THE first European emigrants to the region of the upper Neshaminy found it well watered and heavily timbered, the soil fertile and easily cultivated, the scenery beautiful, the surface diversified with hill and plain and valley. Its solitudes were unknown and unbroken save by the Indians, or perchance some adventurous hunter or surveyor. The adjoining portions of Montgomery county were already marked by the presence of civilization. The southern portions of Bucks had been settled a generation previously, as with difficulty and danger the advancing tide of emigration penetrated to the head-waters of the Neshaminy. Southampton, Warminster, and the lower part of Warrington were settled in the latter part of the previous century, while Buckingharn and Solebury had become comparatively thickly populated prior to 1705. Newtown and Bristol were villages of some importance; the former had been incorporated more than a quarter of a century, whilst the eligibility of the latter as the county-seat of the future was already under discussion before there was yet a European settler within the present geographical boundaries of New Britain and Hilltown.

It may be observed with regard to the colonization of these and other townships in the western or northwestern part of Bucks county that the route of the settlers was the course of the Perkiomen and its numerous tributaries rather than the valley of the Nesharniny. This was a more direct course, but the nationality of the people induced its choice rather than that consideration. The early immigration to the province was composed principally of Friends, who found the Delaware a safe and convenient highway to their prospective homes, and thus peopled, almost to the exclusion of all others, the fertile southern portion of the county. The first German emigrants settled near Philadelphia, and those who followed extended this settlement farther inland, preferring to be near those of their own people; and thus, as the tidal wave of colonization advanced toward the sources of the Perkiomen, northwestern Bucks county was reached and speedily evinced the presence and industry of the hard-working and patient German.

It was by a different people, however, that the first inroads upon the unbroken forests of New Britain were made. A settlement of Welsh Friends existed at Gwynedd at an early date; they were followed, or perhaps accompanied, by others of the same nationality, but with widely different religious views. The latter were Welsh Baptists, and had become so numerous in the townships of Gwynedd, Montgomery, and Hatfield (Montgomery county), as to sustain a flourishing religious society in the first quarter of the last century. The extension of this settlement into Bucks county was not rapid. It has been said that one Lewis Evan crossed the border as early as 1695, but there is no satisfactory evidence to support this view. It would seem that Simon Mathews and Simon Butler were among the first Europeans to make New Britain their permanent homes. They emigrated from Wales in 1712, landed at Philadelphia, settled for a time in Chester county, and removed to Bucks at some time between the year 1715 and 1732. Near the village of Chalfont they built a mill (owned for many years by Philip Grove), and operated it in partnership until 1753. This was one of the two earliest mills in central Bucks county. Simon Butler was prominently identified with the early history of New Britain; he was a justice of the peace for many years, a surveyor of some ability, and a man of excellent judgment. Prior to that plenitude of lawyers which forms a distinctive feature of society at the present day, a man who could write a deed, an agreement, or an indenture was almost invaluable in any community, and that Simon Butler was such a man is evident from the frequency with which his name appears in old legal documents. He died in 1764, a consistent member of the New Britain Baptist church. Mr. Mathews did not rise to such prominence in local affairs, but was quite successful as a farmer and business man. He amassed considerable property, principally real estate, and was the owner of a large tract of land formerly included in that of the "Free Society of Traders." The homestead of this family was owned by five generations of his descendants. Several houses built by him or his children remained intact for many years and appeared to have been constructed with much care. The Mathews family is still numerously represented.

