THE HISTORIAN: Washington F. Leidy's Store in Swamp

A hundred years ago there were two general merchandise stores in the village of Swamp, now called New Hanover, Brendlinger’s Store occupied the large old Swamp Tavern building on the corner where the Wawa now stands, and Leidy’s Store stood across the Swamp Pike from the Swamp Hotel, now called Our Place. I know of no photo or description of Leidy’s store. It burned on April 21, 1921 when the fire that consumed C.C. Bickel’s auto dealership on the same site communicated to Washington Leidy’s dwelling and store and destroyed it also. He died in 1928 and is buried in the Swamp Reformed cemetery by the church.

I have the impression that Brendlinger’s store specialized more in household goods, fabric and such while Leidy’s concentrated more on farm supplies such as seed and produce. In those days stores like Leidy’s would have been a sort of a two way street since people not only bought things there but also sold to the store any extra yields from the farm.

We find Leidy’s store appearing frequently in old day books and records. In 1893 he bought of Nathaniel Seasholts of Fagleysville ten pounds of clover seed for $65.06, doubtless for re-sale. In 1902 he bought of Seasholtz 6 bushels of cooking potatoes, 2 bushels of apples and 31 pounds of “side meat,”---bacon. His relative, Wallace, lived in the large brick house at the intersection of Leidy Road and Swamp Pike and conducted a huckster business, buying and then retailing all manner of farm produce and meats, no doubt in connection with the store business.

Washington Feather Leidy was the fourth generation born on the Leidy homestead in Swamp. Originally, “Swamp” was not just the village by the two churches, but was a geographical region made up of the Swamp Creek Valley extending down towards Zieglersville. The Leidy farm lay off Keyser Road near Neiffer Road.

According to the 1904 Biographial Annals of Montgomery County “He was born February 18, 1847, being the son of Peter S. and Maria (Feather) Leidy.” He had seven siblings; two died young. “[He] attended the neighborhood schools until he was 21 years of age, and then turned his attention to teaching.”

“Later he engaged in farming, the cattle business and the cigar business. He located at his present place of business in 1887. …He is a member of the Junior Order of United American Mechanics, Council No 976, New Hanover. He is a director in the Boyertown National bank. He owns several farms and is a very prominent citizen.” (A quick check on the internet tells us that the J.O.U.A.M, founded 1854, is the oldest fraternal order still in existence in the U.S. It exists today espousing Conservative Values.)

The Leidy clan famously started in America with the arrival of Reverend Johannes Philip Leydich on September 15, 1748, with his wife, two children, and his wife’s two sisters. One of the wife’s sisters later married Andreas Sassaman. Leydich was sent as a missionary by the Dutch Reformed Church in Holland to minister to the German Reformed congregations in Swamp and Trappe. This may have been a considerable sacrifice on his part since in coming here he forfeited the status and security that an ordained clergyman enjoyed in Europe for the hardship, poverty, and isolation of the wilderness.

It is said that as the family jolted in a wagon through the “Schwammer Thor”--- the Swamp Door--- (a rocky passage in Fagleysville near the present Hetrick’s Landscaping business) the young wife burst into tears and begged her husband not to make their home in Falkner Swamp. But he good naturedly joked: “Ei Mammy, ist dieses nicht das gelopte Land?”(Dear wife, is this not the promised land?)

He selected good land on the banks of the Swamp Creek for his home and in October of 1749 bought 105 acres adjoining Henry Antes property. They had seven children one of whom was Philip the great-grandfather of Washington F. Leidy. These children all married and today there are probably thousands of descendants.

Leydich preached at Swamp until 1765 when Rev. Nicholas Pomp succeeded him. He continued to preach to German Reformed congregations in Pottstown, East Vincent, Coventry and other places until his death in 1784.

He was laid to rest in the Leidy Cemetery where his tombstone in part records that his funeral text was “II Tim. ch.2, v.3. Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

The Leidy cemetery is made up of a quarter acre taken up at the intersection point of four adjoining farms. It was established prior to 1764 as noted in a draft made by the famous surveyor David Schultz. There is an old marker stone dead-center of the cemetery which makes an excellent reference point when ascertaining old property lines. A wall was built around the cemetery in 1783. There are today surely tens of thousands of descendants of the people buried in that acre.

Philip Leidig, Washington F.’s great-grandfather, lived on the old homestead. He served with distinction during the Revolutionary War. Samuel Leidy, the grandfather, also lived on the farm and married Hannah Schwenck. They had nine children, one of whom died in the army and one served as a captain during the Civil War. Peter Leidy, the father, was also a farmer in Frederick and a prominent citizen. All of the Leidys were members of the Reformed church.

A side note, as a child, I remember Wallace Leidy, pictured with this article, as a very tall and very thin, elderly gentleman. He had a goldfish pond by his house on Leidy Road and it was there I first saw gold fish. I never knew such things existed. The only fish I had seen until then were catfish and suckers from the Minister Creek.