About Schuylkill Township
“Schuylkill” means “Hidden River” in Dutch. The first non-native settlers in the area were Swedish and Holland Dutch families who moved westward along the Schuylkill River soon after William Penn’s founding of Philadelphia.
Schuylkill Township—Then and Now
by Sandra Momyer
Schuylkill Township is a township of the Second Class with a board of five elected supervisors. It covers 9.44 square miles with 39.35 miles of township roadways. The 2000 census reported a population of 6, 960.
Schuylkill Township is located along the Schuylkill River on the eastern border of Chester County. The Schuylkill forms the Township’s northern boundary and Mount Misery (also known as Valley Forge Mountain) its southern boundary. To the east, Valley Forge National Historical Park, a green cushion between the Township and the highly urbanized areas of King of Prussia and Devon.
Soon after Penn’s founding of Philadelphia, white settlers began to move westward along the Schuylkill River. The Lenape Indians were established along the Schuylkill River and Pickering Creek when European settlers arrived around 1713. The first white inhabitants in the area were a few Swedish and Holland Dutch families (“Schuylkill” means “Hidden River” in Dutch). The area now known as Schuylkill Township was part of the Pickering Tract where Charles Pickering expected to mine silver; his attempts to do so failed.
Among the first settlers was James Anderson, whose descendants were prominent inhabitants of the Township for another one hundred and fifty years, and whose homestead and farm remained in family hands until 1955.
Like most of Chester County, rich farmland offered opportunities for peaceful prosperity during the eighteenth century. There was also a rich harvest of fish (especially shad) from the Schuylkill river. In the spring, thousands of these fish were caught using man-made weirs.
The Moore and Anderson families were prosperous and built substantial houses before the War of Independence. The inhabitants of the Township included Welsh, Quaker and Scotch-Irish, and a few Pennsylvania Dutch families.
Patrick Anderson was a Major in the Continental Army; well known by General Washington. His son, Isaac, elected to the United States Congress, voted for the Louisiana Purchase and was a Presidential Elector in 1816. He lies buried in the Anderson cemetery on Valley Park Road.
During the 1777-1778 winter encampment of the Continental Army at Valley Forge, many 18th century forges and other commercial endeavors operated in the area. The village of Corner Stores was the major commercial center located at the intersection of Nutt Road and White Horse Road, with the first store opening in 1749. This historic corridor (PA Rte. 23) saw Philadelphia-Lancaster stagecoaches rolling through the village and it continues to connect the residents of Schuylkill, Phoenixville and Valley Forge along a scenic landscape.
The British Army marched through the Township in September 1777 on its way from Brandywine to Philadelphia. They forded Pickering Creek at the lower end of the Anderson homestead and the Schuylkill River near the mouth of the Perkiomen. This was the westernmost line that the British reached in the Middle Colonies. They left a few occupying troops and withdrew in May and June 1778.
The Township was part of Charlestown Township until 1826. At that time, the inhabitants of the area chose to form their own township and named it after the river forming the northern boundary. In 1849, the establishment of the Borough of Phoenixville further defined the limits of the Township.
The arrival of railroads along the Schuylkill River did not greatly affect the rural nature of the Township, with the exception of the Wheatley mines to the west of Williams’ Corner. These mines were worked sporadically during the nineteenth century with indifferent results.
Before the Emancipation Proclamation, Quaker families in the Township aided fugitive slaves from Maryland and the South. A station of the underground railroad existed near Corner Stores in the 1850s.
During the second half of the nineteenth century, the Township had a close association with the Borough of Phoenixville. Some industrialists and professional men of the Borough resided in the Township. Another Anderson relative, Samuel Whitaker Pennypacker, was elected Governor of Pennsylvania in 1903. Galusha Pennypacker, born June 1, 1842 in Valley Forge, was the youngest general officer in the United States Army during the Civil Ware and was a Medal of Honor recipient.
Trolley lines and the arrival of the automobile began to alter the pattern of life in this part of the country early in the twentieth century. A trolley line from Phoenixville to Valley Forge along the present White Horse and Valley Park Roads, was used by area residents to reach an amusement park on Valley Park Road near the Anderson family cemetery.
There was no significant change in the Township’s population until the 1920s, when the beautiful countryside began to attract Philadelphians, among them the Clothier family who purchased large tracts of land, and established their country homes within the Township. The Pickering Hunt, with its headquarters here, enjoyed an international reputation.
In 1928, the Philadelphia Suburban Water Company purchased land along the Pickering creek, and built the Moore Hall Dam. The resulting privately-owned reservoir widened the creek to the proportions of a small lake.
The suburban expansion of the Greater Philadelphia area after 1945 began to affect the Township in the 1950s. Between 1955 and 1965, its population rose rapidly, and in 1955 the first zoning ordinance was passed. The Zoning Ordinance of 1955, along with subsequent regulations, provided a variety of zoning districts and uses, and succeeded in maintaining the essentially rural character of much of the Township.
Population growth in the decades of the 1970s and 1980s remained modest The 1990s saw another population explosion as large tracts of open space were converted to residential areas. After seventy years in the quaint stone building at the corner of Valley Park and White Horse Roads, in 1999 the Township Administration offices and the Police Department moved into a new building on Valley Park Road. The charming 1929 former township administration building has been designated as the Roads Department, a Center for Emergency Planning and the offices of the Schuylkill Township Historical Commission. The Valley Forge Volunteer Fire Company maintains a fully-equipped facility in Valley Forge and has expanded with a sub-station to better service the western sections of the Township. . Citizens are invited to work with the supervisors, commissions and councils by attending scheduled meetings and joining other volunteers to enhance the quality of life for all Schuylkill residents.