Township History

Township Erected  I  Early Prominent Families  I  Revolutionary History

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Towns and Villages

This article reprinted from the HISTORY OF BERKS COUNTY IN PENNSYLVANIA by Morton L. Montgomery, member of the Berks County Bar, dated 1886, published by Everts, Peck & Richards.

The Indians loved the Maxatawny country, and lingered there long after they had left other parts of the county, maintaining a friendly attitude towards the settlers. They had a place of burial in what is now a field of the Charles Deisher farm, and a tradition prevails that many hundreds of them were buried there, including their implements of warfare. Many relics were taken from that place in years gone by. Frequent cultivation of the ground has almost entirely obliterated the evidences that it was once their burial-place. There is a tradition that a stalwart Indian remained several years after the others had gone, as if loath to leave the scenes of his childhood. He was known by the unpoetic name of "Kneebuckle," and he lived on the banks of the Sacony, subsisting on the fish and game, which his skillful hands enabled him to capture. He was kind in his dealings with the early settlers and beloved by those who knew him. He suddenly disappeared.

Township Erected
A petition was presented to the Court of Quarter Sessions of Philadelphia County on September 6, 1742, praying for the erection of a new township out of a part of said county. George Boone, Esq., a draft of which was attached to the petition; and William Parsons, surveyor-general of the province, certified that the survey did not interfere with any other township, made the survey of the tract of land proposed for the township. And the township was erected on the same day. The following statement is a copy of the record in the office of the court mentioned. The petition could not be found.

"Upon the Petition of several of the Inhabitants of the County of Philadelphia, situate at a Place called Maxatawny, setting forth that they
had been settled in that part of this County for several years and paid Taxes and County Levies, and that the said Place is now become very populous, praying this Court would be pleased to view and examine a Draught of a Tract of Land to the said Petition annexed, and would erect the same into a Township by the following Bounds, viz.: Beginning in Bucks County Line and from thence running South West one thousand seven hundred and sixty perches; thence North West one thousand three hundred and sixty perches; thence North East one thousand seven hundred and sixty perches to Bucks County Line; thence along the same South East one thousand three hundred and sixty perches to the place of Beginning, containing fourteen thousand nine hundred and sixty Acres of Land."

"The Court having taken the said petition into consideration and the Surveyor-General of this province having certified to the court that the several Courses and bounds of said Township petitioned for do not interfere with any other Township, The said Tract of Land bounded as aforesaid, containing fourteen thousand nine hundred and sixty Acres of Land, is now erected by the Court into a Township by the name of Maxatawny."

The name of the Township was derived from an Indian word, Machksithanne, meaning Bear's Path Creek.

Early Prominent Families
During the early history of the township the most prominent public men were the Levans, the Zimmermans, the Gehrs, the Groscups, and the Hottensteins.

Jacob Levan was one of the county justices from 1752 to 1760; Sebastian Levan was a member of the Provincial Committee for Pennsylvania in 1775. Sebastian Zimmerman was a county justice from 1767 to 1771, and again from 1778 to 1784. Baltzer Gehr held numerous public offices, as is elsewhere shown, and Paul Groscup was scarcely less prominent; he was one of the best penmen in his day. The Hottensteins are of noble origin and came to America in 1727, settling first in Oley, but three years later in Maxatawny, where they leased from the proprietors upwards of five hundred acres of land. The Levans became a numerous family, and owned many tracts of land. Jacob and John Levan lived near Kutztown, where some of their descendants still own the original settlement. Others lived in the western part of the township, where they had the first mill, and intermarried with the Siegfried family, also early settlers and large land-owners, in what is still known as Siegfried's Dale. At one time the two families had more than a thousand acres of the choicest lands, lying in different tracts. The Biebers, from Chester County, were early settlers near Kutztown, John Bieber being one of the older members. Another family by that name, having among them John and Dewalt, came from Montgomery County and settled north of the Kemp tavern. On the opposite side lived Nicholas Kutz, and his son Nicholas, who were not of the same family as George Kutz, founder of Kutztown. Members of both families still remain in the township. At Kemp's tavern Daniel Levan and his son Daniel lived until 1788, when George Kemp became the owner, continuing the tavern already opened. He was a justice of the peace thirty-four years, and his son John for twenty years, living still on the homestead at an advanced age. The former was the grandson of Dewalt Kemp, who settled on the farm now owned by Nathan Kemp about 1730. His daughters married into the Hottenstein and Bieber families.

