Bethlehem “blanket quarantine”? Been there, done that

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Gadfly is a (literary) historian by trade. The past always beckons him. In this period of coronavirus, he could consult the files of the Bethlehem Globe on the local impact of the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic if the Lehigh University library were open. Sigh. Gadfly does have access to Morning Call files from home, however, and he will see what they yield. For now, here’s all he finds in perhaps the main modern history of Bethlehem.

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Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: The Golden Years, 1841-1920 (1976)

What do we see here?

  • In Bethlehem, hospital capacity eventually was not sufficient.
  • And satellite space was needed.
  • Washington School? Where was Washington School?
  • Case numbers escalated quickly to the danger point — within a month.
  • Interestingly, we had no Board of Health — remember that Bethlehem was only born as a city in 1917, inauguration of the first mayor occurred only 9 months before the outbreak.
  • By god, there was a blanket quarantine — a shelter in place.
  • Like now, schools were closed.
  • The list of other closings mentioned specifically includes watering holes and other fun entertainment and food gathering places.
  • So what exactly does “blanket quarantine” mean? Were non-essential businesses closed? Were people advised to stay home?
  • We need to remember that a war was going on!
  • The duration of the shutdown was about a month.
  • Exact number of deaths unknown.
  • I wonder where victims of the disease were buried — Roy, at Fairview?
  • Interestingly, the Southsiders handled the crisis differently.

Wow! Gadfly would love more granular detail about day-to-day life in our town during this time. He can’t wait till he can get to the Globe. Anybody have suggestions for other resources?

But let’s see what the files of the Morning Call yield.

In the meantime, is there any family lore in the memory banks of long-time city residents that you can share?

Bethlehem Moment: The Portuguese in Bethlehem

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Bethlehem Moment 19
City Council
January 21, 2020

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Bethlehem Moment: 1860-1880, the Portuguese come to Bethlehem

Portuguese Heritage

Portuguese Heritage: Adding to the Fabric of South Bethlehem
by Armindo P. Sousa
“Southern Exposure,” Winter 2009

Dana Grubb reads selections from the above newsletter issue, compliments of the South Bethlehem Historical Society, in particular the late Armindo Sousa and Ken Raniere, who authored the newsletter.

Bethlehem Moment: Lucy and Mary Packer, Asa Packer’s Daughters

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Bethlehem Moment 18
City Council
January 6, 2020

Johanna Brams
1727 Elm

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Bethlehem Moment: January 1873

January 1873, 147 years ago.  Lucy Evelyn Packer Linderman is recovering from a serious horse and carriage accident on the ice-covered what is now Packer Avenue – just down the hill from Lehigh University, founded by her father Asa.

She, at 41, and her sister Mary Hannah Packer, at 34, are the two surviving female adults of Asa Packer’s seven children. Lucy

Lucy is considered beautiful and an image of her,  with her stylish clothes and carefully coiffed and braided hair, show a handsome woman, a leader of Bethlehem society, married to a doctor, Garrett Linderman, who showed up in the cholera epidemic some years before – and is now a Lieutenant in her father’s businesses

An image of young Mary, on the other hand, shows her as short, plump, with coke bottle Young Maryglasses and plainly dressed.  At 34 she would be considered a spinster, dedicated to serving her family’s needs.  A contemporary narrative says: “There were suitors . . . who were anxious for the hand of Miss Packer, but she stubbornly avoided all advances in that direction.”  Mary was known as somewhat of a recluse, as result of an accident and subsequent eye ailments that had led to her being blind in one eye, and with limited vision in the other.

Lucy survived the accident but dies later that year, in July, of pneumonia – contracted as she attempted rehabilitation in a spa in mountains to the north.

Asa, grief-stricken, builds Linderman Library in Lucy’s honor in 1875, and dies in 1879.

Within five years, by 1884,  all the remaining members of the Packer family – two brothers and Asa’s wife – also pass – and Mary Hannah Packer is the only surviving member of the family.

Mary may be reclusive and nearly blind, but she is not stupid.  A woman ahead of her time, she recognizes that she cannot inherit the fabulous Packer fortune – built on canal boats and what would become the Pennsylvania Railroad and Bethlehem Steel – in her chosen unmarried status.

In order to take advantage of the then recently passed Women’s Marriage Act – which guaranteed married women the right to inheritance – she enlists Charles Cummings, a former conductor on the railroad and a loyal family friend – to marry her.

She pays him 100,000 dollars – worth about 2 and a half million today — and has him sign one of the first pre-nuptual agreements in the state.

Charles and Mary never live together and are divorced in 1893.

Upon her marriage, Mary Hannah Packer Cummings, as the sole heir to the Packer fortune,  inherits 54 and a half million dollars – worth about 1.5 billion today.  She becomes the most wealthy woman in the country and second in wealth in the world – to only Queen Victoria.

She travels around the world 17 times.

She becomes a philanthropist and is considered a bit of a Bohemian, a patron of the arts, literature, and music.Older Mary

She builds Packer Church at Lehigh, and supports the university well and repeatedly over the years.

She also builds All Saints Episcopal Church down the hill from her house in Mauch Chaunk (now Jim Thorpe) in 1906.

Mary Hannah Packer Cummings died in 1912, the only member of her immediate family to see the 20th century.

There are many accounts of sightings of her ghost, still short and plump, plainly dressed and with coke-bottle glasses — as she wanders about – checking on the properties she built.

Now a tip o’ the hat to the early 2020 Bethlehem Momentors

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The Bethlehem Moment — a scene or event from Bethlehem history anywhere from 1741 to the 1960s — is a project aimed at fostering a sense of community.

