History snippets


This week we will talk about the old Dickerson farm in Upper Gwynedd Township, which came into the ownership of Leeds and Northrup in the 1950s.  The site is today [2023] occupied by the Merck Upper Gwynedd complex opposite Parkside Place.

The Dickerson farm, or the greater part of it, was probably included within the original patent to Evan Hugh, who acquired 1068 acres in 1701, extending across Gwynedd Township in a narrow strip. Hugh Pugh, one of his sons, acquired this partition of his father’s grant, including also the Gordon and Beaver farms, or 307 acres in all. In 1718 this tract was sold to Cadwallader Foulke, who held it for fourteen years. In 1732 Robert Jones was the purchaser who the same year conveyed it to his son, John Jones.

This 1871 map shows the Dickerson farmstead which once stood on the west side of Dickerson Road. Sumneytown Pike crosses left to right through the middle of the map. Present-day road names have been added to the historical map

In 1736 David Cummings bought 108 acres of John Jones and who, in 1760, conveyed to George Maris. He was the great grandson of the Maris who came to this country from Worcestershire, England, in 1683, and settled in Springfield, Delaware county. He was a prominent Quaker and said to be a preacher. He filled a number of important places of public trust, being for several years a member of the Assembly, Justice of the Peace, and Judge of the County Court. He left many descendants, among whom was Prof. George L. Maris, who was the head of the George School at Newtown. George Maris, the immigrant, died in 1705. In 1762, Maris sold to a more permanent owner, Mathias Lukens, who bought 180 acres which must also have included much of the Beaver farm. The new owner was supposed to have been the son of John Lukens, who came from Holland to Pennsylvania in 1688. He died in 1744, leaving a family of children, one of whom was Mathias, born in 1700.

A saw mill powered by the Wissahickon Creek was here during the ownership of Mathias Lukens.  It is supposed that Lukens built the saw mill before the Revolution [American War of Independence]. In the assessment of his property in 1776, the saw mill is mentioned together with 130 acres, two horses and six cows. He had bought other lots, of some thirty acres, bordering the present Sumneytown pike. His will was made March 6, 1783 in which he ordered his executors to sell his property.

In 1786, a Quaker named Joseph Shoemaker bought the property comprising 91 acres of Joseph Lukens and John Evans, the executors. His last will was made March 5th, 1823, in which he ordered the sale of his property. In 1828 the buyer was Thomas Shoemaker, who, in 1830 conveyed to Emanuel Stilte, a native of Germany born in 1751.

Before 1914, Sumneytown Pike in Upper Gwynedd Township was a private turnpike. The road surface would not be paved until 1927. This photo captures a Lehigh Valley Transit trolley headed for Allentown pausing on Sumneytown Pike, at a point between Beaver Street and Dickerson Road. North Wales may be glimpsed in the far distance. The Gordon farm occupied the ground on the right side of the road, which would later be developed as Parkside Place

Stilte was a blacksmith. During the latter period of his life he had his shop opposite the toll-gate [Sumneytown Pike at West Point Pike] and lived in the house owned in the early 1900s by John Schull. His death took place in 1839 at the age of 88 years and he lies buried in the Lutheran Cemetery at North Wales. He had a daughter born in 1780, who married a Reformed minister, Rev. Samuel Helftenstein.

We first hear of Helfenstein as the pastor of the Reformed Church near 4th and Race streets, Philadelphia. He was born in 1775. He built a large house at the corner of Sumneytown pike and Dickerson road, where he resided and finally died. He mostly rented the farm and saw mill to other parties. He was the pastor of the Reformed Congregation in the old Yellow Church, North Wales, for seventeen years, or from 1826 to 1843. His death took place October 17, 1866, at the age of 91. He left six children. Of these, two were also preachers, Albert and Samuel, Jr.

His son, Samuel B. Helfenstein, was well known in Montgomery county. He was a school teacher and a newspaper man, publishing the Norristown Defender for many years. He died about 1880. His uncle, Albert, the preacher, died in 1870 at the age of 69.

The second Samuel Helfenstein died in 1869, also aged 69. In 1855 Rev. Samuel Helfenstein conveyed the property to John Lutz of Whitpain for $6620. The latter was descended from a German family.

The death of John Lutz took place on November 3rd, 1861. During his ownership he had built a new saw mill.  After his death the 69 acre farm was sold to Albert Dickerson who came from Whitemarsh. For some time after the Dickerson purchase the saw mill continued in operation, but gradually became disused.

In March 1913 the heirs of Albert Dickerson sold the farm to Raymond Mayhew, representing the Florex Gardens Company. The farm remained in the possession of Florex Gardens until sale of the property to Leeds and Northrup in the 1950s. Unfortunately we have so far been unable to obtain a photograph of the old Dickerson farm house and buildings.

