History of the Founding of Main Street

Two brothers, Stephanus and Edwin Umbenhauer, arrived in this country in 1737 from the canton of Berne, Switzerland. Stephanus purchased 220 acres from Thomas Penn; on this land he built his home. Stephanus passed the entirety of his original estate to his son, Balthaser, who in turn handed it onto his son, Thomas. It was Thomas who, in 1819, set aside forty-six acres to be divided into 62 building lots. (These lots comprise the majority of today’s Main Street.) On August 24th of that year, Peter Bennethum bought the first six lots. In January of 1820, this new town received its name, Bernville, for Berne, Switzerland, the land of Thomas’ grandfather. Two months after Bernville received its name, twenty-three more lots were sold along Main Street. To be fair, Thomas Umbenhauer awarded the lots by drawing numbered tickets that sold for $30.00 each, subject to a ground rent of $16.33, and on a certain day drawings were held. Most lots measured 60′ x 260′. In 1851, the Borough of Bernville was incorporated, yet it still included only the original 62 lots.

In 1950, Bernville Borough annexed property from Penn Township which included both ends of Main Street. (A small portion of Main Street near the elementary school remains in Penn Township.) Today, Main Street spans the length of the borough and is its longest thoroughfare. It has hosted the annual Memorial Day Parade for decades, and now it is your host. As you look around Main Street, allow it to tell you its story—a story of its hardworking residents, its talented individuals, and its civic-minded citizens.