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The story of Perkasie area’s other Covered Bridge

As part of my project with the Bucks County Historical Society to inventory and map the county’s current and former Covered Bridges, I’m doing brief bios of each of the 57 bridges that existed here. Here’s a quick look at the little-known Steeley’s Bridge, which sat just outside of Perkasie.

Steeley's Bridge

One of its few photos. Courtesy of Trish Kane at Lostbridges.org.

Today, Bucks County has 12 Covered Bridges, which is a lot for one county. Two of them are full reproductions; a third is the South Perkasie Covered Bridge sitting on land in Lenape Park.

Happy 139th birthday, Perkasie Borough!

On May 10, 1879, the Bucks County court recognized a petition from 68 residents of a village in Rockhill Township to form Perkasie Borough. Since then, Perkasie has grown, seen a few changes, and survived some tough challenges. But today, our town has retained its place and character as one of the best areas to live in Upper Bucks County.

Perkasie1879

Perkasie Borough came from humble roots. The area was once part of William Penn’s Manor of Perkasie, land he acquired from the region’s original residents, the Lenni Lenape. The treaty was signed at a place called Perkasie Indian Village; its current location is disputed today but it was likely in Hilltown or Rockhill Township.

The story behind those incredible Victorian birds’ eye view maps

You’ve seen them in gift shops, museum book stores and maybe you have one of them in your house: an aerial view of your hometown a generation before airplanes existed. The story behind these maps is fascinating, and the work of three researchers reveals secrets left behind nearly 100 years ago.

perkasiefullmap

A handful of artists walked the American countryside drawing nearly 1,800 maps over a three-generation period that showed life in small towns and big cities from the Civil War until the early 1920s. Some of the maps are staggering in detail. Thaddeus M. Fowler, the most prolific artist of panoramic or birds’ eye view maps, spent four years drawing a highly detailed map of Allentown, Pa., right before his death in 1922. Fowler died at the age of 80 from complications caused by a broken leg; he was hurt while walking and drawing around Middletown, N.Y., in his 54th year as a map artist.

The story of South Perkasie’s forgotten first church

Bridgetown-Ev-Church1900

The first church in modern Perkasie was demolished about 100 years ago, but parts of the historic South Perkasie building could still be with us today.

If you drive up Main Street in South Perkasie just north of the The Perk, you’ll see a cemetery at the corner of East Market Street and Main. The cemetery is still used and it contains the some of the older gravesites in the Borough. That’s because a small church sat on the property from 1866 until 1917. The Bridgetown Evangelical Church predated Saint Andrew’s Union Church in South Perkasie by about a year.

Two decades later, bigger churches were built in the center of Perkasie in the 1880s. But the Evangelical Church played an important role in community life until its owner, the Evangelical Association, closed its doors and sold it for $106 at a public auction in April 1916.

How could the original meeting house for an important local religious group be closed and scrapped within 40 years? Part of the answer is related to church politics, and another has to do with economics.

An update on the South Perkasie Covered Bridge

Friends – I hope to be introducing the start of the process of rehabilitating our Perkasie’s Covered Bridge in Lenape Park at the next Perkasie Borough Council meeting on Monday. This process will involve a grant application to pay for at least 50 percent of the renovation costs for the bridge.

Some of you know the Bridge’s story.  In 1957, Bucks County decided it wanted to demolish the bridge, even though it is the third-oldest example of an Ithiel Town Lattice Bridge in the United States. (The Town Lattice design made covered bridges affordable for thousands of towns.) The County built the bridge in 1832 and it one of the oldest structures in Perkasie. It was just part of Rockhill Township in 1832 – there wasn’t a South Perkasie, Bridgetown, or Perkasie.

The Bridge After Its Move

The Bridge After Its Move

The concerned citizens of Perkasie talked the county out of its “death sentence” for their bridge, as the local newspapers called it in 1957. The bridge was moved in 1958 by our Historical Society, using private funds, to Lenape Park and in August 1959, it was rededicated at a public ceremony.

Why Perkasie’s Electric Company Makes Financial Sense

For the past two months, I’ve been researching several questions a lot of us ask in Perkasie:  Am I paying too much for borough-provided electric and shouldn’t I be able to buy electric from other companies? Here’s what I found out – which isn’t exactly what I expected.

I started doing my research on Election Day 2017, when I asked voters at my polling place at St. Andrew’s Lutheran in South Perkasie how they felt about our electric company and electric rates. There were two answers. Most people thought electric rates were high but they valued the department’s service more – and they mentioned Hurricane Sandy. A few people said the electric rates were too high and didn’t mention the hurricane. Then, I did a poll on the Perkasie Facebook group page about which issue people wanted addressed by local government; of course, electric rates were the top response in this unscientific sample.

perkelectric1929

Perkasie’s Electric Department in 1929

After looking at a ton of documents, including the official PPL and PECO filings, here are the answers to those questions.

