When Cumru Township was first founded in 1737, it included Spring Township and the boroughs of Kenhorst, Mohnton, and Shillington and some areas that were incorporated into Reading. Hugh Jones bought one thousand acres of land in Cumru Township in 1732 and was its first land owner. He purchased this land along the Wyomissing Creek. The name Cumru is Welsh in origin and its name comes from the early settlers who were Welsh.
Since Cumru preceded the boroughs of Kenhorst, Mohnton and Shillington, some of the history covered here will be repetitious of their histories to some degree because the historical places and persons mentioned actually were located in Cumru although these areas later took on other identifications.
Cumru Township was split into Cumru and Spring Townships in 1850 by petition to the court of the residents to bring this about. Division of the Township had been attempted as early as 1842 and again in 1845, but these attempts proved unsuccessful because of too much opposition to the proposals by residents who opposed division. The township was huge and presented several problems for election purposes, township meetings, and road repairs. Finally, in 1850, the division was approved.
The tax lists of 1759, kept and collected by a David Evans Jr., included 142 married men and twenty single men and amounted to 106 pounds, 18 shillings and six pence.
Industries in the township were many. Although most were located along the Wyomissing Creek, some few were erected near the Angelica Creek. The industries mentioned here were located in the area that now constitutes the Governor Mifflin area as best as can be determined. The Hemmig mill-seat was located near the Lancaster Road and was torn down for a brick mill built by Joseph G. Huyett and later was operated by Benneville H. Hemmig. The water power was not strong, but the mill was excellently located. The next power up the stream was at Hendel's Hat Factory. Previous to the Hendel Hat Factory, a small woolen factory and carding mill was run by Joseph Warner. This area was known in earlier times as the old Body place. The next mill site was established before the Revolutionary Was as a place for drawing wire by Henry Voight. It then became D. Matz's saw mill. William Pennypacker operated the next mill as early as 1810 to bore out and grind rifle barrels. Cyrus Hornberger built a new mill there and later R. T. Gring established a mill in that general area. Montgomery mentions that there were many small shops for the manufacture of guns and cites people such as Cyrus Hornberger, Frank Miller, Henry Wooley (Worley), and Gougler and Heberling as gun barrel makers.
Cornelius Reichwein opened a gun shop where Ruth's grist mill was located. John White had a gun shop on the Wyomissing, and it was later converted into Hiram and Joseph Holtry?s file works. White relocated on the Angelica Creek and opened another gun barrel factory there. Franklin Schnader had a shop with a tilt hammer and boring machinery and made gun barrels. John Keim preceded him at the Schnader locations. At a power source further above on the stream, Kohl and Keim had another gun barrel factory, which then became a saw and clover mill for Joseph Schoener and then Amos Price. Near the head of the stream Moses Ruffner had a stave mill and John Gougler had a small woolen factory around 1862. After the manufacture of gun barrels declined, many of these sources converted to hat making.
Absolom Ruth was the pioneer hat maker on the Wyomissing. In 1859, he and his sons, John K., William, Henry, and Michael came from Adamstown and started the hat business the location where the Kessler Hat Factory later stood. Later they went to the Old Reichwine gun factory and continued there until 1872. Then they bought the old Mohn grist mill and converted it into a hat factory, which was later purchased by John K. Ruth. They produced fifty dozen hats per day. Jacob Kessler's wool-hat factory was established in 1867 by Conrad Kessler and Brothers. In burned down in 1878 and was rebuilt by Jacob Kessler in 1880. It produced sixty dozen hats per day.
In 1878, Henry Worley began making hats, using the power of a rifle factory built by Benjamin Mohn. Worley also made gun barrels before producing hats. The rifle factory was small, but a three-story frame building replaced it. It produced thirty-six dozen hats per day. Daniel Glass had a trip hammer in his gun barrel factory as early as 1848, and Gougler and Heberling replaced him as owners and operators. Later John Fichthorn made wool hats in the factory. Spatz, Miller and Company took over and were manufacturing thirty dozen hats per day.
