The History of Forks Township
THE township of Forks is bounded on the north by Plainfield Township
on the northeast and east by Lower Mount Bethel, and the Delaware River,
which separates it from the State of New, Jersey on the south by the Borough
of Easton and Palmer township; which last named also bounds it on the west.
Formerly, the township extended westward to the townships of Bethlehem,
and Lower and Upper Nazareth and southward to the Lehigh River, including the
entire area of Palmer, which was not separated from it until the year 1857;
the Bushkill Creek being then adopted as the line of division.
Forks township is watered, and well supplied with water-power, by the
Bushkill, and the smaller streams flowing into it, and into the Delaware.
There are few streams in this section of country which furnish water-power
more abundantly than the Bushkill.
It also formerly abounded in fish, and was the home of the trout, but
this is no longer the case; probably on account of the numerous mills on
the stream. Some of the small streams which watered the township in the
olden time have entirely dried up and disappeared.
One of these which, a hundred years ago, took its rise near Schoeneck, and
emptied into the Bushkill, near the old homestead of Frederick Lerch, has
long since ceased to exist, although it was of considerable size, and was
esteemed a fair fishing stream by the inhabitants of the vicinity, in the
Another similar instance was that of Deer Creek (so named by Jacob
Kemerer, who believed it to be a favorite resort of the deer), which took
its rise in a tract of land known as “the Jew’s lot,” then owned by Conrad
Kocher, and which, from being a quite considerable stream, dwindled away,
year by year, and was finally lost.
The old Bushkill, however, still plunges noisily over its rocky bed, not
perceptibly diminished in volume since the days of the red men, and
performing the work of hundreds of horses, in its course from the hills to
On the advent of the white man into the territory of Forks, he found the
Indian there, as everywhere else in the region of the Lehigh and Delaware.
One of these whose name has become historical, was “Moses” Tatemy, a
Delaware chief, who, strange to say, never proved treacherous, but always
remained the friend of the white man, and who, for his friendship and
services, received a full title to three hundred and fifteen acres of laud
in the township, on one of the streams flowing into, the Bushkill.
He acted as interpreter to the missionary Brainerd for a time, and also
for the Governor and Proprietary agents, at the Indian treaties at Easton.
He died in or about the year 1761, and was buried in the burial ground 1 of
the old “Forks Church”-supposed to have been the first interment in that
In many of the oldest documents, up to about 1750, the Bushkill was
spoken of as “Tatemys Creek.”
It is said that a number of the Indian inhabitants of the township were
buried on land formerly of Daniel Wagener, now of heirs of David D. Wagener.
During the life of the elder Wagener, these graves were cared for and well
kept, but the traces of them are now nearly obliterated.
It is related that it Mr. Bittenbender, the great-great-grandfather of
Mr. Shultze, recently Chief Burgess of Easton, was tomahawked and scalped
by the Indians here, and that his brother, Conrad Bittenbeuder, was
captured by them, but was afterwards rescued, and subsequently served in
the Revolutionary War.
1. In foot-note, page 43, of this work, it is incorrectly stated that
Tatemy was buried in Williams township-the word Williams having been
inadvertantly inserted instead of the word Forks, as was intended.
The first settlers in the limits of Forks, were chiefly Germans, and that
has always been the preponderating nationality in the township. Their
descendants (in some of the seventh generation) still occupy the lands
which the Teutonic pioneers first settled, and reclaimed from their
Among, the names of those first settlers, of Forks, are found those of
John Lefebre, (a French Huguenot)
John Van Etten
John Nicholas Kemerer
Raesley, and others.
Jacob Arndt, a noted man of Forks, was not among the first comers; he
having removed from Bucks county to this township in 1762.
James Searle was the first surveyor residing in Forks township, and
occupied a dwelling on John Van Ettens land. The first Constable was Thomas
Clarke. John Van Etten, Esq., lived near where, Stockertown now is.
He served for several years as Justice of the Court, and held the rank of
General in the French and Indian War. There is a burial ground on what was
then his land: three of his sons lie there, and their grave, are marked by
stones hearing English inscriptions.
Mrs. Stecker, wife of Melchior Stecker, was also buried in the Van Etten
ground. Her tombstone bears date of 1776. Her husband became possessor of
the “Tatemy tract,” after the death of that old chief.
John Nicholas Kemerer, one of the earliest settlers, lived on the farm
now owned by A. Dewalt.
This farm was owned after Mr. Kemerers death by
his son Jacob, and still later by his grandson, the Rev, William Kemerer,
then by Freeman F, Lesher, the present owner.
