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Schuylkill Haven is a small borough in the state of Pennsylvania, located about one hundred miles northwest of Philadelphia and fifty miles east of Harrisburg. It is located in the southern portion of Schuylkill County about four miles south of the county seat of Pottsville. One of the earliest settlements within the borders of the county, it is generally accepted that the first settler was John Fincher, a Quaker from Chester County.
A warrant for acres of land was granted to him on March 5, The land facing on the Schuylkill River,taking in the curve of the river, is today the west ward and part of the south ward of town. It is this year that the borough celebrates as the official founding. Fincher built a house and barn at a point west of the current location of the center of the rail yard opposite Broadway now Fritz Reed Avenue.
His home was located on an old road that crossed the river and thus became known as Fincher's Ford. These buildings were burned by marauding Indians on November 3, The Fincher family escaped and rebuilt at or near the original location. In early September probably the 10th of , eight Indians approached the home. Fincher, his wife and three children greeted them in the hopes of establishing friendship and thus preserving their lives.
The Indians ignored their entreaties and murdered Fincher and his wife along with their two sons. A daughter, Rachel, was taken into captivity, eventually reaching the Ohio Territory. She was returned to Colonel Bouquet after he defeated the Indians at Kittanning.
Tradition states that the Finchers were buried near their home, which stood until torn down to accommodate the right of way for the Reading Railroad. Another of Fincher's sons, John Jr. His father's land was later awarded to him in Orphan's Court.
He later deeded the land to Peter Conrad November 16, , who in turn deeded the land to George Merkel November 20, Merkel conveyed the land on October 1, to his son-in-law, Martin Dreibelbis. With disregard to the aforementioned tale of John Fincher, Martin Dreibelbis, a German October 5, - September 10, is usually considered the first settler and founder of Schuylkill Haven. Early in the spring of , Dreibelbis came to present day Schuylkill Haven with his wife and two sons, Jacob and Daniel.
He settled on the eastern bank of the Schuylkill River constructing a saw mill, distillery and grist mill, a portion of which served as living quarters.
The grist mill was located west of the southwest corner of present day Main Street and Parkway. This mill was used during the Revolutionary War as a refuge from Indian attacks. In he built a log home on present day Main Street which stood until it's demolition in He also built tenant houses for the workers employed at his enterprises.
He eventually conducted three or four sawmills, two grist mills, a distillery, general store and a blacksmith shop. In , Dreibelbis dammed the west branch of the Schuylkill River for the purpose of power generation.
In he moved into a newly constructed home on Dock Street, living there only a short time until his death. At his death he owned an estate of acres encompassing all of present day Schuylkill Haven and Cressona extending east to Rest Haven and west to Beckville.
The fortune Dreibelbis accumulated during his life would have made him a millionaire in today's economy. Martin Dreibelbis willed the original town plot to his son Jacob. A second son, Daniel, received a part known as east Schuylkill Haven and the a third son George, received the Seven Stars tract on the northern edge of town. The original plot of town was laid out by Jacob Dreibelbis in The original patentee had named this land "Petersburg' while Martin Dreibelbis had named his tract patented on the Fincher tract as "Martinsburg".
The reason for the plotting of the town served two purposes. Schuylkill County was in it's early stages and it was believed that Schuylkill Haven could compete with McKeansburg and Orwigsburg for the honor of becoming the county seat. Schuylkill Haven was originally believed to be favored due to it's water power facilities. This advantage was trumped by the actions of Orwigsburg when they dammed a stream and impressed the commission making the selection.
Schuylkill Haven was not to be the county seat. The second reason to plot the town was the emergence of the Schuylkill Canal. Recognizing the importance of the location of our town, it was felt that developing the town was of great interest.
Provisions were made for a market square and a town square. Columbia Street was to be the main residential district. When Jacob Dreibelbis laid out plots, they were sold at cheap rates. Daniel Dreibelbis's plot was later sold to a Reber and then a Dr. Kugler of Philadelphia who laid out building lots in In addition to historical information about the formation and early years of Schuylkill Haven, other unique and interesting news stories and facts will be offered here.
It came so sudden, that those who had seen them but a short time before, were loath to believe it. The swollen river carried the bodies of the two coasters from sight in an instant and although searching parties were out all night, They were unable to locate the bodies. Joseph, aged eleven years son of Walter Bast, and Floyd, aged ten years and son of H. Bast were the two unfortunate victims.
They were cousins and nephews of Jeremiah Bast, the well known knitting mill proprietor. After school the two boys, who were inseparable companions, took their sleds and went coasting on the hills.
They romped about and were having a good time with their little friends until finally, a short time after five o'clock, they found themselves alone on the Berne Street hill, which has a very slight and easy grade. They had coasted down the hill several times and it is believed they were on what they intended to be their last trip before supper when the fatality occurred.
