Excerpts from the New Hanover Township Comprehensive Plan Update, 1998:

Knowledge of past human experience in New Hanover Township is essential to aid planners and local officials in molding the future. The following historical analysis is only a general representation of past developments. A more thorough analysis must be left to the historians. However, the historical aspects of planning in the Township are reported to provide the framework by which New Hanover will develop in the coming years.

The first people to inhabit the Upper Perkiomen Valley were the Lenni Lenape Indian tribes. These people were described by William Penn as tall, strong, and sagacious. Because the first settlers lived in peace and harmony with the Indians for many years, William Penn could easily "buy" the Upper Perkiomen area from the native inhabitants in 1684, which became known as Penn's Woods.

The early seventeenth century witnessed the Reformation in Europe in the Thirty Years' War, which ultimately led to persecutions of the Protestants. These events stimulated the migration of the Brethren (Dunkers), Lutherans, members of the Reformed Church, Schwenkfelders, Mennonites, and other "peace" sects to the New World and to Penn's Woods.

Historical events, which strongly influenced the present land use matters of New Hanover date back to this early migration when the Township was part of Hanover Township. This latter community was a section of the Frankfort Land Development Company holdings that encompassed present day Upper Hanover Township, New Hanover Township, Pottsgrove Township, and Pottstown Borough. The German settlers account for the name of the community, a derivation from the Hanover King.

In the early eighteenth century, another name was attached to this area. It was called "Falckner's Swamp" after Daniel Falckner who was an attorney for the Frankfort Land Company. In 1700, through a series of protests and arguments, Daniel Falckner managed to gain complete control of the Frankfort lands.

Although at the time he was accused of inefficiencies by his associates, Falckner stands out as a predominant figure in the area.

The Frankfort Land Company remained in Falckner's hands until 1708 when he was forced by financial difficulties to turn over the lands to John Sprogell. The transaction alarmed many of the settlers in the area. Shortly thereafter, Sprogell announced that many of the titles of the first settlers were not legal and he proceeded to have them ousted. The settlers engaged the aid of Pastorius, an agent of the Frankfort Company who went to Philadelphia to investigate, only to find that Sprogell had enlisted the services of the only four lawyers then practicing in Pennsylvania. A fraud was revealed, but Sprogell managed to keep control of 22,000 acres of the richest farming country in Montgomery County, for which he paid a low price of $1,333. Many of the settlers were forced to buy back land from Sprogell that they had already settled on.

By 1727, German settlers flocked to Pennsylvania. Those who settled in New Hanover were forced to pay exorbitant prices which Sprogell asked for his holdings. One of those was Henry Antes who first settled in Philadelphia and then moved to New Hanover. He built the first grist mill at Bethlehem in 1743. His son, Fredrick Antes, was an iron founder and he cast the first four-pounder guns for the Revolutionary Army. He was one of the members elected from the county to author the New Constitution of Pennsylvania in 1776. At that time the area was part of Philadelphia County. Montgomery became a separate county in 1784.

EARLY SETTLEMENTS

Numerous small hamlets and villages were founded during the early development of New Hanover, including Swamp (first township seat), Fagleysville, New Hanover Square, and Pleasant Run. See the accompanying historic map of New Hanover. The village of New Hanover, also known as Swamp or Swamp Churches, is located approximately sixteen miles northwest of Norristown. By 1832, it contained two churches, a post office, a tannery, two taverns, two stores, and eight dwelling units. The history of this settlement dates back to 1758. The creation of the village can be attributed to the location of the "Lutheran Dutch" and "Dutch Church", and the "Yelyer's Mill."

Pleasant Run and Fagleysville appear to be ancient settlements. However, their early importance cannot be determined due to a lack of information.

THE REVOLUTIONARY PERIOD

New Hanover and Camp Pottsgrove
(from New Hanover Township 1741-1991 Volume 1)

The year was 1763, New Hanover was incorporated as a township a mere twenty-two years earlier. Yet increasingly its people endured the same hardships found in the other colonies. Friction between mother England and her colonies had begun. The colonies, individually governed under the scrutiny of the King of the British Empire, had little in common with each other. The colony of Pennsylvania was governed from Philadelphia.

