Ten Amazing Facts about Skippack
This is no ordinary town. Get to know the amazing township of Skippack. Read the 10 little-known facts below.
1) The Original Owner
Businessman David Markel — known for the manufacture of medical supplies and investment in renovating Skippack buildings — owns a large portion of commercial real estate in Skippack Village. But do you know who was the original owner of Skippack? We are not talking about just the commercial area of Skippack Village now, but the entire township.
It was William Penn, founder of the Province of Pennsylvania — the future Commonwealth of Pennsylvania — and advocate for democracy and religious freedom, under whose direction the city of Philadelphia was planned and developed.
William Penn sold the land to Mathias van Bebber who promptly named the area van Bebber’s Town. The land had been given to William Penn’s father by King Charles II, who ruled from 1660 to 1685.
2) You Had to Know the Right People
Between 1706 and 1742, there were 13 original settlers in van Bebber’s Town, which later became Skippack Township. Nearly all of them were friends of the family of WIlliam Penn.
3) George Washington Camped Here
George Washington and the continental troops camped in Skippack before and after the Battle of Germantown in 1777, which took place before the continental army wintered in Valley Forge. Several soldiers who died during the trip back to Skippack from the Battle of Germantown are believed to be buried along route 73.
4) Bush 41 Landed Here
Skippack has welcomed one US President. George H.W. Bush was a passenger on a plane which landed in the Perkiomen Airport on September 22, 1992.
5) Passageway to Freedom
The Underground Railroad came through Skippack for a short time from the mid 1850s to the mid 1860s. At least two homes in the township remain standing today that sheltered runaway slaves. One of them is my parent’s house in Skippack; its use as part of the Underground Railroad is recorded in an early deed.
6) Just Passing Thru
Until the early 2000s, less than 16,000 commuters passed through Skippack each day. Today, more than 65,000 commuters pass through the township each day.
7) Cast-Iron Error
During the early years of the 20th Century, cast-iron signs called keystone historical markers were installed throughout the commonwealth by the Pennsylvania state Department of Highways, predecessor of PennDOT. Many of these markers identified towns. Unlike modern signs which only give the name of a town, these cast iron markers also gave the distance to the next town, the derivation of the name, and the year in which the town was founded.
Heading east, there is a Keystone Historical Marker along route 73 before you enter Skippack Village. The sign contains a cast-iron error. The marker states that Skippack is an old Indian word for “still waters.” In all likelihood, Skippack was named for the old German town of Schipbach from where many of the early settlers originated.
8) Notorious Residents: Skippack’s Infamous Celebrities
The township’s biggest employer, SCI Graterford, soon to be replaced by SCI Phoenix under construction on the same grounds, is the largest maximum security prison in Pennsylvania. For better or worse, it has been home to Skippack Township’s most famous residents, including:
- Ira Einhorn — social activist who was convicted (twice, once in absentia) of the murder of ex-girlfriend Holly Maddux. Just days before his trial was to begin, Ira Einhorn skipped bail, and fled to Europe. It took 17 years before the authorities found him in France. He was eventually extradited back to the United States where he continues to serve his time.
- Al Capone — the most infamous gangster in American history. In the 1920s, during the height of Prohibition, Capone’s multi-million dollar Chicago operation in bootlegging, prostitution and gambling dominated organized crime in America.
- Bernard Hopkins — considered one of the great middleweight champions of all time and, for much of his career, the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport of boxing. At age seventeen, Hopkins was sentenced to 18 years in Graterford Prison for nine felonies. While in prison he witnessed the murder of another inmate in an argument over a pack of cigarettes. He also discovered his passion for boxing. After serving almost five years, Hopkins was released from prison in 1988. He then decided to use boxing as the foundation for a new life.
9) 220 Million Year Old Footprints
On November 6, 1993, Wayne Covington, an amateur paleontologist and prisoner at SCI Graterford in Skippack Township, discovered dinosaur footprints on the prison grounds. These footprints date back more than 220 million years.
Paleontologists are reluctant to identify dinosaurs on the basis of their footprints; those found on the Graterford property may have belonged to a small, sharp-toothed, meat-eating creatures called Coelophysis. Covington found the first print by accident. But his skills and interests enabled him to recognize its importance.
10) He Never Came Back
Skippack Farmer John Bean went missing on February 16, 1993. He owned a large strawberry farm (about 50 acres) along Heckler Road where Skippack Elementary and Palmer Park are now located. According to information from the Pennsylvania State Police, at the time of his disappearance, he was 87 years old and alert and well aware of his surroundings. He was last seen at a bowling alley in nearby East Norriton. Mr. Bean’s disappearance made national news on several occasions. His whereabouts have never been discovered to this day.