Upper Providence Township in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
A Community Gathers to Worship…
Historic Port Providence
Historic Port Providence
More than 150 years ago, Port Providence was a bustling canal village. Although the canal boats have long since stopped, the village today stretches out along the canal with many familiar buildings. The Schuylkill Canal Association invites you to explore historic Port Providence.
"The Port Providence of today is different from the Lumberville of 35 or 40 years ago. I recall the activity that characterized it then, and contrast it with the sleepiness of today." — Felix, Feb. 6, 1877
Dunkard Brethren and Methodist congregations jointly built the Union Chapel during the canal boom of the 1830s.
The Dunkard Brethren were a Protestant sect, descendants of German immigrants to colonial Pennsylvania. Methodism originated in England and had gained many converts in America in the early 1800s. Both believed in simple services and humility, speaking to the Chapel's plain architecture. Services were conducted by visiting circuit riders, ministers who traveled from church to church to serve the needs
Soon the Brethren left the Chapel to attend services in private homes. Through the years various groups worshiped here. During the Sunday School revival of the 1920s the Chapel became known for its Sunday afternoon school. In the 1950s it served as a Pentecostal Church.
One of the last remaining public landmarks of the canal days, the Chapel continues to serve the people of Port Providence as a reminder of the strong religious roots in the community during the canal era.
Schuylkill Navigation Canal
The lifeblood of Port Providence was the Schuylkill Navigation Canal. The 108-mile-long navigation began at the coal mines north of Reading and ended in Philadelphia. The main commodity transported was coal, but boats also moved grain, lime, and lumber. The canal began to decline after the Civil War, unable to compete with the railroads. It finally closed to commercial traffic in the 1930s. Visit Lock 60 and the Lock Tender's House in Mont Clare to learn more about the navigation.
Lumberville or Port Providence?
Port Providence was once known as Lumberville. That's because a Chester County businessman shrewdly chose this spot for a lumberyard when the Schuylkill Navigation Canal opened in 1824.
The village had 115 residents at the height of the canal era in the 1850s. It was the only port between Norristown and Pottstown. Boatmen could buy food and supplies at the general store, get a drink at the inn, rest mules in nearby pastures, repair a boat in the dry dock, or load lumber and grain.
Lumberville changed its name to Port Providence about 1860. It wasn't that the village didn't like the old name, but another town in Pennsylvania was already officially called Lumberville. A new name had to be chosen for the canal village to have its own post office.
Before Lumberville, this area was known for its catches of shad. Shad are a type of herring that migrate upstream to spawn. They were an important food source for Native Americans and colonists. A pound or pen to catch the shad was in the Schuylkill River opposite Port Providence. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of fish were caught swimming upstream. The navigation's dams and locks completely blocked the shad migration and ended the fishery in the 1820.
Lumberville attracted people from many places and walks of life. Most sought opportunity on the canal.
Places of Birth, People living in Lumberville, 1850
Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia
England, Ireland, Germany
Jobs in Lumberville, 1850
Merchant, Innkeeper, Laborer, Storekeeper, Preacher, Boatman, Shoemaker, Carpenter, Cooper, Butcher, Millwright, Lock Tender
Erected by Schuylkill River National & State Heritage Area; Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Architecture • Churches & Religion • Settlements & Settlers • Waterways & Vessels.
Location. 40° 7.694′ N, 75° 29.446′ W. Marker is in Upper Providence Township, Pennsylvania, in Montgomery County. Marker is on Port Providence Road 0.1 miles east of Canal Street, on the left when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 937 Port Providence Rd, Phoenixville PA 19460, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Port Providence Trailhead (approx. 0.4 miles away); The Griffen Cannon and Memorial (approx. 1.2 miles away); American Legion Post 482 War Memorial (approx. 1.2 miles away); Phoenixville War Memorial (approx. 1.2 miles away); Phoenixville Vietnam War Memorial (approx. 1.2 miles away); Phoenix Iron Company (approx. 1.4 miles away); Phoenix Iron & Steel Company (approx. 1˝ miles away); Symbols of Steel Sculpture Garden (approx. 1˝ miles away).
Credits. This page was last revised on November 21, 2020. It was originally submitted on November 21, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 38 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on November 21, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.