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                                                           EAST COVENTRY

At the beginning of the 18th century, the region was vaguely described in old records as “the Highest District from Skoolkill to Brandiwine,” and was known as the “Skoolkill District.” The name Coventry was given to it by Samuel Nutt, an early settler, whose forebears were from the English town of the same name. It was first settled in 1718 by twenty-eight families and there were four non-resident landowners. One of these landowners was Owen Roberts. By 1774, the population had almost tripled. That same year, Coventry had 78 landowners, among who were some whose names still exist on Township roads. Farming was then the chief pursuit, although several grist mills were located along Pigeon Creek.

Coventry Township was instrumental during the Revolutionary War. An 1879 newspaper clipping relates that “. . . on Herman Prizer’s farm on Ellis Woods Road stood a barn used as a hospital for American forces in the Revolutionary War . . . About 150 yards northwest of the barn, in a small copse of woods belonging to John Ellis are the graves of 16 American soldiers. The mounds over the graves are still visible, being side by side, in a straight line, and about four feet apart. There are no head or foot stones . . .” Following the Revolutionary War, there was a steady increase in population, and by 1840, the year before the Township was split in half to form North and South Coventry, the number of residents had climbed to 2620. In 1844, there was a further division, with East Coventry being carved out of North Coventry. The population in East Coventry Township in 1850 was recorded as 1228.

The water power of the Township provided industrial opportunities for early settlers. There were several mills in operation in the early to mid 1800’s. In addition, the early settlers found opportunities in agriculture. The land area adjacent to the Schuylkill River and Pigeon Creek provided exceptionally productive land for farming. It should be noted that a vast portion of these areas of the Township are still utilized for agricultural purposes.

The Schuylkill Canal Navigation System, located along or adjacent to the Schuylkill River in the northern portion of East Coventry Township, was incorporated in 1815 and completed in 1824. The purpose of the Schuylkill Canal was to provide a system for transporting coal, iron, lumber, merchandise and produce between Mt. Carbon / Mill Creek (Schuylkill County) and the City of Philadelphia. The total length of the system was 108 miles. Since the Township was located along this particular canal system, it provided several opportunities to the residents of the Township during this time. The system also played an important role in the growth and development of East Coventry Township.

By 1870, the Schuylkill Canal became obsolete and eventually was abandoned in favor of other improved transportation systems. Between 1850 and 1950, there was little change or growth within the Township. In appearance, it was still a rural community with agriculture as the dominant land use. During the 100 year time period, the population of East Coventry Township increased by only 271 residents. The population of the Township in 1950 was recorded as 1499. Between 1950 and 1960, the population increased to 2183 residents. This growth rate (45.5 percent) is mostly attributed to the availability of reasonably priced land, regional locality, a growing economy, and the improvements to the regional transportation network. As of the 2000 Census, the Township population was 4566, representing slightly more than a doubling in population over the most recent 40 years. Much of the recent growth has occurred in the northern areas of the Township, in the form of residential housing built on productive farmland. Fricks Lock

East Coventry Township has maintained a great deal of its historical character over the time of its existence. That character has been primarily agricultural. However, like most areas in the region, low density residential development is occurring as families find the area a pleasant place to live and access to employment centers improves. The region offers numerous opportunities for its residents, including good schools, recreational lands, local services and regional retail centers. Within this network of facilities and services, the setting of the Township remains one of low density development with a high degree of open space.

 

Source: https://eastcoventry-pa.gov/?SEC=5BDF77FF-63CD-4076-882E-434427ABF0EA

Parker Ford Historic Riverside Park

 Residents who served in Korea   WWII  Vietnam
 

                                                                           EAST NANTMEAL 

The history of East Nantmeal, Chester County, began when Welsh Quakers settled in the area. Nantmeal, or Nantmel, first noted on County tax lists in 1717, was named after a village in Radnorshire, Wales, from where emigrated many of its earliest residents, such as the Merediths, Stephens and Griffiths. Similarities between the two towns are striking even today. Nantmel is Welsh for “sweet spring” or “honey brook.”  Other residents on the tax rolls as early as 1722 included John Morre, Daniel Morre, William Trego, William Iddings, David Thomas, Edward Thomas, Howell Powel, John Broomal and Thomas Callowhill. A Friends Meeting House was established in the village of Nantmeal in 1739. Irish Quakers such as the Kirks, Reas and Wynns also joined. Fires destroyed two early log structures and the Meeting closed in strife in 1838. The third Meeting House, made of stone, was demolished in 1890.

The Meeting’s walled-in cemetery on Fairview Road remains next to the Meetinghouse lot to its east. A building, originally next to the Meeting House lot, was the Meeting’s seminary and became the township’s first school. Eight more formal or public schools were to follow, all south of French Creek. Nantmeal was split into East Nantmeal and West Nantmeal in 1742, with East Nantmeal retaining what is currently Warwick Township. Having the French Creek watershed, vast amounts of hardwood timber, lime and iron ore deposits, East Nantmeal became an important site for the iron industry in the colonies, and was the only agricultural community to support the iron industry before 1830. The Rutters, Savages, Nutts, Graces, Bransons, Van Leers, Bulls and Potts were some of the industry’s prominent families who lived in East Nantmeal during this period.

Roads were integral to these ironmasters who had to maintain large plantations. Early court records show that property owners were required to extend passable roads adjacent to or passing through their properties. They were also directed to build bridges wherever necessary. The earliest municipal function was the construction and interconnection of roadways to mills, taverns, shops, forges and furnaces. One such road was the “Road from the Coventry Forge to Uwchlan Meeting,” opened in court in 1727. In 1737, the “road from Lancaster to Philadelphia’s southern branch” intersected with the “Coventry Road” in Nantmeal Village. The Conestoga Road (Route 401) was an important toll road of the early 1800’s as a major east-west route to Philadelphia. It intersected with major routes to Hopewell, Warwick Furnace, Coventry Forge and Isabella Furnace (West Nantmeal) at the villages of Bulltown and Marsh in East Nantmeal and at Ludwig’s Corner in West Vincent Township.

After 1830, when the furnaces were reducing production, land was converted to agricultural use. Farmer to town roadways and bridges set up by state legislation and controlled by the state were established as The Pinchot road system in the 1930s. Fairview Road is a Pinchot road. In 1842, as the charcoal blast furnaces decreased output, the portion of East Nantmeal north of French Creek was split off to become Warwick Township. The Redding Furnace, which remained within East Nantmeal, turned to forging. The Morris Tilt-Hammer, on present Route 100, produced scythes and nails.

