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From that date forward, settlers began their inevitable westward and northwestward migration into the wilderness of Penn’s Woods.
English Quakers were among the earliest settlers of the upper parts of Bucks County, from which Northampton County was separated in 1752. Thousands of Germans were also attracted to this new territory along the Delaware and Lehigh rivers, arriving in what became Easton in 1735. As the Pennsylvania Germans settled in Northampton County, their skill and industry transformed this region into a rich farming country, contributing greatly to the expanding prosperity of the province. Scotch-Irish settlers also came into the county in great numbers. Although the Quakers were primarily English, many of the Quakers who settled in Northampton County were Irish and Welsh. Additionally, French Huguenot and Jewish settlers, as well as many settlers from Holland, Sweden, and a mixture of other nationalities, contributed to the growing population. This mixture of various nationalities, almost all from western Europe, in what had been originally intended to be a Quaker province in the New World, helped to create the “melting pot” that eventually became one of the key foundations upon which this nation was founded.
Although the Quakers were the dominant religious group in the new Pennsylvania colony, especially in the southeastern counties, the Quakers gradually declined in influence as other nationalities, with their own specific religions, came into the county. The Pennsylvania Germans that settled here in large numbers belonged largely to the Lutheran and Reformed churches, but there were also several smaller sects: Mennonites, Amish, German Baptist Brethren or "Dunkers," Schwenkfelders, and Moravians. The Lutheran Church eventually became the largest of the Protestant denominations in Pennsylvania. Other religions of significance included the Church of England, various Roman Catholic congregations, Presbyterians, Methodists, and various Jewish faiths.
Of special interest in the religious history of Northampton County is the Moravian Church, also known as Unitas Fratrum, an evangelical Protestant denomination organized in Herrnhut, Saxony in 1727 as a reconstitution of the 15th-century Bohemian Brethren. The first Moravians in America settled in Savannah, Georgia, in 1734, and moved to Nazareth in 1740. On April 2, 1741, a splinter group of seventeen members of that Nazareth community received a deed for 500 acres at the junction of the Monocacy Creek and Lehigh River, an ideal setting for their new community. On Christmas Eve, 1741, Count Zinzendorf and the other Moravians decided to call their new home Bethlehem. By 1761, more than 2,000 acres of land in the immediate Bethlehem-Nazareth area had been cleared. The settlement included 50 buildings. More than 50 business/industries were producing an impressive variety of goods that were much needed in a community on the very edge of the frontier.
Thanks to the strong foundations that were laid in this county more than 250 years ago by the earliest settlers who came into this wilderness seeking a place to live and practice their preferred religions, Northampton’s communities today are filled with houses of worship – of almost every denomination and creed. The influences of time and history are evident throughout the community, and very much so in its houses of worship.