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History of Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center

Jacobsburg National Historic Site

The Jacobsburg National Historic District encompasses the eastern side of the park property and lies almost entirely within the boundaries of Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center. The district is on the National Register of Historic Places and its story is intertwined throughout the early development and growth of our nation. The history of Jacobsburg focuses on the Henry Family and their small arms industry, which played a key role in the American Industrial Revolution.

The first of the Henry gun makers, William Henry I, opened his gun factory in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1750. He became Armorer for the Braddock Campaign of 1755 and for the Forbes Expedition of 1758.

William Henry II established a small gun making shop in Christian Springs near Nazareth in 1778. In 1792, Henry II purchased land at Jacobsburg and built a gun manufactory. Henry II acquired the land from the heirs of Jacob Hubler, who in 1740 founded the community from which Jacobsburg draws its name. Only foundations remain at the colonial village of Jacobsburg and at the Henry’s Forge historic site.

Henry II erected a forge (bloomery) to supply the gun factory with iron to manufacture guns. In 1812, a larger manufactory was built in nearby Boulton in order to accommodate large government firearms contracts.

Three succeeding generations of Henrys produced small arms at Boulton until the late 1800s. Competition from arms companies using mass production techniques made the Henry’s handcraft technology obsolete.

The Henrys not only produced firearms for all of our nation’s major conflicts from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War, but they also were the primary suppliers of rifles for the largest American business enterprise of the early 19th century, John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company. The Henry firearm became the most prominent weapon of the western frontier due to its durability, accuracy, and relatively low cost.

Boulton Historic Site

In the southern portion of the Jacobsburg Historic District is the Boulton Historic Site, which is administered by the Jacobsburg Historical Society.

Visitors can explore historic buildings and take a self-guided trail that interprets the life of the Henry Family and the Boulton Gun Works. The Henry Homestead, which was built in 1812, houses the Pennsylvania Longrifle Museum. The nearby John Joseph Henry House was built in 1832.

More information about the historic district, including a schedule of programs, is available from the Jacobsburg Historical Society.