Found in Collection

Found in Collection (144)

Thursday, 29 June 2017 19:55

Class of 1900

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West Norriton004

As June comes to an end, graduation season is winding down.  I thought this photograph of Norriton's Township's graduating class of 1900 was an appropriate one for this week.  The photo was donated by Irma Schultz in 1978, and that's her brother Raymond (he's easy to spot).  Lidie Cassel is on his right, but the girl on the left is unidentified.  The bottom row is Mary Allebach Markley Lesher, Samantha K. Hoover, and the final girl is also unidentified.

The back of the photograph has the stamp of S. H. Cope, a photographer with a studio in Norristown.  Many of Cope's photos have made it into our collection.  The photo doesn't give an indication of what school the teens attended.  Dr. David Schrack's 1895 article on the history of then Norriton Township (published in our own Sketches) notes that the township had 5 public schools at that time, but doesn't list them.

So, it is possible that they attended this school - the Jeffersonville School.  This two room schoolhouse was built in 1898, and this photo is from around that time.  It stood on School Lane and West Main Street.  It was later expanded and remained in use until 1926, according to The History of West Norriton Township (2009).

West Norriton021

Thursday, 22 June 2017 19:04

The Kenderdine Mill

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Built in 1734, the Kinderdine mill is located at Keith Valley and Davis Grove Road in Horsham Township.  It was built by Joseph Kenderdine.  The Thomas Kenderdine was an early Welsh settler in Horsham. The photograph below shows the mill in 1904, when it was still in operation.  This photograph and all the ones below were donated by Ann Hagarty.


The woman holding the baby is Hannah Kenderdine (Hagarty?) was the last Kenderdine to live at the mill according to a note on the back.

The Kenderdines were well known mill designers in Montgomery County.  The Historical Society has the papers of George Kenderdine in its collection.  George was born in 1805 and lived much of his life in Hatboro, where served as the first burgess.  He was mill wright and a frequent contributor to the Norristown Herald.


This is an agreement from 1847 for an apprentice.


This letter shows his sketch of a turbine.


The Kenderdine mill was an early industrial complex made up of several buildings.  This house is labeled “The Old Home” on the reverse of the photo.  It’s dated 1914.


The Hagarty family were the owners of the mill in the early 20th century.  Here are the sisters Hazel and Meta in an undated photograph (probably the 1910’s).  Meta was the young girl in the photograph of the mill, and Hazel is the baby in that same picture.


The Hargartys were related to the Kenderdines.  This young man is Clarence Kenderdine Hargarty.  The photo was taken in the Philippines in 1917.


And here’s the Hagarty family in 1917.


The mill stopped operating in 1917 and many of the metal The Kenderdine Mill was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.  Today it is a private home.  You can read more about it at the website Living Places.

Thursday, 15 June 2017 19:40

Warrant for John Mosko

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close up

Dr. Ceasare Lombroso in the 19th Century was a noted criminal anthropologist and was known as the father of modern criminology. Although many of his theories have since been discredited, at the turn of the 20th Century his “criminal classifications” were well regarded. In 1902, one John Motsko of Pottstown, PA was classified in one of Lombroso’s categories as an “instinctive or born criminal type.”


A wanted poster was issued by Detective John J. O’Connor for Mr. Motsko for the murder of George Miller at their place of employment, the Stanley G. Flagg Co. in Pottstown on November 4, 1902. The wanted poster authorized a $250 reward for his arrest. The result was evidently effective because on December 10, 1902, Mr. Motsko was taken into custody by Detective O'Conner.

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Mr. Motsko was held for a hearing where he was described as showing “no emotion” and reportedly acknowledged striking the victim with the shovel. The victim, Mr. Miller, age 22, died a few hours after. According to the Pennsburg Town and Country, the men had quarreled several times over tools. It was during this period of being held for court that the Lombroso classification was applied. The defendant, Mr. Motsko, was held for trial in March 1903, according to the Wilkes-Barre Sunday Leader.

In closing, it seems that although we have our social, electronic, and mass media methods, our communities of yesteryear had their share of effective measures well over 100 years ago that got the job done as well.

By Michael Green

Wednesday, 07 June 2017 23:47

A monument in Hatfield

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I'm taking a few days off so there won't be a real blog entry this week.


