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The Deep History of Bethlehem, PA

bethlehem car accident lawyer near old chapel

The car accident lawyers in Bethlehem, PA, sponsor this article to present a detailed excerpt about the area.

Bethlehem is a city in Northampton and Lehigh counties in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. The city spans 19.46 square miles belongs to ZIP codes 18015-18018. The city is home to approximately 74,982 residents with a population density of 3,966.26 per square mile. Bethlehem is also the heart of Lehigh Valley, a region of 731 square miles.


Along the Deleware River and its tributaries in eastern Pennsylvania, the land, including the area of Bethlehem, was long inhabited by indigenous peoples of various cultures. By the time European settlers found the land, it was the historic territory of the Algonquian-speaking Lenape Nation.

The Algonquian-speaking Lenape Nation had three main divisions including the Unami, Unalachtigo, and Munsee. These three divisions traded with the Dutch and then English colonists in the mid-Atlantic area.

In 1741, William Allen a wealthy Philadelphian merchant and political figure who founded the city of Allentown, deeded 500 acres of land along the banks of the Monocacy Creek and Lehigh River to the Moravian Church.

On December 24th 1741, David Nitschmann and Count Zinzendorf, leading a small group of Moravians, founded the mission community of Bethlehem. Nitschmann and Zinzendorf, along with a small group of Moravians, went to set up missionary communities among the Native Americans and unchurched German-speaking Christians.

They named the settlement after the Biblical town Bethlehem of Judea, the birthplace of Jesus. It is recorded that upon the declaration of this missionary community, Count Zinzendorf said, "Brothers, how more fittingly could we call our new home than to name it in honor of the spot where the event we now commemorate took place. We will call this place Bethlehem."

On that day, Bethlehem was named after the birthplace of the 'Man of Peace'.

Prior to the 1850s, Bethlehem was the typical Moravian Settlement Congregation. That is until members of the Moravian Church were permitted to lease land plots in Bethlehem.

Around the same time, a group of families that were part of a Huguenot settlement in the Delaware River Valley also arrived at Bethlehem. Between 1780-1800, a member of the family established grist and sawmills known as Calvin's Mills. Another member of this family was part of the Bethlehem Township council from 1798-1802.

In 1762, Bethlehem built the first waterworks in America to pump water for public use.

Following the monumental moment, Bethlehem saw an influx of fleeing Patriots as the British advanced upon Philadelphia in 1777. During the time, Americans were fighting the American Revolutionary War and while George Washington and his troops stayed in Valley Forge, Washington stored his personal effects at the farm of James Burnside in Bethlehem. As of 1998, the farm has become a historical museum, known as the James Burnside Plantation.

By 1845, the village was incorporated into a free borough in the County of Northampton. Following the Unity Synod of 1848, Bethlehem became the headquarters of the Northern Province of the Moravian Church in North America.

After the Civil War, the Borough of South Bethlehem was formed and in 1904, the boroughs of West Bethlehem and Bethlehem merged. By 1917, the Borough of South Bethlehem and Bethlehem merged to become the City of Bethlehem.

The city of Bethlehem's first mayor was  Archibald Johnston and the Bethlehem Township has remained a separate political entity.

Historic Sites

The city of Bethlehem has such a rich history. If you ever choose to visit Bethlehem to take in all the history first-hand, the historic sites are a great place to start. Some of the most popular historic sites include,

  • The 1761 Tannery, located in the Colonial Industrial Quarter.
  • The 1869 Luckenbach Mill, located in the Colonial Industrial Quarter
  • The Single Sisters House, parallel to the Gemeinhaus and facing south
  • The 1752 Apothecary, located just behind the Moravian Book Shop off Main Street.
  • The Old Chapel, located on Heckwelder Place.

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David Petrone
Date Published: June 1, 2021
David Petrone is a personal injury attorney at Justice Guardians.
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