The community of Manheim of about 5000 people boasts a vital role in the early years of our nation and claims fame as the home and business of Henry William Stiegel, commonly known as "Baron Stiegel," originator of one of the earliest glass manufacturing operations in 18th century America. Manheim, founded in 1762 by Henry William Stiegel, includes a designated historic district in the center of town and retains many 18th and early 19th century structures.
Manheim’s Early History – From 1738 to 1910
Mennonites made the first settlement in the vicinity of Manheim. This section was then part of Donegal Township, one of the original townships of Lancaster County, at its erection in 1729.
Rapho Township was created out of the northeastern part of Donegal Township. Because the town of Manheim was developed on a tract of land in Rapho Township, one can, with some justification, begin the history of Manheim with the year 1741. Moreover, the town of Manheim was not separately incorporated for seventy-five years after its founding. Still, it was governed by township officials so that the town and its people were very much a part of the township.
The town of Manheim undoubtedly had its inception in the mind of Henry William Stiegel. However, we cannot correctly label him as the founder since his two business partners, Charles and Alexander Stedman, were associated with him at the beginning of the town. It was in 1762 that Stiegel and his partners purchased a tract of 729 acres in Rapho Township, and it was in the same year, that surveyor Thomas Lincoln arrived on the parcel and plotted a town which was named Manheim.
Ten years before the beginning of Manheim, Stiegel, having recently come to Pennsylvania from Germany had arrived at Elizabeth Furnace, twelve miles from Manheim, in search of employment. By the time the town of Manheim was projected, Stiegel had made such rapid strides that he was now joint owner with the Stedman's of Elizabeth Furnace and Charming Forge, and had become one of the prominent ironmasters of Pennsylvania.
At Elizabeth Furnace, Stiegel also experimented in glassmaking and had reached the point where he was supplying the neighborhood with window glass and bottles. In beginning a town, he had a definite idea of developing a glassmaking center, as will shortly be seen. On a vast square in the center of the town, he built a mansion and an office building for himself, while on the corner of South Charlotte and Stiegel Streets, he put up a glass manufacturing plant—a glass house, he called it.
In 1764 Stiegel blew the first glass in Manheim. Stiegel continued to operate his glass works which eventually was named The American Flint Glass Manufactory in 1774. He was continually improving the products of his plant, as well as enlarging the plant itself. He made a large variety of household glassware and pioneered in the field of chemical glassware. He introduced the colors blue, green, and amethyst, with other pieces being engraved. Extensive advertising brought business to Stiegel from far and near, and he became as eminently successful in glassmaking as he was already prominent in the iron industry.
At the zenith of his career as a glassmaker, he employed approximately one hundred men. Continuing his interest in Manheim, he became the sole owner of the town through a series of financial transactions. Notwithstanding the success of The American Flint Glass Manufactory, Stiegel suffered a complete economic failure. In 1775, Stiegel left Manheim without title to any abode anywhere or even a foot of land in his town of Manheim. For the remainder of his life, he depended on relatives and acquaintances for the asylum they granted him. In his last years, he taught school at Brickerville, Schaefferstown, and Womelsdorf. His date and place of death remain a mystery.
There are two churches in Manheim whose histories go back to colonial days, and both of them were begun at about the same time. The first building of Saint Paul’s Reformed Church was built in 1769 at which time the pastor was Rev. John Conrad Bucher. He served until 1779 and it was sometime during his pastorate that the church was used as a soldiers’ hospital. The Zion Lutheran Congregation was organized in 1770 by Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg who also served as the first pastor. A piece of ground was sold to the congregation by Henry William Stiegel, who was a staunch Lutheran, for five shillings and “in the month of June yearly forever hereafter the rent of one red rose if the same shall be lawfully demanded”.
Manheim’s one claim to some notice during the Revolutionary War arises from the fact the Robert Morris, Signer of the Declaration of Independence and generally known as the financier of the Revolution purchased the Stiegel Mansion on the square and lived there with his family during the period that the Continental Congress met in York by reason of the British occupancy of Philadelphia. There also lived at Manheim in the same period Dr. Joseph Shippen, Surgeon General of the Continental Army and Richard Bache with his family. Mrs. Richard Bache was Benjamin Franklin’s only daughter Sally.
The glassworks of Stiegel which had augured so well for the future of Manheim was never operated with much success after the failure of the founder. It finally shut down completely about 1780. This left Manheim a struggling village of barely more that 300 people, although the first federal census of 1790 called the place Manheimtown.