  1. Perkasie residential electric rates are usually higher but competitive. A common way to look at electric rates is for an average monthly bill for 1,000 kWh of usage. My family uses 500 kWh; a bigger family can use 2,000 kWh.

There are three parts of your electric bill if you have PECO or PPL:

  • The supply rate is what you pay for electric that is generated somewhere else and sent to your town over high-voltage wires.
  • The distribution rate is the cost to convert that electric to low voltage locally and deliver it to your house.
  • The third cost is a connect charge to pay for metering and administrative expenses.  PECO and PPL charge the same rate per kWh no matter how much you use.

Perkasie’s greatest day in baseball history

The sport of baseball has always played a role in the culture of Perkasie, from its early history of club teams to its role as the center of baseball making in the sport’s golden era. But a decade before the Hubbert family starting producing balls here for the major leagues in the 1920s, Perkasie had its biggest baseball day.

1911 Philadelphia Athletics

Baseball stars Coombs, Morgan, Bender and Oldring in the lost 1911 film, The Baseball Bug

On October 7, 1909, Perkasie’s town baseball team challenged the greatest team in Philadelphia sports history, Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics, to a game across from Menlo Park. The outcome was as predicted, but it is still an incredible story.

It’s hard for use to imagine how important baseball was in 1909 in America’s culture. Earlier in the year, the Athletics opened the first steel-and-concrete baseball stadium, the ultra-modern Shibe Park, in Philadelphia. Perkasie had a town baseball team in the 1880s and the Central News in 1887 had its own team, led by Charles Baum.

Perkasie took part in a strong regional baseball group, the North Penn League, and was coming off a good season. The Central News (and Borough residents) were outraged that three bad decisions by “Umpire Griffith” cost the team the pennant in an away game at Ambler. Its star player, South Perkasie’s Joe Eldridge, was the league’s best pitcher. For insurance, the team added the league’s best home run hitter, Jimmy Cressman, who played for Souderton’s club, for the Athletics game. Cressman was the only North Penn League player to hit a home run off a major league pitcher.

Why is Perkasie called the place where hickory nuts are cracked?

That’s a good question. The Borough’s unofficial slogan came from a 1942 book about Bucks County place names. Whether the Lenape actually used those words to describe the area is up for debate.

Treaty_of_Penn_with_Indians_by_Benjamin_West

Penn’s Treaty with the Lenape

The first reference to the “village” of Perkasie goes back to the time of James Logan, the personal secretary to the Penn family. Logan and a Lenape chief recalled in the 1730s a meeting in 1683 at the “Indian Village of Perkasie” between William Penn and Tamanend, the famous Lenape leader.

Penn acquired the lands that make up modern Perkasie, Sellersville, Hilltown and Rockhill in 1683 when he met Tamanend and other Indian leaders about six months after Lenape leaders and Penn held a conference at Shackamaxon, in present-day Philadelphia. Their first land negotiation occurred at an Indian village called Perkasie, which in contemporary times was said to be about 25 miles– a two-day’s journey by horse, from Philadelphia.

Municipal electric regulation bill should be tabled

Early next year, the Pennsylvania state House will take up a proposal that could drastically change how people in 34 municipalities pay for their electric service and taxes. House Bill 1405 is well-intentioned, but it won’t solve the problems it seeks to fix. And it could lead to huge tax increases in several local towns.

These smaller boroughs have owned their electric-service companies for more than a century. The potential local property tax hikes in our area include Perkasie (488 percent), Quakertown (3,906 percent), Lansdale (154 percent), Hatfield (370 percent), Lehighton (184 percent), and Kutztown (400 percent).

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Perkasie before modern electric service

House Bill 1405 blocks funds collected from electric ratepayers in these boroughs from being used for expenses other than distributing electric to customers. It also forces a regulation system similar to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on these boroughs, to be paid for by local taxpayers.

If needed, State police should also take up Perkasie’s unsolved murder

Note: This is the editoral I wrote for the Bucks County Herald in October.

On Sunday, Perkasie Borough police asked for help solving a 58-year-old murder mystery. I had requested this late this summer as a Perkasie council member, after stumbling on the case while researching another topic.

krteschmarcaseOur police have shown due diligence in considering this matter and should be commended. I also hope two other key investigators in the original case, the Pennsylvania State police and Bucks County detectives, will take part if needed in the probe.

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