from Charlene Donchez Mowers, “Bethlehem’s famed colonial buildings are in danger. We must save them – soon – from floods.” Morning Call, August 23, 2020.
As I read through the pages of my Morning Call newspaper recently, I was dismayed to see the photograph of our Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites’ Colonial Industrial Quarter under water, illustrating several challenges highlighted in the Town Square article written by Paul Muschick.
The area has been flooded numerous times in past years, wreaking havoc on this historic area and its structures.
The Colonial Industrial Quarter, which sits along the Monocacy Creek in downtown Bethlehem, can be considered America’s earliest industrial park, with 35 crafts, trades and industries operating there by 1747. It was the largest concentration of pre-Industrial Revolution trades in the American colonies.
In recent years, you may recognize this historic site as the backdrop for our Historic Bethlehem school tours and 5-K Turkey Trot as well as Musikfest and Celtic Classic.
There was a terrible flood of this area during Hurricane Ivan in the mid-2000s; there were two floods in 2010, one in July and one in October. There were two floods in August of 2011, not to mention more minor flooding in the years since, and then Tropical Storm Isaias hit us last week.
Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites needs help to protect these historically important assets. This site is part of Historic Moravian Bethlehem, a national historic landmark district, one of only eight such districts in Pennsylvania.
More importantly, Historic Moravian Bethlehem has been short-listed for nomination to the World Heritage List. This is the highest recognition afforded an historic site in our nation. Of the 1,121 World Heritage sites around the globe, there are only 24 World Heritage sites in the United States; two are in Pennsylvania — Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and the Frank Lloyd Wright House, Fallingwater, near Pittsburgh.
Saving these important treasures is part of our mission of preservation and education, not only for Bethlehem, but for our region, state and nation. The Colonial Industrial Quarter is part of the fabric of our community, a place that people have come to love and enjoy. This is one of the most photographed areas in the Lehigh Valley.
Each time the Colonial Industrial Quarter floods, restoration and repairs are needed. This is achieved through modest flood insurance proceeds and the efforts of the City of Bethlehem assisting with grounds cleanup.
As a potential World Heritage site, Historic Moravian Bethlehem will need to develop a management plan to protect these valuable buildings. We are calling upon our community and elected officials, and the colleges and universities in the Lehigh Valley to reach out to gain support to institute a plan to solve these issues quickly.
We must protect these irreplaceable structures with their incredible history for today and for generations to come.
Such as the May 20, 1956 article from the Morning Call tracing the Society history from the founding in 1947.
Morning Call, June 30, 1931
And a short sketch of the 1931 origin of the Rose Garden itself, it’s hey-day (“The exquisite beauty of the blooms enhanced with the sparkling background of loveliness that the city park affords has sent the many spectators away with bubbling stories of admiration which consequently have reached other ears and brought them to this garden scene of splendor”), and it’s slide down to its present fallen state.
Here’s the goal of the Society:
“It is the goal of the Lehigh Valley Rose Society (LVRS) for the Bethlehem Rose Garden to not just be a garden of beautiful roses, but a place the community can be proud of again. A place where we (LVRS) can host free, public educational demonstrations about roses (identifying, planting, fertilizing, pruning, cutting/arranging, disease/pest identification & management, etc.) for interested gardeners. A space to encourage people to get outdoors where they can walk along the paths, have picnics, and take photos amongst the flowers to mark special occasions. But also, to serve as a crucially needed habitat for pollinating insects.”
But “Funds are needed to purchase roses, additional plants (native pollinator plants and wildflowers are being discussed), organic fertilizer, and organic sprays (such as copper fungicide and neem oil), etc.”
Funds are needed.
Gadfly hopes that followers familiar with this endeavor will provide information about how to donate.
We look forward to new beginnings at the Rose Garden!
