The old camp meeting on Perkasie’s Ninth Street holds many memories for many families. But few people today know its vital role in creating Perkasie Borough.
Two men, John Schwartz and Henry G. Moyer, were a primary force in forming the Perkasie Park Association in 1882, even though the men were members of rival political parties during a contentious time.
The Perkasie Park Camp Meeting soon became the borough’s primary attraction during the 1880s and into the 1890s. Moyer and Schwartz also played a big role in providing affordable housing during Perkasie’s cigar boom into the 1920s. At that point, Perkasie’s home ownership rate was nearly the same as today’s rate, thanks to Moyer and Schwartz.
When John Schwartz died in 1930, the Perkasie Central News noted his many contributions to Perkasie. “Perhaps his greatest achievement was the organization of the Perkasie Building and Loan Association, which he served as secretary for a quarter century. It was through his efforts that many young men and women developed the habit of systematic saving and are today enjoying their own home.”
Moyer equaled Schwartz’s role in creating a modern Perkasie. When Moyer passed away in 1926, the newspaper noted his many contributions to the borough. It was Henry G. Moyer who started the Perkasie Central News with Mahlon Sellers in 1881, and he financed the newspaper after Sellers died. Moyer organized the First National Bank of Perkasie in 1901, to help people and businesses when Perkasie needed new buildings.
The Central News duly noted the two men’s political roles outside of Perkasie. “Moyer was affiliated with the Republican party and for many years was identified with the local organization of the party, serving as a delegate to a number of state and other conventions,” the paper said. In 1894, Moyer was elected as a State Senator from Bucks County. John Schwartz was “a staunch Democrat and attained the height of his political career in 1885 when he was elected representative of Bucks to the State Legislature. He was re-elected in 1887.”
Early Days in Perkasie
Henry G. Moyer and John Schwartz met when the two young men taught Sunday school for the Evangelical Association Church, which used the old Lessig’s school house on Park Avenue and a small church in Bridgetown (now South Perkasie) for classes. Moyer grew up in Hilltown and went to business college in Philadelphia.
Schwartz had a different background. His family lived in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia. John was sent to seminary school, but he enlisted in the Union army instead in 1861. John Schwartz survived the battle of Gettysburg and other fights, and relocated to Sellersville, where he was a lumber merchant.
During the 1870s, both Moyer and Schwartz had moved to the village of Perkasie, and they were among the residents that petitioned Bucks County to grant borough status to Perkasie. Henry G. Moyer worked as a clerk for Perkasie town founder Joseph Hendricks at his general store, now at Seventh and Market Street. When Perkasie Borough was formed in May 1879, Moyer and Schwartz were appointed as the town’s first justices of the peace.
Creating the Perkasie Park Camp Meeting
In 1882, Schwartz and Moyer worked with the Evangelical Association, a religious group also known as the German Methodists, to buy a picnic grove owned by Joseph Hendricks just north of the Perkasie train station. During the 1870s, it became known as Perkasie Park and it was a popular location for church picnics, with groups coming from Philadelphia and Allentown on the North Penn rail line for a restful day in Perkasie.
Schwartz financed the creation of the Perkasie Park Association, with Henry G. Moyer as its secretary, to make the picnic grove a formal facility. Schwartz led the effort to buy the 15-acre property from Hendricks for $2,600 in 1882. The property deal for the Park was finalized in 1883 and so after, the Association put improvements in the land: a preachers’ stand, a feed area for horses, water closets, and eventually cottages.
Religious leaders from the Evangelical Association ran the annual camp meeting in July and August, which quickly became of one Bucks County’s biggest attractions. The Park developed for the rest of the decade, but it faced its first major crisis in the early 1890s. There was a bitter split in the Evangelical Association between two bishops – Bowman and Haman. The “Bowmanites” sued the Park for ownership of its facilities, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the Park had to pay Bowman $1,300.
In those days, the Park has a lot of faith but very little cash, since it was a nonprofit business. It was John Schwartz who found a solution. He had the Park sell him the land, to protect it from the Bowman lawsuit, and then Schwartz lent money to the Park to pay off Bowman and finance an expansion.
Both Men Active in Politics
During the 1880s, Moyer and Schwartz were very active in politics. Henry G. Moyer as a Republican leader lost his 1882 race for the state House in a heavily Democratic upper Bucks County. John Schwartz was involved in the Democratic party of Bucks County and won his two elections for the state House. In fact, Henry G. Moyer’s newspaper endorsed Schwartz as a Democrat. But after the 1886 election, the Central News told readers that it would support its co-owner, Moyer, in the next election. “Many Republicans doubtless voted, both times, tor Mr. Schwartz. A sense of gratitude, if nothing else, will impel many Democrats to vote for Mr. Moyer two years hence.”
That election did not happen when Schwartz declined a third term in the state House. After a failed 1892 attempt for the state House, Henry G. Moyer won election in 1894 to the state Senate, where he served with distinction in Harrisburg for four years.
In addition to their social contributions, Moyer and Schwartz were founders of Perkasie’s first two financial institutions. The Masons had started a Building and Loan Association in 1893 to lend money for “real estate and stock,” with Henry G. Moyer as secretary (only a master Mason could hold office in the association.) The association went public in 1897 with John Schwartz as secretary and Joseph G. Moyer, Henry’s brother, as treasurer. By years’ end, the association loaned out nearly $30,000 with almost all the borrowers from Perkasie. Schwartz was the loan association’s public representative for 25 years, which operated out of the American House hotel.
In January 1901, shareholders elected Henry G. Moyer as president of the newly formed First National Bank of Perkasie. After leaving the state House, Moyer was serving as Perkasie’s justice of the peace. Not only did the bank have a fireproof safe for customers, but it was also offering a 3 percent return on Certificates of Deposit in early 1901. When Moyer started with the bank, it had $50,000 in assets; on his retirement in 1920, it held $1.2 million in assets, and it had become the foundation of Perkasie’s business community.
In the 1920s, Moyer and Schwartz left Perkasie Borough to live with their children. Henry Moyer’s wife, Emma, died in 1920. Moyer retired from his bank to live with his daughter, Mabel Rebecca Black, in Indianapolis. Henry Moyer died there in 1926. John Schwartz remained active in Perkasie in the early 1920s and even briefly served as Perkasie Borough Council president. John and his wife, Elizabeth, left Perkasie in 1924 to live with their son in Harrisburg. Elizabeth passed away in 1927 and John in 1930.
Central News editor Samuel Kramer knew both men well and wrote descriptions of them in September 1887: “John Schwartz: the friend and champion of religion undefiled, politics unpolluted, and education for the masses. Henry G. Moyer, one of the editors of the News, indispensable to the community, a lover of a good joke; representative of sunny religion, essential manhood, tact, industry, and good judgment.”