Among other names of Welsh etymology, which appear in the early settlement of New Britain, are those of James, Griffith, Jenkins, Morris, and Matthias. Upon the death of Thomas Stevenson in 1723, his executors disposed of one thousand acres of his estate to John and Thomas James, father and son, conjointly. It is recited in this deed that they had already been living upon the land. From authentic records bearing upon the subject it would seem that the original home of the family was the peninsula of Pembrokeshire in South Wales. John James, with a numerous family of sons, landed at Philadelphia in 1711, and settled on the eastern border of Montgomery county, whence he removed to newly acquired property on Pine run in 1719. All of the family became large landed proprietors. John Matthias was also a native of Pembrokeshire; he emigrated about the same time as the James family, located at first near Line Lexington, but subsequently followed the Jameses to New Britain. He is the first progenitor of the numerous and highly respectable family of that name in this county. Thomas Morgan purchased land from Isaac James in 1731, and added his family name to that of the Welshmen who preceded him. Owen Rowland removed to this county in 1727 or 1728 from Delaware county, whither he had emigrated from Wales some years previously. Those of that name in this township are descended from Stephen Rowland, his fourth son, the majority of his descendants having moved to the west, when that term meant the distant portions of this state. Benjamin Griffith, a native of Cardigan, Wales, and a resident of Montgomery county in 1720, was the ancestor of those who bear that name in this section. He was successively farmer, teacher, and clergyman, and a man of more than ordinary intelligence and intellectual ability.

The Free Society of Traders, formed in London in 1682, received at an early date a grant for lands which comprised much of the territory on the southern and eastern boundaries of New Britain, and the adjacent portions of Doylestown and Warrington. This tract was about two miles in width at a point where a line crossing it would have passed through the village of New Britain. Above this, adjoining Pine run on the north, and also Iron hill, were the lands of Thomas Hudson, and west of this, a tract of considerable area granted to Dennis Rotchford, April 23, 1683. No bounds were specified in the grant to Hudson, but he was allowed to locate his tract in any part of the province not previously occupied. He chose this section of country, and after his land was resurveyed, it was found to interfere with prior claims, and its area was thus reduced to four thousand acres. Through his agent, William Biles, Hudson disposed of his entire tract to five gentlemen, viz: William Lawrence, Joseph Thorne, Samuel Thorne, John Tallman, and Benjamin Fields in 1691, all of whom were from Flushing, Queen’s county, Long Island. The entire tract was again consolidated in 1719 and sold to Thomas Stevenson, a prominent and influential citizen. The "Long Eiland line" is referred to in old papers.

As originally constituted this township was about six and one-half miles long, and four and one-half miles wide. It was erected prior to 1728. No plot or description of the original boundaries has been preserved, but it seems probable that it was rectangular and oblong in shape, and much larger than at present. Its former generous proportions were reduced in 1819 by the excision of the southeastern corner in favor of Doylestown; and a portion on the northern border of Warrington was also added to that township in 1850, thus reducing New Britain to its present limits. It comprises an area of ten thousand four hundred acres. The population in 1880 was one thousand eight hundred and eighty-four. There is reason to believe that it was also called "North Britain" at an early period.