Le-Hi-Ho, the first organized group for gays in the Lehigh Valley,
held its first meeting
As the Lehigh Valley concludes the celebration of Pride month and looks forward to Allentown’s Pride Festival in August, the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive has engaged with uncovering the deep history of LGBT organizing in our region. While many will know about activism at Stonewall in New York City, few in our region will recall 1960s LGBT organizations that paved the way for social change in Pennsylvania and the larger nation. We are grateful for this opportunity to share a short narrative about one such organization that originated in the months prior to the Stonewall uprising. It is our hope that this story will give residents of Bethlehem and the larger Lehigh Valley a glimpse of the vibrant contributions of LGBT leaders to our region. And we affirm here that the Lehigh Valley has important stories to tell about LGBT history from the 1960s into the present.
In the early months of 1969, a group of friends tuned into activist groups in major urban centers envisioned bringing the energy of the Homophile Movement to the Valley. The Homophile Movement gained support in the U.S. in the 1950s and continued to make progress through the 1960s; its primary aims were to fight for equal rights for gay and lesbian people, to counter discrimination in housing and employment, and to counter negative medical, educational, and social understandings of homosexuality. As LGBT people in the Valley faced rampant discrimination, this group of friends believed that a local homophile organization could help to make civic change that greatly would impact our community.
LeHiHo members summer 2019 with student archivists
Their dream became a reality six days before the raid at the Stonewall Inn, which served as a catalyst for the gay liberation movement. On June 22, 1969, a gathering of twenty-seven individuals met “on the north slope of the blue mountains” in Bloomsburg, PA to form a “homophile movement” in the Lehigh Valley. The meeting drew participants from a sixty-mile radius, and fifteen charter members pledged dues, time, and energy to foster the new organization. Leaders of the burgeoning organization included Ron Seeds, Joseph Burns, and others from the city of Bethlehem.
One of the primary decisions the members faced was whether or not to become an affiliate of the nationally-networked Mattachine Society, one of the earliest gay rights groups in the United States. Ultimately, the Lehigh Valley’s relative distance from New York City and Philadelphia, which presented challenges for attending meetings and events, prompted the founders to lean towards an independent organization, and the Homophile Movement of the Lehigh Valley was born. Nicknamed “Le-Hi-Ho,” the organization wanted to secure a more central location for their meetings so that many in the Lehigh Valley could attend. During the summer of 1969, Le-Hi-Ho approached the Unitarian Church of Bethlehem about holding its meetings in their building, and, after a review of the organization’s bylaws, the Church approved meetings beginning in 1970.
From its first month, Le-Hi-Ho became a hub for information about national gay liberation struggles and their regional counterparts. For example, they published their first newsletter in June 1969 and continued to offer relevant reportage about protests and activist efforts in our region and NYC and Philadelphia as well as needed discussion of social events. Even as they provided rich resources for the LGBT community, Le-Hi-Ho leaders sought to protect members from discrimination by securing mailing lists and the names and addresses of those who received newsletters. As gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people could be fired or lose housing because of their sexual or gender identities, leaders needed to ensure the privacy of members. All communication and correspondence was conducted through a Bethlehem post office box in the name of Ron Seeds, a manager at Bethlehem Steel who was the founding director of Le-Hi-Ho. Ron Seeds was the only keeper of the Le-Hi-Ho mailing list, thereby ensuring that names of members were not revealed. The August ‘69 newsletter stressed the importance of discretion, recommending best practices for not revealing too much about other members of the organization.
According to Joseph Burns, the original editor of the newsletter, Le-Hi-Ho was primarily a social organization even as their members were invested in politics. Monthly meetings often featured an invited speaker, such as “Dr. Bob” in September ‘69, who spoke about health concerns of LGBT people, or Dick Leitsch of the Mattachine Society, who visited in January 1970. Still, the most anticipated part of the meetings was the social hour that followed the conclusion of the official agenda. Le-Hi-Ho provided an alternative to the bar scene, according to Burns, as many LGBT people wanted the opportunity to meet outside of noisy taprooms and dance halls.
