Early Indian Dam at Tulpehocken Creek

2014-01-29
Return to Historical Articles Index

 

The Tulpehocken Creek is the largest stream in Western Berks County. Arising from springs west of Myerstown in Lebanon County, it enters Berks near Stouchsburg in Marion Township and flows in an easterly direction approximately 26 miles until it reaches the Schuylkill River in the City of Reading. The name comes from the Lenape Indians meaning "land of turtles."

In the 1720s, the creek valley was a destination for early settlers, who used the creek for milling operations. In the 19th century, it provided an important early transportation route with the building in 1828 of the Union Canal along the river.

On the right bank of the Tulpehocken creek at the Red Bridge is the western boundary of what for many years had been known as the Herbein farm. Several hundred feet due east Tulpehocken Indians had an important ceremonial station about 4 centuries ago.

For many years the outlines of a three-ringed circus plot were plainly in evidence. Pioneer Herbein never ploughed the area. He wished to preserve it.

The Red Bridge over the Tulpehocken Creek.

In 1923, just under the Red Bridge, the remains of an Indian fishing dam was discovered. The dam was visible when the water was clear. The dam was built for the purpose of having crossings at deep water far from fords and also was a place from which fish could be speared. The stones were usually cleared from fields which later were used to raise Indian corn.

Quite a bit of engineering ability was exercised by Indian dam builders. They headed all dams up stream to guard against floods and often interlaced them with young trees to assure stability. Then early white settlers arrived they used them as fish weirs and crossings. Later, when streams were dammed to feed mill races, the rise of the water submerged all Indian work.

Today the mills along the Tulpehocken Creek are gone but remnants of Indian dam may still be visible.

 


Connect with us