History of Manheim

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Founded in 1762, the town of Manheim rightfully belongs in that select list of Pennsylvania towns which antedate the Revolutionary War. Of additional interest historically is the fact that the land on which the town was laid out has a close connection with the family of the colony's founder, William Penn. Explicitly, it was in 1734 that this tract of acres in Donegal Township (1741 in Rapho Township) was given as a gift to Penn's faithful secretary, James Logan, by Penn's widow, Hannah, and her sons. In 1762 this same tract was purchased from Logan's granddaughter, Mary Morris, by Henry William Stiegel and his two business associates, Charles and Alexander Stedman.

Stiegel and the Stedman brothers must properly be considered as the founders of the town of Manheim, although Stiegel is the only one of the trio who left an impression on the place; even to the extent that for years it was well know among farmer folk as Stiegeltown. In fact, the story of Manheim cannot be told without including a recital of the career of this remarkable personality.

With his widowed mother and brother Anthony, Henry W. Stiegel, native Cologne, Germany, arrived in Pennsylvania in 1750. He found his first employment in Philadelphia with the Stedmans, who were successful merchants in that city. Two years later, he became associated with Jacob Huber, ironmaster of Elizabeth Furnace in Northern Lancaster County. Beginning work as a clerk, he progressed rapidly to the extent that a few years later, when Huber stepped out of the business, Stiegel became part owner of the furnace; his partners in the venture being the Stedmans. Under the guidance of Stiegel, the furnace was enlarged by the purchase of Charming Forge near Womelsdorf.
While still serving as a clerk for Jacob Huber, Stiegel married Elizabeth, the ironmaster's daughter, who bore two daughters, Elizabeth and Barbara. After the untimely death of Elizabeth Huber, Stiegel took as his second wife, Elizabeth Holtz of Philadelphia, to whom was born a son, Jacob.
Stiegel prospered as an ironmaster, becoming prominent at the same time in church and civic affairs. Then actuated with visions of success in a totally different field, he began experiments in glass making, which led to the actual manufacture of window glass and bottles at Elizabeth Furnace. The purchase of the tract in Rapho Township and the laying out of the town of Manheim in 1762 was the next step in Stiegel's ambitious planning. There can be no doubt that in establishing a town, he had a clear and definite idea of making it the seat of an industrial empire.
The plan of the town of Manheim provided for a wide open space in the center which was originally named High Street, but is now known as Market Square. On the square, Stiegel, caused to be erected for himself, an imposing mansion and an office building, while on the northwest corner of Stiegel and Charlotte Streets, he directed the construction of a manufacturing plant where he could continue the glassmaking begun at his iron furnace to such a degree that his undertaking would make him the outstanding industrialist of colonial Pennsylvania. Called a "glasshouse" by Stiegel, the first glass was blown there in late 1764 and then for the next ten years.

Stiegel carried on the operation of the Manheim glassworks which eventually was given the name of the American Flint Glass Manufactory. He enlarged the plant several times and hired skilled workmen from the European glassmaking centers, which contributed materially to the quality and variety of tableware, as well as chemical ware, turned out at the works. Extensive newspaper advertising brought increased patronage from the cities of Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, as well as from nearby towns in Pennsylvania. Stiegel had to literally fight for recognition and in time had the satisfaction of hearing authorities adjudge his glass equal to that imported from Europe. He had truly become as eminently successful in glassmaking as he was already prominent in the iron industry. Henry William Stiegel led a rather colorful and somewhat eccentric life. We are certain he lived on a scale far more elaborate than that of his neighbors. For this reason Stiegel was dubbed "Baron" and the title has persisted, and even to this day he is spoken of and written of, as Baron Von Stiegel.

Continuing his proprietary interest in Manheim, he became sole owner of the town through a series of involved financial transactions. Then came the troubled years immediately preceding the Revolutionary War during which period, reverses came to him which he could not overcome, culminating in financial failure, even necessitating a brief incarceration in debtor's prison. Sometime in 1775, activities ceased at the glassworks and Stiegel left Manheim without title to a foot of land in his town, to take up his residence again at Elizabeth Furnace through the charity of a kindly creditor. Eventually, this property and Charming Forge as well passed out of his possession, completing his ruin, leaving him dependent on relatives, at times teaching school or finding employment at various iron furnaces.

A detailed study of the life of Henry William Stiegel reveals him as a man of other interests apart from his career as iron-master and glassmaker. Far-sighted man that he was, he saw the need for education and, as his fortune grew, he had schools built and hired schoolmasters to educate the children of his workers. An accomplished musician, he supported a band in Manheim, and directed the choir of Trinity Lutheran Church, Lancaster, at dedication services in 1766. Deeply concerned with affairs of the church, he gave his fellow Lutherans in Manheim a lot of ground on which to build a church "for five shillings" and in the month of June yearly hereafter the rent of One Red Rose if the same shall be lawfully demanded. From this sentimental stipulation - forgotten through one hundred and twenty years - developed in 1892 the Festival of the Red Rose, annually observed since that time by Zion Lutheran Church on the second Sunday in June when a red rose is paid in legal manner to a descendant of Henry William Stiegel.
In 1777-78, the house which Stiegel built on the Square in Manheim, functioned as the home of the Revolutionary patriot and financier, Robert Morris, and his family. During this same period - when the Continental Congress was meeting in York - also living in the town were the families of Dr. Joseph Shippen, Surgeon of the Continental Army, and Colonial Post-master General Richard Bache, whose wife was Benjamin Franklin's daughter Sarah. In 1778 while a military hospital was maintained in the Reformed Church on North Prussian Street (now Main Street), Dr. Andrew Craigie, Apothecary-General of the Army, urged the "proprietary of setting the glass works at Manheim agoing" as the Continental Army Medical Department was "destitute" of bottles.
Actually, the glass factory which Stiegel established and which had augured so well for the future of Manheim was never operated with any success after the failure of the founder. After several feeble efforts, it finally shut down forever about 1780. This left Manheim a struggling village of barely more than 300 people, although the first Federal Census in 1790 dignified the place with the Manheim town. Indeed, it had a slow growth during the first sixty years of its history. However, the spirit of progress was surely not lacking in the minds of the leading citizens, for in 1838, with a population that had only reached 365, the town was incorporated as a borough by the State Legislature.