History - "In Brief"
Union Township was established in 1753 by proceedings in the Berks County Court of Quarter Sessions. The Township was formed through the “union” of portions of Robeson Township (Berks County) and Coventry Township (Chester County).
The land area of Union Township, like most of Berks County, was purchased in the early 1700s through an existing treaty between the local Native Americans, known as the Lenape or Delaware Indians, and the sons of William Penn. In 1705 Swedes and Germans were the first settlers within the present boundaries of Union Township, by 1759 there were 62 taxable persons, and in 2010 the Township had grown to 3,503 residents.
The land areas adjacent to the Schuylkill River and the Hay Creek provided productive land for farming. In 1765 Hopewell Furnace, now a National Park Service site, was prominent in the iron industry and played an important role providing iron for the American Revolution. Readily available water power provided industrial opportunities for the early settlers. By the early 1800s mills were located along the Schuylkill River and Six Penny, Hay, and Mill Creeks.
The Schuylkill Canal Navigation System, completed in 1824, promoted development of the Township. The Canal provided the means to transport coal, iron, lumber, merchandise, and produce from Schuylkill County to Philadelphia. Portions of the abandoned Canal, which became obsolete in the 1870s, are still evident throughout the northern part of the Township.
During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the Federal Government purchased land used for charcoal production as part of a national project to provide jobs and improve local economies by developing recreation sites. In the early 1940’s, two Civilian Conservation Corps camps were built at what is now French Creek State Park. Corps members constructed two dams, camping areas, beaches, roads, and picnic pavilions. In 1946 most of the property and facilities were transferred to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, creating French Creek State Park, which occupies half of the Township.
During the late 1940’s to early 1950’s work began on a massive cleanup of the Schuylkill River. The river was dredged and the coal sediment pumped into desilting basins, including the one you see here. A raised berm, now the Berm Trail in Union Meadows Park, encircled the area to contain the slurry of coal silt pumped from the river; clean water then drained from the top back into the river.
Union Township has a legacy of historical structures and villages within its boundaries including:
Hopewell Furnace built in 1765 and now a National Park Service Historic Site.
Hopewell Furnace played an important role in the American Revolution.
Mount Frisby African Methodist Episcopal Church and Cemetery, established in 1856, is the oldest African American cemetery in Berks County. The church also served as a station on the Underground Railroad.
Black Bear Tavern built in 1831 and now a private dwelling.
William Kerlin’s Gun Barrel Shop built in 1750 and now a private dwelling.
Brinton Lodge built in 1750 and now a non-profit historic site and small-batch craft brewery.
Unionville, considered the oldest hamlet in Union Township, and Monocacy, considered the second oldest. Both were major points of business and trade in the early 1800s situated along the Schuylkill Canal.
St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church, established in 1773 and considered the oldest Methodist Church in Berks County and the third oldest in the United States.
St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Mission Church built in the 1840s.
St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church built in 1850 near the village of Geigertown.