Held at: Tri-County Heritage Society [Contact Us]P.O. Box 352, Morgantown, PA, 19543
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Tri-County Heritage Society. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
The region of southeastern Pennsylvania where southern Berks, northern Chester, and eastern Lancaster counties meet is known locally as the "Tri-County" area. Chester County was established by William Penn in 1682 as one of the three original Pennsylvania counties. Lancaster County was established in 1729 from the western part of Chester County and Berks County was established in 1752 from the northern section of Chester County as well as parts of Lancaster and Philadelphia Counties.
The Tri-County area was first settled by Welsh immigrants who migrated westward from the Welsh Tract region around Radnor, PA in the early 1700s. While the area was largely agricultural, it also developed into an important early industrial corridor. The settlers established iron forges and furnaces as well as wool, paper, grist, and saw mills along the banks of the French and Conestoga creeks. The region also included mines for iron ore, copper, Kaolin (clay), and limestone quarries, which contributed to its industrial growth.
As forests were cut to produce charcoal to fuel the furnaces and forages, the landscape became more agricultural, with large farms established by the Germans who began migrating to the area in the early to mid-eighteenth century. Irish and Scottish settlers also came, purchasing large tracts of land for farming, as well as working in the mines and quarries.
In the early twenty-first century, the Tri-County area is a mix of farmland, industry, and suburban real estate development. The eastern part of Lancaster County consists primarily of rural communities of Amish and Mennonite farmlands, where tourism is also a major industry. The southern region of Berks County continues as an agricultural center, although in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century period Berks County experienced an era of industrial growth, particularly the area along Schuylkill River around the City of Reading. Northern Chester County remains largely agricultural with areas of industry and suburban development.
The Tri-County region is home to several historic sites, including Joanna Furnace, Geiger Mill, and several historic homesteads and districts. French Creek Valley, home to Hopewell Furnace, is located in both Berks and Chester Counties. The Tri-County Heritage Society was originally established in 1970 as the Morgantown/Caernarvon Historical Society, focusing on a smaller area within the region. The organization later broadened its geographic area of focus and in 1990 was incorporated as the Tri-County Heritage Society. The society's mission is to collect, preserve and disseminate the history that relates to the people, properties and events of Berks, Chester and Lancaster Counties.
County of Berks, Pennsylvania. "Berks County Background." Accessed November 4, 2015. http://www.co.berks.pa.us/Pages/BerksCountyBackground.aspx.
ExplorePAhistory.com. "Chester County Historical Marker." Accessed November 4, 2015. http://explorepahistory.com/hmarker.php?markerId=1-A-1A.
LancasterHistory.org. "Overview of Our County and Region." Accessed November 4, 2015. http://www.lancasterhistory.org/learn/overview-of-our-county-region.
Tri-County Historical Society. "About Us: A Brief history of the Tri-County Area." Accessed November 4, 2015. http://www.tricountyheritage.org/aboutus.html.
This collection, 1735-1990s, consists of manuscripts and other original materials, photographs and audiovisual materials, secondary-source materials, printed matter and ephemera, and other documents relating to the history, residents, organizations, and businesses of Berks, Chester, and Lancaster counties. There is also some material relating to Delaware, Montgomery, and other nearby counties in Pennsylvania.
Manuscripts and other original materials include family papers, school records, business records, scrapbooks, property documents, certificates, blueprints and technical drawings of local homes and businesses, tax records, voting registration ledgers, original artwork, and other materials.
Family papers in the collection include Hoffa family papers, 1873-1972; Seeds family papers, circa 1860s-2000s; and Potts family papers, 1830s. The Livingood and Muller families are also represented in the collection. There are also materials from individuals in the collection, including diaries from Owen Bruner, 1832, and Emma Finger, 1944, and a scrapbook compiled by David Finger, mid- to late 19th century. Other individuals represented in the collection include Evan Evans and Jacob Kurtz. Materials from the local justices of the peace include an appointment document from 1777 and a ledger with reports, 1948-1962, from Joseph Martin, who served as Justice of the Peace in Goodville, Pennsylvania.
