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History of Penn Township
Berks County > Municipalities > Penn Township

 

Penn Township was first settled by German farmers in the late 1700s.  It was originally part of Bern Township then Upper Bern Township. The village of Mt. Pleasant was first settled in 1812 and consisted of residences, several factories, an inn and a tavern.  In 1828, the Union Canal was completed, connecting the Susquehanna and Schuylkill Rivers.  The Bernville Locks became one of the main ports along the Canal, and a community developed around this port. 

In 1838, residents of the area petitioned the Berks County Court of Quarter Sessions to create a new township from parts of Bern, Heidelberg, Upper Bern, and Upper Tulpehocken Townships.  These existing townships were seen as too large to be conveniently accessible to residents of this area or to be effective in keeping roads in good repair.  In May of that year, the Court rejected the petition, but in November 1840, the Court approved a second petition, thus erecting a new township from parts of Bern and Upper Bern Township and including an area that is now Penn Township and Bernville Borough. 

The recommended name for the new Township was “Northkill”, but the Court suggested “Penn”, in honor of the founder of Pennsylvania, and on November 5, 1841, Penn Township was created.  In 1851, the village of Bernville, discontented with the Township’s inability to properly maintain roads and provide adequate community services, was incorporated as a borough.  The village of Mt. Pleasant then became Penn Township’s largest settlement.  The Township continued to prosper because of the Canal until after the Civil War.  Railroads began to replace waterways as the primary means of transporting goods, and in 1884, the Canal ceased operation.  As the result of the abandonment of the Canal and railroads bypassing the Township, Penn Township’s economy faltered, with factories closing and its population decreasing.  This decline lasted into the early 1900s. 

With the introduction of the automobile, Penn Township experienced a new vitality, and by 1930, the automobile was the major influence in the Township’s growth and development.  The Township was the location of hundreds of summer bungalows, with a large colony of them situated along the Tulpehocken Creek between Mt. Pleasant and Bernville.  The Mt. Pleasant Fire Company was formed in 1921, with a charter granted in 1924.  In 1931, the Penn-Bernville Consolidated School was dedicated.  The post-war boom and migration from urban areas in the 1950s brought additional persons into the Township.  Between 1960 and 1980, Penn Township experienced a dramatic change in its land use composition.  The projects which were directly responsible for this change were the development of the Blue Marsh Project and the expansion of the Pennsylvania State Game Lands.  Approximately 3,220 acres or 26.1 percent of the land area within Penn Township is consumed by the Blue Marsh Project and Pennsylvania State Game Lands. 

The development and construction of the Blue Marsh Project was authorized as part of the Flood Control Act of 1962 (Public Law 87-874).  Blue Marsh Lake is located along the Tulpehocken Creek in the Delaware River Basin, six (6) miles northwest of the City of Reading.  A significant portion of the Blue Marsh Project is located within the southern part of Penn Township.  Construction of the Blue Marsh Dam and Reservoir commenced in March of 1974 and concluded in September of 1979.  The Blue Marsh Project was designed as a multi-purpose project for flood control, water supply, low flow augmentation, recreation and water quality control.  The reservoir is designed to contain up to 11 billion gallons of flood water above the normal winter pool, providing flood protection for events up to and including the 100-year flood.  Approximately 540 acres or 4.4 percent of the land area within Penn Township is consumed by the Blue Marsh Project.

Through the development of the Blue Marsh Project, the Pennsylvania State Game Lands were expanded to serve as a natural and physical buffer to the Blue Marsh Lake.  The Pennsylvania State Game Lands were expanded in Penn Township through separate acts of either acquisition or condemnation by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Approximately 2,280 acres or 21.7 percent of the land area within Penn Township is consumed by the Pennsylvania State Game Lands.

Between 1980 and 1990, Penn Township had the greatest percentage increase in population among all municipalities within Berks County.  This growth rate was the result of a number of factors, including a desirable location, improvements to the transportation network, development pressures, the availability of reasonably priced land, and the expansion of public utilities.