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New Galena

New Britain Twp, Bucks County, PA

Traces of the historic village of New Galena lie just north of Lake Galena/Peace Valley Park.

Brief History [1]

The site of this village is just north of the famous galena or "lead" mines of northeastern New Britain Township on the North Branch of the Neshaminy Creek, and the village takes its name from the mines. The presence of outcropping galena ore here may have been known to the Lenape Indians, but the evidence on that point is rather weak. More than a century ago residents of the neighborhood, in sinking wells for water, struck quantities of a hard black substance, which, from its appearance, they thought might be coal. Nothing developed at that time from these chance finds, but in the summer of 1856 a specimen of ore was found washed out from the embankment of Wetherill's mill race. This nugget aroused sufficient curiosity to start local people to prodding around in the soil with post-diggers and crowbars until they found other specimens, one or more of which, it was suspected, contained silver. These discoveries reached the ears of "a couple of gentlemen of Doylestown," who, early in July the next summer (1857), visited the farm on which the ore was found. Who these "gentlemen from Doylestown" were is not known, but they must have had at least some knowledge of minerals. They carried back to town 30 pounds of ore, and the announcement was made that it exhibited "a large percentage of pure metal." Two or three years after this incident was almost forgotten, possibly in the spring or fall of 1860, Christian Moyer and Daniel Brandt were digging post holes on the Brandt property east of the Hilltown road when they came across a large "stone" so heavy that it taxed their strength to lift it from the hole. They broke the stone, noted the glistening fragments, and, remembering the finds of other years, took the largest pieces to a nearby blacksmith shop, where it was crudely smelted. It proved to be "lead" and to Moyer and Brandt seems to belong the honor of discovery. A newspaper item about the incident was read by a Philadelphian named Dickinson. He visited New Galena and secured a 3 months option on the Brandt farm. His prospector met with small success and Dickinson surrendered his option and quit the field. Meanwhile, Jacob Neimeyer, a Pennsylvania German, incidentally heard of the galena find. He had been "through the mill" in the California gold rush and in the galena mines of Illinois, later settling down at Overpeck, Butler County Ohio. He lost no time starting eastward, spent several days looking over the New Galena digging, and talked very little, awaiting the expiration of Dickinson's option. Then he quietly closed a deal with Brandt for his farm, laid $21,000 in cash on the farmer's table and started operations with the confidence of one who knew his ground. He sank shafts and hoisted from the depths blocks of galena ore weighing as much as 700 pounds. A little later on shipments started with a $5,000 invoice. When Neimeyer began to talk a little about his operations, he prophesied he would soon take out $50,000 worth of ore without going below the original level of his shafts. Public excitement grew apace as mining activity increased and the heaps of sparkling ore mounted higher. A report was spread that a rich vein of silver had been struck, which was true, except that it was not rich in the sense of large dimension. Everything was going fine and strong. More miners drifted in and the small town of mine shacks expanded. The mineral furor among the valley landowners reached fever heat. Real estate values skyrocketed. The fever penetrated Doylestown newspaper sanctums. The chubby faced Rogers, knight of the flowery quill and key orator of old-time Doylestown printing fraternity's stone meetings, caught the contagion. Rising at daybreak on that rare June day the 13th, 1861, "provided," as he says, "with a days rations in his haversack, and starting afoot (across Pine Run Valley and over the New Britain hills) to view and observe for himself and make a note thereon of these now justly celebrated mines," he returned at night and wrote, it can be justly said, the best and really the only picture extant of those stirring days at New Galena ("The Lead Mines. Remarkable Discoveries. Ore in Abundance," Doylestown Democrat, June 18, 1861.) He describes Neimeyer as a "courteous and intelligent gentleman." So he was, no doubt. But the miners were mostly a different sort -- as rough, tough and hard-boiled a bunch as any that later mushed into the Klondike. Adventurers, gamblers and counterparts of Dan McGrew and the lady called Lou appeared from nobody knows where. Visitors from surrounding and distant points flocked in to satisfy their curiosity. Sundays were the big visiting days until the management in self defense was obliged to throw guards around the place and give public notice through the press that "the mines will not be open for inspection on Sundays and it will be useless for persons to intrude on the property." While everything was running, at high tension, Neimeyer suddenly sold out to an alleged New York syndicate for an alleged price of $75,000 and, as quietly as he came, retired to his Ohio home. The subsequent ups and downs of this ill-fated venture cannot be followed here. Anyone ambitious to do that may, perhaps, find material enough for a fascinating historical narrative, or, spiced with a little imagination, a good story. Failure of the enterprise was often attributed to the inability to control the water which flooded the mine. The theory was exploded in 1874. During that year William Wyntien, of Doylestown, succeeded in pumping the mines entirely dry with the mine pump on the property, which, it was said, had been there since 1862. He found the two main shafts still properly timbered, each 10 feet square, one 126 feet deep and the other 106 feet. Today the place is deserted, a ghost of itself in the boom days of the 60s and 70s. An attempt was made to resuscitate mining in October, 1891, when the Eastern Mining and Oil Company, of which E.Z. Rosenzi was president, leased the Patterson farm. Operations were started on a small scale in an old shaft, but work soon stopped. At the same time it was reported that the Funk farm had been leased by another company. No work was done on this farm. Since then sporadic attempts have been made to revive the mines. As late as 1932 a gang of men began restoring the railway tracks, but nothing further was done. Before the discovery of the ore New Galena was known as Wetherills, so named for Samuel Wetherill, who for many years owned a grist mill there until he moved to Maryland about 1856. After 1860 it was popularly called "The Lead Mines" until the name New Galena was substituted. When the post office was established in 1898, federal postal authorities ordered a change of name because another post office in the state was named Galena. Several residents sent in names to the department. Benjamin Hendricks, driver of the mail stage, suggested the name Levin, which he found in an old almanac and it was accepted. The post office was discontinued some years ago, the old name of New Galena was resumed, and the village now receives its mail by Chalfont rural delivery. The name Guerden Glen has been at times ironically applied to the village, but this is the name of the nearby bridge, built in 1848, over the North Branch of the Neshaminy Creek, and never was the name of the village.

  1. MacReynolds, George, Place Names in Bucks County, 1942, Bucks County Historical Society, Doylestown, PA.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
King Road • New Galena Road • Old Limekiln Road