Warwick Township

Warwick Township History

Warwick Township became a municipality on June 14, 1842, when 19 square miles (12,160 acres) were removed from that part of East Nantmeal Township that lay north of the South Branch of French Creek. Today, there are almost 27 miles of township roads and about 22.5 miles of state roads within the Township's borders. No interstate or U.S. highways run through it. Over 470 acres are held in Warwick County Park (acquired in 1967 and dedicated in 1973), approximately 2,306 acres are administered as State Game Lands #43, and approximately 600 acres out of 7,475 acres are part of French Creek State Park. The latter park lands are augmented by 848 acres of Hopewell Iron Furnace, a National Historic Site, with 214 acres within Warwick Township. The Township has also set aside 90.1 acres as Township park land north of State Route 23. No other township in Chester County can claim so much land that will never become “developed.”

The early rise (1717) of an iron industry, the first in Chester County and the second in Pennsylvania, set Warwick lands apart from the largely agricultural lands that surrounded it originally and for the next 250 years. Two hundred and fifty acres at the eastern edge of present Warwick Village were systematically excavated by pick and shovel to produce the raw iron ore that kept four pre-Revolutionary furnaces in business. These included Coventry Iron Works (1717), Reading Furnace (1736), and Warwick Furnace (1737) in then East Nantmeal Township on the South Branch of French Creek which became Warwick Township. Hopewell Furnace (1770), with lands in Chester and Berks counties, opened mines of its own. These furnaces and the Rutter Iron Works on Manatawney Creek were the first successful iron furnaces in the colonies. By 1740, the South Branch furnaces were recorded by visiting European engineers as equal in size and production to any iron furnaces in England or the Continent at that time. General Washington brought his entire army of 11,000 men to the South Branch to regroup, repair equipment, and resupply ammunition after the drenching Battle of the Clouds at Paoli in September 1777. Reading Furnace #2 and Warwick Furnace were merged by 1783 under the name of Warwick Furnace which continued into the 1870s. Hopewell went out-of-blast for the last time in 1883. Warwick Furnace is said to have rolled plate for the Civil War ship, the Monitor.

Further industrialization occurred in 1848 in the area of St. Peters Village when shaft mining was introduced by the E. & G. Brooke Company on farms behind the present village. These deep pit mines, known as the St. Peters or French Creek Mines, were operated until about 1866 when, in conjunction with Phoenix Iron Company, three shaft mines were sunk with accompanying drifts: the Elizabeth, the Suzie, and the Calamity Mines, the latter so named because, being too close to French Creek, it filled with water as fast as it was pumped out. By 1926, the ore had become too lean to be profitable and the mines were closed in 1928. It has been estimated that one million tons of copper and iron bearing ore have been extracted from the French Creek mines.

In 1880, Davis Knauer initiated a new enterprise using the wealth of scattered and underground black granite rock that lay north of present Route 23. Known as French Creek Black Granite, Warwick Township is one of only three sites in the world where this true black granite can be obtained. The other two are in California and Sweden. First used as curb stone and Belgian block for Philadelphia streets, it found twentieth century use in space age technology because of its stable qualities. A 2” thick piece of French Creek Black Granite is stronger than a 5” piece of other granites. When polished, it shines like black glass and can be used both structurally and decoratively. It has been used in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Library in Hyde Park and in the American Telephone & Telegraph Building in New York City; Jacqueline Kennedy chose it for a 22’ long conference table for the Kennedy Museum. The Whitney Museum uses it both outside and inside including use as a free-standing cantilevered staircase.

The present Township is served mainly by the Twin Valley Fire Company; the eastern area of the Township is covered by both the Ridge Fire Company and Norco Fire Company. Emergency medical response is provided by Elverson Emergency Medical Services. A United States Post Office is located in St. Peters Village. The Township does not have its own police force but is covered by the State Police. Where once there were several local grocery, gasoline, and general stores, the Township today has several commercial areas, primarily in St. Peters, Knauertown, and near the intersection of routes 23 and 345. In addition to the parks and trail systems, two gun clubs offer recreation opportunities. There are also two private golf courses, one named Stonewall, the other, French Creek, both at the west end of the Township. A nature center is operated by Natural Lands Trust on Crow’s Nest Farm. The French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust and Natural Lands Trust hold easements on numerous private lands, voluntarily protected by their owner against development. The Conservation Trust has also purchased sensitive lands when they came on the market, restricting them against development and delivering them by mutual agreement to either Game Lands #43, French Creek State Park, or to Warwick County Park. In 1982, French Creek was designated a Scenic River from its headwaters to Route 724 at Phoenixville, and in 1998, Green Valleys Association successfully led the effort to raise the designation to Exceptional Value (http://www.greenvalleys.org). It is the only cold water stream in Chester County. Much of the headwaters of the North Branch of French Creek are within the township borders, while the South Branch forms the entire southern boundary. Warwick Township looks forward to controlled growth in the future.