Casper Wink, married to Gertrude Kemp, was also one of the early settlers. They reared six children; Catherine, the eldest daughter, born in 1728, and Theobald, the eldest son, in 1733. The latter was the father of sons named Philip, John, Peter, Jacob (a Revolutionary soldier) and Dewalt. His daughters married Isaac Roberts, Jacob Levan, John Heidenreich (father of Judge Wm. S. Heidenreich), John Hausman and Daniel Kemp. A brother of Theobald Wink, John Peter, born in 1745, went to the Revolutionary War and never returned. Dewalt Wink, son of Theobald, born in 1776, was married to a daughter of George A. Fister, also a Revolutionary soldier, and who was the grandfather of Colonel Thomas A. Fister. He was the father of eleven sons and two daughters, among the former being John G. Wink, of Kutztown. Casper Wink was a Catholic and a faithful colonist, having his allegiance certified, which reads as follows:

"I hereby certify that Casper Wink, of Berks County, State of Pennsylvania, hath voluntarily taken and subscribed the oath of allegiance and Fidelity, as directed by an Act of General Assembly of Pennsylvania, passed on the 13th day of June A.D. 1777."

"Witness my hand and seal, the 26th day of May, A.D. 1778.
Peter Trexler, Esq."

A similar paper was procured by Davold (Theobald) Wink November 3, 1777, and was attested by Samuel Ely. These interesting papers are now in possession of John G. Wink. Casper Wink was buried on his farm, which is still owned by a member of the family in the sixth generation.

Jacob Hinterleiter was a large landowner near Topton. He was the father of Daniel Hinterleiter, of Kutztown, born in 1800, and grandfather of W. C. Hinterleiter. George, another son, moved to New York. At Eagle Point, the Kroningers were early settlers. One of the family, Daniel, became a very old man. John George Sell, living near Kutztown, also became very aged. At Bowers the DeLong family were early and prominent settlers, the church at that place being often called by that name.

Southeast of Kutztown lived Peter Wanner (born where Fleetwood now is), who also became very old, dying at the age of ninety-two years. He was the father of sons named Peter, Daniel, Samuel, Thomas, and John, the latter being the father
of J. Daniel Wanner and Dr. Charles H. Wanner of Kutztown, and of Amos B. Wanner, of Reading. Numerous other settlers in the Township attained a great age, bordering on a century.

Revolutionary History
In reference to the Revolutionary history of the Township, Professor Ermentrout says

"In the War for Independence, Maxatawny was not passive. From John G. Wink, one of the most intelligent citizens of Maxatawny, we learn that Washington's army marched through Kutztown. Eye-witnesses informed him that it came from Easton, and encamped for a time in the valley between the present residence of John Kemp, Esq., and the farm of Daniel Zimmerman in Maxatawny. Washington and his wife were with the soldiers. Mrs.Sassaman, for some years deceased, used to delight in telling her visitors that Mrs. Washington, who lodged in the house of her father, John Gross, lifted her on her lap, and soothed her with caresses. On their way from Trenton, by way of Easton, to the well-known camp at Reading, the captured Hessians were marched through Kutztown."

"It is interesting also to know that, whilst the battle at Germantown, 1777, was raging, the thunders of the cannon fell upon the ears of the inhabitants Kutztown and vicinity; that after the battle of Brandywine, 1777, a regiment of the American army encamped on the farms now owned by the Hottensteins, and, on leaving, impressed the horses and wagons of the people; and that George Kemp, Esq., was one of the wagon-masters who were present at the battle of Germantown."

