(This information taken from the 1881 book: W.W. Munsell's History)
This township was formed out of a portion of Norwegian, in 1836. A portion of it was included in Frailey at the organization of that township in 1847. Its area was further reduced by the organization of Cass from its territory in 1848, and a portion became part of Reilly; and much of it is included in the first coal field of the Schuylkill district. The township is four and three eights miles long, by three and three-fourths miles wide, and contains 10,500 acres. The surface in the north is undulating and hilly, but most of it is arable and moderately well cultiva- ted. The southern part is mountainous, the Sharp and Second moun- tains running through it east and west, the summit of the latter forming the boundary. The township is drained by several creeks, the west branch of Schuylkill being the principal one. Indian run, a fine trout stream, flows between the mountain, and affords ample water power to run a power-mill built on its banks. The Muddy branch is a stream flowing through the northwest portion of the township.
Settlement was begun in Branch prior to 1750. Philip and George Clauser located on the Muddy branch, and the Adams family, Andrew Steitzel and a man named Fox were their neighbors. On the site of Llewellyn, Jacob Hime is claimed to have been the first settler. He was engaged in farming and lumbering. The date at which he erected his primitive saw-mill there cannot now be ascertained. Abraham and Jacob Faust located on the site of the village at an early day, their coming having been not long after the beginning of improvements by Jacob Hime. Mark Britton located a mill southeast of Llewellyn, and was the first in his neighborhood. His cabin was near the west branch .
A family of Biddles settled between Britton's clearing and the Sunbury road. The first settler near the northern border of the township, where Phoenix Center has since grown into prominence, was Thomas Reed. His family was quite numerous and a number of his descendants were later well known is the neighborhood. Other comparatively early settlers in the township were George Hafer, Peter Starr, Johannan Cockill, John and Jacob Weaver, and John and Peter Zerbey.
When settlement began evidences were found here and there of the previous occupation of the township by Indians. At a comparatively late period it was common to find arrow heads while ploughing. The first log house of any pretensions in the township was built at Llewellyn by Abraham Faust. It was a two-story structure. The first framed building was erected in 1830 by Willing, Shober and Bunting. It is now owned by Thomas M. Cockill, and occupied by G.W. Sponsler as a boot and shoe store. Messrs Smith & Howell built the first frame store house in 1830, and opened a general store. The stock of goods was made up of about everything in demand in a country neighborhood, and whisky, brandy, gin, rum, and other liquors were sold by the gallon and drink. The first and only brick dwelling house in the township was erected by John Rodgers, in 1861. Dr. Leonard was the first resident physician, and came in 1849. Drs. Witheral, A.M. Robins, J.B. Brandt, and W.F. Schropp have practiced in the township longer or shorter periods since. The first hotel was built in 1832, on the site where Cornelius Colman is now domiciled. The tavern keepers were Johannan Cockill, Isaac Eisenhower, and Henry Bressler. Jacob Hime kept a tavern in 1836.
FIRST TOWNSHIP ELECTION-OFFICERS.
The first township election was held at the public house of Jacob Hime, in 1837. Two supervisors were chosen. They were Jacob Hime and John Moon. The first justices of the peace were Thomas B. Abbott and Samuel Harlman. Abbott served twenty years. Then the township was without a magistrate many years. Johannan Cockill served two years. Henry Reed and Hiram Chance each served five years. Jacob F. Hime was elected to the office in 1857, and has has served continuously since. The first township road passed through the southern part of Llewellyn, crossing the creek at a point a hundred yards below Coleman's Hotel. For some time there was no bridge, and a fordway was in use. The township now contains twenty-one miles of public road.
Farming and lumbering early gave employment to the few scattering inhabitants within the present township limits, and it was not until after the beginning of the development of the coal interests that population increased with any degree of rapidity. The population of the old township of Norwegian, which embraced Branch and a large territory besides not now included in Norwegian, was so small previous to 1825 that there were not in the whole township children enough to make up a district school, and in 1828 there were only 421 taxable inhabitants. Under the influence of the coal mining interests the population of the whole Pottsville field grew rapidly. In 1842 the population of Branch, which then included Cass and portions of Frailey and Reilly, had so increased that there were in the township 1,058 taxable inhabitants. In 1849, when Branch comprised its present area and a portion of Reilly, it had 600 taxable inhabitants. As in other sections of what is now known as the first coal fields of the Schuylkill district, the presence of coal within the present limits of Branch township was early known. On William Scull's map of the "Province of Pennsylvania," published in 1770, and claimed to be the earliest authority for the existence of coal anywhere in the vicinity of Pottsville, coal is designated at three points commencing about two miles west of that borough and extending in a southwesterly direction for about four miles. A glance at a map of the territory will show that some of the outcroppings discovered by the surveyor must have been within the borders of Branch township as now bounded. The first mining enterprise of any prominence if Branch was started in 1831, on the Salem river, on a tract of land half a mile south of Llewellyn, by Samuel Brook and John Miller. Five years later, not having succeeded as well as had been anticipated, Brook sold his interest to Mr. Heilner. There was considerable dispute at the time about the lease of the land owners to the operators, which resulted in a suspension that continued dispute at the time about the lease of the land owners to the operators, which resulted in a suspension that continued two years. The difficulty was satisfactorily adjusted in time, and work was resumed. Fritz & Seltzer operated on the same vein several years. They sunk a slope and put up a small breaker with a capacity of twenty-five cars a day. Their successors were Tyson & Co., who worked the colliery seven years. Then Tyson & Kendrick leased it two years. Finally Jones & Focht purchased it, and a year later the breaker was destroyed by fire, and never rebuilt. Martin Cunningham and Daniel Hoch, jr., have small breakers on the tract, and are operating on a limited scale.