While social events continued to be a huge draw for members, political organizing became the focus for others. Le-Hi-Ho members, like Frank Whelan and Bob Wittman, were involved in starting the Lambda Center in Allentown, the first LGBT community center in our region. Others were involved with the regional chapter of N.O.W. and participated in the important fight for an anti-discrimination ordinance in Allentown. The political activity of Le-Hi-Ho members shows the value of social organizations for fostering spaces in which to build community, to dream of social change, and to create relationships that fuel the difficult work for social justice.
In the late 1990s, Le-Hi-Ho’s membership began to decline as other LGBT organizations took the lead in the Valley, building on the foundation created by our earlier organizers. Still, their work on behalf of our community is an important part of Lehigh Valley history, which we are proud to celebrate.
We are fortunate to have insight into the early days of this (necessarily) private organization thanks to archivally-minded members of the group, Frank Whelan and Bob Wittman, who deposited the records of Le-Hi-Ho at the Allentown Public Library, where they are available for researchers. The collection contents can be viewed by visiting the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive at http://trexler.muhlenberg.edu/library/specialcollections/
“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”
The streets in Downtown Bethlehem tell quite the story. You can learn much about the Moravians and the early days of Bethlehem just by reading the names. So lace up your sneakers, grab this guide and go explore.
Find info on:
Mauch Chunk Road
And 6 more parts to go — Gadfly loves this guy Jason
As the ball sailed through the uprights, a wave of excitement shot through the crowd gathered at Lehigh’s Taylor Stadium.
Liberty High School had just defeated Eastern powerhouse Steelton 3-0 off a stunning field goal drop kicked from the 42 yard line. The drop kick, often used as a surprise tactic in early football, is rarely used today, but this was 1922 and one of George J. Resetco’s most thrilling moments on the gridiron.
Resetco, better known as “Shadow,” was arguably the greatest athlete to wear the Red and Blue of Liberty High. He began playing varsity sports as a freshman and was the only person in the school’s history to letter in five – football, basketball, baseball, track, and swimming.
“I’d throw the javelin on Friday and the baseball on Saturday,” he once said.
The athletic feats of Shadow Resetco read like legends. For instance, as a freshman he pitched varsity baseball and won six consecutive games, besides playing the outfield when he wasn’t on the mound. In his four years he lost only four games.
Shadow’s graduating class of 1925 produced many memorable athletes. On the football team were Phil Phillippi who went on to become Athletic Director at Liberty, John “Snooky” Hudak who became track coach, Al Seifert and future state senator, Joe Yosko. Along with Shadow, this dynamic group ran roughshod over Allen in the Fall of ’24 to the score of 64-0.
Shadow helped the basketball team secure a league title his senior year and the team defeated several opponents in state championship playoff contests before finally being eliminated. The captain that year was Joe “Pickles” Preletz who returned to coach basketball at Liberty.
The baseball season was almost capped with an eastern state championship, but Harrisburg Tech pulled out a 3-2 win as Resetco looked on from the outfield. Joe Yosko was the catcher on that team, “and a wonderful catcher he was,” said Shadow. “He had plenty of pepper.”
After graduating, Shadow attended Allentown Prep before heading to Holy Cross where he had received an athletic scholarship. He played only three quarters of the football season before developing severe pain in his ankles, wrists, and joints that doctors diagnosed as arthritis.
Once destined for stardom, a sportswriter surmised that his “star was setting before it had achieved full brilliancy.” His friends believed he had burned himself out with too many sports in his youth.
He stuck it out at Holy Cross the rest of his freshman year and even tried out for baseball, but developed a sore pitching arm during an indoor workout. He returned home to Bethlehem and put in a semester at Lehigh but had to drop out when his pain prevented him from attending classes.
Shadow reunited with former teammate Joe Yosko that next summer and had a comeback of sorts. The two became a dynamic pitching-catching combination for the Bethlehem Catholic Sokols baseball team and won 11 straight games and earned a berth in the league playoffs.
