The Perkiomen and Skippack Township Encampment
of the Revolutionary War
Submitted by Alan Keyser
In 1846 when she was eighty-three Solomon K. Grimley1 asked his grandmother to record her recollections of the Revolutionary War. Maria Keely wrote her first hand recollections to her grandson. He recopied her notes in 1879. The 1879 copy was found recently among some of Solomon K. Grimley’s historical notes. When he recopied her notes he added some introductory family history.
This first person narrative by a farm girl gives a different perspective of the encampment. It also records the political leanings of Maria’s childhood neighbors. According to her there were several gradations of tory. The most loyal to the King she called “hard dories.”
She was a Pennsylvania Dutch woman thinking in Dutch and writing in English. As a result Pennsylvania Dutch words enter where English fails her. They are translated in the footnotes. Maria wrote her narrative as a single paragraph. I have added paragraph breaks, but have added no punctuation and changed no spelling. The narrative stops abruptly mid-thought, so we do not have its entirety.
Statement of My Grand Mother Mary (or Maria) Keely wife of Late Valentine Keely2 , She was a born Grimly the Daughter of Solomon Grimly and Elizabeth Grimly (Born Elisabeth Reimer daughter of Frederick Reimer.) Said Mary or Maria Grimly was Born April the 11th 1763. And married to Valentine Keely son of Henry Keely and Anna Margaretha Held August 14th 1787 by Rev J Thd Faber. That she had Brothers and Sisters namely Elizabeth who was married to William Anderson. John who born March 13th1769 and was married to Eliz Eakes. Salome Married to Philip Schillig Dec 2d 1787. Magdalena married to Samuel Kepler (But she had a son when she was single of Sam Pannebecker and she called him Daniel Pannebecker. Solomon a twin brother of Magdalena Grimly was born May 4th 1771, and was married to Hannah Truckenmiller August 23r 1794. Hannah who was born March 17th 1774 and Died October 18 AD 1820. She died single. Frederick who was born January 18th 1777. and was married to Elizabeth Schwenk.
[Maria Grimley Keely’s recollection starts here.]
“I do not remember anything about my grandfather on my father’s side. But as an old house stood Down in the (alt house Schwemmel)3 which must have stood there perhaps a hundred years before the war in 1776.4 it stood there. It was made of Logs Square about as long as a Rail we use to have our (hanf Land there)5 But in 1777 when the Soldiers came they tore it all up and burnt it Except the Slippers I remember when we were married in 1787 the Slippers were there yet over the cellar, But afterwards it fell in & Now they plow over it but the Slippers that fell in were left in.
O Yes I Remember well the army came to our place I was then a girl of about 13 years my husband felty Keely was about 19 to 20 years old at that time (of course we were both single yet) On the 11th of Sept 1777 Washington’s army was at the Brandy-wine we heard the Roar of the cannons at our place [about 30 miles] It Just appeared as Distant thunder all the time Father said he thought and was sure that they had a fight with the Englanders and we soon afterwards heard that they had a battle at the Brandywine. And Washingtons army was defeated. On the 20th of September 1777 they had a Kind of a Battle at Paoli our men had to retreat again and many of Washingtons Soldiers were Murdered there so Washington himself told old Henrich Keely. Then on Monday Sep 22d 1777 the Englanders crossed the Schuylkill at fatland ford just before Valley Forge and Marched towards (Mottechey Bergen) Mathacten Hills where is now the Baptist meeting House.6 And Rev Muhlenberg who had a son in the army (our army seen them). And through him Washington found out that the Englanders were about crossing or had crossed the Schuylkill, Washington who was then Near Parkersford (Now Lawrenceville), crossed the Schuylkill with his whole armey. And went to trappe at old Muhlenbergs and the soldiers some went in the Church at Trappe August Church. Some of the Soldiers went to Potsgrove Some Stayed at the old Church and Washington and some Soldiers came over to old Henrich Keely and Bill Pannebeckers old Fields, Washington stayed over night at old Henrich Keelys, all the soldiers Passed on the road, past old Henrich Keelys house they were all wet up to their waist they past past the house the greatest part of the night. Next Morning my Late husband told me that their old fields were full of Soldiers & Bill Panebecks old fields too7 But Washington Left on Tuesday morning after breakfast early he did not say where he was going But afterward we found out that he went to Pottsgrove.
