History snippets

EARLY NORTH WALES:  ITS HISTORY AND ITS PEOPLE, Part 25

We continue with the Town Council meeting of January 20, 1870:

“The council then resolved itself into a committee of the whole and the following propositions submitted: E. K. Freed proposed that a stone building sixteen feet square ten feet high with flat roof covered with tin be erected. Joseph K. Anders coincided with Mr. Freed. Percival Slough proposed to have three apartments, one for prisoners, one for male and the other for female lodgers.

“After considerable discussion, in which all members of the council participated, the following was unanimously adopted as the specifications of the building; the building or lock-up house to be stone fourteen by eighteen feet, one story high, nine feet in the clear from floor to ceiling, wall to be eighteen inches thick laid up with good lime and sand mortar, the sleepers to be of white oak six inches thick and laid thirty inches apart, hemlock floor to be laid not less than thirty inches above the level of the surrounding ground, the joist for the ceiling to be three by six inches, to have four windows with two lights (by lights they meant window panes) in each, 10 by 12 glass with one iron bar lengthwise in each, well secured and to be one inch in thickness, to have a brick partition wall nine inches thick, two 2 inch batten doors well nailed with wrought iron nails, hung with strap hinges and have good mortise lock, flat tin roof to project eight inches over the wall with plain cornice around the same, the ceiling to be plastered with two coats and the walls inside with one coat of good mortar, the outside to be roughcast, and the outside woodwork to be well painted with two coats of white lead, and have suitable privy arrangements in each apartment for the accommodation of lodgers. The same to be completed by the 15th day of April A. D. 1870.

1886 map shows the location of the borough jail, located on 3rd Street near School Street. The jail was torn down long ago. The building labelled “Public School” is now borough hall

“All the material and workmanship in the same shall be such as shall be approved by the Town Council, under a penalty or forfeiture of one hundred dollars, after the adoption of which the clerk was in-structed to make out specifications and invite proposals for the building of the same.”

“Bids for the construction of the lock-up were received at the meeting of February 2, 1870, when the following propositions were received and read: one from Frederick Wolf for three hundred and thirty-five dollars. One from Aaron Kriebel for three hundred and sixty dollars, which were considered, and on motion it was resolved that the proposal for Mr. Wolf be accepted upon condition that he give security for the faithful performance of the contract agreeably to the specifications, under a forfeiture of one hundred dollars.

“The committee appointed at the special session of council on the 20th of January, 1870, for the purpose of purchasing a suitable lot of ground on which to build the lock-up, reported that they had made arrangements with David Moyer for the purchase of a lot on Third street for the sum of fifty dollars, subject to a dower of about four dollars, which report was accepted. This plot of ground was at Third and School streets, and the lock-up, when erected, stood about where the buildings now [1959] stand that are now owned by the Atlas Asbestos Company.

The next mention of the lock-up is made in the borough minutes of April 6, 1870, and reads as follows: “Messrs. Moyer and Slough, the committee appointed to superintend the building of the lock-up, or station house, report that the same is completed agreeably to contract, which was on motion accepted.”

Frederick Wolf, the contractor, was present and claimed ten dollars extra pay for changing the location of the building from the foundation first dug to where it was finally located. Upon Mr. Wolf persisting in his claim, it was on motion of E. K. Freed allowed and an order granted in his favor for $345.00. At this same meeting the building committee was instructed to place an iron bar across the outer door of the lock-up.

The lock-up having been erected, the next matter of importance to be brought to the attention of council was the question of street lights. On October 5, 1870, there appears in the minutes the following entry: “Application by petition of citizens of the borough having been made to the Town Council for the erection of street lamps at certain points in the limits of the borough of North Wales, in pursuance of which application, it was on motion of Mr. Freed unanimously resolved that the question of lamps to light the streets of the borough be submitted to the qualified electors therein at the general and borough elections to be held at the public house of Abel Lukens on the 11th day, being the second Tuesday of October A. D. 1870.”

We will report the result of this election in our next article.

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 August 25, 1959 issue of the North Penn Reporter.

