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Old Paper


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the Ore-deal at Phoenix Mine

In the 1800's Boyertown was a prominent leader in the iron industry. The area was rich with iron ore, which was of great interest to English settlers over a century before our particular story begins. Forges and furnaces dotted the landscape, providing rails, stoves, tools and machinery, axels, tire rims and beyond. James Ellis, engineer with Phoenix Mine, must have made quite the killing. He was seen flashing his greenbacks in the saloon before perishing in the fire that engulfed his engine house in January of 1865. Suspiciously, his vest was lying outside of the rubble - with no money to be found.

Very real persons and events formed a network, linking the historic locations of our small town together during this monumental time. Using newspaper articles, actors to portray our key figures, artifacts and replicas, we mapped your trip around the Boyertown of the past to solve the mystery for yourself.

*The oldest building still standing on a town lot, what is now Iezzi's on 3rd, changed hands many a time before becoming the "American House" and later "Iezzi's Place". In the time of our story, this building went by "Leider's Saloon". Third Street was then known as Front Street and Reading Avenue was Main Street. 

*Phoenix Mine engineer James Ellis was reported to always carry large sums of money in his vest pocket. In January of 1865, Ellis was seen flourishing his "greenbacks" (as they were called) in Leider's Saloon. Later that evening, his body was found in the blaze of the engine house, which sat back a block behind the saloon. His vest was lying outside with no money inside.  


Iezzi's on 3rd

Jilted wife of Dan, the bar owner


Gen. Carl Spaatz Museum

"Iron Dig"


*Before Charles Spatz became editor of The Democrat, Boyertown's newspaper changed hands a few times as it struggled to stay afloat. In the beginning the paper was known as The Boyertown Bauer ('Farmer' in German)and was printed entirely in German as that was the language most people spoke. Many popular headlines were quite grim, especially when it came to mining accidents.

*History Fact: During early 1865 the newspapers probably shared highlights of the ongoing civil war. One interesting event occurred where Pennsylvania miners created a plan to dig a tunnel beneath a confederate fort to lace with gunpowder. The plan succeeded but the union soldiers ended up losing that particular battle that ensued. At then end of the war, Lt. Col. Pleasants, who commanded the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry, must have yearned for the mines, because he went right on back to mining in the coal region of Schuylkill County.

Old Paper

*In the 1860s, you would not hear the jarring siren of a fire engine when tragedy struck. Instead, neighbors would come with their pails of water to try to assist in quenching the flames. As folks, such as Norman, appeared on the scene unfolding at the engine house, they would have noticed, perhaps too conveniently, that the man who owned the saloon across the way was the first on the ground and also knew more about it than anyone else.

*The Phoenix Mine engine house that James Ellis managed would have sat approximately in front and to the left of where the Museum entrance is today. Less than a decade later Jeremiah Sweinhart would start his carriage factory here. Blacksmiths could mold the finished iron into all sort of materials useful in the home as well as in these early vehicles. 

Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles

Neighbor Norman

Good Shepherd Church

The Ironmaster's Wife

Ironmaster's Mansion Puzzle

*Many prominent names of the area can be traced back to the Ironmasters of the industry's beginnings. This included the Potts family - the very same that founded neighboring Pottstown. The entire area was rich with iron ore and those in charge of it held all of the cards.

*Just a short ride out of town, you'd come upon a private home once known as the Popodickon Mansion. Named for the native Chief Popodickon, the home was built about 1732 and owned by Ironmaster Rutter, then the Potts family, and so on down the line. Many of the families with ties in the industry intertwined.    

Boyertown Area Historical Society

Widow Mary Ellis


*Mary Ellis was left with seven children when her husband died. While the mines saw many tragedies due to the nature of the work, it was unthinkable the situation of James's untimely end. Some could speculate that candles could have been left to burn too long, or that James caused the fire himself. Mary may have thought this all too suspicious. 

*The historical society's museum contains a number of relics of the age of iron. These include maps of the mines, some of the oldest underground photos, items forged by Colebrookdale Iron Works and more. The mines were abandoned when springs would start to continuously fill them with water that they could no longer pump out effectively.
In a way, this industrious beginning of Boyertown is mostly forgotten today, being kept alive by the great work of our historical society.

*During this time, things like forensics didn't exist. It seemed suspicious that Mr. Leider sold off the saloon and headed west, but many businesses and properties changed hands during these times as the country was growing and changing. 

*The Colebrookdale spur of the Reading Rail Road Company in Boyertown was not in service until 4 years later in 1869. When folks high-tailed it out of the area for one reason or another, they would have needed to go by carriage. However, the line was incorporated a little later in 1865 as the civil war was coming to an end.


Colebrookdale Railroad

Missing Person's Posters

Good Shepherd
(upper floor, in place of State Theatre)


*A few of our locations contain a poster of the Iron Mine maps of 1882. Though this was after the time of our story, what's notable about this map is not only how important the magnetic ore was to building Boyertown, but also how much Boyertown was growing and changing to stay ahead of the progress of the era. 

*In 1865, what is now South Reading Avenue only had a Mennonite Meeting House on the corner where Truist bank is now and a home at the location of Barry Weller. The rest of the street, beyond where the State Theatre now sits were plots owned by the Schaeffer family. Jeremiah Shaeffer was a coal and grain dealer by trade, but also was on town council and served as President for a time.


Townsfolk have gossiped and speculated long before our time - but for saloon owner Dan...aka Daniel Leider, to sell his business and head west right after James Ellis was in his bar showing off his wad of cash? Things seemed to fit together a little too well. Mr. Leider was the first on the scene of the engine house fire and knew the most about the tragedy. Of course, he was long gone in a few days time, never facing any sort of prosecution.  

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Boyertown Heritage Day event is a proud partnership effort with our historic places, attractions and local businesses.

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