Our lo­cal Dutch Coun­try opens up dur­ing the Fed­eral years

The Southern Berks News - - LOCAL NEWS - Richard L.T. Orth A Look Back In His­tory

Con­sid­er­ing the dy­namic change in our re­gion’s Fed­eral years, per­haps the big­gest change was when the United States Post Of­fice es­tab­lished post of­fices within re­gional Gen­eral Stores, es­pe­cially the Ru­ral Free de­liv­ery that sup­plied these ru­ral vil­lages with hard­ware and food sup­plies for the com­mu­nity life. The post­mas­ters of our small vil­lages with of­fi­cial United States des­ig­na­tions were thought by the ru­ral folk peo­ple as be­ing al­most as im­por­tant as a town mayor. Thereby, of­fi­cial mail­ing ad­dress had to be legally cor­rect. Thus, in our Fed­eral years of the East Penn and Oley Val­ley, Gen­eral Stores with post of­fice ad­dresses were sig­nif­i­cant to lo­cate an area in which citizens lived.

Indige­nous PA Dutch peo­ple thrived on our homemade Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch cui­sine for over three hun­dred years, and this was con­sid­ered a beer and pret­zel cul­ture, cel­e­brated by tav­erns and way­side Inns in the his­toric Oley Val­ley basin and along the Great Eas­ton Road or “High Road” (mod­ern 222) such as at the Le­van Tav­ern/ Kemp’s Ho­tel or Swan Inn, both in and on out­skirts of Kutz­town [laid out in 1779 by Ge­orge Kutz (Coots)] and Max­atawny town­ship. Nu­mer­ous 19th Cen­tury trade fairs in the East Penn and Oley Val­ley Fed­eral years could not for­sake their grass-roots cul­ture even af­ter the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion made it pos­si­ble for new meth­ods in farm­ing to up­date the newer prod­ucts de­manded in the 19th Cen­tury Civil War pe­riod, such as re­plac­ing home­spun cloth from flaxseed used to cover their Con­estoga wag­ons of the by­gone pioneer days. How­ever, the Keim fam­ily of Lobachsville, men­tioned in last week’s ar­ti­cle still wove home­spun flax cloth as late as 1910.

East Penn farm­ers who were lucky enough to have shared road frontage on this im­por­tant trade route be­came some of the most pros­per­ous agrar­ian farm fam­i­lies in the Dutch Coun­try. Build­ing high fash­ion Ge­or­gian English ar­chi­tec­tural man­sions and Swiss bank-barns our young Repub­lic proved that eco­nomic free­dom of op­por­tu­nity in ru­ral Amer­ica was pos­si­ble for those dili­gent enough work­ers who sought free pri­vate en­ter­prise ca­reers. The his­toric stone arched bridges in the early ru­ral coun­try­side would soon re­placed by pic­turesque cov­ered bridges of the 19th Cen­tury as com­merce among Val­ley farm­ers now be­came a weekly rou­tine, and al­lowed read­ily ac­ces­si­bil­ity for farm­ers to at­tend farm­ers mar­kets and sell their homemade but­ter and cheese at lo­cal bor­oughs and the his­toric City of Read­ing, PA.

Among the fron­tier tracts of land pur­chased from Wil­liam Penn, lucky were those home­steads who had ac­cess to “wa­ter rights,” or creeks of wa­ter which could be dammed up to op­er­ate a wa­ter pow­ered grist­mill or at least able to cre­ate a race­way to turn a wa­ter-pow­ered mill. Thereby, a mill wheel could set in mo­tion an up and down sawmill to cut vir­gin tim­ber that pioneers could use to build their homes and barns or for house fur­ni­ture for not only them­selves but to make fur­ni­ture for their neigh­bors in a fron­tier settlement with­out any do­mes­tic crafts­men. But of the two choices: a grist or flour­mill, turned


by the creeks and streams, was a pre­mium busi­ness in a Colo­nial time when the near­est grist­mill was many miles away and set­tlers were in need of milling na­tive wheat and grain, them­selves. Thus, the ear­li­est grist or flour­mills built in the East Penn and Oley Val­leys had a mo­nop­oly among fron­tier farm­ers. But, of course, re­ly­ing on Mother Na­ture, and the ne­ces­sity of rain­fall de­ter­mined if your wa­ter-op­er­ated mill wheel was an un­der­shot one or an over­shot mill wheel- ac­cord­ing to the height of the race way or mill pond.

Shown here is the Lobachsville Grist Mill with mill pond in im­me­di­ate fore­ground.

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