UPPER PROVIDENCE TOWNSHIP

By F. M. Hobson

Bean’s 1884 History of Montgomery County

 

THE township of Upper Providence, as established in 1805, is bounded on the
north by Perkiomen township; on the east by the Perkiomen Creek, separating
it from Lower Providence; on the southwest by the Schulykill River and on
the northwest by Limerick township. Its length is nearly six miles, and
breadth three miles, and it contains twelve thousand and ninety-five acres
of land. The lands are nearly all productive, the assessment of 1882
showing the total value of real estate in the township to be $2,420,465;
number of taxable, 877. The census of 1880 shows the number of inhabitants
to be 3592, which is only surpassed, by two townships of the county, to
wit: Lower Merion and Pottsgrove.

From the formation of the township to the year 1832 the general elections
were held at the public-house of David Dewees Trapp; from 1832 to 1844, at
the tavern of Jacob Heebner, and from that date to the present at the “Lamb
Tavern,” Trappe, excepting since December 2 1878, the township being
divided into two election districts, the electors of the new, or Lower
District, have been voting at the Port Providence Band Hall.

The township elections are held at the public-house of Jacob Frederick,
known as the “Fountain Inn.” They have been held here since 1852 or 1853.
Before that time they were held at the house of Catharine Dewees, widow of
David Dewees.

The names of the justices of the peace up to the year 1838 are given in
Providence Township. Since that date the following persons have been
elected and have served in that office, with the respective dates of
their elections:
1840, 1845 and 1850, John Dismant
1840, 1845 and 1853, Matthias Haldeman
1850, Joshua Place
1855, 1860 and 1865, Samuel Hunsicker
1857, David Beard
1862, 1867, 1872 and 1877, Henry W. Kratz
1869 and 1874, Roger D. Shunk
1879, David R. Landis
1881, R. A. Grover
1882, Abraham D. Fetterolf.

The following constables have served in the township:

1807, George Urmiller
1808, Jacob Vanderslice
1809, Peter Waggonseller
1810, John Groves
1811, Jacob Shire
1812-14, Abraham Trechler
1815-16, Samuel Smith
1817-19, Christian Stetler
1820-21, Isaac Hallman
1822, Joseph Goodwin
1823, Philip Koons
1824, Abraham Showalter
1825-28, James Miller
1829-30, Henry Shields
1831, Jacob Shuler
1832-41, John Patterson
1842, Andrew Boyer
1843-46, Charles Tyson
1847-54, William Gristock
1855, Aaron Fretz
1856-58, Samuel Hendricks
1859, Henry Fox
1860-63, Israel Place
1864, Thomas Garber
1865, Joseph Walter
1866-69, Davis A. Raudenbush
1870, Abner W. Johnson
1871-75, David Hunsicker
1876-81, Francis R. Shupe
1882, Samuel R. Pugh
1883, William B. Logan, Jr.
1884, Jonas R. Umstead.

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The villages of Upper Providence are
Trappe
Freeland
Collegeville
Oaks
Green Tree
Port Providence and
Quineyville, or Mont Clare.

The post-offices are
Collegeville
Oaks
Port Providence
Trappe
Yerkes.

The oldest village, and the one around which clusters the richest
historical associations, is the ancient village of Trappe. Many men of
considerable importance in State and nation have been born and bred within
its limits or in its neighborhood. The first name of this village was
Landau. Samuel Seely bought one hundred and fifty acres of land in the
village October 19, 1762. This land lies on the west side of the turnpike
road, nearly opposite the Lutheran Church. Some time between 1762 and 1765,
Mr. Seely divided this land into town-lots, and named the town “Landau.” An
old draft shows fifty-seven lots thus laid out, the first nineteen fronting
on the old Manatawny road, called Front Street. The lots were sixty-six by
one hundred and sixty-five feet. The lots were all sold as follows:
No. 1, Peter Hicks
2, Israel Jacob
3, James Richardson
4, Thomas Bower
5, 34 and 35, Thomas Bunn
6, James Hamer
7, Richard Lewis
8, Joseph Ramsey
9, John Buckwalter
10, 16, 23 and 29, Joseph Seely
11, P. Flanagan
12 and 27, Adam Hallman
13 and 26, John Schrack
14, Jacob Peterman
15, George Essig
17, Edwin De Haven
19 and 20, Abraham Brosius
28, John Carter.

This town, which was expected, no doubt, by the founder, to rival the
metropolis, existed mostly on paper, and would, no doubt, have been
entirely lost had it not been recently rescued and brought to light by Dr.
James Hamer, of Collegeville.

About the time Mr. Seely was trying to impress this name upon the village
at the upper end another name was being applied to it at the lower end,
which was more successful. Before this the name of Trap or Trapp was given
to the hotel, which then stood on the present site of Mr. John Longstreth’s
house. From this hotel the village derived its name Trappe. Concerning the
origin of the name Trappe there has been considerable speculation. That the
name was of local origin seems the most reasonable. Two theories of the
origin of the name are worthy of attention, -the Muhlenberg and the Shunk
theories. The Rev. Henry Melchior Muldenberg, the venerable and honorable
founder of the Lutheran Church, made this entry in his journal kept at the time,-

“November 13, 1780 -Christian Schrack, who was buried yesterday was a son
of John Jacob Schrack, who came to this country in 1717 . . . They built a cabin
and a cave in which they cooked. They kept a small shop in a small way and
a tavern with beer with and such things. As once an English inhabitant, who
had been drinking in the cave, fell asleep, and came home late, and was in
consequence scolded by his wife, he excused himself by saying he had been at
the Trap. From that time this neighborhood is called Trapp, and is known as
such in all America.”

