Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Reilly Township

    This  township was so named in honor of Bernard Reilly,  late
one of the associate judges of this county.  It was formed out of
the  southwestern part of Branch, and was laid out in  1856.   It
was  surveyed by Samuel Fisher.  Its present boundaries  are:  on
the north Foster and Cass, on the east Branch, on the south Wayne
and Washington, and on the west Frailey.  From north to south  it
extends about four and a half miles, and from east to west  about
four  miles, and contains about eighteen square  miles.   Through
this township all the coal veins known in the Mine hill and Broad
mountain extend.  For agricultural purposes neither the soil  nor
the surface is generally well adapted.  There are, however,  some
portions of the township where the ground is free from stones and
otherwise  tillable.  No doubt the first settlers were  attracted
by  the appearance of these spots, and located thereon and  began
clearing with the intention of farming for a livelihood.  Outside
of  the small patches used by the miners and workingmen  as  gar-
dens,  in and around the colliery villages, there is  now  within
the  limits of the township very little land  under  cultivation,
the former clearings being abandoned, and some of them  overgrown
with scrubby pitch pines.  The population of the township in 1860
was 2,900; in 1870, 1,890; and in 1880, 1,452.
    Jacob  Fox,  his wife, two sons and two daughters,  were  the
first settlers of this township.  They came from near Womelsdorf,
Berks  county, in 1790, and located about half a miles  south  of
the  site of Branch Dale.  Their first improvement was the  erec-
tion  of a one-story log house.  They cleared the Fox farm.   The
country westward from Fox's residence is called Fox valley.
    George  Werner, father of Christopher Werner, who died  about
1850, was a Revolutionary soldier.  Peter Starr served in the war
of 1812.
    At  the time Jacob Fox settled here deer and other game  were
plenty,  and meat could be easily obtained.  Shingle  timber  was
plenty,  and flour and groceries were procured by shaving  out  a
load  of  shingles,  hauling them often as far  as  Reading,  and
exchanging  them for such articles as were needed in the  family.
There was no mill within many miles, and the first settlers  used
to boil their wheat and eat it with milk.  In 1803 Peter Starr, a
young  man, a tailor, and a former acquaintance of the family  of
Jacob Fox, joined  them; and, in 1894, was  married to Elizabeth,
the  eldest daughter, and commenced  housekeeping  in Fox's small
log house.  This was the first marriage in the  township.   Starr
settled not far from his father-in-law's house, and there erected
a  hewed  log house, and in course of time  cleared  about  forty
acres  of land.  In 1804 his wife gave birth to a girl baby,  who
was  named Elizabeth in honor of her mother.  This was the  first
birth  in  the township.  Starr raised a large  family,  of  whom
three sons and four daughters are yet alive.  Some time after the
marriage of Starr to Elizabeth Fox, George Haeffer married Susan,
the second daughter of Jacob Fox, and also commenced  house-keep-
ing  in  the log house of Jacob Fox, and in course of  time  also
built  a hewed log house, and cleared about twenty-five acres  of
land.   These  three families it may be said  were  the  earliest
settlers within the borders of this township.  Many reminiscences
and stories of attack by, and hair breadth escapes from,  wounded
deer,  prowling wolves, wild cats and bears might be  related  of
grandfather Haeffer, and others.
    It is said that in 1811 John Bretzius, with his family  (con-
sisting of his wife, a son and several daughters) and accompanied
by some neighbors, came from Blue mountain valley in Wayne,  with
several loads of household goods and some boards, via Pine  Grove
and the mountain tavern to Fox valley, where at Black Horse  they
unloaded  the  goods under two large oak trees, make  a  tent  or
shelter  of some linen cloth, laid down a floor of  rouge  boards
and had a regular old fashioned country dance the night of  their
arrival.   Bretzius, with the assistance of some of his  friends,
built a one-and-a-half story log house, and for many years kept a
tavern there, which was the first in the township.  Mr.  Bretzius
was succeeded as "landlord" by Philip Cares; Cares by Daniel  To-
bias, who built the Black Horse Hotel, which he kept many  years,
and  was  succeeded by Beneville Witner,  Abraham  Evans,  Thomas
Evans  and  John Graves.  At present the house is occupied  as  a dwelling.
   About 1846 the first mail was carried through this township by
L.M. Gager, who drove a stage between Pottsville and Tremont.  In
1848 Swatara post-office was opened, with  Daniel Tobias as postmaster.

    The beginning of the village of Branch Dale, Muddy Branch  or
Weaverstown,  as it has been variously called, dates about  1836,
with  the  opening of the mines by Martin Weaver.  It  is  not  a
regularly  laid out town; most of the houses first  erected  were
mere  log  shanties.  the village received its  name  from  being
located  on  the banks of the extreme western  tributary  of  the