London, England was the largest city in the British Empire. Philadelphia was the second, and largest city in the colonies. It was a major cultural, educational and political center. Its port was the busiest in the colonies. Philadelphia County extended from the Delaware River west to Berks County. (Montgomery County was created by legislature on September 10, 1784). Western Philadelphia County was populated with Quakers, German Mennonites, Schwenkfelders and others opposed to war for religious reasons. Initially the German Lutherans and Reformeds were opposed to a war with England. However, as more taxes and shortages occurred, more changed their opinions.

Christopher Schultz, a prominent Schwenkfelder from Hereford, Berks County, wrote to friends in Germany on October 28, 1774, "...The Ministers (government leaders) have utilized every imaginable artifice to levy a tax upon the Colonies, and thus, break the Charter guaranteeing us liberty. A man may not be taxed and have something taken away from him without his or his own representative's consent. But during this past winter malicious Ministers have gone too far and many Parliamentary Acts were passed which infringe on our basic rights." (A copy of the original German is in the Schwenkfelder Library, Pennsburg).

As the situation worsened, the colonies drew closer. On April 18, 1775, Lt. Gen. Thomas Gage ordered his redcoats to destroy the patriots' main supply depot at Concord, Mass. They arrived at Lexington in the early dawn on April 19. Capt. John Parker and his band of Minutemen faced them on the village green, 'Don't fire unless fired on", Parker commanded, 'but if they mean to have war, let it begin here." No one knows who fired the first shot, but 8 colonists were killed and 10 wounded. One Britisher was wounded. That shot became the 'shot that was heard around the world'.

Each colony supplied troops to form an army. Frederick Antes was named Colonel of the Sixth Batallion of Pennsylvania Militia. Frederick Weiss was Leiutenant Colonel and Jacob Bush was Major. Among the junior field officers were Philip Hahn and Michael Dotterer, Captain Hahn commanded the New Hanover Company during the campaign of 1777.

George Washington from Fairfax County, Virginia had proven himself more than capable in earlier wars and was unanimously elected Commander-in-Chief by the Continental congress in Philadelphia. He came out of retirement from his beloved Mount Vernon to serve his nation.

By September, 1777, the British had already captured New York City and General Howe secretly sailed to the mouth of the Chesapeake. He proceeded north, up the bay. The Continental Army was in northern New Jersey. It traveled south and tried to stop Howe's advance at the Brandywine Creek, partly due to lack of information, Washington's poorly trained troops were defeated there on September 11. They regrouped at Warren's Tavern. However, heavy rains soaked their ammunition and prevented a battle. Because British General Howe chose this path, the war effort moved through Chester County and into Montgomery County.

On the move again on September 17, Washington wrote from Yellow (Chester) Springs to Major General Thomas Mifflin, "...The baggage and Ammunition that is at present at Perkiomen is to move up to Pottsgrove."General Washington and his drmy arrived at Redding Furnace (Warwick) on September 18. At Warwick the fatigued army camped for a day, cleaning their arms and repliacing cartridges. From here Washington wrote to the President of Congress asking him to move the Continental Stores. They were removed from Philadelphia to Trenton on September 16. General Washington requested the stores be moved again, "..to Allentown in North Hampton County." Congress had debated leaving Philadelphia for months but had never done so. Another letter from Alexander Hamilton sent Congress and what was left of the government in Philadelphia scurrying in the early hours of September 19, Congress did not reconvene until September 28 in Lancaster City; they then voted on moving to York.

According to Montgomery County historians, a financial transaction took place before the Continental Congress fled Philadelphia, A sum of $100,000 cash was shipped to the Falkner Swamp Lutheran Church (New Hanover) by Michael Hillegas. Named by the Continental Congress in 1776, Hillegas was the first United States Treasurer, The money was hidden on the church grounds and used to fund the present and future war efforts.

