Olden Days: A Glimpse at What Hellertown Was Like in 1922

Hellertown 1922 Profile
Written by Josh Popichak

In 1922, the borough of Hellertown was home to approximately 3,000 people, many of whom worked at the booming Bethlehem Steel Company. The Morning Call’s profile of the town called it “prosperous” and filled with contented families living in “comfortable homes.”

Est. Read Time: 8 mins
Hellertown 1922 Profile

The profile of Hellertown published by The Morning Call on Nov. 12, 1922 included photographs of some of the town’s best-known landmarks, including its first fire station, the Saucon Valley Trust Company, Prosser’s Drug Store (where it was noted that ‘Morning Calls’ were sold), St. Paul Evangelical Church, the downtown and what was then known as “Saucon High School.” Most of the pictured buildings are still standing, although many are no longer used for their original purpose.

Note: The following is a verbatim transcript of a lengthy profile of Hellertown that was published in the Nov. 12, 1922 edition of The Morning Call (see below for image). That year the borough celebrated the golden anniversary of its 1872 incorporation. (All articles published prior to 1923 are in the public domain under U.S. copyright law.)

Hellertown is a borough with a population of about 3,000 located in Lower Saucon Township, Northampton County, southeast of Bethlehem. It is the terminus of the Lehigh Valley Transit company lines and also is on the Phila. and Reading railroad.

Hellertown is a prosperous community with comfortable homes and a contented people. Aside from various industries in the town itself, the greater number of its residents are employed by the Bethlehem Steel company. A single trolley fare to Bethlehem makes a home in Hellertown a convenient and inviting suburban residence for the steel employee.

Forces are at work to increase the facility with which motor traffic may come and go from Hellertown. A splendid road already leads from Bethlehem and it is proposed to extend a state highway to the Narrows to connect with the Easton-Philadelphia road and another spur to Quakertown to connect with the Allentown-Philadelphia highway.

C.J. Weidner is the burgess* of the borough. The councilmen are Victor Wagner, Wye J. Brown, Titus Bachman, Herbert Cless, Charles Schilling, Harvey Meyers, Elmer Eckert and John Dugan.

R.N. Taylor is the supervising principal of schools.** The members of the school board are Clarence Bigot, Asher Kichline, Asher Dimmich, Ed. Boehm and steward Schantz.

Among the chief industries are the Bethlehem Spark Plug company, the Air Reduction Sales company, the Halcyon Knitting mill, and the Thomas Iron Company.

The American Legion opst, known as Ackerman post, No. 397 has just purchased a site at Chestnut and Main Sts. for a permanent home.

The town is divided into three wards. It boasts a fire company, a splendid water system, playgrounds and good schools. The water system, it is claimed, is the best in the state. Not only is the water of a splendid quality of soft spring water but it is by gravity alone that it is distributed to the residents.

Hellertown also has a Boy Scout organization, two churches, a high school, a bank, various fratneral organizations and a business men’s association. The churches are St. Paul’s Evangelical church, Rev. Hill pastor, and Union church with Rev. Hamm as the Reformed pastor and Rev. Krause as the Lutheran pastor. The Saucon Valley Trust company, organized two years ago, has become a flourishing financial institution.

Bethlehem’s beautiful Saucon park is located at the northern end of the borough.

Among the organizations are the following:

Corp Weaver Camp, No. 295, Sons of Veterans; Washington camp, No. 175, P.O.S. of A.; Ackerman post, No. 397, American Legion; Killater tribe, No. 421, I.O.R.M.; Hellertown castle, No. 112, K.G.E.; Hellertown council, No. 838, F.P.A.; Hellertown camp, No. 200, P.O.S. of A.; Hellertown lodge, No. 563, F. and A.M.; Saucon lodge, No. 606, I.O.O.F.

