Contributed by Nancy Piper
[Source: Historical Collections of the State of Pennsylvania, by Sherman Day, Philadelphia, 1843, Page 480-503]
Montgomery County, originally a part of Philadelphia County, was established by the act of 10th Sept., 1784. Length 30 miles, breadth 15; area 450 sq. miles. Population in 1790, 22,929; in 1800, 24,150; in 1810, 29,683; in 1820, 35,793; in 1830, 39,406; in 1840, 47,241.
There are no mountains in this county. The lands are agreeably diversified by undulating hills and valleys. Few valleys in any country can boast of more picturesque scenery than that of the Schuylkill. Forming the S. W. boundary for some distance, it meanders through broad cultivated fields, furnished with substantial stone houses and barns, with here and there an elegant country seat: again it sweeps past bold bluffs of rocks, grudging a passage to the railroad, and then past some bright and busy manufacturing town, to which its own sparkling waters impart the movement. The other streams are the Perkiomen and its branches, and the upper branches of the Wisahiccon, Pennepack, Tocony, and Neshaminy. The primary rocks, gneiss, and talcose slate, form a narrow belt across the S. E. end of the county. The very valuable primitive limestone of the Great Valley, lies in a narrow belt, from one to two miles owide, from near Willow Grove to Reesville, crossing the Schuylkill at Swedes Ford and Conshohocken. The limestone and marble of this deposit constitute a source of great wealth. The greater portion of the county is occupied by the red shales and sandstones of the 'o middle secondary" formation. The red shale makes an excellent soil, especially when treated with lime.
The co. is traversed in every direction by stone turnpikes and good common roads. Several of these turnpikes were made between 1800 and 1810. In bridges the co. may vie with any in the state. Across the Schuylkill there are bridges at Norristown, Pawling's, and Pottstown; and a splendid railroad bridge of stone above Phenixville. The Perkiomen bridge, on the Reading turnpike, is a noble monument of the enterprise of the co. forty years since. It is built entirely of stone, consists of six arches, and cost $60,000. It was founded in 1798, finished in '99. Frederick Conrad, Samuel Mauldsby, Conrad Boyer, James Bean, and Henry Scheetz, were then county commissioners. A similar but smaller bridge was erected soon after in 1803 over the Manatawny at Pottstown; and all the creeks in the county are now bridged with stone at the principal crossings. The other internal improvements are the Schuylkill Navigation Company's canals and pools; the Reading railroad, following down the Schuylkill on the left bank as far as Phenixville, and below there on the right bank; and the Norristown and Philadelphia railroad, passing on the left bank of the river, through Manyunk.
Copper mines are said to have been opened many years since near Perkiomen creek, and more recently at another place ; Scott's old Geography speaks of a silver mine, and a lead mine in Providence township discovered about the year 1800; but it is not known that any one has grown rich by working either. The streams, large and small, together with the dams on the Schuylkill, create an immense amount of waterpower, which is well improved for manufacturing purposes. It was estimated that in 1830 there were in the county 17 merchant-mills, 99 gristmills, 76 saw-mills, 3 marble saw-mills, 15 paper-mills, 30 oil-mills, 10 clover-mills, 11 powder-mills, 5 iron works of various kinds, 9 cotton factories, 3 woollen-factories, 11 fulling-mills, and 27 tanneries. There are also in the co. two incorporated academies, besides a number of excellent private seminaries, and five public libraries. The co. was originally settled in the S. E. end by Welsh and Swedes; in the upper end by Germans; and the descendants of these races, retaining many of their peculiarities, still occupy the soil. The Germans still retain their mother tongue, but the original languages of the Swedes and the Welsh, for a long time preserved, have been eradicated by the English.
|The early settlement of Montgomery co. followed close upon the arrival
of Wm. Penn. Robert Townsend, one of the early settlers about Germantown,
" In the year 1682,1 found a concern on my mind to embark, with my wife and child, and went on board the ship Welcome, Robert Greenaway, commander, in company with my worthy friend Wm. Penn, whose good conversation was very advantageous to all the company." About a year after our arrival there came in about twenty families from high and low Germany, of religious "good people, who settled about Germantown-the country continually increasing, people began to spread themselves further back. " Also a place called North Wales was settled by many of the ancient Tritons, an honest-inclined people, although they had not then made a profession of the truth as held by us; yet in a little time a large convincement was among them, and divers meeting-houses were built."
Proud, in his History of Pennsylvania, states-
" Among those adventurers and settlers who arrived about this time, were also many from Wales, of those who are called ancient Britons, and mostly Quakers ; divers of whom were of the original or early stock of that society there. They had early purchased of the proprietary in England, 40,000 acres of land. Those who came at present, took up so much of it on the west side of Schuylkill river as made the three townships of Merion, Haverford, and Radnor; and in a few years afterwards their number was so much augmented as to settle the three other townships of Newtown, Goshen, and Uwchland. After this they continued still increasing, and became a numerous and flourishing people.
" Divers of these early Welsh settlers were persons of excellent and worthy character, and several of good education, family, and estate- chiefly Quakers ; and many of them either eminent preachers in that society, or otherwise well qualified and disposed to do good.
" John Thomas, Robert Owen, and Jane his wife, from Merionethshire, were pious and of good family, education, and abilities, and had suffered much persecution for their religion, being Quakers ; but they died soon after their arrival. There was also another Robert Owen, who removed from Wales into Pennsylvania in 1690-an eminent preacher among the Quakers-a skilful peacemaker, and of much service and utility. He died in the year 1697.
"Rowland Ellis was a man of note among the Welsh settlers, from a place called Brin-Maur, near Dolgelly, in the county of Merioneth. In 1682, he sent over Thomas Owen and his family to make a settlement This was the custom of divers others of the Welsh, at first, to send persons over to take up land for them, and to prepare it against their coming.
" Rowland Ellis first came over in 1686, bringing with him his eldest son, Rowland, then a boy. About 100 Welsh passengers came at the same time. They had a long passage-suffered much for want of provisions-touched at Barbadoes, &c. Many died. R. Ellis, after remaining about nine months here, returned to Wales, leaving his son with his uncle, John Humphrey. He returned to Pennsylvania in 1697, with his family, and about 100 other passengers, all from North Wales. He was then in his 45th year. He was a preacher among the Quakers, and an acceptable man in every station. He lived long to do good, and died in his 80th year, at his son-in-law's, John Evans' house, in North Wales, Pa.
" Hugh Roberts was an eminent Quaker preacher; he removed from Wales to Pennsylvania about the year 1683, where he lived near 18 years, to an advanced age. He had suffered much for his religion in his native country prior to his removal.
" On his return from a religious visit to his native country, in the service of preaching the gospel, in the year 1698, a number of the inhabitants of North Wales removed to Pennsylvania in company with him, where he arrived on the 7th of the 5th month, many of the passengers having died at sea of the bloody flux during the passage.
"In the latter end of this year, (1698,) William Jones, Thomas Evans, Robert Evans, Owen Evans, Cadwallader Evans, Hugh Griffith, John Hugh, Edward Foulke, John Humphrey, Robert Jones, and others, having purchased of Robert Turner 10,000 acres of land, began, in the following year, to improve and settle the same, and called the township Guinedd-in English, North Wales. Some of the last mentioned passengers settled here, who, in general, did not, at first, profess with the Quakers ; but afterwards they, with many others, as the neighborhood increased, joined in religious society with them, and were an industrious and worthy people.
"Ellis Pugh, one of the early Welsh settlers who arrived in the province in the year 1687, lived much of his time, and died here, 1718. He was convinced of the Quakers' principles in Wales about the year 1674. He became a minister among them in 1680 ; in which capacity he continued till his death."
|This tract of 40,000 acres, extending across the lower end of Montgomery
into Chester and Delaware counties, was known formerly as the Welsh line.
The names of the townships are derived from favorite places in Wales. Oldmixon,
who wrote in 1708, says:-
" This tract is thick of townships ; as Radnor before-mentioned, Haverford, West Merioneth, and others. 'Tis very populous, and the people are very industrious ; by which means this country is better cleared than any other part of the county. The inhabitants have many fine plantations of corn, and breed abundance of cattle, insomuch that they arc looked upon to be as thriving and wealthy as any in the province-and this must always be said of the Welsh, that wherever they come, 'tis not their fault if they do not live, and live well too; for they seldom spare for labor, which seldom fails of success.
Many of the Welsh who first came over, as mentioned by Proud, were devout members of the Church of England. Of the early settlers of Gwinned township, only John Hughes and John Humphrey were Quakers, originally. The others, who were Episcopalians, were in the habit of meeting at Robert Evans', where Cadwallader Evans read the Bible to those assembled. But, says Mr. Watson, in his Olden Time-
One time, as Cadwallader Evans was accustomed to relate to the late venerable Jesse Foulke, he was going as usual to his brother Robert's; when passing near the road leading to Friends meeting, held at John Hughes' and John Humphrey's, it seemed as if he was impressed " to go down and see how the Quakers did." This he mentioned to his friends at the close of his own meeting, and they all agreed to go to the Friends meeting the next time,-where they were all so well satisfied that they never met again in their own worship. In 1700, the Friends built their log meeting-house, on the site where now stands their present stone house, built in 1823. An intermediate stone house was built there in 1712.
