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Cressona Borough

Cressona Borough Hall is located at 69 South Sillyman Street, Cressona PA 17929; phone: 570-385-2933.

Beginnings [1]

Cressona is an outgrowth of the Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven Railroad, and like all the other towns in the coal region is comparatively a modern borough; but the events which led to its incorporation and subsequent growth to its present proportions date back for nearly half a century. Before the construction of the Mine Hill road the valley in which the town is situated, and the hill sides, were covered with heavy timber or thick undergrowth, with here and there cleared fields which yielded a scanty return for the toils of the husbandman. There were no school-houses, churches, or burial places; they who passed away were laid to rest among their kindred in other towns. Of all the original settlers none are buried here excepting a portion of one family by the name of Fite.

The developments of the anthracite coal fields of Pennsylvania required the construction of railroads and canals to move the products of the mines to distant markets. Among the earliest of these important works was the Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven Railroad. It was chartered in 1828 and completed in 1831. From the time of the completion of the road to 1847 the power used was horses and mules; these, with the small cars used in hauling the coal, were generally owned by the operators, and consequently the centers of movement were at the respective collieries; hence during this period there were no inducements for building up any other place. In 1847, however, the teams and small cars were withdrawn and a steam engines substituted. This was the beginning of a new era in the history of the railroad and the West Branch valley. The center of movement was now transferred from the mines to this place. The erection of engine-houses, shops, and stores for materials became necessary.

The large farm upon which the principal part of the town has been built since was owned by Thomas Sillyman, and as the company did not feel themselves authorized to hold any large tract of land, it was purchased by John C. Cresson, the president of the road, and the land necessary for the uses of the company transferred to them, whereon the buildings for the use of the motive power of the road, scales, repair shops, offices, etc., were erected. A portion of the farm was laid out in town lots, fifty by two hundred feet, and sold to employes of the road on such terms as enabled them to erect dwellings for themselves. A thriving little town soon grew to such proportions as to require a name, and it was called West Haven. At this time the inhabitants were few, but in a few years the population increased to several hundred, which rendered further changes necessary to secure the welfare of the people. The elections for this portion of North Manheim township were held at the Almshouse tavern, which made it very inconvenient for the men working on the road and in the shops, and teams had to be employed to take the train hands, as they came in, to vote, which was expensive and often resulted in the loss of votes.

The educational advantages accorded to West Haven by the directors of North Manheim township were not such as were satisfactory to the citizens who had children to educate, and various plans were suggested and discussed to remedy the defects of the school system. In all these matters the officers of the road took a deep interest. In view of the probable importance of the place in the future and the great need of local government, the principal resident officers, among whom was R.A. Wilder, resident engineer and superintendent of the road, suggested the incorporation of the town into a borough, with an independent election and school district; also changing the name from West Haven to Cressona, in honor of John C. Cresson, owner of the land upon which the town was erected and president of the Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven Railroad, who was greatly interested in the employes of the company, and offered every inducement to them to become owners of homes in the vicinity of the works where they were employed.

At the June session of the court in 1856 a charter was granted for the borough of Cressona. The charter is dated February 2nd, 1857. Judge Hegins was the presiding judge. The first election was held in the public school-house, now W.L. Grey's store, February 29th, 1857. The officers elected were: William A. Hannum, chief burgess: council-R.A. Wilder, Benjamin Hosler, F.M. Nichols, Frank Kantner, E. Bradefield and Henry Merkle; high constable, William Styers; auditors-William Newell, F.B. Drehr, Ruben Laubenstine; assessor, Daniel Bartoletsen; secretary, D.H. Albright. The first school directors were Peter Haas, J.J. Upchurch, J. Kanter, Robert Towns, N.G. Hammeken and William Styers. At a meeting in May following the election the directors decided to sell the old school-house and build a new one upon a more improved plan. The first movement under the new state of things was to improve the system of public education. A large brick building containing four rooms replaced the small buildings furnished by the directors of the township. As the population increased a two-story addition, containing two large rooms was erected. About the same time a new school building was constructed in that part of the town now constituting the north ward. The best teachers were selected by the board of directors to take charge of the education of the young in these colleges of the people." From the foundation of the borough liberal appropriations have been granted by the citizens to keep their public schools up to an efficient standard.

  1. History of Schuylkill County PA., 1881, W.W. Munsell & Co., New York
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