When the playoffs arrived, five players had already departed for Atlantic City vacations and replacements were selected among youth from Bethlehem playgrounds. “I pitched my head off, but we lost 2-1,” Shadow recalled.
Resetco began working for the Bethlehem Area School District in 1928 and in 1940, Phil Phillippi recommended Shadow as equipment manager. For 31 years Resetco carried out this job at his alma matter, equipping new generations of athletes with the gear they needed to succeed.
Did the scores of high school students who filed into his office each year realize that he had been one of Liberty’s most outstanding athletes? Maybe some did, but many may have overlooked this soft-spoken, aging employee.
In his later years, swimming was the one sport he could still participate in and he often taught it at the Bethlehem Boys Club’s Camp Mohican.
George J. “Shadow” Resetco passed at the age of 68 in 1973. He was a charter member of Liberty High School’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Nearly a half-century after his death, Resetco’s memory lives on each fall when the winner of the Liberty-Freedom game is presented with the Shadow Resetco trophy.
After prior investigation and working with a confidential informant, at approximately 11PM on April 23, 1997, a group of about a half-dozen Bethlehem Police officers attempted to exercise a search warrant at a house on the Southside in which lived a suspected drug dealer, known to be armed, and his girlfriend.
Here are the skeletal facts:
Officers 1 and 2 were in the front of the house, the rest of the officers in the rear.
Officer 2 opened a front window, and officer 1 threw into the living room a flash-bang distraction device that immediately and unexpectedly started a fast-moving fire.
Officer 1 entered the house and shot the suspect as he was starting to move up the steps to the 2nd floor. Officer 1, using what is described as a “submachine gun” (shown here testifying at the trial), fired approximately 16 shots, 11 hitting the suspect, all in the back.
The suspect’s girlfriend was on the 2nd floor, saw the suspect on the steps, and exited the fiery house through a window.
The suspect died from the gunshot wounds, and his body was burned beyond recognition in the fire that rendered the house a total loss.
Questions about the way police handled this event arose at once.
The Pennsylvania state police and the Attorney General’s office investigated and in September 1997, 5 months after the event, cleared the police of any wrong doing.
The suspect’s family sued the City and the officers for breach of the suspect’s civil rights and for use of excessive force.
A central point of contention at trial was initial interaction between officer 1 and the suspect. Officer 1 said he shot at the suspect because the suspect shot at him. No shell casing from the suspect’s gun was found. The suspect’s girlfriend said she did not see him with a gun on the steps.
The civil suit against the City and the officers began September 2003, 6 1/2 years after the event.
The trial took 6 months, ending March 2004. The jury deliberated 9 days.
The jury told the judge they were deadlocked at 10-2. Both sides agreed to waive the need for unanimity and to accept the 10-2 verdict whatever it was.
The verdict was guilty: officer 1 had violated the suspect’s civil rights by using excessive force, and the City failed to properly supervise the officers and had failed to create policies for the Emergency Response Team.
Rather than further deliberation before the jury and the prospect of years of appeals, both sides agreed to settle the case before the penalty phase of the trial was to begin.
The mutually agreed on terms of settlement were: 1) the City would pay $7.89m, 2) seek accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, 3) hire an independent consultant to make sure that the City’s police practices meet national standards, and 4) seek a grant to instruct officers in the constitutional rights of citizens.
A key to the settlement without further jury involvement was the City’s promise to seek outside help to improve the police force and the offer by Mayor Callahan, in office only two months, to meet privately with the plaintiffs and make an apology.
The police, however, did not apologize, and, in fact, officer 1 was given an “Award for Valor” by a police organization.
Interviewed afterward, the jurors said the suspect had a right to shoot — if, in fact, he did — because the police provoked the suspect to defend himself by storming in late at night without properly identifying themselves. Their verdict focused on civil rights, they said, not on whether the suspect was using or selling illegal drugs.