A close up of a map

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EARLY NORTH WALES: ITS HISTORY AND ITS PEOPLE, Part 24

On October 22, 1869, North Wales Borough Council finally started to function and its first official act was the passing of an ordinance compelling property owners on Main Street to lay sidewalks six feet wide with a pavement of brick, stone or wood. These sidewalks were to be completed within thirty days.

Council convened in the office of Moyer & Shearer on Second Street on October 27, 1869

At the next meeting of council, October 27, 1869, the meeting place was changed from Lukens’ Hall to the office of Messrs. Moyer and Shearer. This office was on the site of the one now [1959] occupied by A. K. Shearer on Second street. At this meeting council passed an ordinance requiring pavements to be laid on Montgomery Avenue and Third street and that Montgomery Avenue was to be opened from Third to Second streets.

The meeting place was again changed on November 3, 1869, from the office of Moyer and Shearer to the borough clerk’s office. Mr. Wampole, the clerk, was also a justice of the peace and had his office at 107 North Second street. At this meeting it was resolved that the street commissioner receive a salary of two dollars per day for every day necessarily spent in the performance of his duties.

In order that the actions of council be legally correct it has always been necessary to employ a solicitor, and accordingly, on November 17, 1869, Henry F. Moyer appointed a committee to employ a solicitor for the town council at a salary not exceeding twenty-five dollars per year for his services. At the next meeting, November 24, 1869, Mr. Moyer reported that he had engaged the services of George N. Corson for a term ending January 1, 1871, at a salary of twenty-five dollars per year.

Apparently parking was a problem in 1869, as it is now, for at the meeting of council held on December 8, 1869, a petition was presented by citizens of the borough requesting an ordinance to prohibit any cart, stage, wagon, carriage or vehicle of any kind from remaining on any pavement, footway, or public crossing longer than a certain fixed time, under a penalty of (blank) dollars, to be recovered before the burgess or a justice of the peace; one-half of the fine to be paid to the informer. Also an ordinance making it a penalty for any person or persons to lead or drive a horse or any other animal along and on any footway or pavement. These petitions were received for consideration and future action.

On December 15, 1869, the matter was again brought up, but on motion laid on the table. A search of the records fails to disclose any further action.

The De Houpt grocery store was located on the south side of E. Walnut Street between 4th Street and the railroad

The meeting of December 29, 1869, proved to be an important one in that by-laws and rules were adopted for the government of council. These by-laws and rules are lengthy and have long since been made obsolete by the Legislature of Pennsylvania which created the borough code, and under which all boroughs must function.

The next important matter brought to the attention of council at this meeting was, “The question of lodging strangers or vagrants coming into the borough, which was introduced by Mr. Anders, and after discussing the subject it was on motion, resolved that the clerk obtain the solicitor’s opinion and advice as to the duty of, and the proper course for, the council to pursue in cases where the hotel keepers of the borough of North Wales refuse to entertain and lodge such strangers upon application.”

On January 12, 1870, the matter of lodging strangers again occupied the attention of council when, “A petition was presented asking for the erection of a lock-up or station-house, the propriety of which was discussed, and on motion of Mr. Freed the subject was referred to Messers. Cathrall and Anders with instructions to report at the next meeting of council.”

At this meeting there was another petition presented asking for the erection of twelve street lamps and the appointment of a lamp lighter. This petition was referred back for more signers.

We quote in full the next meeting of council which reads as follows:

“At a special session of the council convened on Thursday evening, January 20, 1870. for the purpose of taking into consideration the propriety of erecting a suitable building for a lock-up house and a site upon which to erect the same. When Joseph K. Anders on behalf of the committee appointed at a former meeting of the council, made report, from the opinion received from George N. Corson, the council solicitor, it appears to be the duty of the council to erect such a building within the borough, and that a lot of ground upon which to erect the same fronting on Third street, bounded by lands of Frederick Mull and Daniel Kenderdine can be purchased for about fifty-four dollars. [Today this is the side yard of the house across the street from the beer distributor.] Whereupon on motion of E. K. Freed it was resolved that the town council erect within the limits of the borough a building suitable for a lock-up or station house, and that a committee be appointed to purchase a suitable lot of ground upon which to erect the same. The president appointed E. K. Freed and Joseph K. Anders to said committee.”