In 1860 the borders between East and West Nantmeal and Wallace Townships were shifted and the current township boundaries created. This resulted in East Nantmeal being 10,490 acres or 16.4 square miles and bordering the townships of Warwick, South Coventry, West Vincent, Upper Uwchlan, Wallace and West Nantmeal.

After the “Age of Iron” came enlightenment and farming. Six schools and two churches were built from 1840-1880. Land cleared for charcoal production became agricultural, along with milling industries. Today, there exist a few “century” farms still in operation by long time families, including the McAfees and the Philips. The Guest’s Century Oaks farm on Prizer Road has been in their family, by way of the Stephens, since 1735 and is still being farmed by a Guest.

East Nantmeal has changed little since 1900. Its children attended one room schoolhouses up to the 1950’s. In the 1920’s before the Depression, many large tracts were brought by prominent Philadelphia families. Some of these properties are intact and preserved. Everett and Grace Rodebaugh’s “Welkinweir” (the Edwin Morris property of the 1800’s) is open to the public and is a prime example of what East Nantmeal is trying to preserve and safeguard. The stores, mills and schools are gone, but their structures have continued in use more than a century. One of the township’s most valuable resources is that many descendants of the early residents still live in the township.

 

The East Nantmeal Historical Commission was established in 1983 as a part of the township government. The Commission’s purpose, in conjunction with the East Nantmeal History Society, is to compile, classify and maintain information of historical significance, as well as to promote an understanding and appreciation of the township’s rich cultural and historical heritage.

Source: https://eastnantmeal.org/township/history/

Residents who served in  Korea   WWII

                                                          EAST VINCENT

 

There is archaeological evidence that East Vincent Township was visited by Native Americans thousands of years before Europeans arrived.  It is believed that the Native Americans roamed the area, stopping to fish along the Schuylkill River, hunt game, and gather hickory nuts.  Some may have set up camps for a few days or even a month.  Others probably just passed through.  It is known that a major Indian path followed along the ridge between French Creek and Stony Run.  The French Creek Path, as it has been named, originated in Phoenixville, at the mouth of French Creek, and ran to what is now Morgantown, New Holland, Lancaster, and Columbia on the Susquehanna.

To settle a debt owed to William Penn's father, an admiral in the service of King Charles II of England, King Charles made a gift to William which included land in the New World (America) and the right to govern.  William Penn sought asylum for the Society of Friends (Quakers) who were being persecuted in England and Europe.

In 1662, William Penn purchased a land interest in West New Jersey, which included land in western New Jersey and all of Pennsylvania.  The venture was referred to as the Society of Friends of West New Jersey and, later, the West Jersey Society.

Although Swedes and Dutch had already settled in the area for several decades, the early development of southeastern Pennsylvania began in 1682, when William Penn formed the three original counties of Pennsylvania:  Chester, Bucks, and Philadelphia.  The boundary between Philadelphia (later Montgomery) and Chester Counties was drawn at the middle of the Schuylkill River.

From 1682 to 1729, Chester comprised all the land west of the Schuylkill River to approximately the Blue Ridge range of the Appalachians to the north and west.  From this area, Lancaster County was formed in 1729, Berks County in 1752, and Delaware County in 1789.

The king's court physician, Daniel Coxe, received a land patent from William Penn, Proprietor of Pennsylvania, in 1686.  Coxe, Sir Mathias Vincent, and Major Robert Thompson combined their resources to form the New Mediterranean Sea Company and purchased 30,000 acres of land in Chester County from William Penn.  The land included that area which is now comprised of East Pikeland, West Pikeland, East Vincent, and West Vincent Townships.  Each partner owned 10,000 acres.  Sir Mathias Vincent owned what is now East and West Pikeland.  Coxe and Thompson owned what is now East and West Vincent.  Vincent died in 1687, and his heirs sold his land to Joseph Pike.  Neither Vincent, Coxe, Thompson, nor Pike ever visited their lands or set foot in America.

After Penn's death, his widow and sons disputed the sale of land to Coxe and his partners.  The dispute carried through negotiations and court proceedings for 100 years.  Long delays were caused because of the ensuing legal wrangle and the Revolutionary War.  After the Revolutionary War, the dispute was finally resolved in 1786.

Since title to the land was unclear during the 100-year controversy, none of the land could be sold.  The land could only be rented.  No land was sold in East and West Vincent until after 1790.

It was logical that the first land route used by Europeans followed the French Creek Indian Path.  The route is more familiar as Ridge Road or Route 23.  Today's alignment of Ridge Road is the same as the early road, except that the original road followed the ridge top from Ridge Road at Buckwalter Road and connected directly with Bonnie Brae Road, and followed Slonaker Road at Brownback's.  By the 1740's, Schuylkill Road and Pughtown Road had been established.  There were few other roads except local lanes that led from farm to farm.

Actual settlement was sporadic and sparse.  Peter Bezallion, a trapper and trader with the Indians, was one of the earliest to have moved into East Vincent.  It is said that he first lived in a cave.  His stay was not long.  He moved to a location near Pottstown Landing in North Coventry Township and then farther westward with the Indians and the fur trade.  By the early 1730's, enough people had moved to the area to establish the German Reformed Congregation of Vincent Township (1733) and the Vincent Mennonite Meeting (1735).  An early permanent settler was Garrett Brumbaugh, who opened a tavern on Ridge Road (at Ellis Woods Road) around 1735 to serve those who traveled that route.   Most moved to the East Vincent area to take advantage of the good farmland and the ample supply of water.  By 1746, all lands were leased.  There were 46 renters.

The farmers were soon followed by a variety of millers and manufacturers who set up their works along French Creek and other tributaries to the Schuylkill River.  The creeks were easily dammed, and there was sufficient water to power the mills.  As early as 1737, Nicholas Kaiser established a grist mill near the mouth of Pigeon Creek.

Michael Cyfer opened another tavern along Ridge Road (Seven Stars Inn) in 1754.  Peter Stager established his inn on Schuylkill Road (White Hall Inn) in 1762.  Edward Parker opened a tavern near a ford on the Schuylkill River in 1768.  Despite some of these early enterprises, significant growth and investment did not begin until after the Revolutionary War and after the settlement of the land dispute, when renters could purchase their lands.  By 1790, the number of renters had increased to 90.  The population is estimated at about 430.  There were seven mills, including a forge, and six inns.  Many of the present roads (except local subdivision streets) were in place in the eastern part of the Township, but in the west, Bertolet School Road was the only north-south road west of Sheeder Road.  There were two fords on the Schuylkill River and five crossings on French Creek.  Within a decade or two, there were four fords on the Schuylkill and seven crossings of French Creek.

