William J. (William Jacob) Heller.

History of Northampton County [Pennsylvania] and the grand valley of the Lehigh under supervision and revision of William J. Heller, assisted by an advisory board of editors.. (Volume 2) online

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Online LibraryWilliam J. (William Jacob) HellerHistory of Northampton County [Pennsylvania] and the grand valley of the Lehigh under supervision and revision of William J. Heller, assisted by an advisory board of editors.. (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 64)
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B • L

History of Northampton County



The Grand Valley of the Lehigh

Under Supervision and Revision of


Assisted by




Copyright, 1920
The American Historical Society, Inc.







The original township of Bethlehem was erected in 1746. It embraced
within its limits all of the area of Upper and Lower Nazareth townships,
and the boroughs of Bethlehem, Frcemansburg and Nazareth. Its present
boundaries are: On the north, Lower Nazareth; on the east, Palmer town-
ship; on the south, the Lehigh river, separating it from Lower Saucon
township ; and on the west by Hanover township and a portion of Lehigh
county. The township is watered by the Lehigh river, Monocacy creek,
and several smaller streams that empty into the Lehigh; one of them was
once called Nancy's Run, from an old colored fortune-teller who lived
about a half-mile up the creek.

The lands now embraced in the lower portion of the township were
formerly known as "Drylands," which were thought to be irreclaimable,
arid and barren, and deemed unfit for habitation ; they are now, however,
among the most productive of the county. This territory was a favorite place
for the hunting and fishing ground of the Indians, and it was between Frce-
mansburg and Bethlehem that their famous Minisink Path crossed the
Lehigh river. Arrow-heads and stone pestles and even tomahawks have
often been brought to light by the farmer's plough.

The first white settlements were made soon after 1730. In the next
decade the population had reached a total of forty souls. Among the first
of these pioneers were families by the name of Cleyder, Buss, Kocher, Ban-
stein, Hartzel and Hanshue, who settled at what was then known as the
"Drylands Pond," between the present points of Heckertown and Farmers-
ville. This was at that time an unbroken forest traveled by the Red Man,
who slew and sacrificed the white settlers. It was in 1740 that William
Allen sold a tract of land of six hundred acres to James Bingham, of Phila-
delphia, for a hunting ground and a sportsman's lodge. This tract was
situated on the north bank of the Lehigh river, nearly opposite Redington.
It finally became the permanent home of one of the Binghams, who married
a lady of Northampton county and became iirominently identified with the
interests of the early settlers.

The early history of the city of Bethlehem constitutes one of the most
interesting of the towns of Northampton. It was in the summer of 1740
that a party of Moravians was engaged in building a schoolhouse for George
Whilefield at Nazareth. Their leader repaired to Philadelphia to report
progress to Whitefield. Doctrinal difficulties came to light in the course
of the consultations between the two divines, and Whitefield dismissed the
Moravians from his employ and peremptorily ordered them to leave his lands.
The opportune arrival of Bishop David Nitschmann from Europe on Decem-
ber 15, 1740, relieved the Moravians from their troubles. Bishop Nitschmann
had been commissioned by the Moravian church in the Old World to begin
a settlement in Pennsylvania. He accordingly, .\inil 2. 1741. bouglil of


William Allen a tract of five hundred acres at the confluence of Lehigh river
and Monocacy creek. This purchase was deeded to Henry Antes, who acted
for Bishop Nitschmann.

In the meanwhile the settlers at Nazareth, before the tract of land passed
into their hands, began to fell the timber. The first tree was cut down by
David Nitschmann, Sr., an aide of the bishop, December 21, 1740. In the
beginning of the new year a cabin of hewn logs was built, 40 by 20 feet
in dimension, with a peaked gable and far-protecting roof. This structure
was the first house of Bethlehem ; in it lived the thirteen settlers, who were
the first inhabitants of Bethlehem. The place was named Beth-lechem, or
House on the Lehigh, and stood in the rear of what was once the Eagle

The thirteen settlers were Bishop David Nitschmann, whose father had
belonged to the Ancient Brethren Church. He was born at Zauchtenthal,
Moravia, December 27, 1696. After suffering persecution for the sake of
the Gospel, he fled from his native land to Herrnhut, Saxony. As one of the
first two missionaries of the Moravian church in 1732, he visited the West
Indies island of St. Thomas. He was consecrated bishop at Berlin, Germany,
March 13, 1735. The next thirt}- years of his life were spent in superintend-
ing the missions of the church and founding settlements. He died at
Bethlehem, October 8, 1772.

