Excerpted from “History of Hatfield Borough, 1898 – 1998”
Published in 1998, Hatfield Museum and History Society.
Hatfield Township, founded in 1742, was named either after a Welsh village in Hertfordshire, England, or after an early Welsh settler of the area, John Hatfield. No early records document the existence of a “John Hatfield”, however, so whether this latter theory is fact or folklore is left up to personal preference.
In the early 1800’s, there were very few roads and buildings in the area that was to become Hatfield Borough. Even in those days, men of entrepreneurial spirit knew that the prime location for a business was at a major intersection, and that being near a railroad station would be an added bonus. Towamencin Ave. was, at that time, part of the Forty-Foot Road (which was one of the main roads through Hatfield Township), and where it intersected with the Cowpath Road a hotel/tavern was built around 1819. The former Bean’s Store building, built in 1827 on the south-west corner of Main and Vine Streets, another main intersection, is believed to be the oldest building still standing in the Borough.
On July 7, 1857, the Pennsylvania Railroad Company completed construction of a railroad line from Philadelphia to Bethlehem, PA through the open farmland of Hatfield Township. The next day, the first passenger car traveled over these new rails, stopping at the Hatfield Station located on the east side of the Cowpath Road (across from what is now the Main Hotel), setting the wheels in motion that would eventually result in the creation of the Borough of Hatfield.
After the railroad was built, people began to build and settle in the area of the Hatfield Train Station, drawn by its convenience to public transportation. The village that developed in this area was known as Lower Hatfield (also South Hatfield). On April 1, 1873, land speculator Joseph Proctor bought nine acres from Jacob S. Leidy. This tract was located on both sides of the railroad tracks and ran from what is now E. Lincoln Ave. to Union St. On February 28, 1874, in a shrewd business deal, Proctor sold 2 1/2 acres of this land to the North Pennsylvania Railroad Company for $1 on the condition that the Hatfield railroad station be moved from its location at the Cowpath Rd. to the new railroad property.
Proctor knew that the relocated station would dramatically increase the value of his remaining 6 1/2 acres. He subdivided this land and had little trouble selling the lots that were now so convenient to the train station. The village that developed around the relocated station was known as Upper Hatfield (also Hatfield and Hatfield Station). The Upper & Lower Hatfields together were known as Hatfield Village.
In Edward Matthews’ historical account of Hatfield Township written in 1896, he wrote of Hatfield Village: “Here, along the Cowpath and other highways, and about the chief railroad station, has grown up extensive interests, and a population rising above 300, with about 75 dwellings. It is only a question of time when the place will have grown to borough proportions. Among the business enterprises are the stores of Milton Gehman, C. J. Buckley, the grocery of D. L. O. Kulp, the clothing factory of Jacob Crouthamel, Snyder’s two hay presses, mills and feed houses, Fretz’s tin shop, Zepp’s Bakery, Appenzeller’s blacksmith shop, Kulp’s wheelwright shop, the Hatfield Invincible printing office, two physicians, Albright and Cope, prescribe for and visit patients, and a public schoolhouse affords the educational advantages. The Christ Brethren Church on the Forty-Foot road and the newly erected Evangelical Church on the Cowpath afford convenient religious places for public worship. There are two post offices, one in each, the upper and lower towns.”
As Matthews had predicted, one year later on November 8, 1897, C. R. Addison, then the editor and publisher of the Hatfield Invincible newspaper, stated, “it has been suggested that we call attention of the citizens to the fact that it would be more pleasing if the town had more street lights. Now, we think it would be more to the benefit of the town if the citizens would get together and have the towns incorporated into a borough.”
