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West Rockhill’s Heritage

 

 

      West Rockhill Township was established in 1740, but originally was part of a much larger area known as Rockhill Township. The township is aptly named due to its rugged, wooded hills and rocky soil.  West Rockhill township originally included Sellersville, Perkasie and Telford, and was the largest township in the county, both in size and population until 1890. By about 1870, the surrounding towns were established due largely to the Pennsylvania Railroad, which traversed the region. The separate West and East Townships, of equal area, were not formed until 1890 after a twenty-year contest in the county courts.

      The first landowners in Rockhill were English, but the first people to reside in the area were the Lenni Lenape, who preferred the valleys of Butter and Branch Creek.  The  original Quaker settlers were soon outnumbered by German Mennonites. In the very early days, the township was also known as “Servants,” as William Penn had originally reserved the land for indentured servants.

           Several historic events have a connection to West Rockhill.  In 1777, the Liberty Bell was carried from Philadelphia to Allentown up Allentown Road, for safekeeping from the British.  Later a portion of the trail was converted to The Liberty Bell Trolley, which operated from 1900 through 1951.  John Fries, instigator of the famous Fries Tax Rebellion of 1798, was also a longtime resident of the township.  He was instrumental in temporarily thwarting the federal government's attempt to implement a tax assessment law on property.

      West Rockhill has several villages of historical significance.  Some of these are Smoketown, Rich Hill, Argus, Ridge Valley, Naceville, Almont and Derstine.  Derstine, which has various spellings, takes its name from the Derstein family who were early settlers. In 1730, the family bought 200 acres and built a primitive mill on what eventually became known as Derstein Mill Creek. The North Pennsylvania Railroad once maintained the Derstine Station which was not discontinued until 1940. Today it is difficult to determine the exact location and extent of the village. It is in the vicinity of the Rockhill Mennonite Home.      Another village, Ridge Valley, is a small hamlet situated in a picturesque valley surrounded by wooded, rocky hills. Two majestic churches situated directly across from each other on Ridge Valley Road tend to dominate the landscape. Ridge Valley Creek flows through the charming rural area.

      The village known as Almont was once named Schlicters in 1826. The church, still in existence, is now known as the Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church. The cemetery adjacent to the church was started in 1750 and supposedly has unmarked tombstones that were placed over Indian graves. Across the road is the Almont Hotel, another of the township’s old hotels, and currently known as the restaurant Fasageo’s. Almont was once an important political center in all the early presidential campaigns. A German language speaker was often present at the meetings to attract the many local German voters.

      The village of Argus holds yet another of West Rockhill’s old inns and dining establishments. The Argus, which is now known as  Arielle's, is located on the Allentown Road, and appears to have been a popular stop for travelers going from Philadelphia to Allentown.

       Naceville, at the intersection of County Line Road and Ridge Road (Route 563) was named after the Nace family. There stands the third of four old hotels and popular dining places in the Township, the Naceville Hotel. The village is fairly large, blending into Montgomery County and the village of Tylersport.

       The fourth of the old hotels and another dining facility is the White Horse Hotel (The Horse Tavern & Grille). It is east of Bethlehem Pike (Route 309) on the eastern edge of West Rockhill Township.

      Ridge Road (Route 563) divides West Rockhill into north and south election districts. It also divides the contour and land use; the north being dominated by rural, rocky land and  the south by industry and farms. Some of the largest employers in the township are Grandview Hospital, Rockhill Mennonite Community, North American Drager, Teva and Fresco.  Collectively, these businesses and institutions form a well rounded mix of diverse uses.  West Rockhill's scenic and bucolic  landscape, as well as convenient access to major highways and amenities, are some of the many reasons  residents and businesses alike choose to call West Rockhill Township their home.

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