Mile marker from 19th-century Berks County finds new home in Adamstown

Ron Devlin, Reading Eagle, Pa.
·3 min read

Feb. 23—History was remade, in a sense, when a 19th-century mile marker was relocated to a garden plot in front of Tom Sturgis Pretzels Inc. in Cumru Township about eight months ago.

The fourth in a series of 10 markers between Reading and Adamstown, it had once served as guidepost for horse-and-buggy and stagecoaches traveling along Lancaster Pike.

Now, thanks to the efforts of John Schmoyer of Reinholds, another of the original markers has found a new home as well.

Mile Marker No. 9, which had been located on Old Lancaster Pike in Spring Township near the Adamstown line, was moved to a site outside the Adamstown Area Library in January.

Its inscription, "9 MFR, 22L," informed travelers it was 9 miles from Reading and 22 miles from Lancaster.

Schmoyer undertook the relocation of MM9 so it would not inadvertently be damaged by mechanized brush trimmers.

"On Main Street in Adamstown, it's still on the original highway between Reading and Lancaster," said Schmoyer, 71, a retired client services manager at Silicon Cert Labs in Muhlenberg Township. "Now, standing in a safer and more prominent location, MM9 will continue to serve as a reminder of days long passed."

Of men and milestones

William M. Witwer and John Schmoyer had not known each other, but their lives have become intertwined with mile markers, or milestones, installed about 200 years ago.

Sharing an abiding respect for the past, both men embarked on personal journeys that ensured future generations could witness remnants from the nation's formative years.

Schmoyer's research suggests the markers date to about 1829, when state lawmakers authorized construction of so-called turnpike roads. One of them was the Reading to Lancaster highway, chosen to link the county seats of Berks and Lancaster counties.

Typically placed on the west side of the roadway, the red sandstone markers advised travelers of the distance between towns and cities at a time when roadmaps were not commonly available.

MM4, for example, was marked "4M, F-RAD, C-T-S," which translates to four miles from Reading in Cumru Township, according to "Ancient Milestones of Berks County Highways," a 1910 article by historian Morton L. Montgomery.

Lost in time

Witwer, a Cumru Township sales representative, found MM4 obscured in a thicket along Lancaster Pike in 2019.

Ignoring swarms of tiny black bugs, he cleared 6-foot-tall vegetation and unveiled a precious piece of the region's past.

Exposing it, Witwer felt, would prevent it from damage by mechanized equipment clearing brush along the roadway. Unfortunately, the extremely heavy marker was cut off at its base and removed.

Undeterred, Witwer dug up its base, had a master craftsman inscribe it with the original markings and arranged to have it placed on the Sturgis property.

Schmoyer read of Witwer's campaign in the Reading Eagle and contacted him for advice on how to relocate the marker in Spring Township.

Schmoyer obtained permission from borough authorities to place it in Adamstown.

He appealed to the Spring supervisors, who placed MM9 on indefinite loan to the Adamstown library.

In November, an Adamstown borough crew excavated the marker and moved it a little over a mile to the library. On Jan. 15, the crew set the marker in place near the flagpole outside the library.

The way it was

Any thought of it would be a fairly easy undertaking quickly vanished as Schmoyer embarked on what would be a yearlong effort.

Numerous phone calls, emails, in-person visits and the involvement of several municipal organizations followed. There were consultations with Witwer, PennDOT and a historic preservationist.

Working with Adamstown, he arranged for a plaque to be posted next to MM9. It informs viewers that MM9 was a guidepost on a roadway known to 19th century travelers as King's Highway.

Schmoyer came away reassured that a group of like-minded people, working together, can accomplish something worthwhile.

"It gives me satisfaction that we brought an obscure historical artifact into public view," he said. "It will allow us to reflect on what our ancestors used to mark their way while traveling."