About that time the soldiers played hard on the old tories (dories) Old Peter Paul he was a hard Dory (tory) he was a neighbor of old Henrich Keely they tore down his fences, and grain stacks, and put there horses on it. And put the horses in the Buckwheat fields which was some Ripe and some in Blossoms and smashed it all to pieces, they then went into his Barn and made a clean sweep of chickens (of which they were fond) and all they could find. And as he had wheat and rye in the house which he would not sell Before to our army the soldiers took [it] all out. But before they came there old Paul seen that it was Washington soldaten8 so he went in the garret where his grain was and stood himself Behind the Dachstuhl9 his women and Danl put werick (tow) around him wrapt him up in tow and stood a couple of Boards against the tow to conceal him The soldiers said they only wish the could get a chance at the old tory they would Kill him and all the tories that they would get a chance at all this old Peter Paul heard he was awful scared but they did not touch the tow and so he was Safe then on Friday Sept 26, 1777 at about 3 o.Clock PM Washington and the generals and the whole army came From Pottsgrove10 and the trappe to Henrich Keelys the soldiers Past Keelys house from that time on Nearly the whole night some went to old Samuel Pannebacker old field and the Rest on old Grimlys Sol Grimlys place Muhlenberg was at Sol Grimlys place Washington was at old Henrich Keelys Place Gen Nash & Green & some others were at Bill Pannepackers. Them soldiers played hard with old Sam Pannepacker11 Old Sam was a German reformed up to about 177512 then he fell off and Joined the Menonites as they just about that time got allowed not to Bear arms or Be soldiers and then he of course was a hard tory and opposed to war. So when the Soldiers came they made a clean sweep of his grain and as they were fond of fowls (chickens) they took them all Except one old Kluck which was hatching.
Our soldiers the Solomon Grimly soldiers were very clever to old Sol he Sold them whatever he had to spare and always done so you know at that time it was different than now a man would Ride his horse take a Zwergsack (Wallet) and would take his Butter, Eggs, Beef &c. all to Philadelphia where the Englanders were these paid good prices in gold and Silver. But our people had nothing But contenental money Kind of Paste Board I have some yet which I will give to you one day. So the Soldiers soon found out those that sold to the Englanders or those that Sold to our People when the Soldiers came on the 26th it was a cold winday day a North west wind a great maney of the Soldiers made the fire close to the trees. I Remember very well on the Friday Sep 26th 1777 at about half past 5 o.Clock P.M. I and Brother Sol went to fetch the horses in the very field this house stands (Isaac Grimly 1846 now Sol K. Grimly in 1879) The soldiers came on us right at once me and sol had just had catched the horses Sol was afraid he was quite young13 But the horse he rode was quite old and tame But Sol was so afraid and cried. Then three soldiers came up to us they were officers and Said Sol should not cry they would not hurt him and lifted me and Sol on the horses we then started of I had Spunk you know and when we came up to where the gate post stands at the Road I Stradled my horse and Rode off like Lighting Sol commenced to cry again But father seen what was going on and then he came towards Sol Sols horse could not Run he was too old.
Next morning the 27 which was on Saturday our fields and Pannepacks Samls fields were full of tents right over there where the pear tree stands this side of the Road was Gen Muhlenbergs tent. Below where the old house stood where we lived in at that time there the Soldiers had the Slaughter house and just below where them apple trees stand there was the Bake house or place you can see it yet. Over their were the Easter flowers are there was our garden we had many Easter flowers14 the well is there yet Exactly as it was at that time. As the Pannapack soldiers had operated so hard on old Sam who was a Brother to Bill, Washington gave orders to stop stealing as Bill Pannepack was by the way a tory But by heart he was a (freiheits man)15 and as Bill and Washington were friends Bill told Washington & so it soon stopped. Except they had a grudge on old Johnny Wireman who had taken his eggs &c, Down toward Center Square and sold his goods to the Englanders out posts and this they found out so one night he came home at about 11 P. M. and as he sat at his table to eat a Bullet was fired through the out Kitchen Door and the inside Room Door and Lodged in the wall where it sticks to day yet. It past his nose so he told my father and mother I heard him say it that fixed him off he then sold what he had to sell to our soldiers as Long as they were here.16
On the 28th Sept 1777 on Sunday the Soldiers had a great time the[y] got whiskey a jill each I guess some got more as some got tight they fired 13 cannon shots on the Pannepacker hill father thought that it was for 13 states but afterwards we found it was for a Battle Somewhere that our people had won (Battle of Still water Sep 19 ’77) on Monday Many soldiers came over some from Keelys and some of Bill Pannepack and some Saml Pannepack and went down to some in Kempers fields17 at the Big Run Some to where Skippackville now is Some down to a Run Near Wentzes Church I seen them at Kempers Field That was about 4 to 5 miles from old Henrich Keelys Down.
