outside Main Street Hotel in about 1906. The first floor served as a tavern. Note sign for Ladies Entrance at left

Abel Lukens, a later landlord, was the father-in-law of David Jones and became landlord in 1868. He was of a kindly and obliging disposition. His house was of stone and of the farm house pattern. His frame barn stood near the present Second street. He had a large orchard, a part of which covered the later site of Freed’s mill, the Leister Hardware store and the railroad tracks. He had cider press and distillery. His farm land extended down to the site of the present Lutheran Church, which was the south corner. Northeast it went as far as the Creamery [now the house at Walnut and Beaver streets], and west on Main street to about the site of the Reformed Church [St. Luke’s].

Abel Lukens was succeeded for one year by Peter Feigel, who came from Colmar, and left in 1888. In 1880 Francis Kile took possession for several years and then sold to Jacob K. Schwenk. Schwenk was landlord for many years, from about 1886 to 1892. In May of 1892 Schwenk sold the property to Harvey W. Gold who remained in ownership until 1897 when he sold to Joseph Holihan. In October of 1897 Holihan had electric lights installed in the barroom. Holihan did not remain long for in April of 1898 he sold the business to Harry Hallmeyer. Hallmeyer rented the property from Mrs. Heavener and remained until 1906 when Mrs. Heavener sold the property to William Blank of Telford.

Main Street Hotel as it appeared in about 1906. The bell shaped logo on the sign affixed to the utility pole let it be known that those willing to pay could place long distance calls using a telephone inside the establishment

In 1908 John Hangey, who just passed away last week [June 1959] at the age of 87, and who was the father of our present residents, Clarence, Wellington and Wilmer Hangey, bought the hotel property from William Blank, and conducted the hotel until the advent of prohibition [1920]. Mr. Hangey and his wife then conducted a rooming and boarding house until 1923 when the property was purchased by Irwin King of Gwynedd. Mr. King then remodeled the building into apartments which he named The Homestead Apartments.  The old barroom was turned into a store which was conducted by Edward McKay and his wife.

When prohibition was repealed [1933] the store was reconverted into a bar room which was conducted by Roscoe Reed, brother of John Reed, until the property was purchased by John Rorer and Warren Seems.

This post is sourced from a column entitled Early North Wales: Its History and Its People penned by long-time North Wales resident historian Leon T. Lewis. The article appeared in its original form in the June 23, 1959 issue of the North Penn Reporter.


We continue with the story of the 1805 murder of Henry Weaver, committed on an isolated stretch of road today known as Dekalb Pike, between Welsh Road and Bethlehem Pike.

Young Weaver was not only an active industrious man, but widely known, having a good character and highly respected. His funeral was attended by multitudes, drawn by the interest which the story of his untimely death had created for miles around. His obsequies were attended by all the pomp of a military burial, as he was a soldier belonging to a volunteer company of Artillerymen and his comrades appeared in uniform marching to the mournful dirge of martial music.

Henry Weaver’s tombstone has faced E. Prospect Avenue since his murder in 1805

This shocking tragedy occurring in rural Montgomery County produced great commotion, not only in the immediate neighborhood, but at a more remote distance. Search was made in every direction for the hiding place of the murderer. Weaver’s father published a proclamation in the newspapers of those days offering a reward for the detection and conviction of the murderer. The Pennsylvania Correspondent newspaper had been started in Doylestown about a year previous. Here is the advertisement inserted by George Weaver, which appeared in several issues of that paper:

A most horrible murder was committed on Saturday evening, the 5th of October [1805], on the body of Henry Weaver, between the hours of seven and eight o’clock between Montgomery Square and North Wales [Gwynedd Friends] meeting house, who expired on the spot. The verdict of the Jury states that he was murdered by some unknown person by the discharge of a gun or pistol loaded with shot which entered his head and the upper part of his body together with a stroke on the left temple. Any person who will apprehend the villain shall, upon conviction, receive the above reward.
George Weaver
Montgomery Square
October 7, 1805

Public opinion soon settled on the belief that the guilty party was no stranger to Weaver.  Who had committed the fatal deed was the absorbing question that agitated the minds of men and caused a variety of puzzled conjectures. No one had seen the act committed, and it was only by circumstantial evidence that guilt could be fastened upon anyone. The murder was clearly planned and premeditated.

It soon became evident that robbery was not the motive of the killing, for the victim had no money with him, and no attempt had been made to rob his person or the contents of his wagon, loaded as it was with store goods. In this case it became evident that the deed was committed by some person in the neighborhood who knew Weaver, the circumstances of his going to Philadelphia, and the road by which he would return. Another motive became apparent:  to be rid of his person, in order to accomplish a nefarious purpose.

Every effort was made to sift the matter to the bottom. But this was one of the murders that would not “out.” Nor will it ever be legally known — until the day of Judgment — by whose hand the crime was committed. Several persons in the immediate neighborhood were taken into custody on suspicion, but it was impossible to obtain proof sufficient to hold any of them for trial and they were accordingly released. Although the murderer escaped the penalty of the outraged law, he did not evade the searching scrutiny of public suspicion.

Among the persons arrested was a young man, living on the North Wales road, about three quarters of a mile west of Montgomery Square. Neighborhood gossip alleged that an illicit friendship had sprung up between this man and the wife of Weaver. There may have been a wronged husband on this account, but this was not known to have been the case. But in some way the violation of the Seventh Commandment led to the commission of a most fearful crime: a not-unusual result of an unlawful amour.

