Plymouth became a Township of the first class in January 1922. Mr. Isaac J. Sheppard became township Secretary at that time and served as secretary until his voluntary retirement in 1952. Under the new form of government the board changed from one of three "road supervisors" to one of five "Township Commissioners". Many gradual changes commenced at that time. Street lights were installed in the built-up sections, fire hydrants were installed at critical locations. By 1924, two fire companies were in operation: the Plymouth Fire Company and the Harmonville Fire Company.
In 1925 the Board of Health was organized. Plumbing inspection began in 1934. In 1939, Plymouth adopted a "modern" zoning ordinance. A building code ordinance was also adopted. In 1947, the first subdivision ordinance was adopted. In 1952, the Township Planning Commission was created and a Recreation Committee was established to study the recreation needs of the Township. Growth continued throughout the 1960's and 70's, which saw the advent of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Plymouth Meeting Mall, high rise and garden apartment complexes, and many modern industries and offices.
Plymouth Township adopted a Home Rule Charter in 1972. Government under a Home Rule Charter allows a municipality to take any governmental or administrative actions it requires, unless such actions are prohibited by general laws of the Commonwealth. With this charter in place, citizens and their elected officials are given more governing power, and there is more of an opportunity for public involvement in governing procedures and decisions.
PLYMOUTH TOWNSHIP HISTORY
Plymouth Township was laid out by William Penn on May 5, 1686. The Township is 98 years older than Montgomery County, which was established in 1784.
The total area of Plymouth Township consists of 5,153 acres, or approximately 8.3 square miles. The Township boundaries are almost the same as originally surveyed. A portion was taken from the township when Conshohocken was incorporated as a borough in 1850. A small section in the western end of the township was annexed by Norristown, which became a borough in 1812.
The township was originally settled by members of the "Society of Friends", or Quakers. They sailed from Devonshire, England on the ship "Desire", arriving in Philadelphia on June 23, 1686. The Township takes its name from the settlers' hometown of Plymouth in Devonshire.
What is now Germantown Pike was ordered laid out by the Provincial Government in 1687 as a "cart road" from Philadelphia to Plymouth Meeting. The actual road was not finished until 1804, when it was built at a cost of $11,287. A road from Plymouth Meeting to Gwynedd appears to have been built in 1751. What is now Chemical Road, following Plymouth Creek, was opened in 1759 to provide access to a new grist mill.
The first place of worship was the Plymouth Friends Meeting, which celebrated its 250th anniversary in 1952. However, records indicate that religious meetings were held there as early as 1690.
Plymouth Friends Meeting House
In the early 1800's the Hickorytown Hotel, on Germantown Pike opposite Hickory Road, was a prominent road house. Robert Kennedy, an officer in the Revolution, operated the inn in 1801. In 1806 it was kept by Frederick Dull and in 1825, Jacob Hart. In the beginning of the 19th century it was a training place for the 36th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Militia and the Second Battalion of Montgomery County. The Friendship Company for the Protection against Horse Stealing was organized there in 1807. Township elections were held there as well, and a post office was established there in May, 1857. The Plymouth Meeting Post Office appears to have been established sometime prior to 1827.
In 1754, Benjamin Davis received a license to keep an inn on Ridge Pike at Plymouth Creek. This Inn, the Seven Stars, was shown on maps as early as 1759. The inn was demolished in 1975 to make way for the Midcounty Expressway.
Early records indicate that one person was elected as "road supervisor" and tax collector. The roads were mostly dirt and the repair and maintenance was often auctioned off to the lowest bidder, usually a farmer who had large properties and kept many men and horses, and the smaller farmers worked on the roads for them.
Tax records show that the tax payers had the privilege of working out their taxes on the roads. From 1846 to 1854 the road supervisor was paid one dollar per day for his work as supervisor and collector of taxes. Men working on the roads received $.80 per day and boys received $.40 per day. For the use of a double team of horses with a wagon or cart, one was paid $1.75 per day. Among the 1850 assessments may be found such familiar present day names as Corson, Cleaver, Davis, Evans, Williams, Fischer, Gillinger, Hallman, Jones, Marple, Rodenbaugh, Sheppard, Shoemaker, Staley and Wood.
Among early industries in Plymouth Township was the Hickorytown Forge operated by the Wood family, and a forerunner of the present Alan Wood Steel Company. The name Plymouth Furnace appears in the records about 1847 and was engaged in the manufacture of nails.
In 1863 a company named Plymouth Iron Company was organized with a capital of $30,000.00. The company purchased the property of "Colwell Furnace" which is located just west of the present Colwell Road adjoining the development known as Farmview Village.
The Plymouth Railroad was built in 1836 to serve some 20 lime kilns operating along the route between Conshohocken and Cold Point. In 1870, the line was acquired by the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and was rebuilt and extended to Oreland at a junction with the North Penn Railroad.
Prior to the building of the Plymouth Railroad the Philadelphia, Germantown, and Norristown Railroad was built along the Schuylkill River through Plymouth and commenced operation on 1835. The Schuylkill Valley Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the tracks of which parallel those of the Reading Railroad was opened in 1884, and the Trenton Cut-off branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad was built in 1891.
The first school in the Township was established by the Plymouth Meeting Society of Friends in 1780, although some records indicate a school in operation there before that date. A school was established at Cold Point in 1821. Public schools, established under the system authorized by the he legislature in 1834, included Cold Point School on Cold Point Hill, Plymouth Valley School on Butler Pike adjacent to the friends meeting property, the Eight Square school on North Lane (then known as Spring Mill Road), the Sandy Hill school in Black Horse (now the site of L. Frank Markel and Sons factory) and the North Star school on Germantown Pike on property presently housing Plymouth Center Union Mission church.