In 1823-1824, the Schuylkill Navigation Company built a system of dams, lakes, and canals that provided water transportation from Philadelphia to Pottsville for cargo and passengers.  Business on the canal flourished.  The opening of the canal added to the activity at Parker's Tavern.  People could now travel in a more relaxed fashion by packet boat, rather than by the jostling ride of stagecoach or wagon.  Access to Berks County farms allowed products from that area to compete with those from Chester County.  Access to cheap coal allowed manufacturing to switch quickly to steam power.  This eventually diminished the importance of the small, water-powered mills in East Vincent.

Because of increasingly different interest and patterns of growth, Vincent Township was divided into East Vincent and West Vincent Townships in 1832.

In 1834, the economics of the Schuylkill Valley were again jolted by the founding of the Reading and Philadelphia Railroad.  The first trackage was opened in that year between Reading and Pottsville.  The rail line was completed to Philadelphia by 1839.  Located on the northwest side of the Schuylkill, the railroad favored the growth of Phoenixville, Royersford, Pottstown, Reading, and Pottsville.

In 1834, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed the Free School Act, mandating an education for all.  By 1847, East Vincent Township had established seven one-room schoolhouses.  These were located on:
Pughtown Road and Bertolet School Road (Bertolet School); Bethel Road, south of Brownbacks Run (Thomas School); Hallman Mill Road at Hoffecker Road; Hill Church Road at the Vincent German Reformed Church; Stony Run Road at the East Coventry boundary (Brownbacks School); Mennonite Church Road at Route 724; and Brown Road, near Old Schuylkill Road (Kolb School).  In addition to the schools, there were four stores, two inns, three grist mills, one oil mill, one paper mill, four blacksmith shops, two churches, and a Post Office.  In addition to three fords on the Schuylkill River, Royers Ford had been replaced by a covered bridge in 1840.  There were seven crossings on French Creek.  East Vincent's population had reached 1,194.

By 1860, the basic road system that now serves the Township was in place.  The population had reached 1,681.  A portion of this population was beginning to settle around Royers Ford bridge.  By 1867, the settlement was incorporated as the Borough of Springville (later to be changed to Spring City).  It had been formed from portions of East Vincent and East Pikeland Townships.

By 1873, the Township had begun to grow at an increasing rate.  There were seven mill sites, with one bone mill, one clover mill, two paper mills, three saw mills, two grist mills, a planing mill, and two machine works.  There were seven blacksmiths, a coach shop, a saddler's shop, and an ice house.  There were three stores, two inns, two churches, and six schools.

Other than a concentration of mills along French Creek, developments and farmsteads were evenly dispersed over the Township.  By contrast, Spring City was beginning to look more like a village.  Most development was confined to the two-block area between Main and Church Streets and between New and Hall Streets.  There was a church on the hill, a hotel and four stores on Main Street, about 50 homes, one blacksmith shop, a grist mill, a bank, and a foundry.  The population of Spring City in 1880 was 1,112 and that of East Vincent 1,252; or a combined total of 2,364.

In 1884, the Pennsylvania Railroad completed a line from Philadelphia to Reading.  The rail line followed the Schuylkill River, passing through East Vincent, with a station in Spring City.  The line was built to compete with the Reading Railroad located on the other side of the river.  It never effectively achieved its goal.  Although the railroad was a convenience to some local businesses, it had only a limited impact on the growth of the area.  Unfortunately, for most Township residents, the rail line limited access to the Schuylkill River and enjoyment of the waterfront.

In 1890, another railroad was built through East Vincent, along French Creek.  The French Creek Railroad, Division of the Delaware and Lancaster Railroad, connected from the Pickering Valley Railroad in Kimberton to French Creek Falls (St. Peter's Village) – a distance of about 12 miles.  Its primary intended purpose was to haul granite from a quarry near the falls, but it also carried other freight and passengers.  The railroad was hastily constructed and poorly engineered.  It developed so many waves and undulations that it was quickly dubbed the "Sow Belly" railroad. East Pikeland, Pughtown, Coventryville, Knauertown, and St. Peter's each had one station; there were three stations located in East Vincent and three in West Vincent.  The railroad operated a little more than a year, but the ensuing lawsuits between creditors and stockholders lasted much longer.  The tracks were finally torn up seven years after they were first laid.

More significant to East Vincent Township, 1890 also marked the founding of a state sanitarium near Spring City (Pennhurst).  In 1903, the Pennsylvania Legislature appropriated funds for building facilities for the "feeble-minded" and "epileptic."  The first client was admitted in 1908.  The Pennhurst Center grew to include dormitories and hospital facilities for inmates, housing for staff, heating and sewage treatment plants, and many acres of farmland.  Until 1986, the Center provided a significant number of employment opportunities for area residents.

Between 1890 and 1930, most new development in East Vincent occurred as an expansion around Spring City and Pennhurst Center.  The suburban development of that period was mostly confined to the area northeast of Schuylkill Road known as Owen J. Roberts School District.  With the new school district, the Spring City High School built in 1928 was demolished in 1982.  Vincent Heights was built on that site for low income housing.  Kimberton Farm School formed in 1940 and is currently known as Kimberton Waldorf School.  The remainder of East Vincent continued as farms, with dairy production as the primary industry.

Bridges that continue to serve East Vincent Township include two historic covered bridges, the Kennedy (1856/1988) and Sheeder Hall (1850), the oldest covered bridge in Chester County.  Five other historic bridges with construction of iron and varied construction design provide access over the French Creek.  These are Wilson’s Corner (1835), Hallman’s (1854), Sheeder Mill (1887) the first iron bridge in East Vincent Township, Cooks Glen (1897) and Tyson’s Mill (1905).

A map of 1938 shows that most roads in the Township were unpaved.  The paved roads included Schuylkill Road, Ridge Road, Pughtown Road, Bridge Street, Stony Run Road (northwest of Schuylkill Road), Sheeder Road, New Street, and Arch Street.  The 1940 population was 3,614.

Since World War II, the Township has seen the development of mobile home parks and apartment complexes at the fringes of Spring City and the spread of suburban homes into the previously rural areas of the Township.  Commercial and industrial activities have developed along Route 724.  In 1953, the remaining one- and two-room schoolhouses were closed in favor of a regional school system.

The mills and the "Sow Belly" Railroad have long disappeared from French Creek.  The Pennsylvania Railroad and the Schuylkill Canal no longer parallel the Schuylkill River.  Pennhurst Center is no longer active, and much of the expansive farmland is giving way to suburban development.  While these happenings may be viewed in a negative way, the opening of accessibility to the Schuylkill River and French Creek may offer important scenic and recreational opportunities.  Similarly, the reuse of the Pennhurst Campus holds promise.  Much of the open space, scenic characteristics, and historic architecture of years past are still intact.

