A Brief History of Mohnton

Excerpt from THE PASSING SCENE - Vol. 2, copyright 1983, by George M. Meiser, IX, used with permission

In 1846, when Benjamin Mohn brought his family to the place that evolved into present-day Mohnton, there was but one residence in sight - a small log cabin that stood on the north side of West Wyomissing Avenue, in the proximity of Calvary Church.

The land thereabouts was then nothing but a barren waste devoid of the convenience of even a public road; nothing but bushes and briars. As one old-timer put it, "Not room enough for a hare to get through."

Mohn bought the acreage from Joseph Schwartz who later served as a U.S. congressman - in 1859-1860 and was proprietor of the Mount Penn Furnace, located on Flying Hill, just south of Route 724 along Valley Stream Road, also in Cumru Township.

Where the N & H Corporation Knitting Mill stands today, along the south side of West Wyomissing Avenue, Benjamin Mohn erected a grist and saw mill. In that same year 1846 - he built a stone barn and residence across the road.

In time, John Greiner acquired the home and converted it into a hotel, later conducted by John Mengel. This evolved into the well-remembered Mohnsville Hotel, long run by Augustus R. Anderson. The landmark finally was razed in 1944 to provide parking for Calvary Church.

Soon after completion of Benjamin Mohn's stone grist mill, his 23-year-old nephew, Samuel Kegerise Mohn, came to work for him. Samuel had shortly before completed a milling apprenticeship in Adamstown under the guidance of William Mohn (1804-1889), a relative of his.

In 1847 Samuel married Susanna Spatz, daughter of John Spatz, Sr.

In a portion of the grist mill, Samuel opened a general store which soon did a thriving business. In point of fact, it provided considerably more revenue than the milling of grain.

Consequently, he determined to concentrate on merchandising and in 1857 constructed a three-story frame store building at 3 E. Wyomissing Ave. He petitioned for a U. S. post office which was granted the same year.

After this, "Mohn's Store" began to appear on maps. In time, though, the designation "Mohnsville" supplanted Mohn's Store as the preferred name of the settlement.

After many years as a gun-making center, the power of the town's Wyomissing Creek was largely converted to the manufacture of hats. By 1887 the total numbered about 7,200 units a day. Absalom Ruth was the pioneer of this industry at Mohnton, having started in the business with his four sons in 1859.

An account of the wool hat industry in Mohnsville, compiled in 1897, gives the following information:

"The second hat factory was put up by S. K. Mohn and John Fichthorn; later it was carried on by Mohn, Spatz and Co. Absalom Ruth erected the third plant, now a grist mill owned by John H. Spatz and operated by David Lorah and son.

"The fourth hat factory, erected by Cyrus D. Hornberger, at present goes by the name Globe Hat Factory and sits opposite the lower depot on Main St. The fifth hat works, dating from 1878, was built by John H. Spatz, Jr. and stands along the trolley route just west of the upper depot.

"Sixth built was the plant erected by Henry Worley who changed the place from a gun-barrel works in 1878; this trades under the firm name of Worley Brothers and is situated in the western end of town where the trolley tracks cross over Wyomissing Avenue.

"The seventh and last-built factory was erected in 1886 by Jonathan H. Miller and most recently operates as the Westney Hat Co. Its location is near the junction of Church and Main streets."

In 1882 John A. Bohler began the manufacture of cigars in a three-story factory that gave work to 60 hands. Three years later George H. Leininger built a plant that employed 20. In 1886 Mohn and Seitzinger went into business, as did Huyett and Co. Soon there-after, factories were put into operation by Eshelman & Leininger, Fred Blimline, and then Weidner & Hornberger.

The Mohnsville Building and Savings Association was organized in 1882 and proceeded to erect many "tasteful, 2-story frame cottages" which became the homes of the workingmen of the town. In the 1880s, their building lots sold for $100 to $250 each and their houses rented from $3.50 to $6 a month.

A Reading Eagle article of 1887 noted that the great need of the village is a railroad, as more than 6,000 tons of coal are consumed every year and "every ounce has to be hauled from Reading by teams." Likewise, the output from its factories was hauled to Reading at great expense - exceeding $20,000 a year.

In 1887 Mohnton had five flourishing secret societies. At Ruth's Hall the Good Templars met every Monday evening, the Order of American Mechanics on Tuesdays, the Knights of the Golden Eagle on Thursdays, the P. 0. S. of A. on Fridays, and the Knights of Pythias every Saturday. Of this group, the last two organizations listed, both organized in the early 1880s, still function.

The Order of Knights of Friendship, Maine Chamber No.46, chartered March 4, 1899 at Mohnsville, survives as the only existing chapter of this society anywhere in America.

An account of some of the town's people, prepared 85 years ago, mentioned the following individuals:

"H. H. Worley is justice of the peace. Aaron S. Hornberger is both a surveyor and notary public. Bentley Foreman fills the position of constable. "Frederick Blimline runs a broom factory. John J. Eshelman and Peter Eberly have cigar factories. John H. Fichthorn and Albert Eckenroth conduct eating houses. John Y. Weidner operates the saw mill and John S. Zellers has a shoe store. "Bakeries are conducted by William H. Shirk and Hiram Griffith. The blacksmiths are George L. Happ and Abraham Knoll. Messrs. Happ and Homan have wheelwright shops. Benjamin Frankhouser, Samuel Frankhouser, and James Gougler butcher meat.

"H. D. Young and Jacob Becker are auctioneers. Charles Grimes is the barber. Clayton Knorr serves as undertaker. The four general stores are operated by Westley D. Mohn, John Y. Weidner, Ephraim G. Werner, and William G. Leininger."

A great deal can be written about the Mohnton of yesteryear as the town has a rich history, much of it stemming from the Wyomissing Creek and its 16 dams that once supplied power to industry that progressed in time from gunsmithing to hat making to hosiery manufacture.

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