Hatfield001 copy

So, like the people above, you should look at something else, like one of our great blogs of the past.  (This picture by the way is from the dedication of monument in Hatfield in 1901).

Thursday, 01 June 2017 20:22

The Dexdale Hosiery Strike

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In 1933, Montgomery County, like every other place in America, was feeling the impact of the Great Depression.  At the same time, the new Roosevelt administration was working to relieve the economic crises with the New Deal.  Part of the New Deal was creating new industrial codes, meant to help businesses decrease waste and raise wages.  This came at a time of great unrest for American labor. 

At that time, thousands of men and women in Montgomery County were employed in the textile industry.  The new codes led to a lot of uncertainty according to newspaper articles from the time.

Several mills went on strike, but most turbulent was the strike at the Dexdale Hosiery Mill (later Turbo Machine Company).  The workers at the mill went on strike not only for a 40 hour week and higher wages but also for recognition of their union.

The strike began on June 28th and shut down the mill.  After two weeks, the company, headed by Ludwig Schierenback, sent this letter to its employers with the card below enclosed.



The Times-Herald reported that more than 50% of the workers voted to return and reopened with the same hours and pay as had prevailed before the strike.  About 400 picketers refused follow a proclamation ordering them off the streets, according to an article in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin.  Darlington Hoopes, a state representative and a lawyer for the union, told picketers to ignore the edict.  Two men were arrested, but then the police stopped enforcing the proclamation.


The newspaper articles and these photographs came to the Historical Society from Elmer C. Barnes.  The photographs are only labeled with the dates of the strike, June 28 – July 24, 1933, so we don’t know when in the strike they were taken.  They do give us a good idea of the disruption.



The attempt to reopen the factory without changing the working conditions only fueled the unrest.  On July 18th, the police used tear gas on the strikers.  Two days later, Theodore H. Hallowell, Cheltenham’s chief of police, shoot two sympathizers in the legs.  Both men, Claude Seiler and Wilmer Kriebel, recovered from their injuries (though both were later charged with inciting a riot).  The incident led to Governor Gifford Pinchot getting involved.  State troopers were sent in to replace local police, and the union, the American Federation of Full Fashioned Hosiery Workers, agreed to limit the number of picketers.  Finally, the new codes were published, raising the minimum wage.  The workers at the mill went back to work, but the end of the strike did not get the same newspaper coverage that the violence did.  It isn't clear from the newspapers whether the union was recognized.

Thursday, 25 May 2017 20:31

The Old Gulf School

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Here is a photograph that just came into the Historical Society of the old Gulf School.  Yes, it is sometimes called the “Gulph” School, but the former spelling seems to have been more common in the early days.


I couldn’t find an exact date of its founding.  I do know it was operating as a school as early as 1785 when future US Congressman Jonathan Roberts attended.  Decades later, the school had a teacher who terrorized students with a whip, according to an article by Edward Hocker (a.k.a. Norris) in Times-Herald article from 1930.  His tenure at the school came to end when he was arrested and later convicted for horse stealing.

Like most schools in the early nineteenth century, Upper Merion schools employed only men as teachers.  According to Hocker, teachers made $20 per month in 1837.  In the middle of the nineteenth century, women began to move into the profession.  Here we see two female teachers with an 1891 class.  The head teacher, on the right, was Anne Davis.

Gulf School

Today the building that once housed the school is the property of Gulph Christian Church.  The church began in the school when Frederick Plummber began preaching there in 1830, according to M. Regina Stitler Supplee in her article “History of Gulph Christian Church, Gulph Mills, PA.”  The church met there until 1835 when the congregation was able to build its own church.

I came across Abraham Hunsicker while working through a collection of booklets relating to Mennonites in Montgomery County. Two booklets in particular caught my eye: A Statement of Facts and Summary of Views on Morals and Religion, as Related with Suspension from the Mennonite Meeting (1851) and An Explanation of Incidents that Took Place among the So-Called Mennonites (1854).  Both refer to times when Mennonite preachers were cast out of the church in 1850 and 1851.


