Saturday, August 3, 2013
Saturday, August 2, 2014
Saturday, July 25, 2015
Miss Kutztown Bicentennial Pageant
Monday, July 27, 2015
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Friday, July 31, 2015
Saturday, August 1, 2015
After Parade Party
Sunday, August 2, 2015
Broadly defined, the Kutztown area encompasses an area of land known as the East Penn Valley, a broad limestone crescent in northern and eastern Berks County bounded by the Blue and South Mountain ranges to the north and south, respectively, by the Lehigh County border to the east, and by the Ontelaunee (Maiden) Creek to the west. Kutztown itself is situated near the center of this swath of fertile farmland, midway along the Easton (also known as Great or High) Road, one of the first roads laid out in Pennsylvania, linking the Forks of the Delaware (Easton) to Lancaster, the nation's oldest inland city, and about a half-day's stagecoach ride from both Reading and Northampton (as Allen's Town was known until 1838). (The intersection of modern-day Rts. 222 and 73 at Maidencreek is the approximate half-way point of the old Easton Road, hence the hotel known locally by that name that stood for generations on the intersection's northwest corner.)
While extant records point toward the settlement of the land bounded by modern-day Kutztown no earlier than the mid-1730s, the neighboring countryside was populated, albeit sparsely, as early as 1725, when the first birth of a child born to parents of European origin was recorded in what was then still an unnamed region of Philadelphia County known locally as Machksithanne, an aboriginal word meaning "Bear's Path Creek." A mingling of French Huguenot, Palatine German, and Swiss ancestry, the area's earliest settlers arrived primarily from the south across the Oley hills (Oley having been settled in about 1719) and the west, from the Tulpehocken settlement that included several families who had earlier established communities in New York state. While overwhelmingly Lutheran and German Reformed "church people," the early settlers also included Schwenkfelders, Moravians, Catholics, and several Amish families (not to be confused with the Wenger or Groffdale Mennonites who migrated into the Kutztown area from adjacent Lancaster County starting in the late 1940s).
The land comprising much of what is now Maxatawny Township was patented as part of a 1000-acre parcel by Peter Wentz, a prosperous landowner in central Montgomery County, on 1 December 1724, and within five years, by November 1729, both Nicholas Coots [Kutz] and Jacob Hottenstein had purchased acreage from Philadelphia button manufacturer and land speculator Casper Wistar, accounting for an additional 266 acres of the 14,960 total comprising Maxatawny. By this date, or within a few more years, additional tracts were claimed by the Siegfried, Grim, Le Van [Levan], Kemp, Teyscher [Deisher], Bieber/Beaver, and Wink families. On 6 September 1742, the land having been surveyed by George Boone, Jr. (uncle to Daniel, Berks County native and founder of Kentucky), inhabitants of Maxatawny petitioned the Court of Quarter Sessions of Philadelphia County for the creation of new township, among the earliest in the region that was effectively still bordering the frontier line between civilization and the "howling wilderness."
Upon Peter Wentz's death in November 1749, his son Jacob inherited 550 acres of the Wentz tract, and on 16 June 1755, conveyed 130 of them to Jacob Coots [Kutz]; the same year, in the first formal survey of the Maxatawny section of the Easton Road, David Shultz located no settlement at present-day Kutztown, though local tradition maintains that a primitive log residence had been erected in what is now the 100 block of West Main Street by the 1730s. In any case, not until February 1779 did George Coots, a son of Jacob's brother Nicholas, plot his town, to be comprised by110 in-lots – those situated along "Front" (now West Main) and Walnut Sts. – and 108 out-lots (those situated along Whiteoak south of Sander Alley and north of Vine Alley, and along what is now Baldy St.), each lot subject to an annual quit or ground rent. (Kutz's heirs later annexed additional lots free of such encumbrance along Front west of Baldy, an area that came thus to be known as "Freetown.") Adam Dietrich and Henry Schweier are the first recorded purchasers of these lots, in 1785, and in the late 1790s, ownership of "Coots's Town," as it was formally known until legally changed to "Kutztown" on 19 September 1835, was transferred to Peter Kohler.