General Washington and his troops crossed the Schuylkill River at Parkers Ford on September 19. They passed through Trappe, forded the Perkiomen Creek and camped on its east bank that night.

To this point, General Howe had followed Washington's Army. Washington wrote to General McDougall on September 19, "...The enemy are making the most vigorous efforts to succeed in their attempt upon Philadelphia: and it will require our utmost exertions to disappoint them.'

By September 22, General Washington's observations of the enemy and his intelligence information convinced him that Howe planned on moving toward Reading. This would cut off the army from the stores in Reading as well as the iron forges building the cannons.

Colonel Phillip Frederick Antes was commissioned in the 6th Battalion of the Pennsylvania Militia and is believed to have assisted Washington in choosing the area of "Forkners Swamp (Falkner) about 4 miles from Pots Grove." (Washington's Letter to General Wayne, September 23, 1777.)

This choice made sense in several ways. First, it was the location of temporary hospitals set up sometime after the Battle of Brandywine. At this location the army could protect the Great Road and Swamp Road, both leading to Reading thus protecting the stores and forges. The hills surrounding the area provided a strong defensive position.

It was to this area that the Commander-In-Chief moved his 8,000 man army on September 21st. Some of his militia mayhave arrived as early as the 18th as recorded in a Maryland Officer's journal.

Colonel Antes is credited with many arrangements of the Camp, His house, built by his Moravian father, Henry Antes, was General Washington's Headquarters. Washington always tried to stay among his troops. The army officers stayed at the Bertolet house next door. Colonel Antes, a member of the German Reformed Church in Falkner Swamp, arranged to have this church (a frame structure at the location of the present building) and the German Lutheran Church used as temporary hospitals. The church benches were removed. Farmers' wives and daughters made bandages from cloth and bedding; they boiled water and cooked. Medicines were very limited. They supplied what they could. Local farmers helped bring the wounded to the hospitals, their wagons covered with the blood of moaning soldiers. Other wagons carried the dead, A number of soldiers were buried in the Reformed Church Cemetery. The seriously sick were sent to Reading. Operations (many of them amputations) were performed at the Andrew Smith Inn. Smith used his ston farmhouse west of Fagleysville as an inn. Operations wer performed on the bar room table.

Anesthesia was unavailable; the soldiers' screams were piercing. Women and children covered their ears with pillow to muffle the soldiers' cries when their gangrenous limbs were removed and discarded on the property. Later owners reported ploughing up bones in the farms' orchards. The bar room table is believed to still be in existence.

Antes may have also arranged for the use of the Reformed Church Parsonage. Built in 1730-31, this 106 acre farm was the home of Reverend Nicholas Pomp. Tradition has it, this was General Wayne's Headquarters.

Following the Paoli Massacre on September 20, the location of General Wayne is difficult to tie down. (Wayne led a division of American troops at the battle of Paoli.) General Washington mentioned in several letters from Camp Pottsgrove, that he was waiting for Wayne's arrival. "To Lord Stearling, Headquarters 11 o'clock AM September 25, 1777... I mean to halt here at least today, especially as I find Gen. Wayne will not be up till night (if then) and Smallwood not till tomorrow." Wayne was with the Army at Pennypacker's Mills (Schwenksville) on the 28th. The army left Camp Pottsgrove on the 26th. Did Wayne arrive late on the 25th; is it possible he stayed until the 28th? Tradition has it that Wayne's troops guarded Jackson Hill (between Fagleysville and Sanatoga) during the Fagleysville camp.

According to the present owner of "Wayne's Headquarters", tradition has it that the decision to leave Camp Pottsgrove and move on toward Valley Forge was made here. As General Washington entered the 5' 8" door, he bowed, removed his hat, and shook the hand of the host, like a true gentleman. Seated around the table, a low fire probably burning in the keeping room fireplace, the proceedings began. Washington always held a service of prayer before meetings, therefore it was fitting to conduct the meeting in the parsonage. This house was later the birthplace of Pennsylvania Govemor Hartranft.