Abraham Hunsicker was the grandson of Valentine Hunsicker, the family’s immigrant ancestor who came to Pennsylvania from Switzerland in the early eighteenth century.  Abraham was born in 1793 in East Perkiomen and raised a Mennonite.  All the sources agree that he had little formal schooling.  In 1847 he was ordained a preacher, and later that year the church made him a bishop over the Skippack, Providence, and Methacton meeting houses. 

It wasn’t long, however, before Abraham started making waves.  It began with a sermon by his nephew Abraham Grater.  He had been part of an earlier schism that created a group known as the “New Mennonites” (sometimes called the “Oberholtzer group”).  This group wanted Mennonites to move more in the wider world, to cooperate with other churches, and to have formal education for church members.  Many of the ideas John Oberholtzer suggested seem harmless, like not forcing ministers to wear colonial era clothing, or helpful, like taking minutes at meetings.  The leadership of the Franconia Confernece (made up of 22 Mennonite congregations) had no desire to change anything.  So, Oberholtzer and others founded the East Pennsylvania Mennonite Conference.

A few years later, Abraham Grater in his booklet, An Explanation of Incidents that Took Place among the So-Called Mennonites, says they are “beyond doubt one of the Six hundred and Sixty six” referred to in Revelation.  This time, the issue wasn’t coats or Sunday schools, but who should be allowed to participate in their services.  Grater preached in favor of open communion.  He refused to renounce the idea when called upon to do so, and Henry Hunsicker (Abraham Hunsicker’s son) supported him.  They were excommunicated.


Skippack Mennonite Church

Abraham Hunsicker was of the same progressive mind set.  Like Oberholtzer, he agreed that the Mennonites should educate their children.  Unlike Oberholtzer, he supported the idea of open communion.  In his work, A Statement of Facts and Summary of Views on Morals and Religion, as Related with Suspension from the Mennonite Meeting (written after his own excommunication from the East Pennsylvania Conference) he points out that the Oberholtzer schism was caused by “the too servile reverence, on the customs, which were held in such high repute, as virtually to supersede the worship of God.”  Hunsicker goes on to explain his views on both open communion with other Christian churches and his openness to allow members of the congregation to join secret societies (such was the Freemasons).

Hunsicker is a clearer writer than Grater.  There is much less quoting of the Book of Revelation, and I think something of his personality comes through.  Take this passage for instance:

“Thus ended our [Hunsicker’s and Oberholtzer’s] fellowship and co-operation in the same bond of brotherhood – involuntary on my part, in which we had (to me, at least) jointly labored as faithful stewards.  And wherefore? why, simply because I could not in conscience, call that right which my heart called wrong.”


Hunsicker continued to live out his beliefs.  He founded the Freeland Institute, a non-sectarian school for boys on his own property, and he was instrumental in founding the Montgomery Female Seminary a few years later.  The Freeland Institute eventually became Ursinus College, and the girls’ school became Pennsylvania Female College (the school after which Collegeville is named).  He also founded a new church, Trinity Christian Society, which is still in existence as Trinity Reformed United Church of Christ.

Today, our intrepid volunteer, Dick Mardi, was going through some of our church records and came across a collection of papers from the Merchant Marine League of Norristown.  This group, which was affiliated with the Seamen’s Church Institute of Philadelphia, was made up of women who knitted sweaters, scarves, and ditty-bags (small bags where seamen keep their personal items) for the seamen entering and shipping out of the Port of Philadelphia.


 A listing of conributions from different auxiliary groups

Clara Rex (wife of John Rex) was the honorary chairwoman, but most of the day to day work was done by Helen Johnson, shown in the picture below with her husband, Earl.


From the Norristown Times-Herald, June 15, 1960

The collection is incomplete, but the papers run from the years 1957 through 1974.  Looking through its newsletters, it seems to have been a small group.  Annual dues were only one dollar.  It doesn’t look like the group exists any longer. The Seamen’s Church Institute of Philadelphia and South Jersey is still going strong serving the needs of seamen from around the world, and they still collect knitted hats and gloves and other items for ditty bags.


From the group's newsletter


Adelaide Cottrell was born Adelaide Chain in Norristown in 1894.  Her parents were B. Percy and Elizabeth Chain.  Around 1918 she married a military man from Lancaster County named Joseph Cottrell.  For the next three decades, she traveled with him around the world on his various assignments as an expert in coastal artillery.  In 1940, they went together to what was meant to be his final assignment – a small island opposite Manila Bay called Corregidor.