In early 1898, the more progressive thinking citizens of the town called a meeting at Chester Knipe’s Hotel to get an opinion of the residents as to if they wanted a Borough. Some of these citizens were – from Upper Hatfield: Chester Knipe, Chauncey Buckley, George S. Snyder, Frank K. Zepp, Dr. Titus Albright (who officiated over this first meeting), Jonas S. Moyer, Edwin B. Benner, William R. Beisel, Frank Bealer and William B. Hedrick; and those from Lower Hatfield were: Jacob Crouthamel, Charles Myers, John Stoneback plus a few other citizens. A petition was prepared and signed by many of the residents of Lower Hatfield, stating that they were very much opposed to taking their part of the village into Borough government. Undeterred, the citizens in favor of a Borough hired an attorney to start the procedure of incorporation.
In May, 1898, the following legal notice appeared in the Hatfield Invincible:
Notice of application for the incorporation of the towns of Hatfield and South Hatfield into a borough by the name, style, and title “The Borough of Hatfield.”In the Court of the Quarter Sessions of the Peace in and for the County of Montgomery, of June Term, 1898.Notice is hereby given to all persons concerned, that an application has been filed with the Clerk of Quarter Sessions of the Peace of said county, under the general Borough laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for the incorporation of the towns of Hatfield and South Hatfield, in the Township of Hatfield, in the County of Montgomery into a Borough by the name, style and title of “THE BOROUGH OF HATFIELD”, and as such to have, possess and enjoy all the rights, benefits and privileges conferred by the laws of Pennsylvania, relating to the incorporating of Boroughs and that said application will be considered by said Court at the June term thereof, to wit – Beginning June 6, 1898 at 10 o’clock A.M. The boundaries of the land proposed to be included within such incorporated limits will be found fully described and set forth in the draft filed therewith. Any person interested, desiring to file exceptions to such application are hereby notified that such exceptions must be filed within thirty days immediately preceding said June 6, 1898.
E. J. BENNETT
Attorney for Petitioners
The June 30, 1898 edition of the Hatfield Invincible ran a story stating that on Monday, June 27, Judge Aaron Swartz affixed his signature to a decree, incorporating the towns of Hatfield and South Hatfield into a borough, under the name and style of “The Borough of Hatfield.” Tuesday, August 2, 1898 was set by the Court for holding the first borough election with the polling place to be Knipe’s Hall. In conjunction with the election, Judge Swartz made the following appointments:
Person to give notice of the election – Chester Knipe
Judge of Election – Jonas S. Moyer
Inspectors – Leidy L. Cope and Chauncey J. Buckley
Auditors – L. H. Texter, M. K. Gehman and Charles S. Moyer
Judge Swartz also suggested that no political party be mentioned on the ballot except the Citizen’s Party, to eliminate animosity at the election along party lines.
The original size of “Hatfield Borough” was 176 acres, with the Borough lines established by surveyor, John C. Boorse, of Kulpsville, PA.
As ordered, Hatfield Borough held its first election on Tuesday, August 2, 1898 with the following results – Burgess: George S. Snyder; Council members, three year term: Chester Knipe, Chauncey J. Buckley and John H. Stoneback; Council members, two year terms: William R. Beisel and David R. Schoenly; Council members, one year term: Charles Myers and Edwin B. Benner;School Director, three year term: Titus Albright and Joseph Mininger; School Director, two year term: Enos Kriebel and John B. Schantz; School Director, one year term: Monroe Snyder and Conrad Frey; Justices of the Peace: Jonas S. Moyer and Milton K. Gehman; Auditor, three year term: Leo Horace Texter; Auditor, two year term: Leidy H. Shellenberger; Auditor, one year term: Frank Bealer; Assessor: Barney W. Kunz; Tax Collector: William L. Albright; Constable: John N. Wagner; Judge of Elections: George Trauger; Inspectors of Elections: William D. Nace and Leidy Gerhart.
The first meeting of the newly elected Borough Council was held on August 11, 1898. At this meeting, Chauncey J. Buckley was elected President of Council and Leo Horace Texter was elected to serve as Secretary. President Buckley appointed Chester Knipe, Charles Myers and John Stoneback to a committee with the duty to draft rules of order and government for the new Borough.
And thus, the Borough of Hatfield was born.