History of Upper Providence Township

Schuylkill Canal’s Lock Number 60


One of the township’s best historical treasures, the Schuylkill Canal’s Lock Number 60, reopened in 2005 in original working condition after a 10-year restoration project.

The restoration project, paid for with more than $1 million in federal transportation grants, included improvements to the forebay and guard wall and the lock’s sluice gates, miter gates, and truss bridge. The lock tender’s house was restored and transformed into the Schuylkill Canal Association’s (SCA) headquarters.

Built in 1846, the lock connects the canal to a forebay, so boats can access the river. In the 19th century, a lock tender operated the gates and maintained the correct level of water flow to “lock through” barges and boats.

Schuylkill Canal Park boasts a 2.5-mile waterway and nearly five miles of towpath and trails in the undeveloped greenway between the canal and the river. Learn more about Lock Number 60 and the history of the canal on the Schuylkill Canal Association’s web site.

Grants for Preservation


The township participates in many preservation studies and applies for various state and federal grants to secure and protect open space and historical areas. Our successes include:
  • Lock Number 60 restoration
  • Black Rock Park expansion
  • Anderson Farm Park development
  • Hundreds of acres preserved

Historical Attractions


  • Black Rock Dam
    A stone-filled timber crib structure surrounding a 3-mile dam pool that fishermen, boaters, and water skiers can all enjoy
  • Lock Number 60
    The restored lock, originally built in 1846, allowed boats to safely travel from a shallower portion of the Schuylkill Canal.
  • The Lock House
    Adjacent to Lock No. 60, the Lock House was once the home of a lock tender, whose job it was to monitor the waterway and open and close the lock for passing boats.
  • Friends Meeting House
    Located on Black Rock Road, this Quaker church dates back to 1740.
  • Far Away Farm
    This land was purchased by William Penn’s sons. Henry Ewalt built a house on the land in 1761.
  • Mont Clarer
    Meaning “Clear Mountain,” this house dates back to the mid-1800s and overlooks the river.
  • Broadview
    A Victorian home with a view of the Schuylkill River.

History of Geography


The oldest village of Upper Providence Township is the village of Trappe, originally known as Landau. Samuel Seely purchased 150 acres of land and divided it into 20 lots, selling it to various villagers of the village he named Landau. A nearby hotel was named either “Trap” or Trapp,” which lead to the naming of the town “Trappe”. The post office was established in 1819.


The name Perkiomen Bridge (which was renamed Freeland and then renamed Collegeville) was created with the construction of the stone bridge across the Perkiomen in 1799. Henry A. Hunsicker built a boys’ boarding-school in the area and named it Freeland Seminary of Perkiomen Bridge, so the town name changed to Freeland. In 1855, there was an effort to rename the town to Townsend after Samuel Townsend, but the name did not last long when the new Perkiomen Railroad station needed a name. They selected the name Collegeville.


Port Providence was originally known as Jacobs. A lumber dealer used the canal in Port Providence to unload lumber, so, for a time, the town became known as Lumberville. However, upon establishing a post office, the townspeople discovered that the name Lumberville to have already been appropriated, so they called the town Port Providence.


The villages of Arcola, Oaks, and Yerkes were established with the construction of the Perkiomen Railroad. The people of Oaks wished for their town to be called Oakland, but the name was already taken. So, the town became known as Oaks. Arcola got its name from the large mills of Mr. Wetherill & Co. Yerkes was named after Mr. Isaac Yerkes, the man who owned the land on which the train station was built.


John Robinson sold 350 lots of land between Collegeville and Phoenixville, creating Providence Square, in which several houses and one store were located.

In 1817, farmers, Quakers, and Dunkards organized a temperance society, electing Jonas Umstad chairman and James White secretary.


History of Famous

Residents


Born in Trappe in 1746, General Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg was stationed as a minister in 1776, when the Revolutionary War began. After giving a powerful sermon about “duties to country” he joined in the fighting. Throughout the war, he rose in position to brigadier-general. After the war, he was elected Vice-President of Pennsylvania and then reelected. He served in the 1st, 3rd, and other Congresses. In 1797, Muhlenberg served in the State Assembly. Muhlenberg became a senator of Pennsylvania in 1801, resigning a year later. He served as major-general of Pennsylvania militia from 1800-1807, serving as collector of the port of Philadelphia from 1803-1807.


General Peter Muhlenberg’s brother, Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg, was born at Trappe in 1750. He was a member of the state constitutional convention. He was elected as Speaker of the House twice and ran for Governor of Pennsylvania twice.


Gottlieb Henry Ernst Muhlenberg, the third brother, was born in Trappe in 1753 and became one of the world’s best botanists of the time after first becoming a pastor of the Lutheran Church in Philadelphia, Providence, and then New Hanover.


Francis. R. Shunk was born in Trappe in 1788. After being appointed clerk of the canal commissioners of Pennsylvania, he was appointed Secretary of State in 1838. He was then elected Governor of the Commonwealth but had to resign after reelection due to ill health.


Hon. Jacob Fry Jr. born in Trappe in 1802, served as a member of Congress from 1834-1838 and audit-general of the State from 1857-1860.

Sources

Hobson, F. M. "Bean's History of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania." USGenWeb Archives - Census Wills Deeds Genealogy. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2017.