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History

Prior to 1752, the territory now known as Heidelberg Township was known as the Heidelberg District and was part of Berks County. The Heidelberg District originally included present day Lynn and Washington Townships. On June 6, 1752, following the organization of Northampton County in March of 1752, a petition was received and endorsed by the first court, making Heidelberg a township. The first official act in recognition of Heidelberg as a township was made in October 1752 when Conrad Blose was appointed Constable. Lynn was set off from Heidelberg Township this same year, but for almost 100 years Heidelberg Township included a territory that now is Washington Township. The area of the Township until 1847 was about 51.8 square miles or 33,000 acres; then it was reduced to the present 26.3 square miles.

CHARACTER OF THE PEOPLE
Until 1840 there was little mingling with other people. Those who had possession of the land conveyed it from one heir to another, and thus kept it among their descendents. Schools of the English language were scarce. Churches, both of the German Reformed and Lutheran denominations, were found all over the county and were well attended. There was strict adherence to the doctrine of the churches; the parents greatly desired having their children trained in the precepts of Christianity.

It was rare for a stranger to settle among them. Trade was carried by wagons to Philadelphia and other markets. Stores had their supplies brought all the way from Philadelphia, a distance of eighty miles.

EARLY SETTLEMENTS
The first settlements were made in 1735. The number of the first immigrants was small, consisting of isolated families who had come from Switzerland and Westphalia. Their names have been preserved and show that they were from one neighborhood, but the name of the place, was unfortunately forgotten. The first company of settlers formed the foundations of the succeeding congregation and at once staked off the land they intended to use for church and school purposes. They call it the Hill of Zion and land upon their descendents the solemn injunction that they should not rest until they had obtained lawful possession of the same through a warrant.

HEIDELBERG CHURCH
The Township had but one church, which has always been known as the Heidelberg Church. The congregation, like most of those in eastern Pennsylvania, were German immigrants of the Reformed and Lutheran faiths. The church stands one mile east of Saegersville near the center of the Township, on the road to Neffs. The church, schoolhouse, graveyard and the lands of the congregation lie together in a small valley, hemmed in by the surrounding hills.

The second church was built around 1756 after the first was destroyed by fire. The new church was also built of logs, but much larger and better arranged in every respect, fitted out with galleries, aisles, pulpit and altar. A new schoolhouse was erected at the same time and placed upon the land of the congregation. The new church was dedicated in 1757, and the old contract was renewed. From 1745 to 1757 the number of communicants more than doubled; but an increased in members from Europe partly accounted for this.

The third church was built in 1849 on the other side f the little brook not thirty paces from the spot where the other stood. A renovation of the church took place in 1882. A two-room brick schoolhouse was built and dedicated in 1883 though the aid of the church.

In 1910, a soldiers’ monument was placed in the cemetery near the northwest corer. The total membership was 750, divided equally between the two congregations.

SCHOOLS
The first school of the township was connected with the Heidelberg Church, and as late as 1910 on the of the Township school buildings was still jointly owned by the Township and two congregations. The first English school was started at Saegersville in 1823 in a one-story log building and was used until 1880.

In 1884, the district contained ten buildings: Saegersville, Germansville, Pleasant Corner, Mantz’s, Harter’s Peters Church, Central, Water Pond and Hawk. The first six were frame buildings, put up by the Township in 1885 at a cost of $800.00 each. The church-school building or brick, was erected in 1881 at a cost of $2,000.00, the Central School was also brick and erected in 1883. The common school system was accepted in 1848. The one room schools were closed and sold in 1951 when the Lynn-Heidelberg Consolidated School was completed and opened. The building straddled the Lynn-Heidelberg Township lines at Route 309 and open with grades one through eight in a two-story structure. High school students attended the high school in Slatington. Most of those students rode the train to get to school.

In 1956, a high school was built next to the existing school straddling the Lynn and Heidelberg Township boundary.

INDUSTRIES
Numerous industries, such as grist mills and factories were established in the Township and carried on for many years. The Snyder Mill was erected in 1808 by Jacob Snyder on the Jordon Creek, near the Lowhill Township line. It was destroyed by fire about 1900. The sawmill was not burned and was converted into a cider mill. The Holben Mill was erected in 1789 on the Jordan about a mile north of the Township line. In 1881, a new frame mill for producing chopped feed was established in its place. The German Mill was built before the American Revolution. In 1814, a two-story stone house was erected against the north side. The Leiby Mill was situated on the Jordan Creek about a mile and a half north of the German Mill, a short distance above the village of Jordan Valley. In 1806, it included 50 acres of land.

In about 1850, Elias Bittner established a small mill on the Jordan, a mile northwest of the Leiby Mill. The “Sand Spring” Mill was situated a short distance above it at the recognized source of the Jordan. Nathan German operated a small mill not far from the Bittner Mill from 1865 until 1893. An Indian massacre is said to have occurred in this vicinity about 1755. A tannery was established in Saegersville in 1805. It continued in operation until about 1905.

From 1832 to 1844, Philip Hess Jr. established a large stone rifle factory at the foot of the Mountains in Heidelberg, one half mile west of the old “Balliet Furnace,” known afterward as the Lehigh Furnace and situated on the west branch of Factory Road leading from Saegersville across the mountain to Lehighton. Several gunsmiths carried on gun-making in the Township until the Civil War.

On property near the eastern township boundary, a man by the name of Babb, carried on the manufacture of powder during and before the time of the rifle-barrel factory. A carriage factory was started at Saegersville in 1847 by Christian Griener. Joseph Rauch established a factory at Pleasant Corner in 1804 for the manufacture of carriages, farm wagons, and huckster wagons.

After the construction of the Berks and Lehigh Railroad through the Township, William F. Krum erected a two-story frame machine chop and engaged in the manufacture of horse powered threshing machines and farming implements. In 1882, competition obliged him to suspend further operations. There were numerous distilleries for the production of apple brandy in every section of the township before the Civil War. When the revenue tax became too burdensome, nearly all of them were abandoned.

The first entry of record relating to public roads in the Township was made in 1770. The application was made by inhabitants of Heidelberg and Lynn for a road from Michael Ohl’s (Seagersville) to Michael Meyer’s Plantation.

It is of special interest to find many descendents of the original settlers continuing to reside in the Township today. Among them are the Blose, Ebert, Frey, Fritzinger, Geiger, German, Guildner, Krum, Hausman, Hunsicker, Hanerk, Hoffman, Kunkel, Moyer, Miller, Peter, Rex, Smith, Snyder, Wortring, and Wehr families. One the oldest dwellings is that of Hannes Handwerk which is stone structure built in 1769 and is located on the farm now owned by Melvin Snyder. Mrs. Snyder was a direct descendent of this Handwerk family. The first land warrants were granted in 1743 and 1744 to Francis Gilpner, Henry Hauser, Jacob Mowrer and George Welger.

More information on the History of Heidelberg Township click here