he area now known as Lower Salford, Upper Salford, Salford and Marlborough Township was originally one municipality known as Salford Township. As this area was too large to govern, and with most of the early settlers located in the lower section of the township, a resident named Jacob Reiff, acting on behalf of his neighbors, submitted a petition to the Philadelphia County officials to create what is now Lower Salford Township.
Our first residents were of Germanic descent, having immigrated primarily from Germany, Switzerland and Holland. As most of these settlers came from an agricultural background, farming was their means of livelihood. Additionally, due to their northern European ancestry, German (or one of the many dialects) was the language of nearly all of the families settling in our area.
Lower Salford grew along with its towns and villages - Harleysville, Mainland, Lederach and Vernfield - which usually sprung up with an inn or tavern and a general store at their center. Also located in the towns and villages were the necessary craftsmen, such as tinsmiths, harnessmakers, weavers and carriage-makers. Along streams, grist mills were built to burn the farmers' grains into fine flour and meal. Water-powered mills cut trees into lumber.
One of the most dramatic events to affect the residents of Lower Salford Township occurred in the 1850's when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania revised the public school system and required all teaching to be done in English. Until this time, local residents and churches built their own one-room schoolhouses and hired Pennsylvania Dutch speaking teachers. The transition to an English speaking culture was slow and many residents of our community continued to speak Pennsylvania Dutch as their primary language well into the 20th century.
After WWII, Lower Salford saw the beginning of the transformation from a farming region to a growing suburban community. The old general store gave way to a grocery store, then progresses to become a supermarket. The local insurance company grew, banks expanded their financial services to assist the individual and local businesses and traffic lights began to appear at major intersections.
Lower Salford Historical Society
More information is also available from the Lower Salford Historical Society at www.lowersalford.org, the Mennonite Historians of Eastern Pennsylvania www.mhep.org and the Heckler Plains Folklife Society.
The Lower Salford Historical Society (LSHS) is currently compiling a list of historic properties in Lower Salford Township. If you are interested in finding out more about the historic significance or preservation of your building, please call Dottie Ashmore, President of LSHS at 215-802-5143.