Incorporated on 7 April 1815, Kutztown is the second oldest borough in Berks County (after Reading, which became a borough in 1783 and a city in 1847). However, through the Colonial and post-Revolutionary eras, it also grew more slowly than anticipated, and by the Civil War, it was by far the smallest of the original communities plotted along the Easton Road. Not until the Keystone State Normal School was established (in 1866) and the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad's Topton spur was laid (in 1869) did Kutztown begin to experience a significant population increase.
The first commemorative celebration in the young borough was its observance of the American Centennial during the summer of 1876, including the dedication of a monument on the KSNS campus, the enactment of a local census conducted by James F. Wagenhorst at the request of Burgess Simpson Schmehl, and the publication of the area's first history, An Historical Sketch of Kutztown and Maxatawny, Berks County, Penn'a., written by John S. Ermentrout and printed by Urick & Gehring.
By all accounts, Kutztown's own Centennial celebration in 1915 was a grand affair, a full week of activities that included several parades, ceremonies, and an historical pageant in which local schoolchildren and dramatic clubs re-enacted significant events in the establishment of the East Penn Valley, including Native American raids into Maxatawny and a visit from Martha Washington. The congenial Dr. Henry W. Saul, long-time resident and medical practitioner at 262 W. Main St. (now Robert P. Grim's law office), served as President of the Centennial Association, and Dr. W. W. Deatrick, as Chair of the Historical Committee, edited The Centennial History of Kutztown, among the most comprehensive community histories published in Pennsylvania to that point. Other members of the Centennial Association's Executive Committee were A. S. Heffner (secretary), Arthur Bonner (treasurer), and Rev. R. B. Lynch, V. H. Hauser, and A. S. Christ (trustees), with William B. Schaeffer, E. P. DeTurk, and Walter S. Dietrich serving as auditors and Herman A. Fister brought aboard later as corresponding secretary.
Each day of Centennial Week (1-7 July) was accorded a certain theme, including Educational Day, Agricultural and Industrial Day, Firemen's Day, Church Day, Fraternity Day, Reading and Allentown Day, and Historical Day, with additional committees assigned to decorating and illuminating, finance, transportation, and reception. Among the many prominent Kutztown residents to have assisted in planning the 1915 Centennial were Zach C. Hoch, William S. Rhode, Rev. John Baer Stoudt, Henry K. Deisher, Harry B. Yoder, Charles D. Herman, Charles W. Snyder, Richard D. Sharadin, Clem J. Stichler, Charles A. Stein, Llewellyn Angstadt, and Samuel H. Heffner
In 1965, Kutztown's Sesqui-Centennial was organized by an Executive Committee comprised by co-chairmen Paul M. Herring and Samuel P. Smith, Marlowe F. Leibensperger and John O. Melot (vice-chairmen), William M. Greenawalt, Jr. (secretary), Carson E. Schmoyer (treasurer), and Lee W. Trout. Stanley Koller and Donald Buchman organized the memorable 29 May parade, attended by an estimated 50,000 (15 times the borough's population at the time) and culminating a week's slate of events that included a beauty pageant, banquets, concerts, a formal ball, and high school commencement.
The Sesqui-Centennial Commemorative Book, issued in an edition of 5,000 copies comprised by 1,000 numbered hardcover and 4,000 soft, was organized by Ira S. Guldin (chair), Ruth E. Bonner (primary author and editor), Amelia A. Bolich (assistant editor), and Lawrence W. Fenstermaker (Advertising Committee chair), with considerable input from Historical Committee co-chairs Chester R. DeTurk and Raymond S. Schatzlein.
In 1990, Kutztown celebrated its 175th anniversary with the adoption of a new Borough logo, displayed most prominently on banners adorning the light standards along Main Street, and related promotional items, but perhaps the most endearing effort was the release of a compilation of documentary film footage of daily life in Kutztown recorded as one of the first efforts of the nascent Kutztown Lions Club in 1939-40.
Note: For a more detailed history on the early settlement of Kutztown, please see the introductory essays in A Most Agreeable Town: A Photographic History of Kutztown, Volumes 1 and 2, published by the Kutztown Area Historical Society.