A Look Back in History: Travel historic frontier road Boyer’s Junction at in the Oley Hills

A sketch of the Oley Hills including the 1750 Oley Forge, likened to a rare one (sketch) that appeared in the manuscript of the History of the Oley Valley by Dr. Peter Bertolet in 1860, and includes the area on which Boyer’s Junction Store would have been built.
A sketch of the Oley Hills including the 1750 Oley Forge, likened to a rare one (sketch) that appeared in the manuscript of the History of the Oley Valley by Dr. Peter Bertolet in 1860, and includes the area on which Boyer’s Junction Store would have been built. Submitted photo

There is hardly a person who has traveled from the Oley Valley to Kutztown who has not passed through Boyer’s Junction at the intersection of the Pricetown Road and Rockland Township’s Forgedale Road, where Elwood Boyer built his Shurfine General Store some years ago. This historic frontier road was where Conestoga wagons brought iron, freight, and imported goods from the Port City of Philadelphia to the area. It was also a major artery for the settlement laid out in Kutztown in the early American period, connecting travelers to our Historic Easton Road (222). Traversing through Stony Point (Dryville) through the Rocky Oley hills of Rockland Township, there were few alternative routes to the East Penn Valley following the ancient mountain pass made by the Bieber creek, flowing down to Oley Township through the hills.

The village of Boyer’s Junction proper occurred when the state Highway Department built the Pricetown Road across Forrest Boyer’s 50-acre farm at the Rockland Township intersection of Forgedale Road when the Boyers saw the opportunity to build a combination gas station and general store on their farmland. However, the historic village at Boyer’s Junction consisted of a number of stone farmhouses and buildings that predated this modern innovation. The structures standing accompanied the Rockland Forge built at this location, which was powered by the Bieber stream that flowed parallel to this early American roadway, leading from Oley to Kutztown.

Built in 1783, by J. Truckenmiller, the Rockland Forge influenced pioneers to settle along the Bieber stream with the Boyers and Young families. Even today, drivers following this route are prone to stop at Boyer’s Junction Store and gas station to fill up with gasoline or take advantage of buying their delicious PA Dutch homemade pot pie, assortment of homemade shoo fly pies, or even chocolate bottom funny cake, which actually is baked in a pie crust!

Originally founded by Elwood Boyer’s father, Forrest in 1928, the general store which once sold fishing or hunting licenses and equipment, retains a traditional meat butchering facility and still smokes meats in their store smokehouse outside. Woody K. Boyer (1923-1992), as his friends called him, used to write a hunting column in the Kutztown Patriot newspaper. He was known to be such an avid, local hunter, but in the early years, the Boyer store had Woody’s stuffed game animals he shot on the walls of his store in sharing his sport with local hunters.

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Gone is the early 1783 Rockland Forge, across Forgedale Road alongside Boyer’s country store, but its ancient dam breast, still stands and can be seen in the hollow where the Bieber creek once turned the early water wheels of the iron industry. No longer do Conestoga and freight wagons pass along this early American route to Philadelphia, but since 2012, Old Order Mennonites have acquired large farms in Oley Township. It is quite common now to find their wooden wheeled buggies once again passing over these early American roadways from the Kutztown sect through Boyer’s Junction to farm homes in the Oley Valley.

Jerry L. Keller, a long time employee and friend of Elwood “Woody” Boyer, co-owned (with Elwood’s widow, Julia B. Boyer) of Boyer’s Store as the Boyers were predeceased by daughter Patricia Lee (1947-2007) was also remembered fondly by customers. Jerry continued to keep up the homemade quality of his food and meats who was a local Dutchman active in our fire companies and organizations, and hired local PA Dutch people like Rich “Butcher” Kemp who obviously can butcher and smoke meats. There for a time was hardly a week that passed that either Dick Shaner or I stopped in at Boyer’s store for a quart of pot pie, meats, or baked goods. It had become part of our lives, traveling down often in years past, appreciating the Oley Valley’s historic architecture and landscape, including the 1753 Keim Homestead.

Elwood Boyer ‘ s father’s stone farmhouse across the Forgedale Road from his gas station and general store was built perpendicular to this historic roadway that led to the East Penn Valley on an ancient dirt roadway that was once part of the historic Rockland Forge industrial complex. Built originally by “B YOUNG 1857” on its house date board, the farmhouse is currently owned by Mr. Evan Schleicher, but the early bank barn is no longer standing. Below the Boyer farmhouse this early dirt road bridged the Bieber creek where it had been damned to fur¬nish water power to the early iron industry, but at one time connected villagers to Kutz Road on the western side of Boyer’s Junction.

Today an ever flowing spring crosses Forgedale Road south of the Boyer’s Intersection and still supplies thirsty hikers and drivers with a drink of cool clean spring water, which had become a custom since Colonial times for Conestoga waggoners going to and from Rockland Forge. Still servicing significant food needs of area citizens, country super markets like Boyer’s Junction find it difficult to compete with large food chains that are now open twenty-four hours a day. But current owners as did congenial Dutchman, Jerry Keller, Woody Boyer’s successor, fulfill regional desires too small to be considered important by conglomerates, allowing our native baked goods culture to survive in the twenty-first century. Like the old creameries that still produced quality butter in the Oley Hills of yesterday, local customers stop at Boyer’s store to still buy delicious Americana food specialties at a price that cannot be beat elsewhere.

Added comment: an interesting tidbit that should be pointed out in that the Rockland Forge and famed Dr. David Hottenstein Mansion of Kutztown were built the exact same year in 1783, and the historic Boyer’s road does connect the two areas.