What afterwards became of the wife of Weaver, we have not learned. The suspected person was later married to another woman and continued to live as a farmer in the neighborhood. Tradition says that many years afterward the suspected slayer of Weaver voluntarily expiated his crime by dying the same death as his victim. The suspected person committed suicide by shooting himself with a pistol.

The location of the 1805 murder of Henry Weaver has been added to this map (red circle). Scale, north arrow and modern-day road names have been added in blue. The case remains unsolved, the culprit never brought t0 justice

The father of Henry Weaver was an industrious and thrifty man and reported to be wealthy. He was for many years the owner of the store and tavern, kept at the north corner of the State Road [today called Upper State Road] at its intersection with Bethlehem pike. The Weavers not only owned the tavern but possessed considerable landed property, both east and west of the village. Henry was his eldest son, besides whom he had one child, a son John. But all traces of the family have long since disappeared.

About a half mile southwest from Montgomery Square, a memorial stone was placed by the west side of the State road [Dekalb Pike] to mark the fatal spot where Henry Weaver fell that night so long ago. This stone remained on the roadside until perhaps the 1880s or 1890s. What became of the stone is unknown.

Thus we bring to a close the story of one of Montgomery county’s most baffling murder mysteries.

This post is sourced from a column entitled Early North Wales: Its History and Its People penned by long-time North Wales resident historian Leon T. Lewis. The article appeared in its original form in the June 16, 1959 issue of the North Penn Reporter.


Few of the residents of North Wales who visit the Lutheran Cemetery, at S. Main street and Prospect avenue, are aware of the fact that in this cemetery is buried the remains of a young man who met an untimely death at the hands of a killer over 200 years ago.

The present generation knows little of the tragedy that at the time was one of the big sensations of the country.  All remembrance of the crime has been forgotten except the brief record on the tombstone which has withstood the ravages of time and remains a silent witness to the shocking death of a respected resident of this section of Montgomery county.

The following history of the murder of Henry Weaver and of the efforts to bring to justice his killer was taken from the North Wales Record newspaper of December 23, 1911:

Near the center of the Lutheran graveyard of North Wales, will be found a plain stone, the reading of whose inscription will cause the stranger to pause and ponder with wondering interest. It is to the memory of Henry Weaver and reads thus:

Memory of
who was Murdered on
the Evening of the 5th
of October 1805
Son of George &
Catherine Weaver
Aged 25 Years
6 Months & 25 Days

Referring to the minute book of the church we find only a brief mention of the mystery of his death. Two or three lines in German briefly say, “Henry Weaver was murdered — shot while following his team [of horses].”

Henry Weaver’s 1805 tombstone, photographed in March 2022. Mike Szilagyi photo

The circumstances attending this tragic occurrence have almost faded from the minds of men of later generations. More two centuries have passed since the fatal deed was committed. For a long time it was remembered by a few of the aged, who were children at the time of its occurrence. But for the line engraved on this humble stone, the very fact would be unknown to the people of the present generation. The circumstances which can now only be gathered by the vague light of tradition are an untold story to the people living today.

George Weaver, the father of the man who was murdered, had long kept the tavern at Montgomery Square in Montgomery Township. [This crossroads village once stood at the corner of Bethlehem Pike and Upper State Road, about a mile south of “Five Points.”]  George Kneedler lived in Montgomery Square also, and was the father of Henry Kneedler, who in more recent times lived near Gwynedd Square. In company with his brother-in-law, Kneedler was passing to the southwest of Montgomery Square, and saw Weaver’s wagon coming along the State road from Philadelphia and nearing home. Both Henry Weaver and his father had been to the city and their teams had parted company at the Spring House tavern, the son taking the longer but the better road [today’s Sumneytown Pike] because his wagon was loaded. The Bethlehem road was not yet a “Pike” (turnpike) and was – as most country roads were in 1805 – in rough condition. Kneedler and his companion spoke with Henry Weaver a few minutes as he walked behind his wagon and then they crossed the field to the southwest to another enclosure to cut buckwheat. It was near sundown of an autumn evening, October 5th.

They hardly had started their work when they heard the report of a gun. As this was nothing unusual, they paid no attention, but continued their employment until news came to them that Weaver had been shot. Weaver’s wagon was loaded with goods for his father’s store at Montgomery Square. He was shot in the head and breast while walking behind the team and mortally wounded. There was no sign that anything had been stolen. Blood was found not only in the road, but also upon the mane of one of the horses. It is supposed that finding himself rapidly losing strength and unable to walk Weaver had hoped to reach home by running around the wagon and mounting one of the horses. Being unable to do so he fell to the ground and soon after expired.

The horses quickly drew the wagon home. Two dogs which he owned sounded the alarm when they ran loudly barking to meet their master, whose voice would never more greet them.

Suspicion was at once aroused that some dire mishap had befell the driver by reason of his strange absence and parties quickly passed along the highway that the team had come and found the unfortunate man lying in the road dead. Upon investigation it was found that around a walnut tree that stood in a corn field to the east of the roadside had been collected quite a number of shocks of corn, forming a secure ambush. Behind this the killer had securely laid concealed before assailing the unsuspecting victim, who was expected to pass by the lonely place.