The  present limits of Branch Dale embrace the village formerly  known
as  New  Mines.  In the latter place there are a number  of  good
houses.   The two places together have  considerable  population.
In 1875 there was a Methodist church erected here.
    Ezra Cockill was the builder, and Rev. Richard Kaines was the
first preacher.  The congregation numbers about 50.  The  village
of  Branch  Dale contains a post-office, one church,  two  public
schools, three stores, three hotels and several saloons and small
shops.   Scott  & Crow are the leading  merchants.   Robert  Wier
keeps  a hotel and store.  In connection with a hotel  Mr.  Conly
also keeps a store.
    Swatara  Village  is about two miles west of Branch  Dale  on
Swatara creek, a short distance south of Swatara Falls.  A  visit
to  these  falls is never a matter for regret.   The  water  here
rushes  over an almost perpendicular precipice eighty feet  high,
and  when  the stream is swollen the roaring waters  is  heard  a
mile.   Swatara  village contains a Methodist  church,  built  in
1868, a public school-house, a hotel, kept by Alexander Griffith,
and a store, kept by Jonah Williams.  It is a mining village  and
contains not half the population it did ten or fifteen years ago.
A  short distance west of Swatara is a small settlement known  as
Tuckerville.   The  post-office for Swatara is kept  there.   Mr.
James Coffy is the post-master.
    New  town is situated about three miles east of  Tremont  and
about  one  mile southwest from Swatara.  It is on the  lands  of
George  Patterson.  The lots were surveyed by Allen Fisher.   The
original land grand of this town was by patent to Michael  Kunkel
bearing date 1703.  It contains two hotels, a large double public
school-house,  two small stores, and several smaller shops.   The
hotels  are kept by John Aller and Conrad Ossman.  It  connection
with  his  hotel, Ossman keeps a small store.   The  first  house
built  in  this place was erected by John P.  Bettinger  and  was
intended  for a store house.  It is now the hotel of John  Allen.
Soon after the commencement of the town the two Zerbey  brothers,
Martin and Henry, erected a large three-story house for a  hotel,
which is at present occupied as a private dwelling.


    The  date  of the first road located in and  passing  through
this township  is not known.  The first road leading  into  Fox's
valley  connected with the Reading and Sunbury road at the  house
of Emanuel  Jenkins  (late Keffer's tavern)  and  passed  between
Tremont  and Donaldson, and through the township  to  Pottsville.
This road was never surveyed. It was first used as a log and shi-
ngle   road, and was extended as necessity required.   The   next
road,  known as the Pottsville road, from Pine Valley  in  Hegins
township,  extended over the Broad mountain at Sherman's  tavern,
and passed through this township.  It was never surveyed.  Simply
located by jury, with but little alteration, it is used as origi-
nally located, intersecting the Tremont road at Newtown.  Another
road   was  made  from Tuckerville to Clauser's  mill  in  Branch
about  1841.  It passes through Swatara, Branch Dale,  and  Muddy


    About 1836 at "Weaverstown" (now a part of Branch Dale), Mar-
tin Weaver opened the first colliery in this township.  Like many
of the  past openings, his were on water level, and the producing
facilities  were  not on as large a scale as  those  of  colliers
worked  at  the  present day.  Mr. Weaver  however  operated  his
colliery  for  many years, employing a large number  of  men  and
boys, and shipping a great quantity of coal.  The colliery is now
abandoned and dismantled.
    Some  time after the opening of the Weaverstown colliery  the
Forest Improvement Company opened a colliery about a mile west of
it on the Otto tract, known as the "New Mines." John Spencer also
opened  and for some time operated a colliery here.  It  is  said
that  the Spencers erected all, or nearly all, the  stone  houses
belonging to these mines, and owing to the number of such  houses
the  place  was  very frequently called "the stone houses."   The
colliery  is at present known as the "Otto."  These colliers were
successively  worked  by  different operators, one  of  whom  was
Thomas  Shollenberger.  Under his management the colliery  became
one  of  the largest and most productive in the  county.   It  is
owned and operated by the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and  Iron
company,  and from its producing capacity, and for  the  superior
quality  of its coal, is noted as one of the best in the  county.
Its  combined steam power is about 700 horse-power, and  when  in
full  working order its shipments amount to about 1,250 tons  per
day.   About 250 men and boys are employed inside, and  150  out-
    About 1850 the late Samuel Fisher or Howell Fisher opened and
for some time afterward operated the Swatara colliery, about  two
miles  west  of the Otto.  Later the  colliery  was  successively
operated by Messrs. Brown & White, Mr. Hewit and Major J.  Claude
White.  It is at present operated by the Philadelphia and Reading
Coal and Iron Company.  Formerly this colliery produced about 150
cars  per day, and employed a large number of men and boys.   Its
present capacity is about 50 cars per day, and employs about  100
men  and  boys  inside  and outside.  About  1850  also  John  B.
McCreary  opened a small colliery at Swatara.  This colliery  was
afterward worked by James Gilfillan, but, owing to the inferiori-
ty of its coal, it was abandoned.
    About  1856,  Allen Fisher opened a small colliery  in  Sharp
Mountain,  which  is abandoned.  There were several  other  small
collieries  opened at various times, but, not  proving  remunera-
tive, they were soon abandoned.


    The  first day school in this township was kept in  a  spring
house  on the farm of William Gebert, by Peter Haupt,  a  German.
The  German language only was taught.  The only surviving  pupils
are  a daughter of Mr. Gebert, married to J.S. Zerbey, and  Jacob
Zerbey, both residing in Ohio.  The first public school was  held
in a small  house belonging to Philip Cares, about seventy-five  yards
east of the Cross Keys hotel.  This school was opened about  1841
or  1842.   Among the successive teachers of this school  may  be
mentioned  James Love, Isaac Betz, Nathaniel Bressler,  Henry  S.
Strong and Peter O. Bressler.  There are still a number surviving
of  the early attendants at this school.  The first  school-house
in  the township was built about 1852, on the south side  of  the
public  road  and about one hundred and fifty yards west  of  the
Black  Horse  Hotel.  Philip Cook was the first teacher  in  this
building,  and  during  the term of 1852 Mr.  Cook,  assisted  by
Abraham  H. Tobias, organized the first Sunday-school,  Mr.  Cook
acting as superintendent.