Moravian History of Bethlehem


THE early history of Bethlehem is peculiar, and constituted, it, in many respects, the most interesting town in Northampton nearly. It wall founded by the Moravians. In the summer of 1740, a little company of them, the remnant of a colony which had been planted in Georgia, but broken up again after a few years, was engaged in building a school house for George Whitefield, on the site of what is now the borough of Nazareth. Toward the end of November, the Rev. Peter Boehler, their leader, who subsequently became a distinguished Bishop of the Church, repaired to Philadelphia to  report progress to Whitefield. The result was unfortunate, Doctrinal differences, came to light in the course of the consultations between the two divines, and Whitefield grew so heated that he dismissed the Moravians  from his employ, and peremptorily ordered them to leave his land forthwith.


In this juncture, Bishop David Nitschmann opportunely arrived from Europe, on the fifteenth of December, commissioned by the Church to begin a Moravian settlement in Pennsylvania. Accordingly he entered into negotiations with Nathaniel Irish for the purchase of land in the Forks of  the Delaware, the name by which the territory now embraced within the limits of Northampton county was then known, Irish was an agent for William  Allen, of Philadelphia, a large dealer in lands, and referred the case to his employer. The latter, on the second of April, 1741, sold five hundred acres, lying at the confluence of the Lehigh River and the Monocacy Creek, to Henry Antes, of Falkner’s Swamp, now Frederick township, Montgomery  county, who acted for Bishop Nitschmann.

Meanwhile the settlers at Nazareth, presuming that this tract would pass into their hands, had begun to fell its timber. The first tree was cut down about the time of the shortest day (December 21st, 1740), by David Nitschmann, Sr., or Father Nitschmann, as he, was commonly called, an uncle  of the bishop, with the assistance of Martin Mack.1  A deep snow, in which  the settlers “often stood leg-deep,” covered the ground. In the beginning of the new year (1741), they built a cabin, of hewn logs, 40 x 20 feet in dimension, with it peaked gable and far-projecting roof. This structure was the first house of Bethlehem. It stood on Rubel’s alley, in the rear of the, Eagle Hotel, and was removed in 1823. In it lived

  • Bishop Nitschmann
  • Father Nitschmann
  • Christian Froehlich
  • Rev. Anthony Seiffert
  • David and Anna Zeisberger, and their son David
  • Matthew Seybold
  • Martin Muck
  • George Neisser
  • Hannah Hummel
  • Benjamin Sommers
  • James –

These thirteen settlers constituted the first inhabitants of Bethlehem. They proposed calling the place “Beth-lechem” or House on the Lehigh.

Bishop Nitschmann, whose fathers had belonged to the Ancient Brethrens Church, was born at Zauchtenthal, in Moravia, on the twenty-seventh of December, 1696. After suffering persecutions, for the sake of the gospel, in his native land, he fled to Herrnhut, in Saxony, in 1724. In 1732, he went to St. Thomas as one of the first two missionaries of the Moravian Church. On the thirteenth of March, 1735, he was consecrated a bishop, at Berlin, by Bishop Daniel Ernst Jablousky. The next thirty years of his life he spent mostly in journeys, superintending the missions of the Church and founding settlements. He undertook more, than fifty sea voyages labored in Germany, Livonia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, England, Wales, Georgia, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, and the West Indies; and died at Bethlehem, on the eighth of October, 1771.

His uncle, David Nitschmann, Sr., was born on the twenty-ninth of September, 1676, at Zauchtenthal, Moravia, and uttered very cruet treatment, and a rigorous imprisonment, on account of his faith. In 1725, he escaped from his dungeon in a manner almost miraculous, and found a refuge at Herrnhut. He came to Pennsylvania in company of his nephew; was the “friend and joy of all men,” says his biographer; and lived and labored at Bethlehem until his death, April 14th, 1758.   Christian Froehlich was born at Felsburg, in Hesse Cassel, August 19th, 1715, and came to Pennsylvania in Bishop Nitschmanns party. Subsequently he labored as a missionary among the Indiana, and in the West Indies. In 1753, he took charge of Livingston’s large sugar refinery, in New York City, and managed it for twenty years. He died at Bethlehem, April 5th, 1776.

Anthony Seiffert, born August 15th, 1712, at Thrulich, in Bohemia, emigrated to Herrnhut in 1728, and to Georgia in 1735, whence he came to Pennsylvania in 1740. He was the first Moravian clergyman ordained in America, on the twenty-eighth of February, 1736, at Savannah, by Bishop Nitschmann. In 1745 he returned to Europe, where he labored in England, Ireland, and Holland, dying in the country last named, June 19th, 1785.

David and Anna Zeisberger were from Zauchtenthal, whence they fled to Herrnhut in 1726. They emigrated to Georgia in 1736; and came to Pennsylvania in 1740. They both died at Bethlehem; the former, August 5th, 1744; and the latter, February 23d, 1746. Their son, David, born April 11th, 1721, at Zauchtenthal, became the most distinguished missionary of the Moravian Church among the Indians, to whose conversion he devoted more than sixty years of his life, laboring in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Canada. He died at Goshen, Ohio, November 17th, 1808, at the advanced age of eighty-seven years

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

Martin Mack, born April 13th, 1715, at Leysingen, Wurtemberg, emigrated to Georgia, in 1735, and to Pennsylvania in 1740, became a celebrated missionary among the Indiana and the negroes of the Danish West Indies. In 1762, he was appointed Superintendent of the Mission in those islands, and in 1770, consecrated a bishop. He died on Santa Cruz, January 9th, 1784.

George Neisser, born at Sehlen, in Moravia, April 11th, 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 in 1748, and died in Philadelphia in 1784.

Hannah Hummel was a native of Purysburg, South Carolina; while Benjamin Sommers and James were two boys whom the Moravians had adopted. At the time that this hand of pioneers built the first house of Bethlehem, there were only three other settlements of white men in their neighborhood, These were all situated on the south bank of the Lehigh. The first was the Jennings farm, now the property of the Geisinger family, about one rule above Bethlehem; the second, the Irish farm and mill, occupied by Nathaniel Irish, at the mouth of the Saucon Creek, now Shimersville; and the third, the Ysselstein farm, the property of Isaac Ysselstein, now marked, in part, by the mills of the Bethlehem Iron Company and their adjacent shops the country to the north was a primeval wilderness all the way to the Blue Mountains. Here and there appeared an Indian hamlet.

The foundations of Bethlehem, were laid, in the name, and to the glory of God. It was to be the centre of missionary operations and a sanctuary for the gospel. The work of reclaiming the wilderness was consecrated by prayer and instinct with praise. On the twenty-seventh of June, the Lord’s Supper was administered, for the first time, by Bishop Nitschmann. The following day, preparations were made for building a second house; and, early in the morning of the twenty-eighth of September, its foundation-stone was laid by Bishop Nitschmann, assisted by Andrew Eschenbach, an evangelist of the church. George Neisser prepared an inscription on parchment, which, together with the names of the settlers, was inclosed in a tin box and put into the stone, The stone was laid at the southeast corner of the house,

The building itself was two stories high, and constructed of hewn logs, chinked with clay and straw. It, dimensions were 45 x 30 feet, and, originally, the angles, of its peaked roof were truncated at the gables. In the following year, an addition was built at the east end, and completed in 1743, This structure, whose front, in its enlarged form, was lengthened to ninety-three feet, is still standing at the corner of Church and Cedar streets, and known as the Gemein Haws. After the settlement had somewhat increased, it became the residence of the bishops and clergy, and continued to be occupied by them for many years. It contained, moreover, the first chapel, in the centre of the building, on the second floor, comprising roams now in possession of the Rev. Lawrence, Carter and Mrs. Angelica Lehman.

Intelligence having reached the settlers that Count Zinzendorf was coming to visit them, they hastily completed two apartments in the second-story of the new house, at the west end, for his use. At the present time, they are occupied by the Rev. Lawrence Oerter and Mrs. Lydia Rice. The rest of the building was not inhabited until the following summer.

Nicholas Lewis, Count of Zinzendorf and Pottendurf, born on the twenty- sixth of May, 1700, at Dresden, died on the ninth of May, 1760, at Herrnhut, was of a very ancient line, and, through his wife, a Countess Reuss, connected with several royal houses of Europe, Queen Victoria, on the maternal side, is directly descended from the father of the Countess Zinzendorf, The Count having offered an asylum, on his estate of Bertheldorf, to the persecuted descendants of the Ancient Brethrens Church, the town of Herruhut, in Upper Lusatia, was built by them, and became the centre of the Renewed Brethrens, or Moravian Church. Zinzendorf relinquished all his worldly honors and prospects, and identified himself with its interests, became in, leading bishop, and stood at its head until his death.

He arrived at the settlement on the Lehigh, on the twenty-first of December 1741, accompanied by his oldest daughter, the Countess Benigna, and his secretary, Jacob Mueller, as also by David Bruce, subsequently a missionary to the Indians, Abraham and Judith Meinung, Henry Mueller, a, printer, and Rosina Nitschmann, wife of the bishop. On Sunday, the twenty-fourth of December, this company, 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 this latter service, between nine and ten o’clock at night, the Count, led the way into the adjoining stable, and began to sing, with deep emotion, a German hymn, in which occurred the following lines:  “Nicht Jerusalem, sondern Bethlehem, aus dir kommet was frommet.” (Not from Jerusalem, but from Bethlehem, comes that which benefits my soul). This incident gave to the settlement its present name.

