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History of Towamencin Township

Founded in 1728, today Towamencin Township boasts beautiful residential neighborhoods, historic farmhouses, first-class recreational facilities, and wide-open spaces

Historical Towamencin Township

The first settlers arrived in Towamencin Township around the turn of the 18th Century. These settlers were of German, Welsh, and Dutch descent. They mainly pursued agricultural endeavors to sustain their livelihood.

The first grant of land in Towamencin Township was in 1703 from William Penn's Commissioners to Benjamin Furley on June 8. The Commissioners granted 1,000 acres to him. On June 17 of that same year, Abraham Tennis and Jan Luken bought the property from him, and then divided the land in half in 1709.

The name Towamencin is of American Indian origins, and means "Poplar Tree". The legend associated with the name started in the 1720's when Heinrich Fry purchased some land near what is now known as the Towamencin Creek. On this tract of land was an Indian Village. The Indian Chief spoke broken English and observed one day two men clearing trees near the creek and said "Towha-men-seen", meaning "Two men seen." Apparently, the Chief's pronunciation stuck, as the legend goes, and is how Towamencin got its name.

In March of 1728 the settlers of the area petitioned William Penn's Commissioners for Towamencin to become a Township. The request was granted and a charter given. The land was surveyed and recorded, outlining the boundaries of the Township. Those boundaries are similar to what they are today. In the enumeration of 1734 there were 32 landholders within the Township, with William Tennis having the most acreage at 250 acres.

View an exert from the book "History of Montgomery County" published by Everts and Peck in 1884.

Towamencin Township Indians

The first settlers arrived in Towamencin Township around the turn of the century. The American Indians that inhabited the area were the Lenni Lenape. These natives lived in Pennsylvania, as well as Delaware, New Jersey, and parts of Maryland. They were divided into three tribes: the Turtle, Turkeys, and Wolf. These tribes were then divided into clans, each clan having a name representing the character and situation of the tribe as a whole. The Indians of Towamencin Township are of the Delaware Nation. They had a settlement in the southwest section of the Township along the Towamencin Creek. They were a friendly nation who made friends with the settlers when they came to the Township. The only accounts of violence that can be attributed to the Indians can not be proven and are most likely fictional. In fact there are many accounts of Indians helping to tend the sick and trading food and goods with the settlers.

There is no record as to when the tribes of Indians left Towamencin. It is suspected they left after the Revolutionary War.

Towamencin in the Revolution

Pennsylvania is known as the Keystone State for its role in the Revolution, and as one of the oldest settlements during the time, Towamencin Township also played a part. The Township had encampments of soldiers, had many citizens that served, and was the retreating place for General Washington and his troops after the Battle of Germantown.

The troops were in Towamencin from October 8, 1777 to October 16, 1777 and camped in the Northern section of the Township. The Township provided a secure area to rest, without fear of surprise attack by the British.

Washington commandeered Frederick Wampole's house to establish his quarters and conducted military duties from there. The house was located on Detwiler Road.

General Francis Nash was wounded at the Battle of Germantown and was carried from Germantown to Towamencin. He was cared for at the Mennonite Meeting House, along with other wounded men of the Battle of Germantown. He died two days later and is buried there.

An interesting story related to the Revolution is that Henry Cassel, who's land was used as an encampment by the Colonists, submitted to the Continental Congress an estimate of damages done to his property by Washington's Army. The damages were to 696 fence rails used for firewood. The cost to replace those rails was 8.14 pounds. There is no record as to whether or not the newly formed Government compensated Mr. Cassel for the amount requested.

Towamencin Infrastructure

The roads first developed in the Township were the paths used by the Indians. The settlers expanded upon them to make easier the transfer of goods using horses and wagons.

The main roads of the Township are the same as today, and have varied little in design.

Sumneytown Pike was laid out in 1735 and turnpiked in 1848. The toll gate was located in Kulpsville.

Allentown Road was laid out in the mid-1700's, and Forty Foot Road was laid out before the Revolution. The width of the road was designed to be forty feet, hence the name, and the width of this road has not changed in over 200 years.

Morris Road was the other main road in the Township, and was probably laid out in 1741.

Liberty Bell Route

In June 1778, a 700 wagon caravan escorted the Liberty Bell on its return to Philadelphia from Allentown along Towamencin's Allentown Road. Nine months earlier, when British troops threatened to capture the city, the bell had been whisked into hiding via the same route. The Liberty Bell provided quite an attraction to the handful of farmers living in Towamencin at this time.

Mennonite Meeting House

The Mennonite Meetinghouse stands as the township's oldest church. The original structure was constructed in 1760, boasting among the region's first Sunday Schools. The adjoining cemetery includes the graves of several Revolutionary War soldiers, including that of General Francis Nash, mortally wounded in the battle of Germantown. Army Commander General George Washington presided over Nash's burial proceedings in October 1777, during the Revolutionary Army's Towamencin encampment.

Tennis-Lukens Cemetery

The long abandoned cemetery one quarter mile west of the Allentown Road and Forty Foot Road intersection possesses the graves of some of the township's earliest settlers. Markers date back to the early 1700s, and includes the final resting places of township Revolutionary War veterans.

The property is now owned by Towamencin Township after being transferred from Montgomery County as an orphaned property. No taxes had been paid on the parcel since 1906. All maintenance is done by Towamencin Public Works and several Eagle Scout projects have enhanced its appearance.

Directions to the Tennis-Lukens Cemetery

Left onto Sumneytown Pike. At first traffic signal take a left onto Forty Foot Road. At third traffic signal take a left onto Allentown Road. Cemetery is .25 miles on the left, atop a small hill.