John Pritiskutch Reproductions

History of Berks County - Heidelberg Townships

The following is reproduced from the 1876 Atlas of Berks County, Pennsylvania

The territory now divided into the three townships of Heidelberg, North Heidelberg and Lower Heidelberg, was originally one township, bearing the name of Heidelberg. The name was derived from the capitol of a county in Germany. Many Palatines had fled to England to escape persecution. They encamped near London. Here they lived in a destitute condition for some time. Some Indian chiefs, who were visiting England, offered them a tract. of land in the province of New York. The offer was accepted and the Palatines emigrated to this country. One hundred and fifty families settled west of Albany, New York. But having neglected to comply with the laws of New York, the titles to their lands were defective, and much trouble was experienced in consequence. Some left their new homes, traveled through the forests, and finally reached a fertile spot on the Tulpehocken creek where they settled in 1723. In 1729 they received an important accession to their numbers. Among these was a man who afterwards was the leading spirit of the county. This was Conrad Weiser. He settled near Womelsdorf.

The township was first divided into Lower and Upper Heidelberg. Since then another division has been made.

The soil is partly of gravel formation and partly of limestone. When cultivated this proves very productive. The attention of the inhabitants is devoted principally to farming. This business is very remunerative, as can be judged by the fine harvests to be seen on all sides in the summer, by the huge barns filled to overflowing, and by the herds of fat cattle grazing in the fields.

There are two villages in the township of Lower Heidelberg. The principal one is Wernersville on the Lebanon Valley branch of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad. Brownsville is a thriving place.

Heidelberg containing the villages of Roebsonia and Womelsdorf. Both of these are situated on the line of railroad between Reading and Harrisburg.

Womelsdorf derives its name from its founder, John Wommelsdorff, who laid it out in 1762. Its population in 1870 was 1,031.

There are three or four churches and several hotels in the borough. The principal business is the manufacturing of cigars, of which there are several extensive establishments. It also contains nut and bolt works, marble works, carriage factories, potteries, etc.

The grave of Conrad Weiser is situated about half a mile from Womelsdorf.

Bethany Orphans' Home is here located. This institution was started in a private house at Southwark, Philadelphia, in the year 1863. During the following year it was removed to Bridesburg. Finally it was decided to locate it at this place. For this purpose the property of the South Mountain Spring was purchased by the board of managers, at a cost of $33,000. In 1873, the balance of the Manderdach property was bought for $10,600. The estate now embraces 88 shares of land. The building for the orphans contains fifty-seven rooms. A splendid grove and a fine spring make the place a very pleasant summer resort. The present Superintendent, Rev. D. B. Albright, has held the position since 1868.

The Home is flourishing under the present management. Since its establishment, over three hundred orphans have enjoyed the benefits it confers. As the years pass, no doubt can be entertained that it will continue to prosper and increase in power and influence.