Mrs. S. Nancarro, the kinswoman of the above-mentioned Jesse Foulke, who lived to be 80 years of age, used to tell the story a little variant, saying that the brothers Evans used to read the public services of their church, in a summer-house, constructed of boughs of trees; and that when one of the brothers was proceeding to his meeting, having to pass by where William Penn was speaking, he became so convinced, that he succeeded in bringing over all his brethren to the same profession.
The same Mrs. N. had often seen and conversed with her grandfather, Hugh Evans, who lived to be ninety years of age. When he was a boy of twelve years of age, he remembered that William Penn, with his daughter Laetitia, and a servant, (in the year 1699 or 1700,) came out on horseback to visit his father, Thomas Evans. Their house was then superior, in that it was of barked and hewn logs, a refinement surpassing the common rank. At that house, William Penn ascended steps on the outside to go to his bed-chamber; and the lad of twelve, curious to see so distinguished a guest, went up afterwards to peep through the apertures, and saw him on his knees at prayer, giving audible " thanks to God for such a peaceful and excellent shelter in the wilderness!" The same facts I heard also from another ancient person.
|Some of these, either returned to their ancient faith, or others came
in who adhered to it, for there are still standing at Evansburg, Oxford,
and at Radnor, in Delaware co., several very ancient Episcopal churches founded
by the Welsh. To these, and to the conversions mentioned above, the Rev.
Evan Evans alludes in a letter to the Bishop of London, in 1707.
" But Montgomery and Radnor, next to my own beloved Philadelphia, had the most considerable share in my labors, where I preached in Welsh once a fortnight for four years, till the arrival of Mr. Nicholas, minister of Chester, in 1704.
" The Welsh at Radnor and Merioneth, in the province of Pennsylvania, had addressed my lord of London, having a hundred hands to their petition, for a minister to be settled among them that understands the English language, there being many ancient people among those inhabitants that do not understand the English ; and could a sober and discreet man be procured to undertake that mission, he might be capable, by the blessing of God, to bring in a plentiful harvest of Welsh Quakers, that were originally bred in the Church of England, but were unhappily perverted before any minister in holy orders, that could preach to them in their own language, was sent into Pennsylvania; but I believe they are not irrecoverable had they an itinerant missionary who would use application and diligence to introduce them to the communion of the church.
" There is another Welsh settlement called Montgomery, in the county of Philadelphia, twenty miles distant from the city, where there are considerable numbers of Welsh people, formerly in their native country of the communion of the Church of England; but about the year 1698, two years before my arrival in that country, most of them joined with the Quakers, but by God's blessing some of them were induced to return, and I have baptized their children and preached often to them.
" I visited them since, and prevailed upon them to meet every Lord's day, about forty in number, where one that can understand the language well, and is a sober, discreet man, reads the prayers of the church, the proper psalms and lessons, omitting the absolution, &c., what properly belongs to the priest's office, and then reads some portion in a book of devotion to the people. I met with several good books translated into the Welsh language among my country people, particularly the Whole Duty of Man, in Welsh, and the Practice of Piety. As for the Christian Monitor, Dorrington's Family Guide to the Lord's Supper, the Advice of a Minister to his Parishioners-all in Welsh, what I received, were faithfully disposed, but were so few, that a greater number is still much wanting."
A few years afterward, between 1708 and 1715, "Mr. Evans visited a new settlement called Parkeomen, situated on the river Schuylkill. Here many persons became attached to the Episcopal church, were baptized and admitted to her communion,"
Smith, the historian, gives the dates of the establishment of Friends' meetings.
In 1683 a first-day meeting was established to be held at Takoney or Oxford. Another was also established at Poetquessing. And afterwards in the same year a monthly meeting was set up, to consist of those two meetings and that at Abington, to be held by turns among them.
The 24th of the seventh month, 1716, the meeting at Horsham was settled, at first only in the winter season; but Friends increasing, after some time a meeting-house was built, and it was fixed there constantly and so continues.
At North Wales a meeting-house was built in the year 1700, which was but two years after the arrival of the Welsh Friends to that place, and meetings were kept therein by the consent of Haverford monthly meeting, unto which they had at first joined themselves. Finding truth to prevail, and their numbers to increase, they found it necessary to build another meeting-house in 1712; and on the 19th of the ninth month that year, the first meeting for worship was held therein. Their number afterwards still increasing, as well among themselves as by the union of many adjacent settlers, Friends, belonging to North Wales or Gwynned; and Plymouth meeting settled a monthly meeting of business among themselves, by the consent of Haverford meeting aforesaid and the quarterly meeting of Philadelphia. The said monthly meeting was first held the 22d day of the twelfth month 1714 or '15, at Gwynned meeting-house, and called Gwynned monthly meeting.
Plymouth meeting-house was built a considerable time before this, and a meeting for worship held there as at this day. The said meeting was in being the 4th of the first month, 1688-9, and how long before is not certain.
One of the venerable meeting-houses, founded by the early Friends from Wales, is that in Lower Merion township, situated near the Columbia railroad, about two miles west of Manyunk. It was erected, as appears by a date on a tablet, in 1695; within a few years past, it has been repaired and stuccoed, and is still in use. It is the oldest place of worship in the state. Among the early settlers in Merion were-the Roberts family, of whom Jonathan Roberts, of Upper Merion, is a descendant; Edward Jones, " a man given to hospitality, and generally beloved by his acquaintances," who died in Feb., 1737, at the age of 82; and Benjamin Humphrey, who came over in 1683, and died in Nov., 1737, aged 76-he was also " remarked for his hospitality, and was a useful member among the Quakers."
It does not distinctly appear at what time the Swedes first extended their settlement into the region of Swedes Ford; but Major Holstein, an aged descendant of that race, says they came after the Welsh, and that his great-grandfather bought part of his farm of a Welshman. Mats Holstein and Peter Rambo, with their families, were the earliest Swedish settlers in Upper Merion. There is an old house still existing about a mile west of Norristown, where Major Holstein, his father, and grandfather, were all born. His grandfather helped to build the Swedish church at the Ford, which was erected about 1763, when Rev. Charles Magnus Wrangel had charge of the congregation. In the Annals of the Swedes, by Rev. J. C. Clay, are the following passages, which may throw some light on the date of the settlement here.
" In 1705, the ' upper inhabitants'-meaning, I suppose, those at Upper Merion, or perhaps up the Delaware towards Bristol-made application for occasional services in their neighborhood in the winter season, because of their distance from the church. It was agreed that the rector should officiate there twice during the winter season."
" 1720. A meeting was held on the 27th of March, for the transaction of business, at which four clergymen were present: the Rev. Provost Andrew Hesselius, the Rev. Mr. Lidenius, of Racoon and Penn's Neck, and the Rev. Messrs. Lidman and Samuel Hesselius. The provost proposed that the last named clergyman should take charge of those portions of the congregation residing at Kalkonhook and Neshamani. This was objected to by the lay members present, upon the ground that the Swedes living in those places might thus become ' weaned' from the mother church at Wicaco. It being understood that one clergyman was competent to the duties at Wicaco, it was then proposed by Mr. Lidman, that as the people at Manating-supposed to be Morlatton, four miles above Pottsgrove, on the Schuylkill-were at a great distance from the church, they, perhaps, would be glad of his services there, and that he would cheerfully relinquish to him so much of the salary as was furnished by that part of the congregation. Marcus Hulings, and other ' respectable' inhabitants of that part of the country then present, earnestly seconded this proposition, promising to contribute, to the extent of their means, towards his support. It was accordingly arranged that the Rev. Samuel Hesselius should settle at Manating."
In 1765, the Swedish churches of Upper Merion, Wicaco, and Kingsessing, were unitedly incorporated by John Penn, and this original charter was amended and confirmed by the commonwealth in 1787.
The church called Christ church, occupies a lovely and picturesque knoll, shaded with tall trees, and overlooking the beautiful Schuylkill, about a mile below Norristown, on the right bank. A quiet hamlet surrounds it, inhabited by the descendants of the ancient Swedes. They still cling together, and although the Swedish and Episcopal clergy minister interchangeably, with the same ritual, yet the Swedish churches are governed by their own ancient laws, and the control of the property is held by those of Swedish descent, either in direct line or by marriage. The Swedes, like ducks, always had a predilection for the water, they never settled far in the interior, and in early days they made free use of their canoes for going to church, and in their ordinary intercourse with neighboring settlements. Major Holstein's grandmother, who lived at Morlatton, above Pottstown, when married, came down to the church with her wedding party, all in their canoes. In later days, during the revolution, the women travelled on horseback, and wore " safeguard petticoats," which, when they alighted, they took off and hung along the fence.
|The Germans who came over to Germantown, as mentioned above by Robert
Townsend, soon made known by letters throughout all Germany the pre-eminent
advantages, both physical and moral, of Wm. Penn's province in the new world;
and many came over from the Palatinate, and other parts of Germany, early
in the eighteenth century, between 1700 and 1720 or '30. These extended their
settlements beyond the Welsh line, into the townships of Hanover and Frederick,
about the headwaters of Perkiomen creek. An extensive neighborhood back of
Pottstown, comprising New Hanover, and parts of Frederick and Douglas townships,
is still known as " the swamp;" formerly as Faulkner's swamp, from one of
the first settlers. Rev. Conrad Miller, in a letter to the compiler, says:-
" The inhabitants of this region are nearly all members of the Lutheran and German Reformed Churches, and worship in two separate edifices. The Lutheran congregation took its rise in the beginning of the 18th century; for when Dr. Henry Melchior Muehlenberg came to this country, in 1741, he found (at New Hanover, or the Swamp) about 100 communicants, who then worshipped in a log church. In 1767 they built a new spacious church of stone, in which they convene at present, with about 500 communicant members. Their successive pastors have been Dr. Henry M. Muehlenberg, Streit, Henry Muehlenberg, jr., Vogt, Kiel, Weinland, Geissenheimer, Jacob Miller, and Conrad Miller, still living. [Mr. Miller also officiates at the new brick German Lutheran church in Frederick township, erected about the year 1833.] The German Reformed congregation originated about the year 1747. They also at first worshipped in a church of wood, but in 1790 erected a fine spacious brick church, and have now about 300 communicants. Their pastors have been Rev. Messrs. Leidig, Pomps, Dallecker, Harmann, and Hoffman."
