James Rogers, Founding Father
Updated: Oct 26
James Rogers was born in Vincent Township on October 2, 1797 and he died in East Vincent Township on the 5th of November 1856. His father was Jonathan Rogers who was born in Vincent Township in 1755. His grandfather, Joseph Rogers, was born in East Nantmeal in 1719. Joseph Rogers came from Ireland and settled along the French Creek in Vincent Township. There were many Leni- Lenape Indians hunting and fishing along the creek at that time. Joseph had a mill and it is said that he had several Negro slaves that helped him run his different business ventures. This statement is verified in several of the census records that did list the number of slaves he owned.
James Rogers' father Jonathon, who inherited a large part of the Rogers property, sold it to the Pottses and Hopert in 1792. They purchased 50 acres on the lower part of the creek to erect a slitting mill and a forge to make German steel. Jonathon Rogers died that same year, 1792.
A Store is Built
In 1835 James Rogers purchased a large tract of property that included a house where Brown Street is located. In the same year he built the canal store down on Main Street. It is no doubt the canal was what attracted James to come from the French Creek area to Springville. There was a steady flow of canal boats passing by and the opportunity to build a store that could service the canal traffic, as well as the local farmers, was
inviting. The store sold everything you could imagine. The boats going down to Philadelphia were loaded with coal but on the return trip they were bringing goods up from the big city. This period of time in 1835 was just 11 years after the canal opened and really could be pointed to as the beginning of the village of Springville. The little store, just off Main Street, was right up against the canal. On an early map of Springville it is shown that E. S. Dismant was one of the first occupants to live in the building. This house also served as the gatekeeper’s home. One of the last owners was Laura Collopy. In early 1984 when our historical society was formed, this building was being considered as a possible location for our museum. We quickly abandoned the idea because it was too small. The building that had lasted for over 150 years was eventually removed. It is a shame no one stepped forward to save this historic building.
The Toy Horse
While talking about the canal store, I wanted to share this story with you about a very special toy horse. This hand carved wooden horse measures ten inches in length and twelve inches in height. The original paint is all intact. It is a very special toy. What
makes it special was that it was originally sold at the Roger's canal store in Springville many years ago. This pull along toy was packed away, as the young boy who had played with it did not live to enjoy a long life. The boy’s mother gave Thelma Rice, a former Spring City native, the toy. Thelma later gave it to a relative, Dawn Shaner. Dawn is taking good care of this fellow and was kind enough to share his story with me. I know they sold many items at the canal store but for a brief moment in time this was a very special toy bought for a very young boy.
The Lyceum on the Corner of Main and Hall Streets.
“Springville Lyceum 1842” were the words scrawled out on a board that hung over the door of the building. The word, lyceum, came originally from the name of a grove in Athens, Greece where Aristotle taught, but the building at numbers 3 & 5 Main Street, suggested little of the learned teacher’s haven. Yet this hall played a major role in the public life of Springville, for within its walls were held the first Sunday Schools, the first day schools, both public and private, and also the first preaching services. In addition to these activities, debating organizations, lectures and town meetings were all sponsored here.
1937 Newspaper Article by Muriel Hahnel
Let’s turn back the clock to the year of 1842. Ye men readers shall have to don a few more whiskers than the scant number you are now sporting and ye ladles an additional amount of petticoats with a complete abstinence from powder and paint. Now, as appropriately garbed ladies and gentlemen of the day, seat yourselves in the family buggy, give Old Dobbin’ a few gentle slaps over his bony back and proceed on your bumpy way. It’s Town Hall tonight—and the entire population of Springville is all going in the same direction—onward to the “Springville Lyceum,” where a young, travelln’ parson is going to bring the Word of God to these religious-starved people. Dobbin’ pulls up in back of Farmer Brown’s shay and softly whinnies to his equestrian friend, Nellie. Out we clamber, plus a few excited squeals from the feminine members, and soon we’re conversing amiably with our neighbors.
“Almost time to begin” suddenly chirps Farmer Jones from out of a midst of girlish admirers to whom he has been relating some fascinating tale or other. The entrance of the Lyceum on Main Street is soon thronged, as the townspeople crowd through its narrowness. We follow the rest into a small vestibule, take a few steps to the left and a few to the right, and ascend the stairs as if we were heading straight for the canal. We find the stairway at the top is protected by a baluster. The public room we are now entering Is about 32 by 35 feet in size, and the brilliant, yellow paint of the speaker’s stand against the dismal walls, strongly resembles the sun surrounded by a mass of clouds.
The improvised seats consist of nail kegs on which boards are laid. Oh, for the easy chairs of the twentieth century. Flickering candles provide the meager lighting. A dozen or so of homemade candlesticks, each with a piece of “tallow-dip” made in some nearby home is the only illumination the hall affords. We see one person continuously walking about with a pair of snuffers in his hand during the entire meeting. He lifts the candlestick off it’s nail support, clips off the charred wick, and replaces the newly brightened light. When the snuffers are not within easy reach and the candle is burning properly, one of our neighbors takes the candle out of its socket, and with his pocket-knife cuts off the wick against the end of the post.
