The History of The Borough of Freemansburg
THE Borough of Freemansburg was incorporated January 24th, 1856, and the
first borough election was held on the twenty-first of the following March.
Following are the names of the first officers:
Chief Burgess, George Bachman
Members of Council (sworn into office March 29th, 1856)-
William Gwinner, President
R. O. Lerch.
Henry Schweitzer, Town Clerk
John Warg, Borough Treasurer
John A. Gross, Street Supervisor
Owen Weaver, High Constable
The salary of the Town Clerk was fixed at ten dollars per annum; that of
the High Constable was twenty-five dollars per annum, and he was required
to give bond to the amount of three hundred dollars. The bond of the
Borough Treasurer was fixed at $1,000.
At the meeting of the Council, it was voted to adopt the rules of the
Borough Council of Easton; and, on the thirtieth of August the, first
borough tax was levied-$455,32. In the meantime (June l4th, 1356), George
Hess had been appointed and directed to make a draft of the new borough.
Among the very earliest settlers within the present bounds of
Freemansburg, were the Bachmans, descendants of whom are still living here.
They are supposed to have settled here at least as early as 1760. At the
extreme western end of the town there is still standing (owned by the
Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad Company), an old stone building, which was
erected in the ancient time by Peter Bachman, and by him kept as a tavern.
It is related that while this old house was building, the Indians made
several attempts, from the opposite side of the river, to shoot the stone
masons, at their work. There is no doubt that there were one or two log
houses built there before this one of stone but this, it is probable, was
the first building which could be considered as of much pretension or importance.
A year or two later, there came to the place a Bethlehem Moravian, named
Huber, who erected a saw-mill. At what is now the north end of the borough;
and thus had been taken two very important steps towards the founding of a
town-the establishment of a saw-mill, and the opening of a tavern. A
distillery was also built by Huber, about that time. The mill built by him
was afterwards successively used as a plaster-mill and a wool-carding mill,
and probably for other purposes. The mill upon that site at the present
time is owned by Mr. John E. Geisinger.
At about the same time that the Bachmans came, Richard Freeman (the
ancestor of the Freeman family from whom the town derived its name),
settled on the south side of the river, and lower down, towards Redington.
He came from England some years before, and first settled near Allentown.
On removing here, he took up lands on both sides of the river, but chiefly
on the south side, and none within the present limits of the town. Upon his
death, however (about 1790), his son, Edward, purchased lands in what is
now the Borough of Freemansburg; while the other son Isaac settled upon the
old homestead, in Saucon. Jacob Freeman, who years afterwards was prominent
in the affairs of the little town, was the grandson of Richard,
In 1790, George Bachman, then living at Hellertown, sold his farm at that
place, and removed to Freemansburg.
THE FIRST GRIST-MILL.
At this place was, built in 1811, by George Butz, The millwright he
employed on the work was John Freed. The mill is still standing, and is in
In 1814, Henry Jarrett came here from the present territory of Lehigh
county, and, in 1816, he built THE FIRST BRIDGE, across the Lehigh at
Freemansburg. Previous to this, the travel had crossed the river by Curries
Ferry, which was located some two or three hundred yards above the site, of
the bridge, and which is mentioned in the history of Lower Saucon township.
The bridge was a temporary wooden structure, which lasted until 1825;
when, being crossed by Daniel Schnable, with a four-horse team and loaded
wagon, it gave way, and all were precipitated into the river; being rescued
with considerable difficulty.
The rebuilding of the bridge was commenced the same year, by Shouse &
Son, and completed in 1826, This bridge was also constructed of wood. The
carpenters who worked upon it were all from Luzerne county. Reuben Miller
was mason tender, and is the only survivor of all who worked upon it during
In 1817, Dr. Rothrock removed hither from Bucks. He was the first
physician that settled at this place.
In 1825, the first store was established by Levi Budder, who was also a
The little hamlet began to assume some distant approach towards the
dignity of a town, when in the year 1830, just after the opening of the
canal, a second tavern, a house of considerable pretensions, was built by
Jacob Freeman, in honor of whom, the settlement gradually took the
name of Freemansburg. This, and thhe house built the same year, and now
occupied by J. Lynn, were the two first houses which were built on the flats.
In the next year, 1831, the mercantile business was opened by Thomas &
Bellows, who continued in it until 1836, when they became bankrupt.
About the year 1836-37, there were two other stores located here, one by
Leeser, and the other by Jacob Ginsinger. The old Bachman firm commenced
the mercantile business, about 1838.
The business of boat building was carried on quite extensively at
Freemansburg, some thirty to forty years ago, and at that time furnished
employment to a large number of men; but at present, little is done in
THE FIRST BOAT YARD.
Was established by G. & A. Bachman, in 1838, Immediately after, a second
was started by Warg & Luckenbach; these are both now in disuse. A third
yard was commenced in 1840, by A. Cortright, and is still to some extent,
in operation. It is now owned and carried on by J. Bougher.
THE FIRST SCHOOL HOUSE.