Valentine Uhler, Sr., purchased one hundred and thirty-seven acres of
land, A. D. 1786, of William Smith, for £548. He willed this tract of land
to his two sons
Valentine Uhler, Jr.
the former having the old homestead. When Mr. Valentine Uhler, Sr. bought
this property there was a one-story log dwelling on the place, which he
raised to a two-story house. This being the homestead, was occupied by
John Levan Uhler until his death, and then passed into the hands of
Paul Rader, then to Barney Wetzel, who is the present occupant and owner.
Valentine Uhler, Jr., built for himself a house on his portion,
which he is still occupying, at the age of eighty-two years.
On this is a large tree, standing alone in a field, which has been
preserved by its owner, on account of an incident which occurred long ago,
in which the old tree bore a part.
About seventy years ago, when Valentine was a boy, a bear was one day
seen prowling about, not far from the dwelling. John Stecker seized his
rifle and started in pursuit. Bruin retreated, and sought refuge in this
tree, where he was killed by Mr. Slacker, who is said to have been an
excellent shot. It is also related, that the weapon with which he
killed the bear, was the first rifle owned in the township.
Michael Messinger, Sr. purchased a tract of five hundred acre of land
from John Potts, in 1711, His descendants, Joseph S., Lorenzo, Andrew
Samuel Messinger, still occupy a portion of this tract.
There is, in the possession of John M. Lerch, Esq., a deed dated
March 19th, 1771, “In the eleventh year of the reign of our Sovereign
Lord, George the Third, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France and
Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith,” etc., from Joseph Potts and his
wife. Sarah Potts, formerly Sarah Powel, granddaughter of Samuel Powel, the
elder deceased, conveying to Michael Messinger, of Forks township, in the
county of Northampton, half of a certain tract, in the Forks of the
Delaware, cornering with land granted to an Indian, by name Tatemy Fundy,
containing five hundred acres and ninety-four perches, and the allowance of
six acres on every one hundred for roads, highways, &c., also in
consideration of £1,050.
This land was conveyed by the Lord Proprietors to, Samuel Powel, in
1740, and descended by will to the said Sarah Pott, granddaughter of the
said Samuel Powel.
Another deed dated 1776, conveys two hundred and eighty acres and
ninety-two perches, from Wm. Smith to Jacob Arndt, for the sum of £5011 1
And in 1790, Jacob Arndt conveyed the same tract to Frederick Lerch, for
the sum of £1,300.
An old stone building situated in Forks township, on property Dow owned
by R. C. Weaver, is supposed to be the oldest stone dwelling standing in
the county; this statement comes down from Michael Messinger through his
descendents. It is said to have been built in the year 1740, by Weygandt.
The walls are massive, windows very high from file ground, door, unusually
thick, and casings double, and all the wood work is of solid oak, It is
supposed to have been built with a view to defence against file Indians.
The first blacksmith, in Forks was Jacob Shaffer, on farm now owned by
Henry Laughenour, now in Palmer township, near the Bushkill Creek. A
very old blacksmith shop was located near the present residence of
John K. Lerch, and was carried on by John Adam Willaur, before A D. 1800,
John Lerch, father of John M. Lerch, learned the trade in this shop with
Mr. Willaur, and carried on blacksmithing there. from 1801 until his death,
The first store known to have been kept was at Arndts Mill, by Arndt &
Lambert, on property now owned by Michael Walter.
Seipt Tavern. -Mr. George Noll, flow residing in Williams township, in his
eighty-ninth year, was reared in Forks township, and says the first public
house,2 he remembers to have been kept in this township, was on the road
leading from Easton to Nazareth, known as Seip’s Tavern, kept by James
Seip and further says, that this was the only tavern between Easton
Nazareth at that time. License was granted to Philip Messinger, who kept,
tavern in 1797, on road leading from Easton to Wilkesbarre. This building
is still standing, owned and occupied by Peter Werkheiser.
Among the list of soldiers of Forks township who served in the old wars,
were Jacob Arndt, who was captain, and afterwards colonel in the French
and Indian wars, and Valentine Ulder, Sr., George Sleeker, Henry Loux,
John N. Kemerer, Henry Stocker, Andrew Stocker, and others, who served
in the Revolution.
All these were, buried in the Salem Church Cemetery with the exception of
Colonel Arndt, (who as well as his son, John Arndt, of Revolutionary fame)
was buried to the burial-ground of the, Arndt and Messinger Church. The
inscriptions above their graves are as follows:
“Here are deposited the remains of Colonel Jacob Arndt, who, in his
lifetime, faithfully served his God, his King, and in after life in the
Revolution and the Republic. Born in Germany, 12th of March, 1723, and
departed this life 3d of Aug., 1805 aged 80yrs. 4 mos., & 10 das.”
