This township was so named in honor of Bernard Reilly,
one of the associate judges of this county. It was formed out of
the southwestern part of Branch, and was laid out in 1856.
was surveyed by Samuel Fisher. Its present boundaries are:
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.
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
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
dens, in and around the colliery villages, there is now
the limits of the township very little land under
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,
first settlers of this township. They came from near Womelsdorf,
Berks county, in 1790, and located about half a miles south
the site of Branch Dale. Their first improvement was the
tion of a one-story log house. They cleared the Fox farm.
country westward from Fox's residence is called Fox valley.
George Werner, father of Christopher Werner, who died
1850, was a Revolutionary soldier. Peter Starr served in the war
At the time Jacob Fox settled here deer and other game
plenty, and meat could be easily obtained. Shingle timber
plenty, and flour and groceries were procured by shaving out
load of shingles, hauling them often as far as
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
log house. This was the first marriage in the township.
settled not far from his father-in-law's house, and there erected
a hewed log house, and in course of time cleared
acres of land. In 1804 his wife gave birth to a girl baby,
was named Elizabeth in honor of her mother. This was the
birth in the township. Starr raised a large family,
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
built a hewed log house, and cleared about twenty-five acres of
land. These three families it may be said were
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
grandfather Haeffer, and others.
It is said that in 1811 John Bretzius, with his family
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
shelter of some linen cloth, laid down a floor of rouge
and had a regular old fashioned country dance the night of their
arrival. Bretzius, with the assistance of some of his
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 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.
VILLAGES AND TOWNS.
The beginning of the village of Branch Dale, Muddy Branch
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
mere log shanties. the village received its name
located on the banks of the extreme western tributary
The present limits of Branch Dale embrace the
village formerly known
as New Mines. In the latter place there are a number
houses. The two places together have considerable
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
of Branch Dale contains a post-office, one church, two
schools, three stores, three hotels and several saloons and small
shops. Scott & Crow are the leading merchants.
keeps a hotel and store. In connection with a hotel Mr.
also keeps a store.
Swatara Village is about two miles west of Branch
Swatara creek, a short distance south of Swatara Falls. A visit
to these falls is never a matter for regret. The
rushes over an almost perpendicular precipice eighty feet high,
and when the stream is swollen the roaring waters is
mile. Swatara village contains a Methodist church,
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
James Coffy is the post-master.
New town is situated about three miles east of
about one mile southwest from Swatara. It is on the
George Patterson. The lots were surveyed by Allen Fisher.
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.
hotels are kept by John Aller and Conrad Ossman. It
with his hotel, Ossman keeps a small store. The
built in this place was erected by John P. Bettinger
intended for a store house. It is now the hotel of John
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
this township is not known. The first road leading into
valley connected with the Reading and Sunbury road at the house
of Emanuel Jenkins (late Keffer's tavern) and passed
Tremont and Donaldson, and through the township to
This road was never surveyed. It was first used as a log and shi-
ngle road, and was extended as necessity required.
road, known as the Pottsville road, from Pine Valley in
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
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
worked at the present day. Mr. Weaver however
colliery for many years, employing a large number of
boys, and shipping a great quantity of coal. The colliery is now
abandoned and dismantled.
Some time after the opening of the Weaverstown colliery
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
that the Spencers erected all, or nearly all, the stone
belonging to these mines, and owing to the number of such houses
the place was very frequently called "the stone houses."
colliery is at present known as the "Otto." These colliers were
successively worked by different operators, one of
Thomas Shollenberger. Under his management the colliery
one of the largest and most productive in the county.
owned and operated by the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron
company, and from its producing capacity, and for the
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
full working order its shipments amount to about 1,250 tons per
day. About 250 men and boys are employed inside, and 150
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
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.
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
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
Mountain, which is abandoned. There were several
collieries opened at various times, but, not proving
tive, they were soon abandoned.
The first day school in this township was kept in
house on the farm of William Gebert, by Peter Haupt, a
The German language only was taught. The only surviving
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
east of the Cross Keys hotel. This school was opened about 1841
or 1842. Among the successive teachers of this school
mentioned James Love, Isaac Betz, Nathaniel Bressler, Henry
Strong and Peter O. Bressler. There are still a number surviving
of the early attendants at this school. The first
in the township was built about 1852, on the south side of
public road and about one hundred and fifty yards west of
Black Horse Hotel. Philip Cook was the first teacher
building, and during the term of 1852 Mr. Cook,
Abraham H. Tobias, organized the first Sunday-school, Mr.
acting as superintendent.