Dyerstown, Pennsylvania

How did Dyerstown, Pennsylvania get it’s name? This page provides a brief history about the naming of Dyerstown, Pennsylvania, the people who settled it, and the industry rising within it.

This hamlet, a cluster of old stone houses in Doylestown (formerly Plumstead) Township, lies on the southeast bank of Pine Run and along Route 611, the great highway which now links Philadelphia with Easton and the country of upper Delaware River Valley. This highway was first known as “Dyers Mill Road” and was so mentioned in the public records for nearly a century after it was extended in 1723 from Horsham to Dyers. Almost on a parity in population with Doylestown down to the Revolution, Dyerstown has stood still while it saw its neighboring community, only a mile away, expanding into a thriving borough. Widening and rerouting 611 in 1939 left Dyerstown comfortably to the eastward to enjoy its quietude and immunity from modern commercial exploitation, hotdog stands and glaring billboards. The hamlet takes its name from John Dyer, an English Quaker from Nailsworth (Gloucestershire) Meeting, who reached Philadelphia with his wife and children in 1714. He was a miller and probably a millwright. Remaining in Philadelphia for three and a half years, he removed early in the year 1718 to the present site of Dyerstown, where, before his removal, he had purchased 300 acres of land from Thomas Brown, (English spelling, Browne), a pioneer settler, who lived in a log house some distance farther back in the Plumstead woods. The best authorities say Dyer built his mill in 1720. However, mills were not made in a month or even a year in those days. There was no ready lumber, no artificial methods of seasoning it, few millwrights to work out by hand those wonderful wooden shafts, nicely adjusted cog wheels, ponderous water wheels and finely dressed stones of our first grist mills. No doubt John Dyer felled his own timber from the surrounding forest, let nature season the hewn logs and planks, and then did his own millwrighting. The mill may not have been in operation before 1722, and this seems to be indicated by the fact that it was in that year Dyer became active in bringing the road through from Horsham. The date of the erection of the present mill seems to be definitely fixed by a note in John Dyer’s diary, dated January 23, 1792: “This mill burnt about 12 o’Clock last night all the roof burned with waggon timber & flax that was in the Loft. The fire appeared to be Chiefly in the North End when I first saw it.” From this meager description, it seems the mill was not entirely destroyed and probably the water wheel, basement and most of the equipment therein were saved, though possibly damaged. The last miller was Charles F. Beaumont, who owned the place and ground feed for his own and his neighbors’ use. Since the repeal of the Prohibition Amendment the old mill has been draped with a new dress and goes by the name of Water Wheel Tavern. The quaint exterior has been disguised, but some oldtime interior features have been retained. The staunch walls and beams are still there. The great oak water wheel, five feet broad and fourteen feet in diameter, is also there, and the cog-wheels, hopper and grist stones are said to be just as the last miller left them. It easily may be, as claimed, that the mill furnished flour to Washington’s army while it lay encamped June 20 and 21, 1778, on the nearby hill at “Doyltown” on its march from Valley Forge to the Jerseys. The Dyers were reputed to be good patriots, yet John Dyer, Jr., grandson of the pioneer, in his remarkable “Diary,” covering a period from 1763 to 1805, does not mention the flour-supply incident. He does not even notice the camp in Doylestown. This seems amazing. He takes pains to record on August u, 1777, that he went miles down to Warwick Township to see the Continental army the very next day after it pitched its tents along the Little Neshaminy. “I saw,” he says, “the American Army Encamped Near, or at the Cross Roads, Consisting of about 18,000 men in Bucks County.” And he also notes on June 18, 1778, that “The English left Philada, the 18th of June 1778 with their army,” but after that entry there is a puzzling blank until March 7, 1779,-the biggest gap in the whole Diary. What happened to silence the diarist in this epoch-making half year in his community we can only conjecture and then marvel at his lost opportunity to immortalize himself by writing down what he saw of Washington and his staff, the rejuvenated Continental army after the rigors of Valley Forge, and the picturesque bands of Oneida and Tuscarora scouts during two-days’ stay on the wooded ridge then called “Doyltown.” From this old diary we get an interesting glimpse or two of pre-Revolutionary backwoods incidents. On April 21, 1770, Dyer notes, “whippoor-wills were singing in Dyerstown.” October zo, 1771, he says, “a bear was killed here,” and again, October 24, 1774, he wrote, “several bears killed in this neighborhood now and abouts.” The post office established at Dyers-town March 1, 1883, with John S. Dyer as postmaster, has long since been discontinued and the community is now served by Doylestown rural delivery. Dyerstown Union Library flourished in the 1840’s. Officers and members were John Dyer, Jr., Librarian and Treasurer; Moses L. Shepherd, Secretary; William Rich, Moses L. Shepherd and Aaron Burgess, Directors; John Dyer, John Poulton, James Barclay, Aaron Worthington, Thomas Dyer, Benjamin Good, Isaac Kratz, Josiah Rich, Jr., Esq., Cornelius Shepherd and Samuel Bradshaw, Esq.


MacReynolds, George. Place Names in Bucks County Pennsylvania, 2nd Edition. Doylestown, PA: The Bucks County Historical Society, 1955.

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