THERE is much bold and beautiful natural scenery in easy view from the borough of Montgomery. Just across the river rears that abrupt range known as Muncy Hills, which has figured in history from the time of the advent of the first white men in this valley; and within their dark and hidden recesses many strange and startling scenes have been enacted. On the west side of the borough line the escarpment of Penny Hill is presented, with. its craggy face and overhanging cliffs, covered with stunted foliage and ferns in summer time, and glittering icicles when the frost king reigns.
Montgomery stands in the midst of historic surroundings. Cornelius Low, whose rough experiences are detailed in the review of Clinton township, leased the land now occupied by William Thomas from Francis Allison in 1778. It was a part of this land that Mr. Thomas petitioned the court to have excluded from the borough limits. In the year 1783, John Lawson settled on the site of the borough; and in 1784, Nicholas Shaffer settled on what Its now known as the Porter farm. In 1795 he built a mill, but it was burned in 1820. It was rebuilt as speedily as possible. The old ruin may yet be seen. The farm of John Lawson passed through many hands until it finally became the property of John G. Huntingdon, who owned it when the Philadelphia and Erie railroad was graded in 1853. At that time Henry Bower owned the land south of Black Hole creek, and Jacob Herbst adjoined Huntingdon on the north, while the only building on the ground now occupied by the borough was an old saw mill owned and operated by Jonathan Bower, which stood directly behind the Decker block. These facts are vouched for by the Montgomery Mirror, of December 19,1890. Just below the saw mill, along the creek, was a wool-carding mill owned by John G. Huntingdon. It was a primitive affair, but it supplied a great want in the settlement. The house lately occupied by Miss Lydia Bower was built in 1852, and is the oldest house in Montgomery. This was the extent of the town forty years ago.
In 1853 Samuel Hartzell erected a small two story frame building, which he used as a shoemaker shop and confectionery combined. He afterward sold it to Mr. Huntingdon, who sold it to Mr. King. During the occupancy of it by King it was burned in 1857, but was soon rebuilt.
In 1856 John G. Huntingdon sold out to Robert Montgomery, whose son, R. Montgomery, is the present owner of the brick hotel known as the Montgomery House, and other property. It is from him that the borough derives its name.
As late as 1859 P. M. Barber came to Montgomery, and with his arrival the first business of any importance was begun. He built a distillery where the planing mill of Henderson, Hull & Company, now stands. This was the beginning of Mr. Barber's success. Associated with him in the distillery were Robert Kleckner and Benjamin Bardo. The distillery was abolished in 1869, and on its site was erected a planing mill, which, was the parent industry of Montgomery. It has been twice destroyed by fire and nearly torn asunder once by a boiler explosion, but it was always rebuilt and is still running. The firm was composed of P. M. Barber, A. B. Henderson, Jesse Rank, and Nathan Fowler. Mr. Barber was an active, energetic, and progressive man. In 1870 he made the first plot of the town. Mr. Barber, who was a native of Now Jersey, died suddenly in Philadelphia, November 4, 1891, in the sixty-second year of his age.
At the time the distillery was running Henry Bower owned all the land west of Black Hole creek, between the river and the property of Mahlon Printzenhoff, up to the brow of Penny Hill. Mr. Bower being very old his son Jonathan managed the estate. On the 13th of January, 1866, while in the act of crossing the railroad track with his team, be was struck by a passing train and received injuries which soon caused his death. After his decease the estate was disposed of, except a small portion.
A machine shop was started about 1870 by a stock company, but it made slow progress until Levi Houston came in 1873 and took charge of it. Possessed of fine executive abilities, and being very active, Mr. Houston soon built up a large and profitable business. Having purchased the plant he enlarged it from time to time, until it attained its present large size. The remarkable growth and prosperity of the Montgomery Machine Shops have been the wonder and admiration of all. His trade does not only cover the United States and Canada, but extends to all foreign countries where woodworking machines are used-even to distant Australia. Mr. Houston employs over 250 hands and the most cordial relations exist between the two. Two years ago he erected a large brick planing mill near the shops. These, industries have been a great advantage to the borough.
The planing mill of Henderson, Hull & Company was started in 1869. It has shared the adversities and prosperities incident to the growth and development of the town. A. B. Henderson is president of the company; Dr. A. P. Hull, a well known physician, is treasurer, and William Menges, secretary. Twice has the mill been destroyed by fire and rebuilt. It is now running and doing a large business.
In 1889 a new industry called the Montgomery Table Works was started by a company of which H. M. Weller is president and William Decker treasurer. They manufacture modern and common table, in new and original designs of every description.
On the 26th of March, 1836, a postoffice was established here and called Black, Hole. Samuel Rank was appointed postmaster and he served until April 10, 1839, when Hugh Donly was, appointed. His successors have been as follows: John Fleming, appointed July 28, 1841; John Kinsey, July 29, 1845; Isaac A. Yoder, February 8, 1851; Michael Sechler, April 21, 1852;. Frederick Hess, February 19, 1853.
Black Hole postoffice was changed to Clinton Mills, July 9, 1853, and John Kinsey was appointed postmaster. His successors have been Samuel Hartzell, appointed January 14, 1859; John Kinsey, February 9, 1859.
