Longswamp was recognized officially as a township in 1752. Today, it operates as one body; however, it is not that long ago that villages within the township had their own identity. The Longswamp Township Historical Society is working to preserve and share some of the uniqueness of these present-day, unrecognizable villages.
The society recently released its sixth booklet in a series that features the villages and hamlets of Longswamp Township. “The Village of Lower Longswamp” focuses on the historic Mary Ann Furnace, located along Centennial Road. A marker, erected by the Historical Society of Berks County, can be seen along Mary Ann Drive.
The furnace operated from 1789 until 1869 at the helm of ironmasters from the Lesher and Trexler families. The furnace fabricated wood-burning stoves and, later, the first iron stove – called the Lehigh Coal Stove – to burn anthracite or stove coal. Today, the Lesher and Trexler mansions are home to the Savidge Farm – Pumpkin Patch, the Longswamp Bed and Breakfast, and Rohrbach/Savidge Farm.
The Weiler family was another influential family in Longswamp as well as the surrounding area of Lower Macungie. The barn, located on the Weiler farm complex along Springstone Hollow Lane, was built circa 1790, and could be the oldest barn in the township.
No village was complete without its own tavern, and Lower Longswamp was no exception. The Lower Longswamp Hotel, later known as Blair Creek Inn and Blue Orchid Inn, was a popular spot. During the book launch, held at Savidge Farm, residents reiterated the popularity of the cheap beer and great hoagies during the era of ownership by Winnie and Josie Lease (1955-1976).
Although there is no official documentation to verify the existence of a stop along the Underground Railroad, local residents suggest that a tunnel did exist between what is now the bed and breakfast property and the Savidge barn. Reconstruction following a barn fire in the late ‘70s uncovered an archway to a tunnel from the barn and under what is now State Street.
And then there’s the ghost story! According to local legend, a spook or witch, banned to the hills, continues to sweep up on the “Diehle Kopp” (Diehls Head Mountain). It was a popular hike for scouts during the early ‘60s.
The historical society has published five other booklets, including the villages of Longsdale, Shamrock, Mertztown, Longswamp Centre, and Hancock. Each booklet includes numerous vintage photographs, interviews with residents, and other artifacts that are unique to each village. The next booklet will feature the villages of Red Lion, including Rittenhouse Gap, Maple Grove, and Schlossburg. We invite and encourage residents to contribute photos, artifacts, and personal memories about these and all Longswamp villages.
The booklets are available for $15 + $3 (shipping): Longswamp Township Historical Society, PO Box 610, Mertztown, PA 19539, at Radcliffe’s Great Valu in Mertztown, or calling 610-682-0696.