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JOHN MILTON LEWIN

One of the Founders of Royersford

John Milton Lewin was one of the founders of the Borough of Royersford. He was a prominent manufacturer, a well-known businessman as well as a real estate developer. To tell the story of J. Milton Lewin I will start in the beginning. J. Milton Lewin was born in Springville, now Spring City, on June 21, 1853. He was the eldest son of William and Rebecca (Custer) Lewin. The Lewin families are of English descent. John's parents, William and Rebecca, had a large family with nine children. William Lewin, J. Milton’s dad, was a wheelwright in the small town of Springville where he met a young girl from Royersford named Rebecca Custer. Rebecca, the oldest daughter in her family, married William Lewin in 1851.

The parents of John Milton Lewin - Rebecca Custer & William Lewin

I find it very interesting that so many marriages took place between couples living on opposite sides of the river. In 1861, they purchased 31 acres of the Custer's farm property in Royersford and built a farmhouse on the road in Royersford that we now call Main Street. The Lewin farmhouse at 526 Main Street may be familiar to many of you as it serves as the current home of the Spring-Ford Area Historical Society.

Lewin Farmhouse (photo from 1898)

The Lewin's divided the large tract of ground into smaller building lots within the borough and acquired considerable wealth. Their oldest son, John Milton, was an ambitious young boy who started his own milk route making deliveries before he went to school. J. Milton attended the Hobson School just a couple of blocks from his house. In the earliest days, many local students attended this small one room schoolhouse that was actually located on Lewis Road in what was Limerick Township at the time. Royersford existed as a town but did not become a borough until 1879. After his graduation in 1873, J. Milton had high hopes of going to college. These hopes were soon cast aside as his father insisted he learn a trade. Without any choice, young J. Milton was sent off to live with John U. Bean, a local Upper Providence shoemaker. J. Milton served a two-year apprenticeship and returned home in 1875 to set up his own cobbler shop.

Original Shoe Store Sketch built in 1875

With the help of his father, a small 12' by 12' shop was erected right in front of their home on Main Street. J. Milton put a cobbler shop sign on the front of the shop and in April of 1875, Royersford had a new shoe store. J. Milton did a large repair business as well as selling new shoes. He did not make shoes but had them shipped into Royersford by rail. He managed to store a large assortment of shoes on the third floor of the house and when you picked out shoes, he usually had them in stock.

With no competition to speak of, his small business prospered. In fact it did so well that he was able to purchase half interest in the general store of Rogers & Son just two years later. He continued in that business from May 27,1879 until August 1,1881. He then sold his interest in the business to Jones Rogers, and entered the shipping department of the Buckwalter Stove Company, where he continued until September 13, 1883. It was at this time in 1883 that he got back into the business of being a shoe dealer. J. Milton Lewin built a new store at 437 Main Street in the borough of Royersford where he operated a successful business for nine years.

The New Lewin Shoe Store

On September 1, 1892, he sold his shoe business to F. S. Brown in order to raise enough money to purchase Benjamin Carver’s interest in the Grander Stove Company. John Milton Lewin was later elected treasurer of this Royersford Company. He was directly involved with the incorporation of the borough in 1879. Thirteen years later in 1892, he was elected and served as Burgess of the town.

In 1896, J. Milton Lewin seized the opportunity to repurchase the shoe store and the surrounding property in a Sheriff’s sale.

1898 photo "Royersford Shoe Co. delivery (colorized wcb)

He promptly reorganized the business as the Royersford Shoe Company and had a grand reopening in 1897. The new proprietor was John Snyder and his name was displayed on the front sign. The following year, 1898, J. Milton Lewin published the Archives of Royersford. This book was used to advertise his shoe business and it was widely distributed at the shoe store. This amazing book was one of the most complete historical overviews of Royersford in its time. Many consider it to be an essential reference for anyone studying the borough’s history prior to 1900. The archives book contains a written history of Royersford with detailed narratives on all of the businesses, schools and churches of the times and over 65 quality photographs. It has been quoted numerous times over the past 120 years.

This book has been the primary source of early Royersford history since 1898

J. Milton Lewin was associated with many Royersford businesses, among them the Royersford Iron Foundry, of which he was president at the time of its sale to Floyd Wells & Company. He assisted to organize the Penn Glass Company, and was on the board of directors. He was one of the founders of the Keystone Meter Company, and continued as a director until its reorganization. Mr. Lewin was treasurer of the original Enterprise Hosiery Company, of which he was one of the organizers. He, along with four other persons, organized the Fernwood Cemetery Company. He was also a director of the Industrial Savings Bank, chartered March 21, 1902. Not only did he assist in the organization of that institution, but was also very prominent in the organization of the two national banks, the Home Bank and the National Bank of Royersford.

J. Milton was prominent in area Masonic circles. He was a charter member of the Royersford Lodge, and active in several others including; Pottstown, Bloomsburg, Phoenixville & Reading Lodges. He was also a member of the improved order of Red Men, Towamencin Tribe, No. 99 of Royersford.

J. Milton Lewin was 1/3 owner of Grander Stove Co.

J. Milton was married to Lizzie Bean on February 18, 1875. They had three children, William A., Isaac E., and Lawrence H. Lewin. Lizzie died in 1894 and J. Milton later married Mary G. Gibson. There is little known about this 2nd marriage. In 1910, J. Milton married Elizabeth Florence Mull, a girl from Spring City. She was 20 years old and J. Milton was 57. They had one daughter Evelyn. In 1923, at the age of 70, when some of us are retired, J. Milton was on the road again. He packed up his bags and left Royersford for the Isle of Pines where he purchased a grapefruit plantation. That venture soured as the isle was hit by a tidal wave wiping out everything. J. Milton then resurfaced in Philadelphia, working for the U. S. Mint. A short time later he opened a cigar store in Philadelphia, which proved to be his last business venture.

In 1929, J. Milton and his daughter Evelyn flew into Royersford in hopes of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the town he loved. It was a 17th birthday present to his daughter. The speech he prepared to give was never delivered, as his name was not listed on the program. It seems as though the town he gave so much to had forgot about him. He returned home and sent a letter into the local newspaper telling them about his disappointment. To their credit they published his letter in the newspaper for all to read.

In 1929 J. Milton Lewin returned to Royersford for the 50th Anniversary

In September of 1938, J. Milton Lewin at age 85, died from a heart attack. His body was returned to Royersford for the services and burial. A private funeral was held at his son, Lawrence B. Lewin’s house at 523 Washington Street in Royersford.

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