To Market – Part 3
A “huckster” was a market man who had one route to pick up farm produce and another route to sell it. Often these men and their families would raise crops or small livestock of their own. They would typically buy live chickens, turkeys, and calves, kill and butcher them, and retail the dressed meats as well as butter, eggs, and produce in season.
One such local family were the Bornemans of Fruitville. Fruitville is the next village on the Swamp Pike below Fagleysville. It’s just over the township line in Limerick. The Bornemans were hucksters for at least three generations, had roots in New Hanover, and gathered farm produce here.
Before he died in 1999 at age 96, Herbert Borneman wrote a brief memoir of his early years. It is, like himself, unassuming and unpretentious. The following are excerpts in his own words about his life and marketing to Philadelphia. Material in brackets [ ] had been added by this author.
“My father [Harvey] was born in 1877…He said he was born in New Berlinville at a farm opposite the now Metropolitan Electric Company. My father came from a family of five boys. …My grandfather Daniel Borneman must have moved to Pottstown some time I do not know when. At one time he had a business at Charlotte and Beech ( north west corner) something to do with milk and butter….
“My mother’s [Ella Mensch] father was Amandus C. Mensch and he was married to Elizabeth Zollers. He lived on a small farm back of Swamp at Middle Creek Road and the now route 73. The house was torn down but the barn still stands. He was a school teacher for many years. …He was great at drawing birds with pen and ink. He made many recordings in family Bibles of births, marriages, and deaths with pen and ink….My grandfather died of a heart attack. He came home from his woods in Berks County with a load of wood and saw a brush fire coming close to a house when a man was trying to outen the fire and grandfather helped to put out the fire and when the fire was out he fell over. This was in 1916.
“My parents were married in 1902.…I was born in 1903. They lived in a house in Fruitville owned by Samuel Laver. A log house was here where our house now stands….The stones for building our house came from Sumneytown and were split by hand by a man named Benny Hatt.
“Up until 1914 the produce was hauled to Collegeville with 2 horse teams. On a Friday morning they would get up at 2 o’clock in the morning and haul the produce to Collegeville and load the produce on a freight car that would be standing on the siding. Around 7 o’clock the passenger train would come along and back into the freight car and take it to third and Berks in Philadelphia. Then a drayman by the name of Cahn, who had a stable behind the market at 9th and Girard, would haul the produce from 3rd and Berks to 9th and Girard, [then an open air, unroofed market]. It was a law of the market not to sell anything until 12 o’clock on Friday.
“In 1914 Dad bought his first truck. It was a two ton Reo with solid tires, chain drive, no self starter, no electric lights. It had gas lights that were lit with a match. It had a governor on it and it was set at speed for 18 miles an hour….It had a 12 foot body and everybody thought it was a big truck. One of Dad’s first trips if not the first in going to market he met a flock of sheep in Jeffersonville running loose and herded by men. He said he had a hard time passing through them.
“Around 1918 Dad got a Republic one ton truck which he used to gather some of the produce together. It was the beginning of gathering the chickens, eggs, and calves with a truck.
“In 1918 going to high school it was my duty to clean up around the barn on Saturdays. To clean around the Republic truck I would have to move it. It was a great feeling to start the truck and move it. This one day I cranked the truck (it had no starter) and it backfired and I broke my right arm. So I went to high school with a broken arm. Several years later Dad bought a second one ton truck. By this time the horses were less useful. So we were in the motor age. Punctures in these trucks were very frequent and the tires would only last about 3 or 4 thousand miles, especially in the rear.
“In 1918 Frank smith was hired man and he was here working for Dad and me for 32 years. A hard working honest man. He was put on a truck on Monday’s to gather eggs. He had a regular egg route up and around Sassamansville. I had a regular egg route back of Gilbertsville. Tuesday’s we would gather calves in the morning and kill them in the after noon. Often times we would have twenty or twenty five calves. It was no regular amount. We generally took what was ready at the time. Wednesday’s we killed chickens. We got most of the chickens from the people we got eggs from, so it was never a dull moment.
“…Well we took eggs, chickens, calves, butter, cottage cheese, and vegetables to market in season. During peach season we got quite a lot from Robert Brooks who had a peach orchard back of Fruitville. Dad saw that peaches were a very good item to have. He started planting apples and peaches. His first planting was here on the hill sough of Smith Road. He planted the peaches and apples together a peach and an apple. The theory was at that time by the time the apple trees would be big the peach trees would be dying [of age]. So every year after that more trees were planted. The first year planting was 1935. As the trucks were taking over the work of horses in the 1920’s there was less reason for raising wheat and corn so apples, peaches and pears were planted. For several years we had more white peaches than yellow peaches. (continued next week).