Tuesday, October 15, 2019


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A Visit to the Historical Society of Montgomery County
Written by Larry Roeder Editor

A box, made of wood from the Antietam Bridge, was presented by Major William Holstein to Colonel William Schall.  Schall and four of his sons fought in the Battle of Antietam during the Civil War.

                There isn't many history buffs in Montgomery County who haven't scanned Theodore Bean's "1884 History of Montgomery County." 

                Bean's work on preserving the history of Montgomery County is usually one of the first resources sought by those seeking to learn about our county's past.

                Nestled along the busy Route 202 corridor, known as DeKalb Street, in Norristown is the home of the Historical Society of Montgomery County.  Founded in 1881, the organization's first president was Theodore Bean, and his dedication to the preservation of Montgomery County's history is still carried on by dedicated staff and volunteers within the walls of the well-kept brick building.

                Upon a recent visit, this writer had the opportunity to tour the facility under the guidance of Ed Ziegler, who volunteers with the group.  His knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm for local history was contagious.  There was much to see and learn and there were some items that held a special interest to the curious in the upper end of the county.

                One such item was a pipe organ made by farmer and cabinet maker John Ziegler of Skippack.  He built it for his daughter Sarah and it was the last of four that he constructed.  It wasn't quite finished at the time of his death in 1852 and was completed by organ builders from the Krauss family.  The history of pipe organs from the Krauss family are well known and documented in the Upper Perkiomen Valley region.

                Another item was a beautiful clock built by John Hagey in the early 1800's.  The majestic clock was made of cherry wood with mahogany veneers.  Hagey was born in Franconia Township and moved Lower Salford Township in his youth and later settled in Germantown.    

                A box, made of wood from the Antietam Bridge and presented by Major William Holstein to Colonel William Schall, is displayed in front of the two-page letter penned by Holstein.  The Union Army's taking of the bridge during the Civil War battle of Antietam was of vital significance to the outcome of the battle.  In his letter Holstein notes, "The wonder is, how any of our brave men escaped; Four of your sons were among the number who performed this daring feat – for that reason, I though you would prize this relic."  William was among the many members of the noted Schall ironmasters from Berks and Montgomery Counties who fought in the Civil War.

                The artifacts, displays and changing exhibits are wonderful to see but the hidden treasure of the group is in the documents containing early deeds, tax records, family genealogical files, census records, atlases, photographs, scrapbooks, newspapers and so much more, that are just waiting to be explored by researchers.

                Ziegler was an excellent guide and told me that the society could always use volunteers.  He added that those interested could contact the society's executive director, Karen Wolfe, for information.                  

                The Historical Society of Montgomery County is located at 1654 DeKalb Street in Norristown.  Their hours of operation are Monday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday and Wednesday, 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.  They are closed on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

                You can help preserve Montgomery County history by becoming a member of the organization.  Members receive free admission to the reference library, discounts on the cost of programs, a copy of the bulletin and their quarterly newsletter.  Membership levels range from annual Individual, Dual/Family, Student and Business up to Life memberships. 

                Admission to the exhibits is free but donations are accepted.

                For more information call 610-272-0297 or visit their website at www.hsmcpa.org.





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