In the course of the next year (1742), the population of Bethlehem was increased by the arrival from Europe of a body of fifty-six immigrants, known as the “First Sea Congregation,” under he leadership of George Piesch, the Rev. Peter Boehler, being their chaplain. They sailed from London, March 15th, in the snow Catharine, Captain Thomas Gladman, and reached Philadelphia on the seventh of June.

The following roll sets forth their names and nationalities:

  • Michael and Anna Joanna Micksch, whose descendents are still living at Bethlehem
  • Michael and Anna Rosina Tanneberger
  • George Schneider, and Matthew Wittke, all from Moravia
  • David and Ann Catharine Bischoff, descendants at Bethlehem
  • Rev. Peter and Elizabeth Boehler
  • John Brandmiller
  • John and Mary Barbara Brucker
  • Dr. Adolph Meyer, Joachim and Ann Catharine Senseman, descendents at Nazareth
  • George and Elizabeth Harten
  • David and Mary Elizabeth Wahnert
  • John George Endter
  • John C. Heyedecker
  • John C. Heyne
  • John M. Huber
  • George Kaske, descendants near Nazareth
  • Jacob Lischy
  • John P. Meurer
  • Joseph Moeller
  • Christian F. Post, afterward the celebrated missionary and government, messenger among the Indians
  • Gottlieb Pezold
  • John R. Renner
  • Leonard Schuell
  • Nathaniel Seidel
  • Christian Werner, and Gen. Wiesner, all from Germany and Switzerland
  • Rev. Paul D. and Regina D. Pryzelius, from Sweden
  • Henry and Rosina Almers
  • Robert and Martha Hussey
  • Samuel and Martha Powell
  • Joseph and Martha Powell
  • Owen and Elizabeth Rice, descendants at Bethlehem
  • John and Elizabeth Turner
  • Thomas and Ann Yarrell
  • Hector Gambold

John and William Okely, and Joseph Shaw, all from England and Wales; and, finally, Andrew, a negro, the first convert of the church in St. Thomas. While at Bethlehem, he married Magdalene, of the same island, returned to Europe in 1743, and died the following year. His Portrait appears in a historical painting called the “First Fruits,” representing the earliest Moravian converts from heathenism, and preserved in the Bethlehem Archives.

The German-speaking portion of these immigrants came to Bethlehem on Thursday, the twenty-first of June, on the following Monday, the day after the festival of the Trinity, June 25th, the inhabitants were formally organized as a Moravian Church, A month later, July 24th, the English- speaking part of the newly-arrived settlers were sent to Nazareth, and organized as a second church.

At the time of its organization, the church at Bethlehem consisted of eighty members. It was divided into two parts, The first was the so-called “Home Congregation,” whose members remained in the settlement and labored for its good; the other the “Pilgrim Congregation,” whose members itinerated as missionaries among the white settlers and aborigines of Pennsylvania and other colonies. Some weeks after this organization-July 15th the work of the Pilgrim Congregation was more fully developed, and its members received the name of “fishers,” from the words of our Lord, addressed to Peter and Andrew “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”(Matt. iv: 19).

In addition to these arrangements, a peculiar system was introduced called “the Economy.” The inhabitants of Bethlehem and Nazareth, as also of Gnadenthal-now the Northampton county Almshouse-Christian-spring, and Friedensthal, settlements subsequently founded on the Nazareth tract, formed an exclusive association in which prevailed a communism, not of goods, but of labor. Such a communism was not binding upon the settlers, but left to the free will of each one to adopt or reject, while those who had property of their own retained the full control of it, and were not, required to sacrifice it in any way. All that the members of this association gave was their time and the work of their hands. In return they received the necessaries of life and the comforts of home. The Economy existed only for twenty years, and was abrogated, by mutual consent, in 1762. While in force, it defrayed the expenses of the various immigrations from Europe, gave, the Moravian colony a comfortable support, and maintained the mission among the Indians, was also the itinerancy among the white settlers. Bethlehem was the centre of the Economy. This system was nowhere else introduced among the Moravians, except, for a few years, in their first settlement in North Carolina.

Another peculiar principle, adopted by the church at large, and retained in its American settlements, was the use of the lot, according to the precedent set by the apostles at the election of Matthias. The church was deemed to be a sort of theocracy, and the will of God was to be ascertained in all important affairs. Hence the let was employed in the appointment of ministers and the admission of members, as also in the contraction of marriages. Its use, in the case last named, has been frequently misunderstood, and still more frequently ridiculed, There is no cause whatever for ridicule. On the contrary, Moravian marriages, by lot, constitute one of the most noble instances of devotedness to the service of Christ known in the history of His church. For, they were introduced, first, in order that the work of the gospel, as carried on by the Moravian Brethren, especially in heathen lands, might not be hindered through any of the relations of this life, in particular, through early engagements; and, second, because the members of the church wanted God absolutely to direct them in forming what constitutes the holiest union on earth, and to establish their families by an immediate revelation of His will. Such marriages, however, were not contracted in an offensive or oppressive way. Men and women were not indiscriminately coupled, without, their knowledge, and contrary to their wishes. A man proposed a woman to the authorities of the church, or, if he had no proposal to make, asked them to suggest, a woman. The authorities submitted the proposal to the decision of the lot, and, if it was sanctioned, made the woman an offer of marriage in the name of the man, which offer she was at perfect liberty to reject, if she thought proper. The lot bound the authorities to make the offer, but not the woman to accept it if she refused, or if the proposal was negatived by the lot, the man made another. The fact that the young of both sexes, at Bethlehem, lived, in ” classes,” in the so-called Brethrens and Sisters Houses, and bad scarcely any social intercourse with each other, throws additional light upon such marriages. Ass soon as faith in theta began to wane, they were abolished, nearly sixty years ago.

The first marriage at Bethlehem took place on the eighth of July 1742, the parties being John William Zander, it missionary to Surinam, S. A., and Joanna Magdalena Mueller, of Germantown. Bishop Count Zinzendorf performed the ceremony, in the chapel of the Gemein Haus. The first baptism was that of Anna, daughter of the Rev. Paul D. Pryzelius and his wife, Regina Dorothea, nee Schilling, administered by Bishop Count Zinzendorf, on the sixteenth of July, 1742, the birthday of the child. The first ordination took place on the ninth of August, 1742, when the Rev. John William Zander was ordained a presbyter of the Church, by Bishop Count Zinzendorf, assisted by Bishop Nitschmann. The first death was that of John Mueller, a young man from Rhinebeck, N. Y., and occurred on the 26th of June, the day after the organization of the church. His remains were buried on the following day. After the interment, the congregation assembled in the chapel, where Count Zindendorf delivered an address on the words: “But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.” (Mark iv: 29).



Toward the end of the year 1743, another body of immigrants arrived from Europe, known as the “Second Sea Congregation,” and numbering one hundred and seventeen souls. They crossed the Atlantic in the “Little Strength,” Captain Nicholas Garrison,”1 sailing from Cowes, on the twenty-seventh of September, and reaching New York on the twenty-sixth of November. The majority of them settled at Bethlehem; the rest at Nazareth. Such immigrations continued to the end of the century. In order to facilitate them, the authorities at Bethlehem had a vessel built at New York, called the “Irene,” which was in use for ten years, from 1748 to 1758. In the latter year, it was taken by a French privateer, and lost off Cape Breton. >From the year 1743 to 1769, nearly six hundred immigrants reached Bethlehem, In 1749, one hundred and thirty-five arrived in it body, All these immigrants were, members of the Moravian Church. No others were allowed to settle at Bethlehem.

Additional land was purchased for the Economy at an early day. George Whitefield’s entire tract of five thousand acres, at Nazareth, had been sold to the Moravians in 1741. And now (1743) they bought two hundred and seventy-five acres, on the south side of the Lehigh, known as the “Simpson Tract,” of John Simpson, of London, through his attorney, William Allen, of Philadelphia, the deed being drawn on the third of June, 1746. Three years later (1749), Widow Ysselstein sold them her farm, consisting of two tracts, the one embracing one hundred and seventy-eight acres, together with an island of ten acres-now the property of the Bethlehem Iron Company, and the second, seventy-five acres, due east of the first. This enlarged domain was rapidly improved. In the first thirteen years of the settlement, from 1742 to 1755, five hundred acres were brought under cultivation; in the year last named, two hundred acres were cleared. On the sixteenth of July, 1742, the first wheat was cut; and, on the twenty-seventh of the same month, the first oats. In the course of time, a number of new houses and public buildings, as they may be called, were put up, which will be described in another connection, A bird’s-eye view of Bethlehem, drawn in 1755, shows that the town had increased to more than twenty buildings, a number of which must, however, have been stables and barns. The population was augmented, not only through immigration, but also by the union with the Church of a number of settlers from different parts of Pennsylvania and Now York. Various trades were introduced, and carried on by skillful mechanics from Europe. About the year 1758, there existed a blacksmith shop, locksmith shop, nailsmith shop, a pottery, tannery, cabinetmaker and turner shop, an oil-mill, grist-mill, sawmill, a soup boiling establishment, and a weaving establishment.