Capt, John Arndt, to whose memory this stone is erected, was born on the
3d of June, 1748, and died the 24th of May, 1814, at the age of 65 yrs.,
11 mos., and 1 day, Closed an active life of public usefulness and private.
Upon another tombstone in the same ground is the inscription;
Here, rests in God, the body of Michael Messinger, Both in Germany, 10th of
Nov. 1719, and died Oct 24th, 179l, aged 71 years, 11 months, and 17 days”,
Jacob Arndt and Michael Messinger were the donors of the site of the
burial-ground, where repose then, earthly remains.
George Lesher was a member of Captain Jarrett’s Light Horse in the War
of 1812. He died in 1875, at the age of eighty-six.
George Nolf who was in the War of 1812, will be eighty-nine years of age,
on the eighth of May, 1877.
Charles Stocker, also served in that war.
And there were several from Forks who fought in Mexico; among whom were
The population of Forks, increased from about fifty in 1740
to about one hundred and fifty, in 1750
two hundred and fifty, in 1760; and more than four hundred, in 1770.
The valuation of the real estate in the township in 1773, was £1,185, and
the amount of tax was £13 3s, 10d. There were sixty-nine persons subject,
to taxation, and eleven “single men.”
There were then in operation in the township, two grist-mills; one owned
and run by Jacob Arndt (formerly spelled Orndt), and the other by H. Lesh.
In 1780, the population had increased to about 600
In 1790, 722
in 1800, 884
in 1810, 1,294
in 1820, 1,659
in 1830, 1,939
in 1840, 2,166
in 1850, 2,321
In the last named year, there were in the township,
The amount of
wheat produced, was 47,640 bushels
of rye, 33,490 bushels
of corn, 65,780 bushels
of oats, 17,780
of potatoes, 16,075 bushels
of buckwheat, none
of butter, 65,500 pounds
of hay, 2,788 tons
Statistics of the township assessment of 1853, were as follows:
Valuation, Real Estate, 15,839 Acres (average $74.18 per Acre), $1,185,038
Valuation, 578 Horses, 785 Cows, 40,408
Valuation, 200 Pleasure Carriages, 10,133
Money at Interest 134,814
Stocks in Banks, 111,720
State Tax $4,015 68
County Tax 3,402 70
Road Tax 1,000 00
School Tax 1,350 00
Number of Schools, 13
Number of Teachers, 13
Number of Scholars, 650
Number of Taxable, 632
The population of Forks township at the last census was 1,450
1.It must be borne in mind that this was in Continental money, which, at
that time, stood in the proportion of seventy-five dollars for one dollar
in silver money,
2. This, however, was by no means the first tavern in Forks. John Lefebre
kept public house near the Bushkill, in the township, at the time of the
laying out of Easton, which was thirty-eight years before Mr. Nolf was born.
The Friedensthal mill is one of the first put in operation in the county.
It was built by the Moravians on a portion of the Whitefield tract,
probably about 1746.
In 1791 the old mill gave place to a stone structure, built by
John Eyerly, It has passed successively through the hands of Philip Weiss,
Heller, and Coryell, and George Bier, to Charles Mann, the present owner.
The mill, originally in old Forks township, fell within the bounds of
Palmer, at the division in 1857. It is about two and a half miles from
Nazareth, and one ofthe largest and best mills on the Bushkill, Jacob
Arndt, owned and carried on one of the oldest mills in Forks.
It stood above the Kepler mill, on the Bushkill, and was built about 1763.
It was destroyed by fire, some ten years since, but was rebuilt by Jacob
Walter, who is now doing a thriving business. This is known as Mr, Walter’s
The upper mill owned by him, now in Palmer township, was built by Michael
Messinger, about the year 1760. He sold the mill and business to Nathaniel
Michler, one, of the most prominent and enterprising men of the time.
In 1825 he erected a distillery, adjoining this mill, and the distilling
was carried on for many years with great success. This property passed into
the hands of Peter and Thomas Michler, his sons, and remained in the hands
of Nathaniel Michler for over a half century. It is now owned by Jacob
Jacob Shoemaker’s fulling-mill, on the Bushkill, was built and started
prior to the Revolution, It was located about two miles from Easton,
opposite the mill now owned by T. Kepler.