In this section, as elsewhere in rural communities, it is sometimes difficult to accurately determine the time in which villages came into existence. This has frequently required such profound investigation as to baffle the most distinguished chronologers. The evolution of a village from a cross-roads tavern or store is seldom accomplished in one generation; but the process is not utterly devoid of interest on that account. The village of New Britain, situated at the intersection of the old North Wales and Almshouse roads, was near the center of the township a century ago, and not, as now, partially beyond its limits. It is a well-established fact that it consisted of but one house at that time, that of William Thomas, built some time prior to 1760. A pottery was erected in 1807 by Ephraim Thomas, and the village derived considerable importance from these two establishments. The first post-office in New Britain township was opened here in 1829 by Isaac W. James. The town comprises about a score of dwellings, several business places, a railroad station, and a Baptist church. New Galena is situated several miles west of Doylestown, in the eastern part of the township. It is supposed that a considerable deposit of lead ore exists in the vicinity, but mining operations have never been conducted with success. Chalfont, on the Doylestown branch of the North Pennsylvania railroad, has developed into a town of considerable business activity within recent years. It comprises about fifty dwellings, a number of stores, two churches, and a population of about two hundred. Large quantities of hay, flour, milk, and produce are shipped from this place to Philadelphia. The Neshaminy receives several branches near the village, and would afford fine waterpower, but this has never been utilized save by local mills. The earliest name by which the village was known was Barndtville, from the village tavern-keeper’s name. A post-office was established in 1843 under the name of Whitehallville with William Stephens as postmaster. Upon the opening of the railroad in 1856 this name was continued for a time, but finally changed to Chalfont, which seems to meet with general approbation and will probably be more permanent than its predecessors. A place of that name in England is the burial-place of William Penn. Washington Camp, Patriotic Order Sons of America, No. 95, was instituted at Chalfont April 3, 1886, with Michael Martin, president, Wilson N. Delp, vice-president, Nelson MacReynolds, secretary, Henry Groff, treasurer. Line Lexington, at the intersection of the Bethlehem and County-line roads, is situated in New Britain and Hilltown, and in Hatfield, Montgomery county. This is quite an old town. Not many decades ago, before the railroad had superseded the stage-coach, this was an important point on the route from Philadelphia to the Lehigh. The coaches in both directions received fresh relays of horses here, and the passengers stopped for dinner. But the glory of that time has departed. A village, with a population of about three hundred, several stores and local industries, post-office and tavern, constitute its present status. Colmar station, on the North Pennsylvania railroad, is about a mile distant. This place was so named from Colmar, in Scandinavian history celebrated as the place where Norway, Sweden, and Denmark were united under the government of Queen Margaret in 1396. Colmar, Chalfont, and New Britain are the three intermediate stations on the railroad between Lansdale and Doylestown.

St. James Evangelical English Lutheran church was the first religious society at Chalfont. The church building was erected in 1857, previous to which Reverend John Hassler preached occasionally in a school-house. Reverend P.M Rightmeyer was the first regular pastor; Charles P. Whitecar assumed charge February 19, 1871, was installed May 21, 1871, and resigned December 1, 1872; R.F. Kingsley assumed charge January 1, 1874, and resigned September 22, 1874; H.M. Bickel became pastor in the autumn of 1874 and resigned in the following year; J.M. Hartzell was a supply in 1876—77; B.B. Collins’ pastorate began October 7, 1877, and ended October 2, 1881; J.A. Hackenberry took charge January 1, 1882, and resigned March 18, 1883; E.S. Morell, the present pastor, preached his first sermon in May, 1883. The membership is sixty. This is a mission church.

The Presbyterian church of Leidytown and Chalfont has become such within the past year (1886). In 1840 pastor Hougan held a prayer-meeting in the Hilltown church, thus introducing a new feature in public worship. The new departure thus made culminated in a protracted meeting conducted by Reverend John Naille in 1852, which was strongly opposed by a numerous body of his members. Formal action was taken requesting his removal, when a member of the consistory proposed an amicable division of the congregation, which was favorably considered by classis and finally accomplished. The adherents of Mr. Naille forthwith built a stone church edifice, which was dedicated in 1853. Reverend N.S. Aller was pastor from 1854 to 1871. Nothing of particular significance marked this period, except the gradual introduction of Presbyterian forms of worship. Reverend J.M. Hartzell was pastor from 1871 to 1885, during which time an adjunct church was organized at Chalfont, and a chapel, fifty-two by thirty-two feet, was built in 1877. Reverend F.F. Christine was called as his successor in 1885, but resigned the following year. The change to Presbyterianism has been merely nominal, as in forms of worship and government it has been in conformity with that denomination throughout its entire history.

Of the Mennonite church at Line Lexington and the Dunkard church at Fountainville no definite information is available.

HILLTOWN was erected in 1722. "Hill township" and "Hilton" were its common designations at that time, and the origin of the name has been explained in various ways. "Hiltondale" was the country residence of the Langhornes in England, and their wishes were consulted in the matter. The people asked that the name might be "Aberystruth" unless Justice "Lanom" thought otherwise, and evidently he did. The original boundaries remain unchanged, and the shape is that of a rectangle. It is one of the large townships of the county. The surface is undulating, with a well-defined slope from an elevated plateau about the center of the township. Here are found the sources of the Perkiomen and Neshaminy. Much has been said in praise of the fine prospect commanded by this elevation.

