History of Upper Marion, Pa.
From: Montgomery County, Pennsylvania A History
By: Clifton S. Hunsicker
Published By Lewis Historical Publishing Company, New York & Chicago 1923


Upper Marion - This township is situated on the south side of the Schuylklll river and is bounded on the northwest, north and northeast by that stream, on the northeast by Bridgeport borough, on the southeast by West Conshohocken and Lower Marion township, on the south by the counties of Chester and Delaware, and on the southwest by Chester. Its area is 10,200 acres, as originally organized, but with the Incorporation of the borough of Bridgeport 450 acres were taken from it. Again, In 1874 about 290 acres were taken from It by the borough of West Conshohocken. Shale and limestone is chiefly the makeup of its soil. The principal elevations are known as Mount Joy, Red Hill, Flint Hill, North Valley Hill, Rebel Hill, and Gulf Hill. Probably the most fertile portion of all Montgomery county is in this township, along the Schuylkill, between Bridgeport and Gulf creek, extending west for a mite or so. The Swedes in taking up this land showed good judgment, and were later well paid for their selection of locations. The township is not a well watered section; the springs do not form neverfailing streams. The streams are known as Elliott's run, or Crow creek, Matsunk, Mashilmac creek, and Gulf creek, the largest of them all. This is near the Lower Merion line. It is a rapid stream, rising in Delaware county, emptying into the Schuylkill river at West Conshohocken. East Valley creek for a mile forms the western boundary of the township and propels numerous paper mills, etc. At Port Kennedy, also at Bridgeport, are fine springs. The present industries of the township are open books to all men who care to read, but it should be stated that forty years and more ago, it was written that the wealth of this township was from its mines and quarries. It then had three large iron furnaces, one at Port Kennedy and two at Bridgeport. Lime has always been a large product here and has been the base of many a fortune. In 1840 the census reports gave the lime products prepared here as worth $74,000 annually. Since then the industry has grown wonderfully. In 1882 there was sold from this township more than $200,000 worth of lime, more than for all the county in 1845. The marble quarries here have developed into gigantic interests. (See Industrial chapter.) The population of the township has been at various times as follows: In 1800 it was 993; in 1840, 2,804; in 1880, 3,275; in 1900, 3,480, and in 1920 it had 4,005. In May, 1876 the list of licenses showed the number In this township to have been on three inns, eight stores, three coal yards, three dealers in flour and feed, four gristmitls, eight cotton and woolen mills, three iron furnaces, two marble mills, and other lesser industries. (See Church and Educational chapters for such topics relative to this part of the county.)

The villages found here forty and fifty years ago have only grown to small outlying suburbs to Norristown, Bridgeport and Conshohocken. These include Swedesburg, next east to Bridgeport; Matsunk, came into existence since 1846, is a mile below Swedesburg; King of Prussia, near the center of the township, itd name given by an innkeeper of the locality, John Elliott, in 1786. The stone bridge over Elliott's run was built in 1835. Here a post office was established in about 1826. Its original name was Reesville. Another village is Gulf Mills, where an inn was kept in 1786 by John Roberts. Its sign was "Bird-In-Hand." Merion station on the Reading railroad, about two miles from Bridgeport, is where Crow creek flows Into the Schuylklll. The post office is Abrams. Port Kennedy and Valley Forge are mentioned later In the work, btit only in connection with the Revolution, so in this regular township connection it should be said that Port Kennedy is and always has been a small place on the Schuylkill river, twenty-one miles from Philadelphia and four from Norristown. It has always been noted especially for its burning and shipping large quantities of excellent lime made from limestone near by. The iron furnace found doing a large business fifty years ago is known as the Montgomery Iron Company, of which Abraham S. Petterson was president. This was begun in 1854 and finished in 1856. The village is a station on the Reading railroad, and at that point there is a very high modern iron and steel highway bridge over the river. The pioneers in lime burning here were Messrs. Blair, Kennedy, Hunter and Roberts. John Kennedy had his kilns nearest the village as known now. He began in 1858 and had fourteen limekilns in operation all the time. Alexander Kennedy was the founder of the village of Port Kennedy. He was born in Ireland, and came here in 1805 and died in 1824. It was his sons who entered into the lime business and in advancing other village interests at Port Kennedy. The place to-day is little larger than it was a half century ago. It is too near larger business centers, and cannot be larger in the nature of things.