"In Maxatawny there were still living in 1840 the following Revolutionary pensioners: Henry Grim, aged seventy-five; Frederick Bower, eighty-three; Jacob Wink, eighty-two; Philip Noyes, eighty-four; Christian Schmick, seventy-six. To this list we add the names of William Marx, Sr., and son William, Casper Wink (buried on Squire Kemp's farm), Jacob Esser, Peter Kutz, George Pfister, Peter Wink, Philip Wink and Doldridge. On January 7, 1857, Matthias Roth died in Rockland Township, aged seventy-eight years. On the last Monday of November, 1836, another died, Peter Klein, Esq., of Greenwich Township, aged seventy-seven years, who was buried at Dunkel's Church."

"On the farm of J. Bieber, Jr., in Maxatawny, stands the Mammoth White Oak of Berks. It may be justly called the Centennial White Oak of Pennsylvania. On the 15th of September 1877, one hundred years will have passed by since the baggage train of General Washington's army, on its retreat from the battlefield of Germantown, sought and found protection under and around this Revolutionary tree. It is said that two centuries have looked upon this oak; and competent judges assure us that it is now sturdy enough to defy the storms of another hundred years, and may wave its branches in honor of the Centennial of 1976. One foot above the ground it measures twenty-eight feet in circumference, and ten feet above it begins to stretch forth twenty-seven limbs, some of which are three feet in diameter."

The oldest tavern in the Township and first opened to the public is the "Kemp Tavern," one mile from Kutztown, on the Easton Road. It was opened probably as early as 1740, by Daniel Levan, and since 1788 has belonged to the Kemp family. George Kemp kept the tavern fifty-two years and was succeeded by his son, John, who still owns the property. For many years, the Half-Way House" in Richmond township, and this one were the only public-houses on the State road between Reading and Allentown. Part of the present house was built by George Kemp in 1795, and the addition by John Kemp in 1852. It is a long stone building, and though large, was often taxed to its uttermost to accommodate the many travelers who visited or passed through that section before the era of railroads. Not only were all the sleeping rooms occupied, but the bar-room was frequently filled with sleeping teamsters and peddlers. In this part of the township, Dr. David Hottenstein was a practicing physician many years and was followed by his grandson, Oscar Hottenstein, now in practice at that place. Farther up the State road, in the Zimmerman neighborhood, George Bohn had a store from 1817 on for the next eighteen years, when the place was converted into farm property. Soon after 1800, when the State road was extended through this section, the Siegfried Inn (north of Kroningersville) was opened to afford entertainment for the public. It has been maintained since.

On the Sacony, below Kutztown, the Bieber family had a pioneer mill, John W. Bieber being for a long time the owner. In a repaired condition this grist-mill (with saw-mill attached) is now operated by Charles Kutz. The first mill in Maxatawny was on Mill Creek, near the hamlet of Eagle Point, and owned by Jacob Levan. A new mill, on the same site, is now the property of Charles Levan. Near by was formerly a tannery, also carried on by the Levans, but long since discontinued, John Levan having been the last to operate it. Another mill, on the same stream, was built by Daniel Siegfried and after a time also became the property of the Levans and is now owned by George Levan. That locality is locally known as Siegfried's Dale, on account of the early improvements made there by members of that family. North of Bower's, on a branch of the Sacony, the Grims had a good grist-mill, long operated by Daniel Grim, and which is still carried on by the family of Charles Trexler. The present is the second mill, a substantial stone building.

The East Penn Furnaces, at Lyons, were built in the summer of 1871, on sixteen acres of land, secured from the farm of Daniel Angstadt, by the East Penn Iron Company, which had among its members John Deisher, William Grim, David Kern, Benjamin Helfrich, Amos Barto, Daniel Angstadt, Levi Kutz and Jacob Haag. John T. Noble, of Pottsville, Pa., was the contractor and builder. This large establishment cost over two hundred thousand dollars. Franklin Brownback was the first manager for the company. It was operated for four years and then the property passed into the hands of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company, which still controls it. A fire destroyed the engine-house and damaged the furnace to such an extent that is has been out of blast the past five years.