The largest among the original land-holders were James Logan, Jeremiah Langhorne, and the proprietaries. Logan and Langhorne were conspicuous characters in colonial history. Israel Pemberton was the original owner of the Logan tract, having received it from William Penn in 1716. Langhorne’s Hilltown lands were east of Perkasie manor.

One of the earliest and most distinguished representatives of the Welsh nationality in Hilltown was Reverend William Thomas (or, in deference to the custom of the period, "elder" instead of reverend). He was born in 1678 at Llamvenarth, in Monmouthshire, Wales, a county at a distance from the sea, but adjacent to the English boundary. His family belonged to that large element of the English social system known as the middle classes. They were the owners of landed property of considerable value, which enabled them to give their children educational privileges not enjoyed by the poorer classes. Having disposed of his patrimony upon the death of his parents, William Thomas prepared to embark for America, whither the generous offers of William Penn had attracted many of his countrymen. He was at this time in the full vigor of early manhood, with a fair education, a sufficient knowledge of mechanical pursuits to gain a livelihood, and means to begin life in a new country with every prospect of success.

Reverend Joseph Matthias thus narrates the misfortunes that befell him at this time: "He, with his wife and first-born son, named Thomas (then an infant), left their native country to come to America. He agreed for a passage with a vessel lying at Bristol, bound for Philadelphia. The value of his possessions bid fair for him to become a land-holder to a large amount in this country, with plenty of cash to enable him to build, stock, and improve to advantage. His cash, some valuables, together with all the clothing for himself and family, except what would be necessary for their use for a few days, were all put on board the vessel. The freight was not all on board nor the passengers all ready, but a day was assigned on which they should sail. In the interim he took his family to the country, intending to return at or before the appointed day. They did return before the time assigned, but found to their great grief that the vessel had set sail, but was not yet out of sight. Pursuit was made in some small craft, signals were hoisted and kept up, but to no purpose. The vessel was lost sight of, and the family left destitute. They agreed for and took passage on credit in the first vessel bound for Philadelphia, where they arrived safely on the 14th of February, 1712. Upon inquiry they found the vessel in which their property had been deposited, but the master of the ship had absconded, and it was in care and possession of others. They had the mortification to see some of their goods in possession and some of their wearing apparel on the backs of those who had purchased them from the dishonest master of the vessel, yet they were not able to recover anything." Nevertheless, through the assistance of a family of Watkins who had known them in their old home, the passage-money was paid and William Thomas engaged at his trade of coopering in Radnor township, Delaware county, continuing at this five years. His industry and skill were at length successful. He had the shrewdness, the judgment, and the enterprise of a successful business man, and rapidly emerged from his poverty, paid his debts, and with the accumulated savings of five years of toil, looked around him for an opportunity to invest advantageously in landed property. February 12, 1718, he purchased four hundred and forty acres in Hilltown from Jeremiah Langhorne. It bordered upon the county line a distance of one mile, and extended inland a nearly equal distance, embracing a beautiful and fertile valley, now divided into several farms. The tract was originally part of one thousand acres granted to John Brock in 1681. It seems probable that William Thomas took possession at once.

