Three distinct villages once served as centers of commerce and social activity in Montgomery Township. Though virtually invisible today, these settlements provided access to goods, services and community that knit the township together during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The oldest village was Montgomery Square, centered around the current intersection of Upper State Road and Route 309 (then known as the Springhouse and Hilltown Turnpike). The village was first settled in the early 1700s, and by 1832 had a store, a library, two schools, and two taverns, both established prior to the Revolutionary War. As described by local historian, James Williams, in An Erudite Little Township, Montgomery Square businesses in that era included a tannery, a blacksmith shop and a cabinetmaker. In 1842, the first Montgomery Methodist Church* was constructed at the intersection of Bethlehem Pike and Upper State Road. Knapp Farm was located on the outskirts of Montgomery Square, and as a girl, Florence Knapp recalls her Uncle John describing the dust of that blew across the fields from the stage coaches that travelled daily along the pike between Allentown and Philadelphia. “The Square’s two taverns did a healthy business among those passing through,” Williams writes.
Montgomery Square continued to thrive throughout the 19th century. But with the opening of the North Penn Railroad in 1856, and the development of the town of Lansdale as a business and industrial center, Montgomery Square stopped growing. The surrounding area remained largely rural, dotted with farms and bisected by roads to elsewhere (Bethlehem, Doylestown, Norristown.) By the mid-20th century, as truck and automobile traffic increased, modern commercial development took over. The Square’s residents relocated and the village began to disappear. The only vestige standing today is the large stone building (once the Free School and later the Blue Jay Tavern) housing Buckmans Ski Shop.
The second village to develop was Montgomeryville, still recognized today as the area around the 5-points intersection on Route 309 at Cowpath Road (Rt. 463) According to Williams, “Before 1814, Montgomeryville was little more than the intersection of several colonial highways. One or two houses had been constructed…but they hardly qualified as a village.
“The earliest reference to a village called Montgomeryville was in Gordon’s Gazetteer, an 1832 directory… which mentions two taverns, two stores and 10 houses.” One of the more prominent residents was well-known clockmaker, George Solliday who had established his business in the village in 1831. A post office opened in 1851, was moved to Montgomery Square in 1869, and then ultimately back to Montgomeryville. In the years after the Civil War, there were 11 homes, a tavern and a general store clustered near the intersection.
Today, the only buildings remaining from the 19th century village are two structures on the East side of Bethlehem Pike before 5-Points. One was the home of the prominent Bender family, and the other was the original Montgomeryville Post Office.
The third village, Eureka, also known as Pleasantville, was a tiny farming community at the eastern corner of Montgomery Township that spilled over into Bucks County. At various times during the 19th and early 20th centuries, it had several houses, a hotel, and two general stores. Today Eureka has been virtually erased from memory and maps. Remnants of the settlement include Stever’s Mill (c.1752) which continued to function as a grist mill until the early 1900s, and is now preserved as the centerpiece of a small professional center, and an historic bridge on Limekiln Pike over the Neshaminy Creek. The Pleasantville UCC, founded in 1840 and still an active congregation is also located on Limekiln Pike north of the Bucks County line.
*(After 169 years at the Montgomery Square site, the church relocated to a larger property on County Line Road in 2011.)