Stony Creek Mills straddles the townships of Lower Alsace and Exeter in Berks County

Berks Places is a recurring feature that will focus on small towns and designated enumeration locations across the county. History, nostalgia and local voices will bring to light the picturesque nooks and crannies of our region. Additional historical photographs accompany the online version of the articles.

The defining feature of the village of Stony Creek Mills was the huge manufacturing area that dominated the eastern border from the mid-1800s. At first it was Conrad Feger’s paper mill, then a woolen mill started. by Louis Kraemer and several partners in 1864 which shifted from producing fabrics only to making 1,200 pairs of “Stony Creek Trousers” per day, according to “The Passing Scene” volume 12 by the historian of the Berks County George M. Meiser IX and his wife, Gloria Jean.

Today there is no functioning factory at Stony Creek Mills.

A fire raged on November 16, 1963 at the old Kraemer’s Mills, at the intersection of the Antietam and Friedensburg roads in the Stony Creek Mills section of the canton of Basse-Alsace. The building was used to store equipment from the electric motor company LJ Land Inc. according to volume 25 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser. (Courtesy of Benjamin L. Bernhart)

A huge fire in November 1963 destroyed the mill building, which had stopped making fabric in 1946.

Richard “Ricky” Gerhart Jr. was only 8 years old when this raging fire destroyed the mill building, but he heard details of that fire and another even more devastating later that same year.

His father, Richard senior, was an officer in the Compagnie Communautaire de Pompiers Volontaires de Basse-Alsace before becoming its chief. Ricky heard how five children died in a house fire in Butter Lane on December 31, 1963.

“The one with the five kids just changed Stony Creek for a while,” Gerhart said. “It was absolutely devastating.”

While the fire company may be outside the map lines of how the US Census Bureau defines Stony Creek Mills, Gerhart said it is the heart of the community.

“Growing up in this fire company, I developed a real love for people,” said Gerhart. “I served them at a very young age in a very difficult position. I was the youngest fire chief, probably in Berks County history. I don’t know of any other fire chief who became a chief at the age of 20. It’s very young to do that.

Adam Richter – Reading Eagle

Stony Creek Mills is a census municipality located in the cantons of Lower Alsace and Exeter. (Adam Richter – Reading Eagle)

Gerhart grew up in Stony Creek Mills, as did his parents. Her paternal grandparents moved from East Reading to the Stony Creek Mills area as their growing family – eight children – needed a bigger home. They found one on Montgomery Avenue near Carsonia Park.

Gerhart’s wife Cynthia was from the nearby town of Pennside and when they got married they moved to a house near the fire hall.

“The phone had gone from the fire company to my room,” Gerhart explained. “The phone was answered by a remote company and the fire station bar and when either wasn’t available it was up to me. I had to answer the phone, take the call, then run to the fire company and send the ambulance or the fire truck or whatever.

It was like that for all fire companies on the eve of the existence of the 9-1-1 emergency number, he explained.

Gerhart, Cindy and their daughter eventually moved just across the border to Exeter Township.

Stony Creek Mills is a bit unique when it comes to census locations in that it spans two townships: Lower Alsace and Exeter. its official founding date is indicated as 1879.

“The love of the city is what kept me here today,” said Gerhart. “The way I’m telling the story is we had basketball teams that were state champions from Mount Penn High School, and we celebrated those events with the fire company, and then I was with these people. in their worst moments. It all goes back to the fire company.

When asked to describe what is a landmark for Stony Creek Mills today, Gerhart said the Stony Creek Athletic Association, 165 Antietam Road, should be the defining building.

Some monuments of yesteryear also remain. These include the mansions that once belonged to two of the partners of Louis Kraemer & Co.

J. Heyl Raser, courtesy of George M. Meiser IX

Part of an improved pen and ink drawing by Berks County artist J. Heyl Raser shows a large two-family residence on the left which housed a woolen goods designer named Weidler on the left. left and the family of Lewis Frederick Grebe on the right. Grebe was a partner in the Louis Kraemer & Co factories. The Kraemer mansion is to the right behind the mill chimney. The drawing appears in volume 11 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser. (J. Heyl Raser, courtesy of George M. Meiser IX)

The Kraemer House, which would later become the Eltonhead House, is still located at 102 Kraemer Lane, or as indicated by the “Kramer Lane” sign. Kramer Avenue also dropped the second “e” in Kraemer.