David Nitschmann, Sr., commonly known as Father Nitschmann, was
born at Zauchtenthal, Moravia, September 29, 1676. He suffered cruel treat-
ment and rigorous imprisonment on account of his faith. He escaped in a
miraculous manner from a dungeon in which he was imprisoned, and found
a refuge at Herrnhut, Saxony. He accompanied his nephew to Pennsyl-
vania, and was, as the biographer says, "the friend and joy of all men," and
lived and labored at Bethlehem until his death, April 14, 1758.

Christian Froehlich was born at Felsburg in Hesse Cassel, August 19,
171 5, and came to Pennsylvania with Bishop Nitschmann. 'He subsequently
labored as a missionary among Indians and in the West Indies, managed
for twenty years a large sugar refinery in New York City, and died at
Bethlehem, April 5, 1776.

Anthony Seiffert was a native of Thrulichen, Bohemia, emigrated to
Herrnhut, thence to Georgia in 1735, and came to Pennsylvania in 1740.
He was the first Moravian clergyman ordained in America, at Savannah,
Georgia, February 28, 1736. In 1745 he returned to Europe, where he
labored in England, Ireland and Holland, dying in the latter country on
June 19, 1785.

David and Anna Zeisberger were from Zauchtenthal, Moravia, whence,
in 1726, they fled to Herrnhut, Saxony. They emigrated to Georgia in
T736, and came to Pennsylvania in 1740. They both died in Bethlehem, the
former August 25, 1744, and the latter February 23, 1748. Their son David,
born at Zauchtenthal, April 11, 1721, became the most distinguished mis-
sionary of the Moravian church among the Indians, to whose conversion
he devoted more than sixty years of his life, laboring in New York, Penn-
sylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Canada. He died at Goshen, Ohio, November
7, 1808.



Ertctc-d 1741

9 t i

8 g I-

f^^mpk E

W. S g. Wf


Erected 1741


Matthew Seybold was a native of Wiirtemburg, emigrated to Georgia
in 1735, and came to Pennsylvania in 1739. He eventually returned to
Europe and died in 1787.

Martin Mack, born at Leysingen, Wiirtemburg, April 13, 1715, emigrated
to Georgia in 1735, and came to Pennsylvania in 1740. He became a cele-
brated missionary among the Indians and the negroes of the Danish West
Indies. He was appointed superintendent of the mission in these islands,
and in 1770 was consecrated a bishop. He died at Santa Cruz, January

9. 1784-

George Neisser, born at Schlen, Moravia, April 11, 1715, emigrated to

Herrnhut, and in 1735 to Georgia, whence he came to Pennsylvania in 1740,
where he entered the ministry of the Moravian church, and died in Phila-
delphia in 1784-

Hannah Hummel w^as a native of Purysburg, South Carolina, while
Benjamin Sommers and James (whose family name is unknown) were two
boys whom the Moravians adopted.

At the time of the building of the first house at Bethlehem, there were
only three other settlements of white men in its neighborhood, all situated
on the south bank of the Lehigh river — the Jennings farm, about one mile
above Bethlehem ; the farm and mill occupied by Nathaniel Irish, at the
mouth of Saucon creek, now Shimersville ; and the property of Isaac Yessel-
stein, in part the present location of the Bethlehem Steel Works. The
country to the north as far as the Blue Mountains was a primeval wilderness.

The foundation of Bethlehem was laid in the name and to the glory of
God. and was to be the center of missionary operations and a sanctuary
for the Gospel. The Lord's Supper was for the first time administered
June 27, 1 741, by Bishop Nitschmann. The following day preparations were
made to build the second house. It was two stories high, 45 by 30 feet,
constructed of hewn logs chinked with clay and straw. An addition of an
east wing was completed in 1743. This structure stood at the corner of
Church and Cedar streets, and was known as the Gemein Haus. After the
settlement increased, it became the residence of the bishops and clergy, and
also contained on the second floor the first chapel. The Moravian history
is fully written in another chapter, "The Moravians in Northampton County."

