I'm sure you heard about the development plan involving Mermaid Lake on Jolly Road. I have good news: I just received a newsletter from Whitpain Township that said the township itself acquired the Mermaid Lake Property to preserve and protect the heritage of the township.
What everyone may not know about this place was that it use to be farm that was owned by the Zimmerman family, dating back to as early as to possibly the William Penn era. The property used to be called "Silver Lake Farm".
Johann Jacob Zimmerman and The New World
As records show, the first descendant to arrive in the New World was the wife and children of Johann Jacob Zimmermann (1642-1693).
He was considered one of the forgotten figures of astronomical history during the 17th century who defended Nicolaus Copernicus's heliocentric theory. His theories and publications revolved around the relationship between the sun and God.
FUN FACT #1: He was banned from his native home in Wurtemburg in 1686 for criticizing the Lutheran church.
FUN FACT #2: Johann observed the Great Comets in the 1680s, and signified it as "a divine portent."
FUN FACT #3: Johann admired Isaac Newton's mathematics, but called him out for not explaining his phenomena. Newton famously declared that he did not invent the "hypothesis"
Johann was also a professor of mathematics at Heidelberg University before being exiled for his extreme viewpoints.
In 1671, Johann married Maria Margaretha Schaal on February 22. They all left Germany to live in America, but when stopping by Amsterdam, Johann fell sick and died in 1693. He left behind his wife and 6 children.
His wife and children went ahead to set sail in America, and with the help of the Quakers, they settled to live in Germantown.
Before the widow Maria Margaretha Schaal died, she made a will, giving money and land to her children except Jacob Christopher Zimmerman. There's no evidence to why Maria Margaretha didn't give her youngest son something.
Jacob Christopher Zimmerman (1683-1759) was the youngest son of Johann and Maria Margaretha. Since his mother didn't inherit him land or money, Jacob ended up going north to "Von Bebber Township," or known today, Skippack, Pennsylvania. In 1734, he was assessed as a landowner in Worcester Township, which was a new township that used to be part of "Von Bebber Township."
Nothing much is known about his children inheriting land in Whitpain Township, until his grandson came into the picture.
The History of Silver Lake Farm
Christopher Zimmerman (1736-1782) was the eldest son of Jacob and Catherine Zimmerman, and was born in Worcester, PA. It was Christopher who bought the property in 1775, where Mermaid Lake stands today. The property Christopher bought was originally owned by Charles Jolly, Esq. The address of Mermaid Lake, Jolly Road, bears his name to this day. It was Jolly's widow who sold the land at auction to Christopher for 212 acres.
FUN FACT #4: Christopher Zimmerman was a private in the Whitpain Militia during the Revolutionary War, under the leadership of Abraham Wentz. The DAR database mistakenly misspelled his last name as "Timmerman".
Unforutnely, his life was too short when he died in 1782. His youngest son William used the money he given from his family. Instead of using the money for land, he used the money to build up his lumber business in Philadelphia. In partnership with John Evans, their firm was called "Zimmerman & Evans."
FUN FACT #5: William was one of the emergency men during the War of 1812, and was stationed at Marcus Hook.
Then he purchased 200 acres in Whitpain from his brothers who sold the property. He lived there with his wife Esther and his 4 children. In 1800/04, William built a large stone barn with the help of his brothers Jacob and Isaac.
In his will, William divided the land equally to his sons Sylvester, Lorenzo, and Franklin, and established a dowry to his daughter Cecilia.
Lorenzo was not pleased with the division of his land his father created for him and his brothers. He ended up moving to Norristown, and lived on 1300 Dekalb Pike through his death. One of his sons, George, and his wife Mary ended up buying the property, and continued to sought modernizing and improving the farm. It was during the time they put in electricity into the farm.
The Origins of Mermaid Swim and Golf Club
We left off with William Zimmerman and his 4 children. How Mermaid Lake came about was from William's eldest son Sylvester. Unlike his brother Lorenzo, who was unhappy about his part of the land, Sylvester was very pleased about his land, and beautified it.
Sylvester's son Harry was not a farmer, but he inherited his father's land after his death. It didn't last long unfortunately. He ended up moving to Norristown, and engaged in real estate business.
1927- John and Louise Crowell bought the property. They found the opportunity to use the little stream that runs across the property. That was how the idea of Mermaid Lake came about.
1930- a dam was constructed across the stream, bath houses were built, and a refreshment stand was built up.
1945- Roland Randai bought the Mermaid Lake property from the Crowell's. For there, he continued to run the business, and began improving it by turning pastures into lawns, adding picnic tables around the property, and built tennis courts and a small golf course.
1958- The 1800 barn was converted into a recreation center.
