The History of Allentown City

Published by James J. Haurer – 1902

The only city in Lehigh County is the county seat, Allentown, the Queen city of the Valley and was founded in 1762 by James Allen, from whom it received its name. The first settlement was however made in 1751, is beautifully situated on the west banks of the Lehigh river and the mouths of Jordan and the Little Lehigh creeks. Is beautifully laid out, the streets run north and south, east and west, crossing each other at right angles, Hamilton street running east and west is the principal thoroughfare and over two miles long. It has a fine public square at 7th and Hamilton streets formally called Centre Square, now called Monument Square on account of the beautiful monument erected there to the memory of the Soldiers and Sailors of the Civil War, 1861-65, who had enlisted from the county. The high flood of 1841, the failure of the Northampton Bank in 1843 and the great fire of 1848, known as the disastrous decade, were important events in the history of the town from 1840 t o 1850, out of which the city like magic sprung forth and was more substantially built. The building of railroads helped to advance the growth of the city. Among the public buildings are the Court house, banking buildings, business houses, market house, fine hotels, Opera houses, Hospital, fine large public school buildings, the Fair Grounds and Buildings of the Lehigh county Agricultural Society and Cemeteries.

Manufactories. The city has many and various kinds of industries, among which are the following : furnaces, foundries, wire mills, boiler works, silk mills, breweries thread mills, cigar factories, carriage factories, shoe factories, fire brick and building bricks, flour mills, machines shops, planing mills, oil refineries, blank book manufactory, furniture factories, etc., which give employment to many people.

Newspapers. The first English Newspaper, was the “Lehigh Central, ” established in 1817 by C.L. Hutter . ” Der Friedensbote and Lecha County Anzeiger “was established in 1812 by Joseph Ehrenfried. “Lehigh Bulletin” was established in 1837, changed to the “Democrat” by John Royer. The “Lehigh Register” was established in 1846 by Augustus L.Ruhe. The “Daily News, ” was established in 1866 by Peter Correll. The Chronicle was established in 1870 by Robert Irdell. The “Evening Dispatch” was established in 1866, “Daily Herald” was established in 1873, by T . P. Emmons. “The Bugle,” was established in 1876 by William P. Snyder and A. S. Orr. The “Evening Telegram,” was established in 1882, by Eugene Lochman. The “Critic” was established in 1883, by Samuel Wolever. The ” Allentonian ” was established in 1850, by William J. Grim. Der “Jugend Freuud ” and Die ” Lutherische Zetschrifft, ” were established by the Rev. S. K,Brobst, in 1847. ” Our National Hope,” was established by H. S. Rice. “Zion’s Watchtower” was established by Rev. Gernert. The “Morning Call” was established in 1896 by David Miller, Charles Weiser and others. The “Daily City Item” was established in 1873, by Cyrus Kuntz and others. The “Muhlenberg”, published monthly, in the interest of Muhlenberg College ; Jugend Freund, published monthly. American Phonographic and Literary Journal, published quarterly. The ” Lehigh Patriot” published monthly in the interest of the P.0. S.of A. Founded in 1901, by David H. Jacks and W.P. Steinhaeuser. The Allentown Star, founded in 1901, a weekly.

The National Bank was opened for business in 1855 and the Second National Bank, in 1863. The Lehigh Valley Trust and Safe Deposit Company was opened for business in 1856.

Education. Schools were early established and instruction was given in both the English and German languages. The English teachers came from the Irish settlements, Allen township, Northampton county. Mr. Brown was the name of the first teacher known, taken as a whole the teachers were able instructors. The schools were kept in private houses until 1773, when the first schoolhouse was erected in the rear of what is now Zion’s Reformed Church, and was in the shape of an Octagon. The schools of that time were all subscription schools. A school for girls was opened in 1813, night schools were in operation from 1813 to 1845. Allentown Academy was opened in 1831, a Ladies Seminary in 1848. By Act of Assembly, the borough of Allentown, Salisbury and Northampton townships paid $421.71 in 1824, for the instruction of their poor children. In 1833, Allentown alone paid for the same purpose $434.77.