Tuesday the 30th 1777 an alarm was made that the Englanders were coming and were on the Township Line Near the Lodel Creek as some had Red Bosoms It was a great time so my husband Val Keely and Thomas Pool and his Sister who was the wife of Bill Pannepack told me. Gen Green and Nash and other officers who had a Room in Bill Pannepackers house they Jumpt up a made Ready for fighting They had a Large Spectiefs18 and went to old Henrich Keely and Seen Washington and all went (unerst und Everst)19 Them Generals Road out But soon found out that they were of our men some on horses Cavalry and some on foot so the generals returned and told Washington and then went to Bill Pannepacker Solders and such a cheering and Noise they said they Never heard Before. But when they came to old H Keely Washington went out his hat in hand and made a Bow the Riders came first and all the soldiers made a bow and tiped their hats with their hands. Then the Genreal (or head man) (who was Light Horse harry Lee) New Jersey and Connecticut troops) talked to Washington so the General and all the horsemen went over to Bill Pannepacker. Washington and a Big man (Gen. Wayne) followed.
Now Bill Pannepacker was a rich man he was married to Eliz Pool Sister of Tom Pool and he had between two & three hundred Bushel of wheat on his garret which he Kept on advance this our men an Washington knew. So when Washington came over to Bill, Bill was just going to the barn and Tom Pool his hired man and Brother in Law was standing at the Bars at the Barn Washington saluted Bill and shaked hands with Bill and commenced to talk to Bill. Bill hung his head and then noded Washington then went to the house and Bills young wife gave Washington a chair to sit on so Washington Sat on the Chair and put his feet up against the casing of Door. The Stout man talked to Some of the officers and Soon 6 or 7 men Soldaten20 came with Bags Washington Left them in But no others as soon as they had filled the Bags they came down and Washington Left them out and they Kept on till they had enough to feed all the horses. They poured the wheat on the ground along the garden fence and in the meadow Just below Bill Pannepackers house and (Light Horse Harry Lees) horses got a good dinner. Bill did not come Near and left Washington to manage it and Bill was fully Paid so he told Tom Pool and my husband Val Keely. The Soldiers took nothing of old Keely Except they used the rails for fire and stole all his Bees They would take the Bee hive on their backs and Run the poor bees that came out returned home. But he was fully Paid for them.
An accident happened on that afternoon. Some of them soldiers went down towards Skippackville and Wentzes Run (Zacharias Run) and in going down that way they had to Cross Perkiomen Creek just above Pannepackers Mill and as they came Near to the Saml Pannepackers Soldiers who had their camp on top of hill and were most of militia. So the troops with the Red Bosoms wanted to give the Militia a visit Just in passing Down so when they got just above the mill they put up their flag Beat the Drum and Fired one volley into them and then retreated towards the Grimlys soldiers But as no Return fire was given the militia found they had made a mistake and were very sorry for what they had Done they had killed 6 or 7 that Died and about a dozen Slightly wounded. The dead they buried in Saml Pannepackers fields you can see it from here. Afterwards other people were burried there. It was one time discussed about this burying ground and some said no persons should be Burried there. When a young man who stood there said that if he should die he would be Burried in that Soldiers graveyard among those that help to fight for (die Freiheit)21 and that the first man that would ever attempt to plow up said grave yard and would touch his grave he would scratch out his Eyes. It happen so he died and was buried there. It so happened Every time that field was plowed the Plowman would go nearer and nearer. So one day Saml Pannepacker told his Plowmen not to Plow nearer and told them what that young man had said the Plowmen of course only Laughed and said he had no fear. Things went on that way and Every time that field had to be Plowed the Plowmen were cautioned not to plow too close Then the property came into the hand of old Sams son Samuel Pannepacker, Jr. And he was a very lively man so one day it was the same spring after you were born (1824) young Sam put his men to plow that field and of course he told them to Look out and not plow too close or Else that fellow would get after them. But his words were not heeded the plowman got very close and was told by young Sams son to Stop and not plow closer But the plowman said he would take another furrow which was closer then it was Ever Plowed Before. And just as he got about the middle of said Burying ground that was at the side and Length. Right at once his horses started of Like Lightning and commenced to Run and kicked themselves out of their traces. The poor fellow was so scared and did not Know what to do or Say (undoribed [?] yellow wasps22 or perhaps Bumble bees were after them) Saml who was a kind of a Joker told the Plowman that he was warned and did not heed it. And that he could thank Gott that he came out all right. After that for many years they did not come within four feet of the old furrow and Sam Pannepacks sons always were very careful not to get so close (Since it has come into other hands it is almost all plowed around)
On the 1st of October 1777 it was a day for the Soldiers they cleaned their guns and shot mark Down at the fence where that little cedar stands there stood a Large white oak it was our shade tree there the[y] shot mark at, Some did hit the tree and Some did not the Militia were the Best Shooters I think you might find Bullets there yet I have one yet that I found and you shall have it. Down wher Ben Panapacker now Lives (Now J. E. Hunsicker) there we found many Bullets that time where the orchard now is was all woods that time down to the tile Factory. There the used to fire at Marks.