West West colliery was opened about the same time as the Salem, and operated by Samuel Brook five years; Richard Wesley operated it three years. It was unprofitable and was sold at constable's sale. Mellon, Snyder & Haywood became the purchasers and worked the colliery successfully and profitably, employing nearly three hundred men and boys. Later, David Oliver and Theodore Garretson operated this mine a while, but soon it reverted to the land owners, Crisson & Brother, who built the West West breaker, which has a capacity of over a hundred cars per day. The colliery was worked successfully three years, when an explosion of sulphur ignited the coal in the mine, Repeated attempts to quench the fire failed, and the mine has since been flooded.
West Wood colliery was opened in 1840, by Miller & Spencer, who sunk the first slope in the county. They worked the colliery fifteen years and sold out to Fogarty & Co. Robert Leeler worked the Gate vein on the Dundas tract, near the present site of the Black Mine colliery, operated by H.A. Moodie & Co. two years. Messrs. Hill & Betting then became the possessors of the colliery mining and shipping coal many years. John Clausen developed his coal land and began shipping coal in 1842. Folden Wonn shipped coal from the same vein in 1852.
Phoenix Park colliery was opened in 1838 by the Offerman Coal Company, on the Peach mountain and the north dip of the Diamond veins, but not long afterwards mining operations were suspended. Stockman & Stephens were shippers for several years. Charles Miller worked the colliery and built a breaker in 1845, which was burned in 1849, and has never been rebuilt. The land is now owned by the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company. The first powder mill in the township was built by Mr. Allison, at Indian run. He manufactured several years and finally leaded the mill to Captain William C. Wren. It exploded early in April, 1868, killing Albert Leopold and William Kreider, who were employed there. John Rodgers began the manufacture of bricks in the edge of Llewellyn in 1846. He was succeeded by Henry Trautman and Joseph Miller in 1856. Later Joseph Kauffman carried on the business extensively and successfully several years.
There are several small villages in the township. They are known as Llewellwn, Dowdentown, West Wood, and Phoenix Park. Llewellwn is the largest and best known. It is a brisk village, situated two miles south west of Minersville, on the west branch of the Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven Railroad, on the main road leading from Pottsville to Millersville, Dauphin county. It was named in honor of a coal miner and it contains 400 inhabitants. Its population in 1870 is said to have been 500. Much of the early history of this village if given elsewhere. In January, 1851, it contained 82 houses, 3 taverns, 2 stores, and 1 public school with an average attendance of 90 to 100. The population was 419. Thomas M. Cockill, general merchant, Lewis Zimmerman, grocer, D.H. Wilcox, John Sinsel and Cornelius Coleman, hotel keepers, Peter Doerr, boot and shoe maker, Peter Sinsel, cobbler, and John Hicks, blacksmith, are well-known business men of the present day. The population of the township in 1880 was 1,000. There are two cemeteries in the township. One is attached to the Reformed and Lutheran church. It was laid out in 1819 and deeded by Lewis Reese, of Reading, to J.F. Faust and Jacob Hime, trustees for the respective congregations. It is known as Clauser's cemetery. The other is attached to the Methodist Episcopal church, but the ground was donated upon such conditions that any person, a resident of the township at the time of death, is entitled to burial therein. It is known as Llewellyn cemetery.
Early schools were held in private rooms, furnished for the purpose by liberally disposed settlers. After a few years log houses were built for school purposes, and these, with their furniture, harmonize, with the pioneer life of the builders. The course of instruction given in German, comprised reading, writing, the elements of arithmetic, psalm sing and exercises from the catechism. The pioneer teacher was Philip Delcamp, who first taught in the old log church. It was, for a time, customary for parents to pay fifty cents monthly tuition for each child. John Clark and Henry Miller were teachers as early as 1833. The first public school was held in a room in a private dwelling built, and owned and occupied by Abraham Faust, in 1834. Edmund Holt a horse farrier, taught ten years. The first public school house was built in 1839, and was used exclusively for school purposes until 1857. During that year a brick school-house was built on Bunting street, in Llewellyn, against the strenuous opposition of many residents of Branch, outside of the village, who remonstrated against being subjected to taxation for the erection of an expensive school-house which could accommodate only the scholars residing at Llewellyn and vicinity. A lengthy remonstrance, signed by 254 persons, was presented to the board of directors. The first teachers in this building were D.J. Evans and Miss M.J. Watson. The present teachers (1881) are E.G.Faust and Miss Jennie Garland. The present board of directors is made up as follows; Thomas B. Thomas, president; D.H. Wilcox, Secretary; Peter Doerr, treasure; Michael Connolly, Jacob Myer and Michael Bonchart.
