Meadville Tribune

February 24, 2013

Saegertown map from 1824 surfaces

By Jane Smith
Special to the Tribune

SAEGERTOWN — Dale Hunter of Saegertown has had a nearly 200-year-old map in a long metal tube in his home for approximately 25 years — just sitting on a shelf.

It was handed down to him by his father, Gordon, several years before Gordon died in 1991. The map, dated Aug. 24, 1824, was drawn by the late Daniel Saeger, for whom the town is named.

Hunter explains that he knew the map had historical value, but he wasn’t too sure what to do with it. He would have liked to have it preserved, but noted “that was just too costly for me.”

In the meantime, he learned that the Saegertown Area Heritage Society had received a grant from the Jordan Family Foundation to have the society’s museum air conditioned and temperature controlled. Although he admits he did nothing special to preserve the map all these years, Hunter wanted to be certain it was taken care of and in good hands. So he had it framed and is donating it to the society where it can be displayed for everyone to see.

“It represents the town,” Hunter said of the map, noting it shows the town square and how it was laid out in lots. It also shows Main Street to French Creek and Kern Alley, where the museum is now. “It doesn’t show the town as it is now,” he said, but it does have names of people who owned the lots and is a valuable piece of history.

Hunter believes it will have a better home at the museum than at his home.

Acquiring Daniel Saeger’s map

The story of how the map came into Hunter’s possession is a neat piece of history itself.

When Daniel Saeger of Lehigh County visited Crawford County in 1823, he visited Alden’s Mills along French Creek. He liked what he saw and purchased 294 acres of land, including a dam and mills from Maj. Roger Alden. He rebuilt the dam to include a millrace, built a grist mill and a home for his family.

Upon his return to Lehigh County to get his family, he recruited about 150 settlers for his new settlement.

On Aug. 24, 1824, he drew a map for the town of about 24 acres of the total 294 acres that he had purchased. Lots were soon for sale and the town flourished and today is known as Saegertown.

That is the same map that soon will be a part of the heritage society’s archives. The map was handed down to Saeger’s descendants — Vernice Saeger, Rebecca Saeger Sargent and Anna Saeger. As they got older, however, they decided to pass the map onto Saegertown residents for safekeeping.

All three were personally known to the late Gordon Hunter, who was chairman of Saegertown’s Centennial observance in 1949 and was well-respected by all who knew him. He was the third generation owner of Hunter’s Funeral Home, having followed in the footsteps of his father, Frank; and grandfather, Wilson, one of the early settlers of the town. Dale Hunter’s wife, Mary Lou, said the Saeger family chose to give the map to Gordon because of his connection to them and the fact he was so well-respected in town.

Wilson Hunter had two farms and established an undertaking business known as Hunter Funeral Home in 1850. His son, Frank, followed in his footsteps and then Frank’s son, Gordon, became the owner, making him the third generation owner of the funeral home.

He seemed like a good choice to be guardian and keeper of the map drawn up by Daniel Saeger, Mary Lou said.

“I think it’s exciting,” she said, noting her husband has wanted to find a rightful place in the community.

Dale has spent his life in Saegertown and the surrounding area, learning a lot about the region from his father and grandfather. “Their love and pride was instilled in Dale,” she said, noting his has a deep love for the community and the people and enjoys the stories he has learned.

As for Dale, he said it is not about him. He credits the work and generosity of the Jordan Family Foundation, which has made improvements to the museum possible.

“They have done a lot for the community,” he said of the Jordan family.

Dale is sorting through a number of other things in his home to determine what — if anything — would be of value to preserve for history.

A surprise for the heritage society

Linda Fink, president of the heritage society, is “thrilled” with the donation. She said she had seen copies of the map but “had never even seen the original one Daniel Saeger drew.” She didn’t know about the original until the Hunter family approached her.

“I was totally shocked when the Hunters came to me.” Explaining further, she said often times when things get so old, “things get lost. The Hunter family is the perfect family in the area. They took care of it for so many years.”

Crediting the generosity of the Jordan Family Foundation, she said the society has been blessed because it can count on that financial support as it maintains two facilities — the museum and the McGill House.

She already has a place chosen to display the map. Explaining the history of the town, she said it has had four names — relating to early settlers. Early settlers include the McGill family, when the town was known as the McGill Settlement. Next was Alden’s Mills, referring Major Roger Alden, who built the dam and mills on French Creek prior to Saeger’s visit.

The town was incorporated in 1838 as Saegerstown and in 1849 incorporated as a borough. However, the townspeople chose by a public vote on the election ballot in 1955 to officially change the name to its present Saegertown.

The heritage society museum has three main rooms — each devoted to a period of history of the town. One is the McGill Room, the second, the Alden Room; and the third, the Saeger Room.

That room already has the original birth certificate of Saeger’s wife. In addition, the society has a sampler with all the Saeger names embroidered on it. Fink is thrilled that the society can now add another original piece of history from the Saeger family to the collection.

The project is an addition to benefit everybody and to maintain the history of the town for years to come. It is an end result of many people working together to benefit the small town and one which Fink and the Hunters are so happy to be a part.

Did you know?

Early settlers of Saegertown include the McGill family, when the town was known as the McGill Settlement. Next was Alden’s Mills, referring Major Roger Alden, who built the dam and mills on French Creek prior to Daniel Saeger’s visit.

When Saeger of Lehigh County visited Crawford County in 1823, he visited Alden’s Mills along French Creek. He liked what he saw and purchased 294 acres of land. Upon his return to Lehigh County to get his family, he recruited about 150 settlers for his new settlement.

On Aug. 24, 1824, he drew a map for the town of about 24 acres of the total 294 acres that he had purchased. Lots were soon for sale and the town flourished and today is known as Saegertown.

The town was incorporated in 1838 as Saegerstown and in 1849 incorporated as a borough. However, the townspeople chose by a public vote on the election ballot in 1955 to officially change the name to its present Saegertown.