The conditions were dismal, rumors of General Wayne's court martial (for his irresponsible leadership at Paoli) circulated among the soldiers. Rain had persisted since mid month, morale was low, government supplies were scarce, and some states were delinquent in financing the war. Like Valley Forge, many soldiers were poorly clothed and marched without shoes in the rain, in the mud, and on stony roads, their feet torn and bleeding. Before Congress fled Philadelphia, they gave Washington the authority to seek and pay for supplies as necessary. So, to the President of Congress (in Lancaster) on the 23rd, Washington requested shoes, "...I have been informed that there are large parcels of shoes in particular there."

Food and ammunition was in short supply too. Using their Conestoga wagons, area farmers retrieved stock from the army's Reading storehouses.

An old tradition says that the militia arrived in camp first. Local soldiers were granted the priviledge of going home to neighboring counties to harvest crops for a week. As the army arrived, they took what they needed. They occupied every available house, barn and outbuilding, Years later, resident Mrs. Philip Leidig recalled: "When the army encamped on the hills, a whole company came to our house and took possession of our place during the rainy weather. The barn and every outbuilding was full of horses and the house was also full of soldiers lying on and covering the floors in each room, while the family was compelled to occupy but one room." Other soldiers had to brave the rain in tents.

Colonel Antes, brother, William, saw the need for an army oven. He paid 12 pounds for bricks at a kiln, said to be on Hoffmansville road, and had them delivered to the Philip Brand house, southwest of Fagleysville. There, soldiers built a huge brick oven for the Baker General Christopher Ludwig. Ludwig was said to be a congenial man, greeting everyone he passed on area roads.

The oven was near what came to be known as the slaughtering tree. The giant old oak was 400 to 500 yards from the creek at the bottom of Fagleysville hill. Cattle from local farmers, was hung from the lower branches and butchered to supply the army with meat. The refuse, or "speck" in German, was discarded into the creek. This creek is still referred to as the Speck Creek. So much food was taken that the area families had to get food from their friends and relatives as far away as Oley in order to survive the winter, the same hard winter as the Valley Forge encampment.

The main part of the "Camp near Potts Grove" was from Fagleysville west to the Speck Creek and up the first elevation toward Swamp. (Now Reifsnyder and Rosenberry Roads), storehouses were kept further southwest. Leaden bullets, broken bayonets, and musket barrels were among the relics ploughed up there years later.

Back in Fagleysville, the Count Puloski was said to have quartered in a log house at the present site of the Fagleysville Hotel. The lively count had just been appointed Brigadier General of the Light Horse (Calvary), and Washington was concerned about the acceptance of another foreign general. However, there were no incidents.

The camp was protected by the surrounding hills. There reportedly was a strong out-post guarding the Great Road to Reading (High Street). It is known as Washington Hill in Pottstown. From Prospect Hill near Fagleysville, guards could see the Schuylkill Valley to the south. Another of the main outposts was at Swamp Creek Heights. Near the Swamp Door, this outpost guarded the Swamp Road and the camp; From this vantage point, the guards could see as far down the Schuylkill as Valley Forge. They reportedly had dug in for defense. An area thought to be a dugout is still recognizable.

Behind these hills, His Excellency General Washington conducted a Council of War on September 23. Seven Major Generals and six Brigadier Generals attended. Washington first informed them of the enemy fording the Schuylkill the previous night and marching toward Philadelphia. He stated that troops under Generals Wayne and Smallwood had not arrived and reinforcements under McDougall and Dickinson would arrive in a few days. According to Tinch Tilghman's notes of the Council, "...He therefore desired the opinion of the Council whether it would be most advisable to advance upon the Enemy without present force, or wait till the Reinforcements and detachments above mentioned, should come in" Washington then summarized the events of the last eight days. Tilghman continued, "His Excellency further informed the Council that the troops were in no condition to make a forced March, as many of them were bare-footed and all excessively harassed with their great Fatigue. The Question being then put, the Council were unanimously of opinion, that, from the present state of the Army it would not be advisable to advance upon the Enemy but remain upon this ground or in the Neighbourhood, till the detachments and expected Reinforcements come up." So ended the meeting. This was a surprise to Lafayette and the town of Bethlehem where he was recuperating. They expected a full retreat to their town.

