Displaying items by tag: Towamencin

Thursday, 19 December 2019 18:53

Forty-Foot Road

One of the more interesting road names in Montgomery County is Forty-Foot Road. It runs through Towamencin and into Hatfield. According to every source on the subject, the name of the road refers to its width.

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Forty-Foot Road from the 1877 atlas of Montgomery County

However, Edward Hocker points out in one of his articles in the Times-Herald (May 3, 1957) that most roads laid out in the Eighteenth Century were forty feet wide, but farmers were free to use whatever land they could without interfering with the traffic. Perhaps Forty-Foot Road was left wider than other colonial era roads and thus acquired the name.

This map from our collection shows property owners along part of the road in Towamencin as well as Skippack Creek. The area next to the road is marked as “woods.”


A 1752 map drawn by Christian Lehman

Forty-Foot Road’s moment on the national stage came early in its existence when American troops marched along the road in October, 1777 after the Battle of Germantown. With them was General Francis Nash who had been wounded by a cannonball during the battle. The wounded were placed in houses along the road, perhaps some on the properties seen on this 1752 map. Nash (after whom Nashville, TN is named) and three other officers died of their wounds. They are buried at Towamencin Mennonite Meeting House at the intersection of Forty-Foot Road and Sumneytown Pike.

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Headline from the Times-Herald

In the 1960’s the road was widened. Landowner Clayton C. Moyer took the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to Court and was awarded a payment of $1905. The state appealed and attorney R. Wayne Clemens researched the history of the road and found that before the state widened it to fifty feet, the road had shrunk to thirty-eight feet! The judges agreed with his research and ordered the state to pay Moyer the money immediately.

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 09 May 2019 19:04

A very literary county

Rumors of the death of the book have been greatly exaggerated. Hardcover sales are strong and audiobooks are increasing in popularity. People frequently like to share what they're  reading and their thoughts about books on Goodreads, Litsy, and LibraryThing. Book clubs abound, and there’s a whole world within a world on Instagram known as “Bookstagram.”

In many ways this is a continuation (though in different form) of previous centuries' literary clubs and societies. As schooling became universal at the end of the 19th century, many people wanted to continue their education into their adult years. This coincided with a time when Americans liked joining clubs, and many of the clubs were based around reading and learning.

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The Reading Circle in the early 1960's.

The Norristown Reading Circle was founded in 1910 by six women. The original plan was to read and review popular fiction, but it soon expanded to include history and current events. The meetings were held every other week at a member’s home. The membership was capped at 20. The club got a surprising amount of newspaper coverage.

reading cirle

We have two minute books for the Reading Circle, which was clearly more formal than a modern book club. The minutes from fall of 1923 illustrate how varied the topics were: on September 11 Mrs. Hunsberger talked about her trip to California, on the 25th Mrs. Anders gave an account of the Summer School for Working Girls at Bryn Mawr, on October 9 they discussed a novel called Spinster of This Parish, and on October 25, they all gathered at Mrs. Gotwals house to see her daughter’s wedding gifts.

In the late 19th century, Towamencin had the Kulpsville Literary and Library Association, whose object was “mutual improvement of Self Culture and to become familiar with Literature in general.” The members were all men, apparently young men from the minutes. The society also aimed to start a library. At meetings members practiced spelling and debated topics related to the club (should members be fined for not attending meetings?) or current events (the Civil War comes up a lot in the early years).


"Then spelling was practised a short time with deep interest."

These sorts of organizations were so common that in 1881, the Kulpsville Literary and Library Association merged with the Oxonia Literary Society and the Young Folks Literary Society.


A page from the Kulpsville Literary and Library Association acknowledging the assassination of President Garfield.

We have records of even more, in Gwynedd, Conshohocken, Upper Merion, and a few more in Norristown. These are probably just a sampling. Other societies were perhaps less formal and didn’t keep records, or didn’t last for as many decades as these clubs did. The idea that one can self-educate is inspiring, and the truly social aspects of these clubs seems so much more significant in the age of selfies and 144 character tweets.

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 03 May 2018 19:29

A Siept family timeline

This week, we have a guest blogger, our one and own Ed Ziegler.

Because given names in the families were the same from generation to generation, middle initials are used to identify the different generations.

The early German immigrants to Pennsylvania are an example of immigrant communities creating enclaves in their new homeland. The early Germans who came to America to escape religious persecution and moved into the central part and upper parts of Montgomery County, were no exception. The Schwenkfelders, Mennonites and Dunkards all mixed in this area, but settled close to their religious brethren and rarely did they intermarry.

My Seipt ancestors, Schwenkfelders, are a great example of immigrant communities sticking together, living in the same area for 280 years.


The Schwenkfelder Church in Towamencin

David Sepit, the immigrant, came to America in 1734 and bought 140 acres in Towamencin Township, along the Towamencin Creek.

In 1751 David’s son, Casper, bought 135 ½ acres from his father, who died in 1765. He lived on the farm, along with his parents. When he died in 1773, his children were minors living on the farm with his wife and mother.

In 1789 a conveyance was made to his two sons: David Y. received 118 acres and Abraham Y. received 41 acres.

In 1816 David Y. died intestate with no issue, so the farm reverted to his brother and 4 sisters. His brother Abraham Y. bought the rest of the farm from his sisters. In 1852, Abraham Y.’s children, George, Susanna and Joseph, sold 88 acres of the Towamencin farm to their brother Abraham A. In 1853 George A. bought the farm from his brother Abraham A. In 1863 George A. sold the Towamencin farm to his brother-in-law Jacob Erb.


An "A. Seipt" appears at the border of Towamencin and Worcester

The same George A. married Anna Heebner in 1824. In 1831 George A. bought 2 contiguous tracts of land from his father-in-law, Balthaser Heebner, at Trooper and Potshop Roads.

In 1880, George A.’s will had his estate sold and the proceeds divided among his children.

George A.’s son, William H., married Amanda Schultz in 1871. In 1883, William H. bought a farm and 79 acres from his Father-In-Law Samuel Schultz. This farm was on the corner of Skippack Pike and Hollow Road. His son, William S., farmed the land until 1932 when William H. died. Because of the depression William S. could not purchase the farm, and the estate sold it to Blanche Schweiker, William S. Seipt’s cousin.

In 1932, William S. bought the Dr. Meschter farm from the Doctor’s widow. The Meschters were also Schwenkfelders. When William S., my grandfather, moved to a smaller home, they ended the tradition, which lasted for more than 200 years.

This was typical of the German part of Montgomery county because the Mennonites and Brethern did the same.

Published in Found in Collection