In the, time, of the Economy, with the exception of three years, when Bishop John Nitschmann took his place, there stood at the head of the Church and the community, the Right Rev. Augustus G. Spangenberg, A.M., who was known among Moravians as “Brother Joseph”.2 He was an extraordinary man, a learned divine, an eloquent preacher, and a ruler whose admirable executive ability constituted all element without which the Economy would leave been a failure, and the Church greatly hampered in its work. Born, July 13th, 1704, at Klettenberg, in Prussia, a graduate of the University at Jena, and, subsequently, a professor in that of Halle, he joined the Moravian Church in 1733, was consecrated bishop in 1744, and presided over it, American branch for nearly eighteen years. He died at Berthelsdorf, in Saxony, September 18th, 1792. He undertook numerous journeys into the Indian country, was greatly respected by the native, and, in 1745, formally adopted by the celebrated sachem Shikellmy, into the Iroquois tribe of the Oneidas, and the clan of the Bear, receiving the name of Tgirhitontie (a row of trees). During five years of his administration, from 1746 to 1751, he was assisted by the Right Rev. John Christoph Frederic Cammerhof, an enthusiastic and very talented young man, who had been consecrated a bishop in 1746, when only twenty-five years of age. Cammerhof was deeply interested in the Indians, visited the capital of the Six Nations, and undertook numerous journeys to other parts of their domain. They respected and loved him. The Iroquois adopted him in 1748, and gave him the name of Gallichwio (a good message). He baptized eighty-nine natives, of various tribes, with his own hands. More than a quarter of century after his death, which occurred April 28th, 1751, at the early age twenty-nine years, Zeisberger met with warriors in the Western country who mentioned the name of Cammerhof with reverence, and called him a great man.3

Bethlehem soon attracted the notice of the people of Pennsylvania other colonies, and many came to visit the settlement. As early as 1745 not less than four hundred such visitors arrived in the course of the year. At the same time, the itinerancy, established in 1742, was carried on with the utmost zeal. More than two hundred missionary tours were sometimes undertaken in a single year.

The Indian Mission, in particular, prospered greatly, and Bethlehem came famous throughout the hunting-grounds of the natives. Many of them visited the town, and not a few were baptized in its chapel. The first baptism of this kind, took place on the sixteenth of September, 1742, when the Mohicans, David and Joshua, were baptized by Bishop Count Zinzendorf 4 and the Rev. Gottlob Buettner; the last baptism occurred on the sixth January, 1763, when Bishop Boehler baptized Salome, a Delaware girl. One hundred and thirty-four Indians, in all, were baptized at Bethlehem, in this period.5

In 1746, an Indian hamlet was built near the town, and received the name of Friedenshuetten. It was situated on the hill now crowned with the Gas Works, and at its base, stretching into the grounds of the Seminary for  Young Ladies. Here lived a body of converts from Shekomeko, in Dutch, county, New York, whence they had been driven by the persecutions of white settlers. These converts subsequently removed to Guadenhuetter flourishing mission which the church established on the site of Lehigh and Weissport, near Mauch Chunk.

Interesting Indian visits occurred in 1751 and 1752. In the former year a band of over one hundred Nanticokes and Shawanese, were hospitably pertained, and instructed in the Christian religion; in the latter, eighty- representatives of the same tribes together with fifty-five Mohicans and Delawares, arrived at Bethlehem, so that there were one hundred and thirty Indians in the town. The Nanticokes and Shawanese came in a body(July 20th), and were met at the Monocacy by Owen Rice, Joseph Horsfield, Burnside. At the fence inclosing the town plot, Bishop Spangenberg received them. They marched in single file, led by a chief, who sang a song of friendship. Having been welcomed by the bishop, they proceeded thru the town, a corps of trombonists greeting them with solemn chorals, and took up their quarters in the huts of Friedenshuetten. Two formal councils held with them and, on the twenty-third of July, the baptism of Anna, a Delaware woman, took place in their presence. Two days afterwards, they left Bethlehem, and spread its fame all through the Indian country.

Such negotiations with the Indians, although they had in view so the advancement of the gospel, were misconstrued, and a report arose the Morvanians were in league with the French. It was disproved, in a fearful manner, in the course of the French and Indian War, on the twenty-fourth of November 1755, when one of the Mission Houses at Gnadenhuetten was attacked by a troop of French Indians, and ten members of the mission family, men, women, and children, were murdered, while woman, Susanna Nitschmann, was dragged to Tioga as a prisoner, where she, soon after, died in great misery.

Times of danger and distress now began at Bethlehem, The border settlements were deserted. Their inhabitants fled in dismay before the  tomahawks of the savages. The two Moravian towns of the county, Bethlehem and Nazareth, were left exposed to their fury. Strong in the that God was with them, the inhabitants resolved to hold these settlements at all hazards, but, inasmuch as the bearing of arms was, at that time contrary to their creed, not to use them except in self-defence. In no case

  1. Nicholas Garrison, born Staten Island in 1701, began life, as a sailor, In his twelfth year, and subsequently commanded various vessels, and sailed to many parts of the world. In 1748 he became the commander of the Moravian Immigrant ship, he died at Bethlehem, September 24th, 1781.
  2. This name was given to him because, in a time of war and scarcity, he cared for his brethren, as Joseph cared for his brethren in the time of famine in Egypt. Spangenberg accepted this name, and used it even in official documents. His ecclesiastical title was “Vicarius Generalis Episcoporum in America.”
  3. He was born near Magdeburg, Prussia, July 28th, 1721, and graduated at the University of Jena. He reached America in 1747.
  4. Zinzensdorf was, adopted by the Iroquois, or Six Nations, in 1742, and called Johanan.
  5. On the twenty-eighth of February 1867, after the lapse of one hundred and four years, an Indian baptism again took place at Bethlehem, when three grandchildren of late Hon. John Russ, Chief of the Cherokees, were baptized

in the old chapel, by the writer this article. They attacked the savages. If, however, the savages would attack them, they would fight for their-wives and children. Accordingly, the exposed portions of Bethlehem were stockaded, watch-towers built, and guards stationed, by day and night.1 Such measure, were taken to prevent an assault, an proved to be eminently successful. A few days after the massacre at Gnadthuetten, in the night of the twenty-eighth, of November, a war-party actually approached the town, without being detected. The accidental discharge, of a gun, however, in the hands of one of the guards, occasioned a general &farm, and induced the Indians to turn back. Similar experiences were often made. No blood was shed; but Bethlehem remained safe and constituted one of the most important posts north of Philadelphia-an eye-sore to the savages, all asylum for the fugitive settlers. The town was full of them, in the years 1756 and 1757. At the close of the former, there were seven hundred and forty-one souls at Bethlehem, of whom, at least two hundred must have been white refugees, while Seventy of them were Indian converts; at the close of the latter, there were six hundred and forty-one white, people, and one hundred and fifty-one Indians.

The Indians bad been brought from Gnadenhutten, and constituted representatives of the Mohican nation.2 For nearly two years they were quartered in the so-called Indian House, on the west bank of the Monocacy Creek, standing in what is now the barn-yard of Mr. Levin J. Krause. A log structure, containing a chapel, was erected near by. In 1758, after the pacification of the Western, tribes, they built a village, called Nain about two miles front Bethlehem, in what, is now Hanover township, Lehigh County.3 While living at Bethlehem, they were supported, in part, by the Colonial Government, to whose generosity they had appealed, because they were prevented from hunting.

Five years, later, in the Pontiac conspiracy, Bethlehem passed (1763) through the same experience as those which had marked the French and Indian War. The savages made incursions into the county, and murdered several settler, and an officer not far from the town. It was again, in part, palisade, and watches were set as before. Two hundred fugitives from Allen and Lehigh, found shelter within its defences. And yet there prevailed great excitement about the Moravians and their Indians, throughout, the county. The latter were most unjustly accused of being in league with Pontiac’s warriors, and at last, had to be removed to Philadelphia for the safe-keeping. A pitiful act of undeserved vengeance against the former was the destruction of the Bethlehem oil-mill, to which some angry white man applied the torch, in the night of the eighteenth of November (1763).

Such animosity, however, soon died out. At the close of the Pontiac conspiracy, the Indian converts were removed to Bradford county. After that, Bethlehem, as a town, was no longer prominently connected with aboriginal history.

In other respects, too, great changes took place about this time. The Economy was given up, by common consent, in 1761. Each citizen could now work for himself and family, and carry on business in his own name. Some enterprises, however, were still conducted by the church; and Bethlehem remained all exclusively Moravian settlement. Only members of the church were allowed to hold real estate. At the close of the year, the population numbered six hundred and four souls; and, in addition to those trades which have been mentioned in another connection, the following existed: a dyeing and fulling establishment, a butcher shop, all organ factory, an apothecary shop, a shoemaker, tailor, hatter, and cooper shop, a worsted and stocking weaving establishment, a brick kiln, a millwright shop, a saddlery, bakery, bell foundry, and a house carpenter establishment.

The arrangements which were now made for the government of the church and the town, as also for the holding of the ecclesiastical property, were peculiar and interesting.