There is quite an extensive circle of Lutheran congregations at Pottstown, at Trappe, and in the adjoining townships of Bucks co. About eight miles southeast from " the Swamp" is one of the earliest of these churches.
Trappe, or the Trapp, is a small village inhabited principally by people of German descent, and who still speak that language. The singular name is said to have been derived from an old tavern, one of the first houses in the place, the door of which was formerly approached by a high flight of steps, or treppe, as they are called in German. It took the name of the Treppe tavern, or the Treppe.
The above is a view of the very quaint old church in the village, erected in 1743 by Rev. Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the father of the Lutheran Church in the United States. The interior of the church is still preserved nearly in its original state, and is, if possible, more quaint and antique than the exterior. Not only every pew, but each seat in the pew, has its own number branded upon it with a hot iron. Over the door of the church, on a tablet, is the following inscription in Latin, which was deciphered with some difficulty:-
" SUB REMIGIO CHRISTI HAS AEDES SOCIETATI AUGUSTANAE CONFESS. DEDITAE DEDICATAS EX IPSO FUNDAMENTO EXSTRUXIT HENRICUS MELCHIOR MULENBERG UNA
CUM CENSORIBUS I. N. CROSSMANO, F. MARSTELLERO, H. A. HEILMANO, I. MULLERO, H. HASIO, ET G. KEBNERO, AD, MDCCXLIII."
In the burial-ground in the rear, and near the southeastern angle of the church, is the grave of Father Muhlenberg, and those of several others of his distinguished family, one of whom was eminent as a brigadier-general in the revolutionary war. We copied the two following inscriptions:-
Hoe monumcntum Bacrum esto memoris beati ac venerabilis Henrici Melchior Muhlenberg, S. Theolog. Doctor et senioris ministerii, Lutheran Americani. Nati Sept 6,1711, defuncti Oct. 7, 1787. Qualis et quantus turrit non ignorabunt sine lapide futura aecula.
Sacred to the memory of General Peter Muhlenberg-born Oct. 1, A. D., 1746, departed this life Oct. 1, 1807, aged 61 years. He was brave in the field, faithful in the cabinet, honorable in all his transactions, a sincere friend, and an honest man.
Rev. Henry M. Muhlenberg was born at Eimbeck, in Hanover, Germany, Sept. 6, 1711. Id November, 1742, he arrived in Philadelphia, having been sent by the parent churches in Germany, at the earnest solicitation of the settlers here, to take charge of their infant churches. From the year 1730 down to the arrival of Mr. Muhlenberg, great numbers of Germans had emigrated to Pennsylvania and other provinces, with a view, among other inducements, of enjoying unmolested their religious opinions. Unfortunately, the pastors or teachers who occasionally administered in the Lutheran churches in this country at that day were but ill qualified for their station. Many were not regularly ordained ; some were separatists and violent sectarians, and some were denounced as impostors. In this unhappy state of things, they resolved to seek from the highest sources in Germany-from the professors in the University of Halle-a regularly ordained and commissioned pastor to take charge of their feeble flocks. Mr. Muhlenberg arrived for this purpose. He found but three organized Lutheran churches-one at Philadelphia, one at Providence, (the Trappe,) and one at New Hanover, (at " the Swamp," a few miles above Trappe.) The latter church then consisted of about 120 members, who worshipped in a log church : that at the Trappe of about 50 members, who worshipped in a barn. Mr. Muhlenberg passed frequently back and forth among these three churches, preaching, and residing some time in each place. During his labors the churches prospered abundantly, and new and commodious edifices were erected. In 1745 he received the assistance of several other brethren who arrived as pastors and teachers from Germany. That same year he married, and moved to the Trappe. In 1761 he was again recalled to Philadelphia, where he labored for 13 years. Leaving his son Henry, who had previously been appointed his colleague, in charge of the congregation in Philadelphia, he returned to Providence or the Trappe in 1774, where he continued to reside until his death, in October, 1787. The memory of his piety and usefulness will be long cherished by the numerous Lutheran churches which have since sprung from the three to which he ministered.
The Mennonists, or German Baptists, also have several congregations in this vicinity, one of which is opposite Pottstown. They came to this country first about the years 1706 to '17. (See page 393.)
In the northern corner of the county, about New Goshenhoppen, on the head-waters of Perkiomen creek, is a settlement of Germans, called Schwenckfelders:-
Gaspar de Schwenckfeldt was a Silesian nobleman, born in 1490, at the castle of Ossig, in the duchy of Lignitz. He was for some years counsellor to the duke, but afterwards turning his attention to the study of the Scriptures and the writings of the fathers, he joined the Protestants. Subsequently he adopted peculiar opinions for himself, and began to propagate them in Silesia, and in Strasburg, Augsburg, and other imperial cities. Everywhere he encountered the enmity of the zealots of other sects. His morals were pure, his piety fervent, and his sincerity unquestionable. He believed that he received his doctrines from immediate divine inspiration. He differed from Luther in three principal points. 1. With regard to the Eucharist, he inverted the words, " this is my body," and would have them understood thus : " my body is this ;" that is, such as this bread which is broken and consumed, a true and real food which nourishes and satisfies the soul. " My blood is this"-such in its effects as the wine, which strengthens and refreshes the heart. 2. With respect to the efficacy of the divine word, he denied that the external word which is committed to writing in the Scriptures possesses the power of healing, illuminating, and renewing the mind; and he ascribed this power to the internal word, which, according to his notion, was Christ himself. 3. He would not allow Christ's human nature in its exalted state to be called a creature, or a created substance, which denomination appeared to him infinitely beneath its dignity. He passed his life in wandering through Germany to propagate his doctrines, and, in spite of severe persecution, by his eloquence and zeal he obtained a great number of followers. He died at Ulm in 1651. He had written a number of theological works, which have been frequently reprinted.
The church founded by Schwenckfeldt suffered persecution from the Romish church for nearly a century, in common with the Moravians, and Waldenses, and other Protestant sects. They found protection for eight years in the dominions of Count Zinzendorf; but persecution followed them again, and about the same time with the Moravians, they determined to seek an asylum in Pennsylvania. They arrived here, Proud says, in 1733-'34, and others say in 1739. A few years after their departure, Frederick of Prussia issued an edict,* dated Selowitz, 8th March, 1742, denouncing the intolerance which had banished them-inviting them to return to Silesia-offering to restore their estates where they had been confiscated, and to remunerate them for their loss-to grant them farms and lots for building, gratis-" besides several ordinary free years." Such was the high character they had sustained at home. The Philadelphia Monthly Magazine says:-
* This edict may be seen at length in Proud's History, ii. 349, or in Hazard's Register, iv. 127
The emigrants here referred to were originally inhabitants of Silesia, and, as we learn from our correspondent, did not exceed 100 in number. They were distinguished at home for honesty, sobriety, and industry; and had, by the many excellent traits in their character, attached to them the good wishes and kind offices of those with whom they associated. On hearing of the decree by which their opinions were denounced, they commenced their journey in the beginning of the year 1739, with very little money, and travelled on foot to the Rhine. They were prevented from disposing of their property, chiefly, it is believed, in consequence of a prohibitory edict preventing sale, or confiscating in case of emigration. Having determined to depart for America, they proceeded to Amsterdam, where, meeting with friends who commiserated their condition, and supplied them with what was necessary to render their voyage as comfortable as possible, they embarked for Philadelphia. It deserves to be mentioned, that a mercantile house in Amsterdam furnished, without charge, the ship that conveyed them hither. After a favorable voyage, they arrived safely in Philadelphia, and immediately settled in Montgomery, at that time a part of the county of Philadelphia. Industrious and economical, they soon enjoyed the respect of their neighbors, and at an early period acquiring farms, in the vicinity of Skippach, Flour Town, Kusherhupper, and other places. There are, at this time, several churches belonging to these people in Montgomery county.
The edict was issued about three years after their landing; in this country ; and notwithstanding its promises of aid and protection, not one Schwenckfeldian returned.
It is worthy of being recorded, that when the house in Amsterdam, which generously furnished the ship, or their descendants, were reduced to difficult circumstances in the year 1790, the Schwenckfeldians in Pennsylvania, in remembrance of past kindness, promptly advanced a considerable sum, about $3,000, for their relief.
