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Orwigsburg History


Gottfried Orwig along with his sons, Peter, Henry and George, founded the town of Orwigsburg, located in Schuylkill County Pennsylvania in 1796. The town was named after his oldest son, Peter. The title to the site of Orwigsburg dates from the time when King Charles II of England, in 1681, for a payment of 1,600 pounds’ sterling, granted to William Penn, by charter, the title to what is now the State of Pennsylvania. Penn divided the province into three counties, namely: Philadelphia, Bucks, and Chester. The site of Orwigsburg was initially in Philadelphia County, but in 1752 the County of Berks was formed and this placed Orwigsburg within the limits of that county. In March 1811, the Assembly of the Commonwealth formed the County of Schuylkill from portions of Berks and Northampton Counties and Orwigsburg was designated as the county seat. The right and title of Orwigsburg were purchased by Peter Orwig, who obtained a deed from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, bearing the date of February 20, 1795 for 309 acres, 26 perches and allowances of six percent for roads. The following year Peter named the town Orwigsburg.

In the 1700’s the eastern section of the United States was very busy building roads and railroads for commerce to Philadelphia. The first road began in Reading and ran northward along the Schuylkill River through Maiden Creek and Windsor Township until it reached Port Clinton. As settlements increased, extensions of the original road were built through several townships and terminated north of Orwigsburg. In 1790, the original road was extended to Sunbury and was known as the King's Highway, or Great Road. The Great Road was the thoroughfare over which all commerce between Philadelphia, Orwigsburg and Sunbury was carried. In 1811 a weekly stagecoach was run between Philadelphia and Orwigsburg and from then on travel between these two communities increases until 1829 when three stagecoach lines ran over this road. In 1825 the travel time from Philadelphia to Orwigsburg was about 18 hours. The first mail by stagecoach was delivered to Orwigsburg about that same year.

Growth of the town was slow until around 1813 when Orwigsburg became incorporated as a borough and many lawyers and their families moved to Orwigsburg. Some of the more well-known residents were a Congressman, members of the state legislature, a distinguished colonel, an ambassador to Germany, and a State Treasurer. In 1814 the first jail was built using field stone and it was used until 1852 at which time it was converted to a school house. The prisoners were transferred to a new jail in Pottsville. The first Schuylkill County Court House was erected in Orwigsburg in 1815; a brick, two stories high structure. By 1829 there were 650 inhabitants.

The earliest settlers were mostly Germans, among them being William Deibert, who settled there in 1744. His neighbor, John Hartman, arrived about one year later. In 1747 Gottfried and Clara Orwig moved from Maiden Creek to Sculp's Hill, a short distance south of the site of Orwigsburg. Among the other settlers prior to the Indian Wars were Thomas Reed and a family by the name of Swartz. 

The first settler on the site of Orwigsburg was Francis Yarnall, a Quaker whose grandfather, Francis Yarnall, came to America from Worcestershire, England, in 1683, purchasing a large tract of land from William Penn and settling in Chester County. The younger Francis Yarnall settled in Berks County in the spring of 1740.In 1741 he married Mary Lincoln, a daughter of Mordecai Lincoln, who was the great-grandfather of Abraham Lincoln. About 1755 he took up a track of land in Manheim Township, near the Schuylkill River.

A boat company and a saw mill were located in Orwigsburg. The first trolley cars were introduced in 1899 and the first electric lights in 1910. By 1913 there were eleven shoe factories, four knitting mills, a large paper box factory, a cigar factory, two school houses and four churches. Historians noted that the standards of morals and intelligence of the people of Orwigsburg was far above average for a town of its size, as could be judged from the support its people gave to community affairs, reform or intellectual uplift. Music was a natural talent of many Orwigsburg's people, there being four organized church choirs, a high school orchestra, two uniformed bands with joint membership of about fifty men, and a uniformed drum corps with a membership of fifteen. The population was about 2,000 in 1913; one hundred years after its incorporation.




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