At Bower's, a small furnace was erected in the summer of 1883, by S. Good and Jacob Smith. Before it was put into a blast a storm destroyed the casting-house and otherwise damaged the property so that is has never been repaired. Subsequently Smith became the sole owner.

Iron-ore abounds in the township and is usually of a good quality, yielding about forty per cent. of pure metal. On the Jacob Glasser farm, east of Kutztown, some of the first mining operations were carried on. Some of this ore was supplied to "Sally Ann" and "Mary Ann" Furnaces many years ago. Since 1870 mining has been carried on more extensively, with the aid of modern methods and machinery; about sixty men are employed at the mines. At Rothrocksville profitable mines are worked. At Bower's extensive shipments are made by Schweyer & Leiss, the Thompson Iron Company, Isaac Bieber, C. W. Kutz and Kauffman & Eckert, the ore being mined within a radius of a few miles of that place. Extensive limestone quarries are operated by the Clymer Iron Company, of Temple, averaging fifty tons per day. The stone quarried there is superior for smelting purposes.

In 1852 Maxatawny accepted the common-school system and organized its first board at the house of David A. Hottenstein, May 16th, of that year. The first directors were Sam. Kutz, Dan. Hinterleiter, Sam. Bernhart, Peter Deysher, Henry Wagenhorst and Henry Heffner. At the first examination, held October 8, 1852, certificates were granted to Jacob Gehr, Benneville Stimmel, John Humbert and Jonas Hoch; on October 23, 1951, to William Levan, Isaac Fisher and Samuel Bernet; on November 13th to a Mr. Fisher and Benjamin Dornblaser.

Many of the districts have been provided with good school buildings and supplied with the necessary books and charts for conducting the schools successfully. The school-house at Lyons is the largest one outside of Kutztown. It is a two-story brick, erected in 1876, and cost one thousand two hundred and forty-seven dollars. In it are maintained two well-attended schools.

Maxatawny Church (Reformed and Lutheran)is located at the village of Bower's. It is, next to the St. John's Church, at Kutztown, the oldest in Maxatawny, and one of the oldest in the eastern part of the county. For the first one hundred years of its existence it was the exclusive property of the Reformed congregation, the union not having been formed until 1859. The first house of worship was a log building, erected in 1759, on three acres of ground which had been donated for that purpose by John Sharadin, Peter DeLong and Andreas Haag, each giving one acre, "to be used as long as the sun and moon shine." Subsequently additions were made to the church property until it now contains about eight acres. Most of this is included in the cemetery, which is well inclosed and contains some fine monuments. The first church stood on this donated land. The second building was constructed of stone was located very nearly on the site of the present edifice. It was erected in 1808 and served its purpose until 1871, when it was demolished to make place for the imposing structure which is now the spiritual home of the two congregations. It is of brick, fifty by seventy feet, and has a stately steeple containing a bell weighing one thousand six hundred and ninety-four pounds. A smaller bell, of three hundred and twenty pounds weight, is used by the Sunday-school. These bells were provided in 1872.

The Reformed congregation had the Rev. M. J. Schalter as its first minister, although he did not sustain a pastoral relation. Others who preached from 1759 to 1772 were the Revs. Fritz and Philip J. Michiel, neither of whom succeeded in building up the congregation spiritually, and it is said "left it in a wretched condition."

As specimens of these leaders of the people, may be mentioned a Mr. Fritz, who, on one occasion, ascended the pulpit of DeLong church in a state of beastly intoxication! He announced his text: 'if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.' Repeating his text, with emphasis, he lost his balance and tumbled down the high pulpit stairs, with the last words, 'follow me,' in his mouth! One of the elders arose in his seat, and earnestly addressing the people, exclaimed, 'No brethren, we will not follow him!' He was immediately sent away."