In Freemansburg, was built in the year 1838. This was changed into a
dwelling house, about 1856. Before the building of this, however, a school,
maintained by subscription, had been opened by Isaac Gross, in Peter Warps
carpenter shop. Reading, spelling, writing, and arithmetic, were taught.
The opening of the railroads, first the Lehigh Val1ey, on the opposite
side of the river, and afterwards, the Lehigh and Susquehanna, through the
town, did for Freemansburg, just what they did, in greater or less degree,
for all the towns in the Lehigh River valley, viz: advanced it very
materially on the way towards increase and prosperity, and it is now a
place of considerable life, and enterprise.
The population of the borough, according to the census of 1870, was then
six hundred and forty-three. It is now estimated by the citizens, at more
The present borough officers eleected February 20th, 1877, are:
Chief Burgess, J. A. Geisinger
Members of Council-
J. B. Geehr
I. H. Laubach
B. F. Ritter
A. N. Clewell
P. A. Fritchman, Secretary
F. H. Wildrick, Treasurer
B. F. Ritter, Second Burgess,
C. Moser, High Constable
Theodore Robison, Borough Surveyor
The business men of the place are: P. S. Bachman & Co, successor- of the
Bachman firm (established in 1838, and their store and warehouse, built by
Jacob Freeman, in 1840-42)
J. W. King (who is also Postmaster)
B. F. Ritter and Irvin Totter, merchants
Louis Steinbach, boots and shoes
Chester L. Gross, drugs
L. Steckel, saddlery
A. C. King
B. F. Ritter and Bachman & Co., coal
Joseph Lynn, lime
J. M. Frank, bakery
The physicians of the town, are
Dr. C L. Gross
Dr. E. Freeman
Dr. George W. Freeman
MANUFACTURES, MILLS, ETC.
Northampton Furnace, located at Freemansburg; office, South Bethlehem.
Built and owned by the Northampton Iron Company-was commenced in the spring
of 1872, and “blown in,” July 18th, 1873-cost about $160,000. Capacity
about 10,000 tons per annum, now leased to the Bethlehem Iron Company,
John Knecht, President
Robert Lockart, Treasurer
R. M. Gummere, Secretary
The Lehigh Valley Manufacturing Companys Building, was erected in
1867, by Bachman & Clewell, who still continue in the of family and toilet,
soaps, candles, etc. Since their commencement, the firm title has been
changed three times, the present being as above. Five members now compose
the company, Their business is through Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The Machine-Shop of Martin Weaver, was established in 1875.
A Carriage Manufactory was established in 1850, by G. & A. Bachman. It is
now owned and carried on, by Isaac H. Laubach; manufactures carriages,
spring Wagons and sleighs; employs seven hands.
Grist-Mill-There are two grist mills-both brick structures-located at the
extreme north end of the town; one called the Lehigh Mill, standing between
the river and the canal, is owned by Mrs. A. H. Lynn.
The other on or very near the site of the old Huber mill, before
mentioned. This was built in 1871, by J. A. Geisinger. It is a three-story
structure of brick and stone, contains three run of burrs, 54 inches in
diameter; and all machinery necessary for flouring.
The Freemansburg Hotel, is now owned by Mrs. Field, of Easton. It was built
its before noticed, by Jacob Freeman, in 1830.
The Swan House erected by J. Geisinger, about 1850, and is now owned by
The bridge across the Lehigh, at Freemansburg, is the successor of the
old bridge built by Henry Jarret, in 1814. That old structure was a
foot-bridge only; it was sold at private sale, to Jacob Freeman, in 1827.
Freemman sold it in 1837, to Benjamin Riegel and Abraham Shimer. In the
flood of 1841 it was washed away, but rebuilt in the same year, by
Reigel & Shimer. In the great, flood of 1862, it was again carried away,
but rebuilt during the same summer. The STATION HOUSE of the Lehigh and
Susquehanna Railroad, at Freemansburg, was erected by the company in
1870. Previous to this, they had no building for station-house purposes in
Cradle of Liberty Lodge Council, No. 124, O. U. A. M. -Was chartered April
Unity Division, No. 99, Sons of Temperance. -Chartered Jan. 15th, 1862.
Hildah Lodge, No. 364, Knights of Pythias. -Chartered June 3d, 1872
The hall of the O. U. A. M., is a three-story brick structure, erected in
1871, by Knech and Oberly.
THE EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
Was formally organized by the adoption of the first constitution and
election of officers, on the eleventh of November, 1859. Previous to that
time the residents of the place had erected a building for the purpose of
holding divine services. A marble tablet, inserted in the front wall, bore,
this inscription, “The Communion Church of Freemansburg, erected, 1843.”
