History of Muhlenberg Township

an excerpt from "The Muhlenberg Story" edited by Carol Hunsburger

Muhlenberg Township, like the nation it is part of, evolved from a vigorous dispute over pay­ment of taxes. Initially part of Alsace Township, which was established in 1752 as an original town­ ship of the newly-formed Berks County, Muhlenberg Township first began when irate resi­dents in the western portion of Alsace resisted hav­ing to pay heavy taxes to help maintain hilly roads in the eastern section while at the same time hav­ing to maintain personally the roads adjacent to their own western flat lands. Historian Morton Montgomery in his 1886 volume explains how in 1849 an initial application was made in court to divide Alsace Township following a line "almost straight from a point near the Ruscombmanor cor­ner to the northernmost point of the Schuylkill Bend, near the Big Dam (Felix)." The name "Neversink Township" was suggested with the proposal but exceptions to the division caused the request to be put aside in November  1849.

A re-survey was made in the following March and three court-appointed commissioners provided a review. They suggested using the name "Alsace" for the western division and "Manor" for the eastern section. Their report cannot be found in the court records, however. In May 1850 a meet­ing of taxpayers of the proposed western section was held at Jacob Kerlin's public house, located at 3015 Kutztown Road. It resulted in the formation of a 69 member vigilance committee to formulate and actively promote the new township charter. Jacobs. Ebling presided and additional leadership was provided by some of the future township's. most prominent citizens: Daniel Zacharias, Sr., Jacob Gehret, John Ulrich, Henry Body, Daniel Shell, Peter Rothermel, Daniel and Jacob Maurer, and Henry Spengler, to name a few. A few months later, the court approved the new charter.

Shortly afterward the division was made by the court and the western division was named Muhlenberg Township. The record of this proceed­ing has not been found in the county courthouse.

On February 10, 1851, an act of assembly was passed, ordering the qualified electors of Muhlenberg Township to hold general and town­ ship elections at the public house of Gabriel Gehret, located along Centre Turnpike, and later referred to as the Gehret Mansion.

As for the choice of Muhlenberg for the township name, no one has been able to find docu­mented evidence as to why it was so named. Al­ though Montgomery notes that there was a large plot of land owned by a family of that name, it does not appear on any maps of that time. The Muhlenberg family was a prominent one in the County, however, and the founders of the new township obviously held the Muhlenbergs in high esteem and honored them by giving the new town­ ship the family name. Tradition has it that the founders  were  referring  to  Henry  Augustus Muhlenberg I.

At first, development of the new township was slow. The 1860 census showed 1676 persons but population declined to 1547 by 1870. By the turn of the century, the population was only 2,069 persons.  However  as the  Industrial  Revolution gained momentum and Reading's borders were strained, growth in Muhlenberg was inevitable. In 150 years, the township has grown and changed from a largely rural, farming community to a resi­dential and commercial suburban community of 16,305, (according to the 2000 census), whose last two remaining farms are being dissolved as this volume is being completed. Bordering the city line of Reading, the township, with its one borough of Laureldale, has faced the changing needs of twen­tieth century society and moves into the twenty­ first century with the promise of continued progress for its citizens.