Montgomery co. was thus peopled by the Welsh, Swedes, and Germans, who, though of many different religious sects, agreed at last in one principle, to live peaceably with each other; while they diligently improved and cultivated their possessions. The old French and Indian wars of 1755 and '63 only alarmed, without injuring, the inhabitants of Montgomery; the scenes of the revolution were brought nearer to their doors.
|The battle of Brandywine took place on the 11th Sept. 1777. The details
will be found under Chester co.
The day after the battle Washington retreated with the army, defeated but not dismayed, to Germantown, where he encamped. After allowing his men one day for rest and refreshment, he returned across the Schuylkill into Chester co., and advanced as far as the Warren tavern on the Lancaster road, " with the firm intent of giving the enemy battle wherever he should meet them." The two armies were upon the point of coming to a general engagement, about a mile north of the Goshen meeting-house, but were prevented by a violent flood of rain, which continued all day and the following night, and wet all their ammunition. Before a new supply could be obtained, the British left their position near the White Horse tavern, and moved down the road leading to the Swedes Ford. Washington crossed above them at Parker's Ford, and threw himself in their front, hoping to meet them on their passage. The enemy then moved rapidly up on the right bank of the Schuylkill towards Reading, and Washington believing their design was either to turn the right of his army, or to get possession of the military stores at o Reading, or both, moved his army up near to Pottsgrove. But Gen. Howe preferring Philadelphia to Reading, immediately returned down the river, crossed it, and pushed on to the city. Washington says :
" The enemy, by a variety of perplexing manoeuvres through a country from which I could not derive the least intelligence, (being to a man disaffected,) contrived to pass the Schuylkill last night at the Fatland and other fords in the neighborhood of it. They marched immediately towards Philadelphia. They had so far got the start before I received certain intelligence that any considerable number had crossed, that I found it in vain to think of overtaking their rear, with troops harassed as ours had been since the battle of Brandywine. * * * * Why I did not follow immediately I have mentioned; but the strongest reason against being able to make a forced march, is the want of shoes. Messrs. Carroll, Chase, and Penn, who were some days with the army, can inform Congress in how deplorable a situation the troops are for want of that necessary article. At least one thousand men are barefooted, and have performed the marches in that condition."
Gen. Howe had stationed a detachment of his troops on the Jersey side below Philadelphia to protect the movements of the British fleet; a part were quartered in the city, and the larger part were at Germantown. The American army was then, about the end of September, encamped at Skippach creek, and Washington determined to avail himself of the divided state of the British army, to fall upon their encampment at Germantown.*
* The account of this battle belongs properly under the head of Philadelphia co., but is placed here in consequence of its intimate connection with other events which occurred in Montgomery county.
He took this resolution with the more confidence, as he was now reinforced by the junction of the troops from Peekskill and the Maryland militia.
The British line of encampment crossed Germantown at right angles about the centre, the left wing extending on the west from the town to the Schuylkill. That wing was covered in front by the mounted and dismounted German chasseurs, who were stationed a little above towards the American camp ; a battalion of light infantry and the Queen's American rangers were in the front of the right. The centre, being posted within the town, was guarded by the 40th regiment, and another battalion of light infantry, stationed about three quarters of a mile above the head of the village. Washington resolved to attack the British by surprise, not doubting, that if he succeeded in breaking them, as they were not only distant, but totally separated from the fleet, his victory must be decisive.
He so disposed his troops, that the divisions of Sullivan and Wayne, flanked by Conway's brigade, were to march down the main road, and entering the town by the way of Chestnut hill, to attack the English centre and the right flank of their left wing; the divisions of Greene and Stephens, flanked by Macdougal's brigade, were to take a circuit towards the east, by the Limekiln road, and entering the town at the market-house, to attack the left flank of the right wing. Toe intention of the American general in seizing the village of Germantown by a double attack, was effectually to separate the right and left wings of the royal army, which must have given him a certain victory. In order that the left flank of the left wing might not contract itself, and support the right flank of the same wing, Gen. Armstrong, with the Pennsylvania militia, was ordered to march down the bridge-road upon the banks of the Schuylkill, and endeavor to turn the English, if they should retire from that river. In like manner, to prevent the right flank of the right wing from going to the succor of the left flank, which rested upon Germantown, the militia of Maryland and Jersey, under Gens. Smallwood and Forman, were to march down the Old York road, and to fall upon the English on that extremity of their wing. The division of Lord Sterling, and the brigades of Gens. Nash and Maxwell, formed the reserve. These dispositions being made, Washington quitted his camp at Skippach creek, and moved towards the enemy on the 3d of Oct. about 7 in the evening. Parties of cavalry silently scoured all the roads, to seize any individual who might have given notice to the British general of the danger that threatened him. Washington in person accompanied the column of Sullivan and Wayne. The march was rapid and silent.
At three o'clock in the morning, the British patroles discovered the approach of the Americans ; the troops were soon called to arms ; each took his post with the precipitation of surprise. About sunrise the Americans came up. Gen. Conway, having driven in the pickets, fell upon the 40th regiment and the battalion of light infantry. These corps, after a short resistance, being over powered by numbers, were pressed and pursued into the village. Fortune appeared already to have declared herself in favor of the Americans ; and certainly if they had gained complete possession of Germantown, nothing could have frustrated them of the most signal victory. But in this conjuncture, Lieutenant-colonel Musgrave threw himself, with six companies of the 40th regiment, into a large and strong stone house, situated near the head of the village, from which he poured upon the assailants so terrible a fire of musketry that they could advance no further. The Americans attempted to storm this unexpected covert of the enemy, but those within continued to defend themselves with resolution. They finally brought cannon up to the assault, but such was the intrepidity of the English, and the violence of their fire, that it was found impossible to dislodge them. During this time, Gen. Greene had approached the right wing, and routed, after a slight engagement, the light infantry and Queen's rangers. Afterwards, turning a little to his right, and towards Germantown, he fell upon the left flank of the enemy's right wing, and endeavored to enter the village. Meanwhile, he expected that the Pennsylvania militia, under Armstrong, upon the right, and the militia of Maryland and Jersey, commanded by Smallwood and Forman on the left, would have executed the orders of the commander-in-chief, by attacking and turning, the first the left, and the second the right, flank of the British army. But either because the obstacles they encountered had retarded them, or that they wanted ardor, the former arrived in sight of the German chasseurs, and did not attack them ; the latter appeared too late upon the field of battle.
The consequence was, that Gen. Grey, finding his left flank secure, marched, with nearly the whole of the left wing, to the assistance of the centre, which notwithstanding the unexpected resistance of Col. Musgrave, was excessively hard pressed in Germantown, where the Americana gained ground incessantly. The battle was now very warm at that village, the attack and the defence being equally vigorous. The issue appeared for some time dubious. Gen. Agnew was mortally wounded, while charging with great bravery, at the head of the 4th brigade. The American Col. Matthews, of the column of Greene, assailed the English with so much fury that he drove them before him into the town. He had taken a large number of prisoners, and was about entering the village, when he perceived that a thick fog and the unevenness of the ground had caused him to lose sight of the rest of his division. Being soon enveloped by the extremity of the right wing, which fell back upon him when it had discovered that nothing was to be apprehended from the tardy approach of the militia of Maryland and Jersey, he was compelled to surrender with all his party : the English had already rescued their prisoners. This check was the cause that two regiments of the English right wing were enabled to throw themselves into Germantown, and to attack the Americans who had entered it in flank. Unable to sustain the shock, they retired precipitately, leaving a great number of killed and wounded. Lieutenant colonel Musgrave, to whom belongs the principal honor of this affair, was then relieved from all peril. Gen. Grey, being absolute master of Germantown, flew to the succor of the right wing, which was engaged with the left of the column of Greene. The Americans then took to flight, abandoning to the English, throughout the line, a victory of which, in the commencement of the action, they had felt assured.
The principal causes of the failure of this well-concerted enterprise, were the extreme haziness of the weather-which was so thick that the Americans could neither discover the situation nor movements of the British army, nor yet those of their own; the inequality of the ground, which incessantly broke the ranks of their battalions ; an inconvenience more serious and difficult to be repaired for new and inexperienced troops, as were most of the Americans, than for the English veterans ; and, finally, the unexpected resistance of Musgrave, who found means, in a critical moment, to transform a mere house into an impregnable fortress.
Thus fortune, who at first had appeared disposed to favor one party, suddenly declared herself on the side of their adversaries. Lord Cornwallis, being at Philadelphia, upon intelligence of the attack upon the camp, flew to its succor with a corps of cavalry and the grenadiers ; but when he reached the field of battle, the Americans had already left it. They had two hundred men killed in this action; the number of wounded amounted to six hundred ; and about four hundred were made prisoners. One of their most lamented losses was that of Gen. Nash, of North Carolina. The loss of the British was little over five hundred in killed and wounded ; among the former were Brigadier-general Agnew, an officer of rare merit, and Col. Bird. The American army saved all its artillery, and retreated the same day about twenty miles, to Perkyomy creek.
|The Congress expressed in decided terms their approbation, both of the
plan of this enterprise and the courage with which it was executed; for which
their thanks were given to the general and the army. Gen. Stephens, however,
was cashiered for misconduct on the retreat. A few days after the battle,
the royal army removed from Germantown to Philadelphia. -Botta's American
Annexed is a view of the house into which Col. Musgrave threw his detachment. It is still in possession of the Chew family. The marks of the American balls still remain in many parts of the house.