School records include minutes from school clubs, the Elverson Borough School District records, 1954-1964, and Caernarvon Morgantown School Board registers and minutes, 1876-1881.
There is an assortment of records from various local businesses, clubs, and organizations. Financial records include ledgers from local businesses such as the Churchtown Store, Conestoga Mills (1857-1869), and Morgantown Foundry (1828-1839). There are eight volumes, 1902-1985, of William J. Eppihimer funeral records that include notations about the deceased, such as cause of death, date of death, and burial location, as well as financial records of the funeral home. Records from local clubs and organizations include Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lady Bird Rebekah Lodge No. 150 (Birdsboro, PA) and Lady Elizabeth Rebekah Lodge No. 48 (Morgantown, PA) minutes, financial records, membership records and other materials, circa 1940s-1980s; Independent Order of Odd Fellows Caernarvon Lodge No. 557 (Morgantown, PA), minutes, financial records, correspondence, and other administrative materials, 1859-1897; Patriotic Order Sons of America, Washington Camp No. 388 (Geigertown, PA) minutes, financial records, membership records, and other materials, 1894-1955; Morgantown Summer Playground scrapbooks, 1965-1968; Associated Veterans of Berks County military history record book, circa 1930s; Welsh Society of Berks County scrapbook; Sadsbury Natural Land Trust materials; and Schuylkill Canal Association materials.
There are also maps in the collection, including a hand drawn land draft map, 1735. Additional original documents in the collection include materials relating to the Morgantown bicentennial (1970) and the United States bicentennial (1976) celebrations.
Photographs in the collection include school class photos, school and local sports team photos, images of local scenery and buildings, local area cemetery photos and tombstone lists, various unidentified family photos, framed images, negatives, and photograph albums. There are also small collections of photographs from various donors including: Hine family photographs, circa 1892; Evans family photographs and tintypes, circa late 19th century-mid 20th century; Grubb, Geiger, Squibb, Taggart, Sands, and Eyrich family photographs, late 19th century; Keffer and Littlefield family photographs, 19th century-early 20th century; Lahr family photographs; and photographs taken by Frank Witman. There is a small amount of audiovisual materials in the collection, including VHS cassettes of local events such as parades, circa 1990s, and VHS cassettes relating to the history of Morgantown, circa 1995.
Printed materials and ephemera include broadsides and advertisements, yearbooks from various local high schools within the Tri-County area, Berks County Planning Commission materials, published proceedings from the Knights of Pythias Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, booklets from local organizations, currency, and greeting cards. There are complete newspapers as well as newspaper clippings, including a collection of "Our Keystone Families" from 1980 to 1995, a genealogy column published by Lebanon Daily News and Press and Journal (Middletown, Pennsylvania). There are also published atlases and maps of the Tri-County region, Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania.
Secondary-source materials in the collection consist primarily of photocopies. These include photocopies of various Berks and Chester County records from the 18th and 19th centuries, including Orphans Court records, county taxes, county wills, county administration records, county death registers, and county censuses. There are also photocopies of records from local undertakers and funeral homes, including the records of undertaker James Kimes from Spring City, PA, 1886-1894; A.C. Bishop Funeral Home ledgers, 1890-1968, and coffin records, 1867-1879; and Neiman Funeral Home records, 1906-1970. Additionally there are photocopies of Joanna Furnace records; Dr. Z. Taylor Chrisman handwritten medical notes, 1881-1896, and personal and farm ledger, 1892-1895; Reading Adler marriages and obituaries, mid to late 19th century; various township histories; local area maps; and property research and plans.
Materials collected over time from various sources
Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2014-2016 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.
In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Tri-County Heritage Society directly for more information.
- Tri-County Heritage Society
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Sarah Leu and Anastasia Matijkiw through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
- This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
- Access Restrictions
Contact Tri-County Heritage Society for information about accessing this collection.