Historical Background of Caernarvon Township,
Berks County

Morgantown, Pennsylvania
1770 - 2015
Caernarvon Township and the Village of Morgantown

Our story begins long ago in a village called St. David's (Radnor Township, Delaware County). There a group of Welshmen, including a man named William Davies, settled in the 1680s. Records show an Episcopal Church had been established by 1700 and in 1715 a stone structure was built to house the growing congregation on land donated by Davies.

Davies, an educated man trained as a physician, ran a mercantile and shipping business in Philadelphia and served as a member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly from 1712 to 1714. Davies, along with other Welshmen, felt a deep disappointment when their dream of a Welsh Barony in Penn's new Province, collapsed. This inspired Davies to initiate a new effort to establish an exclusively Welsh settlement north and west of St. David's.

The Colonial Minutes record that, after a conference held at Philadelphia in 1715, the Indians voluntarily abandoned their land in the Conestoga Valley. Soon thereafter, in 1718, this land was surveyed and land warrants were issued to William Davies, his sons, sons-in-law, and other Welshmen, all of St. Davids. The new Welsh settlement ran from the head of the valley in the vicinity of Twin Valley Road, westward to Terre Hill, a distance of 8 miles on both sides of the Conestoga Creek.

Names of some of these Welshmen who came to settle this new Welsh community were: John, Edward and Gabriel Davies; Thomas, John and Evan Edwards; Nathan, William, David and Evan Evans; George Hudson; John Bowen; Hugh Hughes; and Thomas Morgan to name a few.

In 1729, Lancaster County was formed out of Chester County. The Welsh settlers in the valley named their newly erected township "Caernarvon" after a shire in Wales. Other township names reflecting Welsh heritage include: Brecknock, Cumru, and Nantmeal, to name a few.

The Morgan Family
Thomas Morgan was among the Welshmen who moved here from the Radnor area in 1718. He came to the valley with a wife, Elizabeth, and four young sons: John, Francis, William and Jacob. He took up several adjacent tracts of land totaling 710 acres. He built his family a home on a site favorably located on a southern slope just above the Conestoga Creek - a site on Mill Road now occupied by Andy and Lucille Stoltzfus called "Caernarvon Farm".

By the time of Thomas Morgan's death in 1742, he owned over 1,000 acres of land. Morgan's sons inherited this land, adding it to their own holdings.

In 1752, Berks County was formed out of Lancaster County. The new county line divided both Caernarvon and Brecknock Townships - half of each remained in Lancaster and half of each incorporated into the new county.

Jacob Morgan, youngest son of Thomas, served as a captain on the northern frontier along the Blue Mountain during the French and Indian War (1754-1761). After the war he returned home to farm and expand his business interests.

It is believed that Captain Morgan told the German settlers about his valley home and encouraged them to move south. Drawn by the promise of fertile land, German farmers began to move into the Conestoga Valley. The second generation Welsh who occupied the valley welcomed their new neighbors. The concept of a Welsh Barony had faded with time and the conflict of the war.

In 1769 Jacob Morgan came into possession of the 200 acre tract which his father had willed to his brother John. It was on this tract that he laid out the plat for Morgan's Town in 1770. Lots were not sold, rather, they were leased and improvements required to be made by the lessee. Early land records refer to the village as "Caernarvon Town" and "Morgan's Town".

Jacob Morgan served as a Judge in Berks County from 1772 through 1784. He was also justice of the peace for the southern district of Berks county from 1777 to 1791. He was involved in many businesses and owned much land in the county and in Reading.

Morgan was promoted to Colonel and sent as one of the delegates from Berks County to the Provincial Conference held at Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia from June 18 to June 25, 1776. It was determined at this conference that a Convention be called for the purpose of forming a new government in this province. Morgan was subsequently elected to serve the County of Berks as a delegate to the Convention which established the Constitution of the Commonwealth.

During the Revolutionary War, Morgan, now in his 60s, was elected Lieutenant of Berks County. His job was to supply whatever the Executive Council required from Berks County and it was a job he did very well.

After the Revolution, Morgan built a two-story addition to the front of his circa 1754 dwelling north of the village. From the porch of his enlarged home, Morgan could survey his town and much of his land holdings.

This period saw more German families moving into the area establishing farms on lands cleared to provide wood for the charcoal furnaces and forges which lined the Conestoga and French Creeks. Both farming and industry flourished creating prosperity for all.

In 1786, Morgan was successful in getting the Legislature of the Commonwealth to give permission to move St. Thomas Chapel from it's original location on his father's farm to its present location in Morgantown.

Morgan was finally persuaded to sell lots to several of the town's residents in 1791. When he died in 1792 at the age of 76, the unsold portion of the town and all the rents arising from the lots was willed to Jacob's son, Benjamin. Thereafter, lots were regularly sold to residents and new comers and land records now referred to the village as "Morgantown".

By 1806 the village had twelve stone houses and nineteen frame or log houses. There were two stores, three taverns and one schoolhouse. Residents included four storekeepers, two cabinet makers, one spinning wheel maker, one house carpenter, three tailors, one saddler, five shoe makers, one stone mason, one plasterer, one postmaster, one squire, one doctor, two teachers and eight windows.

The Village of Morgantown was the hub of activity. The people who lived and worked in the village then, as now, provided goods and services to the people in the surrounding townships.

Caernarvon township boasted many family run industries. Grist mills produced flour and feed; lime kilns produced lime for the iron industry and for farming purposes. There were saw mills, fulling mills, clover mills, cider mills, distilleries, potteries, furniture manufactories, blacksmith shops, harness makers, carriage shops, coopers and more.

Township and village relied on each other. Cultural differences did not deter the various groups from interacting. Rather, the fiber of the community was strengthened by the diversity.

Caernarvon Township and the Village of Morgantown share a heritage of which we all can be proud. Looking back and examining our roots gives us an understanding of the present and helps lay a strong foundation for the future.

Tangible remains of our past are found in both the natural and built environments. Every old building is a testament to the heritage of this area. We are but caretakers of these resources - it is our responsibility to pass this legacy on to those who come after us.

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Caernarvon Township, 3307 Main Street, P.O. Box 294, Morgantown, PA 19543-0294
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