Preserving Upper Merion's Past To Enlighten Its Future
King of Prussia Historical Society

Our Mission
To preserve and interpret the history of Upper Merion Township, and to stimulate public interest and to support the township’s heritage through educational programs and public events focusing on preserving the past and shaping the future.
What We’re Doing
Monthly Events – Held at Christ Church (Old Swedes) Upper Merion.

Register of Historic Places – Help us to identify places in need of preservation.

Digital Archive Project – We are digitizing our collection of maps, aerial photos and more.

Latest News – See what’s going on.

Facebook Page – Join the conversation!
How You Can Help
Become a member or renew – join the fine group of people learning, preserving and educating, and receive quarterly issues of the King of Prussia Gazette – our newsletter.

Donate via Paypal – help us in our mission; receive a thank you gift of a print of a panoramic photograph of King of Prussia for donations at a certain level.

Amazon Smile – Amazon donates to us every time you make a purchase.

Donate items of historical interest.

Volunteer – opportunities to help out are available.

Join our mailing list
Learn More
E-History Facts – See a list of the facts posted weekly on Facebook.

Educational Resources – A detailed list of resources on Upper Merion History.

Books & Publications – Read about Upper Merion’s 300 year history.

Digital Archive – Old maps, aerial photos and other items of historical interest.

The Gazette – Our monthly newsletter which includes articles on our local history.


KING OF PRUSSIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY FACEBOOK PAGE

FRIDAY FACT: November 16, 1989 TORNADO

The November 1989 Tornado Outbreak was a destructive tornado outbreak on November 15 and 16, 1989 across a wide swath of the southern and eastern United States and into Canada. It produced at least 40 tornadoes and caused 30 deaths as a result of two deadly tornadoes. The most devastating was the Huntsville, Alabama tornado, an F4 which killed 21 on the afternoon of the 15th. Eight more fatalities were reported at a single elementary school by a downburst on the 16th in the Town of Newburgh, New York. Several other significant tornadoes were reported across 15 states.

Check out the accompanying Today's Post photos and articles about the damage in King of Prussia.

Here is an excerpt from the Friday, November 17, 1989 Philadelphia Inquirer article, Fierce Winds Rip Through Area.

...According to the National Weather Service, the unusually sever storm front - the meeting of a low pressure zone from the Great Lakes and a mass of warm, moist air here - passed through the region between 10:15 am and noon, with winds up to 100 m.p.h.

A tornado touched down in the Allendale Road area of King of Prussia at 10:45 a.m.... ...In Montgomery County, a tornado raced through the King of Prussia section of Upper Merion, damaging homes and offices and leaving three office works cut from flying glass.

Sheets of corrugated metal and other roofing materials were blown off a large section of a two-story office building at 475 Allendale Rd. and were scattered several blocks across a neighborhood of split-level homes.

William Schmidt, whose house sits directly across Allendale Road from the office building, said he was in a front room when "I just heard what sounded like a lot of hail. Then it got dark and the windows started to smash." What he had thought was hail turned out to be gravel from the office building roof, he said. Two men and a woman who worked at the office building, which houses offices of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other federal agencies, were treated for multiple cuts at Sacred Heart Hospital in Norristown.

The storm also cut a two-mile swath across the northern portion of Upper Merion Township, where it overturned three construction trailers, tore the roof off an office building, blew down a barn and ripped shingles from dozens of homes....
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FRIDAY FACT: GULPH MILLS VETERAN

Upper Merion student, Fred H. Salter, who grew up in Gulph Mills, was a 1940 graduate of Upper Merion High School. In his novel, Recon Scout, Fred described his growing up in Gulph Mills, his enlistment, and his service in Africa and Europe.

He wrote that his parents migrated to Pennsylvania from England and Wales after World War I, when his father received his discharge from the British Royal Air Force. His folks originally intended to continue on to Australia. Instead, his dad found work in America and decided to settle here. Fred was born August 19, 1922 in Gulph Mills to Frederick Evan and Ethel M. (Jordan) Salter. He recorded that he grew up in the hills of Pennsylvania, ran a trap line, and played fiddle in a hillbilly band at barn dances.

Salter’s army career began with a controversy. “Standing outside the recruiter’s office, I leaned against the building and signed my father’s signature to the enlistment papers. Having the same name as my dad’s, I figured I wasn’t being completely dishonest. If only the army allowed a young boy to enlist without his parents’ consent. I wouldn’t have felt guilty. I thought to myself, ‘For what greater cause need a person bend the arm of the law, than for the opportunity of defending his country. If I’m guilty of a wrongdoing, then so be it.’” He joined the U.S. Horse Calvary while a teenager, fought in North Africa as a recon scout from 1942–1943, then in Sicily in 1943, and also in Italy in 1944.

The return of the service men and women was captured by Fred Salter when he recalled his coming home, as recorded in Recon Scout. The feelings and emotions of his neighbors, himself and probably most township residents and American citizens were captured in his recollections. He reminisces about how the P&W rolled along past villages that he remembered as a boy. Leaving the bullet-shaped car, he stepped out onto the wooden platform and not a soul was in sight. It was a lonely welcome he remembered, but at the same time, that was the way he wanted it.

Once he got off the train, he walked through the woods into the village of Gulph Mills and knew that he was home. No brass band welcomed him. He decided not to walk directly home and surprise his mother; the shock might be too much for her. He went down to the country store in the village to call her. When she picked up the phone, he asked if he could speak to Fred. Not recognizing his voice, she told him that she had not seen Fred
since 1942 and she thought that he was still somewhere in northern Italy.

He proceeded to ask her if she was sitting in a chair and the worst fear came over her. She began to cry. He then told her that this was Fred, her wandering boy. She wouldn’t believe him until he sang The Little Shirt Me Mother Made for Me, the song his father sang in Wales as a young boy.

He walked through the village and everyone came out to greet him. No, there was no brass band, but there was the rhythmic beat of steel pounding against steel. The ringing floated out from beneath the branches of the apple tree next to old Dan McDermott’s blacksmith shop. To Fred, it seemed like Dan was playing The Anvil Chorus.

When he met some people in the village, he noticed that their eyes moistened and he realized that many families had lost loved ones. His coming home must have reminded them that they would never enjoy such a reunion.

Gulph Mills is nestled between steep wooded hills, and Fred recognized that the shadows had lengthened by the time he reached the far side of the village. Before he opened the wooden gate leading to the front yard, he leaned against the giant oak tree that grew beside the road. He stood for a moment and watched his gray-haired mother rocking back and forth in her chair on the porch. Unaware he had arrived in the village, she was busily knitting a scarf for some unknown soldier boy in Europe.

Fred walked up behind her and spoke and tears filled both their eyes.

Later when his dad, sister Ethel, and brother George returned from work, he was welcomed with open arms. He reflected that the trouble he had caused when he left home and joined the army would never be forgotten, but no one ever mentioned it. His folks were just thankful that he had returned safely.
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From the Digital Archive
Visit our collection of images, audio files and documents – new material will continue to be added.