In the course of a few years he built a stone dwelling, demolished in 1812, but the location is still indicated by a slight depression in the meadow bank near Samuel Detweiler’s house. Mr. Thomas’ worldly possessions continued to increase. In 1723 he purchased three hundred acres of land from James Logan, who secured it from the Pembertons. His experience in negotiating for this tract illustrates the social differences of that time. Edward Mathews thus narrates the circumstances: "At that period there was a much wider distinction between classes than now, and Logan moved in a very different rank from the farmer and mechanic. He was rather haughty and pompous and knew not the rude-looking countryman, clad in coarse, homely garb, who, on his way home from market, whither he had carried produce on horseback, stopped at ‘Stenton’ to inquire the price of the land. Logan surveyed Thomas at first rather critically, and inquired whether he was able to pay for the land if he should buy it. His reply was: ‘My name is William Thomas. Let me know the price of the land. If that shall meet my approbation, I will then refer thee to Mr. Langhorne for any particulars thee may wish to know concerning me.’ The price, ninety pounds, was named, and William was invited to call again. Meanwhile, Logan had seen Langhorne, who, from former dealings with and knowledge of Thomas, gave him a first-class character. At the next interview the change in his demeanor was marked. With a smiling countenance he informed Thomas that Langhorne had said that ‘if he did not pay for the land, he would do so himself.’" His landed possessions finally aggregated one thousand two hundred and fifty-eight acres, nearly two square miles. He was the father of seven children, and it is estimated that his descendants at this time number several thousand.

Of the other Welsh families in Hilltown, those of Lewis, Owen, Morris, and Lynn were the earliest, and are at present most numerously represented. There was also another family of Thomases, in no way related to the Reverend William. Lewis and Evan Thomas were holders of large tracts of land in the northwestern part of the township near Rieff’s corner, and eastward from the village of Telford. They were wealthy and aristocratic, and owned slaves prior to the revolution. The family graveyard was situated on the Bethlehem turnpike a half-mile above its divergence from the county line. It is said that a number of slaves were buried here. The spot has long been desecrated, and there is now nothing to indicate that it was once the place of interment of an aristocratic family of colonial times. Richard Thomas was the head of the family prior to the revolution. His two sons, William and Evan, were tories and joined the British army. The former was a captain, and the latter recruited a troop of cavalry. He was present at the skirmish with General Lacey’s troops, May 15, 1778, at Hatboro’. It seems probable that Henry Lewis settled in Hilltown as early as 1730; a mortgage is recorded against his property in 1742, so that he must have been in the township prior to that time. There were also a James Lewis and a Jeremiah Lewis; the former lived near the Rockhill line, and the latter removed to Virginia before the revolution. Griffith Owen is believed to have been the first progenitor in Bucks county of the family that bears his name. He emigrated from Wales in 1721, purchased about five hundred acres of land in the southeastern middle portion of Hilltown, pursued the occupation of surveying for many years, and was a member of assembly a number of terms. His influential position seems to have been of a character similar to that of Simon Butler in New Britain. The Griffith family of Hilltown is descended from Evan Griffith, the son of Howell Griffith, who lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales. He sailed for America in 1704, but was taken prisoner of war by the Spaniards, and did not reach his destination for some years. He settled first in Montgomery, but removed to Hilltown in 1726, and bought land of Thomas Walmsley. His family consisted of ten children, and his descendants are quite numerous. The number of Welsh families was not large. They seem to have been prolific, and intermarried principally among themselves. Hence, in the second or third generation from the original settlers, the population had increased considerably, but this cannot be attributed to the influx of new colonists. There seems to have been a lack of stability and tenacity about the Welsh. They were comparatively intelligent and enterprising; but not inclined to devote the best years of their lives to the task of securing a competency from a soil not over-productive. Many yielded to the inducements offered by other pursuits and engaged in merchandising or manufacturing. Others emigrated west or south, and did again the work their fathers had done in developing a new country. When enterprise was synonymous with change, and conservatism with retrogression, this wide-spread desire on the part of energetic young or middle-aged men to seek their fortunes in other than rural pursuits cannot be utterly condemned. But for every farm that was offered for sale there was a purchaser, seldom a Welsh purchaser, however. A new element in the population was rapidly increasing in numbers and importance— the stolid, conservative, tenacious Germans. They were descending from the north, from Rockhill and Richland and Montgomery county, bringing customs, social forms, ideas and manners, language, and religious views, widely different from those of the people they supplanted. They came to stay. In 1774 the German names among a list of taxables in Hilltown numbered sixty-eight, the Welsh sixty, and other nationalities fifteen; total, one hundred and forty-three. Their population at the present time as against all other nationalities is as twenty to one.