Valley Forge is situated on the south bank of the beautiful Schuylkill river, at the mouth of East Valley creek, which for nearly a mile forms the boundary line between the counties of Montgomery and Chester. It is six miles above Norristown and twenty-three from Phil adeiphia. That portion of the village within Montgomery county and Upper Merion township forty years ago was credited with having a general store, gristmill, a paper mill and ten houses (including the old Potts two-story stone house, known as "Washington's Headquarters" to travelers of to-day). It now has no commercial interests save the dimes to be picked up by sellers of pictures of the historic objects throughout the extensive Park now under State control, or providing meals and lodgings in the summer months only to the "stranger within the gates." What is known as "Washington Inn" is a large hotel building which at some seasons of the year does a good business. The attractive stone "Headquarters" building which pioneer Potts, the iron founder of Revolutionary days, invited Washington to occupy so long as his army was stationed thereabouts, will never cease to be of interest to student and traveler, from whatever clime they may come, This house is under the daily watch-care of a man regularly engaged to look after the premises and guide visitors around and through it, now containing numerous real Washington relics. The Philadelphia & Reading railway company a few years since erected one of the neatest stations along their line at thIs point. Its double track storm-sheds are supported by more than a hundred fluted colonial columns, which are all the more attractive for the reason that the road at this point is around a sharp curve, thus giving the platform and columns a semi-circular appearance.

The real business transacted at what is called Valley Forge is on the opposite side of the creek that divides the two counties, hence is within Chester county, and not Montgomery. Where once stood the old "Valley Forge" (the iron works) is now seen a simple iron post, with a metallic signboard telling the passerby that the post is where the iron works once stood. This refers to the rebuilt iron works, for the British soldiers destroyed the first iron works of the locality. Bean's "History of Montgomery County" has the following on Valley Forge and its name:

The name of this place was derived from a forge erected here by Isaac Potts, a son of John Potts, the founder of Pottstown. How early this forge was erected we cannot say but it must have been before 1759, for it is denoted on Nicholas Scull s map of the province, published in said year, as being on the Upper Merion side of the stream, which is confirmed on William Scull's map of 1770. On September 19, 1777, a detachment of the British army encamped here and burned the mansionhouse of Col. Dewees and the iron works, leaving the gristmill uninjured From all that history and tradition can show in this matter of where the forge actually did stand, it is now generally believed that it was on the Montgomery side, and not on the west side of East Valley creek, as some have hitherto asserted. Another proof is that Isaac Potts was in Upper Merion, as well as the iron ore obtained near by, that necessarily, for convenience, the forge would also be on the same side.

A former history of Montgomery county contains the following concerning this township in the days of the Revolution:

The Revolutionary history of Upper Merion is not without interest, for nearly all the leading events connected with Valley Forge happened within its limits. On the xith of December, 1778, Washington, with his army, left Whitemarsh, and on the afternoon of the 13th crossed at Swedes' Ford and proceeded towards the Gulf and the vicinity of the King of Prussia, where they remained until the 19th, when they arrived at Valley Forge, where they were to remain until the following 18th day of June, exactly six months. Owing to the lateness of the season they at once set about building huts to shelter them from the rigors of winter. General Porter, who had been stationed at the Gulf in November, now marched towards Swedes' Ford and joined Washington's army, when a court-martial was held to try such men as threw away their arms and equipments for the purpose of facilitating their escape in the late attack made on them at the Gulf by the British from the city. A number were sentenced to be publicly whipped, which was carried into effect, and produced not a little excitement in the camp. Although at some distance from Philadelphia, the citizens suffered considerably from the marauding expeditions of the British army.

Return to [Montgomery Cty.] [ PA History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ]

.Blind Counter