THIS borough lies on the south side of the river from, Williamsport, on a plateau that was known among the early, explorers and surveyors as the "Lower bottom", to distinguish it from the, "Upper bottom," lying opposite Linden. It is bounded on the west, by, the borough of DuBoistown, which was organized in 1878. Practically it is a part of the city of Williamsport, only being separated from it by the river, but connected by two free iron bridges.
Hagerman's run, which drains the northern slope of Bald Eagle mountain, and emerges through a wild and romantic ravine, flows through the borough. The original reservoir of the Williamsport Water Company was built at the mouth of the ravine. It is now used by Gottlieb Fulmer as an ice pond. When there was a demand for more water the company built a storage reservoir further up the ravine, which is used in connection with its larger reservoir in Mosquito valley.
This stream takes its name from Aaron Hagerman. He was born in Holland about 1754 and came to this country before the Revolutionary war. After landing he settled in New Jersey, when he marred. When he came to the West Branch is unknown, but it was probably after peace. He settled on the run which now bears his name, near where Koch's brewery stands. There is no record to show that he took up land, but the family tradition is that he moved across the river and located on the west side of Lycoming creek, on what was afterwards known as the Everett farm, about 1790. There he purchased eighty acres, which he added to in later years. By referring to the assessment list of Lycoming township in 1796 and 1800 his name will be found, together with his son James. In 1800 his age was given at forty-six, and that of his son at twenty-two. Aaron Hagerman and wife had four sons and four daughters, viz: James; Isaiah, (born, December 9, 1786; died October 1, 1861); Susan; Mary; Amariah; Samuel; Sarah, and Hannah. Mary married Peter Vananda. Isaiah, who is well remembered, married Rebecca Drake. They had nine children, viz: Asenath; Julia Ann; Mary; Jane; George; Augustus H.; Joseph; Elizabeth, and Sarah. Julia Ann married Samuel Strayer and was the mother of Mrs. S. L. Gage, of Williamsport.
FOUNDING AND GROWTH OF THE BOROUGH.
At quite an early period a village grew up here which was named Rocktown. Before the completion of the canal the descending trade on the river had become very heavy and the watermen required accommodations for rest and refreshment. At the mouth of Hagerman's run was a favorite place to "tie up," so that McMichael McDonough established a tavern for the convenience of the public. The shad fishery at the beach near by was also a source of patronage. The tavern was located at a point where the public road from that portion of the county lying South of the river led to the county seat, both from Loyalsock gap and from Culbertson's and the "Upper bottom." The Shaffer path from White Deer valley also came to the river at this place, so that the location was well chosen for its purpose.
The first real movement towards a town at this point was when Jacob Weise bought a tract of forty acres and laid, it out in town lots. He also established a brick yard near McDonough's tavern and thus promoted trade in his settlement. The name of Rocktown. was given as a slur upon the place, for although now presenting a smooth and fertile surface, it is said that in many cases enough large stones could be quarried out of a cellar to build a wall around it. Jacob Weise built and operated for many years an oil mill, which was torn away when the water company erected their reservoir. He also built a grist mill near the present brewery.
Bootstown grow up around the furniture factory of George Luppert, and the saw mills of Green, Sands & Company, and Valentine Luppert, the planing mill of the latter, and the mills of the Williamsport Iron and Nail Company. The original settlement was made by three colored men, (Caleb, Peter, and another) who bought land of Michael Ross, but never paid for it. They built a cabin near Kaiser's spring of today, and it was here that the negroes from all about the community hold A jollification on July 4, 1828, and upon returning to the north side of the river, in two canoes, seven out of eight were drowned by being upset.
Just below this spring a number of Germans settled through the solicitation of George Luppert, all coming from Neuburg on the Rhine. After a time a man stole a pair of boots and the boys nicknamed him "boots," from which cause the village cams to be called "boots town," and finally Bootstown. The desire of the German elements was to have it called Neuburg, but ridicule carried the day.
These two settlements Rocktown and Bootstown are now included in the borough of South Williamsport, and their nicknames will soon be forgotten.
When the South Williamsport Land Company was organized and commenced selling lots, a spirit of improvement seized the people and building commenced. Previous to this the ground was used for farming purposes. The growth of the borough has been rapid, and according to the census of 1890 the population was 2,900. As building increased it soon became apparent to the residents that it would be necessary to have the place incorporated in order that there should be some system observed in laying out streets and alleys, the establishment of grades, and other essentials only to be had by corporate government.
This is next to the youngest borough in the county. The petition asking for its erection was referred to the grand jury, September 6, 1886, and a favorable report was returned the same day. There was some opposition on the part of citizens of Armstrong township, from which the territory would be taken, but the court on the 29th of November, 1886, confirmed the report of the grand jury and directed that "Rocktown, Billman, and vicinity," should be incorporated as The "Borough of South Williamsport."
The following burgesses have been elected in South Williamsport since its, organization: 1887, first election, Daniel Steck; 1888, J. H. Sprout; 1889, John Bender; 1890, O. L. Nichols; 1891, Oliver S. Kelsey; 1892, William L. Ellinger.