September 30 – Samuel Peter Heintzelman was born in a house which is still standing on South Main Street. Samuel was graduated from West Point in 1826 and spent the remainder of his life in military service. His brilliant career included engagements with the Indians in the west and southwest and active service in both the Mexican War and the War between the States. In 1861 he was appointed Brigadier General. He retired from active service in 1869 and in 1880 he died in the city of Buffalo, New York. It was in 1877 that he made his last appearance in Manheim, when, at the age of 72, he addressed the citizens of Manheim from the porch of the house in which he was born.
n 1812, the Manheim Fire Company was begun and articles of Association were formulated. A small hand engine was purchased from the Union Fire Company of Lancaster. This early piece of fire fighting equipment had been imported by the Union Fire Company from London in 1764. This early fire company continues today under the name of The Hope Fire Engine and Hose Company and the 1764 pumper is preserved in a small museum in their building.
Manheimtown had a very slow growth during the first sixty years of its existence. By 1832, there were only sixty dwellings, according to a gazetteer of that period. However, the spirit of progress was surely present in the minds of the town leaders, for in 1838 with a population of 365, the town was incorporated by the Legislature as a borough.
From 1800 to the period of the Civil War, several industries came into the life of Manheim. To be sure, they were not large, but each one employed from two to a dozen people. There was the Miller Hat Factory, one of the early hat manufacturers of the United States and there were several potteries notably John Gibble and the Singley brothers. Phillip Arndt ran a tannery, and a brickmaking plant was in operation. Grandfather clocks were made by Christian Eby and son, by John Conrad Heintzelman and by Samuel C. Stauffer. Daniel Danner in his wood turning shop made spinning wheels and musical instruments. Kline and Fertig were makers of shoes and Martin Bauder wove stockings. Emanuel Dyer, John Dyer, John Rice and John Wagner were carpenters and cabinet makers. There were two cooperages. Three tailors — George D. Miller, David May and Phillip Waltz — were kept busy. Catering to the farmers were eleven hustling wagon works. John Long plied the trade to locksmith and Jonas White made combs. In 1830 Jacob Stauffer opened the first printing shop, but it was short lived. In 1838 John M. Ensminger opened the second one and in 1846 he began the printing of Manheim’s first newspaper.
Life in Manheim in the Civil War period, followed very closely the pattern of life in hundreds of other towns throughout the land. While the town was not in the sphere of activity during the war, there was one time during the period that the affairs of war caused consternation. That was when the citizens of Columbia, in order to halt the advance of the Southern Army, burned the bridge spanning the Susquehanna. Before that, hundred of citizens in York County had fled before the oncoming Confederates and these added to hundreds more of Columbians left in wagons for safer territory. The first contingent made such a great noise traveling toward Manheim that the residents believed that the Confederates had already reached Lancaster County. Greatly relieved were they when the approaching army proved to be only distressed Columbians who soon filled the Manheim Square with there wagons. The number of men from Manheim and vicinity who served in the Union Army was 179.
Following the war between the States, came and era of internal development and improvement. All through the nation, it was also a time of social reconstruction. The contagion of the times spread to Manheim and here are some highlights in local history during the next half century.
January, 1st—The first railroad train came to Manheim upon the completion of the first division of the Columbia and Reading Railroad which extended from Columbia to Manheim. The entire line was finished on March 31, 1864.
Manheim’s first bank was organized and named Manheim National Bank. Abraham Kauffman was the first President
National Methodist Camp Meeting was held in Hamaker’s Woods, one-half mile north of Manheim. It continued for ten days and on the “big” Sunday when Bishop Simpson preached, the throng was estimated as numbering 25.000 people.
A tract of land south of Manheim was given to Manheim Borough by Abraham Kauffman for park purpose. In honor of the donor, the tract was named Kauffman Park.
Service was begun by the Manheim Water Company. This was a decided forward step, for until this time each residence had its own pump while the “old town pump” on the square served all who were athirst.
The Manheim High School was organized and graduated it first class, thirteen in number. Prof. W. Reiff Nauman was the Supervising Principal.
The Feast of Roses was instituted in Zion Lutheran Church. Since that year, on the second Sunday in June the congregation pays to the descendants of Henry William Stiegel “one red Rose”, thus satisfying a payment extracted in the original deed from Stiegel to the Congregation.
Electricity was introduced to Manheim with the inauguration of service by the Manheim Electric Company which began operations in the old mill building, once known a Hollinger’s Mill. This marked the end of the old oil burning street lamps and the retirement of the familiar lamp lighter.
The Federal census of this year gave Manheim a population of 2019. In 1860, the population of Manheim was 856.