The History of the Borough of Hellertown
By J. S. HESS, ESQ.
HELLERTOWN is a thriving village, situated in the centre of Lower Saucon
township, in the rich and fertile Saucon valley, on the right bank of the
Saucon Creek, on the eastern side of the North Pennsylvania Railroad, of
which it is an important station.
It was incorporated as a borough by the January Court in 1872, after
considerable opposition on the part of some of the old citizens.
The first election resulted in the choice of the following officers
Chief Burgess, Thos. R. Laubach
J. B. Leith
C. J. Weierbach
W. F. Detwiller
T. S. Eisenhart
Justice of the Peace, P. B. Lerch.
THE ORIGINAL SETTLERS.
In or near Hellertown were Christopher and Simon Heller two brothers,
Palatines, who came across the ocean in the ship “Winter Galley,” from
Rotterdam, and arrived September 5th, 1738. Christopher obtained the patent
for his land September 8th, 1742, and Simon received his patent
October 14th, 1746. There is reason to believe that they were, descendants
of a Michael Heller, as that is a favorite name with the family.
In 1800, we find three of that name in Hellertown, who were distinguished as
“Heffner” Mike, because the first was engaged in the manufacture of
linseed-oil, the second lived close by the Saucon Creek, and the third was
a potter. Two of these had sons by the name of Michael, who were known as ”
Knicke” Mikes Mike and ” Oehlig” Mikes Mike. The family of the same name
living in Hellertown, now, the widow of C. B. Heller, and her son, Dr. H.
Heller, are not lineal descendants of either of the original settlers.
Anthony Boehm, the son of Rev. John Philip Boehm, who came to this country
about 1720, built what is the oldest house still standing in Hellertown.
It is the property of John A. Geisinger, The Schaeffers and the M’Hoses
were early residents of the town. The village, has, from its earliest days,
been noted for
The civil court is rarely without a case from Hellertown, even at the
present day. The criminal court is happily less often appealed to. It is
related that, at the beginning of the present century, when Samuel
Sitgreaves, a high-toned gentleman, was at the head of the Easton bar, two
Schaeffers of Hellertown had a suit at court.
S. Sitgreaves, Esq., was employed by one of them, who stated that he
could prove his claim by three witnesses. When they came to court the first
witness testified to the opposite of what had been promised, the second
witness corroborated the testimony of the first. This was too much for such
an honorable man of the old school as Sitgreaves. He arose from his seat in
court, put his bag under his arm, and addressed the court as follows:
“Your honor, my client has deceived me woefully, I am his attorney no
longer,” and left the room.
In 1820 the town contained
There was a linseed-oil manufactory in the place the early part of the
century, which afterwards burned down. A distillery was also among the
early industrial interests of the town. For many years the growth of the
place was slow.
Matters were not neglected in the village, although no separate school
building was erected until 1845, when John Reutzheimer presented a lot for
that purpose, alongside of the brook, in the centre of the town. Previous
to that a room was let from one or the other of the citizens for
educational purposes. School was taught in no less than six of the thirteen
houses constituting Hellertown, in 1820. As soon as the place was
incorporated the school was divided into primary and grammar schools. The
school term at present is eight months, and the salaries are fifty-five and
thirty dollars per month.
Was started between 1780 and 1790, which continued in operation until 1872,
when the old tannery passed out of the hands of Joseph F Landis into those
of Dr. W. F. Detwiller. The completion of the NORTH PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD
Through this place, in 1856, gave a new impetus to business.
Rudolphus Kent, of Gwynedd, with others from Philadelphia, bought the
Geisinger farm, laid it out in town lots, secured the railroad station on
their tract, and called the new town Hampton. This real estate enterprise
proved a failure, only one house having been built on it for many years.
The station had originally been promised to the other end of town, on
lands of Rev. Samuel Hess, and hence no interest was taken by the old
citizens in the town that was to supplant the old place and name. A number
of buildings were erected in that part of the town where the station was
originally intended to be. Hampton was finally abandoned, and the land
resold to the original owner, John Geisinger. For many years, a small frame
shanty was used as a station-house. In 1868, a large, convenient brick
building, was erected by the railroad company.