South Williamsport is divided into three wards. Its principal streets running east and west are River avenue, Lincoln avenue, Southern avenue, Central avenue, and Mountain avenue. Those running north and south are Church street, Main, Hastings, Market, Howard, George, and Curtin. Market is a continuation of Market street in the city, which crosses the bridge and runs to the southern part of the borough.
Although Michael Ross had a ferry about half a mile above, Seely Huling established another a few rods west of the mouth of Hagerman's run, where the ground is high, and this retained its popularity until supplanted by the bridge across the, river on the same site. John Huling, son of Seely; built a saw mill on Hagerman's run where the Linden branch of the Philadelphia and Erie railroad crosses it. Together with other property, this passed into the hands of Ellis Schnabel, at sheriff's sale. This mill was one of the "thunder gust" variety, and at a low stage of water could not run, so Mr. Schnabel built a storage reservoir that would fill up during the night for use during the next day. The banks of this old work can yet be seen.
This was followed by the saw mill of Lutcher & Moore, near the mouth of the run. It was started in 1867-68 and operated for several years, when it was abandoned, the proprietors having found a more inviting field at Orange, Texas.
In 1850 A. Koch, Sr., purchased land of George F. Ott and built a mill in 1851-52. Owing to the gradual taking of the water of Hagerman's run by the, Williamsport Water Company, it was so much crippled that in 1873, A. Koch & Brother put in steam power and ran for a year or two at a loss. The machinery was then sold to Robert Innes, of Bodinesville, and used in fitting up his mill at that place. The mill building was then moved a few rods south and converted into a double dwelling house. The original brewery, a small affair, was completed by Mr. Koch in 1850-51, before the mill was erected. The Excelsior Brewery of today is a large establishment and supplied with all the modern improvements for the manufacture of beer. Since the death of its founder it has been successfully conducted by August and Edmund G. Koch, brothers.
The Keystone Furniture Company had its inception several years after the close of the war, when George Luppert established on the south side of the river the West Branch Susquehanna Furniture Company, in connection with A. H. Heilman & Company. Mr. Luppert had, previously carried on the furniture business in Williamsport in partnership with Fred Mankey from 1863, and the plant of Luppert & Mankey is claimed to have been the pioneer steam furniture factory in the city. Mr. Luppert has been burned out several times, and he has suffered a total loss of $150, 000, but with, wonderful energy he has rebuilt his factory after each fire, and gone forward in the face of disasters that few men could have overcome. In October, 1887, he erected the present factory, and has been sole proprietor of the Keystone Furniture Company since that date; he gives employment to seventy-five operatives, and turns out from twenty-five to thirty suites of furniture daily.
Near this manufactory is the saw and planing mill of Valentine Luppert. The saw mill has a capacity of 12,000,000 feet annually, and the planing mill 35,000 feet daily.
The largest industry in the borough is the Williamsport Iron and Nail Works, established in 1882. with a capital of $100,000. The company was reorganized, April 15, 1892, as follows: C. La Rue Munson, president; John Y. Schreyer, secretary; John M. Young, treasurer; John Jenkins, general superintendent; directors: W. A. Schreyer, S. W. Murray, W. A. Heinen, C. La Rue Munson, Constans. Curtin. The company manufactures nails and iron and employs about 120 men.
United States Machine Company is the title of a new industry started on Southern avenue. The officers are Justin J. Pie, chairman; Charles H. Bates, secretary and treasurer; John I. Hales, manager; Robert Eason, superintendent. They man-ufacture all kinds of woodworking machinery; they are also iron founders.
South Williamsport has two postoffices. The first, established September 8, 1881, was called Billman, and H. Russell Kerchner was appointed postmaster. June 23, 1887 the name was changed to South Williamsport, and Kerchner was continued in office. His successor and present incumbent, Samuel B. Woodmansee, was appointed December 11, 1890.
Another postoffice, called Burlingame, was established January 29, 1886, and Capt. William Sweeley was appointed postmaster. He was succeeded, February 25, 1891, by Aaron E. Scholl, present incumbent.
There are four churches in the borough. Messiah’s Lutheran was first erected in 1868, and rebuilt in 1888-89. It has a membership of about 250, and 275 Sunday school scholars. This church was organized out of such families as the Wises, Lutchers, Weigels, Rickarts, Jarretts, Aults, and Turks, who at one time were the representative families of St. Mark's, of the city.
The Methodist Episcopal church, situated on Southern avenue, near the nail works, has a membership of 150, Sunday school scholars, 200; W. D. Campbell, superintendent; Rev. G. M. Glenn, pastor. The church property is valued at sup $3,000.
The United Brethren church, organized in 1886, has, a membership of about ninety, and 140 Sunday school scholars. Rev. Henry Denlinger, pastor.
St. John's chapel, Episcopal, was built in 1887. It is a neat structure. Rev. W. H. Graff, rector.
There are elegant brick school houses, provided with all modern improvements, and ten schools in the borough. Eight months were taught by three male and eight female teachers. The males were paid an average of $57.50 per mouth, and the females $42.85. About 600 scholars were enrolled.