Our town’s namesake
That the Borough of Ambler takes its name from a woman named Mary Ambler is no accident – rather, it is because of an accident: The Great Train Wreck of 1856.
Mary Johnson Ambler, a tiny woman born in 1805, married Andrew Ambler in 1829. The couple settled down in the town of Wissahickon, where they raised a large family and produced textiles from their Fulling Mill.
On July 17, 1856, a northbound train on the North Pennsylvania Railroad Line, nicknamed the “picnic special” by Philadelphians heading into the country for the day, collided head on with a southbound train, between the Fort Washington and Camp Hill stations. It was carrying more than 1,000 passengers, many of them children. The two trains had been traveling in opposite directions, but on the same track. They collided around 6 a.m., the impact causing an explosion heard as many as five miles away.
When word of the train accident reached Mary Ambler, a civic-minded woman known for helping the ill and injured, she gathered medical supplies, walked several miles to the site of the train accident and helped orchestrate rescue and relief operations. Despite her best efforts, 59 people died that day.
A year after her death in 1868, in July 1869, Mary Ambler was honored and immortalized for her selfless heroism: North Pennsylvania Railroad changed the name of Wissahickon Station to Ambler Station. In 1888, the village and post office of Wissahickon also adopted the Ambler name.
For more details on Mary Ambler and The Great Train Wreck, visit www.boroughofambler.com/historical