Welcome to Historic Boyertown
Boyertown’s history goes back more than a century before the war for independence. As early as 1601, the acres composing present day town were part of a grant given to Thomas Baylor in Bristol, England. At that time, the area’s rolling hills were covered with virgin timber the likes of which are known only by records settlers kept.
Thomas Baylor did not settle the land. King Charles II of England gave the land to William Penn as a debt payment. It was suggested that the land be named New Wales or Sylvania but the king decided to call it Pennsylvania, meaning “Penn’s Woods” would be more appropriate. Penn called this land a “holy experiment” as he wanted it to be settled by those who sought refuge from religious persecution. Soon after Penn established his “Holy Experiment”, the German refugees came to Pennsylvania in 1683 and settled the Germantown area of Philadelphia. As the area grew, several German settlers moved westward where many excelled at farming and animal care.
Since 1738, the settlers of the country far to the west of Philadelphia had tried to establish a new county because of the difficulty in transacting legal business in the county seat of Philadelphia. This was finally accomplished on March 11, 1752 when Berks became the seventh county with Reading as the county seat. By 1811, the population of Berks was 3,000.
During this same time, a vital industry in the area began to grow – mining of iron ore. In 1716, Thomas Rutter came to the area to start a business. He left Germantown and came to the banks of the Manatawny Creek where he built a forge called “Pool Forge”. As he started other businesses, he named them after places in England. Names such as Warwick, Stowe, Coventry and Colebrookdale still exist today.
In Germantown, there also lived a Welsh family named Potts. Thomas Potts had been born in Wales, brought up among Germans and educated by the Quakers. He also went to the Manatawny iron area where he joined Rutter at the Colebrookdale furnace and forge.
In 1830, Thomas Potts acquired 250 acres of the Colebrookdale Estate from the Rutters. Here he erected a large house and called it Popodickon after an Indian chief named Popodick. This mansion still stands near Gablesville. Other mines opened and flourished.
Rich deposits of iron and vast forests began powering development at Pine Forge, Pennsylvania’s and the nation’s, first ironworks located on the banks of the fast moving Manatawny Creek. Soon the area was teeming with iron furnaces pouring huge quantities of molten iron for homes and industry. The first Franklin stove, invented by Benjamin Franklin, was cast in 1742. In 1759, the Swedish Reverend Acrelius noted that Eastern Pennsylvania’s ironworks were the most advanced in all the American colonies. By 1771, eastern Pennsylvania was pouring 15% of the world’s iron, more than Great Britain’s iron industry was smelting at the time.
Once the war for independence started, a need developed for iron ore and other goods and services. This is when the Indian trails of Berks County became major roads. One of these roads was the “Great Road” (now RT 422) that ran between Philadelphia and Reading. In 1723, a road serving the Colebrookdale mines was laid through Greshville and Pine Forge, fording the Manatawny at Douglassville and climbing a hill where it met the “Great Road”. These roads formed an important intersection for the Colebrookdale Iron Works.
During the American Revolution the ironmasters of Pennsylvania’s original iron region were able to “learn by doing”, and they discovered how to produce cannons, shot and shells for General George Washington, even though they had previously made no weapons of war. As the war raged on, the ironmasters became militia leaders and officers in the Continental Army, while their furnaces continued to produce iron goods.
In 1690, the Mennonite meeting house was built on land purchased from Henry Stauffer. Here they held service every 4 weeks. This building also served as the areas first school. This building was located on North Reading Avenue near the old post office.
Henry K. Boyer became attracted to the area and purchased property across from the meeting house. There he built a fine house and blacksmith shop. The log house became a popular rest stop for travelers, and soon became known as “Boyers”.
Henry’s brother, Daniel, started a small merchandising business in a corner closet of the Inn. The number of patrons increased so Daniel built a store on land across from the Inn and continued growing his business. The brothers became very successful; Henry as a land and mine owner and Daniel as a store owner. Henry eventually moved his business to Reading and Daniel remained to carry on the business at “Boyer’s Corner”.
In 1814, a joint venture between the Lutheran and the Reformed churches resulted in the building of the Union Church (where Good Shepherd stands today).
1818 brought the first public school to the area. It was located at the corner of what is now Philadelphia Avenue and Washington Street.
1819 saw the enlargement of the Mennonite meeting house. The old log structure was torn down and a new large structure was built in its place.
Now that the town was supporting 2 churches and a school, a mail service was needed. This was provided by “post riders” and the stage coach once or twice a week. People gathered at Boyers’ Inn to await the mail’s arrival. On February 14, 1828, the Post Office of Boyertown was officially established with Daniel Boyer as the postmaster.
1849 brought advanced education to Boyertown with the establishment of the Mt. Pleasant Seminary. By 1855, it housed 50 boarding students and 75 day students. This building is located on West Philadelphia Avenue near College Street.
Boyers’ Inn changed hands when William Binder took over its management and replaced the small log structure with a magnificent brick building. He renamed it the Union House and it still stands today as the Boyertown Inn.
As early as 1851, a petition for incorporation has been drafted, signed by 13 residents, and sent to the county courts where it was rejected. The residents appealed again in April 1866. Not everyone was in favor of the incorporation. Fearing higher taxes would result to benefit only the town officials, ten members of the opposition drafted a letter of protest which was filed on August 6, 1866. Disregarding the protest, the Grand Jury granted the town’s request for incorporation on October 20, 1866.
Finally the citizens of Boyertown could conduct their own affairs, including free schools. Soon, Boyertown emerged as a manufacturing center, producing everything from cigars produced from local tobacco, carriages and other vehicles used on local farms, caskets that became world renown, and some of the first car and truck bodies manufactured in America, by businesses housed in the beautiful Victorian buildings that still stand today.