Nicholas Lewis, Count of Zinzendorf and Pottendorf, was born at Dres-
den, Saxony, May 6, 1700. He was a descendant of a very ancient line, and
through his wife, the Countess Reuss, was connected with several royal
houses of Europe. The Count had offered an asylum on his estate of
Bertheldorf to the persecuted members of the Ancient Brethren Church.
The town of Herrnhut in Upper Lusatia was built by them, and became the
center of the Renewed Brethren or Moravian Church. Zinzendorf relin-
quished all his worldly honors and prospects, and identified himself with its
interests, became its leading bishop, and stood at its head until his death at
Herrnhut, May 9, 1760. In 1741 he determined to visit America, and Decem-
ber I, accompanied by his oldest daughter. Countess Benigna, Jacob Mueller,
his secretary, David Bruce, Abraham and Judith Meining, Henry Mueller, a
printer, and Rosina Nitschmann, wife of the bishop, arrived at the settle-
ment on the Lehigh river. On Sunday, December 24th, this company.

wrrk-orntT _


together with the original settlers, assembled in the first house, celebrated
the Holy Communion, and kept the vigils of Christmas Eve. At the close
of the latter service, Count Zinzendorf led the congregation to an adjoining
stable where, with deep emotion, he sang a German hymn in which occurred
the following line, "Nicht Jerusalem sondcrn Bethlehem, nus dir kommet
was mir frommet" (Not from Jerusalem but Bethlehem comes that which
benefits my soul). This incident gave the settlement its present name.

A body of fifty-six emigrants known as "First Sea Congregation," which
had sailed on the Snow Catherine from London, England, March 15, 1742,
arrived at the settlement in June. They were under the leadership of
George Pilsch, the Rev. Peter Boehler being their chaplain. The following
roll sets forth their names and nationalities: Michael and Anna Joanna
Micksah, Michael and Anna Rosina Tanneberger, George Schneider and
Matthew Wiltke, all from Moravia; David and Ann Catherine Bischoff, the
Rev. Peter and Elizabeth Boehler, John Brandmiller, John and Mary Bar-
bara Brucker, Dr. Adolph Meyer, Joachim and Ann Catherine Senseman,
George and Elizabeth Harten, David and Mary Elizabeth Wahnert, John
George Endter, John C. Heyedecker, John C. Heyne, John M. Huber, George
Kaske, John Lischg, John P. Muerer, Joseph Moeller, Christian F. Post,
Gottlieb Pegold, John R. Ronner, Leonard Schnell, Nathaniel Seidel, Chris-
tian Werner and George Weisner, all from Germany and Switzerland ; the
Rev. Paul D. and Regina D. Pryzelius from Sweden ; Henry and Rosina
Aimers, Robert and Martha Hassey, Samuel and Martha Powell, Owen and
Elizabeth Rice, John and Elizabeth Turner, Thomas and Ann Yarrell, Hector
Gambold, John and William Okelj^ and Joseph Shaw, all from England and
Wales; and finally Andrew, a negro, the first convert of the church in St.

Thomas. The latter, while at Bethlehem, married Magdalene , of the

same island, returned to Europe in 1748, and died the following year. The his-
torical painting called the "First Fruits," preserved in the Bethlehem
Archives, represents the earliest converts from Bethlehem.

The German-speaking portion of these immigrants came to Bethlehem
on June 21, 1742, and two days later, the day after the celebration of the
festival of the Trinity, the inhabitants were formally organized as a Mora-
vian church. At the time of the organization the church consisted of eighty
members. It was divided into two parts: "The House Congregation," whose
members remained in the settlement and labored for its good ; and "The Pil-
grim Congregation," whose members itinerated as missionaries among the
white settlers and aborigines of Pennsylvania and other colonies. The latter
afterwards received the name of "fishers," from the New Eestament (Matthew
14:19) "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of Men."

The first marriage ceremony took place in Bethlehem, July 8, 1742, when
John William Zander was bound in holy wedlock to Joanna Magdalena
Mueller, of Germantown, Pennsylvania. The first baptism — that of Anna,
daughter of Rev. Paul D. Pryzeluis and his wife Regina Dorothea (nee
.Schilling) — was administered July i6th of the same year. The Rev. John
William Zander was on August 9, 1742, the first to be ordained a presbyter
of the church. The first death was John Mueller, whose burial took place
June 27, 1742. All necessary ceremonies in these events were performed by
Bishop Count Zinzendorf.


During the first thirteen years of the settlement, five hundred acres
were brought under cultivation and two hundred additional acres were
cleared. The first wheat was cut July i6, 1742, and eleven days later the
first oats were harvested. The town had increased in 1755 to more than
twenty buildings, some of which, however, were stables and barns. The
population had not only been augmented by immigration but also by settlers
from Pennsylvania and New York. Trades were introduced, and in 1758
there existed a blacksmith shop, locksmith, nailsmith, pottery, tannery,
cabinet maker, turner shop, oil mill, grist mill, saw mill, a soap boiling and
weaving establishment.

