History of Fitzwater StationFitzwater Station, a stop on the anti slavery underground railroad flourished before and during the Civil War. The station was part of the sprawling Fitzwater farm which lay along the Schuylkill River. Our building is named for Abel Fitzwater, a noted land-owner and churchman of Upper Providence Township.
Abel Fitzwater was a fifth-generation descendant of Thomas Fitzwater, who came to America with William Penn on the ship "Welcome" from Middlesex, England. While in his infancy and following his mother's death, Abel Fitzwater went to live with an uncle, Moses Hobson, another well-known resident of Upper Providence Township.
After his marriage to Isabella Umstead in 1825, Fitzwater purchased his large farm along the river. His father-in-law, Jonas Umstead, owned a nearby farm in the village of Green Tree, where the present Egypt and Green Tree Roads intersect.
Abel Fitzwater is also remembered for his role in the aftermath of one of the great floods of the Schuykill River in January 1839. The new village of Lumberville, which had sprung up shortly before on the Fitzwater farm, was submerged by flood waters and huge, lethal floating chunks of ice. Many bridges and structures along the river banks were swept away or destroyed by the force of the current.
Putting aside all thoughts of personal safety, he entered the water time and time again among the ice floes to rescue inhabitants of homes who were cut off from food, drinking water, and heat. The heroic feats performed by Fitzwater during that flood were to extract a heavy toll. He was left with a lingering disease which claimed his life a little more than a year later.
Eventually, the little village of Lumberville was renamed Port Providence and the Schuylkill River gained a sister waterway called the Schuylkill Canal. The village thrived and prospered as the coal-hauling barges made their way from central Pennsylvania to the bustling commercial facilities of Philadelphia. The tavern on the canal did a brisk business as the hard working, hard drinking bargemen made it one of their favorite hostelries on the long trip to and from Philadelphia.
Abel Fitzwater's son Joseph continued operation of the family farm following his father's death. He also opened a hardware business in Phoenixville, which specialized in equipment for steam-powered well drilling. Joseph became a prominent member of the Phoenixville business and social communities, serving as a director of the National Bank of Phoenixville and as president of the Phoenix Bridge Co., a firm which erected bridges worldwide.
Welcome, then, to the spirit of Joseph and Abel Fitzwater, and to the Fitzwater Station!