Berlin, Somerset County

Created: Saturday, 28 March 2015 Last Updated: Saturday, 28 March 2015 Written by Administrator Print Email

The town of Berlin was originally settled by Germans, who named it after the chief city of their fatherland. At what date the settlement commenced we have no means of ascertaining, but probably it was before the American revolution, The eastern portion of the town was laid out in 1784, by Jacob Keffer, on forty and one-half acres of land owned by the Lutheran congregations. Between the years 1784 and 1787, Jacob Keffer, Jacob Fisher and Francis Hay laid out an addition to the town, comprising the western portion, which was given to the Lutheran congregation by the proprietors of the addition. A third addition, known as Vietersburg, was laid out about 1838, by Jacob Kimmel, who purchased the land of James Platt, who settled in Berlin in 1823. This portion of the town was surveyed by Alexander H. Philson.

The first two-story house erected in Berlin was a log building, erected about 1785 on the northeastern corner of the original plat. This building was occupied as a tavern and afterward as a store by Jacob Alter. It is still standing, and is now owned by G. W. Grollier.

Martin Diveley came from the kingdom of Wurtemberg to Hagerstowu, Maryland, in 1763. In 1770 he came to Bedford county and settled where Berlin now is. Shortly afterward he built a tannery, the first in the place. He died in Berlin, in 1830, at the age of eighty-two. Jacob Gull was also a tanner, and established his trade soon after Dively. The first blacksmith shop remembered by the old residents was conducted by one Schmidtbarndt. John Musser, a native of Stony Creek township, came to Berlin in 1848. Under Alexander Brubaker he learned the blacksmith’s trade, which he still follows. In 1854 he bought out Brubaker’s shop.

Frederick Garey, a native of Cumberland, Maryland, born in 1787, was one of the early settlers of Berlin and followed the weaver’s trade. John Heffley, a native of Berks county, settled in Berlin in 1815. He followed the tanner’s trade.

George Dively, a native of Germany, was among the first settlers of Berlin. Among his children were Michael, Samuel, Nancy (Millhouse), Polly (Fire), Sarah (Bender), Lydia (Sease) and Margaret (Boon).

Abraham Bender, a native of Adams county, settled early in life at Berlin, where he died in 1860, aged sixty-six. His son, George W., a carpenter by trade, has worked at his trade about forty years. He is still a resident of the town. W.H. Bender, son of George W., has followed carpentry principally since 1855. He served in the late war in Co. E, 21st Penn. Cav., from March, 1863, to July, 1865.

Michael Zorn, who was born in 1800, settled at Berlin early in life and followed the potter’s trade. Jacob J. Zorn followed the plasterer’s trade twenty-five years. Since 1880 he has kept a grocery store in Berlin.

Early in the history of the town the manufacture of hats was quite an important industry. It was carried on by George Johnson, Michael Ream, Henry Lower and others. They carried their hats to Pittsburgh, thence shipped them by flatboats down the Ohio river and sold them to southern planters.

The town early received notoriety from the murder of Jacob Glessner by the Rev. Cyriacus Spongenberg in 1795.

The growth of the town was gradual but steady, and in a few years Berlin became the principal trading-place for a large portion of the citizens of the county. It was incorporated as a borough in 1837.

In 1845 a fire occurred in the town, in which thirteen stables and twenty-six houses were on fire at one time. Owing to favorable conditions and active work on the part of the citizens only three buildings were destroyed.

About 1842 Charles Stoner established a foundry at Berlin, the first in the county, and for several years carried on an extensive business. At present the only foundry in the town is operated by Charles Krissinger.

The first brick house in Berlin was erected in 1823 by Jacob Lowry. It is now owned by J. O. Stoner. The first gristmill in Berlin was erected about 1872 by E.J. Meyers and Ephraim Cover. It was run by steam. It was destroyed by fire. The present steam gristmill was erected by Solomon Spangler in 1882. A planing-mill was built by Atchison & Pile in 1882.

The Berlin mines were opened by Thomas Price in 1875. They are now operated by B.D. Morgan & Co. The principal shipments are to Baltimore. These mines are not extensively worked at present. The Standard Coal Works were started by Samuel Adams about 1876. The mines are situated near the Philson mine, on the Berlin branch railroad. They are not extensively worked at present. The Philson Iron and Coal Company commenced operations in 1880 at a mine situated two miles southwest of Berlin. This mine is not now in operation.

The first cigars were made in Berlin about 1845, by Henry Floto. His manufactory was in the barn of Daniel Heffley. In 1882 C.D. Floto bought out the cigar manufactory of his father, A.D. Floto. He manufactures from five thousand to six thousand per week of the Berlin stogies, or "tobies," which have become widely known. Theodore Floto also carries on the same business, manufacturing two thousand to three thousand stogies per week.

Samuel S. Shaffer was born near Friedens, in Somerset township, where his ancestors were early settlers. Mr. Shaffer came to Berlin and kept the National Hotel until 1882, when he retired from the business and was succeeded by E.H. Fiscus, a native of Westmoreland county.

William Philson, a native of Berlin, served as sheriff of this county and as representative to the legislature. He moved to Johnstown, and thence, in 1846, to South Carolina, where he died, aged about eighty-five years. His eldest son, John P. Philson, was born in Somerset. In 1836 he came to Berlin, where he carried on the mercantile business about five years. He is still a resident of the town. From 1876 to 1878 Mr. Philson served as county commissioner, Samuel A. and Jacob C. Philson, sons of Alexander H., constitute the firm of S.A. & J.C. Philson, and have been engaged in the mercantile business in this town for twenty-two years

The first schoolhouses in Berlin were also used as churches. Schools were conducted by the Reformed and Lutheran congregations many years before any public schools took their places. The present graded school building was erected in 1876, at a cost of $5,700. Milton J. Baer was the first principal.

(Source: History of Bedford, Somerset & Fulton Counties, PA; 1884)