In this church the Lutheran, Reformed, and Moravian ministers, were
permitted to preach. The Moravian ministers of Bethlehem had, previous to
the erection of this building, been holding services to the village
school-house near by. After the erection of this building, Rev. Gen. Diehl
of Easton, and Rev. C. F. Welden of Bethlehem and Rev. John C. Schmidt,
ministered to the Lutherans, April 1st, 1856, Rev. E. Greenwald, D.D., the
present President of the Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania
and adjacent States, supplied the people from Easton, untiLtbey regularly
organized themselves into a congregation by the adoption of a constitution
and the election of officers, November 11th, 1859, when he became the
pastor, and continued to serve until his removal from Easton, April 14th,
1867. The original members who signed the constitution number sixty-one.
The first officers, were elected January 2d, 1860, as follows :
John S. Jones
April 14th, 1867, Rev. J. B. Rath, of Bethlehem, took charge of the
congregation and served them till October 1st, 1870. January 1st, 1871,
Rev. C. J. Cooper, of South Bethlehem, was elected pastor, who has
continued to serve in that capacity up to the present time.
In 1875, the Lutheran and Reformed congregations, occupying the first
building, decided to demolish it and build a new church.
The corner-stone of this new building was laid on Whit-Sunday, 1875. The
basement was opened during the fall of the same year, and on Whit-Sunday
and Monday, 1876, the church was consecrated. The present membership
numbers about two hundred. The church property is owned jointly by the
Lutherans and Reformed, and is estimated at about $15,000.
The time of the formal organization of the congregation, and the names of
the first officers, are not definitely noted in any record of the church,
but the Holy Communion was celebrated for the first time on Sunday,
December 1st,1850, Previous to that time, however, a church edifice 30 x 50
feet was erected, the corner-stone of which was laid October 11th,
1846. Still earlier than this, the people of the town, Reformed, Lutheran,
and Moravians, were accustomed to worship in a school-house.
The church, built in 1846, was used by the Reformed and Lutheran
Congregations until Easter Sunday, March 28th, 1875, on which day the
Reformed congregation celebrated the Lords Supper.
The old church was taken down and on the same site a fine, new brick
edifice, 42 x 70 feet, was erected during the summer of 1875, the
corner-stone of which was laid with appropriate services on Whit-Sunday,
May 16th, 1875. The consecration of the church took place the following
year on Whit-Sunday, June 4th, 1876. The property is owned in common by the
Reformed and Lutheran congregations.
The Reformed Congregation, which, in earlier years, was served by
different pastors, was vacant for a long period and had almost lost its
identify, when the Rev W. R. Hoffard, of Allentown, became its pastor about
the year 1864. From that time the congregation has had a steady growth in
membership and efficiency, Rev. W. & Hoffard served the congregation for a
period of eight years, when he was succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. A.
Z. Snyder. The congregation now number, about one hundred and sixty
members. The Lords Supper is allowed four times a year. Annually a class
of catechumens is instructed. Church festivals are allowed, and the gospel
is preached every alternate Sunday, and sometimes during the week.
The congregations, in common with the Lutheran Congregation, have a large
and flourishing Sunday-school with a good Sunday-school literature.
Of the Evangelical Association was organized by the Rev. Daniel Wieand,
which consisted of four members, viz:
W. H. Bachman
Mrs. George Miller
Their meetings were then held in the warehouse of Jacob Geisinger; and
were continued there and in private houses until late in the year 1849,
when they rented rooms from Margaret Laubach, which were converted into
one, by folding doors and here preaching was continued until the completion
of the church building.
In the fall of 1851, a meeting presided over by Rev. Henry Buchs,
resolved that a church be erected the next year, provided sufficient
encouragement be received to hazard the undertaking; and a building
committee was appointed to open subscriptions, and if successful, to buy a
lot and proceed with the erection of a church the next year.
The amount thus raised, during the fall and winter, was about $800, which
was considered sufficient to warrant the undertaking, a lot was bought on
Monroe street, west of the railroad, on which was erected a brick
structure, 34 x 44 feet, one-story with basement, in a, plain but
The corner-stone was laid on Whit-Sunday, 1852. The ceremonies were
conducted by Rev. Frederick Krecker, assisted by Rev. Henry Stetzel and
others. It was consecrated in the fall of 1852 with appropriate ceremonies.
From its small beginnings, the membership had increased to thirty-five at
the completion of the church. Subsequently to this, this community was
supplied with different preachers, according to the ritual of the church,
and was connected with different other communities or circuits until the
year 1869, when the membership had so increased that it was thought
practicable by the members of the Annual Conference to detach this
community from Pleasant Valley Circuit and convert it into a
self-supporting charge, which was done by said Annual Conference, which met
on the twenty-fourth, day of February, 1869, in Philadelphia, Pa., when
Rev. J. C. Bliem was stationed here, who remained one year, and was
succeeded by Rev. S. B. Brown, who was removed after the full term of three
years had expired Rev. W, A. Leopold followed next, remained two years and
was succeeded by Rev. L. Snyder, who had charge of this community one year,
and was followed by Rev. J. K. Fehr, the present pastor. The membership at
present numbers about one hundred and fifty.
A Sunday-school was organized in the spring of 1853, consisting of thirty
members, and superintended by W H. Bachman. At present there are enrolled
one hundred and fifty-one scholars; twenty-five teachers and officers
The school is in a prosperous condition under the superintendency of
Bro. C. Bieler.