Bethlehem soon began to attract the attention of the people of Pennsyl-
vania ; an influx of visitors arrived, as many as four hundred visiting the town
as early as 1743. Two hundred missionary tours were often taken in a single
year. The Indian Mission prospered, and the town became famous through-
out the hunting grounds of the natives. Many of them visited the town,
and a few were baptized in its chapel, the first being two Mohicans, David
and Joshua, on September 16. 1742, Bishop Count Zinzendorf, assisted by
Rev. Gottlieb Buettner, officiating. The last baptism occurred January 6,
1763, when Bishop Boehler baptized Salome, a Delaware girl. During this
period one hundred and thirty-five Indians were baptized at Bethlehem.
After the lapse of one hundred and four years an Indian baptism again
took place, when three grandchildren of John Ross, chief of the Cherokees,
v/ere baptized, February 28, 1867, in the old chapel, by Bishop E. de
Schweinitz. An Indian hamlet was built near the town, receiving the name
of Friedenshuetten, where lived a body of converts from Shekomeko, in
Dutchess county, New York. They subsequently moved to Gnadenhutten,
where the church established a mission. A large number of Indians visited
Bethlehem in 1751 and 1752, and two formal councils were held. These
negotiations with the Indians gave rise to rumors that the Moravians were
in league with the French. This was, however, disproved during the French
and Indian War, when the mission house at Gnadenhutten was attacked by
a troop of French Indians. Times of danger and darkness now began at
Bethlehem, the border settlements were deserted, and the two Moravian
towns were left exposed to the fury of the Red Man. They, however,
resolved not to bear arms except in defense of their wives and children. The
exposed portions of the town were stockaded, watch towers built, and guards
stationed by day and by night. Thus Bethlehem was constituted one of
the most important posts north of Philadelphia, an eyesore to the savages,
an asylum for refugees. Five years later, on the Pontiac conspiracy, Beth-
lehem passed through the same experience as that which had marked the
French and Indian War. It was again palisaded and watches set as before.
Two hundred refugees from Allen and Lehigh townships found shelter within
its defenses. Animosity, however, soon died out, and at the close of the
Pontiac conspiracy the Indian converts who had taken refuge in the town
were removed to Bradford county. After that, Bethlehem as a town was no
longer prominently connected with aboriginal history.

The abrogation of the Economy left each citizen the right to work for
himself and family, and carry on business in his own name. Some enter-


prises, however, were still carried on by the church, but Bethlehem remained
an exclusive Moravian settlement. Only members of the church were
allowed to hold real estate. At the close of 1762 the population numbered
six hundred and four souls, and the following additional trades, not previously
mentioned, existed: A dyeing and fulling establishment, a butcher shop, an
organ factory, druggist, shoemaker, tailor, hatter, cooper shop, worsted
and stocking weaving establishment, brick kiln, millwright shop, saddlery,
bakery, bell foundry and a house carpenter.

The arrangements made for the government of the church, the town,
and holding of the ecclesiastical property were peculiar and interesting.
The spiritual interests of the community were intrusted to a body of clergy-
men at whose head stood the presiding bishop of the American Moravian
Church, Bethlehem being the seat of government. The temporal interests
and the municipal government of the town were in the hands of a deacon
who bore the title of warden, and with whom were associated a board of
laymen designated as overseers, elected by the adult male population. On
occasions of importance relating to financial or municipal affairs, a council
of all the adult male members was convened. The entire real estate, includ-
ing that which belonged to the Moravian church at large, was held in their
own name as proprietors, and controlled by administrators. The same man
was often proprietor and administrator, and whenever this was not the case
the former gave the latter power of attorney, which enabled him to act.
The administrator had the original sale of town lots in his hands, and issued
the deeds in the name of the proprietor.

The first proprietor was the Right Rev. Nathaniel Seidel, the presiding
bishop, who had succeeded Bishop Peter Boehler in that office in 1764, who
had in turn succeeded Bishop Spangenberg in 1762. Bishop Seidel was a
distinguished evangelist laboring in North and South America, in the West
Indies, England and Germany. He was consecrated to the episcopacy in
1758, and settled permanently at Bethlehem in 1761, where he died May 17,
1782. His successors as presiding bishops were: John Ettwein, in 1782,
who was consecrated two years later; Right Rev. George H. Loskiel, 1802;
Right Rev. Charles G. Reichel, 1811; Right Rev. Christian G. HueiTel, 1818;
Right Rev. Daniel Anders in 1828; and Right Rev. Andrew Bemade, who
remained in office until 1849.