The villages of Hilltown wholly within its borders are Leidytown, Mt. Pleasant, Fricks, Lawndale, and Blooming Glen, while Dublin is partly in Bedminster and Grier’s Corners is partly in Plumstead. Leidytown derives its name from Zachariah Leidy, by whom it was laid off about forty years ago. The first temperance hotel in the county was kept here by him with success for a number of years. The population is estimated to be two hundred and fifty. Frick’s post-office is located on the Line Lexington and Hilltown turnpike, about a mile southwest from Leidytown. Mt. Pleasant is a hamlet of twenty or more dwellings on the same thoroughfare and about the same distance in the opposite direction. The post-office is known as Hilltown, and was established in 1817 with Elisha Lunn as postmaster. Blooming Glen post-office is popularly known as Moyer’s store, and is about equidistant from Perkasie and Dublin. Lawndale, formerly known as Pennville, is a pleasantly located village on the turnpike leading from Sellersville to Hatfield.

Of the churches of this township the oldest are those which owe their inception to the early Welsh settlers. They were as a class devoutly religious and almost unanimously adhered to the Baptist faith. Fortunately for the continuance of these denominational preferences, one of their number, William Thomas, had been ordained as a minister before his departure from Wales, and in the multitudinous duties of a pioneer settler he did not suffer his convictions to lose that positiveness characteristic of his race. He connected himself with the Montgomery Baptist church, of which the Reverend Benjamin Griffith was pastor. The place of worship was several miles from his home, and much farther from those of others of his neighbors. They were present at communion services of the Montgomery church, but the distance debarred many from attending regularly upon its services. That this difficulty might be obviated, occasional meetings were held at private houses or in the open air. The population increased, and the congregations in a corresponding ratio. That the community might enjoy those opportunities of which it had been so long deprived, the preacher resolved to supplement his preaching with a house for worship. He built a meeting-house in the year 1737 on the Bethlehem road. It is disputed whether it was of stone or wood; in either case, the community probably rendered assistance, although Mr. Thomas himself worked upon the furniture of the interior, making the pulpit altar out of a hollow gum-tree supported horizontally. It is said that the people went to church here armed and ready to defend themselves; that the preacher, before ascending the pulpit, deposited his arms at its base and examined his powder; for this was a time of real danger, when no foresight could determine at what time a hostile band of savages might descend from the unexplored region beyond the Blue mountains, leaving death and ruin in their rear. The preacher’s knowledge was not merely theological, but embraced military tactics as well. The original meeting-house was replaced by a stone structure of more pretensions in 1771; this second one, after having stood eighty-seven years, gave place to the present brick church, built in 1858, very nearly upon the same site as its predecessors. In the burial-ground adjoining are the graves of several thousand persons, four or five generations of the population having passed over to the silent majority. One epitaph is here reproduced: "In memory of William Thomas, Minister of the Gospel, who died October 6th, 1757, aged 79 years:

‘In yonder meeting-house I spent my breath;
Now silent, mouldering here, I lie in death
These silent lips shall wake, and yet declare
A dread amen to truths they published there.’
Quaint, unique, and appropriate; also, it is believed to have been original,
as nothing similar has been found anywhere in England or this country.