The countryside was less thickly settled and more densely wooded than now [much less – this was written in 1911 about something that happened in 1805]. The locality was over a half mile southwest of Montgomery square and two miles east of North Wales. It was on the roadside border of the property once held by Windover Nurseries, on its southerly side [today’s intersection of Dekalb Pike and Gwynmont Drive].

Today there’s no sign of the tragedy that occurred on this spot all those years ago. This April 2022 photo looks south on Dekalb Pike at Gwynmont Drive in Montgomery Township. Mike Szilagyi photo

A strip of woodland by the roadside nearby had just been cleared, and the cord wood lay in measured piles. Ample time and facility was thus provided for the retreat of the murderer, before search could be made, protected as he was by the gloom of the early autumn evening.

We will continue with the story of the murder of Henry Weaver in our next installment.

This post is sourced from a column entitled Early North Wales: Its History and Its People penned by long-time North Wales resident historian Leon T. Lewis. The article appeared in its original form in the June 9, 1959 issue of the North Penn Reporter.


Following our usual custom of telling our present day citizens about some of our former prominent residents, we give herewith a sketch of Jason Sexton, about whom we spoke last week.

Jason Sexton

Jason Sexton was born September 21, 1834, at Sharon, N. Y., coming to Montgomery county in the spring of 1876, when he took charge of the extensive farming operations of William M. Singerly, whose farms of over 600 acres [later the Ralph Beaver Strassburger farm, now Normandy Farms] were under Mr. Sexton’s management for a quarter of a century.

Before moving to North Wales he lived on the turnpike [Sumneytown Pike] near Spring House.  In addition to the work of managing the stock and dairy farms, Mr. Sexton took an active part in the affairs of the township and was instrumental in the establishment of a graded school system for Lower Gwynedd and also the Union Sunday School at Springhouse, of which he was Superintendent for many years.

For 25 years Jason Sexton managed the farms at what is today known as Normandy Farms

As an Agriculturalist Sexton achieved an enviable reputation among farmers and stockmen. He was one of the first in this section to advocate the feeding of ensilage. With the consent of Mr. Singerly, the first silo in this county was built, and the method of feeding as carried on at the Singerly farms [today Normandy Farms] was adopted by dairymen in all parts of the country. The fattening of cattle was one of his specialties and it was on the home farm that he succeeded in raising a steer that weighed 2400 pounds and which was exhibited at a number of fairs.

In 1862 Mr. Sexton enlisted in as a Private in the 44th Regiment, New York Volunteers. In September 1864 he was commissioned a lieutenant in the 175th New York Volunteers. He served with General Phil Sheridan’s army in the Shenandoah Valley and in January 1865, his company became a part of General Sherman’s command at Savannah, Georgia, and participated in Sherman’s march to the sea. He remained with this command until the close of the war.

Civil War battle flag of the 175th Volunteers

Mr. Sexton was one of the original members of Ellsworth’s Avengers, a company of New York State Volunteers recruited to avenge the death of Colonel Ellsworth who was shot early in the war. The company was afterwards called the Ellsworth Zouaves and when mustered into service became known as the 44th Regiment.

In politics Mr. Sexton was an ardent Republican, his first vote having been cast for John C. Fremont for President in 1856. He served several terms as School Director in Lower Gwynedd Township. In 1897 he was elected to the State Legislature, by the largest vote ever cast (up to that time) for any candidate in this district, receiving a majority of 6812 votes. He took his seat in the Assembly on the 5th Anniversary of the day his father took his seat in the New York Legislature. Sexton was reelected in 1899 by a nearly 2000 vote majority.

Mr. Sexton served as director of the North Wales National Bank

As a member of the State Board of Agriculture Mr. Sexton enjoyed a large acquaintance, among the farmers of this county and also in the state. For years he was in charge of the Farmers Institutes in Montgomery county and took great pleasure in this work. He was also connected with the Grangers. In religious life Mr. Sexton was a member of the Methodist Church, serving on the board of the trustees at the time of his death. For a number of years Mr. Sexton had been connected with the State Highway Department and was in charge of some important work for the state in various counties. The sudden death of Mr. Sexton on Memorial Day 1910 removed from North Wales one of its most respected and energetic citizens.

This post is sourced from a column entitled Early North Wales: Its History and Its People penned by long-time North Wales resident historian Leon T. Lewis. The article appeared in its original form in the June 2, 1959 issue of the North Penn Reporter.


Tragedy marred North Wales 1910 Memorial Day observances

Shortly after noon on Memorial Day, May 30, 1910, members of Colonel Edwin Selma Post, No. 290, Grand Army of the Republic, escorted by Camp No. 92, Sons of Veterans, and also members of the ladies’ auxiliary, arrived in North Wales from Lansdale to take part in the Memorial Day parade and exercises. After dinner had been served at Hotel Wunder [at 5th & Walnut St., later McKeever’s], the delegation was headed by the Citizens Band of Quakertown, the Veterans, and the Women of the War, occupying two large coaches, and proceeded to Elm avenue where they took their places in the parade.

On Memorial Day 1910, a crowd gathered at North Wales school on School Street to hear speeches marking the occasion. Sadly, the featured speaker, Jason Sexton, died while making his remarks.