On Thursday the 2d October 1777 some of the Grimly and Pannepack soldiers went back towards Kulpsville, Lederachsville and that way. There the Soldiers played a trick on Christian Bergey he was a son of John Ulrich Berge he was a hard tory. An in the night that Washington had crossed at Parkers Ford, Sept 22, 1777 a English officer came to Christn Berge and staid there over night he was an Englischer Spion.23 As soon as he came there Christian Bergey who was a Menonite and was opposed to war sent a (Ein Boten)24 to old Cassel immediately as they were afraid their horses might be pressed into service Cassel was a Mennonite too but he was not what might be a tory still he was opposed to the war. Cassel who by the way was a near Relative to old Sol Grimly sent word that the Next Morning being the 23d of September Stating that an Englander was over night at Christian Berge and that the Englanders were up as far as Skippackville. But that the English Spion25 had Left that morning early that was on the Morning of Sep 23 1777. So as soon as the Grimley soldiers came over which was on the 26 of Sep old Sol told this to Gen. Muhlenberg. Then on the 2d of Oct 1777 when some of the Grimley and Pannepacker soldiers left to go to where Lederachsville now is and toward Kulpsville some of the soldiers catched old Christian Berge and took him along as a captive and said they would kill him and so on because he fed the English and left the freiheits26 soldiers suffer hunger. & Christ and his family were awful Scared. They took him along till between Skippackville and Kulpsville the left him Run but he made them a promise not to feed the Englanders any more but would attend to our people it was a forced Promise that Same Evening he came home to the great Joy of himself and family.
(die Berg & Margareta Bergy & der Moses Butterweck for [illegible word here]) Old Sol Grimly my father was a thick set man.
[This account ends abruptly and once was longer. The portion with Maria’s account of what the soldiers cooked and ate in the encampment and anything about the return from the Germantown disaster is missing.]
Property owners in 1900
Henry Keely John S. Keely
Henry Keely location of graves on this property now owned by Jesse Williams
Peter Pool/Paul Jesse Willauer in Limerick Township
William Pennypacker Top of the hill near Keely’s cemetery
Samuel Pennypacker J. E Hunsicker -present Pennypacker Mansion park
Sol Grimley Solomon K. Grimley
Christian Bergey Camp Wawa Road
1 Solomon K. Grimley (1824-1895) was a local antiquarian who lived on the Grimley ancestral home, one of the encampment farms east of the Pennypacker Mansion, on present day Haldeman Road, Schwenksville, PA.
2 Valentine Keely the son of Henry and Margaretha Keely was born November 24, 1757 and died March 7, 1841.
3 Old house meadow.
4 The old log house was more likely built around 1730.
5 Hemp patch.
6 This was most likely the Norriton German Baptist meetinghouse on Trooper Road just west of Germantown Pike, only a graveyard remains.
7 These farms were on the hill south of present day Schwenksville near North Limerick and Township Line Roads.
9 Heavy rafter support timbering.
10 A portion of the army was at Camp Pottsgrove from September 18th – 26th, 1777.
11 Samuel Pennypacker (1746-1826) lived on what became Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker’s estate in Schwenksville, now the Pennypacker Mills county park.
12 The "Society of Menonists" petition of 1775 to the Colonial Assembly of Pennsylvania requesting exemption from military service was granted.
13 Maria’s brother Sol was born in 1771, so was six years old.
14 The Easter flowers were the double yellow daffodils that still bloom every year indicating the garden location on many old farms.
15 A freedom man, i.e. Patriot.
16 This story is recounted in James Y. Heckler, History of Harleysville and Historical Sketches of Lower Salford Township, Montgomery, Pennsylvania, (Harleysville, PA: Weekly News Office, 1888) 149-50.
17 Johannes Kemper owned the farm across from Jacob Markley east of present day Cross Road and Skippack Pike southeast of Schwenksville.
19 Upside down.
22 Yellow jackets.
23 English spy.
24 A message or word.
26 Patriot soldiers.