Grants to secure and preserve farmlands are being utilized by the township to assure the charm and scenic characteristics valued by the citizens.  Preservation for the future of historic sites is evident by the Revolutionary Soldiers Cemetery and the securing of the unique, one of a kind, 200-year-old Parker Tavern for restoration.

The community gathering sites of the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s such as the original Seven Stars for sodas and sandwiches, Sunny Slope Dairy for ice cream and shakes made from local dairy milk, the Rittenhouse Tavern now known as White Hall Inn, and Heistand’s Corner which was the general store are now memories of the past.

In 1988, East Vincent had one part-time police officer.  In 2001 with a population of 5493, the Police Department is fully staffed with 24-hour, seven days a week protection.  One local volunteer fire department has increased to three fire companies now covering the Township.

Governance of the Township, in the early years, found the Board of Supervisor’s meeting in private homes.  A one-time garage was reconstructed to create the current township building which houses the Police Department and the official business of the Township.

 

Source: https://www.eastvincent.org/?SEC=C455F56F-FF5A-4CE8-A79E-7A80C64048FE

Residents who served in Korea   WWII   Vietnam

                                                                                  NORTH COVENTRY

 

In 1719 the Schuylkill River became the dividing line between Chester and Philadelphia Counties. Two of the earliest landowners in North Coventry were the families of Martin Urner and Thomas Millard. Urner was a founder of the Coventry Church of the Brethren. The church, on Urner’s property, built about 1724, is the oldest church of that denomination in continuous use in America. A second Church of the Brethren was built in Shenkel Valley in 1828 in the township’s western part. The Millard property contained a mill and a ford. His land is now known as Laurel Locks.

 

The two oldest dwellings in the township are believed to be the 1713 Shellbark House on Creek Road, in the vicinity of Laurel Locks, and a home on Cherry Lane with exposed logs in the framing. What makes North Coventry Township unique in Chester County from its earliest beginnings is that it was settled largely by families of German background. The older farmhouses reflect this Germanic heritage. About a third of the taxpayers mentioned in 1718 were residents of North Coventry. Other early families were those of Henry Goode, Michael Haldennan, Ulrich Langacre, Henry Shenkel, Hans Switzer, Jacob Thomas, Abraham Wanger, and Hans Woolf-Miller. In the village of Kenilworth the Swan Stagecoach Inn dates to 1744 or before.
 

A historical milestone for the township was the opening of the Girard Reach of the Union Canal by the Schuylkill Navigation Company in 1824. Four and a half miles of the Girard Reach pass through North Coventry Township. A portion of the canal with a lock remains on the Laurel Locks Farm. In 1831 there were the beginnings of a canal village, known as Pottstown Landing, which took shape along Laurelwood Road at the Schuylkill River, carving lots from the Reiff and Wanger farms. This village is on the National Register of Historic Districts. It is the only village along the canal that owes its development to the canal industry.

 

Another event of historic proportions occurred in the township in Shenkel Valley between the years 1837 and 1857. A rebellious religious group, never more than 35 members, took hold of a few farm families, including the Stubblebines, in the valley. These were the Battles Axes. So notorious was the sect’s moral code, favoring nudity and cohabitation, that the name Free Love Valley has become synonymous with this area of the township. In 1855 one of the group’s members, Hannah Shingle (aka Shenkel), was murdered in the second floor bedroom of her farmhouse by her own axe. The perpetrator was never found. Soon after, the group died out. Its leader, Theophilus Gates, died in 1846 and his successor, the self styled prophet, Hannah Williamson, ‘moved west’ in 1857.

 

During this unsettling period Rev. John Price who lived with his family at Laurel Locks was pastor of the Coventry Brethren Church. Two township buildings are said to be associated with the Underground Railroad movement of the 1850’s: the Jerome Titlow barn at Cedarville Road and South Hanover Street (torn down in 2006) and the John Stubblebine farmhouse on St. Peter’s Road.

 

In the nineteenth century the township was composed of villages. Three of which had post offices in the 1870’s. The township had blacksmith shops and along the canal were wharfs. Six elementary country schools were in or near the villages, dating back to the 1830’s. The Methodists established two churches in the township, one overlooking Shenkel Valley in 1844 and the other in Cedarville in 1873. The earliest cemetery is that off of Urner Street opening in 1741. In 1808 Shenkel’s Free Burial Ground came into being. In 1873 Zion Cemetery opened at South Hanover and Schuylkill roads. At the time this cemetery served the Coventrys, as well as, Pottstown. In 1889 the local Farmer’s Union established a Grange in Cedarville. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the demand for industrial workers in Pottstown created a housing growth along the river villages.

 

North Coventry Township began to change the rural character along major roads. The township’s first high school admitted students in 1912, the school ceased as a high school in 1956 when seven townships consolidated into the Owen J. Roberts School District. In 1964 PennDOT used sections of the canal for a major highway- Route 422. Pottstown Pike, Route 100 was also modernized. In 1967 the first township mall, NORCO or Coventry Mall, was built on the John Halderman farm (once Abraham Wanger’s) on Schuylkill Road at Routes 724 and 100.

                                                                 

Source https://northcoventrytownship.com/bos/historical-commission/

Residents who served in  Korea    WWII   Vietnam

                                                       SOUTH COVENTRY

 

The area known today as Coventryville was a peaceful, quiet place in 1700 with a few inhabitants living on small cleared acreages, separated from each other by virgin forests, and totally dependent upon themselves for their basic needs. The valley lying between the steep Nantmeal hills to the south and the more even, gentler rise of the hills to the north was very like those of Samuel Nutt's native Coventry, England. In 1717, Nutt established the first iron forge in Chester County, and the second in the Commonwealth, at the confluence of the north and south branches of French Creek. A Catalan type forge, this small beginning was joined by others. With ebb and flow, it flourished for over 150 years to birth and promote the iron industry in Pennsylvania and, indeed, "early America."

 

The sites of Coventry Forge #1, Coventry Forge #2, Redding Furnace #1, also known as Kristeen Furnace, and the later mills of George Chrisman are all that remain of these courageous, early industrial enterprises which gave impetus to the growth of the area and paved the way for the agricultural pursuits which followed the age of the ironmaster. 

One of the earliest houses built for the forge, other than workers' cabins, was the house Samuel Nutt built on a gradual rise above the forge to the north. It is described in The Potts Memorial as having been constructed after the manner of the old houses in Coventry, England, a half-timber house framed with immense hewn logs between which were mortared stones.