Anthony Wertz had a cotton lap factory that replaced one of Franklin Miller's gun barrel factories by 1870. In 1885, carpet weaving was begun as another branch of the industry. J. H. Spatz established a hat factory in a three-story frame building, twenty-eight by fifty-four feet, in 1878. Steam power was used and forty dozen hats were made each day. In 1874, Mohn, Spatz and Company began the manufacturing of hats in another building. They were succeeded in 1878 by Cyrus Hornberger and Samuel and Jonathan H. Miller. The factory was later operated by Spatz, Son and Company and made forty dozen hats per day, using water and steam power. J. H. Miller erected a factory in 1886, one of the largest in the area, and produced fifty dozen hats per day using steam.
Near Mohnsville was George Hendel's factory, which used steam and water power. It was built in 1878 at the site of the old Warner fulling mill. The building was forty by one hundred and twenty-five feet and stood four stories high. It included separate storage buildings of large capacity. George Hendel, John Hendel and Samuel K. Mohn first operated it. Then George Hendel, Brother and Son took over. One hundred and eighty dozen hats were produced daily, giving employment to eight hands.
The Angelica Creek never had as much industry as the Wyomissing Creek and by late eighteen hundred was devoted mostly to ice interests. George Frill controlled the ice interests, erected large and well-appointed ice houses, enabling him to store enormous quantities of the purest ice. Early mills on the stream were Henning's grist mill and the Speedwell Forges. The first forge was the property of Nicholas Yocum in 1815. Philip Seidel had operated the site before Yocum. In 1835, Speedwell Forge No. 2 was built by Yocum, and his sons, Moses and Daniel, operated the Speedwell Forges until 1870. John K. White had his gun barrel factory on the Angelica and Moses Ruffner ran the Forest File Works. The Old Yost grist mill was operating in the late 1880's and the Mount Penn Furnace on Flying Hill Run was active late into the eighteen hundreds.
Montgomery dated the early prominent churches in Cumru Township in his Berks County History of 1886 as being the Baptist Church near the Wyomissing Creek at Ruth?s Mill, the oldest organization in Cumru where services were held in the Welsh language by Reverend Thomas Jones; the Salem Evangelical Church in Mohnsville, a rough stone building constructed in 1849; the Wyomissing Church, an edifice built in Gouglersville in 1850 and led by Reverend R. S. Wagner in the Lutheran faith; the Christ's Church of Yocum's, a building located just south of the center of the township in 1854; and Immanuel Church in Shillington, a church opened in 1874 for Lutheran and Reformed congregations.
Montgomery also related the opposition in the township to public schools, an issue hotly debated in Pennsylvania when the legislature passed laws making education free. "In various parts of the township early pay schools were taught, which educated many of the citizens to recognize the advantages of the free-school system. Nevertheless, there was a decided opposition to the system on the part of many wealthy and influential men, who expressed their feelings at a public meeting April 12, 1849. Resolutions were adopted, declaring a determined hostility towards the system and to oppose, at all hazards, the establishment of schools under the system. The meeting went so far as to ridicule the government in offering aid to establish better schools. To counteract this influence, the friends of free school held a meeting at the public house of Adam Groff, May 12, 1849, when Jacob Matz was chosen president; Isaac Matz, vice-president; Cornelius Freeman and Jacob Stoudt, secretaries. Appropriate resolutions were adopted, in which the meeting lamented the downward tendency of their school affairs and the opposition of wealthy, influential citizens, and urged ceaseless effort until something was done towards their improvement."
A committee was appointed to go to court to make the school directors carry out the provisions of the Act of 1849. The opposition subsided and the schools slowly improved.
Among the early villages in the township, in addition to Mohnsville and Shillington, was the town of Gouglersville, It was situated on the Old Lancaster Road and contained a fine Union Church, a hotel, store, shops, and twenty residences. The place took its mane from John and Philip Gougler, who were influential citizens, and was known by this title since the establishment of a post office there in 1855. Jacob Reedy built an Inn there in 1813, which was later owned by William Kohl and then John Gougler in 1842, who enlarged it. He also started a store in 1843. Benjamin F. Hemmig was one of the earliest post-masters and Justices of the Peace. A daily mail was supplied by the Adamstown stage from Reading. Mechanic shops were located in Gouglersville in addition to a cigar factory and small factories run by David and Samuel Hornberger.