And so the parson comes to the end of his sermon and as soon as the final words of blessing have been spoken, the group swarms from the Lyceum, finds their respective buggies and the next stop is home—and back to the present century for we imaginative Lyceum visitors. Alter ten years of such faithful service dating from the time of its construction, the Lyceum’s quarters were found to be a bit small to hold public concourses.
My Introduction to the Lyceum
I first learned of the Lyceum while reading through an old letter. Many years ago when I was still working and Ken Reed had his auction house in Spring City, I received a call from him. He told me he had Spring City postcards that were going to be auctioned off that night. I rushed home from work and went straight down to the auction. After an hour passed, I went up and asked Ken when they were going to be sold. He apologized and said I just missed them. He said he had a box of memorabilia from Spring City and said he would sell it next. There was no bidding on the box of letters and my $1 bid took the prize. When I got home I found out that it was filled with love letters from a girl named Mae to her boyfriend Warren. Mae Styers was going steady with a boy named Warren Woodward from Spring City. She would take the train from Byers, near where she lived, to Ironsides (Redner's near Phoenixville). There she was able to connect with the Spring City Trolley and ride to the front door of the Lyceum.
I read all two years worth of letters and then they ended abruptly. I called my friend Lawrence Shaner and asked him about the Lyceum. He told me it was a social hall in the early years where they had dances and all kinds of programs. He explained that many years later it was called Yeager's due to a store on the first floor with that name. I asked if he knew these people and why the letters had ended. He smiled and said they got married. The Woodwards had a grocery store in town. I believe it was well known at the time. I know they had a long lasting marriage as I saw a newspaper clipping of their 50th wedding anniversary in one of our books in the library. The story had a happy ending.
A Stove Foundry is Built
James Rogers also owned land along the canal south of the store and the Lyceum. It is here where he built a stove foundry around 1843. Its exact location was on the canal slightly north of the current foundry location of the Spring City Electrical Manufacturing Co., (Main & Hall Street). The primary product was cast iron wood heaters and cook
stoves. They also manufactured a full line of hollow-ware products such as tea kettles and waffle irons. This was one of the early industries that relied heavily on the canal to ship finished goods to Philadelphia and beyond. The products that were manufactured at the local foundry proudly carried the name of Springville in their castings. One of the early stoves was a cast iron nine piece wood-burning model. The pieces were neatly strapped to a wooden pallet and sent on a canal barge to Philadelphia where they would be shipped to points all over the country.
It is quite amazing that there still exists today a manufacturing facility at this location using similar but modern techniques to manufacture cast iron products. The stoves are a thing of the past. The current facility manufactures mainly lamp posts that are
shipped all over the world. They are also quite visible along the Main Streets of Spring City, Royersford and along Bridge Street in Phoenixville. I also should acknowledge the one given to us by the Spring City Electrical Manufacturing Co. is in use at our museum.
238 Brown Street
James Rodgers acquired the Brown Street property in 1835. He did not build this house but it is significant that this is where he lived during the early development of Springville. Brown Street is a winding narrow road that runs East to West between Church Street and Wall Street within the borough of Spring City. There is a written history of this house in the museum library that very easily could be the subject of a blog but I will not cover the entire subject here. When I first learned of this house and
photographed it, I just knew it must have been important. I was told some thirty years ago that it was a stagecoach house on the route from Phoenixville to Pottstown. In fact some local Spring City residents referred to it as the old "Stage Coach House." A couple of years ago that title appeared in a real estate listing. This inspired me to do some research into the subject and I am very disappointed that I found no evidence that would substantiate that conclusion. It is such a great story I was hoping it was true. It is believed that Henry Pennypacker built the house in 1812 for his daughter and son-in-law, Jacob Clemens. This beautiful historic building still stands today.
As this area was settled in the 1830s it came to be referred to as “Pump Town,” named from a public pump frequented by citizens and visitors. The name was not popular with local residents and there was quite a battle over settling on an official name. There was a group who fought for the name "Jamestown" and others who liked "Springville." Eventually the natural springs in the area seemed to be the choice and “Springville” was chosen as the name. It was not made official until the town was chartered on August 12th, 1867. The chosen name wouldn’t stand long as it was discovered that Pennsylvania already had a “Springville ”. In 1872 the name was changed to Spring City.
James Rogers came from a large family being one of 11 children of Jonathan and Ann Rogers. He married Mary Custer on Jan 1st, 1824 and they had eight children: Jones,
Mahlon, James, Anna M., Allen, Albert, Sarah R. and William H. James died in November of 1856 and his wife Mary died in September of 1867. They are buried side by side at the East Vincent Cemetery outside of Spring City. If you look at an 1850 census you will see that James Rogers is listed as a farmer. I guess one word can not begin to describe
James Rogers. To Spring City (Springville) he was the founder of the town. He was not alone as other men such as Frederick Yost and Casper Francis also deserve mention but to me Rogers is clearly number one on the list.
William C. Brunner 2-25-2019