The history of Richlandtown has been documented in the book Richland Township and Richlandtown Borough written by Robert L. Leight and Thomas R. Moll. First published in 2011, the book is part of the Images of America Series. Copies of this book may be purchased at distinguished bookstores and retailers throughout the area.
As a result of this and due to increased interest in the area, the Richlandtown Historical Society was formed in 2012 and is dedicated to preserving the rich history of our community.
The historical information below was taken from the following sources:
A letter written by A.B. Walp (age 93) on September 12, 1921
From a paper written by Richlandtown students in 1943
The Richlandtown Centennial Book published in 1990
IN THE BEGINNING…
The town was originally known as “Three Lanes End”. This was followed by Ducktown, Frogtown, Flatland and finally the name that it now bears. Some of the earliest settlers to the area included John Smith, who was a soldier of the Revolution, John Serger, Philip Gruver and Daniel Walp.
Daniel Walp arrived in Flatland in 1799 and it is said that he built the first dwelling. Some time later, he bought a 22 acre tract of land and erected a house and barn. This was on the lot where the Raymond Hinkle home stands. It was the first farm on the south side of Doylestown Road below Richlandtown. He lived there until 1835 when he died. His son Charles Walp purchased the homestead, erected a brick dwelling house in 1856 and resided there until 1860. He then built a homestead for himself at the upper end of the farm and lived there until 1882 when he died. Charles was a manufacturer of boots and shoes for about 35 years.
Citizens of the early days got together frequently for religious meetings in houses and in barns on the thrashing floor. In 1807, at one of these meetings, they considered the necessity of building a church for worship. It was decided to begin to build a church and to see who would bring the first load of stone to land, which was donated by John Smith for a church and cemetery.
Philip Wimmer had a load of stone there that same night by 12 o’clock and before he had the stones unloaded another load was there. St. John’s Reformed Church was officially dedicated in 1808. The first pastor was the Reverend Jacob Genn.
The church was rebuilt in 1859, the same year that the Reverend Father Kemmer died. He served the Lutheran congregation for nearly 40 years. The structure was renovated in 1932 and again in 1937.
St. John’s Lutheran Church was first organized with about 70 members. The first pastor was the Reverend Roeller, who served in 1818. The congregation worshiped in St. John’s Reformed Church. In 1932, the churches separated and the Lutheran congregation decided to build their own church across the street.
The building won the distinction in a church publication for being selected as one of the churches that was a representative of fine church architecture.
THE SPREAD EAGLE
The Spread Eagle was built and opened in 1812. Michael Smith was the first proprietor. Over time, the building was home to a general store, a package store, a tavern and a rooming house. In 1897, a 3-story stone structure was built just to the south. The ground floor was utilized as a carriage house and livery stable to accommodate horses. The second floor was used to host a variety of events in the community. The third floor was primarily used for meetings. It is here, where Richlandtown Borough Council held its meetings from 1897 to 1906.
The 35 foot bar made from oak was transported using horse and wagon from Allentown by John Hinkle in 1904. The tin ceiling in the bar area also dates back to the building’s earlier days.
In 1936, the Spread Eagle name was changed to Eagle Hotel. The adjacent stone structure was converted into apartments in 1961. Starting in 1983, the name was changed to Richlandtown Hotel and later to the Richlandtown Inn.
RICHLANDTOWN POST OFFICE
In 1828, John Matts applied for the first post office and named it Mattsville. It was located almost one mile north of the church. A few years later in 1839, Christian A. Snyder, a store-keeper applied for the post office to be removed and named it Richlandtown. In 1914, the post office moved to 16 North Main Street.
FREED BROTHERS SHOE FACTORY
The Freed Brothers Shoe Factory opened in 1852. During the peak of their production, the factory had 150 employees. They were producing close to 800 pair of shoes per day. The factory continued operating until closing in 1943.
The building was sold and converted into the Richland Feed Mill. It is still in operation today.
The Plank Road Company was organized in 1854 to construct a turnpike to link the Doylestown Road to the Hellertown Road. During the mid 1920’s, Route 212 would be paved from Quakertown to the north of Richlandtown. The eastern portion of the road was completed to Route 611 in 1940.
More information coming soon!
The Richlandtown Silver Coronet Band held its first meeting on September 20, 1877. The band was disbanded in 1885. The band was reorganized in 1888 and continued until 1897.
The Keystone Band held its first meeting on July 22, 1901 and consisted of 23 members. It served in several incarnations ending with the Senior Drum Corp from 1959 through 1962.
In the late 1800’s, David Fluck built and operated a shoe factory in competition with the Freed Brothers across the street. This building became known as Fluck’s Hall. Beginning in 1890, it would also become the first home for the Richlandtown Borough Council. A fire brought an end to both in 1897.
On or about 1900, Philadelphia-based Otto Eisenlohr & Brothers opened a cigar factory. It operated for nearly 2 decades before closing.
Later in the 1920’s, the building became home to a clothing manufacturer. This lasted until the structure was destroyed in a massive fire in April of 1976.
BOROUGH BECOMES ORGANIZED
By the time Richlandtown was formally organized on November 11, 1890, there were a total of 25 homes. It is not known why this name was chosen, but it is believed to be due to the rich soil that was found here. The first meeting of the Richlandtown Borough Council occurred on December 8, 1890.
As Richlandtown was situated in a swampy area, it was extremely difficult to build roads. It is said that the citizens took stones from the neighboring fields and pounded them into the mud. They were then covered with leather scraps from the shoe factory so that they could walk on them.
RICHLANDTOWN SCHOOL DISTRICT
The first meeting of the Richlandtown School District was held on March 12, 1891 in Freed’s Hall. Miss Martha Sterner was elected the first teacher for the sum of $33.00 per month, for a 9-month term. The first school house was built on the northeast corner of the cemetery.