The formation of the parade was as follows: mounted police, chief marshal, assistant marshal, clergymen in carriages, Quakertown Band, Post 290 of the G.A.R., ladies’ auxiliary and Women of the War, Sons of Veterans, North Wales Burgess James Billiard, members of council and school board in carriages, North Wales Lodge No. 610 International Order of Odd Fellows, Lanah Rebekah in coaches, Independent Americans, Gilt Edge Castle Knights of the Golden Eagle, Uniformed Guards of Foresters, Court Pride Foresters of America, Camp 547 P.O.S. of A., Baraca Class of the Baptist Church.

At the cemeteries the various societies placed flowers on the graves of deceased members and the Grand Army men held services over the graves of their departed comrades. A squad from the Sons of Veterans fired a salute at each cemetery. After the Lutheran Cemetery was visited the parade marched to the school yard on School street where it was dismissed.

The program at the school was to have included short addresses by several local ministers. The main speaker was to be Jason Sexton, well-known local citizen, and a former member of the State Legislature and State Board of Agriculture.

The stand from which the speaking was to take place was beautifully decorated with flags and bunting and at night was illuminated with electric light. There was to be a band concert following the address by the main speaker.

Jason Sexton, clad in the uniform of the Grand Army of the Republic, filled with the enthusiasm and patriotism that called himself and thousands of others to the defense of their country in 1861, died in the presence of hundreds of his comrades, neighbors and friends assembled in the school yard soon after he had begun to deliver his address.

Sexton’s sudden and tragic death cast a gloom over the audience, nearly all of whom had seen the speaker fall to the platform. Willing hands were quickly at his side and Dr. H. F. Slifer, who was present, gave prompt assistance to the stricken man, but life was extinct. A few minutes later the announcement was made that Mr. Sexton was dead. His body was wrapped in the Stars and Stripes and borne to his late residence on Main street [later the home of W. Palmer King] by a detachment of the Sons of Veterans, grief stricken comrades acting as a guard of honor.

Mr. Sexton took an active part in the arrangements for Memorial Day, having presided at the meeting in Lansdale that morning. In the afternoon he took part in the parade in our town, going with the Veterans in carriages to both cemeteries. On arriving at the school yard he took a seat on the platform and listened with close attention to the remarks of Rev. J. N. LeVan, pastor of the Reformed Church, who was first on the program. Mr. Sexton followed, and it was only a few minutes after he arose, that he was seen to suddenly grow very pale and then fell backward, his head striking the floor with a sound that was heard all over the grounds. Heart failure, due to over exertion and fatigue following the events of the day, wase given as the cause of death.

The tragic death of the speaker broke up the meeting and the remainder of the program.  The band concert which was to have been held in the evening was called off.

The death of Jason Sexton was statewide news. This article appeared on page 5 of the June 1, 1910 edition of The Citizen newspaper published in Honesdale, PA

Carrying out the theme of these articles, to give our present residents a history of the town and its early residents, next week we will discuss the background of Mr. Sexton.

This post is sourced from a column entitled Early North Wales: Its History and Its People penned by long-time North Wales resident historian Leon T. Lewis. The article appeared in its original form in the May 26, 1959 issue of the North Penn Reporter.


Continuing with the story of the construction of the school building on School Street it seems that the remaining members of the school board did not take kindly to the charges hurled at them by Enos M. Lukens, for on November 17, 1877, they issued the following statement in the local newspaper, the North Wales Record:

“There has been considerable excitement in our borough the past few weeks, owing principally to certain charges and insinuations which appeared in the columns of the Record concerning the members of the school board, and particularly the president and secretary of said board. We deem it but just to take notice of said charges and insinuations as they are of a serious nature, affecting our reputation as officers and as citizens. If the facts were published, we are willing that our reputation as school directors may stand or fall on the merits of our acts. We positively say that neither the president, secretary nor any other member of the board has done any official act without the sanction of the board. As the charges were made either without a knowledge of the facts or with some evil intent, we consider it but fair that we have our accusers face to face, where we can have an opportunity of clearing ourselves of the charges, and where they can have the same opportunity of proving their statements. For this purpose we ask the citizens of the borough to meet at the new school house on Saturday, November 24, 1877 at 2 o’clock p. m., where we hope to meet a large number of our taxpayers, and especially the editors of the North Wales Record and Enos M. Lukens, who have already preferred charges. Signed Jonas H. Harley, B. K. Johnson, Henry W. Moyer, Joseph K. Anders, I. W. Wampole.”

This photograph shows the 1877 school (at left), with the 1896 addition in front of it. The white fence ran along the north side of W. 3rd Street

Of course, all this controversy took place after the new building was opened which was on Monday, November 5, 1877, when we find the following in the North Wales Record of Saturday, November 10:

“The new borough school house of North Wales, which has been the subject of considerable comment during the past fortnight, was opened on Monday morning last. No special exercises were held. There were present Jonas Harley, president; Dr. B. K. Johnson, secretary; Harry W. Moyer, treasurer, and Esquire I. W. Wampole, of the school board. Joseph K. Anders and Enos M. Lukens, also members of the board, were absent. Soon after the opening of the schools, E. M. Rosenberger, the efficient principal, began an examination of the pupils for the purpose of grading the school, which now consists of three departments. These are, with their teachers, as follows: grammar, Mr. Rosenberger; secondary, Miss Lizzie Magee; primary, Miss Agnes Sibbald, all experienced teachers, and thoroughly qualified to discharge their duties faithfully and acceptably to both pupils and the public.