The free school system WAS adopted in 1834, and since then the schools have made rapid progress and are at present in the front rank of the schools of the state. The schools are under the supervision of the city superintendent of schools. The high school was established in 1858. The first principal of the high school was Prof. K.W.Alpme, the first city superintendent of schools, Prof. R. K. Buehrle, the first graduating class of the high school in 1869. Muhlenberg College, belonging to the Lutheran church, and Allentown Female College, belonging to the Reformed church, are two well and widely known institutions of
higher learning, and afford all the requirements necessary for a complete collegiate education, and the Allentown and the American Business Colleges are located in the city and are well patronized by the community.

Churches. The following religious denominations have a strong foothold in the city, the Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterians, Baptist, United Brethren, Free Methodist, Evangelical Association, United Evangelical, Methodist Episcopal and Catholics, all of which have fine church edifices. The Jews, Mennonite, Brethren in Christ, Moravians and others are represented but have no churches of their own and worship in halls and other places.

Societies. There are many secret and beneficial societies which have a large membership. And the city has several of the finest bands that can be found in my city, and other fine musical organizations.

Transportation Facilities. The following railroads terminate or pass through the city, giving it great facilities for traveling and for transportation, east, west, north and south, to New York, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Chicago, the coal regions and other points : the Lehigh Valley R. R. and Lehigh and Susquehanna R. R. give it communication with the east and west, the Philadelphia and Reading R. R. with its branches connects it north and south, and the Perkiomen R. R. to Philadelphia, And Electric roads connects it with Bethlehem, Bangor, Catasauqua, Coplay, Easton, Egypt, Emaus, Hellertown, Macungie, Nazareth, Siegfried, Slatington and intermediate points.

History. When the Revolutionary was begun in 1775, Allentown had a population of 350 souls. But it was a place of some importance already. After the battle of Trenton, (December 26, 1776.) the Hessian prisoners which Washington, had captured there were taken to Allentown, and confined in rude prisons located near where Gordon street, crosses the Jordan creek. Other prisoners followed and were confined here. It was a safe place to keep the prisoners.

It is not generally known, that General George Washington, with his staff, not long after the battle of Trenton, passed through Allentown, up Water street (now Lehigh street). They stopped, at the foot of the street, at a large spring on what is now the property occupied, by the Wire Mill. There are several springs in the vicinity on both sides of the street, and near Wire Street. They rested and watered their horses, then went their way to their post of duty.

In the spring of 1777, the only Church in Allentown, was turned into a hospital for the sick and wounded American soldiers, The citizens of the town, not only cared for the sick and wounded American soldiers, ,but also kept a watchful eye on the Hessian prisoners, and were also menaced by hostile Indians.

The Whitehall massacres, were still fresh in the minds of our forefathers, and that on one Sunday morning, the Minister in Allentown, in 1763 had to cut his sermon short, to organize his congregation into a military company, to repel the threatened attack of the Indians, now that the war had broken out, their old enemy was more active than ever, and the citizens of the county, were constantly menaced. The price of liberty and of their lives, was eternal vigilance on their part.

Provision was getting scarce, meat in most families was a luxury, the most common articles of food necessary to sustain life, were often not obtainable. Salt was twenty dollars a bushel, the grease obtained by boiling the stems of the “candelbeny” bush, was the only material for making candles.

In 1777 Toryism, was in the ascendancy at Bethlehem. The government found it necessary to remove their cartridge manufactory, to a safer place, and the town of Northampton, (Allentown,) was selected. In July 1778, the government had 12,000 stands of arms, here for the army. Arms, saddlers &c., were manufactured and repaired.

In 1778 when the rations ran short in the army, the farmers in the county brought their grain and cattle and sold them to the commissaries of the American army, taking payment for the same, “Continental money”, instead of British gold.

The two principal roads that passed through the town were the Old New York and Pittsburg road, from EastonReading, through what is now the Union and Jackson streets. The other from Bake Oven Knob, by the way of Helfich’s Spring, through what is now Seventh street. to

The Lehigh County Agricultural Society changed their plans for the Great Allentown Fair in 1917 due to the outbreak of WWI. Instead they offered the fairgrounds to the War Department. The Chamber of Commerce was notified on May 28, 1917, by telegram that the Secretary of War had approved and signed a lease for the rental of the Fairgrounds for a year at the figure of $37,000.00 plus $7,500.00 for additional alterations. On June 9, 1917 the fairgrounds became known as “Camp Cane” the headquarters of the U.S. Army Ambulance Corps.