The spiritual interests of the community were intrusted to a body of clergymen, at whose head stood the presiding Bishop of the American Moravian Church, Bethlehem being the, seat of its 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 was associated a board of lay “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, including that which belonged to the Moravian Church at large, was held, in their own names, by “Proprietors,” and administered by “Administrators.” The same man was often both Proprietor and Administrator; whenever this was not the case, the former gave the latter a power of attorney, which enabled him to act. The Administrator had the original sale of town lots exclusively in his hands, and issued the deeds in the name of the Proprietor. Both the offices controlled property which, in the course, of time, grew to be very valuable, and involved vast trusts, that were, at all times, sacredly kept, without the slightest guarantee.

The first Proprietor, after the abrogation of the Economy, was the Right Rev. Nathaniel Seidel, the presiding bishop. In the latter office, he had succeeded Bishop Peter Boehler in 1764, who had, in turn, succeeded Bishop Spangenberg in 1762. Seidel had been a distinguished evangelist, laboring in North and South America, to the West Indies, in Germany and England. He was Consecrated to the episcopacy in 1758, and settled permanently in Bethlehem in 1761, where he, died, May 17th, 1782. The first Administrator was the Rev. John Christian Alexander de Schweinitz (born in 1740, on his fathers estate of Nieder Leuba, in Saxony, died at Herrnbut, in 1802), who 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 things. His second wife, whom he married at Bethlehem, in 1779, was a Baroness de Watteville, and a grand-daughter of Count Zinzendorf. 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 thiscountry, and the other being held by him for the Moravian Church at, large. The first warden was the Rev. Ferdinand Philip Jacob Detmers who succeeded, in 1771, by the Rev. Jeremiah Deticke. He remained in office until 1785. The first lay Overseers whose names are recorded, were:

  • Huebner
  • Beckel
  • Boehler,
  • Stiener
  • Borhek
  • Horsfield
  • Huber
  • Oerter



In the time of the Revolution, Bethlehem constituted a prominent centre. For the first six years of the war it was a thoroughfare for troops; twice it was the seat of the Continental Hospital; for three months it, was occupied by the heavy baggage and munitions of war of the army of the North; and, for a short time, it was the refuge of a part of the American Congress. Many of the most distinguished patriots and generals, moreover, frequently came there in order to snatch a few days of rest from their arduous toils. Its inhabitants, still advocated the principles of non-combatants, and the older portion undoubtedly regretted the war. But they were not tories. On the contrary, they merely claimed their right to remain neutral, arid were prepared at once to submit, in case the Colonies gained their independent.

Among the younger portion, however, consisting mostly of native Americans, their prevailed a decided and outspoken sympathy with the cause of freedom. Hence complications arose, which might have grown serious, if the Right, Rev. John Frederick Reichel, a member of the Executive Council in Europe, had not paid an official visit to Bethlehem, and succeeded in restoring harmony. The leaders of the Revolution respected the principles, and recognized the honest intentions, of its people. And while it did not contribute any fighting men, it fulfilled its duty to the country by faithfully caring for her sick and wounded, and that, too, at, great, inconvenience and pecuniary loss. In the last, three months of the year 1777, for instance, the town sacrificed £1,500 for the American army. Exorbitant fines, moreover, were paid in default of military service.

At the beginning of the struggle, in 1775, the authorities issued the following, statement: “It is our desire to live at peace with all man. We wish well to the Country in which we dwell. Our declining to exercise, in the use of arms is no new thing, nor does it proceed from certain consideration,4 being rather a fundamental principle of the Brethrens Church, a point of conscience which our first settlers brought with them into this province. We never have, nor will we ever act inimically to this country. We will do nothing against its peace and interest, nor oppose all) civil rule or regulation in the province or country wherein we dwell. On the other hand, we will submit ourselves in all things in which we call keep a good conscience, and not withdraw our shoulders front the common burden.”

  1. Benjamin Franklin, who at this time took charge of the frontier, and assembled his companies at Bethlehem, has given a very one-sided account of such defences in his Autobiography. Bishop Spangenberger explained to him the position of the Brethren, but he seem not of have understood him. That position is fully set forth in Spangenberger’s letter to friends in New York, published in the Memorials of the Moravian Church, page 204.
  2. The Delaware converts were domiciliated at Nazareth.
  3. This village stood on what is now known as the Geisinger farm.
  4. That is, tory proclivities.

In the same year in which this statement was published, bodies of militia, from Maryland and Virginia, on their way to the siege of Boston, began to pass through Bethlehem. Among them was a company of mounted riflemen, under Captain Morgan, subsequently a Brigadier-General, and the hero of The Cowpens, who spent two days in the town, These were followed, in the beginning; of 1776, by large numbers of the prisoners taken by General Montgomery, in Canada, many of whom brought their families along, and arrived on foot, or in sleighs. In the summer of the same year, detachments of militia from various parts of Pennsylvania, frequently arrived, on their way to the “flying camp,” established at Amboy, in New Jersey. Many of these troops attended divine worship in the chapel. Then occurred the repulse of the Americians at, Brooklyn Heights, the evacuation of New York City, and Washington’s retreat through New Jersey to the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware. Those movements affected Bethlehem very severely. The Continental Hospital, with two thousand sick and wounded, was, at that time, located at Morristown. Its removal to some point in the interior became a necessity. Accordingly, on the third of December, Dr. Baldwin brought the following order:

To the Committee of the Town of Bethlehem, others whom it may concern:

GENTLEMEN:-According to his Excellency General Washington’s orders, the General Hospital of the army is removed to Bethlehem; and you will do the greatest act of humanity by immediately providing proper buildings for their reception; the largest and most capacious will he the most convenient. I doubt not, Gentlemen, you will act upon this occasion as becomes men and Christians. Doct’r Baldwin, the gentleman who waits upon you with this, is sent upon the business of providing proper accommodations for the sick. Begging, therefore, that you will afford him all possible


I am Gentlemen,your most obedient humble Servant,

Gen’l Hospit’l Surg. &, Direct

Hanover Gen’l Hospit., Decem. 1, 1776 1

On one day following the receipt of this order, two hundred and fifty of the sick and wounded arrived, and were quartered in what is now the middle building of the Moravian Seminary for Young Ladies.


The hospital remained there until the twenty-seventh of March 1777. In that period, one hundred and ten of its inmates died. The clergy of Bethlehem and particularly, the Rev. John Ettwein, faithfully ministered to their spiritual wants.

Ettwein was the pastor of the church, and the assistant of Bishop Seidel, whose health was failing. He was, himself subsequently elevated to the  episcopacy. A self-made man born in 1721, in Wurtemberg, immigrated in 1754, to Pennsylvania, he devoted all his energies to the work of the gospel, which he preached in twelve of the original thirteen colonies, among white settlers, and Indians. He succeeded Seidel, in 1782, as Presiding Bishop, and stood at the head of the Church until 1802, in which year he died. In the time of the Revolution, he was very active at Bethlehem, and negotiated with the Government in the name of the Church. He was intimately acquainted with leading Revolutionary characters, and formed a close friendship with Henry Laurens, of South Carolina, in particular. His correspondence with this statesman is preserved in the Bethlehem Archives.

Soon after the hospital had been removed to Bethlehem, General Gates arrived with a detachment Of his command (December 17th), and the following day, General Sullivan, with Lees Division, numbering 4,000 men. Lee, himself, had before captured, a few days previously, by some British cavalry.

The new year (1777) was again marked by stirring events. Troops continued to pass through Bethlehem almost weekly; Generals Armstrong, Fermoy, Gates, Schuyler, Mifflin, Green, Knox, and other prominent officers were there; on the second of September, two hundred and sixty prisoners of war, arrived under a strong guard; and, soon after the battle of Brandywine September 11th), Baron de Kalb, with a corps, of French engineers, in order to select a position in the vicinity of the town for the entire army, where, if necessary, it could unlike another stand against General Howe.

Subsequent movements of the British, however, changed this programme, and kept the main army away from Bethlehem. But its military stores were brought thither, and, toward the end of the month, more than nine hundred army-wagons were in camp a short distance beyond what is now Broad street. General Washington’s baggage, with a guard of forty men was kept at the brick-kiln, on the Monocacy, near what is now Unangst’s mill, until the end of the year. The Continental Hospital, moreover, was again brought to the town.

On the nineteenth of September, Dr. Jackson delivered the following order addressed to Ettwein:

My DR. SIR:-It gives all great pain to be obliged, by order of Congress, to send my sick and wounded soldiers to your peaceable village-but so it is. Your large building must be appropriated to their use. We will want room for 2,000 at Bethlehem, Easton, Northampton, &c., and you may expect them on Saturday or Sunday.

I send Dr. Jackson before them that you may have time to order your affairs in ye best manner. These are dreadful times, consequences of unnatural wars, I am truly concerned for your Society, and wish sincerely this stroke could be averted, but tis impossible I beg Mr. Hasse’s assistance Love and compliments to all friends, from,

my dr. Sir,

Your affectionate humb, serv’t.

  2. G.

Trenton, Sept, 18, 1777.