Hellertown is the heart of the rich and vertile Saucon valley. It was incorporated as a borough by the January court in 1872, after considerable opposition on the part of some of the old citizens. Credit for the following historical facts is due to the Hon. Jer. S. Hess:

History of the Borough. The first election resulted in the choice of the following officers: Chief burgess, Thomas R. Laubach; Town council, Charles Wagner, J.B. Leith, D.J. Weirbach, Moses Henninger, W.F. Detweiler and T.S. Eisenhart; justice of the peace, P.B. Lerch.

In or near Hellertown there originally resided Christopher and Simon Heller, two brothers who had come across the ocean from the Palatinate on the ship Winter Gallen out of Rotterdam and arrived on these shores September 5, 1738. Christopher obtained the patent for his land September 8, 1742 and Simon received his patent October 14, 1746. There is reason to believe that they were descendants of a Michael Heller as that name is a favorite of the family. In 1800, three of that name were living in Hellertown and they were distinguished as “Oehlig” Mike, “Kricke” Mike and “Heffner” Mike. They had won these various Pennsylvania German sobriquets for reasons peculiar to each. The first was engaged in the manufacture of linseed oil and his nickname is a derivation of the Pennsylvania German word for oil. The second lived close to the Saucon creek and therefore his nickname was the Pennsylvania German word for creek and the third being a potter, he received the Pennsylvania German word for pot.

Two of these had sons whose names were also Mike and they were known as “Kriche” Mike’s Mike and “Oehlig” Mike’s Mike.

Anthony Boehm, the son (of) the Rev. John Philip Boehm, who came to this country about 1720, built what is the oldest house still standing in Hellertown. It is the property of John A. Geisinger. The Schaffers and the M’Hoses were early residents of the town. The borough since its early days has been noted for litigation and the civil court of Northampton is rarely without a case from Hellertown. The criminal court happily is less often appealed to. It is related that at the beginning of the present century when Samuel Sitgreaves, a high-toned gentleman, was at the head of the Easton bar, two Schaffers of Hellertown had a suit at court. Sitgreaves was employed by one of them who stated that he could prove his claim by three witnesses. When they came to court the first witness testified to the very opposite of what had been promised, and the second witness corroborated the testimony of the first. This was too much for such an honorable man of the old school as Sitgreaves. He arose from his seat in court, put his bag under his arm and addressed the court as follows:

“Your honor, my client has decieved (sic) me woefully. I am his attorney no longer” and left the room.

In 1820, the town contained three houses, eighteen families, three taverns, two stores, one grist mill and seventy-three inhabitants. There was a linseed oil factory in the place during the early part of the century but it afterwards burned down. A distillery also was among the early industries. For many years the growth of the town was slow.

Educational matters were not neglected in the village although no separate school building was erected until the year 1845, when John Reintzheimer presented a lot for that purpose, located along the brook in the center of the town. Previous to that a room was rented from one or the other of the citizens for educational purposes. School was taught in no less than six of the thirteen houses constituting Hellertown of 1820. As soon as the place was incorporated the school was divided into primary and grammer (sic) grades.

A tannery was started between 1780 and 1790 which continued in operation until 1872 when it passed out of the hands of Joseph F. Landis into those of Dr. W.F. Detweiler. The completion of the North Pennsylvania railroad in 1856 gave a new impetus to business. Rudolphos Kent of Gwywid with others from Philadelphia bought the Geisinger farm, laid it out in town lots, secured the railroad station on the tract and called the new town Hampton. This real estate enterprise proved a failure, only one house having been built on it for many years. The station and originally been promised to the other end of town on lands of Rev. Samuel Hess and hence no interest was taken by the old citizens in the new town that was to supplant the old place and name. A number of buildings were erected in that part of town were the station was originally intended to be and Hampton was finally abandoned and the land resold to its original owner, John Geisinger. For many years a small frame shanty was used as a station house. In 1865, a large, convenient brick building was erected by the railroad.