That this is the true origin of the name seems the more probable for
several reasons,-

1. Muhlenberg lived right in the vicinity from 1745, and no man had better
facilities for knowing. He speaks without doubt.

2. In the oldest deeds, advertisements and papers the name of the place is
spelled Trap afterwards, for many years, Trapp and Trap. Very few papers
of the last centuries are spelled Trappe.

3. In 1760, John Schrack, son of John Jacob Schrack above spoken of,
advertises the hotel in Sower’s newspaper, and calls it “Trapp” Hotel.

4. On Howell’s map, 1792, it is called “Trapp.”

5. The post-office, when established in 1819, was by the name of Trap.

6. The first hotel licensed by the court of Montgomery County, in 1784, was
this same hotel. The record roads “License granted to George Brook, ‘The
Trap’ hotel, Providence township,” and was granted for many years under the
same name.

Thus the change is gradual, but marked,–T-r-a-p, T-r-a-p-p, T-r-a-p-p-e.

The “Shunk theory,” so called from being advocated by Governor Shunk, was
to the effect that at this Schrack’s tavern there were very high steps
leading to the front door. As a poor fellow, the worse for drink, went
headlong down the steps, he exclaimed, “Verdaint die Treppe!” and from this
event the hotel received its name, “Treppe” being the German word for steps.

This theory seems fatally defective, in that the history of the orthography
of the name has changed, contrary to the way it should if the theory were
true. It was, however, stoutly maintained by Governor Francis R. Shunk. The
author has in his possession a letter from the Governor, giving his views
in full and arguing that the name of the village should be spelled T-r-e-p-
p-e. The discussion as to the origin of the name of the village, and how
the same should be spelled, at length gave rise to a public meeting, which
was held in February, 1835. Matthias Haldeman and Francis R. Shunk were the
champions for “Treppe” or “Trappe,” while Hon. Wright A. Bringhurst and Hon.
Jacob Fry, Jr., championed the “Trap” or “Trapp.” At that meeting the majority
determined that the proper name was Trapp.

In 1795 Trappe contained twelve houses. In 1832 it contained two,
taverns, two stores and fifteen houses. In 1858 there were two hotels,
three stores, three churches and about forty houses, now increased to
upwards of sixty. Washington Hall Collegiate Institute was founded in 1830,
and is now in charge of Professor Abel Rambo, for several years county
superintendent of public schools.

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The post-office was established here about 1819, with John Todd as
postmaster. He was succeeded by Matthias Haldeman. Where is now the
dwelling-house of Philip Willard stood, before the Revolution, an inn,
called the “Duke of Cumberland,” which was kept as early as 1758. Father
Muhlenberg, during the Revolution, complains that there was then no hotel
in the place, while before, when there was not one-half as much travel, the
village boasted of three public-houses.

Collegeville, or Freeland, as the same village is indiscriminately
called, and Perkiomen Bridge, as it was formerly known, as eight miles
north of Norristown, and one of the most beautiful villages of the county.
Perkiomen Bridge is the oldest name, dating back to 1799, the time of the
completion of the stone bridge across the Perkiomen at that place. The
first post-office was established here in 1847. Edward Evans was appointed
postmaster, and the office named Perkiomen Bridge. In 1848, Henry A.
Hunsicker built a boarding-school for young men. This he called Freeland
Seminary of Perkiomen Bridge. Soon the village around the school took its
name from its school, and was called Freeland.

In 1861 the post-office of Perkiomen Bridge was removed to the store of
Frank M. Hobson, who was appointed postmaster. The following year the name
of the post-office was changed to Freeland.

About 1855 an effort was made to have this village called Townsend, in
honor of Samuel Townsend, who had removed from Philadelphia, and in the
county map published about this time the village is called Townsend; but
this name did not last long.

When the Perkiomen Railroad was opened there was a bitter fight over
the name of the station. The railroad company finally decided to give a new
name to their station, and accordingly called it Collegeville. In 1869 the
post-office was removed to the station and the name was changed to
Collegeville. Since that time a bitter fight for the name of the village has
been waged, each person calling the village the name best suiting his fancy.

The village of Port Providence was first known as “Jacobs.” In 1820,
Thomas Jones was an extensive lumber dealer in West Chester; he bought land
here and built a landing to unload lumber coining by the canal. From this
fact it was called Lumberville, which name it retained for many years. The
people, desiring a post-office, found “Lumberville” already appropriated,
and then determined to call the post-office Port Providence, which name
soon attached itself also to the village.

Mont Clare, or Quineyville, is situated just opposite the borough of
Phoenixville, Chester Co. Its residents are mostly engaged in business or
work in the adjoining borough. There is now a station of the Pennsylvania
Schuylkill Valley Railroad established here, called Mont Clare Station.

The opening of the Perkiomen Railroad is responsible for establishing three
new villages in the township, viz.: Oaks, Arcola and Yerkes. The people in
the vicinity asked that their station be named Oakland. The railroad
company named it simply Oaks, as there was another station in the State of
the name suggested. A post-office is now here of the same name. Arcola was
first known as “Water-Tank”, next as “Doe Run” Station, but lately named
Arcola, after the large mills of Messrs. Wetherill & Co. There is a very
small village here. “Yerkes” is so called after Mr. Isaac Yerkes, a
respectable citizen, and the owner of the land on which the station was
established. Quite a village is now growing up around it, with a post-
office of the same name recently established.

John Robinson undertook, in 1763, to locate one of the largest towns of
Eastern Pennsylvania in the township of Providence. Robinson had made great
preparations for the sale of lots, offering three hundred and fifty lots at
public sale, on February 10, 1763. Quite a number were sold. The following
year another one hundred lots were offered. This town was entirely upon
paper, on its site are now a few houses and one store, called Providence
Square, situated midway between Collegeville and Phoenixville.