“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”

Click “Bethlehem Moments” under Topics on the right-hand sidebar to see what we’ve done so far.

Gadfly thanks the following residents for stepping up to fill slots in the first quarter of 2020.

Welcome, camaradoes!

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Jan 6: Johanna Brams

Jan 21: Ken Raniere/Dana Grubb

Feb 4:

Feb 18: Martha Larkin

Mar 3: Carol Burns

Mar 17: Grace Crampsie Smith

Gadfly is accepting bookings for later in the year.

Have you done a Bethlehem Moment yet?

Tip o’ the hat to the 2019 Bethlehem Momentors

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“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”

End of the year approaching.

Time to thank those who did Bethlehem Moments in 2019.

We now have done 17 Moments.

2019 was the year that wonderful volunteers took the podium away from the Gadfly.

The Honor Roll for 2019 includes Lynn Rothman, John Smith, Kate McVey, Olga Negron, Jim Petrucci, Joe Petrucci, Barbara Diamond, Stasia Browne Pallrand, Steve Repasch, Rayah Levy, Robert Bilheimer, Alan Lowcher.

Well done, camaradoes!

Have you done a Bethlehem Moment yet?

Bethlehem Moment: Seeing the Elephant — The 129th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry at Fredericksburg

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Bethlehem Moment 17
City Council
December 17, 2019

Alan Y. Lowcher
438 High St.

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Bethlehem Moment: December 13, 1862

Bethlehem’s Moravian history is well known and its preserved buildings – the Gemeinhaus, Single Sisters house, Single Brethren house, and the Colonial Industrial Quarter, to name a few —  have earned the Moravian Historic District the distinction of consideration as a World Heritage Site.  Bethlehem’s place in the Revolution is enshrined in the patriot graves memorialized in the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier.  The Moravians were pacifists in principle – and were recognized as such by the Continental Congress.  Most of the men paid a fine rather than fight.  During the winters of 1776 – 1777 and 1777 – 1778 Bethlehem’s residents provided care to sick and wounded soldiers.  The Sun Inn hosted many Continental Army general officers and members of the Continental Congress.

By the time of the Civil War, attitudes had changed and many a Bethlehem boy – willing to fight against a rebellion against constitutional authority — stepped forward to serve in the Union army.  The Synod of the Church passed several resolutions indirectly supporting the Union cause, effectively making it a just war.  The firing on Ft. Sumter in April 1861, led to Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers to serve 90 days and Co. “A”, 1st Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, drawn from Bethlehem, was quickly formed and sent to Washington to protect the Capitol.  Pennsylvania answered Lincoln’s call for additional troops as the war progressed, and the conflict widened by filling three-year regiments and shorter term nine-month regiments.  Among those regiments was the 129th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

Company “C” of the 129th Regiment was recruited in Northampton County and included many Bethlehem men.  The Regiment was organized on August 15th, 1862, to serve for nine months.  Politicians wanted to avoid a draft at all costs and calculated that shorter service commitments would be easier to fill than “three years or during the war.”  After being hastily armed and equipped, Company “C” entrained to Alexandria, Virginia, arriving on August18th.  Two weeks later it was under fire during the battle of Second Bull Run but not really engaged in combat.  Two weeks after that, the 129th marched to Sharpsburg, Maryland, arriving on the field along Antietam Creek, but too late to participate in the fighting.  At the end of October, the 129th marched into Virginia until it arrived opposite Fredericksburg.  On December 13th, the Regiment crossed the Rappahannock River with its division marching through the town to its assault position in full view of an open field.  Advancing, the brigade that included the 129th Regiment halted in low, open ground and was ordered to lie down, where it came under artillery Lowcherfire.  Rising up, the division formed in line of battle with the brigade in two lines, and the 129th Regiment on the left front.

This was the Regiment’s trial by fire (experiencing serious action for the first time) as it advanced over open ground, over the bodies of the dead and wounded, in the face of incessant musketry and artillery fire toward an enemy behind a stone wall.  In a matter of minutes, the Regiment lost 142 killed and wounded.  Among them were the sons of old Bethlehem families such as Benner and Luckenbach.  We should pause to consider the courage it took to make that charge knowing full well that the five previous charges were driven back with heavy losses. They went forward with fixed bayonets without waiting to load their muskets, intent on giving the Confederates “the cold steel.”  The division succeeded in getting closer to the stone wall than any other Federal assault.  Caps from the 129th’Regiment were found within a few yards of that stone wall.  Those “Bethlehem Boys” had “seen the elephant” and showed their mettle. Retreating in semidarkness into the town, the Regiment re-crossed the river under fire and went into camp.

After suffering the misery of Burnside’s “Mud March” in January 1863, the 129th took part in the battle of Chancellorsville, fighting on May 1st, 2nd and 3rd, even though the term of service of many of the men had expired.  The Regiment’s term of service having fully expired on May 6th, the remnants of Company “C” arrived in Easton on May 18th to the welcoming cheers of its citizens.

Later that summer of 1863, the Federal troops at Gettysburg, crouched behind a stone wall on Cemetery Ridge, cried out “Fredericksburg!  Fredericksburg!” as Pickett’s Division advanced across an open field into a storm of bullets and artillery fire.  The butcher’s bill was repaid.

Sources:

Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion Compiled and Arranged from Official Records of the Federal and Confederate Armies, Reports of the Adjutant Generals of the Several States, the Army Registers, and Other Reliable Documents and Sources. Des Moines, Iowa:  The Dyer Publishing Company, 1908.

Stackpole, Edward J. Drama on the Rappahannock — The Fredericksburg Campaign. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: The Military Service Publishing Company, 1957.