Bedminster: Rolling hills, quaint villages and fertile farmland
St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church at Kellers Church and Ridge roads.
Bedminster dates its colonized history from as early as 1681, when William Penn became the proprietor of the area. Its first settlers were Scotch-Irish and German immigrants in the early 1700s.
Its gently rolling hills, divided by streams, was likely very attractive, as were the abundance of small game, and the heavily wooded areas useful for building homes, barns, and churches.
In 1730, almost a third of Bedminster was conveyed by the Penn family to a William Allen of Philadelphia. The township was formed in 1742 by 35 inhabitants of the area called Deep Run. Its original five villages were Pipersville, Hagersville, Keelersville, Dublin and Bedminsterville.
In 1776, Allen, a Tory, took his family to England, and much of his property was confiscated by the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1778. His estate managed to re-obtain his land holdings in the early 1800s, and it proceeded to auction off any unsold land at John Shaw’s Tavern, now the Dublin Inn. By 1794, population had grown to 991. Dublin Borough was incorporated in 1812. By 1815, most of the undeveloped land in Bedminster had been sold.
The township still has residents descended from the early settlers, and many of the old homesteads, as well as schools, post offices, mills, and taverns still exist. Retaining rural characteristics of the early years has been a source of local pride, and consequently a major concern of local government as it has worked to add new residential and commercial development.
St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, known locally as “the light on the ridge,” was originally established as Kellers Church at the same site in 1751. Stover-Myers Mill, built around 1800, was a water-powered, combination gristmill and sawmill that produced flour and lumber for over 150 years. It is now the centerpiece of a county park, featuring periodic startups of its operations, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
During much of Bedminster’s history, the main occupation was farming, mostly dairy.
Tax records of the late 1800s reveal a largely self-contained community, including businesses and trades such as creameries, taverns, mills, general merchandise stores, masons, painters, shoemakers, saddlers and harness makers, tinsmiths, wheelwrights, carpenters and builders, butchers, cigar makers and dealers, and doctors and clergymen. Population had grown to 2,482 by 1880.
The coming of the automobile in the early 1900s created the novelty of going to large towns such as Doylestown or Quakertown, where there were more choices, competitive pricing, and greater variety for needed items, probably contributing to the decline of the small villages and their shops. It also meant people moving into the community who worked outside it. In 2000, Bedminster had a population of 4,804, growing to 6,574 by 2010, within a 31-square-mile area, 30 of which is land.
The township maintains an agricultural security committee that helps protect farmland from nuisance complaints, and which can also serve as a gateway to permanent preservation. It also has its own Open Space Fund, and participates in the Bucks County Land Preservation Program. By the end of 2104, it had more than 7,000 acres of preserved open space.
The Bedminster Regional Land Conservancy is a nonprofit, independent land trust that was established in 1997. It is dedicated to helping to keep the agricultural heritage and rural lifestyle of the area alive for future generations. It also works to protect wildlife habitats, scenic vistas, and clean air and water, within preserving the area’s natural beauty and resources. The Bedminster Traditional Artisan Show donates all gate proceeds to benefit the conservancy. The 2017 show is set for Sept. 16 and 17 at Delaware Valley University.
The township’s villages now include Bedminster, Deep Run, Elephant, Hagersville, Keelersville, Kellers Church, Pipersville and Weisel. It shares Kulps Corner with Hilltown Township, and Griers Corner with Hilltown and Plumstead townships.
The 1,450-acre Lake Nockamixon, a rest stop for migrating waterfowl, forms much of the township’s northwestern boundary, and is the centerpiece of the 5,286-acre Nockamixon State Park.
Popular activities in the park include picnicking, hiking, biking, disc golf, hunting, fishing, boating, and swimming in a pool. Cabins are available for overnight stays. The pool complex includes a half-acre main pool with two waterslides; a shallow end, with fountains, for children; and dressing rooms.
The park is open every day of the year, sunrise to sunset, with fishing and boating permitted 24 hours a day in designated areas. There are six public launching areas for boating.
Common game species are deer, pheasant, rabbit, and turkey. Common species in the lake are walleye, muskellunge, pickerel, smallmouth and largemouth bass, striped bass hybrids, channel catfish, carp, and various types of panfish.
From late spring through fall, the park offers a wide variety of environmental education, interpretive, and recreational programs. Pontoon boat tours of the lake provide a history of the park, views of wildlife, and beautiful scenery.