We will continue this article in subsequent blog posts.

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 August 18, 1959 issue of the North Penn Reporter.

Farmers Creamery Association of North Wales

In 1880, North Wales businessmen and local farmers pooled their resources to establish a creamery in the borough for “the manufacture and sale of butter, cheese, and other products of milk.”  

Built in 1881 as a dairy creamery, this building still stands on E. Walnut Street at Beaver Street in North Wales, opposite the Wawa

During the 19th century the countryside surrounding North Wales was primarily agricultural.  In addition to or in place of raising crops, dairy farming could be a sustainable enterprise, the problem being that each day, dairy farmers needed to either process or transport that morning’s milk to a creamery.  This needed to be done day in and day out, 365 days a year.  In the era before refrigeration, before motorized trucks, and before paved roads to run them on, that left few options.  Full milk cans could be hauled to the Reading Railroad’s freight station for shipment to a processing facility, but the high cost of shipment could make the enterprise untenable.

Constitution and Bylaws of the Farmers Creamery Assocation of North Wales, dated March 19, 1881

So it was that the Farmers Creamery Association of North Wales was formed.  A 1 acre plot of land was purchased from Jos. Hopkins “on the north side of the borough.”  A substantial masonry building was built to the following specifications:

34 feet x 42 feet
First story stone, second story brick
Windows:
9×14, 12 light over 12 light, lower story
9×12, 12 light, second story [the term “light” refers to glass panes]
Granite door sills (3)

This building is still standing, after several major alterations, at 717 E. Walnut Street in North Wales borough, opposite the Wawa.  Today the building serves as a 5 unit apartment house.

At a March 19th, 1881 meeting of stockholders of the Farmers Creamery Association of North Wales, the following by-laws were unanimously adopted:

1).  If adulterated milk is furnished by anyone, first offense shall be penalty of $10. Second and subsequent offense: $20.  [Equivalent to $300 and $600 in 2024 dollars]

2). Milk shall be delivered between 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. from May 1 to October 1.  Between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. the rest of the year.

1899 publication issued by Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture lists G. W. Hoffman as owner of North Wales Creamery

The Ambler Gazette newspaper reported that the North Wales creamery “did a thriving business.”  Eventually however the creamery was no longer profitable and ceased operations.  The creamery building was converted to a laundry.  Later, owner George Hoffman converted the structure again, this time into a large bungalow-style house. Hoffman subdivided the lot and in 1920 sold the ex-creamery house to one E. F. Grann. 

This excerpt of a Sanborn insurance map dated September 1921 has been marked up to indicate the creamery building, which had already been converted to a house. In 1926 a craftsman style home would be built next door, at the corner of 8th and Walnut Streets. Also still standing today, its location has been added to this map

In 1925 Hoffman broke ground for a new house on the lot next door to the former creamery, on the southwest corner of 8th & Walnut Streets.  Still standing today at 719 W. Walnut, one and a half stories in height with the first floor of brick and the second of wood, the compact home is of the American Craftsman style so popular at the time. The Hoffman family moved into 719 W. Walnut Street in April of 1926.    

1937 Nash Lafayette Serves as North Wales Police Car and Ambulance

In June 1937, North Wales borough council unanimously agreed to the purchase of a new Nash Lafayette police car.  Recommended by the council safety committee, the purchase was made through the John H. Dodson Nash dealership located at the northwest corner of Walnut Street and Center Street.

The four-door Nash was optioned with “the modern ambulance conversion.”  The June 3, 1937 issue of the North Wales Record newspaper reported: 

“This is the first and only type of police car in this area.  Within a few seconds the rear of the automobile can be converted into an ambulance with all the conveniences, and a patient may be transported easily and in comfort to the nearest medical unit.