The real history of the church begins with 1772, when the venerable Rev. John Henry Helfrich became the pastor. His Christian piety and exemplary life exerted a great influence for good in the many years of service which he gave to the church. He died December 5, 1810, and his remains repose in the Sassamashausen burial-ground, in Maxatawny. His successor was the Rev. Charles G. Herman, beginning his ministry in August, 1810, and also served the congregation until his death, in 1863, a period covering fifty-three years.
He was recognized as one of the ablest ministers in this section of the State. His son, the Rev. Alfred J. Herman, had previously begun to officiate as the pastor and he still faithfully serves the congregation. The membership is about four hundred.

The Lutheran congregation had as its first acceptable pastor the Rev. Alfred D. Croll. He left the old Synod and connected himself with the East Pennsylvania synod, in consequence of which St. Paul's Church at Lyons was built.

His successor was the Rev. S. R. Boyer and since the fall of 1872, the present pastor, the Rev. David K. Humbert. The congregation has about one hundred and ten members.

Zion's Church (Lutheran and Reformed), commonly called Siegfried's from those who took an active part in its erection, is in the northern part of the township. It was built in 1828, on one and a half acres of land, a part of which is set aside for cemetery purposes. Lately, half an acre more was donated to the church by Mrs. Matilda Kohler. The building is of stone.

The Lutheran congregation had for its first pastor the venerable Rev. Gottlob F. J. Iaeger, who was succeeded by the Rev. Isaac Roeller, and, since 1862, by the present Rev. B. E. Kramlich. The congregation numbers about two hundred and fifty members.

The first pastor of the Reformed congregation was the Rev. Charles G. Herman; the next the Rev. A. J. Herman, under whose ministrations the congregation flourished. The membership is about two hundred.

Saint Paul's Lutheran Church, of the East Pennsylvania Synod, at Lyons, is an offspring of the old Maxatawny Church. It was erected in 1868, being a brick edifice with an auditorium and basement-rooms, having a capacity for three hundred persons. Those active in building it were Levi L. Springer, Jacob Rohrbach, Reuben Grim, David Fisher, Solomon Yoder, Willoughby Fenstermaker, William L. Grim, Charles G. Cline and John Deisher.

The Rev. Alfred D. Croll, was the first pastor, continuing until his death, June 19, 1876, at the age of thirty-seven years. He was a native of Albany township, but was reared in Maxatawny. He was an eloquent minister, and under his pastorate the church flourished. The next pastor was the Rev. W. I. Cutter; afterward the pulpit was filled by supplies for a number of years. The later ministers were the Revs. Edward E. Baron, J. H. Singmaster and the present Rev. George W. Fritch. The congregation numbers sixty members.

Mr. Reed is superintendent of a Sunday-school which numbers eighty-five teachers and scholars.

East of the village is a cemetery of two acres, well improved, which is the property of St. Paul's Church.

Zion's Church, Evangelical Association, in the village of Lyons, is a plain frame building, twenty-eight by forty feet, which has as its trustees, in 1885, David Fegeley, Solomon Fegeley and Charles Parks. The members number only twenty-three, and the ministerial service is supplied by ministers in the Kutztown Circuit. A Sunday-school is connected with the church, consisting of one hundred and twenty-three members, with David Fegeley as superintendent.