On the twentieth of September, the sick and wounded began to arrive. Among the latter was General La Fayette. He remained at Bethlehem for a month, until healed of his wounds, and lodged in the house of Frederick Beckel, which stood on the site of Rausch confectionery store on Main street. The centre building of the Young Ladies Seminary was again vacated for the rest of the invalids, of whom there were seven hundred by the end of the year. Nearly three hundred of them died in the course of the winter.

Simultaneously with the arrival of the hospital, came a number of the most influential members of Congress, who had fled from Philadelphia at the approach of Howe’s army. In the course of their stay, they visited the Sisters and Widows Houses, which buildings the surgeons proposed to seize for the rise of the hospital. Ettwein took occasion to represent the great distress to which, in case this were done, the inmates would be subjected. Thereupon the delegates furnished him with the following paper, written by Richard Henry Lee:

BETHLEHEM, September the 22d, 1777

Having here observed a humane and diligent attention to the sick and wounded, and a benevolent desire to make the necessaries provision for the relief of the, distressed as far as the power of the Brethren enables them.

We desire that all Continental Officers may refrain from disturbing the persons or property of the Moravians in Bethlehem, and, particularly, that they do not disturb or molest the houses where the women are assembled. Given under our brands at the time and place above mentioned,








  1. DUER









Delegates to Congress

In the spring of the following year, April 15th, 1778, the hospital was removed from Bethlehem, but troops continued to pass through the town, and it was visited by a constantly growing number of notable men. Among these were

  • Ethan Allen
  • Gouverneur Morris
  • Baron Steuben

General Pulaski, and many others. Pulaski, while recruiting his legion, came to Bethlehem twice, in April and May. On the seventeenth of the latter month, he attended divine service with a part of his command. The banner embroidered for him by the inmates of the Sisters’ House was, in all probability, made in order. There is not the slightest reference, in any of the old records, to a presentation such as Longfellow has embalmed in verse1

  1. [NOTE BY THE PUBLISHER.]-Longfellow’s poem, alluded to by the Bishop, isgiven below. it is entitled:




“When the dying flame of day

Through the chancel shot its ray,

For the glimmering tapers shed

Faint light on the cowled head,

And the censer, burning, swung,

Where, before the Altar hung,

That proud banner, which, with prayer

Had been consecrated there,

And the nun’s sweet hymn was heard, the while,

Sung low in the dim, mysterious aisle.


“Take thy banner! may it wave

Proudly o’er the good and brave,

When the battles distant wail

Breaks the Sabbath of our vale,

When the clarions music, thrills

To the hearts of these lone hills,

When the spear, in conflict snakes,

And the strong lance, shivering, breaks,


“Take thy banner! and beneath

The battle-clouds encircling wreath

Guard it! till our homes are free

Guard It! God will prosper thee.

In the dark and trying hour,

In the breaking forth of power,

In the rush of steeds and men,

His right hand will shield thee, then.


“Take thy banner! but when night

Closes round the ghastly fight

If the vanquished warrior bow,

Spare him! by our holy vow

By our prayers and many tears,

By the mercy that endears,

Spare him! he our love hath shared,

Spare him! as load would’st be spared,


“Take thy banner! and if e’er

Thou should’st press a soldiers bier,

And the muffled drum should beat

To the tread of mournful lost,

Then this crimson flag shall be,

Martial cloak ad shroud for thee

And the warrior took that banner proud,

And it was his martial cloak and shroud.”

In a published account of the supposed “presentation,” and of the subsequent history of the color, it is related that: “It was during this time that Count Pulaski was complimented for his gallantry, by the presentation of a banner, embroidered by the Single Sisters, as a token of their gratitude for the protection he had afforded them, surrounded as they were, by rough and uncouth soldiery. The banner was made of crimson silk. On one side the capitals U. S. are encircled by the motto Unitas Virtus fortior; on the other side, the All-seeing Eye, in the midst of thirteen stars of the Union, is surrounded by the motto, ‘Non alius regit.’ These designs were embroidered with yellow silk, the letters shaded with green. A deep green bullion fringe ornaments the edges; the size of the banner was twenty Inches square. It was attached to a lance, when borne to the field. The banner was received by Pulaski with grateful acknowledgments, and be bore it gallantly though many a martial scene, till he fell in the attack on Savannah, in the autumn of 1779. His banner was saved by his first lieutenant (who received fourteen wounds), and delivered to Captain Bantalon, who, on retiring from the army, took the banner home with him to Baltimore. It was used in the, precession that welcomed LAFAYETTE to that city in 1824, and was then deposited in Peale’s Museum. On that occasion, it was ceremoniously, received by several young ladies. In 1844, Mr. Edmund Peale presented it to the Maryland Historical Society in whose possession it now is,” The following letter, explaining the origin of the poem, was written by the author of it to Gen. W. E. Doster, of Bethlehem, twenty years ago.

“CAMBRIDGE, January 11th, 1957.

DEAR SIR: The ‘Hymn of the Moravian Nuns’, was written in 1825, and was suggested to me by a paragraph in the North American Review, vol. ii, p.390.

The standard of Count Polaski, the noble Pole, who fell in the attack on Savannah, during the American Revolution, was of crimson silk, embroidered by the Moravian Nuns, of Bethlehem, Pa.

“The banner is still preserved you will find a complete account of the matter in Losing’s Field Book of the Revolution.

“The last line is figurative. I suppose the banner to have been wrapped about the body, as is frequently done.

“Truly yours,


In the account, first quoted, of Pulaski and his banner, it seems to be  taken for granted that he, the commanding officer, carried the flag with his own hand, as he led his troopers to the charge; but that, when he fell, it was with difficulty saved from the enemy. Both fee narrative and the poem are excellent; but It is hard to say, which is more amusing, the picture of the “glimmering tapers,” “cowled heads, “censers” and “dim, mysterious aisles” of the Sisters House, at Bethlehem, or the Idea of shrouding the body of the dead hero in a piece of silk only a trifle more than half a yard square.

  1. The original Of the above letter, as also the originals of the other letters introduced into this narrative, are all preserved in the Bethlehem Archives, and are here given verbatim. In the other publications in which some of them have appeared, they are abbreviated.

In the autumn of the same year a very distinguished character, Monsieur Gerard, the French Ambassador, visited Bethlehem, His coming was formally announced by the following letter from the President of Congress to Ettwein:

MY DEAR FRIEND: Mons. Gerard, the Minister Plenipotentiary of France, will  be provided be meets with no obstruction on the Road, at Bethlehem on the 25th inst., about mid-day. This worthy character merits regard from all the citizens of these States. An acquaintance with him will afford you satisfaction, and I am persuaded his visit will work no evil or inconvenience to your community. Don Joan de Miralles, a Spanish Gentleman highly recommended by the Governor of Havana, will accompany Mr. Gerard. The whole suite may amount to six Gentlemen, and perhaps a servant to each. I give this previous information in order that preparation suitable to the occasion may be made by Mr. Johnson (Jansen), at the Tavern, and otherwise, as you think expedient. My good wishes attend you all I beg Mr. Okely will forbear with a few days longer. I consider him as a merciful creditor, arid when an opportunity present I will pay him more in one Act than all my words are worth.

Believe me, Dear Sir, to be with sincere respect & very great affection Your friend & most humble servant,


PHILADELPHIA, 23 Novem.,1778.

The Rev. Mr. Ettwein, Bethlehem

Monsieur Gerard spent several days at Bethlehem, and was delighted with the place.

On the fifth of January, another party of distinguished foreigners arrived, consisting of Baron Riedesel, the commander of the Brunswick mercenaries, his wife, and three children; his chaplain, the Rev. John Augustus Milius; and Major-General Philips, of the British army, The two generals were prisoners of war, who had fallen into the hands of the Americans, on the occasion of Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga; and the whole party was on its way to, Virginia, whither it bad been ordered, by Congress, on parole. The baroness presented the following letter, addressed to Ettwein:

BOSTON, Nov’r, 1778.

DEAR SIR:-This letter will be delivered to you by Madden Reidesel, the Lady of Major-General Reidesel, to whom I entreat you will shew every Mark of Civility & Respect in our Power.   Wise Reasons have determined Congress to direct the March of the Army under the Convention of Saratoga to Charlottesville in Virginia. General Reidesel, his Lady, and little Family, accompany the Troops of their Prince.

It is a painful & fatiguing Journey at this Season of the Year. I doubt not your Hospitable Disposition will render it its pleasant as possible, and that without my Recommendations, You naturally would indulge the Sentiments which influence the Gentleman and the Citizen of the world.

I am,

Dear Sir,
Your affectionate,

After the return of this party, from Virginia, in the autumn of the sameyear, they spent six weeks in Bethlehem, at the Sun Inn.


The baroness, in a work which she wrote describing her visit to America, entitled Die Berufs Reise nach America, Berlin, 1801, p. 243, complains bitterly of the exorbitant charges, as she thinks, made by the landlord of the inn.

Passing over many other interesting visit, and incidents in the Revolutionary period, we bring its history to a close with a brief account, of General and Lady Washington’s stay at Bethlehem.

The latter arrived on the fifteenth of June 1778, accompanied by Generals Sullivan and Maxwell, and all escort. She was waited upon by the clergy, and shown the objects of interest in the town, especially in the Sisters House, and, in the evening, attended divine worship in the chapel. In the morning of the sixteenth, she left for Virginia.