This detailed 1909 insurance map indicates that the school was heated by steam, but light fixtures were still lit by oil, not electricity. Yellow indicates wood-frame buildings, red indicates brick

“The school opened with about nine inches of water surrounding one of the heaters and six inches surrounding the other. Shortly after 9 o’clock, however, two workmen were put to work with pails, and in a short time the water was carried out. The school rooms were warm and pleasant, and so far as we know, no complaint was made that they were in any wise disagreeable. What effect the water will have upon the health of the pupils, if permitted to collect in the cellar as it has been doing, is a question that we may be unable to solve, but it is reasonable to suppose that no good can accrue from it.

“The heaters are located near the center of the cellar, in an opening probably two or three feet lower than the cellar floor. We are not going to tell the public just now what we know about locating heaters, but we do say, in our opinion, a great mistake has been made, and we are not sure that their position can be improved upon at this late day.

“The workmanship on the school building executed by Hendricks & Baker of North Wales, has been completely and durably done. These men understand their business. They are practical and experienced builders, and whatever fault may be found with certain features connected with the construction of the building, the contractors are, we believe, free from all blame. The best of timber has been used throughout the building. It is covered by a splendid slate roof, is two and a half stories high, and built of brick. The belfry will be enclosed with blinds. The view from the belfry is magnificent and stretches over one of the finest agricultural districts in Montgomery county. The Blue Mountains of Lehigh county are plainly visible. Kulpsville and West Point show themselves to good advantage, and the scene is one to be enjoyed at any time:”

A class gets their picture taken on a cold winter day on the front steps of the School Street school

Also appearing in The Record: “A taxpayer” wanted to know if the pupils would be allowed to go fishing in the water that collected in the cellar of the new borough school house.

The school situation must have quieted down because we heard no more until the 25th of November 1878 when, we find the following in the local paper:

“On Monday afternoon last a large quantity of gas from the heaters in the borough high school escaped through the registers into the school rooms, and came near causing serious results. Many of the pupils were so overcome with the gas that they fainted, others were made sick in a terrible manner, and the schools had to be dismissed. That night severe headaches were common in almost every family, and physicians were in demand. It appears that the heaters had been filled with a fresh supply of coal at Monday noon, the dampers it is said, were shut off instead of opened, the flues had become choked up, thus throwing the vile gaseous fluid into school rooms.”

Our research fails to disclose anything further with regard to the school controversy, so we must therefore assume that harmony reigned.

Nicely dressed girls smile for the camera in front of the tree-shaded School Street school

Construction of the front half of the School Street building was started in June of 1896 when the books, maps and organs were removed from the school building to the homes of the members of the board and that of Prof. Harley.

W. H. Brunner, of Montgomery township, whose bid was $8,100, was given the contract to erect the new structure.

Next week we will give a sketch of one of our leading citizens whose tragic death on May 30, 1910, cut short the Memorial Day exercises in our town.

This post is sourced from a column entitled Early North Wales: Its History and Its People penned by long-time North Wales resident historian Leon T. Lewis. The article appeared in its original form in the May 19, 1959 issue of the North Penn Reporter.


The old public school building on School street, which in 1959 was purchased by the borough for the sum of $1, was erected in 1877 at a cost of $7,000. Although heavily altered, today this building serves as North Wales Borough Hall.

The following appeared in the North Wales Record of April 28, 1877:

“The School Board of North Wales has purchased a handsome lot of ground, comprising about an acre, bounded by Third and Fourth streets and School and Beaver streets, upon which will be erected, this coming summer, a new school house. The purchase of this lot was unanimously favored by the board. The price paid for the ground is $1,000. [Clarification:  the ground purchased for the school was in fact eight vacant building lots:  four facing Beaver street and four facing School street.]

This is the School Street school, when new in 1877. The left facade faces School Street, and the right facade faces 4th Street.

“The new building will comprise four rooms, and will be constructed in a manner that will be eminently creditable to our beautiful and growing borough. The commendable zeal of each community to secure abundant school facilities is too frequently accompanied by an oversight of the necessity of looking after the health, as well as the education, of the young. Vigor of body and industry of habit are just as essential elements of strength as intellectual culture, and the one cannot attain to any great excellence without the other.

This 1893 photograph shows that the 1877 school building had not been added onto, yet.

“The present borough school [on N. Main Street] is entirely inadequate to meet the wants of the pupils, and reasoning from past experience, the school board proposes that the new building shall meet every requirement necessary. Just what plan will be adopted is yet undecided, but it is safe to say the building and its equipment will equal in every respect any in Montgomery County, as it very properly should, for of what advantage are the fine new school houses fast growing up throughout the County unless they meet the important requisites of health in heating and ventilation, in lighting, in the proper arrangement of the furniture, and other purely physical conditions of a health school with wholesome provisions for teachers and pupils?

This photograph shows the 1896 addition to the 1877 school building. The 1877 building is behind the addition, and can’t be seen in this photo. The vantage point of this photo is on School Street.

“Economy of space is a poor reason for putting successive generations of pupils to work under conditions that are admittedly unfavorable to physical development. Bad contracts and extravagant, useless furniture, and other waste in money outlay may be corrected even if they cannot be excused. But our school board are men of judicious minds, economical yet progressive ideas, and we believe the power invested in them to carry out the construction of the new building to a successful consummation will be wisely exercised.”

