Displaying items by tag: Schuylkill
Recently, the Historical Society of Montgomery County received a great postcard showing a P&W train crossing the Bridgeport Viaduct over the Schuylkill.
The Philadelphia and Western Railroad was a commuter railroad started in 1902 (as the Philadelphia and Western Railway). It was originally planned to connect to the Western Maryland Railroad at York, but those plans fell through. Trains began running in 1907, and the Norristown line opened in 1912.
The trestle bridge of the P&W was a landmark in Norristown for many years. Sometimes called the “clock bridge,” it was an easy to find place to meet up with people. However, the decline of railroads and trolleys, in the wake of the post-war car boom, led to buses replacing Norristown’s trolleys in 1951. The bridge over Main Street was torn down in 1955.
The bridge in the postcard is still in use, however. In 1954, the company was sold to the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company, and it became known as the Red Arrow Line. Eventually, it became part of SEPTA’s Norristown High Speed Line.
Driving to work today, I saw that W. Valley Green Road was closed due to flooding. That put me in mind of a series of photos showing the Schuylkill flooding the Hamilton Paper Mill in Miquon (Whitemarsh Township).
The photos aren’t dated, but are clearly from the twentieth century. They’re black and white, placing them probably before the 1970s. To narrow it down more, I went to the National Weather Service’s website. It lists 65 times the Schuylkill has flooded since 1769. The visible snow in some of the photos, places the flood in the winter. December 1942, January 1945, December 1948, November, 1950, and December 1952 are the best bets. Of those, only the 1950 flood is described as “moderate” while the others are “minor.”
I checked those dates in the Times-Herald. The 1945 and 1952 floods, didn’t make the paper at all. Of the other three none of the articles mention Hamilton Paper or Miquon specifically. In the case of the 1950 “moderate” flood, that could be because there was so much else going on.
The W. C. Hamilton Paper Company goes back to 1858, when Edwin R. Cope hired William C. Hamilton to manage his Riverside Paper Mill. Of course, papermaking in Pennsylvania goes way back to colonial times, and Miquon had been home to paper mills since 1746. This map from the article “Two Centuries of Papermaking at Miquon, Pennsyvlania” by Rudolf P. Hommel (Historical Society of Montgomery County Bulletin, Vol. 5, no. 4, April, 1947), shows the area. Originally part of Springfield Plantation’s corridor to the Schuylkill, it was ceded to Whitemarsh in 1876.
But getting back to Hamilton, he bought the mill in 1865, making several improvements. The company was bought and sold a few times over the next century, becoming part of different conglomerates. The mill closed in 1995.
Today the land has been redeveloped into the Riverside I and Riverside II office parks. AIM Academy occupies one of the original mill buildings.
The Schuylkill Canal (or more properly, Schuylkill Navigation) was chartered in 1815 and opened in 1825 during the heyday of canal building in the United States. But it wasn’t the first attempt at building a canal in Montgomery County.
Back in 1792, the Delaware and Schuylkill Navigation Company was founded to build a canal to connect those two rivers. The plan was for the canal to run alongside the river for seventeen miles, easing transportation and bringing fresh water from the Schuylkill to Philadelphia. According to the book Old Towpaths: The Story of the American Canal Era by Alvin F. Harlow, the canal would have run from Norristown to Philadelphia (this is, of course, 20 years before the founding of Norristown, so I'm not so sure about that detail).
In our archives at the Historical Society of Montgomery County we have the “Rough Minute Book” for the company. Familiar names from the Montgomery County – Philadelphia area appear, including Morris and Rittenhouse. First names are never used (everyone is referred to very properly as “Mr.”), but I would hazard to say they are Robert Morris, wealthy financier, and David Rittenhouse, philosopher, mathematician, and surveyor.
At this point you might be wondering how it is you’ve missed this seventeen mile long canal for the entire time you’ve been in Montgomery County. The canal was never built. Within a few years, the company was looking for money and, according to the minute book, resolved to seek a loan. This is the same time Robert Morris himself was having money problems.
Work continued on the canal sporadically until 1798, when it seems to have puttered out completely.