In June of 1941 Adelaide, along with other civilians on the island, was evacuated as Fort Mills went on high alert.  The Japanese first attacked the island on December 29, 1941.


Photograph of the seige of Corregidor


They continued attacking until May 6, 1942, when the American troops, under General Jonathan Wainwright surrendered.  In a radio message to President Roosevelt, Wainwright said, “There is a limit to human endurance and that point has long been passed.”

Americans at home were aware that the Japanese had taken the Philippines, but living with her family back in Norristown, Adelaide Cottrell didn’t know what had happened to her husband.  Then a photograph appeared in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, claiming to show prisoners of war, including General Wainwright.  Adelaide saw that photograph and realized it was her husband, Joseph.


The photograph Adelaide saw in the Bulletin was reprinted in the Norristown Times

She tried to send him letters, but the army sent them back because Col. Cottrell had not appeared on the official POW lists from the Japanese.

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A returned letter from August, 1942, three months after Joe was captured.

Eventually, her letters were delivered, and she received a few in return.  Col. Cottrell was held for over three years, first in Taiwan then in Manchuria.  During that time, he hit the mandatory retirement age in the army, a fact he addresses in this brief letter.



This letter from Adelaide was censored.  The note at the bottom says it was written in May 1943.  A note on the envelope shows it was received in May, 1944, a full year later.


At the end of the war, Joe was at Camp Hoten Mukden in Manchuria, which was liberated on August 20, 1945 when Soviet troops arrived.  I found some footage of the liberation on YouTube.  I think (but of course I can't be sure) that Joe appears about the 2:10 mark.  Adelaide received a telegram regarding his release.


Although he sounds positive in his letters, Col. Joseph Cottrell did not recover from his time in POW camps.  He died in 1948 and was buried in Arlingon National Cemetery.  Adelaide, who died in 1981, is buried next to him.



Thursday, 27 April 2017 20:01

The 51st at Fredericksburg

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If you’re a local Civil War buff, you are probably aware of the Fifty-First Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers.  Led by future Pennsylvania governor, John F. Hartranft, the Fifty-first’s most famous moment in battle is probably its taking of the bridge at Antietam.  However, just a few months later, the regiment found itself in another battle, this time in Fredericksburg.

The Fifty-First Regiment was organized by Hartranft in 1861, after the initial 90 day enlistments ended.  Made of ten companies, five hailed from Montgomery County, while the other five were made up of men from central Pennsylvania.  After the Battle of Antietam in September, 1862, the Fifty-first crossed the Potomac in to Virginia in October, eventually coming to Fredericksburg by mid-November.

Portrait Hartranft

John F. Hartranft

Men from the Fifty-first, including the eventual author of the regimental history, Thomas H. Parker, then a sergeant, were on picket the night before the attack.  In the early morning hours, the brigade commander’s chief of staff appeared and said, “Pack up, boys, and get out of here as soon as you can, for we are going to open on the city as quick as you get away.”  Parker writes that they withdrew “without the least noise imaginable.”  At 4 AM on December 12, 1862, the Union cannons opened fire on the city.


From the book Pictorial History of the Civil War in the United States of America, volume 2 by Benson J. Lossing

The regiment crossed the Rappahonnock River and entered the city later that day.  Parker describes intense fighting:

“The air seemed so full of balls that one would supposed that a finger could not be pointed towards the rebel batteries without being hit on the end with a bullet, and it is a mystery to the writer how under the sun even one man reached alive the position assigned to the regiment, it being directly in face of more than a mile of earthworks, behind which lay thousands of rebels, who kept up their incessant volley after volley of musketry, and their batteries volleys of grape and canister, to say nothing of the rifle shells that passed through the rand and went screeching and whizzing through the air.  It was here were Capt. Ferdinand Bell, of Co. B, was killed…”


The Union army withdrew from Fredericksburg on December 15.   Parker writes that 90 men out of 270 were killed and wounded (though he notes that many men who were slightly wounded did not report it).  This list, printed by the National Defender, shows 81 names, and some of the names are spelled differently than in the regimental history.  

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