“The car will be equipped with two searchlights, and a police siren with a flashing red blinker to warn oncoming traffic.”

from left to right: Burgess W. E. Rourke; Melvin A. Hemmerle, assisting Chief of Police; Chief H. W. Turner; and Charles Brommer III lying on stretcher

When the car arrived in September, a photograph illustrating the ambulance conversion along with a description of its features appeared:

“One of the finest equipped police cars in the county is now operating in the Borough of North Wales and was purchased a few months ago by Town Council. It is equipped with two powerful side search lights and a red blinker siren is mounted on the roof. Its interior is roomy and it possesses excellent speed.

“The most interesting feature of the car and the newest ‘wrinkle’ in police cars is the rear ambulance conversion. In a few seconds the rear of the car may be converted into an ambulance fully equipped with an auxiliary stretcher, blankets, pillow, pads and all necessities and a patient may be quickly and comfortably conveyed to the nearest hospital unit. This is one of the features of the car to which Council gave serious consideration when purchasing. The ambulance is not only for use on the road in the event of an accident but is also at the service of the community.

“The Donald McLeod Post, American Legion, North Wales, is the donor of the ambulance equipment. While the car is now equipped with the necessary supplies, the ‘extras’ will be officially presented to the Police Department by the Legion Post in the future.  This snappy police car with its modern equipment has been viewed and photographed by officials and residents of many surrounding towns and pronounced as the ‘ideal police’ car.

“It was purchased through the Lafayette agency of John Dodson, North Wales.

“In picture reading from left to right: Burgess W. E. Rourke; Melvin A. Hemmerle, assisting Chief of Police; Chief H. W. Turner; and Charles Brommer III, lying on stretcher).”

The caption above refers to the newspaper photograph at the top of this page. The second photo is not of the North Wales car; it is a photo of another 1937 Nash Lafayette that gives a sense of what these large streamlined sedans looked like. The image below is from a stylish 1937 Nash advertisement.

EARLY NORTH WALES: ITS HISTORY AND ITS PEOPLE, Part 23

After the incorporation of North Wales Borough and the granting of the charter by Montgomery County Court we find the following entry in the borough minutes:

“At an election held at the Public House of Abel Lukens in the Borough of North Wales on the 21st day of September, 1869, by virtue of and in pursuance of the decree of the Court of Quarter Sessions of the County of Montgomery of the 20th day of August, 1869, the following persons were duly elected to fill the offices provided for by law, to-wit:

Burgess – George Schlotterer
Town Council – Henry F. Moyer, Elias K. Freed, Percival Slough, Joseph K. Anders and George Cathrall
Constable – Noah W. Weikel
Judge of Election – Augustus W. Dettra
Inspector – George W. Nyce (There being a tie vote for Abel Lukens and John S. Knight for Inspector)
Assessor – Daniel Kenderdine
Auditor – Henry W. Moyer
School Directors – George Schlotterer, William Wilson, Dr. B. K. Johnson, Leidy Gerhart, Isaac G. Freed and John Kline
Justice of the Peace – Isaac W. Wampole and David Moyer

The public house of Abel Lukens was what is now the Rorer-Seems Building, and Lukens’ Hall, which is mentioned very often in these articles, is the building which now [1959] contains the U. S. Post Office.

We do not intend to quote verbatim every minute contained in the records of Borough Council, but not to give the full record of the first meeting would take from these articles the very purpose for which they are written. Therefore, again we quote:

“The first meeting of the Town Council of the Borough of North Wales was held in Lukens’ Hall on Wednesday evening, September 29th, 1869, when the following members were present: George Schlotterer Burgess; Elias K. Freed, Henry F. Moyer and Percival G. Slough, members of the Council, all of whom having been previously duly sworn or affirmed according to law before, Algernon S. Jenkins, Esquire, a Justice of the Peace. Joseph K. Anders, also a member of Council, was present, being duly affirmed by George Schlotterer, Burgess.

“Whereupon council organized by choosing Henry F. Moyer president, and unanimously elected lsaac W. Wampole, Clerk, and appointed Abel K. Shearer, borough treasurer.