This photograph taken from 3rd Street includes a glimpse of the original 1877 school building, on the left. The bell tower and balustrade atop the 1896 addition (center and right) were removed by this time.

It appears that the construction of this school building created considerable dissension among members of the school board because of the cost, as it was deemed that the new school house was an unnecessary expense. Because of this split in the school board, one of its members, Enos M. Lukens, grandfather of George E. Lukens and Clara Lukens Brooks, refused to meet with the board, and the editor of the North Wales Record, knowing him to be a man of undoubted integrity and veracity – one who, as a member of the board, always endeavored to discharge his duties faithfully and honestly – and for the good of the community only, sought an interview with him regarding the alleged wrongs committed by the school board.

The renovated North Wales borough hall was dedicated in 2005. Portions of the old school building are incorporated into the new.

The following interview between Wilmer H. Johnson, editor of the North Wales Record, and Mr. Lukens is quoted from the November 10, 1877 issue of the local paper:

Record — Mr. Lukens, you have no personal animosity against any member of the school board, have you?

Mr. Lukens — Not a particle.

Record — When were you elected a member of the board, and when did you cease to meet with it?

Mr. Lukens — I was elected in the spring of 1876, and met regularly with the board up until last June. At the time of my election I was waited upon by leading citizens of the borough and urged to take my seat in that body, for I had an inclination not to do so, notwithstanding my election.

Record — Upon what grounds do you decline to meet with the board?

Mr. Lukens — As I was not at Conshohocken with the board to view the school building there, and was not posted in building school houses, I thought my services in the board of no longer account. The board set a time for me to go with them, but changed that time without proper notice to me, and the president of the board told me I could go in the [railroad] cars. The members who did go, went in carriages.

Record — Previous to this treatment did the board show any anxiety to have you along?

Mr. Lukens — Yes. The president thought I would be of great service – that I would see things that the other members would not notice – which would be of importance to the board in the construction of the new building.

Record — The original specifications for the construction of the school house were drawn up by you, were they not?

Mr. Lukens — They were, and were unanimously adopted by the board; but the building is not constructed according to those specifications. The botch in the cellar, a very important point about the building, and which gives it that squatty appearance, is attributed to me, but I emphatically deny it. The original specifications allowed one foot fall for the drainage of the cellar. The fall should have commenced at the north corner, as the board agreed was correct. But Mr. Harley directed that the opposite southern corner was the one to begin at, which gives the cellar a depth of five and a half feet in the clear, instead of six and a half according to my specifications, and hence the botch.

Record — Had you any interest in the contract further than for the public good?

Mr. Lukens — No; and positively had no thought of entering a bid in any way or shape for the construction of the building.

Record — Hasn’t there been an unnecessary expense attached to the school?

Mr. Lukens — There has. When the matter of building the school was first approached, $3,000 was thought to be a fair sum for the purpose. That amount would have made a good building, but of course would not have allowed for unnecessary extras.

Record — How much over $5,000 do you think the building will cost?

Mr. Lukens — I say $1,500 or $2,000.

This article is continued in Part 11.

This post is sourced from a column entitled Early North Wales: Its History and Its People penned by long-time North Wales resident historian Leon T. Lewis. The article appeared in its original form in the May 12, 1959 issue of the North Penn Reporter.


About 1860 the store building occupied by the Peoples Building & Loan Association was erected by Benjamin Hendricks. Isaac G. Freed, grandfather of John Freed Morris, had a machine shop where A. K. Shearer’s warehouse was located, at Second and Montgomery. On this corner in 1864 the post office was located, with Mr. Freed as the first postmaster.

About 1865 Walnut street was laid out southwest to Morris road and soon thereafter was opened northeast to the railroad. It was about 1865 that the owners of the Hurst farm began to sell building lots, and Shearer street was opened to Pennsylvania avenue. Shearer street was formerly a lane leading to the Shearer homestead, with cherry trees on each side and a big gate at Main street.

The large building next to the current fire station on South Main street dates back to 1859, when it was first erected by J. H. Egner for a grist mill and also a distillery. It measured forty by sixty feet, three stories in height, with an attic. The size of the lot was 200 by 100 feet and fronted on Main street. About the time the mill was finished the proprietor had to sell out, and it was purchased by Jonas D. Moyer, David Moyer and Elias K. Freed. The new firm removed the distillery equipment and changed that part of the building into a planing mill, the other part as a custom mill. [By way of explanation, a planing mill is a facility that takes cut and seasoned boards from a sawmill and turns them into finished dimensional lumber.]

Mill building located at 139 S. Main Street, North Wales (opposite Shearer Street). The railroad boxcar with GLOBE LINE painted on the side is on an elevated railroad siding. Later, after the railroad siding was removed an Esso gasoline station was built there. The one-story building that was once a gas station is today a Papa Johns Pizza franchise location

In March 1862 the building was destroyed by fire, but it was quickly rebuilt as a merchant and grist mill, with five run of stones* and a 40 horsepower coal-fired steam engine. In 1866 Jonas D. Moyer withdrew from the firm. In 1868 David Moyer also withdrew, having sold his interest to Henry W. Moyer, father of our present [1959] citizen Clinton B. Moyer. A co-partnership was then formed under the title of Elias K. Freed & Company, who operated the mill upon the old plan until 1876, when they changed the machinery and worked upon what was known as the new process.