That was the sentiment of most public comment reported in the Morning Call. There was recognition that the suspect bore some blame for what happened to him, but the police were described as a bunch of ninja’s and as commando’s that took into their own hands the power to be judge, jury, and executioner.
The anti-climax to this long saga was a battle between the Mayor and City Council on how to fund the $7.89m payment. The Mayor advanced a plan, Council rejected it. Council put forth a plan, the Mayor vetoed it. And Council overrode the veto.
The City finally finished paying off the $7.89m judgment in 2015.
End of story.
But the point of this Bethlehem Moment is its relevance to our own cultural moment.
Here is an example from Bethlehem’s past when lack of proper oversight of the police department caused big trouble.
We recognize the dual accreditations that the department now enjoys in large part as a result of this event, and which the Chief told us about last meeting, but we also should not lose sight of the need for continual oversight of the police department and continual improvement of department policies, practices, training, and community involvement.
“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”
Morning Call articles
April 25, 1997: “Gunshots killed man in drug raid”
September 17, 1997: “Bethlehem police cleared in death”
September 17, 2003: “Hirko lawsuit too important to be frivolous”
January 4, 2004: “What happened at 629 Christian St.?”
March 4, 2004: “Hirko jury nails Bethlehem, police officer for deadly raid”
March 22, 2004: “Hirko settlement reached”
March 23, 2004: “Hirko deal: $8 million, reforms”
March 29, 2004: “Jurors: Hirko had right of defense”
March 22, 2005: “Year after Hirko settlement, Bethlehem police try reforms”
March 24, 2005: “Bethlehem police get credit for efforts to adhere to national police standards”
“Today, the Southside Garden Alliance and Penn State Master Gardeners have shared their skills at the South Side Branch of Bethlehem Area Public Library free-of-charge to provide gardening workshops of all kinds to South Side patrons, and anyone else who wants to learn more about gardening right at home to create their own ‘backyard paradisos!'”
Ken Raniere’s “Backyard Paradiso” article in the “Southern Exposure” newsletter published by the South Bethlehem Historical Society and linked from the BAPL piece is delightful.
Alan would normally deliver this “Moment” in person at City Council tonight — no doubt in re-enactor garb — but we bow to the pandemic and publish it solely here. Enjoy!
Bethlehem Moment 21
April 21, 2020
Alan Y. Lowcher
438 High St.
Bethlehem Moment: Trying the Assassins of President Lincoln
“Sic Semper Tyrannis!” With those words and a woman’s scream from the Presidential Box, the audience at Ford’s Theater was plunged into chaos. Several physicians examined the unconscious President and pronounced the wound mortal. It would be unseemly for the President of the United States to die in a house of entertainment – on Good Friday, no less. But the doctors agreed that Lincoln would never survive the carriage ride to the White House. The President was carried out onto Tenth Street, Union officers scanning the scene for someplace – anyplace – to take the dying Chief Executive. From across the street, a voice called out “Bring him in here,” and Lincoln was carried into a boarding house and laid in the bed of Louisa Peterson, who was away at the Bethlehem Female Seminary. The President died in her bed at 7:22 AM on Easter Saturday, April 15, 1865. Telegraphers flashed the news around the country. Wednesday, April 19th was designated as a national day of mourning.
Secretary of War Stanton directed the search for Lincoln’s assassin – and the perpetrators of the brutal assault on Secretary of State Seward – from the Peterson
house. With the full weight of the military and police brought to bear, it was only a matter of days until the Lincoln conspirators – John Wilkes Booth, David Herald, George Atzerodt, Lewis Powell (a/k/a Payne), Mary Surratt, Dr. Mudd, Edman Spangler, and two early signers on in the plot to kidnap Lincoln but who were not involved in the plans to assassinate Lincoln – Samuel Arnold and Michael O’Laughlin – were identified, caught, and incarcerated, except for Booth who died of a gunshot at the Garrett farm in Virginia. Another conspirator – John Surratt, Jr., Mary’s son — had fled to Canada. He would elude capture for a year and was tried before a civilian court in 1867, the U.S. Supreme Court having held in Ex Parte Milligan that trying civilians in a military court was unconstitutional when the civilian courts were functioning. The statute of limitations having run on the lesser charges, Surratt was released when the jury could not unanimously agree on the remaining murder charge.