An early house still standing is Coventry House (National Register of Historic Places). The first part was of random fieldstone with cut stone on the front. It is two and 1/2 stories high three bays wide and two bays deep at the gable ends. Especially notable is the southwestern parlor with its fine Georgian paneling on the deep window reveals and on the fully paneled north fireplace wall. Tradition holds that it was in this fireplace about 1742 that the stove designed at Warren Point by Benjamin Franklin and cast at Warwick Furnace was first tested. The second part, added between 1798 and 1803, is a substantial stone two bay addition to the east gable end. This addition has fine fireplaces, one on the first floor of black and white variegated marble flanked by paneled cupboards. The second floor of this section has interior shutters and a Federal punch-work mantel. In 1803, Robert May, husband of Rebecca's granddaughter, made the final one bay addition to the east gable end of the second addition. The most remarkable feature of the 1803 addition is a full-size, arched window on the south elevation. The window is topped by a cut stone arch accented by larger keystone and voussoirs. The cut stone facade carries through on the later addition.

One of the oldest remaining structures within the Historic District is The Inn. Originally, it was a two and 1/2 story log house, 18'x36'. In the 18th century, before the 1798 Glass Tax, a stone addition, 18'x20' was attached to the eastern end. This northeastern room contains fine Georgian woodwork, including a fireplace wall with paneled corner cupboards and chimney breast. The southwestern room, probably reworked at the same time, has paneled corner cupboards with arched doors topped by carved keyblocks. Soon after 1798, a second addition was made to the house's northwest corner making the enlarged house nearly 36' square. (1960 HABS survey) One other structure of certain eighteenth-century origin remains in today's village along with its barn, now a house. The original eighteenth-century house, two and one-half stories high, two bays wide on the north (front) elevation and one bay deep at the gable ends, later received a larger three-bay addition to its east gable end. Architecturally, the house is representative of a characteristic pattern of growth among area houses — the addition of a much larger nineteenth century wing to an existing house. 

To the east of the village, Samuel Savage, Jr. built a home for his bride of 1731. Facing his building south, and in the middle of a goodly acreage, Savage's stone house with its later additions barn, wagon shed, corn crib, and springhouse remain today outwardly very little changed.

Across the valley on the south side of French Creek lies another farm known as Coventry Forge Farm. This property includes the site of the original Coventry Forge. The house may be the one referred to in a 1724 document relating to the Forge. Built of fieldstone with massive corner quoins for a small house, structural evidence shows that the west wing of the present house incorporated an earlier one and one-half story building.

Lying northwest of Coventry Forge Farm on a fast moving little stream called Rock Run, Nutt and his partners constructed a dam and built the first Redding Furnace. Later it was rebuilt and called Kristeen, or Christeen Furnace. This was a small attempt at melting the raw ore into bars which could be used in the forge. It was only mildly successful and was replaced in 1736 by Redding Furnace #2 about three miles west on French Creek. However, Kristeen Furnace turned out many items for trade in the years roughly from 1725 to 1765. Pieces of ore can still be dug up around the site. At one point a grist mill and a house were erected on either side of the furnace and a farmhouse, barn and outbuildings were constructed on the furnace land between the furnace and the village.

The 19th century introduced the George Chrisman family to Coventryvllle. Coming from Kimberton in 1807. Chrisman bought Coventry Forge and adjacent land. He operated the Forge and prospered so that in 1826 he rebuilt the forge and enlarged its capacity. Iron forges of these early days needed constant repair. This was due to the intense heat to which the stone chimney was subjected, and the fact that, except for the charcoal house and a few other smaller buildings, the building itself was usually built of rough lumber. Later, in 1849, the Chrisman sons erected on the south branch a rolling mill to produce boiler plate. It was powered by a dam above the mill and some say by water from a larger dam known as Frogtown Dam on the north branch of French Creek. The Rolling Mill called "California" because it was established in the year of the gold rush, operated only five years. A few ruins are all that remain of the mill structure since it was dismantled and moved to New Jersey for economic reasons. However, the paymaster's house located in the area of the "2 tenant houses" on the Chrisman Survey, 1898, has remained, being visibly incorporated inside a present house.

 

The influence of the Chrisman family caused the village to grow. From 1807 to the turn of the century, George Chrisman or his sons were responsible for most of the building in the village. The Chrisman style is not repetitive. Each house carries something of its own personality and is built with a specific purpose or family in mind. All are of stone and all are two story, gable structures. All, except the Workers' Houses are roomy, pleasant examples of late Georgian – Early Federal style. Gable roofs with partial returns, often a hooded doorway, a few attractive embellishments such as graceful punchwork under the eaves are found in the large houses. The Workers' Houses are sturdily built, but without ornamentation or embarrassment among their larger neighbors — an honest statement of their times.

The store, built between 1826 and 1849 and operated by a relative of the Chrismans, is a practical building for its purpose, but seems to lack the craftsmanship of other Chrisman buildings. Other structures within the district relating to the life of the village include the Methodist Church (1860) which replaced the early 1812 Chapel on the hill and the Band Wagon House built in 1888 to house the Franklin Cornet Band. The "Sow Belly Railroad" which ran for only two years and had a station stop in Coventryville traversed the meadow below the village on its way to St. Peters from Phoenixville.

Coventryvllle was erected in so methodical a fashion as to almost arrange its own district. Very little space was allowed for lawns except on the farms. With the exception of two houses, and one of those is on existing walls, there is little 20th century building. The Coventryville Historic District remains a concentration of original eighteenth and nineteenth century buildings. It includes several individual buildings of particular architectural and historic interest, notably Coventry House. The relocation of Route #23 in the 1950's obliterated the last of the Chrisman Mills and put the site of the second Coventry Forge many feet under its embankment. It also created the island which modern man could only envisage as a gasoline station. Today the four dams so necessary to the early iron industry and later to farming have burst their walls and the mill races now serve as foot paths for hikers. The sky is no longer lit with leaping fire of furnace heat and the grist mills no longer turn. The high powered automobile takes man and woman out of the valley to earn a living. The end of the day brings them back, however, to the same soft sounds that settled the quiet hills in 1717 when Samuel Nutt dreamed a dream.

In the early 18th century, Coventry sprang up in the wilderness as a thriving industrial community. The village, located on high ground above (Friends) French Creek in what is now Northern Chester County, Pennsylvania, was closely connected to Warwick Furnace. Coventry Forge and Warwick Furnace were at the core of the iron industry that developed in the upper reaches of French Creek and in Berks and Philadelphia (Montgomery) Counties. Together they constituted an early industrial complex of great significance to the American Revolution and to the economic growth of the country. (See Warwick Furnace Farms Complex, National Register of Historic Places) . 