The above is an account of the battle in the spirited, but general terms of the historian. Let us now follow Col. Timothy Pickering, one of Washington's aids, into the village, and hear the whistling of the bullets, listen to the councils of the officers, and observe the movements of the troops. Mr. Pickering is answering the inquiries of some historian :-
Salem, Mass., Aug. 23d, 1926.
Sir:-Nearly forty-nine years have elapsed since the battle of Germantown ; of coarse you may well suppose, that many facts respecting it are beyond my power of recollection, while a few arc indelibly impressed on my memory.
Gen. Washington, in his letter to Congress of Oct. the 5th, the day after the battle, says, 11 that the army marched about seven o'clock in the evening of the 3d ; and that Gen. Sullivan's advanced party attacked the enemy's picket at Mount Airy, or Mr. Allen's house, about sunrise the next morning, which presently gave way; and his main body, consisting of the right wing, following soon, engaged the light infantry and other troops encamped near the picket, which they forced from their ground. Leaving their baggage, they retreated a considerable distance, having previously thrown a party into Mr. Chew's house." The term here applied to these advanced corps of the enemy, that they were " forced from the ground," shows that they were in arms, and resisted the assailants; and the previous brush with the picket, a guard always posted in advance on purpose to give notice of an enemy's approach, roused 11 the light infantry and other troops," who had time enough to take their arms and form for action. They retreated, of necessity, before the greatly superior force of the whole right wing of our army. But the " leaving of their baggage" authorizes the inference, that they had no knowledge of the march of the American army, until the firing in the engagement with the picket guard gave the alarm. If then these advanced corps of the enemy were not, in the strict sense of the word surprised, that is, " caught napping," unprepared for action, much less could the main body, posted in the centre of Germantown, two miles further off, have been surprised. This distance gave them ample time to prepare for action, in any manner which the attack of their enemy should require.
You ask, " at what distance from Chew's house the attack commenced V At that time I was a stranger to that part of the country. From my subsequent acquaintance with it, during my residence in Pennsylvania, I should estimate the distance of Mount Airy to Philadelphia to be eight mill s. Chew's house seven miles, and the centre of Germantown six miles. And these I think are the distances, as I have occasionally heard them mentioned.
You ask, " how long a pause was made at Chew's house; and what space of time probably intervened between the beginning of the action and the general engagement at the head of the village ?" The pause at Chew's house in the manner I shall presently mention, probably delayed the advance of the rear division of our army into action for half an hour. And taking the attack of the picket at Mount Airy as the beginning of the action, it was probably near half an hour before it became general as to the whole of Sullivan's column ; and this general engagement must have commenced after he had passed Chew's house; for I saw not one dead man until I had passed it, and then but one, lying in the road where I fell in with Gen. Sullivan. I presume that, following close on the heel of the British battalion of light infantry, and the 40th regiment, which were retiring before him, Sullivan, with his column, had passed Chew's house without annoyance from it. For it must have taken some time for Col. Musgrave, who entered it with six companies of the 40th regiment, to barricade and secure the doors and windows of the lower story, before he would be ready to fire from the chamber windows ; and it was from them that the firing I saw proceeded.
In the march of the army, Gen. Washington, following Sullivan's column, kept in the road leading to and through Germantown to Philadelphia. When he had entered the northern part of the village, we heard in advance of us, (I was riding by the general's side,) a very heavy fire of musketry. Gen. Sullivan's divisions, it was evident, were warmly engaged with the enemy; but neither was in sight This fire, brisk and heavy, continuing, Gen. Washington said to me, " I am afraid Gen. Sullivan is throwing away his ammunition; ride forward and tell him to preserve it." I do not know what was the precise idea which at that moment struck the mind of the general. I can only conjecture that he was apprehensive that Sullivan, after meeting the enemy in the front, kept up his brisk and incessant fire, when the haziness of the air, and its increased obscurity, from the burning of so much powder, prevented his troops having such a distinct view of the enemy as would render their fire efficient. Be that as it may, the instant I received the general's orders, I rode forward, and in the road, three or four hundred yards beyond Chew's house, met Sullivan, and delivered to him the general's orders.
At this time I had never heard of Chew's house; and had no idea that an enemy was in my rear. The first notice I received of it was from the whizzing of the musket balls, across the road, before, behind, and above me, as I was returning, after delivering the orders to Sullivan. Instantly turning my eye to the right, I saw the blaze of the muskets, whose shot were still aimed at me, from the windows of a large stone house, standing back about a hundred yards from the road. This was Chew's house. Passing on, I came to some of our artillery, who were firing very obliquely on the front of the house. I remarked to them that in that position their fire would be unavailing, and that the only chance of their shot making any impression on the house, would be by moving down and firing directly on its front. Then immediately passing on, I rejoined Gen. Washington, who, with Gen. Knoz and other officers, was in 'front of a stone house (nearly all the houses in Germantown were of stone) next northward of the open fields in which Chew's house stood. I found they were discussing in Washington's presence this question : Whether the whole of our troops then behind should immediately advance, regardless of the enemy in Chew's house, or first summon them to surrender ? Gen. Knox strenuously urged the sending of a summons. Among other things he said, " It would be unmilitary to leave a castle in our rear." I answered, " Doubtless that is a correct general maxim; but it does not apply in this case. We know the extent of this castle (Chew's house :) and to guard against the danger from the enemy's sallying, and falling on the rear of our troops, a small regiment may be posted here to watch them ; and if they sally, such a regiment will take care of them. " But," I added, " to summon them to surrender will be useless. We are now in the midst of the battle ; and its issue is unknown. In this state of uncertainty, and so well secured as the enemy find themselves, they will not regard a summons; they will fire at your flag." However, a flag was sent with a summons. Lieut. Smith of Virginia, my assistant in the office of adjutantgeneral, volunteered his service to carry it. As he was advancing, a shot from the house gave him a wound of which he died.
Whatever delay in the advance of the division in our rear, was occasioned by the pause at Chew's house, I am satisfied that Sullivan's column did not halt there at all, as mentioned by Judge Johnson. The column was certainly not in sight when the general sent me with the orders already noticed ; and it is alike certain that it was then beyond Chew's house. Nor were the enemy forming under cover of the house, or I must have seen them. When the orders were sent to our troops in the rear t<r advance, I do not know ; but it must have been subsequent to the sending of the flag-and, I should think, twenty minutes, at least, after it was found that an enemy was in the house. The general did not pass it at all. I had remained near him until our troops were retreating, when I rode off to the right, to endeavor to stop and rally those I met retiring in companies and squads; but it was impracticable; their ammunition, I suppose, had generally been expended.
In the aforementioned letter from Gen. Washington to Congress, he says, " the attack from our left column, under Gen. Greene, began about three quarters of an hour after that from the right." You ask the cause of this. The answer is obvious. The right column, under Gen. Sullivan, which Washington accompanied, marched on the direct road to Germantown; Greene, with his column, was obliged to make a circuit to the left to gain the road which led to his point of attack. The columns being thus entirely separated, and at a distance from each other, no calculations of their commanders could have insured their arriving at the same time at their respective points of attack.
Judge Johnson, in his " Life of Greene," has represented as " almost ludicrous" the " scene" exhibited by some writers, of the discussion near Chew's house, in the presence of Gen. Washington, in which it is hinted that opinions were " obtruded ;" and that even field-officers may
have expressed their opinions ; " but," he adds, " Gen. Washington was listening to the counsels of his own mind and of his general officers." I know, however, that he did listen to the discussion ; and Lee, commanding a troop of horse, on that day on duty near the general's person, accounts for his determination to send the summons. "Knox," he says, "being always high in the general's confidence, his opinion prevailed." Further I must remark, that the general officers, whom the Judge supposes to have been present, and advising the commander-in-chief, were then in their proper places, with their divisions and brigades. Knox alone of the general officers was present. Commanding in the artillery department, and the field-pieces being distributed among the brigades of the army, he was always at liberty, in time of action, to attend the commander-in-chief. Some two or three years since, I wrote to Judge Johnson, informing him of his mistakes in the matter noticed in this paragraph. Others of his details of this battle, which are inconsistent with the statements I have here given to you, must be incorrect. The truth is, that Gen. Washington, not sanguine in his own opinions, and his diffidence being probably increased by a feeling sense of high responsibility as commander-in-chief, was ever disposed, when occasions occurred, to consult those officers who were near him, in whose discernment and fidelity he placed a confidence, and certainly his decisions were often influenced by their opinions. This is within my knowledge.
I am, &c.
|Gen. Howe now turned his attention to the removal of the obstructions
in the Delaware below Philadelphia; and Washington having encamped again
at Skippach, sent out Gens. Greene, Lafayette and others to annoy the enemy.
Washington, being joined by the northern troops from the Hudson, took a strong
position at White-marsh, about 14 miles from Philadelphia, with his right
on Wisahiccon creek, and his front partly covered by Sandy run. While here
the following incident occurred about the beginning of December.