Their sled went gliding over the hard crust with Joseph lying on his stomach and Floyd astride his back. When they came to make the turn they found that on account of the hard crust on the snow that the curve was too sharp to make and as the sled went sliding towards the river bank they threw themselves onto the ground.
The momentum they had gained however was too great and clutching at the hard frozen snow, with desperate cries they slid to the edge of the river bank and with a plunge disappeared from sight. Edward Boyer, who was standing not far away, saw the terrible accident and after giving the alarm, rushed to the river side, but the angry rushing swirling waters had already swallowed their victims and carried them down the stream.
In a short time the banks were lined with people, while others waded through the river further down where the water was not so deep and the channel wider. No trace of the little fellows could be secured, however until late in the night the search was continued. The river at this point is very much swollen and the current rapid on account of the rain and the melting snow the day before.
The bed is mostly mud and it is feared that the bodies may be buried in this and never recovered. The sled did not go into the stream but was caught in a bush along the bank and held there. When the parents of the boys were notified, they were almost frantic and would not believe that their children were cold in death when they had seen them but a short time before, so jolly and full of life.
Both little fellows were known to everyone in Schuylkill Haven and were very well liked and made much of by the older people as well as their playmates.
A shadow seemed to rest over the town last night and this morning, the terrible tragedy being the sole topic of conversation and the only thought. It was a shock such as has not been felt in the town for many years and the sorrow of the parents was shared in a degree by everyone and they have the deepest sympathy of the entire community.
A special committee appointed by council held a meeting on Wednesday evening at which they discussed the ways and means. The committee which is composed of Robert Hoffman, George Berkheiser, Arthur Yost and Oscar Bast made reports regarding their visits to other places, giving as examples the town of Kutztown, with people, Tamaqua and Coaldale in this county, all three having nice town halls for about this figure.
The council owns a plot of ground on the west side of Dock Street between Main Street and Paxson Avenue, and the town hall will be erected on this spot. At the present time Schuylkill Haven council meets in a room which is fifteen feet in length and fourteen feet in width, and it is too small to accommodate any taxpayers who might wish to be present at council proceedings.
Besides this there is no downtown office for the light company, the borough jail is too small and in such a location as to be useless, and there are a number of other reasons why a town hall has been boosted for Schuylkill Haven. It is the intention of the borough to erect the building within the next few months and in all probability an architect will be employed at the next meeting to draw up a set of plans. Bids will be asked for and the contract awarded as soon as possible.
The building is to be a two story brick one, according to present plans, and it will require only a short time to erect this. It will include offices for the borough officials, board of health officials, office for light, meeting room for council, an auditorium for small public meetings and also a borough jail. The authorities contend that it will cost less to conduct a town hall then paying rent for various buildings at the present.
Articles on this page are now grouped by type and in chronological order. Newest articles are highlighted with a yellow background. These two articles address the beginnings of electricity in Schuylkill Haven. Pottsville Republican February 5, A prominent citizen of Schuylkill Haven writes to the Republican as follows: The Schuylkill Haven Borough Council adopted the Thompson-Houston electric arc light at their regular meeting last Tuesday evening, and in our estimation it showed good sense and judgement in giving the citizens a good and superior light even if it would cost a trifle more then the Edison and Westinghouse.
The committee appointed by Council, comprising Messrs. Va, Harrisburg, Pottsville, Mahanoy City, Shenandoah and several other places to inquire and inspect the electric plants of the Edison Westinghouse and Thompson-Houston systems, submitted their report to Council on Tuesday evening.
Meyers, Porter and Snow respectively. After some discussion it was unanimously decided to adopt the Thompson-Houston electric arc light as most suitable for the borough. It has been darkly hinted by several citizens of this enterprising town that the committee received boodle for making a more favorable report relative to the plant now adopted. The gentlemen comprising that committee are honorable and upright citizens in every sense, and their refusal of boodle offered by an agent of a different company showed the honesty and backbone that was in this committee and should be commended.
We hope Council will immediately take steps to have the town lighted by electricity at an early date. It is unnecessary to say that everyone was pleased even those who were first opposed to the cost of the plant to be erected by the borough, but the progressive council braved the storm of opposition and now every taxpayer can see the result and the advantages of well lighted streets.
The light was turned on at 7: At present forty-five lights are used to light the streets and every one confess it is an improvement that will pay for itself in a few years. To vary the monotony of seeing a flood of light surrounding the town, a game of quoits was resorted to under the new light at Greenawalt's store, and created some amusement for the bystanders.
At last accounts the advocates of the electric light were ahead and scored many "hobs" and finally won the game. Moser, Felix, Reifsnyder and Mulholland inspected the lights last night in their official capacity./p>
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