Towns and Villages
Bower's is a pleasant village in the southern part of the township, on a branch of the Sacony. It is a station on the East Pennsylvania Railroad, with about two hundred inhabitants, a church, and a number of very fine residences. The place was named after Jonas Bower, the owner of the farm on which the village was laid out by him in 1859. That year he converted the farm-house, which had been built in 1820, into a hotel, which was afterward kept by Amos Bower, Jacob Hill, James Fegeley, Geo. B. Yoder and Henry P. Schoedler. The first new building was put up in 1859 by E. J. Knoske, a part of which became the store of the place, being first occupied for mercantile purposes by Boyer and Knoske. A large number of persons have traded there, among others being Levi H. Leiss and William Seidel. In it was established the Bower's Station post-office, in June 1860, with E. G. Knoske as the first postmaster. The office is at present kept by Wm. F. Seidel. The ground for the railroad station was donated by Jonas Bower and Daniel Grim, and the station-house was built by the first agent, E. G. Knoske, who occupied it, in part, as a warehouse to carry on his business as a coal and grain dealer. It has since been used in the same way by the successive agents. C W. Kutz is the present agent.

The only active industry of the village is the marble-yard of Schweyer & Leiss, established in 1863, by D. H. Schweyer. That year he purchased the Sell mill, in Rockland township, and fitted up the same for sawing marble into shapes for dealers and cutters. In 1865, Levi H. Leiss became a partner. Three years later they formed a connection with the Easton Marble Company, which is still maintained. In 1882, they purchased the blue marble quarries at "King of Prussia," in Montgomery County, and marble-mills at that point, which gave them facilities for carrying on business on a very extensive scale. The quarry is one of the best in the State. The shipments at Bower's amount to about twenty-five thousand dollars per year. Ten men are employed at the Bower's yard and at the mills in Rockland.

Kroningersville is a small hamlet, about three miles from Kutztown, near the Greenwich line. It derived its name from Daniel Kroninger, a land-owner at that point, who also carried on the coach-maker's trade. The shop is still kept open by the family. A store and tavern were started at that point, about twenty years ago, by J. P. T. Haas. The former has been discontinued, but the tavern is still carried on by James Mertz. In August, 1862, a post-office was established there with the name of "Eagle Point." Since that time the locality is frequently called by the same name.

Monterey. The first improvements of a business nature were made about 1830 by Israel and Jonathan Wertman, who opened a store, when the place became known as Weisport. At a later day Isaac L. Bieber built a tavern, which was first kept by one of the Wertmans. In May, 1847, The post-office was established, with the name of Monterey, and Joshua Miller as postmaster. The present store building was put up by Henry Lowe. At present James Fisher is engaged in trade, and he is also the inn-keeper and postmaster. A cabinet-shop was formerly carried on by David Zimmerman. The hamlet contains but a few houses. Ten years ago a cooperative store was opened under the auspices of the Patrons of Husbandry, but it was kept up only a short time. At present a regular store is carried on by John G. Shofer. The place has a few houses and a shop.

Rothrocksville is situated in the township, near the Lehigh County line, and took its name from its founder, Dr. Jonas Rothrock, and eccentric physician, who located there about 1830. He followed his profession and at the same time kept a public-house. Afterwards he was a justice of the peace. It is said that he had a quarrelsome disposition and that his neighbors lived in dread of him. In the later years of his life he moved to Reading, where he was an object of public charity on account of his having become a cripple. He frequently visited the courthouse and afforded the clerks much amusement. He was a devoted Democrat and was earnest in his expressions for the party. The village has about thirty dwellings, several mechanic-shops, a store and a tavern. At one time there were two public-houses, both having been built by Rothrock, who kept the new one at the same time that Christian Swoyer had the old one. The inn-keeper in 1885 was Stephen Rohrbach. In this house is kept the Maxatawny post-office. It is supplied with a daily mail. The first store was kept by Daniel Clader. The present merchants are Stephen Smith and Martin Croll (Smith & Croll), who do an extensive business. Dr. Milton Richards is the physician of the village, having located there several years ago.

This article reprinted from the HISTORY OF BERKS COUNTY IN PENNSYLVANIA by Morton L. Montgomery, member of the Berks County Bar, dated 1886, published by Everts, Peck & Richards.

Township Erected  I  Early Prominent Families  I  Revolutionary History

Taverns  I  Mills  I  Furnaces  I  Iron-Ore  I  Schools  I  Churches
Towns and Villages


Maxatawny Township Office
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