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Displaying items by tag: mills

Thursday, 26 October 2017 19:55

The Bubbling Springs of Spring Mill

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There is one corner of Whitemarsh Township known as Spring Mill.  Until perhaps the middle of the nineteenth century it was the populous village in Whitemarsh and the township’s industrial center.  Situated along the Schuylkill, the village was once home to numerous mills and furnaces.  Much of its early success can be traced back to the spring that gave the village its name.

The earliest mill in the area was built right next to the bubbling springs around 1690.  James K. Helms reported in his “Historical Notes” article of July 4, 1927, that George Washington bought flour and corn from this mill.  At the end of the nineteenth century, the first water main was built over the springs, by Charles Hamilton to supply his paper company and some private homes with water.

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The springs bubble up from underground streams in two spots in the shallow lagoon they form.  Helms writes, “Both of these bubble up in a curious manner, spreading a number of continually forming and dissolving rings over the surface.”  Helms estimated that they released 4.5 million gallons a day with enough force to throw up small stones and bits of flint.

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The underground waterways appear in some of the stories of Charles Heber Clark, resident of nearly Conshochocken.  In one story locals repeatedly try to bury a coffin that falls into the subterranean streams and washes in the river every time.

The old mill was still operating in 1927 when James K. Helms wrote his article about it.  He mentions several times how old it looked.  It finally burned down in 1967 and the stone foundation as demolished soon after.  The miller’s house still stands, however, and it is on the National Register of Historic Places.  The springs are still there, too, according to Philip and Sharon Welsh's book Conshohocken in Vintage Postcards.  Located off of Barren Hill Road, the springs are overgrown and no longer visible from the road.

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 22 June 2017 19:04

The Kenderdine Mill

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.

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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.

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This is an agreement from 1847 for an apprentice.

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This letter shows his sketch of a turbine.

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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.

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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.

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

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And here’s the Hagarty family in 1917.

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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.

Published in Found in Collection
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Published in Found in Collection