The Story of Lydia Darrach
Gen. Howe's head-quarters were in Second st, fourth door below Spruce, in a house formerly occupied by Gen. Cadwallader. Directly opposite resided William and Lydia Darrach, members of the society of Friends. A superior officer of the British army, believed to be the adjutant-general, fixed upon one of their chambers, a back room, for private conference, and two officers frequently met there, with fire and candles, in close consultation. About the 3d of December, the adjutant general told Lydia that they would be in the room at 7 o'clock, and remain late, and that they wished the family to retire early to bed; adding that when they were going away, they would call her to let them out, and extinguish their fire and candles.
She accordingly sent all her family to bed, but as the officer had been so particular, her curiosity was excited. She took off her shoes, put her ear to the keyhole of the conclave, and overheard an order read for all the British troops to march out late in the evening of the 4th, and attack Gen. Washington's army, then encamped at White-marsh. On hearing this she returned to her chamber, and laid down. Soon after, the officer knocked at the door, but she rose only at the third summons, having feigned herself asleep. Her mind was so much agitated that she could neither eat or sleep; supposing it in her power to save the lives of thousands of her fellow-countrymen, but not knowing how she was to convey the information to Gen. Washington, not daring to confide it to her husband.
The time left, however, was short. She quickly determined to make her way as soon as possible to the American outposts, where she had a son who was an officer in the American army. She informed her family that as she was in want of flour, she would go to Frankford for some. Her husband insisted she should take her servant-maid with her, but to his surprise she positively refused. She got access to Gen. Howe and solicited, what he readily granted, a pass through the British troops on the lines.
She encountered on her way an American lieutenant-colonel (Craig) of the light-horse, who knew her. To him she disclosed her secret, after having obtained from him a solemn promise never to betray her individually, as her life might be at stake with the British. He conducted her to a house near at hand, directed something for her to eat, and hastened to head-quarters, where he immediately acquainted Gen. Washington with what he had heard. Washington made, of course, all preparations for baffling the meditated surprise.
Lydia returned home with her flour; sat up alone to watch the movements of the British troops, and heard their footsteps ; but when they returned in a few days after, did not dare to ask a question, though solicitous to learn the event. The next evening, the adjutant-general came in, and requested her to walk up to his room, as he wished to put some questions. She followed him in terror; and when he locked the door and begged her, with an air of mystery, to be seated, she was sure that she was either suspected or betrayed. He inquired earnestly whether any of her family was up the last night when he and the other officer met: she told him they all retired at eight o'clock. He observed, " I know you were asleep, for I knocked at your door three times before you heard me. I am entirely at a loss to imagine who gave Gen. Washington information of our intended attack, unless the walls of the house could speak. When we arrived near Whitemarsh, we found all their cannon mounted, and the troops prepared to receive us; and we have marched back like a parcel of fools."
On the west side of the Schuylkill, about 22 miles from Philadelphia, and 6 miles above Norristown, is a deep rugged hollow, at the mouth of Valley cr. An ancient forge established by one of the Potts family of Pottsgrove, had given to the place the name of Valley Forge. Upon the mountainous flanks of this valley, which overlook all the adjacent country, Washington finally concluded to establish his army for the winter.
His soldiers were too ill clothed to be exposed to the inclemency of that season under mere tents; it was therefore decided that a sufficient number of huts or cabins should be erected of logs, filled in with mortar, in which the troops would find a comfortable shelter. The army reached the valley about the 18th Dec. They might have been tracked by the blood of their feet in marching barefooted, over the hard frozen ground between White-marsh and Valley Forge. They immediately set about constructing their habitations, which were disposed in the order of a military camp, but had really the appearance of a regular city. Each hut was 16 feet by 14. One was assigned to 12 privates, and one to a smaller number of officers, according to their rank. Each general occupied a hut by himself. The whole encampment was surrounded on the land side by intrenchments, and several small redoubts were built at different points. Some of the intrenchments may still be seen about a mile from the Forge. A temporary bridge was thrown across the river, to facilitate communications with the surrounding country. The army remained at this place until the ensuing summer, when the British evacuated Philadelphia.
This was the most gloomy epoch of the revolution. For many weeks the army, although sheltered from the wind, endured extreme sufferings from the want of provisions, blankets, and clothing. The commissary's department, through neglect in Congress, had been badly managed, and on one occasion the supplies of beef were actually exhausted, and no one knew whence to-morrow's supply would come. Gen. Washington says, " For some days there has been little less than a famine in camp. A part of the army have been a week without any kind of flesh, and the rest three or four days. Naked and starving as they are, we cannot enough admire the incomparable patience and fidelity of the soldiery, that they have not ere this been excited to mutiny and dispersion. Strong symptoms of discontent, however, have appeared in particular instances." Such was the scarcity of blankets and straw that men were often obliged to sit up all night to keep themselves warm by the fire, and many were too ill clothed to leave their huts. The want of wagons, and horses too, was severely felt for procuring supplies, and almost every species of camp transportation was performed by the men without a murmur, who yoked themselves to little carriages of their own making, or loaded their wood and provisions on their backs. The small-pox threatened those who had not been inoculated. Provisions continued to grow more and more scarce ; the country had become exhausted by the constant and pressing demands of both armies, and no doubt many provisions were concealed from the Americans by the disaffected tories, who found a better market at Philadelphia, and better pay in British gold than in continental money. Washington stated that there were in camp on the 23d December not less than 2,S98 men unfit for duty by reason of their being barefoot and otherwise naked, besides many others detained in hospitals, and crowded into farmers' houses, for the same causes.
" Happily for America, there was in the character of Washington something which enabled him, notwithstanding the discordant materials of which his army was composed, to attach both his officers and soldiers so strongly to his person, that no distress could weaken their affection, nor impair the respect and veneration in which he was held by them. To this is to be attributed the preservation of a respectable military force under circumstances but too well calculated for its dissolution."
In the midst of these trying scenes, a strong combination was formed against Washington, in which several members of congress, and a very few officers of the army were engaged. Gen. Gates, exulting in his laurels recently gained at Saratoga, Gen. Lee, and Gen. Conway, neither of them native Americans, were believed to be at the head of this movement. Attempts were made in vain to seduce Lafayette to the interest of this faction. He openly and promptly avowed his attachment to Washington, with whom he shared for some months the hardships of Valley Forge. The failure of this conspiracy is well known. Mrs. Washington also came to Valley Forge to share with her husband the trials of the winter. The general's head-quarters were at the stone house belonging to Isaac Potts, proprietor of the forge. Annexed is a view of it, as seen from the Reading railroad, near which it stands, just below the mouth of the creek. The wing is of modern structure, but it occupies the site of a smaller wing that was erected for the accommodation of Mrs. Washington. Mrs. W. wrote to a friend-" The general's apartment is very small: he has had a log cabin built to dine in, which has made our quarters much more tolerable than they were at first." The house is now occupied by Mr. Jones. On the hill near the general's head-quarters, were stationed his body-guard; and still further up the hill, and more to the right, near the road seen in the general sketch, were the brigades of Generals Conway, Huntington, Maxwell, and McIntosh. Gen. Varnun was on the top of the hill, near a redoubt. The artificers were on the upper side of the creek, opposite the general's quarters. The forge was near where the cotton factory is ; and on the corner, diagonally opposite the cotton factory, was the old army bake-house. The main body of the army were back about a mile or two. In the annexed view, the hill above the general's head-quarters is seen nearly in the centre, beyond the valley of the creek-the Schuylkill is seen to the left of it, and the roads leading towards the position of the main army on the right, beyond the cotton factory, which is on the creek.
The limits of this work will not admit of a full detail of the scenes of that memorable winter. They belong more properly to the history of the revolution.
Immediately opposite Isaac Potts' house there are still the ruins of an ancient flour-mill, which was in operation until a few months since. Previous to the encampment of the army here, and immediately after the battle of Brandywine, the Americans had a considerable deposit of flour and other stores at this mill. The British sent a detachment to seize these stores. Washington, anticipating this attempt, had previously sent out Lieut. Gol. Hamilton, (afterwards Gen. H.,) attended by Capt. Lee, with a small party of his troop of horse, for the purpose of destroying the stores before the British should reach them.
" The mill, or mills, stood on the banks of the Schuylkill. Approaching, you descend a long hill, leading to a bridge over the mill-race. On the summit of this hill two videttes were posted ; and soon after the party reached the mills, Hamilton took possession of a flat-bottomed boat, for the purpose of transporting himself and comrades across the river in case of a sudden approach of the enemy. In a little time this precaution manifested his sagacity. The fire of the videttes announced the enemy's appearance. The dragoons were ordered instantly to embark. Of the small party, four jumped into the boat with Hamilton. The van of the enemy's horse being in full view and pressing down the hill in pursuit of the two videttes, Lee, with the remaining two, took the decision to gain the bridge rather than detain the boat. The attention of the enemy being engaged by Lee's push for the bridge, delayed the attack upon the boat for a few minutes, and thus afforded Hamilton the chance of escape. The two videttes preceded Lee as he reached the bridge, and himself and four dragoons safely passed it, although the enemy's front section emptied their carbines and pistols at the distance of ten or twelve paces. Lee's apprehension for the safety of Hamilton continued to increase, as he heard volleys of carbines discharged upon the boat, which were returned by guns singly and occasionally. He trembled for the probable issue, and as soon as the pursuit ended dispatched a dragoon to the commander-in-chief, describing with feelings of anxiety what had passed, and his sad presage. His letter was scarcely perused by Washington before Hamilton himself appeared, and, ignorant of the contents of the paper in the general's hand, renewed his attention to the ill-boding separation, with the probability that his friend Lee had been cut off. Washington relieved his fears by handing him Capt. Lee's letter." (See page 400.)