The men and women who were associated with the early history of Coventryville – Samuel and Anna Nutt, William Branson, Mordecai Lincoln, Robert and Rebecca Grace, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Savage, Caleb North and Thomas and Anna Potts were energetic, resourceful, creative persons with marked leadership qualities. In the 19th century, these characteristics and the iron making tradition of the village continued under the aegis of the George Chrisman family, another notable group. Coventry Forge, the second iron manufactory in the colony of Pennsylvania and the first in Chester County, was established in the years between 1717-19 by Samuel Nutt just below the confluence of the north and south branches of French Creek. Nutt, an English Quaker and a man of means, had come to this country in 1714 bringing with him a certificate of transfer from the Coventry Friends Monthly Meeting and a purchase title to certain lands in the French Creek Region.

With remarkable initiative and speed, Nutt set out to enlarge his enterprise and acreage. He opened ore mines at St. Mary's, purchased 300 acres adjacent to his Coventry holding and obtained two large tracts in East Nantmeal Township on one of which the Warwick Furnace was later built. Using his own funds, Nutt also built a road from Coventry to Philadelphia, now known as [Route] #23 which still bears his name in places. In 1720 Nutt moved his forge to higher ground and in 1723 he formed a Partnership with William Branson and Mordecai Lincoln, the great-great-grandfather of Abraham Lincoln. Branson, a Philadelphia merchant, was also acquiring large amounts of land in the French Creek Region and showing interest in investing in iron works. Through the partnership Redding Furnace I, sometimes called Kristeen, was constructed on Rock Run Just west of the forge. In 1725 Lincoln sold his part in the partnership to Branson for 500 pounds, but the partnership continued through the construction of Redding Furnace II on the south branch of French Creek. In 1732, experiments were made at Redding I which led to the first production of steel. That same year Branson bought Vincent Forge (later known as Vincent Steel works) and further refined the steel making process. 

Shortly after starting the forge at Coventry, Samuel Nutt married Anna Savage, daughter of Thomas Rutter and the widow of Samuel Savage, founder with Thomas Potts in 1716 of the Forge on Manatawny Creek, the first in Pennsylvania. Branson was one of several investors in this forge in the early years. After her marriage to Samuel Nutt, Anna and her Savage children came to Coventry. The family lived in a house constructed by Nutt which was known as Coventry Hall. The building no longer exists, but is described in The Potts Memorial. There were six Savage children. John, the youngest, died of a rattlesnake bite, others were more fortunate. In 1733, Rebecca, a favorite of her step-father, married his English nephew, Samuel Nutt, Jr. Ruth, another daughter, married John Potts, founder of Pottstown and builder of Pottsgrove while Samuel Savage, Jr. "for his better preferment in this world" received from his mother and step-father 215 acres and the house in which he then lived.

Samuel Nutt was not only a successful ironmaster, but a prominent member of the Colony. From 1723-1726 he represented Chester County in the Assembly and he was also justice of the King's peace. Nutt shared with Branson the restlessness and vision of a pioneer. His mind was continually fermenting new projects. At the time of his death in 1737, he was planning a furnace on the South branch of French Creek. Instructions were left in his will for the construction of this furnace by his wife, Anna, and her Savage sons. The furnace, completed in 1738 was called Warwick Furnace.

Nutt left the Coventry part of his estate to Samuel Nutt, Jr. and Rebecca. When the nephew died the year following his uncle, the young widow, beautiful and bright, and only twenty at the time, was left with extensive property and responsibility. It was not long before Robert Grace, a prominent young Philadelphian, met and married "the loveliest Savage in America." Grace then entered the family business. Warwick Furnace and Coventry Forge were joined and operated together as the Anna Nutt and Company. Robert Grace, described by his friend, Benjamin Franklin, as "a young gentleman of some fortune, generous, lively, witty" came from Ireland. He lived in Philadelphia with his grandmother and her second husband, Hugh Lowden, in their finely appointed house on High Street below Second. At seventeen, he inherited this house and it was here that the first meetings of the Junto and the Library Company were held.

In 1729 when Franklin and his partner, Meredith, were sued for 100 pounds, Robert Grace and another friend offered to lend money. In his Autobiography, Franklin speaks of "two true friends whose kindness I have never forgotten, nor ever shall forget." The spontaneous generosity made a great impression on Franklin and prompted him to give Grace, without patent limitations, the rights to his new invention, an improved fireplace stove. To promote the demand of the stoves, Franklin wrote a pamphlet entitled "An Account of the Newly Invented Pennsylvania Fireplaces." The stoves were cast at Warwick and were highly successful. After Anna Nutt's death in 1744, the Warwick and Coventry properties continued to prosper under new management techniques established by Robert Grace. Weekly production of five tons of pig iron at Warwick was sufficient to supply Coventry and four other forges. In addition to this and the stoves, there was a steady production of kettles, andirons and clockweights. In 1765, Robert and Rebecca Grace turned over their interests in Warwick Furnace and Coventry Forge to Thomas Potts, Rebecca's son-in-law. Thomas, eldest son of Ruth and John Potts, had married his first cousin, Anna, the only child of Rebecca and Samuel Nutt, Jr., in 1757. At the time, Thomas lived in Philadelphia where he represented the family business interests and participated in the cultural life of the city. He was one of the original members of the American Philosophical Society.

Although Thomas kept his house in Philadelphia on Front Street after his marriage and later purchased Pottsgrove from his father's estate, most of his married years were lived in Coventryville in the house known as Coventry House. Here ten children were born and raised. The marriage of Thomas and Anna was a fortuitous one. Thomas, combining outstanding qualities of Samuel Nutt and Robert Grace, gave Coventry distinguished leadership. A member of the Assembly from 1775 until his early death in 1785, Thomas also participated in the Revolution. In 1776, he was commissioned Colonel of a Battalion of men from Chester and Berks County that he raised, armed and equipped at his own expense. He was also a member of the Convention assembled at the State House on July 9, 1776 to decide upon a government for Pennsylvania. After the Revolution on a hunting trip in Schuylklll County, Thomas discovered anthracite coal seams. Recognizing their future value, he arranged for the purchase of 2800 acres in 1784. At the time of his death the following year, he was working with Benjamin Franklin on plans for the construction of the Schuylklll Canal so that the coal could be brought to market and "to the forges and furnaces near the Schuylklll."

Thomas Potts was also interested in continuing the manufacture of steel which Great Britain had thwarted in 1750 by prohibiting the erection of steel and slitting mills. Only those mills which had existed before that time were permitted to operate. As Redding Furnace I fell into this category, Potts was able to reactivate it.