Four years later, on the twenty-fifth of July 1782, General Washington himself came to Bethlehem, on his way to headquarters at Newburgh. He arrived quite unexpectedly says the record, and very quietly, without an escort, or parade of any kind, accompanied only by two aid-de-camps. The clergy of the town, and many citizens, waited on him at the inn. After dinner, he visited the Sisters, Brethrens, and Widows Houses; the mills and shops, the water-works, and whatever else of interest there was in the town; and in, the evening attended divine service in the chapel, where Ettwein delivered a discourse on the words: “But in fill things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresser.”-2 Cor. vi,: 4. Washington spent the night at the Still Inn, where the room is still pointed out which he is said to have occupied; and, on the morning of the twenty-sixth, proceeded to Easton, accompanied part of the way by Ettwein.

Several years prior to this visit, when the idea was entertained of establishing the Continental Hospital at Litiz, a Moravian settlement in Lancaster county, Ettwein had written to him and asked him, if possible, to prevent this. General Washington returned the following noble reply, characteristic both of his humanity and his patriotism:

HEADQUARTERS, 28th March, 1778.

SIR:-I have received your letter of the 25th instant, by Mr. Hasse setting forth the injury that will of done to the inhabitants of Letiz, by establishing a General Hospital there. It is needless to explain how essential an establishment of this kind is to the welfare of the Army, and you must be sensible that it cannot be made anywhere, without occasioning inconvenience to some set of people or other. At the same thus it is ever my wish and aim that the public good be effected with as little sacrifice as possible at individual interests, and I would by no means sanction the imposing of any burthens on the people in whose favor on remonstrate, which the public service does not require.

The Arrangement and distribution of Hospitals depends intirely on Doctor Shippen, and I am persuaded that he will not exert the authority vested in him unnecessarily to your prejudice. It would be proper however to represent to him the circumstances of the inhabitants of Letiz, and you may if you choose it, communicate the contents of this letter to him.

I am, Sir, your most obed’t serv’t,

The history of Bethlehem, subsequent to the Revolution, to the end of the exclusive system, can be summed up in a few words.

The succession of the presiding Bishops, was the following Bishop Seidel was succeeded by John Ettwein, in 1782, who could not be consecrated until two years later, when Zinzendorf’s son-in-law, Bishop Baron John de Watteville, arrived on an official visit from Europe Ettwein was followed by the Right Rev. George H. Loskiel, in 1802

Loskiel by the Right Rev. Charles G. Reichel, D. D., in 1811

Reichel by the Right Rev. Christian G. Hueffel, in 1818

Huefiel by the Right Rev. Daniel Anders, in 1828; and Anders by the Right Rev. Andrew Benade, in 1836, who remained in office until 1849.

In the office of Administrator of the ecclesiastical estates, the first incumbent, John Christian Alexander de Schweinitz was followed, in 1798, by the Rev. John G. Cunow; Cunow, in 1822, by the Rev, Lewis D. de Schwemitz, Ph.D., a son of the first Administrator; Schweinitz, in 1834, by the Rev. Philip H. Goepp, During his incumbency, the exclusive system was given up, and the finaacial system wholly changed. The church at Bethlehem was incorporated, and thereafter held its property in its own name.

Of these Administrators, the Rev. Lewis D. de Schweinitz, (born at Bethlehem, February 13th, 1780, died at the same place, February 8th, 1834) who was, at the same time, the senior pastor of the church, deserves to be particularly mentioned on account of his high scientific standing. He was one of the leading American botanists of his day, published a number of works, and described nearly fourteen hundred new species of plants of which more than twelve hundred were of North American fungi, previously little studied. He collected an herbarium which, at the time of his death, was the largest private collection of the kind in the United States.

The Wardens, superintending the municipal affairs of the town, next after Dencke, were

  • the Rev. John Schropp,1 from 1790 to 1805
  • the Rev. John Youngberg, from 1805 to 1808
  • the Rev. John F. Stadiger, from 1808 to 1836
  • the Rev. John C. Brichenstein, from 1836 to the time of the abolition of the office.

The following clergymen, other than the Bishops, engaged in ministerial work, from 1742 to 1844:

  • Anthony Seiffert
  • Daniel Pryzelius
  • John C. Pyrlaeus
  • Christian H. Rauch
  • Samuel Krause
  • John M. Graff
  • Amadeus P. Thrane
  • John A. Huebner
  • John A. Klingsohr
  • Jacob Van Vleck
  • Christian F. Schaaf
  • Charles F. Seidel
  • John F. Frueauff
  • Lewis D. de Schweintz
  • John G. Herman, and
  • George F. Bahnson.

The town slowly increased in the early part of the new century. Its population, in 1800, was five hundred and seventy-eight. After the opening of the Lehigh Canal, in 1829, its progress was more rapid; and the exclusive system gradually became a burden. Accordingly, after numerous preliminary consultations, this system was abrogated, on the eleventh of January, 1844, by the voting members of the church in council assembled. In the following year, 1845, on the sixth of March, Bethlehem was incorporated as a borough. Its population at that time must have been upward of 1,000 The first Burgess was Charles Augustus Luckenbach. the first Council consisted of

  • Rev. Philip H. Goepp
  • Benjamin Eggert
  • Ernst F Bieck
  • John M. Micksh
  • Christian Luckenbach
  • Charles L. Knauss
  • the first Treasurer, was Christian Weber
  • the Clerk, Samuel Brunner
  • the Supervisors, Matthew Brown and Augustus Milchsack
  • High Constable, Charles W. Rauch.



The first chapel, in the second-story of the Gemein. Haus, was used until 1751. On the tenth of July of that year, a new chapel of unhewn stones, its walls supported by massive buttresses, and its roof covered with tiles, was consecrated by Bishop John Nitschmann. It was built in three months. The tiles being deemed too heavy, shingles were substituted in 1753. On the ground floor a large apartment, laid with square tiles, was subsequently constructed as a dining-hall for the heads of the families of the town, where they took their meals in common. This chapel still stands, and forms the West side of the Moravian Row on Church street. It had two doors, one leading into it from the Gemein Haus, and the other from the little square inclosed by the Row. The pulpit, consisting of a platform with a table and desk, stood on the west side; the walls were adorned with paintings from the pencil of the Moravian artist, Valentine Haidt,3 representing incidents in the Saviour’s life; the gallery, furnished with a small organ, was on the south side; while hard benches, not fastened to the floor, formed the seatsfor the congregation. For nearly fifty-five years, from 1751 to 1806, this, chapel, which constituted the second place of public worship at Bethlehem, remained in use, and within its walls the Revolutionary characters, mentioned in another connection, worshiped. In 1856, it was again devoted to religious purposes; and, the interior having been entirely renovated in 1864 and 1865, it is now set apart for services in the German language.

The third place of public worship at Bethlehem was the large church at the corner of Church and Main streets. Its erection was superintended by a committee consisting of John G. Cunow, Andrew Benade, John Schropp, and Matthias Eggert. In October of 1802, the young men of the town dug the foundation gratuitously. On the sixteenth of April 1803, the cornerstone was laid by Bishop Loskiel, at the southeast corner of the main building. The stone contained a lead box, in which was placed a memorial document, and a list of the inhabitants of the town, as also of the young “misses” of the boarding school. In 1804, the building was under roof and the steeple erected, and in July, of the same year, a large organ (now in the chapel of the parochial school) was begun by John Gelb, of New York. On the eighteenth of May 1806, the edifice was consecrated by Bishop Loskiel. Its original cost was about $70,000. At the time of its erection, this church, which extends one hundred and forty-five feet on Church street, and seventy feet on Main street, its audience-room being 90 x 60 feet, and the distance from the floor to the top of the arch being thirty-four feet four inches, was looked upon as one of the wonders of the county, and even of the State. Originally the main building only had a slanting roof, the roof of the western and eastern wings was flat, surrounded by a railing, with a low turret in the centre. In 1867, the interior was entirely renovated.


The first bell at Bethlehem was put up July 6th, 1742, on a tree in front of the Gemein Haus. Joachim Senseman was appointed to ring it. He began at 5 o’clock A. M. striking the hours until 9 o’clock P. M., when the night watch was set.

In the summer of 1746, the belfry of the newly completed turret crowning the Moravian Row on Church street was furnished with a ring of three bells, cast by Samuel Powell, of Philadelphia, weighing forty, seventy, and one hundred and sixteen pounds, respectively. When struck for the quarters and the boom, they sounded in succession the fifth, the third, and the first tones of the chord G. On the twenty-fifth of July 1776, the largest of them was recast, at Bethlehem, by one Tommerop, a bell-founder, assisted by Anthony Schmidt, Jr., a smith, who reached an advanced age, and is well remembered by citizens now living, This centennial bell, which weighed two hundred and twenty-eight pounds, and which was rung, for the first time, on the twenty-seventh of July, is still in its place. Its ringers, down to modern times, were all women, Their names have been preserved, to wit:

  • Molly Isles
  • Mary Fritsche
  • widow Kitschelt
  • Barbara Buehler
  • widow Borhek.

