On May 10, 1879, the Bucks County court recognized a petition from 68 residents of a village in Rockhill Township to form Perkasie Borough. Since then, Perkasie has grown, seen a few changes, and survived some tough challenges. But today, our town has retained its place and character as one of the best areas to live in Upper Bucks County.
Perkasie Borough came from humble roots. The area was once part of William Penn’s Manor of Perkasie, land he acquired from the region’s original residents, the Lenni Lenape. The treaty was signed at a place called Perkasie Indian Village; its current location is disputed today but it was likely in Hilltown or Rockhill Township.
Perkasie’s original European residents were four German families, including the Stouts (who lived above the East Branch of the Perkiomen) and the Groffs (who lived south of the East Branch). Their original homes are long gone, but they left many descendants in the Perkasie area.
In the late 1820s, the Rev. John Andrew Strassburger moved to what is now South Perkasie as he preached at four local churches and ran a large mill at the location of the Benfield Mill. In 1832, Bucks County built a covered bridge to service the mill and local travelers.
By the 1850s, houses started popping up on Main Street in South Perkasie as Stephen Young’s hotel opened (which is now The Perk). And in 1853, the North Pennsylvania Railroad started a three-year tunnel project to bring trains to the current town center of Perkasie. Samuel Hager built a mill and store near the first train switch in the late 1850s (this is currently the Treasure Trove).
After the Civil War, Joseph Hendricks of Sellersville bought the former Hager property and land near it to form the village of Perkasie in 1872. That brought regular passenger and freight train service to the village.
Hendricks and other investors set up divided lots in Perkasie village and the town grew as train traffic increased and the “segar” industry expanded in the North Penn Valley. Bridgetown (as South Perkasie was called then) also grew as it benefitted from the Perkasie train station.
By 1878, the 300 or so residents of Perkasie village wanted to be recognized as an incorporated borough. The last names on the petition may seem familiar to local residents: Moyer, Hendricks, Groff, Benner, Renner, Solliday, Bean, Swartley, Gulick, Dill, Bissey, and Wambold.
After Perkasie became a borough, it saw a huge growth spurt from the cigar and goods transportation industries. By 1900, Perkasie Borough had nearly 2,000 residents after its 1898 merger with Bridgetown/Benjamin/South Perkasie. The Borough had public electric and water service, a fire company, train and trolley service. Public telephones, natural gas service, and sewer service soon followed. Many beautiful houses were built, some designed by architects Milton Bean and Oscar Martin.
Over the years, Perkasie saw big business changes. The cigar trade mostly died out (but Snyder’s survived) to be replaced by the garments, pants, and baseballs. Delbar became a big business in town after World War II as it made motor-vehicle mirrors. The trolleys stopped in 1951, and passenger train service halted in the 1980s as Route 309 and arterial highways changed commuting and shopping patterns. The region added a new Pennridge High School in 1954 as the area’s general population kept growing.
Through the 1980s more changes occurred. Along with a new housing boom that led to a 50 percent growth compared to the 1970s, a devastating fire destroyed part of Perkasie’s downtown and made national headlines. Since then, Perkasie has seen positive signs in its local economy as more retail businesses have opened and more homes have been built, but some older commercial and industrial businesses have left town (to be replaced by newer ones).
In 2018, Perkasie has come a long way in 139 years. I’ve lived here full time for just 15 years but my family has roots in Rockhill Township that go back to the 1750s. My great-grandfather was one of the Owls who started the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony in 1909. Perkasie has other great traditions like the car show, its Memorial Day ceremony, the various activities at Lenape and Menlo Park, and of course, the Carousel and Covered Bridge.
These things are important, not only as reminders of the past, but as showcases for the sense of community that makes Perkasie a special place. Not everyone may agree with that concept – Perkasie is far from a perfect town and there always will be critics. But time and again I’ve seen people in the Borough work together to solve problems. We have a lot of hard-working good people who are good neighbors and genuinely love Perkasie. I am sure those 68 people who signed that borough petition in 1879 would be proud.