As the Revolution approached, increasing responsibilities led Thomas to transfer both Coventry and Warwick to his brother, Samuel, and Thomas Rutter III. The properties continued to expand under the new ownership and management of Thomas Bull. During the Revolution, Rutter and Potts had an agreement with the Council of Safety to supply munitions for the Continental Army. That Washington and his troops came to the Warwick and Redding Furnaces (Sept. 18-19,1777) after the defeat at the Battle of Brandywine is indicative of the importance of French Creek iron to the Continental Army.

The iron families and their houses also played a noteworthy part during the Revolution. Thomas and Anna lived at Pottsgrove at the time where they entertained Washington on more than one occasion. Thomas' brother owned the house that Washington occupied in the winter at Valley Forge and Rebecca's hospitality to Continental officers at Coventry Hall is recorded in The Potts Memorial.

In her later years, Rebecca lived in Coventry House with her granddaughter, Ruth, and her husband, Robert May, who was managing the forge at the time. Here, tradition holds, Benjamin Franklin visited her. The story is told that Franklin asked to see the lively widow just before his death and that "she made the forty mile trip over bad roads in March, and was the last one, outside his family, to be with him." Rebecca was deeply interested in Methodism. Through her, George Whitfield and other well known ministers preached at Coventry. On one occasion, she rescued the visiting preacher from overwrought iron workers. Rebecca encouraged the organization of the Coventry Methodist Congregation, the second in Chester County, and left land for the erection of a church building, Grace Chapel, built in 1812.

After Robert May's death, Coventry House was sold to Col. Caleb North, a descendant of Samuel Savage and a "kinsman" of Rebecca. Later, the house and farm (250 acres) was purchased by the Chrisman family and then by Joshua Bingaman, a cousin. The last Bingamans to occupy the house were five sisters Mary, Sally, Leidei, Phoebe and Emma, maiden ladies all but one. Coventry Forge was purchased by John Davis in 1793 and transferred to his son four years later. While the main production of the forge under Robert May had been bar iron, the elder Davis added a boring and grinding mill for the production of gun barrels. The younger Davis diverted the waters from the South Branch of French Creek with the help of a dam, thereby greatly increasing capacity.

In 1807, Davis sold the Forge tract to George Chrisman who came from Kimberton where his family had a mill. Chrisman built for himself, his family, and his workers most of the houses which stand in the village today. The Chrismans – three generations of George Chrismans were connected with the iron industry in Coventry – were a remarkable family. They were people of integrity and standards who left their imprint on the community. One member, John Buckwalter, read Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Macauley's History of England each winter.

While Chrisman came to Coventry in 1807. It was not until 1826 that the Forge was enlarged and re-equipped. At Warwick Furnace quantities of pig iron could be obtained. Using the old charcoal process, Coventry rendered the metal into blooms. These were hauled to Pottstown, loaded onto canal boats, and shipped to Philadelphia and New York. To ensure an adequate supply of charcoal, Chrisman purchased thirteen farms in the area.

In 1849 it was thought that the railroad proposed from Philadelphia to Lancaster would come up the French Creek Valley. Mindful of this, George Chrisman, Jr. and his brother, John, erected a rolling mill on the south branch for the production of boiler plate. As this was the year of the Gold Rush, the mill was called "California." When the Pennsylvania Railroad took another direction, the location of the mill proved remote. In a few years, it was dismantled and moved to Jersey City.

In 1888, the Delaware River and Lancaster Railroad connecting the Pickering Valley Railroad with the Wilmington and Northern branch of the Reading Railroad was constructed. The line passed through the village and caused considerable excitement in its short life. Two buildings were added to the village at the end of the 19th century, the Coventryvllle Church in 1861 replacing the earlier Grace Chapel, and in 1888 a structure to house the village Band Wagon. The building had six stalls below for the Band Wagon horses and it also provided a meeting place for Lodge Members of the Independent Order of Americans, Lodge 363. A grist mill in the lower part of the village, once used by George Chrisman to store charcoal, burnt down in 1885 and was rebuilt along modern lines. Flour was ground on steel rolls instead of stones. Later the new building was used as a window shade factory. A second grist mill, known as James' Mill, was built in the middle of the 19th Century close to the side of Redding Furnace I.

The use of Rock Run water to power a grist mill rather than a furnace is illustrative of the changing scene at Coventryville. In the first part of the 19th Century, as coal replaced charcoal, as transportation centers developed, and new techniques for the manufacture of iron and steel were devised, the early iron making communities became obsolete and the separation between agriculture and industry complete. The Coventryville which once flourished with its farms, church, cemeteries, school, band, lodge, and Rising Sun Inn, ceased to be self contained.

Coventryville was the center of the American metal industry, both at its birth in the colonial period and during its growth in the early nineteenth century. Colonial Coventryville was the site of Coventry Forge, the first in Chester County and the second in Colonial Pennsylvania, of the first steel furnace in the country, and of one of the early rolling mills. It was also the home of Samuel and Anna Nutt, Robert and Rebecca Grace and Thomas and Anna Potts, who dominated the colonial iron industry through the entire region and of the Chrisman family who continued the iron making tradition in the 19th Century.

Source:https://southcoventry.org

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                                                     WARWICK TOWNSHIP 

Warwick Township became a municipality on June 14, 1842, when 19 square miles (12,160 acres) were removed from that part of East Nantmeal Township that lay north of the South Branch of French Creek. Today, there are almost 27 miles of township roads and about 22.5 miles of state roads within the Township's borders. No interstate or U.S. highways run through it. Over 470 acres are held in Warwick County Park (acquired in 1967 and dedicated in 1973), approximately 2,306 acres are administered as State Game Lands #43, and approximately 600 acres out of 7,475 acres are part of French Creek State Park. The latter park lands are augmented by 848 acres of Hopewell Iron Furnace, a National Historic Site, with 214 acres within Warwick Township. The Township has also set aside 90.1 acres as Township park land north of State Route 23. No other township in Chester County can claim so much land that will never become “developed.”

The early rise (1717) of an iron industry, the first in Chester County and the second in Pennsylvania, set Warwick lands apart from the largely agricultural lands that surrounded it originally and for the next 250 years. Two hundred and fifty acres at the eastern edge of present Warwick Village were systematically excavated by pick and shovel to produce the raw iron ore that kept four pre-Revolutionary furnaces in business. These included Coventry Iron Works (1717), Reading Furnace (1736), and Warwick Furnace (1737) in then East Nantmeal Township on the South Branch of French Creek which became Warwick Township. Hopewell Furnace (1770), with lands in Chester and Berks counties, opened mines of its own. These furnaces and the Rutter Iron Works on Manatawney Creek were the first successful iron furnaces in the colonies. By 1740, the South Branch furnaces were recorded by visiting European engineers as equal in size and production to any iron furnaces in England or the Continent at that time. General Washington brought his entire army of 11,000 men to the South Branch to regroup, repair equipment, and resupply ammunition after the drenching Battle of the Clouds at Paoli in September 1777. Reading Furnace #2 and Warwick Furnace were merged by 1783 under the name of Warwick Furnace which continued into the 1870s. Hopewell went out-of-blast for the last time in 1883. Warwick Furnace is said to have rolled plate for the Civil War ship, the Monitor.