A new bell was procured, for the large church, from London, where it was cast, by Thomas Mears, in 1804. On its arrival at Bethlehem, it was, first of all, hung on the site of Professor Schulze’s house, on Cedar street, and there rung, to the astonishment of crowds of people who flocked in from the country to hear it. This bell was supplanted, in 1868, by the one now hanging in the steeple, cast at Troy, and weighing fourteen hundred and seventeen pounds.


The first clock at Bethlehem, the work of Augustine Neisser,4 at Germantown, was put up in the belfry of the Moravian Row, probably in 1746. It was a thirty-hour clock. In 1806, it was removed to the steeple of the large church, where four new dials were constructed by John Samuel Krause.5 The late Jedidiah Weiss greatly improved it, and changed it into a three find a half day clock. At the time of writing, it is being altered into an eight-day clock. by Levin F. Giering.

  1. Born in 1758 in Nazareth, son of the Rev. Matthias Schropp, who came to Bethlehem in 1743, and served the church for twenty-four years. John Schropp who was the Warden for twenty years at Nazareth and Bethlehem, was the grandfather of Abraham Schropp, secretary of the Bethlehem Iron Company.
  2. Much of the information under this head is based on memoranda of the late Rev. W. C. Reichel, extracted from the papers in the Archives.
  3. Born at Daniz, in 1704; educated at Berlin, and learned painting at Rome; came to America, in 1754, where he served as an itinerant preacher, but devoted himself, also to painting. Died at Bethlehem, in 1780.
  4. The great-grandfather of Squire B. F. Neisser, of Bethlehem.
  5. The grandfather of J. Samuel Krause, of the hardware firm Krause & Luckenbach.



The first Brethren’s House, the site for which had been selected by Count Zinzendorf in 1742, was built and dedicated in 1744. It is still standing, at the southeast corner of the Moravian Row, on Church street; a massive, stone building, two stories high, with a sort of Mansard roof; the halls on the first floor being still laid with the large square tiles which were put down in 1744, and the sun-dial, which was devised at that time, between two windows of the second story, remaining intact. This was the home for the unmarried men, or the “Single Brethren,” as they were called, of the settlement, who formed a distinct brotherhood, at whose head stood a superintendent. Such of the inmates as were destined for the ministry engaged in their studies; the rest in various trades, carried on for the benefit of the establishment. A warden managed its financial interests it had a dining-hall, where the brethren took their meals in common, and a chapel, where daily morning and evening services were held. Their was nothing monastic in the character of this brotherhood, and its members were bound by no vow. In 1748, a new and larger Brethren House was opened at the southern end of Main street, now the middle building of the Young Ladies Seminary. At that time it had only, one door on the, north, and another as the south side. Above the latter were a large gilt star and an inscription. In 1815, the brotherhood gave up their house and  establishment but remained a distinct class of the membership of the church, under the special supervision of their superintendent.


The house vacated by the unmarried men, in 1748, was, at once, occupied by the unmarried women, or the “Single Sisters,” as they were called, and thus become the Sisters House. Its north wing was added in 1751-52, and an extension, at the eastern end, built in 1773. The sisterhood, occupying this edifice, was constituted like the brotherhood, having a deaconess for its superintendent, and another woman to manage its financial affairs. These prospered greatly. Beautiful embroidery and other needle-work, as also substantial knitting were done, and orders came in from far end near. Moreover, the sale of dried-apples was extensive, the Sisters House owning a large orchard. A separate building, known as the “Schnitz House,” and still standing was used for preparing the apple. The Sisters is now a tenement building. Its financial economy was given up about 1840.


This was a home for widows, conducted on the same plan as the Brethrens and Sisters Houses, except that the inmates did not take their meals in one dining-room, but received them from a common kitchen. The corner-stone of the building, which stands on Church street, opposite the Moravian Row, was laid on the twenty-seventh of April, 1767, and it was occupied on the eleventh of September 1769. A large part of the original cost of this home was voluntarily contributed by members of the church, both in America and Europe. In 1794 and 1795, an addition was put up at the east end. This structure is now a home for the widows of Moravian clergymen, its former financial economy was relinquished about 1840.


The first inn at Bethlehem was “The Crown,” built of logs in 1745, on the south side of the Lehigh. It stood at the southeast corner of what, is now the Union Depot. The first landlord was Samuel Powell; the last, George Schindler, The inn was closed in 1794, and became a farm house. In 1857, it was removed to make way for the track of the North Pennsylvania Railroad.

The second inn was “The Sun,” a large, two-story stone and occupied in 1760, its first landlord being Peter Worbas.


In this inn the Revolutionary characters, and, before them, distinguished men of colonial times, were wont to lodge.

The third house of entertainment was the “Eagle Hotel,” built for the purposes of a store, in 1793, and changed into a hotel in 1823. Charles D. Bishop was its first landlord.


On the twenty-fifth of January, 1743, a site for a ferry across the Lehigh was selected, its southern terminus being a group of sycamores, immediately above the railroad bridge. It was opened on the eleventh of March. The first ferryman, whose name is recorded, was Adam Schaus, Ferriage for a horse and rider was 3d. In 1744, the tolls amounted to £2, 11s, 2d; in the following year, the ferry was made free for all such as belonged to Bethlehem or dealt there, while travelers were, expected to pay, if able, but were “not to be constrained.” In 1750, wharves were constructed, and, in 1758, a rope was introduced, which greatly facilitated the passage across the river. The first bridge was erected in 1794, John Schropp, the warden, having been empowered, by an Act of Assembly, to undertake the enterprise, and to associate stockholders with himself. This bridge was uncovered, built of hemlock timber, and opened for travel on the nineteenth of September. It cost $7,800. In 1816 it was removed, and a more durable one put up, also uncovered, resting on four piers, furnished with ice-breakers. The first carriage passed over it on the nineteenth of October. In April of 1827, the present “Bethlehem Bridge Company ” was organized and incorporated by charter. In 1841, the second bridge was carried away by a freshnet, whereupon the present covered one was  constructed, which had to be partially rebuilt after the freshet of 1862.


Bethlehem was originally supplied with water by carriers, who obtained it from the copious and unfailing spring-it has never been dry since the town exists-in Water street. In 1754, Hans Christopher Christiansen Dane, from Holstein, erected the first water-works, which forced the, water by a pump, made of lignum vitoe, through bored hemlock logs up the hill to a reservoir, on the site of the Moravian Church. The machinery was placed in a frame building, east of the oil-mill. In, 1761, a stone structure (still standing)was erected for new machinery, consisting of three single- acting iron force-pumps geared to the shaft of an undershot water-wheel, and put into operation on the sixth of July, 1762. The distributing reservoir was a wooden tower, on the site of the church. Numerous improvements, were, introduced, in the course of year. In 1803, the water tower was removed to Market street, above Cedar, where it stood until 1832; in 1813 a large reservoir was constructed on the same street; while, in 1832, a new and more powerful pump was procured, the works were removed to the building where they may still be found, and a more capacious reservoir was made on Broad street. In 1846, the “Bethlehem Water Company” was incorporated, which, after, having introduced-in 1868-steam as a pumping agent, sold the works to the borough in 1871. They are the oldest water-works in Pennsylvania, and, probably, the oldest in the United States.


The first, burying-place at Bethlehem was that historic ground, on Market and New streets, which the settlers laid out in 1742, and which has been used ever since, The first interment occurred on the twenty-seventh of July of that year, and was that of John Mueller, whose, death has been mentioned in another connection. About 2,350 subsequent interments have taken place. Fifty-six converted Indians, seventeen negro converts, one Malabar convert, from Ceylon, eleven bishops, more than seventy other clergymen, and a large number of the early settlers and prominent citizens are buried, in rows, with flat and unostentatious tombstones in this ground.

A second burying-place was laid out, at an early day near the intersection of what are now Second and Ottawa streets, in, South Bethlehem. Here only seventeen were interred, as far as is known. The Revolutionary soldiers were buried, to the number of more than four hundred, on the brow and slope of the Allentown Hill, beyond the Monocacy.

A new and beautiful Moravian cemetery was opened on Nisky Hill in 1865. A part of it is reserved as church ground; the rest is sold in lots.


Beginning on the north side of Church street at the Sister’s House we find its corner building, as also its buttressed wing. The latter connects with the north side of the Moravian Row, which side consists, of three contiguous buildings: the central one erected in 1745 and 1746, and crowned with a turret, whose gilt vane, an Agnus Dei, represents the device on the episcopal seal of the church;2 the eastern extension, put up in 1748; and the western extension, finished in 1749. The first and second of thesebuildings were, originally, “family-houses.” When the third had been completed, they were thrown into one, and used as a Girls Institute. The middle house had a balcony above the front door. Connecting with the west end of the Institute, we find the chapel, and at the south end of the chapel, the Gemein Haus. On a line with its front, going west eighty feet, is a large two-story log house, with it kind of Mansard roof on Main street, eighty feet from the Boarding School corner, another log house, similar to the first. Both these structures are “family-houses,” and stand within the wall and railing which now inclose the Moravian Church.

Continuing our way up Main street, on the east side, we come to Doctor  Otto’s house, built in 1752, a one-story stone structure, covered with tiles, on the site of the apothecary establishment of Simon Rau & Company. A short distance above it is the Doctors laboratory.3 The next building, on the site of the Moravian publication office, is the Boys Institute, a three-story stone house erected in 1754, originally for families, but afterward used for school purposes.

