|Skippack Historical Society
Researched and written by Mike Dickey
Through the early to mid 1700's, the majority of Skippack Township was being settled by German speaking families. During the Revolution, the language being spoken in Skippack was still German, as it was through the mid 1800's. Former longtime resident Eva Boswell wrote of a historian named Bancroft who noted, "although the Germans constituted only 1/12th of the population of the colonies, they formed 1/8th of the patriot army". (7)
On seven occasions General Washington and the Continental Army camped along Skippack Pike. Three times the army passed through Skippack. The first was to arrive here, on September 29, 1777, after camping at Pennypacker's Mill near Schwenksville. The second was during the retreat after the Battle of Germantown, October 4, 1777. The third was the army's movement, on October 8th, from Pennypacker's Mill to an encampment near the Towamencin Mennonite meetinghouse on Forty Foot Rd.
A stone at Pennypacker's Mill tells of the army's encampment here, September 26 to 29, 1777, and then October 4 to 8, on retreat from the Battle of Germantown. The mill property is located in what was then the western region of Skippack Twp. (Skippack was also known as "Skippack and Perkiomen Twp.", or just "Perkiomen") Today, at Pennypacker's Mill is a house-museum of the former Governor of Pennsylvania, Samuel Pennypacker, of the early 1900's.
In the collection, at the Pennypacker Mansion, is a family Bible with an interesting entry written in German which gives us an idea of the state of the troops, starving and short of supplies. The entry reads, 'On the 26th day of September, 1777, an army of 30,000 men encamped in Skippack Township, burned all the fences, carried away all the fodder, hay, oats and wheat, and took their departure the 8th day of October, 1777, written for those who come after me, by Samuel Pennybecker." (Mehling, Historians) Records indicate the actual number of men to be 8,000 of the Continental Army plus 3,000 militia of various States. A soldier, Timothy Pickering, wrote that 'before dark on the first day of camp every fence on Samuel Pennybacker's place had disappeared', as soldiers used all the wood for their fires, despite General Washington's orders to stop the theft and plundering of local farms. (qtd in Mehling, Washington's)
In Skippack, General Washington's daily expense account records list that he was at the Joseph Smith house, on October 2, 1777, located near the Skippack Creek just north of Skippack Pike. His stay was from September 29 to October 2, 1777. The encampment took place on the land along Old Forty Foot Rd. in the vicinity of the Smith house, and spread to the west and south. Revolutionary War artifacts were found to the western side of the creek, near Old Forty Foot Rd.
To further support the army's presence in Skippack, there was an advertisement placed by General Nathanial Greene, dated September 30, 1777. It reads, "Headquarters Skippack, 30 September 1777. General Greene lost at North Hanover Camp, a brass pistol, both stock and barrel mark'd H.K. Any person who has found it and will return it to the General shall receive $20." H.K. infers that the pistol may have been a gift to the General from Henry Knox. (qtd in Acanthus Group, Papers, 12)
About the end of September, the autumn foliage around Skippack is full of color. On September 29, 1777, the army marched down the road from Pennypacker's Mill and through Skippackville, passing a dozen or so farmhouses and one or two stores and taverns. The mill, built by Gerhard Indenhofen, was operating along the Skippack, at that time. It must all have been a welcoming site for the hungry and wounded soldiers. (Boswell, 7)
"Despite the shortages, the army did receive a good supply of bread while camped at Skippack. Brick ovens were quickly built and flour gathered from the nearby farmers." (Mehling, Washington's)
According to Boswell, "it was said within a fifty mile radius, all farms were stripped clean of cattle, feed, fuel, and other materials necessary for the army." (7) After the Battle of Germantown, hundreds of sick and wounded soldiers returned to the area. Boswell adds, "there can be no doubt that the little community (Skippack) did all possible to feed and help the brave army." (ibid)
We find this following example of Skippack's kindness that appears to involve the Indenhofen house and perhaps the owner at the time, Peter Keiter, grandson of Gerhard Indenhofen. The author John Watson wrote in 1877, 'I have learned from the sons of one DeHaven (later derivation of Indenhofen) that the father had assisted in carrying General Nash, who was brought into his house and then taken two miles further to his brother's house where he died, having in his profuse bleeding for his country's good, bled through two feather beds before he died.' (qtd in Acanthus Group, Annals, 12-13) This indicates the possibility that General Nash was carried into the Indenhofen house, then carried along Forty Foot Rd. to his brother's home in Towamencin.
One of the most detailed accounts of the army's maneuvers was kept in a journal by James McMichael, a lieutenant in the regiment commanded by Col. John Bull. McMichael wrote, 'at 8 a.m. we marched from our camp, passed Penybacker's Mill and along the Skippack Road.' (qtd in Mehling, Historians) This movement saw the army pass once again through Skippack, and along Forty Foot Rd. to Towamencin, never again to return.
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