The first administrator was the Rev. John Christian Alexander de
Schweinitz. He was born on his father's estate of Nieder Leuba in Saxony,
came to Bethlehem in 1770, and for twenty-seven years exercised a quiet
but marked influence in the church and the community, especially in the
time of the Revolution, when he advocated submission to the new order of
affairs. At the time of his arrival in America, a division of the ecclesiastical
estates was consummated — one part being given to the Moravian church in
this country, and the other being held by him for the Moravian church at
large. He died at Herrnhut in 1802. He was followed as administrator in
1798 by Rev. John C. Cunow, the latter in 1822, by a son of the flrst adminis-
trator, Rev. Eewis D. de Schweinitz. The next to fill the office, in 1834, was
Rev. Philip H. Goepp ; during his incumbency the exclusive system was
given up, and the financial system wholly changed. The church at Beth-

Receiving Vault





B ' L


lehem was incorporated and therefore held its property in its own name.
The first warden was the Rev. Ferdinand Philip Jacob Detmers, who was
succeeded in 1771 by the Rev. Jeremiah Dencke ; the latter remained in
office until 1785. The next after Dencke was the Rev. John Schropp, from
1790 to 1805; the Rev. John Youngberg, from 1805 to 1808; the Rev. John
F. Stadiger, from 1808 to 1836 ; and the Rev. John C. Buchenstein, from
the latter date to the abolition of the office.

The community built other structures besides houses for religious wor-
ship. The first Brethren's House site was selected by Count Zinzendorf, was
built in 1742, and dedicated two years later. It was a massive stone building,
two stories high, with a sort of mansard roof. This was the home of the
unmarried men, or the "Single Brethren," as they were called, who formed a
distinct brotherhood at whose head stood a superintendent. The inmates
who were destined for the ministry engaged in suitable studies, the others
in various trades carried on for the benefit of the community. There was
nothing monastic in this brotherhood, and its members were bound by no
vows. A new and larger Brethren's House was built in 1748, but in 1815
the brotherhood gave up their house and establishment, but remained a dis-
tinct class of the membership of the church, under the special supervision
of their superintendent. The house vacated by the Brethren in 1748 was at
once occupied by the unmarried women, or the "Single Sisters," and thus
became the Sisters' House. A north wing was added in 1751-52, and an
eastern extension built in 1773. The sisterhood was constituted like the
brotherhood, having a deaconess for the superintendent. Beautiful embroid-
ery, needle work and knitting were the main industries. The sale of dried
apples was extensive, the Sisters' House owning a large orchard. A separate
building was built, known as the "Schnitz House," used for preparing the
apples. Its financial economy was abolished about 1840. The "Widows'
House" was on the same plans as the Brethren's and Sisters' Houses, except
that its inmates did not take their meals together in the dining room, but
were served from a common kitchen. The original cost of the building,
which was occupied September 11, 1769, was voluntarily contributed by
members of the church, both in America and in Europe. An east addition
to the building was added in 1794-95. Its former financial economy was
relinquished in 1840.

In a survey of Bethlehem about 1762: Starting at the Sisters* House
on the north side of Church street, whose wing connected with the north
side of Moravian Row, consisting of three contiguous buildings, the central
one, erected in 1745-46, was crowned with a turret, whose gilt van, an
"Agnus Dei," represented the device on the Episcopal seal of the church.
The eastern extension of the building was constructed in 1748, and the
western extension finished a year later. The first and second of these build-
ings were originally "family houses," but in the completion of the third
they were thrown into one and used as a Girls' Institute. Connecting with
the west end of this institute was the chai)el, and at the south end of the
latter the Gemein Haus. Still further west were two large two-story log-
houses used as "family houses." Continuing up what is now Main street,
on the east side was a one-story stone structure built in 1752, occupied by


Dr. John Matthew Otto ; a short distance from his dwelling was a building
used by him for a laboratory. The next building, a three-story stone house,
was built in 1754 originally for families but afterwards used for school pur-
poses. Above the present corner of Main and Market streets was a watch
house, also a store opened in July, 1753, adjoining this a residence. Return-

Online LibraryWilliam J. (William Jacob) HellerHistory of Northampton County [Pennsylvania] and the grand valley of the Lehigh under supervision and revision of William J. Heller, assisted by an advisory board of editors.. (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 64)