In 1881, the village contained seventeen dwellings and seventy-eight inhabitants, five carpenters, two wheel wrights, two hatters, two butchers, one undertaker, one blacksmith, two farmers, and two yeomen. During the active days of stage traveling, Gouglersville was a prominent stopping place. The watershed of the township was near Gouglersville, the summit point between Lancaster and Reading. The Muddy Creek rose to the south and flowed into the Conestoga and on to the Susquehanna, and the Wyomissing Creek rose to the north and flowed to the Schuylkill. Early post offices were established at the Five Mile House, one of the oldest taverns in the township, on the Old Lancaster Road in 1858, and at Angelica at the Old Yost Tavern in 1882.
One prominent feature of Cumru Township was the Poor House. It was authorized in 1824 and was situated near Shillington on the former property of Thomas Mifflin along the Old Lancaster Road. It contained 417 acres and the land was purchased for $16,690. By 1825 the Main Building was completed and the first poor people were being cared for. The first poor people admitted were William Hydecam, aged 83, and his wife Dorothea, aged 81, on October 21, 1825. During 1825, 130 inmates were admitted. Normally about 350 inmates were at the institution prior to 1885, but a peak of 613 was there in 1878. Other important buildings on the property were the Insane Building, built in 1837, and the Hospital, constructed during 1871 to 1874.
Montgomery wrote of an account of a visit John Penn and Judge James Bidder had to the Mifflin estate on a trip from Reading to Harrisburg.
"The General and Mrs. Mifflin received us in a neat farm house, and being very early themselves, provided a second breakfast for us, thought it was only half past seven. He took us around some of his improvements, and I rode with him to various points of view which commanded the town of Reading and circumjacent hills and valleys. He farms about twelve hundred acres and has a Scotch farmer, who conducts the business; one hundred acres of meadow land he waters. A neighbor of the general?s is one of the marring Dunkers. They live in their own houses like other countrymen, but wear their beards long. General Mifflin, with agreeable frankness and affability, pressed us both to stay for an early dinner, to which we sat down about one o'clock. After dinner I mounted my horse and came into Carlisle Road about three miles off at Sinking Spring."
Early roads in Cumru Township of key importance were the Neversink Road, Lancaster Road and Schuylkill Road. The Neversink Road, built in 1753, ran from Reading south through Flying Hills. The Lancaster Road, completed in 1762, ran south westward from Reading through Cumru Township. And the Schuylkill Road, opened in 1750, followed along the Western bank of the Schuylkill River by way of Plow Tavern and Green Trees Tavern through Cumru, Caernarvon and Robeson Townships.
Howard Blankenbiller records in his notes on the area the stage lines ran through the township in earlier times. One line ran from the city Hotel in Reading to Denver and made stops at the Three-Mile House in Shillington, the Five-Mile House in Cumru, the Gouglersville Hotel, Adamstown Hotel, Reamstown Hotel, and Denver. Another line left Reading and extended to Angelica and Humnel?s Store. A third line ran from Reading to Terre Hill and stopped at Grill, Angelica, Knauers, Bowmansville, East Earl, and Terre Hill. John Leed and Jacob Erb were drivers on these early stage lines.
Communication was an important factor in the development of Cumru. The Lancaster Road cut through it in 1762, the Reading Southwestern Railroad cut a trolley line into it to Mohnsville around 1890, and the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company built a belt line through Cumru in 1902. Special legislation for the improvements of roads was secured by Cumru in 1905 and as a result the road from the Schuylkill River to the Three-Mile House in Shillington was improved.
The land area of Cumru has slowly been decreasing since 1737, because new townships have developed and towns have grown within the area. In 1850, Spring Township split from Cumru and cut the area in half. Shillington, Mohnton, and Kenhorst became boroughs and decreased the size of the township. Annexations of land to boroughs like West Hills and the Shillington Memorial Park have further reduced Cumru, plus Reading's annexation of land in the Millmont and Oakbrook areas.As the 1900's roll by Cumru has become a first class township with a planning commission, zoning board, police department, etc. as is necessitated by growth in population. The police department was organized in 1960 and the planning commission was organized in 1956. Farming in Cumru has become almost non-existent with development of the farm land for housing and industry.