Stanton favored convening a military commission to quickly try and execute the conspirators. The commission met for the first time on May 8, 1865. All of the defendants except Atzerodt and Powell were represented by attorneys. Bethlehem native Brevet Brigadier General William E. Doster was hired by Atzerodt’s brother to defend George. The commission appointed Doster to represent Powell, who could not secure his own counsel. Doster was a Yale graduate and obtained his law degree from Harvard. He served with the 4th Pennsylvania Cavalry and rose quickly to the rank of Lt. Colonel. His military career was cut short when he contracted malaria after the Gettysburg campaign. In 1865 he was honored with the rank of Brevet Brigadier General “for gallant and meritorious service in the field.” Although his illness kept him out of the saddle, Doester turned his combative skills to good use practicing law in Washington City in 1864.
Faced with an eye-witness identifying Powell as Seward’s attacker, and weapons, an escape map, and Booth’s bank book found in a trunk in Atzerodt’s hotel room – Atzerodt was assigned to assassinate Vice President Johnson — Doster surely realized that his clients would be convicted. All he could do was try to persuade the commission to spare their lives. In the case of Atzerodt, Doster argued that he was too much of a coward to be that heavily involved in the conspiracy. Atzerodt, after all, failed to carry out Booth’s instructions to kill the Vice President. Instead, he downed several drinks at the Kirkland House bar, mere feet from Johnson’s room, and then made his way out of Washington City. Doster might also have highlighted his client’s lack of intelligence: Atzerodt made a bee-line for a relative’s house in nearby Maryland. His trail was not hard to follow. Doster’s defense of Powell portrayed the former Confederate soldier as an abused, innocent farm boy turned murderer by the recently concluded cruel war. Doster also argued that Powell suffered from a kind of insanity. After all, Powell was heard to scream as he ran from Seward’s home, “I’m mad! I’m mad!” In the end, Doster’s eloquent pleas on behalf of both clients came to naught. Atzerodt and Powell were hanged together with David Herold and Mrs. Surratt.
However, that is not the end of the story. In 1978, a historian examining Doster’s legal files came across a May 1, 1865, “confession” made by George Atzerodt to the Provost Marshal of Baltimore. Atzerodt’s statements directly linked Mrs. Surratt and Dr. Mudd to Booth’s original plot to kidnap Lincoln and spirit him to Richmond. More tellingly, Atzerodt confirmed Booth’s instructions to Mrs. Surratt – after Booth’s plans turned from kidnapping to assassination – to make ready the rifles that she had hidden in her Surrattsville tavern for Booth to pick up after assassinating Lincoln. Inexplicably, the Provost Marshal turned over Atzerodt’s statement to Doster, not Secretary of War Stanton. Doster suppressed Atzerodt’s statement and never spoke of it. Had he revealed it, the evidence of Mrs. Surratt’s guilt would have been that much stronger, and Dr. Mudd – who escaped the death penalty by one vote – surely would have hanged alongside Mrs. Surratt and the others. An unanswerable question remains: Had General Doster chosen to reveal the “confession,” could he have made a plea deal with the military commission to spare Atzerodt the death penalty in exchange for Mudd’s life?
Doster returned to Bethlehem after the war to practice law. He represented many local companies, including Bethlehem Iron Company and the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, and Bethlehem’s prominent citizens and their families. He married Evelyn Augusta Depew in 1867. They had two sons and a daughter. The marriage was “dissolved,” and in 1888, 51-year-old Doster married 19-year-old Ruth Porter, a great beauty, and heiress to two prominent East Coast families. The musically gifted Ruth was a founder of the Bach Choir. Scandal befell the family when Ruth divorced General Doster and married her stepson, Edward Depew Doster, who was just a year older than she.
