Pine Grove Township

The grove of pines from which Pine Grove Township derived its name was located some twenty miles away in the valley on the south side of the Mahantongo Mountain east of Klinger’s Gap.  The famous botanist, John Bartram, wrote one of the earliest descriptions of the stand of pines.  The name was probably chosen to distinguish from Bethel to the south in Berks County.

The lands that now comprise Pine Grove Township belonged to Lancaster County until 1754, when Berks County was organized.  Up to that time, these lands along the northern side of the Blue Mountain were known as Blue Mountain Hollow.  It was organized as Pine Grove Township from Bethel Township in 1771.  In 1811, when Schuylkill County was organized, the township was one of the original ones.
Settlement on the north side of the Blue Mountain began in 1753, when Frederick Schnoke bought land for two bushels of wheat.  Over the next twenty years, settlers occasionally crossed over the mountain to the south to evade the marauding Indians.  By 1770, George Felty settled near Mifflin, or Suedburg, as it was spelled for many years until the Lebanon and Tremont Railroad designated its station as Suedberg.

The early settlers were mostly employed in the lumber industry, the principal industry for many years.  The region was dotted with sawmills, later allowed to decay, as the cleared lands moved into agricultural use.  It is believed that one of the earliest sawmills was built by Baltzer Smith on a branch of the Swatara Creek about a mile south of Pine Grove.  Gristmills, distilleries, iron forges, furnaces, and taverns began to sprout up around the area.

 

In 1770-71, Jacob Gunkle purchased a large tract from the sons of William Penn and built a powder mill at the entrance to present day Swopes Valley.  Although it exploded two or three times, it operated for over a century.  The powder made at this mill was used at the Battle of Bunker Hill during the Revolutionary War.

Until 1819, Pine Grove was designated a post office with John Barr as the first postmaster.  Until then, the closest post office was in Reading.  Barr built the Eagle Hotel in the area that was to become the Borough of Pine Grove in 1832.
In other areas of the township, villages and settlements developing as post offices began to spring up, in 1873, in Mifflin, about 1880, in Ellwood, now Outwood, and Ravine.  The roads initially followed the old Indian trails that traversed the county.  These roads were difficult to travel being blocked by boulders and tree stumps.  The major road was the Sunbury Road that crossed the mountain from Bethel, then passing by Stanhope to Pleasant Hill, on the east side of the Swatara Creek, along Lover’s Lane (American Legion Boulevard) to Ravine, passing through Lorberry and Joliett, until it connected to the Sunbury Trail west of Ashland.  In 1908, the State took over a portion of road, then part of the township, known later as the Annex, in what is today as North Pine Grove.  The road was constructed of Telford Bottom and was the first improved road in this part of the county.

In 1934, Pine Grove Township had 23 miles of state highway roads and 38 miles of township roads.  There were 12 cement bridges at that time, plus the steel bridge at Marstown which was eventually replaced.

The township began to organize an independent school district in 1843 when it opened the North Pine Grove School for four months.  In 1845, it opened another at Outwood in West Pine Grove in a building that was used until 1873 when a new, two-story school was built.  The old building later was to become the Outwood Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Eventually, there would be 12 schools throughout the township.  In the mid-1950’s, the schools joined with the Pine Grove Borough Schools to form the Pine Grove School District.

Pine Grove Township is a second class township governed by a Board of Supervisors which is elected at large by the qualified voters of the Township.   The Board of Supervisors, elected for terms of six years each, serves both legislative and executive functions.