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Preserve America Community:
East Pikeland Township, Pennsylvania

East Pikeland Township (population 6,551) was established in 1838. It is part of the Pikelands, a grant of 10,116 acres from William Penn to Joseph Pike, an Irish merchant, in 1705. The earliest archaeological evidence of Native American habitation within the township dates to the Middle and Late Archaic periods (3000-1000 BCE). The Leni Lenape Indians inhabited the area from the 1600s to the late 1700s, and amajor Indian trail passed through the site.

East Pikeland became directly involved in the Revolutionary War efforts in1775, when the Continental Congress chose an area along French Creek for the construction of the Continental Powder Mill. The township supplied regular goods as well as military provisions, like guns, ammunition, and gunpowder, to the Continental Army. There are several noteworthy mills still standing in the township, one of which, Snyder’ s Mill, was a linseed oil mill in the 1800s, and could be the graining mill of the 1775 Continental Powder Mill Complex.

In recent years, Snyder’ s Mill had been on the verge of total collapse. The East Pikeland Historical Commission has stabilized the mill and is working to promote the site as a heritage tourism destination. A much larger project is in its early stages, with the goal of creating a passive historic park covering the entire Continental Powder Works site and educating visitors about the industrial processes that supported waging the Revolutionary War.

In 1817 Emmor Kimber, a Quaker schoolmaster, established the French Creek Boarding School for Girls in what is now known as Kimber Hall. It became well known throughout the region as a center for academic excellence. Kimber, an ardent abolitionist, risked the ire of the parents by establishing a stop on the Underground Railroad and harboring escaped slaves in a secret room within the school. He also helped found the village which now bears his name, Kimberton, a National Register Historic District retaining many historic buildings.

With the arrival of the Pickering Valley Railroad, Kimberton evolved into an agricultural depot town to collect produce and milk from the region for transport through to Phoenixville and Philadelphia. Development spread from the early crossroads eastward to the railroad station. In the early 20th century, development expanded further eastward and included Sears kit houses and other Arts and Crafts style dwellings. In the late 1930s, Valley Dell, a very early example of the housing developments that typified the later post-war period, was started just northwest of Kimberton. Foundation stones were harvested from the demolition of the west wing of Kimber Hall after a 1937 fire.

In the 1960s State Route 113 was relocated to bypass Kimberton, which severely reduced the town’ s economic vitality as strip malls arose along the new route. As a result, East Pikeland has transitioned from a farming community to a suburban bedroom community no longer possessing the infrastructure to support production agriculture. Today, the township is working with many challenges to preserve its historic assets in the midst of development pressure in the region.

For more information:

East Pikeland Township/ Township History: www.eastpikeland.org/

Posted October 18, 2010

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