And what of Louisa Peterson’s bed? Peterson’s father sold the house for $4,500 to a speculator who hoped that the government would buy it for a museum. The bed upon which President Lincoln died was sold for $80. According to Louisa’s brother Fred, who gave an interview to the Chicago Historical Society in 1926, the family could have sold the bed many times over. The story of Miss Peterson, her bed, and its connection to Bethlehem would never have been known except for a letter that Louisa wrote in 1864 asking about her trunk that had not arrived home yet from school. The letter, found in the Moravian Archives, included details about Peterson’s family that led to the “Bethlehem” connection to the household where Lincoln died.
“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”
The Morning Call, November 24, 2017, In Bethlehem’s Moravian history, archivists find connections to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, by Nicole Radzievich.
Chicago Historical Bulletin, February 1926, containing an interview of Fred Peterson that first appeared in the New York Times, February 9, 1913.
National Park Service, Ford’s Theater, Washington, D.C.
The Morning Call, January 6, 2002, Bethlehem native played a role in aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination, by Edward Steers, Jr.
The Trial of the Lincoln Conspirators, by Doug Linder (2009)
“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”
1) The “Bethlehem Moment” is a scene or event from Bethlehem history anywhere from 1741 to the 1960s, usually no more than 20 typed lines, that can be read in approximately 3 minutes, that will be presented at the beginning of City Council meetings. The Moments will be archived in Council minutes and published on the Gadfly blog, as well as perhaps other places.
“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”
Well, if not, why not?
The Bethlehem Moments are mini-essays on Bethlehem history from 1741 to around the 1960s, delivered during public comment at City Council meetings and then published here on Gadfly.
The series of Moments is meant to generate a sense of community.
Without a history we are just an atomized assembly of individuals who happen to live in an arbitrary area.
When you do a Moment, you “own” a piece of the past, you become one with a piece of the past.
We’ve done 20 Moments so far. Alan Lowcher will do #21 on the occasion of next week’s Council meeting.
I’m under house arrest, and one of the things I’m doing is reading the 1968 history of Bethlehem.
In the next post you’ll find a “Guide to Bethlehem History.” Libraries are closed, but some of the books can be ordered online, and full texts of at least two can be found online. In addition, there are some valuable web resources.
So you could also be doing some reading about Bethlehem history during this forced hiatus in our workaday lives.
And you might also be thinking about finding some “moment” in our history to add to the work of your fellow residents.
Gadfly’s modest goal, he says with a smile, is that everybody do a Bethlehem Moment — and that he lives to see it.
In the second next post you’ll find a brief information document about the project.
Gadfly’s looking to fill slots in June and July and August. And is ready to help you.
Councilwoman Grace Crampsie Smith
1403 Lorain Ave.
Bethlehem Moment: The Irish in Bethlehem
The first settlers to the Lehigh Valley and Bethlehem, in particular, were Scots Irish. That first wave of immigrants pre-dates the 1742 Moravians and arrived in 1728 to build the Craig settlement in Northampton County.
The pioneering spirit of the Scotch Irish Ulstermen caused them to be among the early movers and shakers because of their fierce patriotism and fighting spirit.
Between 1815 and 1834, Irish immigrants arrived just in time for the canal-building boom. The saying was that all you needed to build a canal was a pick, a shovel, a wheelbarrow, and an Irishman. A thousand Irish workers, with help from local German farmers, built the Lehigh Navigation Canal, finishing the 46-mile route that carried anthracite coal from the mines to market in record time. Irish workers were instrumental in building all the anthracite canals and later the railroads that ultimately replaced them.
The Irish famine years of the 1840s triggered further Irish immigration. In 1850, Irish immigrants made up more than half of the foreign-born residents of Pennsylvania.
