Friday, December 31, 2010

Slow Down to Enjoy Freemansburg

Canal manager's home.

Jacob Freeman (1792-1871) was described as a well-liked and respected citizen of the quaint small town where he lived. He served the town as the coroner and justice of the peace. He would expound upon the virtues of his hometown to anyone who would listen. That is if he wasn’t busy with his favorite pursuit of hunting game. His neighbors showed their appreciation for this town booster, by naming the town after him in1830. Jacob’s grandfather, Edward Freeman, had purchased the land, in 1790, where Freemansburg would eventually be established. Jacob was able to sell off several of his lots when the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company completed the 1.5-mile section of the canal, a lock tender’s house, mule barn and Locks No.43 and 44 in the autumn of 1829. Lock No. 43 is now within the city limits of Bethlehem. A few other European settlers had arrived to settle the area before the Freemans. John Nance was considered the first settler. He opened a gristmill, known as Nance’s Mill. Nancy Run, a stream that runs into the Lehigh River at the north end of town, was named for him. Freemansburg was originally called “Nance’s Mills.” Peter Bachman, another early settler, built his home and tavern at the west end of town, in 1760. The tavern was known as Willow Grove. It was the first stone home built in this area. Legend has it that some of the local Leni Lenape shot arrows at the stone masons, from the south side of the Lehigh River. They hoped to delay the building of the home. A Bethlehem Moravian, George Huber, in the early 1760s, built a sawmill and distillery at the northern end of Freemansburg. In 1817, George Butz built his gristmill on Nancy Run.
Before the construction of a temporary wooden bridge at Freemansburg, the only way to travel across the Lehigh River was by Currie’s Ferry. Lawyer, John Currie, who lived in Shimersville, which was located across the river from Freemansburg, had erected the service. Henry Jarrett built the first temporary bridge in 1816. The bridge only lasted until 1825; when the unfortunate Daniel Schnable, with a four-horse team and loaded wagon, found the bridge could not support him. He and his horses crashed through the structure and fell into the Lehigh. Schnable and his horses survived the fall. Three more bridges followed; a covered bridge made of wood (1826), a bridge made of steel (1896) and finally the modern cement bridge (1990) we use today.
Freemansburg owed its rapid development to the canal built by Josiah White and Erskine Hazard. The majority of the canal boats floating by Freemansburg carried coal; however a few hauled logs, grain, vegetables, and limestone. It wasn’t unusual for the boatmen or “canallers” to live with their families on the boats. They often docked in Freemansburg to trade a bucket of coal for a chicken, eggs or milk. If a bank dweller was without the funds to pay for coal, they were known to set up bottles along the bank. The boatman would play the game and throw coal at the bottles. This coal would be gathered by the bank dweller to keep his family warm.
During the 1830s, Jacob Freeman built the second tavern of the town, known as the Freemansburg Hotel. The structure was described as extravagant. Thomas & Bellows opened a general store in 1831. Three more stores came in the next few years, Leeser’s, Jacob Ginsinger and P.S. Bachman. Three boatyards were built by G.&A. Bachman, Warg & Luckenbach and A. Cortright. The boat yards employed over a hundred people and produced as many as one hundred boats per year.

By 1850 there were one hundred dwelling in Freemansburg. The population boom necessitated the building of a school in 1856 as well as the town’s incorporation as a borough on January 24, 1856. The heyday of the canal came to an end as the Central New Jersey Railroad came through the area in 1860. Some of the graves in the Lutheran Reformed Church Cemetery had to be moved to make way for the tracks. The trains stopped in Freemansburg for industry and passengers. Because of the increasing popularity of cars, buses and trucks, the Freemansburg passenger station was demolished in 1966 and all rail service had stopped by 1989.

Freemansburg attracted other important industries. Bachman and Clewell established the Lehigh Valley Manufacturing Company in 1867. Their company made soap and candles. The Northampton Iron Co. built the Northampton Furnace in 1872 for the production of pig iron. William Shimer & Son Co. from 1875 to 1895 operated a cast iron toy manufacturing company. These cast-iron toy banks, trains and canons are highly collectible today.

In 1901, Lehigh Valley Traction Co. offered trolley service between Freemansburg and South Bethlehem, making the borough a favorite bedroom community for Bethlehem Steel employees. Charles Derr, Vice-President of Freemansburg Borough Council, headed the Old Freemansburg Association. In the late 1990’s they restored the 1.5 miles of canal towpath, lock tender’s house, mule barn and Lock 44. The borough owns and maintains the entire historic property. It is a favorite destination for walkers, runners and bicyclists.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tannenberg, First American Organ Builder

Tannenberg organ at the York County Heritage Trust.