Having reached the junction of Main and Market streets, we find, fifty-five feet from the corner of the latter, and standing out into the street, a watch-house; while up Market street, immediately opposite the burying-ground, is seen the store, opened in July of 1753, and removed only a few years ago. Adjoining it is the residence of Squire Horsfield, which is still standing, and occupied by Mrs. Oerter. Retracing our steps to Main street, we come, four hundred and ninety feet due north of the Boys Institute, to the horse stable, 112 x 36 feet, about the site of Walp & Company’s establishment; and, two hundred and twelve feet due north of this, to the Sun Inn.

Crossing to the other side of Main street, there is, almost in a line with the lower end of the horse stable, but farther back than the street, the cooper shop; and, going south, we find, inclosed by what is now Goundie’s alley, and the street which leads from its western end to Charles W. Rauch’s house, first, a large cattle yard, the original log cabin built by the earliest settlers being the dwelling of the herdsman; second, five, stables, for horses, news, and hogs; and, third, a commodious barn, on the site of the Eagle Hotel.

Taking our way to Water street, we see the gristmill, built in 1743 (first grist ground June 28th), rebuilt in 1751,


burned and rebuilt in 1869, the property of David and Andrew Luckenbach; and crossing the Monocacy, the Indian House, erected in 1752, with a log chapel near by.

Turning back to the mill, and going south, we pass the butcher house, the spring house, the leather house, the tannery buildings, three in number, the water-works, and reach the oil-mill, on the site of the present water-works. In this mill, which was built in 1745, and rebuilt in 1765, linseed oil was manufactured (for the first time on the twelfth of February, 1745), bark ground for the tanner, and hemp rubbed.

Beyond the mill, on the bank of the Lehigh, we finally arrive at the Brethren’s Wash House. Returning thence, by way of the Monocacy Hill, we reach the Brethrens House, facing Main street. In it are a number of shops and factories.

Proceeding up the street, on the west side, we come to the joiners and turners shop, back of Mrs. Abbott’s house, next to the pottery (Mrs. Henry Bishop’s house), where the stoves are made, next to the blacksmith shop and locksmith shop (Frank Krause’s house), with a path between it and the pottery leading to the mill, and, finally, to the hat makers and wagoners shops, and to the lodging house for strangers. Back of these buildings-the row from Frank Krause’s house to Charles W. Rauch’s-are the coal house and the nail-smith shop. We end our survey by going back to the Sisters House, whence we set out. There we find a path leading through what is now the Widows House property, first south, and then southeast, to the Monocacy passing Shober’s house, on the slope, of the hill, two flax houses at the foot of it.

Crossing the creek on a bridge, and bringing its to the saw-mill, which still stands. It was erected in 1744, and the first logs were awed on the twenty-sixth of June. Due south of it is the soap boilery, and to the southwest, on the bank of the Lehigh, the Sisters Wash House. The Sand Island Consists of three separate islands, the middle one being by far the largest.


Bethlehem has always been celebrated for its schools. For the first forty years of its existence, however, only the children of the Church were admitted to them. In this period there existed a Boys Boarding School, or Institute, from 1744 to 1759, when it was transferred to Nazareth Hall; and also a Girls’ Boarding School, in the middle building of the Moravian Row, begun on the fifth of January, 1749, and continued to the second of October, 1785. On that day it was changed into a public Boarding School for Young Ladies, which still exists, which is probably the oldest school of the kind in the United States, and which has educated more than six thousand young ladies from all parts of America, as also a number from the West Indies and other countries.

This school was opened in the middle building of the Moravian Row. In 1790 and 1791, a new structure was erected for it on the site of what is now the Parochial School; and, in 1815, it was transferred to what had been the Brethrens House. This building is still occupied, but flanked by new and larger structures on either side, with a chapel and gymnasium in the rear. Until 1851, this school was, at the same time, the day school for the daughters of Moravian families at Bethlehem. In that year they were organized into a school of their own, After the removal of the Boys Institute to Nazareth, there was a Boys Day School at Bethlehem, which was held in various houses, until the erection of a special building, the one now occupied by Colonel Bear. In 1857, the present large Parochial School house was put up and the Boys and Girls School were combined into one Parochial School, under the superintendence of a principal, and nine teachers. It numbers about two hundred and thirty pupils.

In 1838, the Moravian Theological Seminary was transferred from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It occupied three houses on the north side of Broad street, below New; in 1851, it was again moved back to Nazareth; but, in 1858, the building on Church street, in which it is now located was purchased, and the Seminary was permanently settled at Bethlehem.



In July, of 1742, the first postal arrangements were made at Bethlehem, They were altogether private, but very complete.

George Neisser was constituted postmaster

Henry Antes had charge of the post horses

Abraham Bueninger, “Andrew, the negro,” Christian Werner, and George Schneider, were postillions.

They left Bethlehem every Monday morning, and rode as far as Frederic township, Montgomery county; on Tuesday, they proceeded to Germantown; on Wednesday morning to Philadelphia, returning the same day to Germantown; on Thursday to Frederic township; and on Friday to Bethlehem. All through the colonial period, the town depended upon such private enterprises. There was no government post.

In 1763, George Klein introduced a weekly stage-wagon to Philadelphia, and, in the following year sold the concern to John Francis Oberlin. How long it continued, does not appear; but this enterprise was the beginning or the numerous stage lines which subsequently came to Bethlehem until the opening of the railroads.

The postal system was developed more and more, until 1792, when the first United States Post Office was opened at Bethlehem, under the administration of Washington. Joseph Horsfield was the first Postmaster, appointed on the twelfth of June. He was succeeded, on the thirteenth of February, 1802, by George Huber; Huber, on the twentieth of February, 1803, by Francis C. Kampman; Kampman, on the twenty-fourth of January, 1816, by Joseph Rice; Joseph Rice, on the seventeenth of May, 1820, by Owen Rice, Jr.; Owen Rice, on the tenth of July, 1833, by William Rice; William Rice, on the twenty-second of December, 1838, by Charles C. Tombler; Tombler, on the third of May, 1841, by Jacob Kummer; Kummer, on the second of March, 1848, by Charles 6. Tumbler, again; Tombler, on the eighth of May, 1849, by James A. Rice, and, upon his death, by his widow, Mrs. Josephine Rice; Mrs. Rice, on the twenty-sixth of May, 1853, by William F. Miller; Miller, on the twelfth of August, 1856, by Charles A. Luckenbach; Luckenbach, on the sixteenth of October, 1860, by William A. Bush; and Bush, on the third of April, 1861, by Robert Peysert, the present incumbent.

The first regular fire department was organized in May, 1762, it was  originally under the supervision of the Warden and Overseers, and supplied with buckets and ladders only. The first fire-engine-the-Perseverance-now in the Museum of the Young Men’s Missionary Society, was built by Brooks, in London, England, in 1698, and was purchased there by Captain Christian Jacobson, for the American Moravian Church, for £77 12s. 2d., brought over by him in the ship “Hope,” at an expense of £6 18s 3d, and delivered in Bethlehem, December 10th, 1763. It was tried for the first time in that year. It occupied a conspicuous position in the Firemen’s Centennial Parade, at Philadelphia, in 1876. From the best information that can be obtained, it is the first fire-engine ever used in America.

  1. This survey is based upon a draft in the Bethlehem Archives, without date, but evidently draw about 1762.
  2. This device was proposed for vane by Bishop Cammerhof.
  3. John Matthew Otto born in Meiningen, in 1714, graduated at Augsburg immigrated to Bethlehem in 1750, and was for forty-six years the physician and surgeon of the Moravian settlement in Northampton county, He died August 9th, 1786, and was succeeded by Dr. Eberhard Freytag, from whom Simon Rau purchased the Apothecary shop.

The second fire-engine-The Diligence-was imported from Neuwied, on the Rhine, in 1792. About 1808, two fire companies were organized. The unmarried men constituted the one, and tool, the Perseverance; the married men the other, and took the. Diligence, which was greatly improved by  Bethlehem mechanics.


In 1771 the “Widows-Society of Bethlehem” was founded, having in view the partial support of the widows of the Church. It was a sort of beneficent insurance company, the first of the kind in the country, and still exists. The good which it has done, in a quiet way, cannot be overestimated. In 1821 it was incorporated. Its operations are not confined to Bethlehem. Any member of the Moravian Church can buy a share in it.


This society was organized on the twenty-first of September, 1787, and incorporated fit the following year. Its object is the foreign missionary work of the church, and it now holds a large capital, willed to it by the late Godfrey Haga, of Philadelphia.


Music was cultivated at a very early day, and an orchestra existed in 1780. The first Philharmonic Society was called the Collegium Musicum.  Out, of this grew the present Philharmonic Society, about the year 1806. The Bethlehem Band was organized in 1809. Soon after the Revolution the people of Bethlehem discarded the principles of non-combatants, and about 1831, a military company was formed, under the late Captain Woehler in the same year.


Was organized, which, in 1868, gave its library to the Young Men’s Christian Association. This latter society grew out of the Young Men’s Missionary Society, organized in 1841.