Several secret societies have been organized in Branch and held their sessions in Llewellyn, where in 1845 a hall was erected for their use. The principal stockholders in the Llewellyn Hall Association are H.F. Heine, J.F. Faust, Ezra Cockill, George Gable, William Zimmerman, and William Hoch.
Freeman Council, No. 68, Order United America Mechanics was organized in 1848, with J.F. Heine, Ezra Cockill, Jonas Kauffman, Jacob Barnhart, Hiram D. Chance, Damond Schropp, William Hoch, William Berkheiser, Charles Doner, and S.K. Sherman as charter members, and disbanded in 1858.
Line Council, No. 121, Order United American Mechanics was organized in Minersville in 1869, was removed to Llewellyn in 1872 and resigned its charter in 1880. The charter members were Moses Weiser, H.J. Alspach, J.Z. Starr, Washington Loeser, J.Q. Geiger, Henry Heisler, Charles Berger, Lewis Garrison, Jacob Heller, and Nathan Herb.
Llewellyn Council, No. 142, Junior Order United American Mechanics was instituted in October, 1871. The charter members were T.C. Cockill, E.L. Cockill, J.B. Heine, J. Allen Heine, Abram Start, F.P. Boyer, Jonathan Ernst and Theodore Harris.
Post No. 59, Grand Army of the Republic was organized in 1857 and disbanded in 1870. Among the charter members were J.B. Brandt, H.J. Alspach, Hiram Chance, Henry Brodt, Thomas B. Thomas, Louis Zimmerman, A.T. Trautman and William Straw.
German Reformed and Lutheran.-The first church building in Branch was a log structure, erected by the united congregations of the German Reformed and Lutheran denominations, in 1819, on eight acres and one hundred and thirty-eight perches of land donated by Lewis Reese. The organization of each denomination reserved the right to provide its own ministers. The first Reformed pastor was Rev. Frederick C. Kroll, who dedicated the church. He was succeeded by Rev. Messrs Schultz and Steahle. Rev. George Minnich was the first Lutheran pastor. He was succeeded, on his removal to Berks county, by his son, Rev. William G. Munich. At times one or the other denomination was without a pastor; sometimes both were unprovided. But either attended the services of the other. In 1806 a brick church, known as
Clauser's church, was built a hundred yards north of the little old log house. The building committee consisted of Philip Gihres, P.A. Clauser, J.G. Faust, Henry Zimmerman, J.F. Hine and Joseph Zerby. J.F. Hine was contractor and one of the trustees. In January 1857, the congregations began worshiping (sic) in the new building, which has since been occupied by them on alternate Sundays. Rev. Jacob Kline was the first Reformed pastor who officiated in the new church. His successors have been Revs. J.B. Parner, Samuel Miller, Dechaub, Stein, Schultz, Baum, and Christian, the present pastor. The first Lutheran pastor who held services in the brick church was Rev. Daniel Sanner, the present pastor of the Lutheran congregation.
Methodist Episcopal. - The Methodist Episcopal church was built in 1839, on a lot of one acre and thirty perches of ground in the northern part of Llewellyn, donated to the trustees, Henry Bressler, Johannan Cockill and William Delcamp, by Messrs. Will- ing, Shober & Bunting. Revs, Elliott, Arthur, and Heston, from the Minersville circuit, filled the pulpit about three years. For about twenty years thereafter the congregation had no regular pastor. Revs. Richard Morley, ------ Kaines and ----- Arnold have been later pastors. The church is now connected with the Minersville charge.
United Brethren.-The United Brethren church is situated near the Methodist church. It was built in 1850 by Ezra Cockill, contractor and builder, for a school-house, and was used as such until 1857, when, through the liberality of John Schultz and others, it became the property of the above named congregation. The first pastor was Rev. ----- Lowery. He was succeeded by Rev. Messrs. Uhler, Fritz, Kramer and others. The church is now with- out a pastor.
The first Sunday-school in Branch was organized, at Llewellyn in 1840, by Mr. R.C. Hill, then general superintendent of the Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven Railroad, who came from Cressona, on his car, accompanied by a minister and assistants. In 1843 the Welsh opened a Sunday-school, which continued successfully nearly ten years. At present there are Sunday-schools connected with each of the before mentioned churches.