The wishes of the Reverend Mr. Thomas regarding "yonder meeting-house" are thus expressed in his will: "I give and bequeath unto the inhabitants of Hilltown, forever, the meeting-house erected by myself, together with the graveyard in which to bury their dead, and all others, far and near, black and white. Such as are guilty of self-murder I only reject and deny to be buried in my graveyard or in any part of my land. I give liberty to the said inhabitants to enlarge the said graveyard as much as occasion may demand, the same to be laid out and bounded in the following manner: To begin at Henry Lewis’ corner post, thence southeast somewhat farther than the spring or well which belongeth already to the said meeting-house 35 perches; thence northeast 20 perches; thence northwest 35 perches to a white oak sapling by the great road; thence along the said road southwest 20 perches to beginning, containing by estimation four acres of land and some perches. I forbid any timber to be cut on said lot for any use save to repair said meeting-house, graveyard, etc. The said meeting-house and lot of land as before described I give unto the inhabitants of said township forever to bury their dead in, and to school their children (I also allow others to send to school there), and to perform Christian worship, but under the foregoing and following directions and restrictions, viz: I allow all tolerated ministers to preach funeral sermons either in the graveyard or meeting-house, which they may like best. Papists and heretics I reject and altogether deny them any grant. My will is that the Baptists hold religious meetings in the said house as often as they can; but not any one that deny the Nicene creed. I allow the Presbyterians to preach in the said house, provided they hold the Westminster confession of faith, likewise Independents. But if it happens that any one of them will not swear allegiance to a Protestant king, such I deny and disallow altogether. Papists nor Moravians I allow not to preach in said house, nor any other strangers let them appear ever so godly until they are well known to be sound in the faith. My will is that catechising children shall be kept up in the said meeting-house forever by orthodox catechism, and in order that my will therein may be observed, I do constitute and depute my five sons, Thomas, John, Ephraim, Mannasseh, and William, to assist and take proper care therein. I appoint Lewis Evans, junior, Nathaniel Griffith, eldest son of Evan Griffith, and Jonathan Evans, all of the township aforesaid, and further I direct and order them, and every one of them in their wills to depute some honest religious man in the room of each of them to answer the care and trust I have reposed in them."

Notwithstanding the earnestness and energy with which Thomas builded and preached, the Hilltown church during his long ministry was merely an adjunct of Montgomery, nor did it become a separate organization until nearly a quarter century after his death. Reverend Benjamin Griffith died in 1768, thus leaving the pastorate of the united churches vacant. John Thomas, a son of Elder William, had been called to the ministry in 1749; he was born in 1713 at Radnor, and had never enjoyed any educational advantages nor received any special preparation for his work save from his father, and consequently assumed the ministerial functions at a disadvantage. He filled Mr. Griffith’s pulpit, but not his place in the community. As he was generally acceptable to his Hilltown parishioners, a separation became inevitable. There were other and more potent causes for this, however. In this, as in other sections of the country, the revolutionary war engendered a wide difference of political sentiment, and friction between the two principal parties distracted every community. An act to test the feelings of the people by requiring them to take the oath of allegiance passed by congress brought matters to a crisis. Those who refused to comply were forbidden to pass beyond the borders of their respective counties— a provision which, in this case, debarred the disaffected of Hilltown from attending church in Montgomery, except by undergoing the indignity of arrest and detention. They were arrested en masse on one occasion, taken before Justice Evans, but acquitted on the ground that the meaning of the law had been misconstrued. But the annoyances still continued; and with the consent of the Montgomery church fifty-four of its members living in Hilltown were constituted a separate organization, November 28, 1781. Elder John Thomas continued as its pastor eight years, and doubled its membership during this period. He administered the rite of baptism for the last time in June, 1786, and died October 31, 1790, from the effects of a paralytic stroke. In March of the preceding year, his successor had been chosen in the person of Reverend James McLaughlin, a young man from the eastern shore of Maryland. His ministry of fifteen years was quite successful. Reverend Joseph Matthias was ordained as pastor in 1806, and continued in that capacity until his death in 1851. The "upper end" church was built in 1750 upon a lot given for that purpose by John Kelley. A second building was erected in 1804, and a third in 1875. For various causes the condition of this church in recent years has not been prosperous, nor are its future prospects encouraging.