At the April meeting in 1909, a motion was passed to buy a plot of ground from George W. Amey for $1,100.00. On May 27, 1909, a motion was passed to have the electors of the Borough consent to a loan of $8,000.00 to erect a new school building on this lot. The contract to construct the new school was awarded on August 5, 1909 to Erwin Hunsberger for $5,900.00.
The new school was opened in September 1910. William T. Melchoir was hired to be the new principal at a salary of $85.00 per month. Frank H. Hartman was hired to teach the Grammar School at $55.00 and Cordelia Strouse as primary teacher at $50.00 per month.
Under this new arrangement, the Elementary Grades were grouped into 2 areas and the High School occupied the second floor. The High School continued to operate until 1927, when arrangements were made to enter all High School pupils in Quakertown. This was due to the fact that the enrollment was too small to continue operating a High School any longer.
In 1896, the Quakertown Traction Company started to operate a trolley line to Richlandtown. At first, the line came up only as far as the former railroad tracks below town and people boarded the trolley at this point. However, it was soon afterward that the line was extended to the center of the Borough.
In 1901, the line was sold to the Lehigh Valley Transit Company. It continued to provide service until June 1, 1929. The line was abandoned due to a decline in use.
The Levy Bus Service then entered and provided bus transportation upon the termination of trolley service.
RICHLANDTOWN FIRE COMPANY
The Richlandtown Fire Company was organized in 1905. The first meeting was held on November 16, 1905. It was incorporated in 1906. The Fire House which was built in 1905. The Ladies’ Auxiliary was formed and held their first meeting on April 13, 1916.
The fire company bought their first motorized truck in 1921. At the time the first truck was delivered, the borough suffered its worst fire up to that time. Unfortunately, no one had been trained to operate the new equipment. The fire occurred at the 3-story Wismer building, a frame structure that stood between the present Weller and Hoffert homes. It was totally destroyed.
In 1908, John C. Hinkle began operating an ice business. Initially, he purchased ice from nearby Coopersburg to the north. Upon securing the California Ice Dam, he erected a storage building to hold ice at this location. Years later, he abandoned this site and began purchasing ice from Quakertown. Beginning in 1930, coal was added to his business.
Here are some photographs of other businesses that were located through the borough…
The first Boy Scouts of America troop in Richlandtown was organized in 1922 as Troop 16. The Richlandtown Scout Cabin was located at Sheards Dam near Thatcher. This troop remained in existence until the early 1950’s.
In the late 1950’s, Scout Troop #87 would be sponsored by the Richlandtown Lions Club. Troop #87 was recently reactivated with sponsorship of the Richlandtown Fire Company.
The first meeting of the Richlandtown Athletic Association was held on January 26, 1932. A total of 22 community residents were present. the organization was formed to assume sponsorship of the local baseball team and to promote general recreation in the community. In 1935, the association sponsored a basketball team.
In 1939, a state Charter was received and in November, the organization became known as the Richlandtown Playground Association. The following year, the group purchased 13 acres and a skating pond was constructed. Also in 1940, James Rapp drew up plans for the construction of a building on the site. During the next 10 years, a variety of fundraisers were held. In 1950, a contract was awarded to start construction of a building that would be used for indoor recreational activities, including basketball.
On May 13, 1953, the Richlandtown Playground Association dedicated the new structure and named it Benner Memorial Hall. It was in memory of Charles D. Benner, who was the first borough resident killed in World War II. In its’ early days, the facility served as home court for the Quakertown Fays, a semi-professional basketball team that was a part of the Big Nine Conference.
During the 1954-1955 season, the Fays roster included an impressive 7-foot tall senior from Overbrook High School in Philadelphia. His name was Wilt Chamberlain, also known throughout the area as “The Big Dipper”. Later, he would have the “Perfect Game” in Hershey and turn professional, playing for the Philadelphia 76ers, among others, becoming an NBA legend.
Under the guidance of the Richlandtown Playground Association, Benner Memorial Hall was home to countless banquets, fundraisers, wedding receptions and many other activities.
More recently, the site was “adopted” by the Richlandtown Borough Parks & Recreation Committee. With the help of volunteers, numerous improvements have been made to the facility and grounds.
The first Girl Scouts of America troop in Richlandtown was organized in September of 1940. In 1953, Richlandtown Council Troop #1 became part of the newly organized Bucks County Council. Later in 1964, the Freedom Valley Council was formed.
Brownie Troop #778 was sponsored by St. John’s Lutheran Church; Junior Troop #806 was sponsored by St. John’s United Church of Christ; Cadette Troop #802 and Senior Troop #795 was both sponsored by the Ladies Auxiliary of the Richlandtown Fire Company. Daisy Troop #116 was organized in 1985.
SURVIVING STRUCTURES (as of 1943)
As of 1943, some of the oldest surviving structures included the following: Charles Neamand’s home, which was built by Charles Diehl in 1868; the Freed Brothers Shoe Factory, which was built by the Freed Brothers in 1878; Corson Schell’s home, which was built by his father Allen Schell; Arthur Bader’s home, which was built by Zackariah Saylor; the Richlandtown School, which was built in 1910.
The Richlandtown Lions Club was organized in 1951. This service organization provides aide to the blind, diabetics and hard of hearing. They also assist in providing eye exams and glasses to those in need. The Richlandtown Lions Club is active in the annual Bike Rodeo.
They currently meet Thursdays evenings at The Richlandtown Inn.
In more recent history, Richlandtown has been home to a variety of other local businesses – both year ’round and seasonal. Some of which still exist today…