In 1881 Mr. Moyer sold his interest to Mr. Freed, who gave a third interest in the business to his son-in-law Frank S. Kriebel. Mr. Freed took down the old mill and rebuilt it for manufacturing flour by the roller process, increasing the capacity of the mill to one hundred and fifty barrels a day. The mill then measured one hundred feet wide by forty feet deep, with three stories and an attic, with a two story warehouse. The storage capacity was twenty thousand bushels of wheat and one thousand barrels of flour. When the roller process came into operation, the firm worked day and night. This was the first roller mill in Montgomery county and the third in the state. Later, the building was occupied by the North Wales Planing Mill, and a “Five and Ten” cent store.

At the intersection of Main street with the railroad, the north corner, now the home of the North Penn Volunteer Fire Company, was a large three story stone building known as Leister’s Hardware Store and tin shop. A portion of this building also served as the office of the North Wales Record newspaper. This building was erected in 1865 by David Moyer to be used as a storage house. Moyer afterwards rented it to Sellers & Kepler for a hardware store. Sellers sold his interest to Isaac G. Freed in 1866 and the firm henceforth consisted of Freed & Kepler. Mr. Freed continued in the business until 1872 when he sold out to George W. Grove of Bucks county. A few years later it passed into the hands of A. S. Winner & Company, who held it until 1878 when Jacob Leister, grandfather of Frank H. Leister, took possession. Winner was for a time postmaster. Mr. Leister continued in this business until 1909 when he sold to V. D. Lewis and William F. Burk who then conducted the business under the name of Burk-Lewis Hardware Company.

Storefronts facing Main Street would be removed after this building became the home of the North Penn Volunteer Fire Company. The railroad tracks can be glimpsed behind the building on the right

A large brick dwelling opposite the fire house was built as a store and dwelling in 1867 by William R. Bechtel. Today the North Wales Pub occupies the first floor of this building.

In 1861 Abel K. Shearer, father of Abel K. and Ralph W. Shearer established an extensive lumber business. Mr. Shearer was born on the farm of his father, Jacob, in Gwynedd township, November 6, 1838, and received his education at the schools in the vicinity, after which, until he was twenty-three years of age, he worked on his father’s farm. He then determined to embark in commercial ventures and established the lumber yard in 1861. This enterprise grew to such proportions as to make the addition of a steam powered planing mill a necessity. This he established in 1870. While mainly occupied in the management of his business, Mr. Shearer found time to devote to local political issues. He served in borough council and as a school director. He was a director of the North Wales Building and Loan Association and a member of the Lutheran Church where he served on the church council. The lumber yard was then conducted by his son Abel K. Shearer.

A harness shop was opened in the sheds to the rear of the hotel on Main street, and in the same building there was a cigar factory. In 1865 the post office was moved to the Hendricks store. A fire company had been organized and a hand engine had been purchased from Philadelphia. The engine was not a success and was later sold for scrap.

The North Wales Record newspaper was started in the hardware building of Jacob H. Leister by Milton Wood, and was printed on a Washington Hand Press. The first number was issued on August 4, 1874, and in the absence of a press, the two first numbers were printed at the office of the NEUTRALIST, in Skippackville, to which place the forms were carried in a wagon, a distance of eight miles. The paper soon acquired considerable circulation, especially in the near vicinity, but was not financally profitable to its publisher. Less than a year afterward, on June 19, 1875, Mr. Wood sold out his interest to the firm of Marlin & Smith. The paper continued to be published weekly, under various ownerships, until February 28, 1942, when the then owner and publisher, Mr. W. M. Kirkpatrick, ceased publication.

The North Wales Record newspaper was issued once a week from 1874 to 1942

Among the advertisers in the first issue of the North Wales Record newspaper were found Harley & Brothers, merchandise; William H. Staiger, barber; Grove & Kepler, hardware; Dr. W. H. Wampole, dentist; Dr. H. B. Johnson, druggist and physician; William R. Bechtel, shoe manufacturer; Shearer, Lukens & Co., planing mill; Moyer & Shearer, lumber; J. A. Gerhart, house and sign painting; Jacob Leister, hardware store and tinsmith; Isaac Wampole, Justice of the Peace; Slutter & Bright, carriage factory; E. K. Freed & Co., millers; North Wales Academy and School of Business. Among the events published in the news was an 1880 visit from General W. S. Hancock, a candidate for President, who was royally entertained at Lukens North Wales Hotel, now the Rorer-Seems Building.

John Kuhns had commenced the erection of a large store house and hall on the corner of Second street and Montgomery avenue. The new building was to be of brick, three stories high, with a depth of 40 feet. The building faced Second street. The first floor and basement were to be used as a dry goods store, the second story to be fitted up for a public hall, and the third floor for a lodge room. Mr. Kuhns stated, in the North Wales Record of August 8, 1875, “A public hall has long been needed by our borough and our citizens will be glad to know that their wishes will be gratified when the new building is erected.” Later, this building served as a hotel known as Philadelphia House. The building no longer stands [see below].

