The Historian by Robert Wood: Old Inns and Taverns of New Hanover, part 1

The historic Swamp Tavern stood at the intersection of the present day North Charlotte Street and Swamp Pike. A Wawa now occupies the site.
Another view facing south east of the Swamp Tavern. The white house in the background is where a CVS is now located.

The old inns and taverns of Montgomery County share typical features that make them recognizable. Situated at a crossroads and built of stone, brick or logs, they were usually two stories high, squareish, and had attic windows in the gable ends and frequently attic dormers; along the front one will find a long porch sheltering two doors, one leading into the bar-room and the other leading into the inn parlor and family living quarters.

Anyone who researches eighteenth and nineteenth century Swamp, (an English corruption of the German word Schwamm—“sponge, lowlands, meadows,” the former name of New Hanover) will discover Johannes Schneider, his five boys and their descendents. They were one of the leading families of this village for almost two hundred years.

Henry Dotterer records in The Perkiomen Region that “John Schneider, son of the founder, became owner of the two hundred acres of choice land located along both sides of Minister’s Creek, a tributary of the Swamp Creek, which was sold, December 9, 1718, by John Henry Sprogell to the elder Schneider. John Schneider, his son, established an inn on this property, on the main road running through Falkner Swamp, which became famous throughout the land. In the colonial days the inn-keeper was a man of influence in his neighborhood. Although he died rather young, John Schneider [b.1728 d.1769] became possessed of wealth. After his death his widow, a woman of unusual strength of character, maintained for years the good reputation of the hostelry, the conduct of which devolved upon her at her husband’s death.” Tavern licenses were taken out for the next thirty years by Catharine Schneider, her brother in law Henry, and her son John.

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According to research, the historic inn to which this refers is surely the large colonial era tavern that stood at the intersection of Rt. 663 and Charlotte Street and was razed in 1941. In the twentieth century this structure was known as Brendlinger’s store. The inn wasn’t on Schneider land. John Schneider may have been the inn’s builder, but the inn was on his father-in-law Henry Deringer’s land.

John Schneider, son of Johannes the founder, married Catharine Deringer daughter of Henry and Christina Deringer, New Hanover land owners, about 1748. They had seven children. Their sixth child, John b.1764 ( this is the third “John Schneider” in Swamp) married Catharine Dengler in 1791 and also died young on January 15, 1797. He had four children; only the youngest, Charles, survived. These are the principal players in our story.

The following summary is recorded in Montgomery County Deed Book 8, pg.147.

  • ?In 1720 John Frederick Richards bought 150 acres from Sprogell.

  • This block (it seems) lies along the west side of what became Charlotte Street approximately from somewhere between Moyer and Klemen Road north to the township building. (Township orientation: north is toward Pennsburg; south is toward Pottstown; west toward Boyertown and east toward Limerick)

  • ?Deed for 50 acres from the north end to John Berkenbill 12/23/1726.

  • ?Deed John Berkenbill to Bastion Reifsnyder and Frederick Antis 7/25/1732.

  • ?Deed one-half interest, Henry Antis, Exr. of Frederick Antis to Bastion Reifsnyder 11/23/1746.

  • ?Bastion Reifsnyder and Susanna his wife to Henry Deringer 11/16/47. This is just about the year that Henry Deringer’s daughter Catharine married John Schneider (Son of Johannes).

  • ?Henry Deringer to his daughter, Catharine Snyder, 4/13/1774.

  • ?Catharine Snyder to John Snyder, her son, 6/22/1795.

John Snyder (documents used the English spelling, but the family always retained the German “Schneider” ), Catharine’s son, died in 1798. His estate included “a tavern house and plantation.” The inventory of property on his will is interesting. In the four page list, in addition to tavern keeping equipment, is a violin, a gun and a regimental coat and sword. His mother, widow since 1769, eventually had remarried __?__ Derr with whom she had children. She died in 1802. The property remained in estate until Charles Snyder came of age in 1816 and was then sold out of the Schneider family.

Now about the tavern. Deeds do not describe buildings only the “metes and bounds” of the property, but on June 6, 1757, the Court of Quarter Sessions recommended that a license to keep a tavern be granted to John Snider of New Hanover Township. I think it is very possible that was when the Swamp tavern was constructed. His father-in-law, Deringer, owned that corner property; John Schneider had been married to Catharine Deringer for almost ten years; and he had taken out a tavern license. What better location for it than her father’s land at an intersection of the road from Pottstown and the road that later became the Swamp Pike.

This then is the probable origin of the building that became Brendlinger’s Store. As early as 1839 Frederick Brendlinger had a “license to sell foreign merchandise” in New Hanover Township. He kept store and post office there for the rest of his life. When did the building no longer house a tavern? That will be next week’s story.