So it was from Camp Pottsgrove, Fagleysville Heights, Swamp Door, Falkner Swamp, the Speck Creek, the Antes House, farms and villages for miles around that General Washington's troops left on September 26, the same day the British occupied Philadelphia. The first stop of Washington's Arny was at Pennypacker's Mill, followed by many others as they advanced toward the Enemy occupying Philadelphia.

The Continental Army met the British at the Battle of Germantown on October 4, 1777. Being defedted again, the American Army eventually moved to Valley Forge on December 16th to recover, regroup and retrain.

TRANSPORTATION

Skippack Pike is one of the oldest east-west roads in Montgomery County. In 1713, a group of settlers living in the area drained by the Skippack petitioned the courts in Philadelphia for a road from Skippack to Farmer's Mill in Whitemarsh. In 1725, the settlers of Hanover Township (later to be New Hanover) petitioned that the road be extended above Skippack to Swamp Creek. Skippack Pike, extending into Upper Frederick and New Hanover, is presently called Big Road or Route 73. The significance of this road can clearly be seen by the numerous settlements which grew up along the road. These settlements include the villages of Obelisk, Keelors Union Church, Frederick, and New Hanover Square where the road forks. The northern extension, called Hoffmansville Road, traverses through Hoffmansville and on to Sassamansville in Douglass Township. The southern extension, called the Big Road, travels through Layfield where it intersects with Route 663. This particular road opened up New Hanover and Upper Frederick to the east, which enabled farmers to ship goods to Philadelphia where there was a demand for products.

In 1723, another petition was submitted to the courts and Swamp Pike was constructed as a result. The road began at Limerick on the Reading Pike (Ridge Pike or the Great Road) and ran through New Hanover to Boyertown in Berks County. Swamp Pike travels through Fagleysville and New Hanover. This road provided the people of the lower portion of the township with access to Philadelphia and was used by the Continental Army to a large extent to move troops during the war.

Although the railroads have, to date, not entered the boundaries of either New Hanover or Upper Frederick, they were located to the east, following the Perkiomen Creek, and to the south, along the Schuylkill River. The proximity of the railroads to these townships allowed for easy shipments of goods to either railway. While the earliest settlements can be attributed to the roads laid out through the area, there can be no denying that the railroads contributed significantly to development in New Hanover and Upper Frederick.

FIRST PENNSYLVANIA COPPER MINE

The Old Perk Mines, in the Stone Hills, on the west branch of Swamp Creek which empties into the Perkiomen at Schwenksville, are noted on Schull's Map of Pennsylvania of 1759. However, their history dates back to the beginning of that century. They are the oldest mines of any kind in the state and, with one exception, the oldest mines in America. They are older than both the Grandy Mine of Connecticut (1705) and the Schuyler Mine of New Jersey (1715), and being preceded only by the Minisink Mines of New Jersey which were opened by the Dutch in 1650. The credit for discovery of copper ores in the Township belongs to the early explorers of the great tract of 25,000 acres of land, sold by William Penn to the German Company, formed by Daniel Falckner and his associates at the city of Frankfurt am Main, in Germany. This tract was surveyed for settlement in 1701, but according to records of those early days, the discovery of copper dates back to 1683 as described by Penn.

No shipment of ore was recorded until 1740. The mine's production fluctuated creating both high hopes and deep discouragement. At times, operations were suspended altogether. The work was intermittently carried forward until a few years prior to the Revolutionary War.

It is claimed that there was at that time a finely developed vein of rich copper in the mine. The Proprietors held a consultation and ordered the vein to be securely hidden and the leading openings sealed up, "so that in case the war should be terminated disastrously to them, the treasure should not fall in the hands of the enemy, but lost to the world." Work ceased, the mine was abandoned, and it has remained abandoned ever since. Several attempts have been made to discover the closed openings, one attempt in 1800 and another in 1830, but with no success.