Northampton: County History
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Northampton County, Pennsylvania
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History of Northampton County

Our foremost colonist, William Penn, founded the colony of Pennsylvania after receiving a grant in 1681 from the King of England.  Religious freedom, liberal government, and inexpensive land attracted colonists to this area.  The original inhabitants, the Lenni Lenape, had a peaceful relationship with the early settlers as a result of the diplomatic talents of William Penn.  This area was once Bucks County, an original county founded in 1682.

Scotch-Irish Presbyterians settled in Allen Township as early as 1728.  This was the first permanent settlement in Northampton County.  In 1740, missionary George Whitefield founded Nazareth.  Whitefield had been working alongside Moravian missionaries among the Cherokee in Georgia.  When this proved unsuccessful, Whitefield invited the Moravians to Nazareth.  Moravians founded Bethlehem in 1741 as a center for their missionary work among the Native Americans and German Protestants.  Nazareth lands purchased from Whitefield became the agricultural component of the Moravian community.

Northampton County was formed in 1752 and Easton was declared the county seat.

In 1754, the French and Indian War started in western Pennsylvania.  Although Northampton County was protected by a string of forts, hostilities were still a threat until about 1763.

George Taylor of Easton signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776.  Easton was one of only three places where the Declaration was publicly read.  You may visit George Taylor’s home, the Bachman Tavern, in Easton.  During the American Revolution Bethlehem housed two Continental Army hospitals and General Lafayette recuperated from wounds received during the battle of Germantown.  Lafayette College in Easton bears his name.

Beginning in the 18th Century, Bethlehem was an industrial center.  Anthracite coal was discovered in northern Northampton County in the 1790s.  By 1830 mule-drawn barrages brought the coal down through an elaborate canal system which snaked through the entire county.  This network of canals followed streams and rivers through Bethlehem and Easton on its way to the port city of Philadelphia.  Railroads soon replaced the canals.  By 1834, the canal-railroad line extended from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.  Iron was first produced in Bethlehem in 1857 by what would become the Bethlehem Steel Corporation.

As the nation expanded westward and cities started growing, Northampton County-produced steel and cement became the major raw materials.  Northampton County’s steel and cement can be found in every city and town, from the skyscrapers of New York to the boulevards of Los Angeles.

For the past 250 years Northampton County has been a player in creating America’s political freedoms, its economic dominance, and its religious diversity.  We will continue to do so.  Feel free to browse our website to learn how our department plans on contributing to America’s continued prosperity.