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Trappe Village is noted here in its historical context as part of Upper Providence Township, of which it was a part in the 17th and 18th centuries; today, the village is contained within Trappe Boro

Trappe Village [1]

The oldest village, and the one around which clusters the richest historical associations, is the ancient village of Trappe. Many men of considerable importance in State and nation have been born and bred within its limits or in its neighborhood. The first name of this village was Landau. Samuel Seely bought one hundred and fifty acres of land in the village October 19, 1762. This land lies on the west side of the turnpike road, nearly opposite the Lutheran Church. Some time between 1762 and 1765, Mr. Seely divided this land into town-lots, and named the town "Landau." An old draft shows fifty-seven lots thus laid out, the first nineteen fronting on the old Manatawny road, called Front Street. The lots were sixty-six by one hundred and sixty-five feet. The lots were all sold as follows:

No. 1, Peter Hicks
2, Israel Jacob
3, James Richardson
4, Thomas Bower
5, 34 and 35, Thomas Bunn
6, James Hamer
7, Richard Lewis
8, Joseph Ramsey
9, John Buckwalter
10, 16, 23 and 29, Joseph Seely
11, P. Flanagan
12 and 27, Adam Hallman
13 and 26, John Schrack
14, Jacob Peterman
15, George Essig
17, Edwin De Haven
19 and 20, Abraham Brosius
28, John Carter.

This town, which was expected, no doubt, by the founder, to rival the metropolis, existed mostly on paper, and would, no doubt, have been entirely lost had it not been recently rescued and brought to light by Dr. James Hamer, of Collegeville.

About the time Mr. Seely was trying to impress this name upon the village at the upper end another name was being applied to it at the lower end, which was more successful. Before this the name of Trap or Trapp was given to the hotel, which then stood on the present site of Mr. John Longstreth's house. From this hotel the village derived its name Trappe. Concerning the origin of the name Trappe there has been considerable speculation. That the name was of local origin seems the most reasonable. Two theories of the origin of the name are worthy of attention, — the Muhlenberg and the Shunk theories. The Rev. Henry Melchior Muldenberg, the venerable and honorable founder of the Lutheran Church, made this entry in his journal kept at the time,

"November 13, 1780 -- Christian Schrack, who was buried yesterday was a son of John Jacob Schrack, who came to this country in 1717 . . . They built a cabin and a cave in which they cooked. They kept a small shop in a small way and a tavern with beer with and such things. As once an English inhabitant, who had been drinking in the cave, fell asleep, and came home late, and was in consequence scolded by his wife, he excused himself by saying he had been at the Trap. From that time this neighborhood is called Trapp, and is known as such in all America."

That this is the true origin of the name seems the more probable for several reasons,-

  1. Muhlenberg lived right in the vicinity from 1745, and no man had better facilities for knowing. He speaks without doubt.
  2. In the oldest deeds, advertisements and papers the name of the place is spelled Trap afterwards, for many years, Trapp and Trap. Very few papers of the last centuries are spelled Trappe.
  3. In 1760, John Schrack, son of John Jacob Schrack above spoken of, advertises the hotel in Sower's newspaper, and calls it "Trapp" Hotel.
  4. On Howell's map, 1792, it is called "Trapp."
  5. The post-office, when established in 1819, was by the name of Trap.
  6. The first hotel licensed by the court of Montgomery County, in 1784, was this same hotel. The record roads "License granted to George Brook, 'The Trap' hotel, Providence township," and was granted for many years under the same name.

Thus the change is gradual, but marked,--T-r-a-p, T-r-a-p-p, T-r-a-p-p-e.

The "Shunk theory," so called from being advocated by Governor Shunk, was to the effect that at this Schrack's tavern there were very high steps leading to the front door. As a poor fellow, the worse for drink, went headlong down the steps, he exclaimed, "Verdaint die Treppe!" and from this event the hotel received its name, "Treppe" being the German word for steps.

This theory seems fatally defective, in that the history of the orthography of the name has changed, contrary to the way it should if the theory were true. It was, however, stoutly maintained by Governor Francis R. Shunk. The author has in his possession a letter from the Governor, giving his views in full and arguing that the name of the village should be spelled T-r-e-p-p-e. The discussion as to the origin of the name of the village, and how the same should be spelled, at length gave rise to a public meeting, which was held in February, 1835. Matthias Haldeman and Francis R. Shunk were the champions for "Treppe" or "Trappe," while Hon. Wright A. Bringhurst and Hon. Jacob Fry, Jr., championed the "Trap" or "Trapp." At that meeting the majority determined that the proper name was Trapp.

In 1795 Trappe contained twelve houses. In 1832 it contained two taverns, two stores and fifteen houses. In 1858 there were two hotels, three stores, three churches and about forty houses, now increased to upwards of sixty. Washington Hall Collegiate Institute was founded in 1830, and is now in charge of Professor Abel Rambo, for several years county superintendent of public schools.

The post-office was established here about 1819, with John Todd as postmaster. He was succeeded by Matthias Haldeman. Where is now the dwelling-house of Philip Willard stood, before the Revolution, an inn, called the "Duke of Cumberland," which was kept as early as 1758. Father Muhlenberg, during the Revolution, complains that there was then no hotel in the place, while before, when there was not one-half as much travel, the village boasted of three public-houses.

  1. Bean, Theodore W., History of Montgomery County Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Everts and Peck, 1884

School District: Perkiomen Valley

Trappe Map

Street Names
Ridge Pike • Trappe Road

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