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 July 21, 1959 issue of the North Penn Reporter.


We continue with the history of the Kneedler Hotel, which once stood on the old Allentown Road near the intersection of Sumneytown Pike and Church Road in Upper Gwynedd Township.

Two photos of the same location on Sumneytown Pike, taken 98 years apart. The Kneedler Hotel appears in the upper left corner of the old photograph, mostly obscured by the shadow of mature shade trees. Neither the historic hotel nor the large white house have survived. The high vantage point for the old photograph was the earthen embankment of the Liberty Bell high speed trolley line.

The widow of John Beaver, who purchased the property from the sheriff in 1763, had not enough money to pay for it, but gave a mortgage to Peter Turner, of Philadelphia, for 570 pounds. Magdalena later married Jacob Heisler. So it was that the Heislers became the owners of the old tavern property. Her marriage to Heisler probably took place about 1764 or 1765, but her life with her second husband was destined to be short. Her own death took place in January 1769. In that year her two children, who were then of age, granted a release of their rights in the estate to Heisler.

George Heisler, the successor to Beaver, was a German, though being in public business and surrounded by Quaker neighbors, he doubtless spoke English also. He farmed their lands during the Revolution, or dealt out liquors behind the bar to local customers, or passing travelers on horseback or on foot. With these he talked of the march of armies or the forays of plundering parties who came near his premises. He came here to stay, his occupancy of the property continuing from 1765 until 1821, the long period of 56 years, or until his death. He lived to the good old age of 82 years and seven months, having been born February 22, 1739. At the time of his marriage to the widow Beaver he was about 26 years of age, while his wife was probably ten years older. He did not long remain a widower after 1769. A short time afterwards we find a new wife, Margaret, signing his legal papers, and later by a third wife, Barbara, her successor.

Every one has noticed the large stone house just south of the cross roads at Gwynedd. This is quite old, having the style of the dwellings erected over a century ago. To this was once attached ten acres, reaching up to the cross roads, and upon which is a modern brick house at the corner. It is curious that this ten acre lot was detached in the time of the Revolution.

In 1777 he sold to his brother-in-law, Martin Hoffman, for 66 pounds. There was no dwelling there then, nothing but forest. In 1778 Hoffman sold it to his brother-in-law John Beaver. By the date of 1785 the latter was living in Lehigh county, and then sold his right to the square piece of ten rods on each side [0.6 acres] back to Heisler again, who disposed of it to Henry Neaval. The Neavals were celebrated weavers and carried on their business for a long time.

The death of the elder Jacob Heisler took place September 22nd, 1821. In his will he appointed his son Jacob and his son-in-law his executors. He seems to have borne a particular antipathy to the fees of executors, for he made a provision that these three should only receive fifty dollars for their services. His son Jacob received the tavern and farm of 134 acres.

The second Jacob Heisler remained in possession for nineteen years. At the time of his father’s death he was a man of middle age, having been born in 1773. His death took place March 29th, 1845 in his seventy-second year. In 1840 he had transferred the farm and hotel to his son-in-law Henry Kneedler, who had married Margaret Heisler.

Thus the hotel changed hands a second time as a result of marriage. Henry Kneedler gave title for 151 acres and the hotel in 1887 to his son, Jacob Kneedler, a resident of North Wales for many, many years.  In 1908 Kneedler built a new house in the borough [later the site of the Daub Hardware store, in 2023 North Wales Running Company] which became his residence.

The last transfer prior to 1910 was in 1898 by Jacob Kneedler to Arnold Becker then of North Wales, who bought the hotel and 28 acres for $5000. Arnold Becker was the father of Abram Becker, now of Lansdale. The old Kneedlers Hotel ceased to be a public house early in 1910 after an existence as such for about a century and a half.

Next week we will travel eastward on the Sumneytown pike and discuss the old Dickinson farmstead.

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 July 14, 1959 issue of the North Penn Reporter.


This article is the first of two that describe the village of Kneedler in Upper Gwynedd Township that once stood at the intersection of Sumneytown Pike and Church Road.  Kneedler is today virtually erased from the landscape, but thanks to articles like this (written in 1959) the village has not been erased from history.  By way of explanation, at one time Allentown Road met Sumneytown Pike at the present-day intersection of Sumneytown Pike / Church Road / West Point Pike.  The village, centered on the historic Kneedler tavern, was located at the former “fork in the road” where travelers bound for the Perkiomen Valley kept left, while those bound for the Lehigh Valley turned right.  Over the years Allentown Road was cut back twice:  first to the far side of the railroad bridge, and more recently to the traffic light opposite the Merck gate.