How fitting that Bethlehem’s 1st mayor hailed from Ireland. Andrew Harford Boyle emigrated from Burtonport, Ireland, to New Orleans, then moved to Bethlehem when he attended Lafayette College. He was a successful engineer and merchant and was Mayor of Bethlehem for 27 years, from 1886 to his death in 1913. That’s even longer than Mayor Donchez!!
In 1900, prior to the expansion of the steel mills, the native Americans, Irish, and German immigrants dominated the population of South Bethlehem
Irish immigrants faced discrimination and were vilified as lazy, drunken, dishonest, and, as Catholics, un-American. The 19th century found most Irish immigrants and their first- and second-generation descendants at the bottom of the social and economic scale. “No Irish Need Apply” signs were frequently displayed. Strikes and violent confrontations between miners, steelworkers, and others against increasingly remote, wealthy, and autocratic owners did little to help.
However, those difficulties led Irish Americans to form strong community supports such as churches, parochial schools, colleges, social groups, beneficial societies, and political groups. These all helped promote many second and third generation Irish Americans into the middle class and into positions of social, economic, and political power in Pennsylvania and the nation.
In 1861, Holy Infancy Church was established as a parish in South Bethlehem and was the first Catholic church in Northampton County.
South Bethlehem’s first Burgess, James McMahon, a respected Irish citizen, had been an active participant in the organization of Holy Infancy.
Patrick Briody, an Irish immigrant who came to America in 1850 from County Meath, Northern Ireland, was also a dedicated founding parishioner of Holy Infancy Church. Briody was Superintendent of Furnaces for The Bethlehem Iron Company. In March of 1894, he was appointed Postmaster of South Bethlehem, with the Post Office located at the corner of 4th and Brodhead Ave. Briody was also a member of the School Board and was on the committee for building the Central High School, and Webster, Excelsior, and Packer schools.
Like him, many community leaders of Irish descent contributed to the community by the close of the century, including John Donegan, Charles Quinn, James Broughal, and Thomas O’Reilly.
In 1912, James Bonner, brother to my grandmother Grace Bonner Crampsie, moved to Bethlehem from the coal region town of Summit Hill. James’s parents had emigrated from County Donegal. James worked as an electrician at Bethlehem Steel as well as operated his own electrical business. James’s daughter Cynthia Bonner was born in 1935. Cynthia graduated from Liberty High School and joined the Air Force upon graduation from nursing school. Cynthia rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel in the Air Force and served as an Air Evacuation Nurse in Vietnam and Director of Nursing at Howard AFB in Panama. She also assisted in the aftermath of the Reverend Jim Jones disaster. Later in life, she was exposed to the H1N1 virus which contributed to the downfall of her health.
In retirement she continued providing nursing services at Maher AFB and the county of Sacramento. She loved her country, her hometown of Bethlehem, and her Irish heritage. While she lived throughout the world, she always spoke fondly of her days growing up in Bethlehem, and Bethlehem was always close to her heart.
Bethlehem has been blessed with many Irish immigrants and their descendants contributing to our great city, and to those we are forever grateful.
In the present day, Bethlehem hosts the Celtic Cultural Alliance – an Educational non-profit organization that hosts the Annual Celtic Classic Festival and many other Celtic Cultural events throughout the year. The resurgence of Celtic Culture in the valley through organizations like the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Irish Dance Schools, and Scottish Pipe Bands made it a natural place to start one of the major Celtic Festivals in North America bringing almost 300,000 people annually to Bethlehem.
I wish to thank Joe McCarthy of Holy Infancy Parish and my good friend Timothy Briody, descendant of Patrick Briody, for their invaluable contribution to this Bethlehem Moment. And a special thanks to my cousin Cynthia Bonner for her selfless contributions in serving our country.
May the road rise to meet you on this Holy, sacred day as Irish Americans pay homage to their patron Saint, Patrick. [This Bethlehem Moment was originally scheduled for March 17.]
Slainte and Sith!!
“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”
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.
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?
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 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 glasses 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.
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.
“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.