Updated: Dec 1, 2020
Everybody knows about the Keasby & Mattison Co. who transformed the whole town of Ambler. But I don't think anyone knows about the other company that ran in the town, even before Keasby & Mattison Co. came to Ambler. That company was called J.W. Craft & Sons.
Fun Fact: This year, in 2020, it's the 135th anniversary of the J.W. Craft & Sons!!!!
It all began in 1865 with Jonathan Lukens, a well-known builder and woodsman, who saw potential in this region (before Ambler came to be) with the sawmill on Isaac Thomas' tract. Lukens thought by using Thomas' sawmill, he would use it to "advantage in his building operations, the abundance of timber, and the proximity to the railroad, which after ten years of its existence was beginning to make the locality attractive for homes." With so much confidence in himself, Lukens purchased 36 acres for $7,125, hoping to transform the place for people to live in.
There was a point in time when Lukens began losing valuable land. He decided to start a coal yard on Main St., but due to his revenue in his coal business, it was not enough to meet expenses. Instead, it added to his financial reverses. People were renting and selling the coal yard until J. Watson Craft (1847-1921) came into town when he purchased the coal yard in 1885. Thus, the company was born.
Craft kept the coal yard, but added a flour, grain, feed and fertilizer lumber warehouse. The business was officially called the "J.W. Craft & Sons" later on. According to a newspaper ad, the company is a "wholesale and retail dealer" that sells a whole variety of products.
Below are clippings from the Ambler Gazette. The clipping on the left featured an ad of J. Watson Craft's company back in 1895, the earliest ad I could find from the archives. The clipping on the right featured an ad of the "J.W. Craft and Sons" from 1944, the latest ad I could find. Right away, you could see how the company expanded over the years.
It's possible that the business began to boom in the 1890s, and continued thriving until the second half of the 20th century based on the latest map. The Ambler Gazette was established in 1882, so it's also possible that people began to put up advertisements for their companies and businesses since the newspaper's and the town's establishments. Ambler was officially incorporated in 1888.
To me, the business looked like it was successful based on how long they were operating. The company lasted for maybe over 60 years!!
Unfortunately, I couldn't find any photographs of the company and the buildings. But at least we know the place existed.
For the next blog, I'll discuss about the Craft family, and how they played a role in the business!
"Distance Calculator." DaftLogic. Accessed May 12, 2020. https://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-distance-calculator.htm.
Franklin Survey Company. Montgomery County 1949 Vol D, Plate 15, 1949.
Hough, Mary P. H. "Early history of Ambler 1682-1888." Accessed May 12, 2020. https://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/hough/ambler/ambler.html.
Klinge, Frank H. M. Montgomery County 1927 Reading Main Line Vol 1, Plate 31, 1927.
Mueller, A.H. Atlas of the North Penn Section of Montgomery County, Pa., Plate 26, 1916.
Scott, J. D. Montgomery County 1877, Gwynedd, North Wales, Ambler, Royer's Ford, Limerick Station, 1877.
Scott, J.D. North Pennsylvania Railroad 1886 Philadelphia - Bucks - Montgomery Counties, Ambler, 1886.
Smith, J.L. Montgomery County 1893, Ambler Borough, 1893.
"Wissahickon Valley Public Library's Ambler Gazette Collection." POWER Library: Pennsylvania's Electronic Library. Accessed May 13, 2020. http://digitalcollections.powerlibrary.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/wivp-gazett.