The Historian by Robert Wood: Inns and Taverns of Swamp, New Hanover, part 3

For three days in September of 1777 the American army, about 8,000 strong, was camped in New Hanover principally in the long valley lying between Fagleysville Hill and Rosenberry Road but also extending south to Sanatoga and east to Schwenksville.

The encampment was principally on the 450 acres owned by Andreas Schmidt who may have invited the army to this sheltered valley. In the center of the camp was Schmidt’s Tavern which folklore claims was used as an operating hospital for the amputation limbs. It is a now a tan farmhouse dwelling located on the Swamp Pike between Rosenberry and New Hanover Square Roads

“Operations were performed at the Andrew Smith Inn. Smith used his stone farmhouse west of Fagleysville as an inn. Operations were performed on the bar room table. Anesthesia was unavailable; the soldier’s screams were piercing. Women and children covered their ears with pillows to muffle the soldiers’ cries and the gangrenous limbs were removed and buried on the property. Later owners reported plowing up human bones in the farm’s orchard. The bar room table is believed to still be in existence.” (From History of New Hanover Township). [However, it must be noted that “history” such as this is not always to be trusted. We must always ask, “From what source did the writer get this information? How does he know this?” This encampment was two weeks after the Battle of Brandywine, so where did these wounded come from?]

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In addition to participating in the American Revolution, Andreas Schmidt was a farmer, inn keeper, constable and justice of the peace. In 1779 Andrew Smith, innkeeper, was assessed as the owner of 450 acres of land, 3 horses and 6 cows. In the effective supply tax of 1781 he had the highest assessment in the township. In 1750, as trustee, he received title to 150 acres of land in New Hanover for the benefit of the Reformed Church and school.

In 1774 the Court of Quarter Sessions recommended that Andrew Smith be licensed to keep a public house. The same recommendation was made in ‘75, ‘77, ‘78, ‘79’ and ‘81. After that there is no record of his being an innkeeper.

Just to the east of Schmidt’s Tavern lies the hamlet of Fagleysville. “Fagleysville is an old settlement, for a map of 1758 shows an inn, The Rose, was situated there at that time. Of The Rose nothing is known. It disappeared sometime in the nineteenth century as there is no hotel shown in Fagleysville on an 1848 county atlas.

A road laid out in 1766 crosses Swamp Pike at Fagleysville. …[This road] extended through Sumneytown, Frederick, and Fagleysville to Turkey Point, on the Schuylkill. Thence it continued on the other side of the river to Warwick furnace. Over this road in Colonial times iron was hauled from Warwick furnace to the forge at Greenlane on the Perkiomen.” (1940 clipping, Mont. Co. Historical Archives). Through the next century it remained an important crossroads.

John Fagley was a militiaman in the Revolutionary War. His son John established a tannery on the Swamp Pike on the family farm where the Swamp Pike Pub is now located, and his son Elias Fagley built the Fagleysville Hotel in 1861.

1903 two ladies who lived near Reading, Jane Bowne Haines and her cousin Ethel Rhoads, took a leisurely journey by buggy to Norristown. Jane Haines kept a notebook. We pick up her story as she came down the Swamp Pike from Boyertown. “Stopping to ask the way at a small general store in New Hanover, [probably Brendlinger’s] found the storekeeper conversing with acquaintances in Dutch which he instantly dropped for English with me.

This is the last place we heard Dutch [German] spoken.

Reached Fagleysville Hotel on top of a long hill at 11:45 and stopped for diner. No town. The settlement consists of Hotel, General Store, Church [she probably mistook the school for a church], and perhaps three houses far apart. Nice breeze on the piazza which overlooked fine view toward Boyertown. Red haired, eye-glassed young woman served our dinner in a nice cool little parlor where she had laid a round table with clean cloth for two. Delicious raspberries, straight from the garden, and a saucer of very fair strawberries…. Evidently some of the young men are connected with the University of Pennsylvania, as photos of classes and ball teams there adorn the walls. The usual piano was present in the neat parlor where hung crayon portraits, and where wax flowers and leaves under the bell glass were the adornments. This is Christian Pfeiffer’s Hotel” (From Claussen’s , Through Our Land).

The following is printed on the back of a menu from 1999. The establishment was then [19th century] know as the Fagleysville Country Hotel. The owner was David Miller. “By the turn of the century the present east-side dining room had functioned at various times as a post office, general store and barber shop. The hotel was also a focal point for local politics. On the hallway opposite the stairs may be found a notice for a William Jennings Bryan Free Silver Rally held there in the fall of 1896. On the other side of the coin the hotel has also had its share of less legitimate pursuits. The present wine cellar was originally built, complete with false doors, to conceal a sizeable still during prohibition…. Sometimes in the quiet of a late evening patrons have heard a single note suddenly ring out from the piano. Theories abound as to its source, but we like to think that maybe it’s a long deceased patriot--or even a bootlegger--signaling his approval.”