“Being thus organized, it was on motion resolved that Elias K. Freed and Joseph K. Anders, who having received the highest number of votes at the late election held on the 21st day of September 1869, should remain in office until their successors are elected in October, 1870, and come regularly into office, and that three persons be elected to the office of Town Council on Tuesday, October 12, 1869, to serve for a term two years.

“On motion Elias K. Freed was appointed a committee to procure the necessary books and stationary for the use of the council.”

Of course, no borough could function without a street commissioner and surveyor, and accordingly, on October 6th, 1869, Frederick Wolf and Ellwood Cleaver were appointed commissioner and surveyor respectively.

Council again met on October 18th, 1869, at which time they appointed Henry F. Moyer as a committee on Finance with instructions to borrow two hundred dollars on Borough Scrip. At this meeting Council was also informed of the bad condition of the bridge at Main and Walnut streets. The mention of a bridge at this intersection causes one to visualize a wooden structure across the street, but in searching records and talking to residents of the town “whose memories runneth not to the contrary” we find that the “bridge” was simply a wooden culvert over a large ditch which existed at Main and Walnut streets at that time.

On the 12th of October 1869, or about one month after the special election held on September 21st of the same year, a general election was held at the Public House of Abel Lukens, at which time the following persons were duly elected Borough officers for the ensuing term: burgess, Isaac Wampole, Jr.; town council, Henry F. Moyer, Percival Slough and David Smith, Jr.; constable, Noah W. Weikel.

In passing we want to pay tribute to the memory of the man who was the second Burgess of North Wales, Isaac W. Wampole, Jr. Mr. Wampole was elected burgess in 1869 and for many years served this community in an official capacity. He performed the duties of his various offices faithfully and loyally, always having in mind the trust imposed upon him by the people. He was one of the pioneers in the building of the town and lived within its confines for many years. Mr. Wampole left a long line of descendants, many of whom are our present day citizens.

The father of Mr. Wampole, Isaac W. Wampole, served this town as borough clerk for a period of twenty years and the minutes kept by him are the most comprehensive, as well as the most beautifully written, that we have ever seen. It is only through his detailed recordings of the actions of the early councils that these present articles are possible.

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 August 11, 1959 issue of the North Penn Reporter.

EARLY NORTH WALES: ITS HISTORY AND ITS PEOPLE, Part 22

Not everyone agreed that North Wales should be incorporated as a borough. This next article describes the actions taken by the opponents of the borough’s incorporation in 1869.

Inasmuch as the village of North Wales was in 1869 a part of Gwynedd township, and by the incorporation the township would lose the territory that was sought to be incorporated, certain citizens of Gwynedd township filed a Remonstrance on April 14, 1869, protesting against the proposed incorporation of the Borough of North Wales.

An early view of Philadelphia House, a hotel located on the corner of 2nd & Montgomery Avenue.  This was one of the early post offices of North Wales, and also the first ice cream parlor in town.  It was torn down in 1959.

About one month later, May 17, 1869, the following withdrawal of certain persons as petitioners for the corporation was filed with the court:

“The undersigned inhabitants and citizens of the Village of North Wales who signed a petition for the incorporation of the Village of North Wales into a borough, respectfully beg leave to withdraw their names and to place themselves into opposition to said charter for the following reasons:

1st. That the said corporation would be injurious to the people living and owning property there.

2nd. That it would entail great expense and be of no benefit to the people.

3rd. That it includes a large portion of farming territory.

“We therefore ask the court to reject said application. Peter Stover, Enos Kulp, Henry Bury, John Manns, Frederick Moll.

“We, the undersigned inhabitants and residents of North Wales, who have signed neither the petition for or against the incorporation of said borough, do hereby unite with the within named persons in remonstrating against the incorporation of said village into a borough. David Richard, Jacob M. Weber; Joseph Stover, H. B. Null, Thomas J. Speakman, Charles Manly , Charles G. Eaton, Joseph H. Kriebel, Philip H. Wagner, John Wagoner, Joseph S. Quinn and Leidy Baker.”

The court then directed that the case be heard on depositions.