A coal yard was stated by Joseph F. Boyer, the railroad agent, soon after the completion of the railroad. It remained in business until 1868 when Jer. S. Hess started a coal and lumber yard in the southern portion of the town where the business is still carried on and is now known as the Hess Coal and Lumber company. A brick yard was started by Rev. Samuel Hess in 1849.

The Saucon Iron Company was organized in 1866 and the establishment of this concern gave a fresh start to the quiet little village and new buildings began to be erected. In one year more than 20 new houses were built. The company was organized largely through the influence of Jacob Riegel, a native of Saucon, near Hellertown, and a successful and prominent dry goods merchant in Philadelphia, on August 21, 1866. Letters patent were granted on August 23, 1866. On March 18, 1868, the company obtained a special charter from the legislature, authorizing a capital of $300,000 with the privilege of increasing it to $1,000,000.

The company was organized in 1866 by the election of Messrs. Joseph Riegel, J. Gillinghamn Fell, Joseph B. Altemus, Joshua Lippincott, George W. Whitaker and William Riegel as directors of the company. George W. Whitaker was elected president and superintendent, Mr. Riegel treasurer, James D. Bennett, secretary, and Joseph Diehl, superintendent of mines. The works of the company consisted of two blast furnaces and a number of hemtite and magnetic ore mines.

Work on the first stack was completed February, 1868 and blown on March 23, 1868. The second was completed in April, 1870 and blown on May 28, 1870.

The Hellertown foundry was founded by Samuel Solliday in 1872. It changed hands repeatedly. In 1876 the company took a contract from the light house board of the United States to erect the iron super structure of a light house to be placed on the Florida coast.

A savings bank, planing mill, saw mill and flour mill were part of the town’s commercial assets at various times.

The Saucon Trust Company

It is particularly appropriate that this sketch of Hellertown should appear at this date by reason of the fact that it marks the second anniversary of one of the town’s most flourishing institutions. This is the Saucon Valley Trust company.

The organization meeting was held in Odd Fellows hall, Hellertown. Victor S. Wagner was elected president, Wye Joe Brown and Dr. Theo. Kharas, vice presidents and Franklin Sutton, burgess of Hellertown, temporary secretary-treasurer.

A board of twenty-five directors was elected, as follows: Jacob Apple, W.J. Brown, Harvey M. Freed, Dr. Oliver H. Fretz, H.H. Funk, Albert W. Hicks, Benjamin Hottel, H.E. Knappenberger, Dr. Theo. Kharas, Charles Kichline, George A. Keck, A.E. Leiby, H.K. Lerch, H.F. Myers, W.B. Price, Elmer Prosser, Paul A. Ricker, Robert J. Rickert, H.J. Rothermel, Franklin Sutton, Stover S. Snyder, C.H. Stoneback, Cyrus W. Weaver.

The company has become close to a half-million dollar institution. Its officers are as follows: Victor S. Wagner, president; Dr. O.H. Fretz and C.W. Kichline, vice presidents; Elmer E. Kunk, secretary and treasurer; Thomas Pfeiffer, assistant secretary; Jacob Apple, A.L. Bergstresser, H.H. Funk, A.W. Hicks, Benjamin Hottel, H.E. Knappenberger, Jacob M. Landis, W.B. Price, George B. Deemer, R.J. Rickert, Stover Snyder, Franklin Sutton, George A. Keck, William T. Lerch, Dr. Samuel Stoumen, John P. Kunsman, Albert H. Trumbower, Harvey Wohlbach, E.W. Knauss, Howard K. Lerch and Dr. R.C. King.

*Burgess or Chief Burgess was the equivalent of mayor at that time.

**In 1922, Hellertown operated its own school district. The merger of the Hellertown and Lower Saucon school districts did not happen until many years later.

About this column: Olden Days is a Saucon Source series in which we use newspaper clippings in the public domain to highlight Saucon Valley news from days gone by.

About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at

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