     David Tannenberg is the most well-known and respected American builder of organs of the eighteenth century. He became the first professional organ builder trained in North America. Tannenberg lived with his family in the Bethlehem, Nazareth and Lititz Moravian communities.
     In April of 1804, Tannenberg brought his last commission, a pedal pipe organ, to the 1762 Christ Lutheran Church in York where he and his assistant worked five weeks to install it in the gallery. Tannenberg did not live to see the installation finished. As he stood on scaffolding, he suffered a stroke, fell and struck his head. He died two days later on May 19, 1804, at 76 years of age. The instrument was played for the first time at his funeral service. Tannenberg was buried in the Moravian cemetery in York.
     Tannenberg was born in the village of Berthelsdorf, Saxony in the eastern part of Germany, on March 21, 1728. His parents, Johann Tannenberger and Judith Nitschmann were Moravians who had found refuge from religious persecution in their native Moravia (now the Czech Republic) on the estate of Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf. Count Zinzendorf came to know the young Tannenberg and saw to it that he received proper schooling.
     Tannenberg arrived in Bethlehem in May of 1749 at the age of 21. His occupation initially was that of a joiner, a woodworker who did carpentry or millwork. That summer, on July 15, 1749, Tannenberg and Anna Rosina Kerner, along with 30 other couples, were married in what came to be called the "Great Wedding". The Moravian Church leaders proposed the matches but the women and men had the right to refuse the marriage. They had five children, Rosina, Mary, Anna, David and Samuel.
     When Johann Gottlob Klemm, a professional organ builder from Germany arrived in Bethlehem, in 1757, Tannenberg found his calling in life. He became Klemm’s apprentice and they built at least five organs together until Klemm’s death in 1762. They had set up a shop in the house, at the Burnside Plantation.  Tannenberg wished to continue building organs however the Moravian elders decided that the occupation would bring Tannenberg into too much contact with the outside world. Tannenberg had been making frequent trips around the colonies in search of wood, ebony, ivory, and tin. Fortunately for American music lovers, Tannenberg disobeyed the Moravian elder’s order.
     To supplement the training he had received from Klemm, Tannenberg ordered a copy of Georg Andreas Sorge’s treatice on organ pipe scaling and tuning called "The Secret Art of the Measurement of Organ Pipes". Sorge, a court organist and musical theoretician from Lobenstein, Germany, was the first to apply logarithmic progression to the scaling of organ pipes.
     In 1765, Tannenberg moved with his family to Lititz and set up his organ factory there. During his long life, Tannenberg built approximately 50 organs, along with pianos and clavichords. In Lititz, he was a part of the musical community as an organist, violinist and a cantor for the church services. He initially built organs only for Moravian churches, however by 1769, Lutheran and Reformed churches requested organs as well. Tannenberg built his organs according to the needs of the congregation. He understood that Lutheran and Reformed churches would require an organ that could stand alone and lead congregational singing of the chorales. Moravian Churches used their organs to accompany stringed and woodwind instruments. The notes played on his Moravian Church organs have been described as sweet, lovely and not overpowering. His organs were built for churches in Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, New York and Maryland.
     George Washington was so impressed with Tannenberg’s organ at the Zion Lutheran Church in Philadelphia that he made a return visit to attend another organ recital in 1791. George (one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence) and Betsy (designer of the American flag) Ross, were admirers of Tannenberg and contracted with him to repair their house organ. Tannenberg was commissioned to build the organ for the Bethlehem Moravian Church. His plans required the church’s roof to be raised four feet higher than called for by the architect. This was done when the church was built. Tannenberg died before he could build this organ.
     There are nine surviving organs built by Tannenberg. The closest one is located at the Moravian Historical Society in the Whitefield House in Nazareth, PA., along with the only existing clavichord made by Tannenberg.  He built the organ in 1776 for the Moravian Chapel in the Single Brethren's House in Bethlehem. George Washington listened to music from this organ during a 1782 visit to Bethlehem. It was reconditioned by R. J. Brunner & Co. in 1997 through grants from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and Questers Whitefield Chapter 514. Questers is an international organization dedicated to preserving and restoring works of art and antiquities.