Further industrialization occurred in 1848 in the area of St. Peters Village when shaft mining was introduced by the E. & G. Brooke Company on farms behind the present village. These deep pit mines, known as the St. Peters or French Creek Mines, were operated until about 1866 when, in conjunction with Phoenix Iron Company, three shaft mines were sunk with accompanying drifts: the Elizabeth, the Suzie, and the Calamity Mines, the latter so named because, being too close to French Creek, it filled with water as fast as it was pumped out. By 1926, the ore had become too lean to be profitable and the mines were closed in 1928. It has been estimated that one million tons of copper and iron bearing ore have been extracted from the French Creek mines. In 1880, Davis Knauer initiated a new enterprise using the wealth of scattered and underground black granite rock that lay north of present Route 23. Known as French Creek Black Granite, Warwick Township is one of only three sites in the world where this true black granite can be obtained. The other two are in California and Sweden. First used as curb stone and Belgian block for Philadelphia streets, it found twentieth century use in space age technology because of its stable qualities. A 2” thick piece of French Creek Black Granite is stronger than a 5” piece of other granites. When polished, it shines like black glass and can be used both structurally and decoratively. It has been used in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Library in Hyde Park and in the American Telephone & Telegraph Building in New York City; Jacqueline Kennedy chose it for a 22’ long conference table for the Kennedy Museum. The Whitney Museum uses it both outside and inside including use as a free-standing cantilevered staircase.

The present Township is served mainly by the Twin Valley Fire Company; the eastern area of the Township is covered by both the Ridge Fire Company and Norco Fire Company. Emergency medical response is provided by Elverson Emergency Medical Services. A United States Post Office is located in St. Peters Village. The Township does not have its own police force but is covered by the State Police. Where once there were several local grocery, gasoline, and general stores, the Township today has several commercial areas, primarily in St. Peters, Knauertown, and near the intersection of routes 23 and 345. In addition to the parks and trail systems, two gun clubs offer recreation opportunities. There are also two private golf courses, one named Stonewall, the other, French Creek, both at the west end of the Township. A nature center is operated by Natural Lands Trust on Crow’s Nest Farm. The French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust and Natural Lands Trust hold easements on numerous private lands, voluntarily protected by their owner against development. The Conservation Trust has also purchased sensitive lands when they came on the market, restricting them against development and delivering them by mutual agreement to either Game Lands #43, French Creek State Park, or to Warwick County Park.

 

In 1982, French Creek was designated a Scenic River from its headwaters to Route 724 at Phoenixville, and in 1998, Green Valleys Association successfully led the effort to raise the designation to Exceptional Value (http://www.greenvalleys.org). It is the only cold water stream in Chester County. Much of the headwaters of the North Branch of French Creek are within the township borders, while the South Branch forms the entire southern boundary. Warwick Township looks forward to controlled growth in the future.

 

Source: http://warwick-chester.org/History.aspx

 

Horseshoe Trail  (Map)   (Photos)

 

        Drone video of St Peters Village

by  Dalton Drone and Discovery Zone

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                                                    WEST VINCENT 

 

William Penn’s vast lands were divided first into counties (Chester, Bucks, Philadelphia, and Montgomery), and then into townships. Vincent Township was divided roughly in half in 1832, with about 12,000 acres in the western portion. Algonquin and Lenni Lenape Indian tribes held this land before European settlement: Conestoga Road (Route 401) and Nantmeal Road (now Horseshoe Trail) were Indian trails. The Township takes its name from Sir Mathias Vincent, who purchased his lands from his friend Penn. English, German, Swiss and Welsh settlers were welcomed here, making their homes primarily in the eastern portion of the original undivided township. Streams and rivers were important for transportation and industry, which was based on local iron works like those at Warwick, Reading, and Valley Forge.

West Vincent’s map profile is distinctive: the enormous “missing” square is the result of a boundary dispute in 1715, when Vincent and others failed to pay taxes to William Penn. Suit was brought against these men by the Clerk of the County Court, and 467 acres were seized. The “missing” piece lies on the border of Upper Uwchlan Township.

Tax records in 1730 indicate thirty “taxables” – white males – in Vincent Township. They made their livings as innkeepers, weaver, tanners, and farmers. West Vincent played its part in the Revolutionary War: the countryside was scoured for wagons, firearms, blankets, shoes and stockings. After the Battle of the Brandywine, General Washington marched his eleven thousand troops across Vincent Township on his way to Valley Forge, where the army spent the hard winter of 1777-78. The hospital at Yellow Springs, built to handle the sick and wounded, was run by Dr. Samuel Kennedy and West Vincent residents surely aided as best they could. Congress at this time encouraged construction of powder mills; traces of one of those mills still stand in Birchrunville on Powder Mill Hill.

 

When public school systems were mandated by the state in 1834, West Vincent residents responded enthusiastically, and by 1875 there were five school houses providing basic education. All are still standing; the largest of which was our township building on School House Lane. West Vincent’s four original churches also still stand. Some of West Vincent’s Quaker residents were sympathetic to escaping slaves, so there were many branches of the Underground Railroad here. The Civil War, too, drew West Vincent residents, with companies formed in Kimberton, Phoenixville, Pottstown and West Chester.

West Vincent entered the twentieth century largely unchanged, with no paved roads, no electricity, and scarcely an automobile in sight. But the township readily accepted the commodities of change: household electricity was first furnished by batteries that had to be recharged frequently. WPA workers paved the roads, and the automobile revolutionized how people lived. After World War II, new roads, more efficient cars and a growing population drove development: West Vincent Township responded by adopting protective legislative. The township’s first zoning was adopted in 1955; it set up guidelines for how property could be used and developed in a primarily rural district. Green Valleys Association, founded in 1964, was one of the earliest watershed protection groups, and it continues to protect the environment in West Vincent and the surrounding community.

A recent survey identified 231 potentially historic sites in West Vincent. Thirty-four of these sites are included in the Birchrunville National Historic District and 88 sites are included in the Rural Historic District. West Vincent’s residents have indicated an overwhelming desire to keep their township as rural as possible. The Board of Supervisors and its supporting commissions and councils are committed to that goal.

Source: http//westvincenttwp.org

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