The Philadelphia House hotel once stood at the corner of 2nd Street and Montgomery Avenue. Montgomery Avenue is just outside the left edge of this photo

A new pottery and earthenware manufactory operated by Moyer & Young had just been completed at Pennsylvania avenue and Walnut street, and a Board of Trade was active. In 1875 North Wales borough had 470 inhabitants, of which forty were taxpayers; two public schools with 104 pupils; twelve mercantile taxpayers; three hotels; and industrial establishments.

The North Wales Academy and School of Business, with Professor Samuel U. Brunner, father of J. Reiff Brunner, principal, was now located in its new home on Pennsylvania avenue. Previous to this, the school was located on Main street in the present [1959] home of Dr. E. W. Olson. This institution first opened in Kulpsville, Penna. on October 14, 1867, its object being “to meet the increasing demand for practically educated men and women.” The school moved to North Wales April 10, 1871, and the school building was erected in 1872. During mid-20th century the former academy building served as the American Legion Donald McLeod Post, No. 336. Later, the building was torn down and six houses were built on the lot.

North Wales Academy once stood on the west side of Pennsylvania Avenue between the railroad and Montgomery Avenue

The first issue of our local paper, the North Wales Record, on August 8, 1874 had this to say about the North Wales Academy: “The North Wales Academy and School of Business opens its fall term of 13 weeks on September 7th. The principal, S. U. Brunner is receiving the encouragement he deserves for the indefatigable efforts put forth in raising the standard of education in our midst. The academy deserves the success it is attaining, none of its many pupils, graduates and friends will deny. Being so admirably situated in the southern suburbs of our beautiful borough, with all necessary appliances of a first class boarding school, together with its able instructors, destines it to become one of our leading educational institutions in this section of the state.”

This post is sourced from a column entitled Early North Wales: Its History and Its People penned by long-time North Wales resident historian Leon T. Lewis. The article appeared in its original form in the May 5, 1959 issue of the North Penn Reporter.

*Run of millstones or stones — a set of two millstones, consisting of an upper “runner” millstone and the lower “bed” stone.  (Also called a Pair of Stones.)


Before the arrival of the North Penn Railroad in the 1850s, travel from Philadelphia to the Perkiomen region (Schwenksville, Pennsburg, East Greenville) was usually over Skippack pike or Germantown pike, then north on the Gravel pike [PA 29] up the west bank of the Perkiomen Creek.

Germantown Pike between Collegeville and Philadelphia was a toll road owned by the Germantown & Perkiomen Turnpike Road Company. This stock certificate was issued in 1860

After the railroad opened in 1855, a better option emerged: a stagecoach line began operating from North Wales, through Kulpsville, Harleysville, Green Lane, and thence to Pennsburg.  Travelers from Philadelphia rode the North Penn Railroad as far as North Wales, where they would climb aboard the stagecoach for the final leg of their journey. The four-horse stagecoach made one trip per day. Passengers and their luggage shared space with sacks of U.S. Mail.  Compared with railroad cars on smooth steel rails, a stagecoach navigating uneven dirt roads was a slow, cramped, rough-riding way to get places. Taking the train rather than riding the stagecoach, even if for only a portion of the trip, was a welcome option for travelers.  

The driver of this horse-drawn coach or freight wagon has Main Street all to himself in this photograph of Main Street in North Wales. The view looks north from Walnut Street. The trolley track in the center of Main Street was placed there in 1900, and removed when Sumneytown Pike was paved with concrete in 1927

As late as 1876, the North Wales Directory contained the name of Jacob Rorer, stage driver, living at Walnut and Sixth streets. Jacob Rorer, Sr. was the grandfather of present [1959] Postmistress Christina Rorer Hankin; John Rorer, realtor; and Mrs. James Constantine. Jacob Rorer lived in North Wales for many years, passing away on January 2nd, 1898. We quote from the local paper, the North Wales Record, of Saturday, January 8. 1898:

The death of Jacob Rorer, Sr., took place on Sunday morning, at his home on Montgomery avenue, North Wales. He had been ailing for a long time but his illness had only taken a serious turn for the worse a few days previous to his demise. Mr. Rorer was born November 22, 1823, at the family homestead near where is now Oak Lane station, which was owned by his father of the same name. He is survived by his wife and seven children. The deceased came to North Wales several years ago and for fifteen or more years ran the stagecoach line from here to Harleysville, carrying the mail between the two places all this time. During his long life of 74 years he had been engaged in a variety of businesses. In his younger days he resided for a year or more in New York City, where he drove a Broadway bus, then drawn by four horses. At one time he kept a hotel. But he was mostly employed in stage transportation, owning various lines running through Bucks county from Doylestown. The Harleysville-North Wales route was the last line he operated. Jacob Rorer was known for his sunny disposition and for his fondness of telling old time stagecoach remembrances. His funeral took place from St. Luke’s Reformed Church Wednesday afternoon, and was largely attended. Reverend J. D. Detrich officiated. Interment was made in the Reformed Cemetery.

A New York City horse-drawn omnibus like the one Jacob Rorer, Sr. drove early in his career. After he moved to North Wales, Jacob Rorer drove the Harleysville-to-North Wales stagecoach

This post is sourced from a column entitled Early North Wales: Its History and Its People penned by long-time North Wales resident historian Leon T. Lewis. The article appeared in its original form in the April 28, 1959 issue of the North Penn Reporter.