1961- The Mermaid Swim and Golf Club was established after seeing the growth of crowds
NOTE: You can read and view the survey that was done on the property by the Pennsylvania Historic Resource Survey Form here!
Mermaid Lake Today
As of the summer of 2020, Whitpain Township purchased the Mermaid Lake property. The property was initially purchased by the Metropolitan Development Group in 2019, who proposed a "by-right plan for 53 single family homes along with a large billboard in the parking lot of the property next to the Pennsylvania Turnpike." They also acquired the property's aging structures, pool, golf course, and open areas. The Whitpain Supervisors, including Chairwoman Michele Minnick, had a conversation with the developers to propose to buy back the property.
"My fellow Supervisors and I are pleased to announce the permanent preservation of this property for the enjoyment of our current residents along with generations to follow. Or community felt deeply on this issue and we were determined to do the necessary work to save it from development."
- Whitpain Supervisors Chairwoman Michele Minnick (Fall/Winter 2020-21 Welcome to Whitpain Township Newsletter)
The township paid $8.177 million for the property. If the developers maintains its ownership to the property, they would demolish the aging structures, and that would cost $177,620.
"Once the purchase is completed, the township will work to open trails and meadows on the property for use by residents. Further use of the property will be determined through studies and discussions with the community, Minnick explained."
- Gary Puleo, "Mermaid Lake running dry; sold to Whitpain Township"
NOTE: You can view their powerpoint slides about the Mermaid Lake Acquisition here!
For those who live in Whitpain Township, it is said to keep a lookout for their online questionnaire in late September.
My Mermaid Lake Experience
My first sight of Mermaid Lake was possibly when I was 9 years old when my family dropped off my eldest sister at Mermaid Lake. She was a high school senior at the time, and it was a tradition for seniors to go to Mermaid Lake and celebrate the last few days of high school. This tradition continued on to my generation.
My first time at Mermaid Lake was in 5th grade when we were celebrating our last few days at Shady Grove Elementary School. I remembered how scared I was going into the pool. That was why I didn't bring a bathing suit. I was petrified with the deep end. So, I ended playing ping pong with the boys, and I was pretty good at it. Every year in my generation, one of the 5th grade teachers, Mr. Sandos, was pushed by his students into the pool with his clothes on. That was considered memorable to his students.
I went to Mermaid Lake a couple of times when I was part of the track team in high school. It was a tradition for the team to attend Mermaid Lake and celebrate the accomplishments of each teammate.
My last time at Mermaid Lake was with my high school senior class as a way to celebrate our last few days of high school. It was a blast being with my friends! I really do miss that place.
I even remembered that barn with the horse on it that's right next to the little pool. It was the first thing I saw when I entered the pool. I knew that the barn was old, but I didn't know how old it was until I researched it.
Mermaid Lake, to me, is the place where we get together and have fun. It was a way to celebrate the accomplishments we've done throughout our lives. You can say that it was a place to party, but it's really about celebration and coming together.
Every time I go there, I get sentimental. I'm glad the township did something to stop those developers. What would we do without them?
"Ancestor Search: Search for Revolutionary Era Ancestors." DAR Genealogical Research Databases. Accessed October 8, 2020. https://services.dar.org/Public/DAR_Research/search_adb/?action=full&p_id=A115733.
"Distance Calculator." DaftLogic. Accessed October 8, 2020. https://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-distance-calculator.htm.
"Geni: A MyHeritage Company." Geni. Accessed October 8, 2020. https://www.geni.com.
Hopkins, G.M. Atlas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Page 031, 1871.
"Il Pietismo nel Ducato di Würtemberg." Le confessioni cristiane nell'Occidente. Accessed October 8, 2020. https://www.migrazioni.altervista.org/2confessioni/rinascita/pietismo/5.1_wuerttemberg_it.html.
Puleo, Gary. "Mermaid Lake running dry; sold to Whitpain Township." The Times Herald. July 28, 2020. https://www.timesherald.com/news/local/mermaid-lake-running-dry-sold-to-whitpain-township/article_4fd83436-d042-11ea-97cf-ef88d4b3c842.html.
Ruoff, Henry Wilson. Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania: Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens of the County, Together with an Introductory Historical Sketch · Part 2. (Philadelphia: Biographical Publishing Company, 1895): 548-549.
"Township Acquires Mermaid Property." Welcome to Whitpain Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Fall/Winter, 2020-21: 8.
Whitpain... Crossroads in Time. (Montgomery County, PA: Whitpain Township Bicentennial Commission, 1977): 239-246.
"WikiTree: The Free Family Tree." WikiTree: The Free Family Tree. Accessed October 8, 2020. https://www.wikitree.com.
Zuber, Mike A. "Copernican Cosmotheism: Johann Jacob Zimmermann and the Mystical Light." Aries – Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism 14 (2014): 215-245.
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