A coal yard was started by Joseph F. Boyer, the railroad agent, soon
after the completion of the road, who continued in business until 1868,
when Jer. S. Hess, started a coal and lumber yard, in the southern portion
of the town, where the business is still carried on by Hess & Roth, who
also have charge of the BRICK YARD started by Rev. Samuel Hess, in 1849.
The organization of THE SAUCON IRON COMPANY.
In 1866, and the establishment of their works in Hellertown gave a fresh
start to the quiet little village, and new buildings were erected in
different, parte of the town. In one year, more than twenty new houses were
erected. The company was organized (mainly through the influence of Jacob
Riegel a native of Saucon, near Hellertown, and a successful and prominent
dry goods merchant, of Philadelphia,) on the twenty-first of August, 1866,
and was granted letters patent, under the general manufacturing laws of
Pennsylvania, by the Governor, August 23d, 1866.
On March 18th, 1868, the company obtained a special charter from the
Legislature, with an authorized capital of $300,000, with the privilege of
increasing the same to S1,000,000. The capital stock has since been
increased to $600,000, which is paid in full.
The company was organized in August 1866, by the election of Messr.
J. Gillingham Fell
Joseph B. Altemus
George W. Whitaker
Directors of the Company
Mr. Geo. W. Whitaker was elected President and Superintendent
Mr. Jacob Riegel, Treasurer
Mr. James D. Bennett, Secretary
Mr. Joseph Diehl, Superintendent of Mines
The works of the company, consist of two blast-furnaces, and it number of
hematite and magnetic, ore-mines.
Under the plan, and immediate Superintendence of Mr. Whitaker-the
President and Superintendent-work was at once begun on the first stack,
which was completed in February, 1868, and blown-in March 23d, 1868.
The Second stack was completed in April 1870, and blown-in May
five feet high, and sixteen feet in diameter at the boshes they are iron
shells, hoed with brick, and supported by iron columns; the hot-blast ovens
and boiler-houses, are built on the top of large stone arches, making them
on a level with the tops of the furnaces.
The capacity of each stack, is about ten thousand tons of Foundry Pig-iron,
The ores used by this company, are mined by themselves. Hematite,
principally in Northampton county, and the remainder in Lehigh county,
magnetic ores in Lehigh county, and in Morris county, N. J.
When the works are, in full blast, they afford employment to about three
hundred and fifty hands.
The present officers of the company are
Messrs Joseph Wharton
Joseph R. Whitaker
Joseph B. Altemus
William RiegelDirector J
oseph B. Altemus, President
Jacob Riegel, Treasurer
Michael Fackenthal, Secretary
THE HELLERTOWN FOUNDRY.
Now owned by Brown & Co, was started by Samuel Solliday in 1872, and was
first run, by horse-power. It changed hands repeatedly, until it, was
finally bought by, its present owners, in 1874, who purchased additional
machinery and enlarged the building.
In 1876 they took a contract from the Light House Board of the United
States, to erect the iron superstructure of a light house, to be placed at
Fowey Rocks on the Florida coast. They failed to complete the contract
within the specified time, and it was taken out of their hands. They gave
employment, at, times, to more than forty persons.
THE SAUCON SAVING BANK
Was organized for business, on the l6th of October 1871. The charter
was obtained from the State Legislature, in 1871, and is dated May 10th.
The first officers of the institution were:
P. B. Breinig, M.D., President
Jer. S. Hess, Cashier
P. B. Breinig
Thomas R. Laubach
William R. Yeager
Rev. Samuel Hess
After Dr. Breinig removed from Hellertown, Thomas R. Laubach was elected
President, and still occupies the position. The capital stock is $20,000.
The deposit, vary from $100,000 to $123,000. The stockholders are
individually liable for double the amount of the capital stock.
Was begun on a small scale, in 1874, by Jacob Hames. In 1875, Messrs.
March and Kreider, built, a new mill, adding improved machinery, and the
business is now successfully carried on by Kreidler & Co.
