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February 2001

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The Burgess Foulke House -- Quakertown, Pa.

Written by M. Ann Hellman and originally published in the Foulke Family Herald, November 1991

"Dad bought the farm in 1915. It was the location he liked ... it was so quiet.  There were lots of hickory trees, and there was this small cinder path that led right to the Quaker Meeting House."

These are the recollections of Joe Hillegas, son of Jacob Hillegas, the last family to live in the Burgess Foulke home.  Of course that was before the construction of Route 309, which passed the home.

The stone structure was built in 1812 by Edward Foulke (Edward, Hugh, John) in the simple form reflective of the Quaker lifestyle.  It was his son, Edward, Jr., who would go on to become the first burgess (mayor) of Quakertown when the borough became incorporated in 1855.

Life in the newly formed borough was somewhat simpler than now.  The following ordinances are a sampling of those passed under Chief Burgess Foulke:

Ordinance No. 1

  1. A fine of 25 cents for horses and cows at large.
  2. A fine of 12.5 cents for swine at large.
  3. A fine of $5.00 for running horses through the streets.
  4. An ordinance concerning lost animals.
  5. The duties of the constable were defined.
  6. Compensation for the constable was declared.
  7. Effective date of the above - July 1855.

Ordinance No. 2 was a tax of 50 cents per year on lost dogs - approved June 16, 1855.

Ordinance No. 3

  1. Rubbish removal.
  2. Control of circuses and menageries.

As the years passed, Quakertown changed and grew, but managed to stay the same small farming community for as long as it could.  My father, Raymond Herbert Foulke, and Joe Hillegas, both fondly remember the harvest time when they were youngsters.  My grandfather, Herbert Theophilus Foulke, apparently owned the only thresher in the area, so all the families would get together and harvest each farm one at a time until they were all done.

But progress knows no boundaries.  The highway came through in approximately 1938, and so did the shopping centers and housing developments.  Then in 1974, the Hillegas family was forced to sell the farm, as most of the other families were, and the fight began to save the Foulke home from the wrecking ball to make way for still another shopping center.  Through the efforts of the Quakertown Historical Society and hundreds of borough residents support in the signing of petitions, etc., the demolition was delayed to give the Society some time to make its plans.  The home was purchased and the Society moved it from Route 309 and Lower Trumbauersville Road (now the site of the Country Square Shopping Center) to its current location on South Main Street, about five or six blocks from its original location.

Now part of the Society's historical building complex, the Burgess Foulke Home is utilized as a museum, housing artifacts and antiques donated by local citizens.  Of particular interest to our family members is a rush-seat rocking chair which belonged to Edward and Eleanor Foulke from the late 1600's.  The large kitchen fireplace is intact, and the Society is always working on something.  Keep this home in mind for your visit to the area during the 1998 reunion.  They have already agreed to have the house open when the time comes.

They are now planning to replace the windows.  Most are still the original windows (you can tell by looking through the glass) and they desperately need renovation.  They're receiving bids for the work and then must go through all the proper procedures for approval on the work since it is an historical building.

As for the quiet farm with all the hickory trees ... only one was left standing.  The cinder path to the meeting house is gone, but the house was saved.  If only the same valiant effort had been made before the Penllyn home was torn down.

Copyright © 1991 Foulke Family Association.

Section last updated February 01, 2001
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