Clinton Mills was changed to Montgomery Station, May 25, 1860, and Phineas M. Barber appointed postmaster. He was succeeded November 16, 1865, by Samuel Hartzell, who is still in office after a continuous service of over twenty-seven years.
The borough of Montgomery is built on territory taken from Clinton township, which was originally a part of Washington, erected August 23, 1785. It is the youngest borough in the county. June 7, 1886, a petition praying for incorporation was presented to the court and immediately referred to the grand jury for consideration. A favorable report was returned, but exceptions were filed, September 3, 1886, and the application was held under advisement during the balance of the year. January 8, 1887, William Thomas petitioned the court to have that part of his farm embraced by the proposed borough limits excluded, as he desired the land for agricultural purposes. His request was granted and a new line run, when, on the 27th of March, 1887, court entered a decree organizing "The Borough of Montgomery."
The first borough election was hold in April, 1887, and the following officers were chosen: Burgess, Dr. A. P. Hull; councilmen: Parker H. Houston, David F. Love, John J. Johnson, Robert H. Ainsworth, Rankin Fowler, Thomas E. Grady; high constable, William E. Myers; tax collector, William Waltman; justices of the peace, S. J. Bardo and W. W. Achenbach; assessor, Edward Felsberg; overseers of the poor, Daniel Achenbach and John P. Fowler; school directors: Samuel Hartzell, D. W. Shollenberger, William Welshaus James S. Rhoades, B. F. Barto and J. P. Fowler; auditors, S. B. Henderson, W. H. Fowler, Alfred Hayes; judge of election, Moses Alston; inspector, Elisha Shelley. Since this election the burgesses have been as follows: 1888, William Menges; 1889, Daniel Achenbach; 1890, Daniel Achenbach; 1891, L. C. Kinsey; 1892, William Menges. D. F. Love served as borough secretary from 1887 to 1889; J. L. Miller, 1890; H. M. Wellar, 1891; L. C. Kinsey, 1892.
The principal streets running east and west are Houston avenue, Montgomery, Broad, and Wagner streets. The latter is a short street. Those running north and south are Kinsey, Main, and First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth. The southern limits of Montgomery are bounded by the river. Black Hole creek runs through the borough and serves as a first-class sewer. The railroad facilities are excellent, as the Philadelphia and Erie and the Philadelphia and Reading railroads parallel each other in passing through the town.
Montgomery is well supplied with stores and shops, and during the last three years no borough in the county has made more substantial progress. Many of its residences are models of neatness, and some of them occupy elevated and picturesque positions.
BOARD OF TRADE.
The Montgomery Board of Trade was incorporated in 1891. The officers are as follows: President, A. P. Hull; first vice-president, William Menges; second vice-president, William Decker; treasurer, Henry Decker, Sr.; secretary, Thomas E. Grady.
White Deer Lodge, No. 399, I. O. O. F., organized April 5, 1872; number of members, 80.
David L. Montgomery Post, No. 264, G. A. R., organized July 12, 1882; number of members, 55.
Washington Camp, No. 285, P. O. S. of A., organized December 24, 1887; number of members, 58.
John Brady Encampment, I. O. O. F., organized July 18, 1891; number of members, 35.
J. R. Housel Camp, No. 56, Sons of Veterans, organized October 5, 1891; number of members, 18.
Montgomery Council, No. 511, Jr. O. U. A. M., organized October 16, 1891; number of members, 71.
A weekly paper named the Montgomery Mirror made its appearance May 18, 1889. It was started by Fosnot & Burr., of the Watsontown Record and Star, and a local editor employed. The type was set at Montgomery, when the forms were taken to Watsontown to be printed. At the end of three months the local editor suddenly departed, when Mr. Fosnot took charge of the paper. On the 28th of March, 1890, Edward B. Waite was employed as associate editor. A short time afterwards Fosnot purchased Burr's interest in the papers and managed both for several months. Finally he sold the Mirror, June 30, 1890, to H. P. Smith and Thomas E. Grady, of Montgomery, and they retained Waite as local editor. The new firm purchased a press and moved into more eligible rooms. On the 26th of March, 1892, Smith sold his interest to James McCutcheon and a new firm was formed When first started the Mirror was a small sheet, but it steadily grew until it became a handsome folio of seven columns to the page. It is "independent in everything; neutral in nothing."
After becoming a partner in the publication of the Mirror, Thomas E. Grady was persuaded to start a monthly named Railroad Topics, devoted to "railroads and railroading," and the first number appeared in April, 1891. It is the only railroad journal published in central Pennsylvania and has been well received.
Montgomery has three schools. The report for 1891 shows one male and two female teachers, at a salary of $40 a month each. Number of male pupils, 66; female, 82; average attendance, 119. The census of 1890 gives the borough a population of 777.
A neat Lutheran church attracts attention by its commanding position on the hill. It has a large and growing congregation. The Presbyterian church was organized in 1872 by Rev. P. B. Marr. The present membership is about seventy-five, and the building is free of debt. The Clinton Baptist chapel was built in 1887 by the Baptist congregation, which formerly held services in the old meeting house opposite Thomas's mill. The congregation is an old one, having been formed in 1832. The chapel is a neat frame structure and cost $2,000. Occasionally Services are held in the old building, but the regular Sunday services are held in the now chapel, which was dedicated in 1888.