A FURNITURE MANUFACTORY
With a Baxter engine and all the necessary machinery, was started by
F. L. Reilman, in 1875. Previous to that, the furniture business was
carried on by the same gentleman, but the work was made by hand, or
purchased from the city manufacturers.
THE HELLERTOWN FLOUR-MILL
Is situated just outside the borough limits, and belongs to
J. & J. Wagner. In 1875, the building was re-modeled, and turbine
water-wheel with other improved machinery, put in. The first notice we find
of this mill is in a deed of Thomas and Richard Penn, to Blasius Beyer,
Dec 13th, 1867, in which it is called Beyers mill-seat. He deeded it to
Joseph Jennning, Feb, 10th, 1708, and he to Jacob Overpack, Oct 1st, 1768,
from him Christopher Wagner received it, Oct. 20th, 1772. When Christopher
Wagner received the property, it was a saw-mill, only. It has since
remained in the Wagner family.
Belonging to Henry Stever, is but a short distance from town. It is now
run by water-power, and a large amount of oak and chestnut timber, is
annually sawed at this mill.
Owing to the proximity of the old churches, built when Hellertown
consisted of but a few scattered farm houses, no RELIGOUS SERVICES
Were regularly hold in town until within the last few years. The
congregations are still small, owing to the fact, that many of the citizens
still attend the neighboring churches. There are two church edifices, in
town at present-the one a Union Church, in which the Reformed and Lutheran
congregations worship-the other the Evangelical Church The members of the
EVANGELICAL CHURCH purchased the old school house in 1870, and had it
fitted up for divine worship. The building is small, but answers except on
extraordinary occasions. Before the purchase of the building, the members
were wont to meet for divine worship in an upper room fitted up for the
purpose in the dwelling house connected with the tannery, then the property
of Joseph F. Landis.
Services were first held there, about twenty years ago, by
Rev. Wm. Bachman, and ever since, more or less regularly, by the various
pastors, who were sent to minister to them, down to the year 1870.
Rev. N. Goebel was the first minister of the Evangelical Church who
preached in Hellertown. He came to Hellertown, some time in 1850, and asked
to preach in the school house, but was refused admission by the trustees,
so he spoke, in front, of the building. After the school house was bought
of the School Board, twenty, year later, and converted into a church, he
assisted in the dedicatory service.
The regular pastor, since, 1870, were
Revs. Henry Stetzel
The Sunday-school connected with this church, was started soon after the
dedication. It is under the superintendency of Francis L. Fehr; numbers
sixty scholars, and fifteen teachers and officers.
In April, 1870, previous to the sale of the School house to the
Evangelical brethren, the members, of the REFORMED AND LUTHERAN CHURCHES
Met in the school house relative to the erection of a church edifice.
After an eligible site had been selected-on the southeast corner of
Saucon and Northampton streets-a building committee was appointed,
Rev. Samuel Hess
Thomas R. Laubach
P. B. Breinig was elected Treasurer
Jer. S. Hess. Secretary
From this, time service were held regularly in the Hellertown by T. O.
Stem Reformed), and Rev. Wm. Rath (Lutheran). The building was started at
once, forty-five feet front and eighty feet deep. It is a plain,
substantial brick edifice.
The corner-stone was laid July 30th, 1870, and services held on Saturday
and Sunday, July 30th and 31st. The church was completed by the following
spring, and dedicated to the service of God, on Whitsuntide, May 28th and
29th 1871. Rev T. O. Stem officiated until September 1876, when he offered
his resignation and left, Rev A. B. Koplin has been elected his successor.
Rev. Wm. Rath is still the officiating Lutheran clergyman. The communicant
members, of the two congregations worshiped in this church-called Christ
Union Church-number about one, hundred and fifty. Services are held in two
languages-one-half German and one-half English.
The first officiating of the Reformed Congregation were :
Elders-Thos. R. Laubach and P. B. Lerch
Lewis H. Heft
J. Franck Roth
Samuel J. Hoffard
Walter S. Green
Of the Lutheran Congregation :
Elders-T. S. Eisenhart and H. H. Klein
J. B. Leith
K. L. Rothman
The Sunday-school connected with this church comprises a corps of
excellent teachers and officers. It was only a continuation of the
Sunday-school, which has been in existence about thirty years, The school
is at present under the superintendency of Jer. S. Hess, It members about
one hundred and twenty-five scholars and twenty-five teachers and officers.