The German immigration followed the Welsh, and the origin of their churches dates from a correspondingly later period. Three denominations are represented— Lutheran, Reformed, and Mennonite. St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hilltown first worshipped in a substantial stone building, forty by forty-four feet, with galleries around three sides, and three doors level with the ground, erected in 1805. For many years the long-handled cloth collection-bags hung unused beside the pulpit, though some of the present generation well remember the tinkle of the bells on their lower border as the deacons with becoming gravity passed them around. Among the names of the earlier membership were Erdman, Wasser, Hartman, Bader, Schemel, Triewig, Snyder, Eckert, Cope, Savacool, and Rohr. Reverend J.K. Rebenack instructed and received into the church his first catechetical class, numbering thirteen, in 1806. The next class, thirty in number, were received June 7, 1812, by Reverend John Wiand. Mr. Rebenack was the first pastor, and Mr. Wiand appears to have remained but one year. Tradition says that a Mr. Mensch was pastor for a time, but there is no record of his labors. Reverend William B. Kemmerer took charge in March, 1829, and served as pastor uninterruptedly until 1859, thirty years, in connection with a field that embraced nearly the whole of this county. Reverend F. Berkemeyer, the present incumbent, assumed the pastoral care of this congregation in 1859. During a ministry of twenty-seven years he has baptized three hundred and fifty, and confirmed two hundred and ten persons; although in regular connection with the Pennsylvania synod no written constitution had ever been adopted by this congregation until 1868. The church building, situated about a mile and a half from Line Lexington on the Bethlehem road, was built conjointly by Lutheran and Reformed. A new stone church was built in 1875 upon the site of the old basement; steeple, pulpit recess, bell, and organ render it complete in all its appointments.

The Reformed congregation (St. Peter’s) was organized by Reverend Jacob Senn, who preached his first sermon April 1, 1805. Reverend George Wack was the first pastor. He confirmed a class of catechumens in 1810, of whom Henry Driesbach and Henry Leidy were the last survivors. His pastorate continued until 1827, excepting 1820—21, when Reverend A.L. Dechant preached. Successive pastoral changes from that time have been as follows: 1827—34, Henry Gerhart; 1834—39, Henry S. Bassler; 1840—42, J.M. Hangen; 1843, George Wack; 1843, A. Beckey; 1845—52, J. Naille; 1852—58, A.L. Dechant; 1860—76, W.R. Yearick; 1877--, A.F. Seiple.

The partition deed of 1735 opening the manor of Perkasie for settlement was a strong inducement to Mennonite immigration. Henry Funk and Christian Lederach arrived in 1747, John Funk in 1748, Andrew Godshall in 1752, Valentine Kratz in 1748, Hoopert Kassel in 1758, those of the name of Moyer, High, Hunsberger, Kulp, Rickert, and others at a later period. The Perkasie or Hilltown Mennonite meeting-house was built in 1753 upon a small lot on Henry Funk’s land, forty-four feet square in the rear being reserved as a burial-ground. This was a log church about as large as an old school-house. It stood for seventy years; it was rebuilt in 1823 on an adjoining lot about seventy-five feet from the original site; and this, sixty-nine years later, was replaced by the substantial and commodious edifice that marks its site. Among the first preachers were ----- Moyer, ----- Wismer, Jacob Hunsicker, and Jacob Hunsberger. The ministers living at this time are Isaac Overholt, Abraham F. Moyer, Henry B. Moyer, and Henry Rosenberger. Fifty or more years ago, Isaac Detweiler first preached in this county as a minister of United Brethren in Christ. A meeting-house was built by those of this faith at Lawndale in Hilltown in 1883, although meetings had been held in private houses since 1846. Henry Rosenberger and Joseph Detweiler are the preachers.

Trinity Evangelical church, Montgomery circuit, Philadelphia district, East Pennsylvania conference, numbers about fifty members. The first church building in Hilltown was erected in 1843; the second, a neat brick structure with tower and bell, was dedicated December 7, 1884, the corner-stone having been laid August 10th previously. Messrs. John Albright, Christian Sliefer, Elias Hecker, Abraham Gerhart, and Reverend J.S. Newhart, pastor, constituted the building committee. Jacob Albright, the founder of the Evangelical church, was a resident of the vicinity for several years.


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