A mile west of North Wales, near the old Kneedler station on the Stony Creek Railroad, stands a large stone house, a part of which is of ancient appearance. It has been built in three portions, the south end having been added about 1904.

This large building has seven windows in each front of its upper story. On the east side and closely adjacent was the old Allentown road. This is not to be confused with the present Allentown road. The old Allentown road met Sumneytown Pike at a point between the service station [Joy Cleaners] and the diner [Kori Korean Barbeque].  Allentown Road then crossed the Stony Creek Railroad at a grade crossing that has since been closed.

The old Kneedler Hotel faced the original Allentown Road

A few hundred yards south, on the Sumneytown Pike at the West Point road [Sunoco station] was the Rhoades tollgate, the bridge over the Wissahickon and the road to West Point. Adjacent, and at the forks of the Sumneytown pike and Old Allentown road, is an ancient and large stone tenant house, now [1959] an apartment house.  A frame barn was to the north, on the opposite side of the old Allentown Road.

An unenclosed yard separated the tavern from the pike on the soutwest side, along which the old Lehigh Valley trolley line ran, here turning northward past Green Lawn Cemetery on its way toward Lansdale. A stone Springhouse stood on the east side of the Old Allentown road.

This old tavern is one of the landmarks in the history of Gwynedd, for here stood a public house long before the Revolution, probably a portion of the present house then existed. At the junction of the two great roads, it was natural that a public house should be kept in those times. The Allentown road was first opened in 1768. The two roads were then called the Maxatawney and the Bethlehem roads. A tavern here caught the traveler coming in two directions. As a matter of fact, however, we do not know if this tavern ever had a large traveling trade, especially in late times with the opening of the railroad. It was for many years the voting place for the township of Upper Gwynedd.

This map superimposes features that have disappeared, over a recent aerial photograph. The Kneedler Hotel faced the old Allentown Road, not Sumneytown Pike. A large house occupied the lot at the fork in the road. Roads (yellow) are shown their correct widths – when Sumneytown Pike was paved in 1927 the total width was 20 feet (a 10 foot lane in each direction) with no shoulders. Trolley tracks, shown in blue, were changed several times over the years. There was a long wooden staircase from the road up to the high speed line station.

On the side of the tavern, fronting the old Allentown road, was a hole in the wall. In olden times a wooden figure of a man’s arm extended from this opening upon which was suspended the tavern sign and on which was painted a bunch of grapes significant of the kind of juice to be found within. Afterwards the tavern sign in front bore the portrait of the great Frenchman, the Marquis De Lafayette, the friends of America in her hour of need.

In Gwynedd a long time ago lived a man named John Beaver. He has descendants now living in North Wales. The Beavers are generally reckoned as of German descent. In old documents the name is spelled “Bieber” and that is the name of a prominent land holder in the early history of Montgomery county, Mathias Van Beeber, and Perkiomen was often called Beaver township before the Revolution. He was a Dutchman of Holland origin, and the later Beavers are probably of the same national lineage.

John Beaver was called an “Innkeeper” and kept a tavern here prior to 1760. His death took place in November 1762, while yet a man of middle age. His lands were included in the great patent to William John, and in the 1400 acres to which his widow, Jane, and her son John Jones, fell heir. Across the Allentown road was a lasting spring of water and a pond. This was the attraction which doubtless decided a dwelling here. That one was erected at a very early period may be surmised from the relative portions of the house and spring, indicating that the site was selected before the Allentown road was opened.

It is not improbable that here lived the widow, Jane Jones, and her son, the weaver. The earlier transfers of the property have eluded research. About or soon after 1725 Jesse Morgan came into possession here. It is supposed that John Beaver first kept a tavern here, although this is not certain. From some cause, John Beaver became bankrupt and died in middle life, leaving a widow and a family of children. His wife bore the name of Magdelena, a name common among the Germans, but not used among the English or Welsh. It is generally shortened to “Lenah” or Lanie” in common use.

It 1763 the estate of John Beaver was sold by the sheriff and the widow was the purchaser. It consisted of a house and four contiguous tracts of land comprising 148 acres. Attached to the tavern were thirty-nine and one half acres. Then another much larger piece of 100 acres extended up the northwest side of the present Sumneytown pike to the crossroads at about Gwynedd Square, a part of which was the large mushroom plant, now part of the Merck, Sharpe and Dohme property. There were two other lots of eight and a half and five acres. In the boundaries of that time the land of Joseph Griffith appeared on the northwest, those of George Klippinger on the north; Edward Morgan on the southeast; John Davis on the south, on the original property, where a house was built, in 1712.

We will continue with the Kneedler history next week.

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 July 7, 1959 issue of the North Penn Reporter.


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.