The library is small. The singing of the school, which is in charge of
Assistant Superintendent, T. K. Reichard, is excellent.
In September, 1876, the Sunday-school undertook the work of excavating
Load placing a basement under the church, By Utristmas, the room was
really for a church festival, from which was realized three-fourths of the
amount necessary to defray the expenses of the basement.
THE UNION CEMETERY
Association was started in 1874. Finding it necessary to have a burial
grounds, the following gentlemen:
Rev. Samuel Hess
T. S. Eisenhart
J. F. Rentzheimer
Jer. S Hess,
associated themselves under the name and title of
“The Union Cemetery Association of Hellertown,” obtained a charter from the
Court, February 26th, 1874, and purchased a tract of two acres
and a half from Jacob Rentzheimer and Charles Roth, southeast of the
borough limits, which was regularly laid out in walks, drives, and burial plots.
The officers of the Association are:
President, J. F. Rentzheimer,
Vice-President, T. S. Eisenhart
Secretary and Treasurer, Jer. S. Hess
The incorporators derive no pecuniary benefit from it. As soon as the
purchase money, expenses, and interest are paid, the balance belongs to the
Association, to be used for the improvement of the grounds.
The first interment was that of Caroline Rentzheimer, the widow of
Charles Rentzheimer. One of the incorporators, Rev. Samuel Hess, has since
been buried on it.
There are at present but two LODGES in the, borough, the “Odd Fellows”
(under which we include the “Encampment”) and the “Sons of Herman;” the
“Mechanics.” the “Seven Wise Men,” and the “Rebekah” lodges, have no
organization at present. The “Sons of Herman” is a German lodge, which
was organized on the second of October, 1869, and numbers seventy-one
members at the present time.
THE ODD FELLOWS
Have been the most prosperous. The Lodge, which goes under the name of
“Sancara Lodge, No. 606,” was organized September 2d, 1867. The first
Dr. A., J, Harris, N. G.
L. E. Weaver, V. G.
Joshua K. Hess, Secretary
W. H. Werst, Assistant Secretary
The “Encampment” called “Trinick,” was chartered September 3d 1870. The
Odd Fellows number at least one hundred members. In May, 1876, they bought
a lot, with an old house on it, from Peter Moll, and in August they tore it
down and commenced the erection of a large and commodious hall, which is an
ornament to the town. The hall is thirty feet front by sixty feet deep. It
is a three-story building, not including the basement and Mansard roof.
The first floor is fitted up for a store, the second floor for a town
hall, and the third for association purposes.
The Board of Trustees, under whose efficient management the building was
Charles A. Mauch
H. H. Klein
J. Francis Roth
H. D. Heller was elected vice Roth,
before the building was completed.
THE MEDICAL PROFESSION
Is well represented, There are four doctors, viz:
W. F. Detwiller
A. J. Harris
H. D. Heller
The first is a son, and the last a grandson, of Dr. Henry Detwiller, a
resident of Easton, the pioneer of homeopathy in this county, and one of
the most active citizens of Hellertown in days gone-by.
Two attempts to publish newspapers have been made, but both proved
abortive. Thos. M Weber commenced The Hellertown Telegraph, an English and
German paper in 1858, but it only survived about a year.
In 1875, L. H. Roth started a monthly sheet, entitled The Saucon
Advertiser. It died after an existence of a few months.
John A. Laubach has charge of a small
job printing office at present Thos. R. Weber has been publishing a
singing-book, called Pennsylvania Harmony, for many years, which is used in
Reformed and Lutheran churches of Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
The population of Hellertown proper (exclusive of the population north of
the corporate limits, near the furnace) is about five hundred and fifty.
two hardware stores
one drug store
two carriage factories
two furnace stacks
coal and lumber yard
a town hall
This last enumeration includes all in the immediate vicinity of
Hellertown, The population, including what should belong to the borough,
would be about 1.000.