Through a recent discovery of 4,100 diary entries written by lifelong Towamencin Township resident George Lukens (1768-1849), a Quaker, farmer, township schoolmaster, and an abolitionist; we are able to learn how Towamencin residents lived and what they experienced in Towamencin Township two hundred years ago. During George Lukens' life in Towamencin, the township was a farming community, and life revolved around the family farm. The Lukens family farm today is the Dock Mennonite Academy campus. The high school administration building was the Lukens' farmhouse.
The first residents to inhabit the land in what we today call Towamencin Township were people who migrated here from Asia via the Bering Strait thousands of years ago. Today we call them the Lenape. They lived off the land hunting animals for food and clothing. They fished the creeks and planted corn, squash, and beans. They picked nuts and wild berries. They lived in homes called longhouses and wigwams.
The first people to arrive here from the European continent were the Dutch, British, and Germans. When not farming, they involved themselves in cottage industries like carpentry, blacksmith work, tanning, weaving, shoemaking, and masonry work. Towamencin Township farmers borrowed their neighbor's horse and wagon and helped each other with projects in the home or on the farm.
In reading the George Lukens diaries, you will see man and beast hard at work in the fields; follow the Lukens to meetings and market, and hear the snort of a horse hauling a heavy load of grist home from the mill.
You will see how much things have changed in Towamencin Township over the past two hundred years and how much things have remained the same.
The tradition of neighbors helping neighbors continues. Towamencin Township residents today help each other with vans or pick up trucks or tools for that special project at home. Churches are still filled each Sunday; neighbors still help their neighbors; children continue to attend neighborhood schools, and the old pathways of dirt and stone now covered with concrete and macadam offer the same important links to our region and beyond.
Enjoy your journey into historic Towamencin Township.
THE 1807-1837 DIARIES OF GEORGE LUKENS
QUAKER - FARMER - SCHOOLMASTER - ABOLITIONIST
FROM TOWAMENCIN TOWNSHIP, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
EVER WONDER WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE IN TOWAMENCIN TOWNSHIP, MONTGOMERY
200 YEARS AGO?
A farmer plowing his field. From the 1794 Lancaster Pennsylvania almanac.
Drake's Corner Creamery. Today the site of the Towamencin Shopping Center on the Allentown Road near the Forty Foot Road.
George Lukens' diary from July 1831..
There are no corrections to George Lukens' spelling or grammar so you can see how American English has evolved in the past 200 years. Many of the words he used, his spelling, and his abbreviations; although incorrect by today's American English standards, were common during his time. You will also see a British English influence in some of his writing..
The historic Lukens farmhouse, now Dock Academy's administration building.
George Lukens' diary entries for November 9-26, 1812 are seen below. All of his 4,100 known diaries, as well as an extensive history of Towamencin Township, are available for a download in a pdf format from the Mennonite Heritage Center in Harleysville, Pa. http://mhep.org/museum-store/paper-quill-and-ink/
As a Quaker George Lukens never wrote the day of the week or the month of the year as those words have pagan origins. As was common in English writing during his time, he would often capitalize nouns within a sentence. He rarely used any punctuation marks other than the occasional comma, period or apostrophe. He often spelled words phonetically.
At the end of each diary entry, as I felt it necessary, I added additional commentary in italics; as many of the agricultural terms, archaic words and colloquialisms he used are rarely used today, making his writing sometimes difficult to understand.
The Lukens Diary November 9-26, 1812
Second day 9th Enos Luken came & requested an answer about the School as I wrote an subscription & went on & in the Course of the day pd John Reiff Jun in 4£ 17S.5 and went on & stopped at Boorses the blue dyer & got the yarn & pd him 2S in full so came home
Enos Lukens, an uncle to George, was involved in the construction and opening of a new school in Towamencin, the Tennis School, along the Allentown Road near the Enos Lukens farm. Enos wasted no time in seeking a final confirmation from his nephew schoolmaster Lukens regarding his acceptance of a teaching position at the new school. We learn George’s answer in December.
Third day 10th I went on till noon & found it ineffectual came home went & informed Enos Luken thence to John Drake’s got Boneys shoes removed & the stove scraper mended pd 1/6 thence to Jas Yocum Senior & agreed for a waggon body at 18 Dols although this morning was dreadful & I hope may be remembered bys all in Consequence of fire being in the Garret & that of Brimstone communicated by Rebekah Drake I believe accidentally in which smoke she & I were nearly suffocated which I think I shall have cause at times to Remember with Humble thankfulness whilst I have my breath & being.
The attic or loft of the Lukens home caught fire. Rebekah Drake and George were able to put it out before the fire spread. Rebecca was a neighbor, the daughter of John and Maria Drake. The Lukens' often hired her, her father John, and brothers Aram and John as the part-time house and field hands.
Fourth day 11th I very unwell tho I finishd plowing sowd ½ Bushel rye & grass seed ~
Fifth day 12th Rinewalt came to kill the black steer I had spoke to Enos Luken to come to assist tho Rinewalt acted very childishly, tho it was done I very unwell tho preparing for going to the City, but we weighd the steer hind quarters 106, 107 Fore 90 & 89 he cut up the fore then went away I pd him 2/9½ & sold some of the beef Amos Davies came I very chilly & unwell
Sixth day 13th I so very unwell as not to think myself fit to go out I got Amos to try to get a chance for my marketing which he did with Jac. Dresher & took it there I did go out very little as I was very ill, tho in the afternoon I took the hide to Stongs it weighd 60 & we settled he fell 2£ 0S 4 D in my Debt tho’ did not pay
Stongs was a tannery located near Worcester.
Seventh day 14th Still very unwell lent my stage waggon to E Swartz, after which I cut up my beef & salted it then got ready & took a quarter of Beef Amos Griffith he pd me in full I came home. Brother David came late & staid with us
First day 15th David went away I staid about home very unwell, tho fetched market things from Dreshers
Second day 16th I on the forenoon hauld some rails & made stackyard fence in the afternoon made some Cyder with Wm Tennis & Enos Luken s Assistance
Third day 17th Went & fetched the last Cider & then haul’d some wood. Joel his wife & children came this evening
Fourth day 18th I spent with him
Fifth day 19th We churned, they started I killd 2 Turkeys & huskd some Corn got ready to go to the City
Sixth day 20th I went & I got ½ C [50 pounds] of Sugar @ 7½ Dols & Molasses & salt @ 1 Dols & ¾ pr B
Molasses was a common sweetener in early America. It is made from sugarcane. Honey, maple syrup, and sugar were also used as sweeteners.
Seventh day 21st I got Jas a hat @ 2 Dols pd 2½ for my Watch & 1£ 1S for Flannel came on to Father Jeanes Mary & Rebekah came along & little Edith
First day 22nd We went to Gwynedd meeting
Second day 23rd We were at getting some Corn. Cousin Jacob and Tacy Weber came. sther went with them to Yocums we still at the Corn, and between two & three Oclock a man came that Joel had sent, he helpd, the evening windy and Cloudy Cousin Webers returnd & staid
Jacob and Tacy Weber were from Blue Bell, Pa. Joel is George's brother.
Third day 24th Quite early this morning a dreadful storm and some rain, it blow’d my stacks very much about and destroyd my fences very much Cousin Webers went away the day cold we husk’d Corn Joel & his family return’d
Fourth day 25th They went away, we were at getting some Wood
Fifth day 26th We got some Corn & huskd it & thresh’d timothy