The “Rock Mill,” now owned and operated by J. A. Gerhart, is the first in
Forks township, above Easton, on the Bushkill Creek. It is a very old site,
and was in possession of George Messinger about the year 1756. The present
structure was erected in 1807, by Jacob Seiple, and has passed through the
hands of Philip Odenwelder, Michael Butz, and others, to its present
W. Zuck owns the mill erected by John Kemerer in the year 1829. From
Kemerer it passed into the hands of his father, David Kemerer, from him to
George Able, and from him to the present owner.
The mill now occupied by Solomon Knecht, and owned by Mrs. Newlin, was
built by her grandfather, the late Judge Daniel Wagener, A. D., 1809, the
date is still on it stone on the building. He carried on milling at this
place for a few years, after which he retired the mill to his sons-in-law,
Joseph Burke and Philip Meixell.
At the death of the Judge, his son inherited the property, containing
some three hundred acres of land, which afterwards passed to Mrs. Newlin,
his daughter, the present owner.
On the premises now owned by Peter Woodring, there stood, in former days,
a saw-mill, supposed to have been built by John Van Etter, Esq., as it is
on a the tract originally owned by him. This saw-mill was taken away by
Sydney A. Cleywell, about the year 1840, to give place to a grist-mill;
afterwards sold to Peter Woodring. This mill was recently destroyed by
fire, but was re-erected by the present owner, Mr. Woodring.
On the property of Michael Messinger’s heirs, north of the old Judge
Wagener mill, there stand the ruins of a mill built by Michael Messinger,
A. D. 1815, as it plaster, clover-seed, and wool carding-mill.
North of these old ruins is the agricultural machine-shop, owned and
worked by S. S. Messinger, who is doing it thriving business. Near this
machine-shop stands a bridge, built in 1797, which has withstood the floods
and ice eighty years, and is still in good condition. The contract for
building this bridge was taken by John Messinger, for the sum of $500,
though it is said the cost of the bridge was not less than $1,000. A short
distance above this bridge, on what was originally known as the Kings
highway, a stone bridge is still standing, erected directly after the
laying out of this road.
About the year 1780, there were three school houses in the old township
of Forks; two of these being within the present bounds, and the other in
what is now Palmer. They were log buildings with very small windows, tough
doors, with wooden hinges and fastenings, and leather latch-strings.
In 1817 there was erected, on land then owned by John Rasely, an
octagonal building of stone, which was considered it very fine structure in
those days. It was, however, torn down, thirteen years later (1830), and
the furniture, etc., disposed of at auction.
The Knecht school house was built on the same plan. About the same time
there was one erected at Seipsville, which is still standing The Arndt
Church was used as a school house in 1826, There are now eight schools in
THE ARNDT AND MESSINGER CHURCH
This church is so named in honor of Jacob Arndt and Michael Messinger,
who donated the site for church and cemetery purposes. The burial-ground
was laid out and used for fifty years before a church was erected.
The first interment in the ground was that of Mrs. Arndt, wife of one of
the donors, She was buried there January 31st, 1776 The ground has been
materially enlarged since the first laying out.
The first church building was a stone structure, erected A.D. 1826. It
was intended to serve as a school house as well as a church. Large doors
were hung on binges, in the ceiling, separating the church from the
schoolroom. These doors could be raised and the two rooms thrown into one
when occasion requited.
This building was demolished and a new one erected, on the same site, in
the year 1855. The church has been occupied by the Lutheran and Reformed
congregations since its erection, and they have been presided over by the
following pastors, viz:
Rev. Thomas Pomp
Rev, Max Sterns
Rev. D. F. Brendel
Rev. John Aug. Brobst
Rev. George Wentzell
Rev. Philip Phatteiger
Rev. David Kuntz
SALEM COMMUNION OR FORKS CHURCH
This church is situated in the northern part of the township, and was the
first church erected in old Forks. It is a stone structure, built A. D
1812, and remodeled in 1856. It was occupied by the Lutheran and Reformed
The following have been their pastors from its organization, viz:
Rev. Thomas Pomp
Rev. Theodore Hoffiditz
Rev. E. W. Remecke, their present pastor
Rev. John N. Brobst
Rev. Mark Harpel
Rev. J. B. Rath
Rev. David Kuntz, the present pastor
The first Sabbath-school was established at the school house, in
Johnson's district, in 1832. James Lewis was the first superintendent, and
was aided in the work by Miss Mary Miller, the originator, who is now
living in South Easton. This school has been continued to the present time,
There are other schools, held at different school houses in the township,
and a Union Sunday-school is held at each of the churches. These schools
are furnished with good libraries, and are well attended.