By David Kerns, Pottstown Historical Society
Shortly after the death of Thomas Potts in January 1752, his son John started the erection of Pottsgrove Manor for his family and the laying out of the village of Pottsgrove. Having purchased more than 900 acres of land for that purpose from Samuel McCall, Jr., he set up lots with inducements for people to buy and settle in his town. He also built a brick tavern and set aside lots for houses of worship. Because of a slow start John Potts never saw his dream become a reality. He is buried in the Potts Cemetery on Chestnut Street, in a lot he put aside for that reason. During the Revolution the family served the cause by making cannons in their ironworks and fighting with the Army except for one son, John Potts, Jr., who became a Tory. By the 1790’s some progress took place in his town. Several brick structures were constructed and a school was started. In 1793 acquired a Post Office, and in 1796 our first substantial house of worship. Then in 1815 Pottstown became the second Borough in Montgomery County and renamed Pottstown, which for some time didn’t grab hold with the local citizenry. It was at this same period that the Schuylkill Canal was started, and by the 1820’s boats were traveling through Pottstown each day. But this project only gave Pottstown moderate growth.
It wasn’t until about 1850 that the Borough began its major growth. The factor that produced the growth was the opening of the Philadelphia & Reading Railway. With the railroad came its railroad shops and in 1846 the Potts brothers stared the Pottsgrove Iron Works here. By the 1860’s, Pottstown also had the Pottstown Iron Company. All this was due to the railroad. The advent of the Civil War put many of Pottstown’s men into the conflict and some never returned. Company H, 68th PA. Volunteer Regiment was formed in the Borough and it saw action in most major battles. After the war Pottstown’s industries increased, and by the 1870’s more dominant businesses came in and enlarged the population and brought additional businessmen to town. By 1900, investors from other cities brought more capital here and updated the area’s industry. Again in WWI Pottstown’s local men saw much service along the Mexican border and over in France. Pottstown’s factories also did their part in the war effort. Before the war the factories started to diversify from an iron environment to cars and accessories and afterwards to aircraft engines. The Depression forced its alterations but Pottstown weathered the bad times and again put its boys in harm’s way in WWII. After the war, the town grew. Many businesses settled here, employing many people and giving Pottstown much prosperity until the 1980’s, when the factories started to leave.
Today Pottstown is in a revitalization period with new technological industries arriving to replace the ones that have left. With the construction of a new Borough Hall on the main street we are seeing a rejuvenation of our downtown district. We now have a branch of the Montgomery Community College here and we are now in the process of starting a trail and park system along the scenic Schuylkill River, making our future bright.
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