In compliance with the ruling of the court, George N. Corson, representing the petitioners, and Charles Hunsicker, for the Remonstrants, met the witnesses at Abel Lukens’ Hall (later known as the Rorer Seems Building) on June 19, 1869, and proceeded to take testimony.

The first pro-borough witness to be heard was Elias K. Freed, who testified that up to that time he had lived in North Wales for twelve years and that he was in the milling business, steam, grist and flour mill. That the population of North Wales was 450 and that the amount of business done in the village was about $450,000 per year. He also stated that the population was increasing and that there were then being constructed some fifteen or sixteen houses. Mr. Freed further testified that, from the travel to and from North Wales and the business done at the depot, and other business, and that the number of people coming here from abroad, he considered the proper police regulations and laying out of streets, and prosperity of the times, required that the village should be incorporated into a borough.

Among the other witnesses who testified were Abel K. Shearer. Henry F. Moyer and Isaac G. Freed. Each gave their particular reasons for desiring the incorporation.

On the same days the testimony of the remonstrants [opposing the creation of the borough] was heard. The first witness called for the remonstrants was Jacob Shearer, grandfather of Abel K. Shearer, who later conducted the lumber yard on Second street. Mr. Shearer stated that he was a farmer and had resided in the town for thirty years and that in his opinion the village was not yet large enough to be incorporated.

Daniel Kenderdine was next heard, as was Enos Lukens, Abel Lukens and Jacob H. Kneedler, all of whom gave their reasons for opposing the incorporation.

The depositions were filed in court on June 21, 1869, and after due consideration, the court granted the charter for the incorporation into a borough on August 20, 1869, with the following order:

“And now to wit: August 20, 1869, the court confirms the judgment of the Grand Jury, and decrees that the said town Of North Wales be incorporated into a borough in conformity with the prayer of the petitioners. That the corporate style and title thereof shall be ‘The Borough of North Wales’, That the boundaries thereof shall be as set forth in said petition for incorporation and that the annual borough election shall be held at the public house of Abel Lukens in said borough in accordance with and subject to all the provisions of a separate election and school district.

“The court further decrees and fixes the first election in said borough for election of officers provided for by law at the said public house of Abel Lukens, on the 21st day of September 1869, between the hours of 8 o’clock a. m. and 6. o’clock p. m. of said day, and designates Abel K. Shearer to give due notice of said election, and the manner thereof. And the court further decrees that Augustus W. Dettra be judge and I. W. Wampole and George Young the inspectors of said election.”

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 August 4, 1959 issue of the North Penn Reporter.

EARLY NORTH WALES: ITS HISTORY AND ITS PEOPLE, Part 21

Early in the spring of 1868 the possibility and advisability of the village of North Wales detaching itself from Gwynedd township and becoming incorporated into a borough was being discussed among certain citizens.

The matter was talked about, pro and con, all through the summer and into the early fall until finally on November 16, 1868 the following petition was filed in the Court of Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the County of Montgomery, in the court house at Norristown:

“The petition of diverse freeholders and citizens of the village of North Wales in the township of Gwynedd and county aforesaid. Know ye, that they are freeholders and citizens of the village of North Wales aforesaid, situate on and along the Spring House and Sumneytown Turnpike Road at and near where said road crosses the North Pennsylvania Rail Road in said Township of Gwynedd and County of Montgomery aforesaid.

“That said village is a thriving, growing, rapidly increasing, and active business town, containing a depot, lumber yard, coal yard, three general stores, drug store, boot, shoe and trunk store, feed store, flour mill, two hotels, restaurant, a saddlery, harness makers, shoemakers, blacksmith shops, wheelwright shop, steam moulding sash and door manufactory, brick kiln, churches, school house, conveyancer, real estate and insurance offices, a building and loan association, library association and other institutions of learning and usefulness and about 380 inhabitants, sixty-five of whom are freeholders.