Further north on the lane, the Grebe manor is nestled in the trees. It was designed as a two-family house. Louis Frederick Grebe, who owned a third of Louis Kraemer & Co., and his family lived in the right half while a designer for the company named Weidler lived in the other half according to volume 11 of “The Passing Scene”.

Nearby, on Friedensburg Road, many houses with touches of Victorian charm still survive.

“The 1400 block of Friedensburg Road would have been the so-called historic Stony Creek district,” Gerhart said.

One building, now a two-family house, was once a general store. Jonathan B. and Ella W. Folk operated JB Folk Groceries & Provisions at 1421 Friedensburg Road.

Jonathan B. Folk operated his JB Folk Groceries & Provisions general store at 1421 Friedensburg Road in Stony Creek Mills. Folk bought the property in 1907 and died in 1914. His wife, Ella W. Folk, who is mistakenly identified as Ellen in some deeds, continued on the store. The photograph appears in volume 12 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser. (Courtesy of Elmer Adams)

Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle

This residence two blocks along Friedensburg Road in Stony Creek Mills, Lower Alsace Township, was once the general store of JB Folk’s Groceries & Provisions. At one time there was even a gas pump up front along the sidewalk according to volume 12 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser. It airs on November 16, 2021. (Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle)

According to the Berks County Deed Records, the Folks purchased the property in 1907. The wife is mistakenly named Ellen on this deed, but this is corrected in subsequent deeds. Jonathan died in 1914. Ella and their son Charles continued to run the store. Ella died in 1948, leaving the property to Charles and his sister Mabel Reed.

  • Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle

    Antietam Creek heads to Stony Creek Mills, Lower Alsace Township, November 16, 2021. The building to the left once housed Minuteman Printing Inc. and now houses Hernandez Auto Detailing. (Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle)

  • Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle

    The houses on the 1400 block of Friedensburg Road in the Stony Creek Mills section of the canton of Lower Alsace on November 16, 2021, retain their historic charm. (Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle)

  • Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle

    Looking west on Friedensburg Road at Stony Creek Mills on Tuesday, November 16, 2021. Some residents call this section the historic district of the census place in the canton of Lower Alsace. (Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle)

  • Stoudt’s Garage tow truck tows a vehicle past the intersection of Friedensburg Road and Carsonia Avenue in the Stony Creek Mills section of Lower Alsace Townshi, circa 1930. Image courtesy of Terry Royal West in the volume 12 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser. In the background in front of the truck is the old Kraemer Mill, which stood at the current location of Antietam Road. Above the tow truck’s winch, the Louis Grebe Mansion sits on a hill. Grebe was a partner of Kraemer’s Mills. (Courtesy of Terry Royal West)

  • The official tow truck from the Stoudt garage circa 1930 at the intersection of Friedensburg Road and Carsonia Avenue in the Stony Creek Mills section of the canton of Basse-Alsace. The image appears courtesy of Terry Royal West in Volume 12 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser. Above the hood in the background is the building that once housed Minuteman Printing Inc. and behind the truck to the right is the old Kraemer Mills, from which the village takes its name. (Courtesy of Terry Royal West)

Gerhart noted that some of the remains of the Kraemer Mill were saved and put to good use in his church, Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1375 Friedensburg Road.

“When the mill burned down, they saved a lot of the stone from the building and added that stone to our church,” Gerhart said.

Another property that was part of the Kraemer Company’s holdings was a barn that became Bixler’s Lodge. On August 4, 1931, James P. and Mayetta H. Bixler purchased a property with a barn and a “gas station” from Louis F. Kraemer, Martin D. and Sarah B. Hunter and the estate of Louis F Grebe for $ 5,500, according to the deed. BixlersLodge.com states that the barn was converted into a restaurant in 1934.

Meiser said the restaurant and bar at 1456 Friedensburg Road is one of Stony Creek’s top attractions today.

A metal beacon along Friedensburg Road in the canton of Lower Alsace on November 16, 2021, designates the western border of the village of Stony Creek Mills. The village also includes part of the township of Exeter. The sign says “Friedensburg – 4”, indicating the mileage to the next village, and “named for the nearby mountain stream founded in 1879”. (Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle)

Stony Creek Mills in numbers

Population: 1,048

Age: 11.1% under 5 years old; 25% under 18; 75% aged 18 and over; and 15.6% aged 65 and over

Total area: 0.6 square mile

Median household income: $ 54,861

Employment rate: 71.7%

Source: US Census Bureau 2019 American Community Survey, 5-year estimates (information for 2020 should be available by November 30, 2021 according to the US Census)


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