In June, 1778, the British evacuated Philadelphia,-when Gen. Washington immediately broke up the encampment at Valley Forge, hurried across the Delaware, and met the enemy on the plains of Monmouth, in New Jersey.
Norristown, the seat of justice, is a flourishing borough, occupying an elevated site on the left bank of the Schuylkill, 16 miles from Philadelphia. From the hills behind the town an extensive view is obtained of the fine scenery of the Schuylkill valley. The town is well built, and many of the houses being stuccoed, it presents a bright and lively appearance from the opposite shore. The dam across the river creates an immense water-power, and has made the place famous for its large manufactories. It contains 3 large cotton factories, 1 power-loom weaving factory, a rolling and nail mill, 3 steam saw-mills, 1 water saw-mill, a foundry, a locomotive shop, a saw-mill for marble, grist-mills, oil-mill, &c. Besides the usual county buildings, there are Presbyterian, Episcopal, Baptist, Methodist, and Catholic churches, an academy, a bank, a public library, and a private seminary for boys. The bridge across the Schuylkill is 800 ft. long, was built in 1830, and cost $32,000. The Norristown and Philadelphia railroad, constructed about the year 1835, passes along the left bank of the river, through Conshohocken and Manayunk. It was originally intended to continue this road to Pottsville, but the design has been forestalled by the Reading railroad, which passes along the opposite bank of the river. The canals and locks of the Sch. Navigation Co. are also on the west side of the river. A small village has grown up at the west end of the bridge around the locks and the depot of the Reading railroad. Population of Norristown in 1830, 1,116; in 1840, 2,937. It was incorporated as a borough 31st March, 1812.
Within 3 miles west of Norristown are the extensive marble quarries of Mr. Henderson, from which a part of the material was obtained for the Girard College. Some ten years since, in sawing a huge block which had been taken from between 60 and 70 ft. below the surface, a singular lusus natures, or freak of nature, was displayed, which is thus described by Peter A. Browne, Esq., into whose possession it afterwards came :
A slab two inches in thickness was taken off, and displayed to view, nearly in the centre, an indentation 1 1-3 inch long by 5-8 of an inch wide, handsomely arched above and rectangular below. In this cavity was a black powder, which being removed, Two Characters were observed. These are raised, and are at equal distances from the top, bottom, and sides of the indentation from each other. That the letters have not been put there since the block was cut, is proved by several gentlemen of Norristown of the highest respectability, who saw it soon after the sawing; and moreover, it is apparent to any person accustomed to examine mineral substances, that no tool whatever has been used. The surface of the indentation, as well as that of the letters, has a vitrified or semi-crystallized appearance. Mr. Strickland and Mr. Peale, both of whom have examined the slab carefully with a magnifying glass, agree with me in this particular. The marble belongs to the primitive limestone formation. Unfortunately the black powder was not preserved.
It is not the least remarkable circumstance attending this curiosity, that had the saw passed the sixteenth part of an inch on one side, it would have injured the letters-or on the other, they would not have appeared. No fissure or fracture was to be seen in the block.
Various conjectures have been made as to the characters. One gentleman insists that they are Hebrew, and stand for "Jehovah;" another says that they are the Roman "IN," and correspond to " Jesus of Nazareth." Both these persons of course believe that they have at some ancient period of time been put there by the hand of man ; but by whom, or how they could afterwards have become buried in the solid rock, especially as it is primitive, they cannot explain. Others, among which number I confess myself, believe it to be a lusus natural. All agree that it is a great curiosity, and well deserving examination.
Norristown has grown up entirely since the revolution. It is included within the limits of the manor of Norriton, which belonged to William Penn, Jr., and which he sold, when in this country, to enable him to settle the extravagant debts incurred by his youthful follies. William Trent and Isaac Norris purchased it, for £850. It included the present township of Norriton. The town took its name from Isaac Norris. The ground upon which it stands was a farm in the time of the revolution, belonging to Mr. John Bull, who, in spite of his name, was a stanch Whig, and the British burnt his barn for him as they passed on towards Philadelphia. Along the bank of the river, below the town, are still to be seen the remains of the intrenchments, or breastworks, thrown up by Gen. Du Portail, by order of Washington, when he expected the British would cross at that place.
Norristown was laid out in 1784. It then belonged to some academy in Philadelphia, which had purchased it from John Bull, to whom it had been sold by Isaac Norris. The academy sold it to William Moore Smith, who laid out the town; but as he sold the lots rather grudgingly, it did not increase much until it passed into the hands of John Markly, under whom it went forward more vigorously. The principal increase has been during the last fifteen years, in which period the larger manufactories have been erected. The first house, which is still standing, and occupied by Mr. Strahley, was framed at Valley Forge, and floated down the river.
It was on the river bank at Norristown, that the spade was set to excavate the first public canal in the U. S. This was the old Schuylkill and Delaware canal, intended to connect the two rivers, and also to supply water to the citizens of Philadelphia. For this latter purpose, the canal was to be taken to Philadelphia on the same level, without a lock. The company was incorporated 10th April, 1792. After completing some 15 miles of the heaviest sections, and the expenditure of about $400,000, the undertaking was abandoned ; the principal stockholders being themselves involved in commercial difficulties. The company was afterwards merged in the Union Canal Co. and the Schuylkill Navigation Co. (See page 418.) The ancient excavation still remains, below Norristown.
About a half mile below Norristown, on the opposite side, is standing the old Swedes' Ford tavern, famous in the annals of the revolution. A tall and solitary pine, a remnant of the ancient forest, still stands beside it, like some faithful old sentinel: some years since it had a companion, and the two formed a beautiful head. The house is now no longer a public house.' Maj. Holstein, who formerly kept it, and built an addition to it, thinks a part of it over 100 years old, Maj. Holstein is a descendant of Mats Holstein, a primitive settler in Upper Merion, where he took up 1000 acres of land. Mauntz Rambo, another Swede, was a famous hunter, and has told Maj. H. of his killing deer and panthers in the neighborhood. At one time he grappled a wounded deer, who made off with him on its back; but he succeeded in cutting its throat.
The oldest Presbyterian church in the county is the Norristown church, on the Reading turnpike, about four miles east of Norristown. It is about 100 years old. The next in antiquity is the Providence church, on the turnpike. The Presbyterian church in town, of which Rev. Samuel M. Gould is pastor, is of more recent origin, having been established in 1319, under Rev. Joseph Barr, who was at the same time pastor of the Providence church.
About a mile northwest of Norristown is a farm-house, now occupied by Mr. Knox, and formerly the residence of Gen. Andrew Porter. He was a captain and colonel during the revolution, and served with great gallantry at Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, and in other campaign*. Mr. Madison offered him the commission of brigadier-general in the American army, and also the office of secretary of war; both of which he declined. He was appointed surveyor-general of Pennsylvania, by Gov. Snyder, in 1812, and died at the age of 70, while in that office, at Harrisburg. His sons, who were born near Norristown, have been very distinguished. George B. Porter died in July, 1834, at the age of 44, being at that time governor of Michigan territory. Gen. David K. Porter is now about closing his second term as governor of Pennsylvania; and Gen. James M. Porter has recently been appointed secretary of war, by President Tyler. Another brother, recently deceased, was a judge of one of the western districts of the slate.
David Rittenhouse, the distinguished astronomer, was born near Germantown, but spent a part of his early years at a farm about four miles cast of Norristown.
Pottstown is prettily situated, in a handsome undulating country, on the left bank of the Schuylkill, 20 miles above Norristown. The houses are built principally upon one broad street, amidst gardens and shade trees. The scenery of the surrounding hills is very fine, especially in autumn. The Manatawny, at the west end of the village, turns several excellent flouring-mills. The Schuylkill Navigation works passes on the opposite bank of the river. The Reading railroad passes very prettily along one of the back streets, crossing the Manatawny on a lattice-bridge of 1,071 feet in length. The town contains Methodist, German Lutheran, and Episcopal churches, and an academy. The annexed view was taken from the opposite side of the Schuylkill. The most prominent buildings, in the centre of the view, are the large hotels and other edifices about the railroad depot. Population in 1840, 721.
Pottstown, formerly known as Pottsgrove, derives its name from John Potts, who had a large grant of land in this region. He owned a part of Sprogel's manor, and the land adjoining it to the north. West of the town, beyond the Manatawny, is a stately but antique mansion, overlooking the town, erected by him long before the revolution. It was then the marvel of the whole country, and people came from 40 miles round merely to see it. Mr. Potts was an enterprising speculator in iron-works, in Chester and Berks counties. He was a descendant of old Thomas Potts, who settled at Burlington in William Penn's time; and was the father of Isaac Potts, who settled at Valley Forge. That was one of his iron-works. His son Samuel was once the owner of the lands where Pottsville now is, but sold it long before it was known for its coal; and in came afterwards into the hands of one Pott, a German, from whom ( ..Missing )
( ..Missing ) the eyes of his adversary, pulled the trigger, and scattered his brains on every side of the road! Fearing that others were in pursuit, he abandoned his horse in the highway : and apprehensive.