“Your petitioners are anxious to have said village incorporated and made a body politic with the name, style and title of the Borough of North Wales, whose boundaries shall be as follows, to wit:

“BEGINNING at a stake set for a corner in a public road in the line of lands of Frederick Beaver and Daniel Kenderdine, thence south sixty degrees and a quarter east respectively by lands of said Kenderdine, David Moyer and John M. Nice and Joseph K. Anders, one hundred and nineteen perches to a corner in land of said Anders, thence by the same south forty-two and a half degrees west eighty-five perches to the Spring House and Sumneytown Turnpike road, thence by the same south sixty degrees east twenty perches to a corner of Samuel R. Birds land, thence by the same south thirty degrees west twenty-eight perches to a corner, thence by land of W. Shearer and George Wolf respectively north sixty degrees west one hundred and fourteen perches to a maple tree on land of George Wolf, thence north forty-one and three quarter degrees east one hundred and thirteen perches to the place of beginning.”

The above description of the boundaries is, of course, an engineer’s description. Perhaps it will be more readily understood if I name the streets that were included within these boundaries. Starting at Main street and going toward the railroad station there was Second, Third and Fourth streets. The intersecting streets from Walnut east were Walnut street and Washington avenue. However, as stated earlier in these articles, there was a lane at what is now Shearer street.

Beginning at Beaver street and going east on Main street there was Broadway (now School street), Walnut street, Montgomery avenue and Chestnut street, now Church street. There were two streets, Poplar and High, running parallel with Main street from the railroad to Washington avenue.

The petition for the incorporation of the borough was approved by the Grand Jury on February 26, 1860. The petition presented to the court for the incorporation was signed by the following citizens: George Cathrall, David Jones, Abel K. Shearer, Ellwood Cleaver, Jacob H. Leister, Isaac G. Freed, Lydia Gerhart, Peter S. Moyer, David Moyer, Henry F. Moyer, Henry W. Moyer, William Miller, Percival Slough, John M. Nice, Jonas D. Moyer, John Alarms, Peter Hover, Hannah Beater, Noah W. Weikel, Isaac N. Wireman, Enos H. Cassel, Elias K. Freed, David Knipe, Mark B. Fretz, James Woodruff, Michael Hasty, Jonathan Lukens, Joseph K. Anders, Frederick Wolf, W. R. Bechtel, J. S. Knight, Henry Bury, William S. Boyd, May Wampole, George Schlotter, Enos H. Kulp, Martha A. Cleaver, Ephraim Neaval, and Evan B. Kepler.

On April 14, 1869, the following remonstrance was filed with the court by certain of the citizens of North Wales, protesting against the incorporation:

“The undersigned inhabitants, residents and freeholders of the village of North Wales respectfully remonstrate against the incorporation of North Wales into a borough as prayed for a November Sessions, 1868, and which was approved by the Grand Jury February 26, 1869, for the following reasons:

1st. That the incorporation of said village into a borough would impose upon the property holders and inhabitants thereof great and unreasonable expense.

2nd. That a large portion of the territory sought to be incorporated is farming territory.

3rd. That your remonstrants further believe that a majority of the freeholders are opposed to said incorporation.

We therefore pray the court to refuse said application, and they will ever pray. David Baker, George W. Nyce, Jacob Wismer, Jacob W. Baker, Enos Kulp, Jacob W. Shearer, Henry Bury, Levi Keller, Daniel Kenderdine, Susannah Howland, Abraham Kriebel, Jr., Enos M. Lukens, James Moyer, Henry Booz, George Young, J. H. Kneedler, William VanFossen and B. Franklin Eaton.”

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 28, 1959 issue of the North Penn Reporter.

EARLY NORTH WALES: ITS HISTORY AND ITS PEOPLE, Part 20

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.

The Dickerson farmhouse and barn were located on the north-west side of Dickerson Road, about half-way between Sumneytown Pike and Wissahickon Avenue. The site of the farmstead is now occupied by Merck’s Upper Gwynedd Child Learning Center at 500 Dickerson Road

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

EARLY NORTH WALES: ITS HISTORY AND ITS PEOPLE, Part 19

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.

EARLY NORTH WALES: ITS HISTORY AND ITS PEOPLE, Part 18

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 friend of America in her hour of need.

Marquis De Lafayette

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.