A Brief History of Fleetwood, PA

Posted on January 22, 2014 by

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How much do people really know about Fleetwood? Do they consider it just a borough or a little town?  I bet some people think they know everything about Fleetwood, but do they really?

Fleetwood was not always this small. The town was laid out in 1868 by Thomas Mellon. The town used to be called Coxtown.

On June 11, 1857, Fleetwood experienced something new. The ground was broken for a new railroad, extending from Reading to Allentown. The last rail was finally placed on April 29, 1859, and the railroad officially opened on May 19, 1859. They named the railroad Reading and Lehigh.

The railroad was bought by the Philadelphia and Reading railroad company a couple of years later. They then named the railroad East Penn. When the railroad was built, they changed the name of the town from Coxtown to Fleetwood.

Some say it was named after Fleetwood, England. The man who named it after Fleetwood, England, saw majestic hills in the background and broad valleys, and on that day he knew Fleetwood was going to be a successful and progressive town.

The community center was not always just a building with a library and a police station. That building used to be a school called Fleetwood Grammar School. It was then converted into a fire hall. In 1948, a proposed plan of the park was drawn. There were many legal problems that had to be solved to build this park.

The first post office was established on February 6, 1852, when the town was still called Coxtown. The first postmaster was Benjamin Messermith.

In 1891, the water company brought water from the surrounding hills to the south of town for the purpose of supplying the citizens. The plant was bought from a company in 1909 for $55,000. The borough used an average of 200,000 gallons a day.

The Fleetwood Grange was the largest to date with 147 members, and the first worthy master was George W. Schuler, who served The Fleetwood Grange for 21 years. In 1926, the Grange gave $700 towards building a girls dormitory at Penn State College. There were yearly contributions made to Red Cross, Community Chest, and The Reading Tuberculosis Association.

The A.P Merkel Operation was worked by Augustus P. Merkel and his son Daniel R. Merkel and formed on April 11, 1948. It was an operation between Poplar and Richmond Street. A.P Merkel started operating The Fleetwood Machine shop as an individual in 1906. Manufacturing was discontinued in 1905 when the plant was destroyed by a fire. From that date, the business was conducted in its present form.

In July 1928, Walter H. Noll bought the building on Richmond Street which is known as Noll Garage. That is where he sold his first Nash Car. He then maintained the Nash agency in 1935. Plymouth and Dodge Company was added in 1929. In this building there were at least 6 employees on duty. His wife had a printing shop that has been operating for more than 27 years.

The Rhoads Gas Station, run by Elmer Rhoads was located off Richmond and Pine Street. The gas station and garage were built in 1931 by Thomas C. Bickel. In 1936, a laboratory was added. In 1941, Rhoads built a modern home on Pine Street adjoining his place of business.

Fleetwood Eagle Roller Mills was built in 1886. Lewis Manner, Joel M. Schaeffer, William S. Schaffer, and Henry Schaeffer made this machine. It was the first and best equipped flour mill. It holds a capacity of 125 barrels per day and was a large business for many years.  It operated day and night. Several years ago, improvements made the machine better.

The Fleetwood Chocolate Company manufactured milk chocolates in all kind of packages. The coating and packaging were organized on December 16, 1921. The business received its milk from local farmers. They needed sixty employees to make all of this happen.

The Washing Machine was not always the way it is now. It was far from a push-button experience 100 years ago. Some dirty clothes were washed in streams. Several years later, wash boilers, wash tubs, and washboards came into play. The jumbo washing machine was built through the efforts of Moses Folk, James Hill, and Samuel Dunn in 1873.

Elanus C. Weston operated a three-story cigar factory. He was the first person in Fleetwood to employ women to make cigars. Howard Rothermal wanted to take over when Weston’s health failed. Daniel Brown owned the building. He charged people $12.00 a month for rent. Brown put it up for sale for $2,400. Howard Rothermal did not take the building because his wife said the house was too large.

The Fleetwood Creamery outgrew The Cleaver Creamery. In 1885, it began at the southeast corner of Richmond and Poplar Street. It was created by Cleaver and Moyer.

The Fleetwood Cemetery came after that. It has been around for more than 50 years. The ground for the Cemetery was purchased for $2,500.

As people can see, Fleetwood has been around for ages and even centuries. This little town has come a very long way from the day it started. Thomas Mellon would be astonished by how far this little town has come in such a small time span.

By Stephanie Walker

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