Potts, who settled at Burlington in William Penn's time ; and was the father of Isaac Potts, who settled at Valley Forge. That was one of his iron-works. His son Samuel was once the owner of the lands where Pottsville now is, but sold it long before it was known for its coal; and it came afterwards into the hands of one Pott, a German, from whom Pottsville is named.
There are several small but pleasant villages in this county, on the main roads leading out of Philadelphia. Shoemakertown is on the Willow Grove turnpike, eight miles north of Philadelphia. The following incident, related in the Saturday Bulletin, in 1829, occurred near this place during the revolution:-
Col. Allan McLane, who died at Wilmington, Del., in 1829, at the patriarchal age of 83, was distinguished for personal courage and for his activity as a partisan officer. He was long attached to Major Lee's famous legion of horse. While the British occupied Philadelphia, McLane was constantly scouring the upper end of Bucks and Montgomery counties, to cut off scouting parties of the enemy, and intercept their supplies of provisions. Having agreed, for some purpose, to rendezvous near Shoemakertown, Col. McLane ordered his little band of troopers to follow at some distance, and commanded two of them to precede the main body, but also to keep in his rear; and if they discovered an enemy, to ride up to his side and inform him of it, without speaking aloud. While leisurely approaching the place of rendezvous in this order, in the early gray of the morning, the two men directly in his rear, forgetting their orders, suddenly called out, " Colonel, the British!" faced about, and putting spurs to their horses, were soon out of sight. The colonel, looking around, discovered that he was in the centre of a powerful ambuscade, into which the enemy had silently allowed him to pass, without his observing them. They lined both sides of the road, and had been stationed there to pick up any strangling party of the Americans that might chance to pass. Immediately on finding they were discovered, a file of soldiers rose from the side of the highway, and fired at the colonel, but without effect; and as he put spurs to his horse, and mounted the road-side into the woods, the other part of the detachment also fired. The colonel miraculously escaped ; but a shot striking his horse upon the flank, he dashed through the woods, and in a few minutes reached a parallel road upon the opposite side of the forest Being familiar with the country, he feared to turn to the left, as that course led to the city, and he might be intercepted by another ambuscade. Turning, therefore, to the right, his frighted horse carried him swiftly beyond the reach of those who bad fired upon him. All at once, however, on emerging from a piece of woods, he observed several British troopers stationed near the road-aide, and directly in sight ahead, a farm-house, around which he observed a whole troop of the enemy's cavalry drawn up. He dashed by the troopers near him without being molested, they believing he was on his way to the main body to surrender himself. The farm-house was situated at the intersection of two roads, presenting but few avenues by which he could escape. Nothing; daunted by the formidable array before him, he galloped up to the cross-roads, on reaching which, he spurred his active horse, turned suddenly to the right, and was soon fairly out of reach of their pistols, though as he turned he heard them call loudly to surrender or die! A dozen were instantly in pursuit; but in a short time they all gave up the chase except two. Col. McLane's horse, scared by the first wound he had ever received, and being a chosen animal, kept ahead for several miles, while his two pursuers followed with unwearied eagerness. The pursuit at length waxed so hot, that, as the colonel's horse stepped out of a small brook which crossed the road, his pursuers entered it at the opposite margin. In ascending a little hill, the horses of the three were greatly exhausted, so much so that neither could be urged faster than a walk. Occasionally, as one of the troopers pursued on a little in advance of his companion, the colonel slackened his pace, anxious to be attacked by one of the two; but no sooner was his willingness discovered, than the other fell back to his station. They at length approached so near, that a conversation took place between them; the troopers calling out, " Surrender, you damn'd rebel, or we'll cut you in pieces!" Suddenly one of them rode up on the right side of the colonel, and, without drawing his sword, laid hold of the colonel's collar. The latter, to use his own words, " had pistols which he knew lie could depend upon." Drawing one from the holster, he placed it to the heart of his antagonist, fired, and tumbled him dead on the ground. Instantly the other came up on his left, with his sword drawn, and also seized the colonel by the collar of his coat. A fierce and deadly struggle here ensued, in the course of which Col. McLane was desperately wounded in the back of his left hand, the sword of his antagonist cutting asunder the veins and tendons of that member. Seizing a favorable opportunity, he drew his other pistol, and with a steadiness of purpose which appeared even in his recital of the incident, placed it directly between the eye* of his adversary, pulled the trigger, and scattered his brains on every side of the road! Fearing that others were in pursuit, he abandoned his horse in the highway : and apprehensive from his extreme weakness, that he might die from loss of blood, he crawled into an adjacent mill-pond, entirely naked, and at length succeeded in stopping the profuse flow of blood occasioned by his wound. We have seen a painting of this desperate encounter, very accurately representing the contest. It used to be common in our auction-rooms, but of late years has become scarce.
|Jenkintown is a pleasant village on the Willow Grove turnpike, 10 miles north of Philadelphia. It contains some 30 or 40 dwellings, a lyceum, library, stores, &c. The Abingdon Friends' meeting-house is at a short distance from the village.|
|Abingdon is another pleasant village four miles north of Jenkintown, containing some 30 or 40 dwellings, a Presbyterian church, and a female seminary. The Presbyterian church in this place, now under the charge of Rev. Robert Steele, was originally organized in 1714, by Rev. Malachi Jones, a Welshman, who died 26th March, 1729. He was succeeded by Rev. Richard Treat, who died Nov. 29, 1779, after a ministry of nearly 50 years. Rev. Wm. Tennent succeeded. He died Dec, 1810. He was a grandson of the celebrated Wm. Tennent of the log college. Rev. Wm. Dunlap succeeded him, who died Dec. 17, 1818. Rev. Rob't. Steele succeeded in Nov., 1819. The first edifice was built in 1714, and rebuilt of stone in 1793. A part of the second edifice is incorporated with the present one, which was erected in 1833. The old graveyard near this church contains many ancient stones. Within its walls, the night after the battle of Germantown, Capt. Webb, of the American army, and his company had bivouacked. In the morning it was exceedingly foggy and the company, who could see nothing beyond the walls of the yard, were suddenly surprised and overpowered by a detachment of the British. Capt. Webb was afterwards a distinguished citizen of Kentucky.|
|Hatborough is 14 miles from Philadelphia, on the Willow Grove turnpike. It is a quiet and pleasant village, surrounded by a fertile district. It contains some 40 or 50 dwellings, Baptist and Methodist churches, a public library, and the Loller Academy, founded in 1811, and very handsomely endowed by the estate of Robert Loller, Esq. During the revolution, Gen. Lacey was surprised by the British in a wood just above the Baptist church.|
|North Wales is a small hamlet in Gwinned township, about three miles from Montgomery Square, on the road between Norristown and Doylestown. North Wales is celebrated as the site of one of the oldest Friends' meetings in the county. The venerable building is situated in a retired spot, shaded with tall trees. There are many hallowed associations connected with this place. The history of the early settlement of the Welsh in this region has been given above. Gwinned township was taken up in 1698, the original purchasers being Wm., John, and Thomas Evans, who distributed portions among their associates, viz.: Wm., John, Thomas, Robert, Owen, and Cadwallader Evans; Hugh Griffiths, Edward Foulke, Robert Jones, John Hughes, and John Humphrey. All these, except the last two, were originally Episcopalians, but were afterwards converted to the faith of the Friends.|
|Evansburg, a small village on the Germantown turnpike, near Perkiomen cr., six miles N. W. of Norristown, was originally settled by Welsh Episcopalians-the Beans, Shannons, Lanes, Pawlings, &c. The venerable Episcopal church, which is very similar to that of Radnor, (see page 306,) bears the date of " 1721-church wardens, I. S. and I. P. that is, James Shannon and Isaac Pawlings. The church stands in a graveyard, shaded with the cedars and other trees of the ancient forest, and containing the time-worn monuments of the early settlers. Jesse Bean, Esq., who is still living in the village, at the age of about 80 years, was a boy at the time of the Germantown battle. He well remembers the dismay that prevailed the night after the battle, when the wounded fugitives were quartered in every house. The old gentleman is one of the most active men in the place, and in 1841 was performing the arduous duty of a superintendent of the turnpike. Near Evansburg is the splendid stone bridge of six arches over the Perkiomen, founded in 1798, and finished in 1799.|
|Conshohocken is a lively manufacturing village, which has recently grown up in connection with the water-power of the Schuylkill Navigation Company, on the left bank of the Schuylkill, four miles below Norristown, and 12 miles from Philadelphia. There is also a large business done near here, in burning lime for the Philadelphia market.|
|Sumanytown is on the head-waters of Perkiomen cr., 15 miles north of
Norristown, and contains some 30 or 40 dwellings, stores, &c. There are
three powder-mills in this vicinity. The townships in this part of the county
are chiefly settled by Germans. Goshenhoppen, the town of the Schwenckfelders,
is four miles N. W. of Sumanytown.
There are several other pleasant villages in the county, situated generally at the intersection of the principal roads. Among these are Willow Grove, Horsham Square, Montgomery Square, Line Lexington, (on the county line, partly in Bucks co.,) Reesville, Flourtown, Klingletown, &c., &c.
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