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Remembering When George Washington Passed Through Hellertown


In 1782, when he was 50 years old, George Washington rode through the tiny village of Hellertown on his way to Bethlehem, and beyond that to Newburgh, N.Y. The Revolutionary War was in its final year and Washington was seven years from becoming the first president of the United States.

Est. Read Time: 3 mins

George Washington was born on Feb. 22, 1732 in Westmoreland County, Va. Along with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (Feb. 12) Washington’s birthday is celebrated annually on Presidents Day.

The year was 1782, six years after America’s Second Continental Congress declared a new, independent nation called the United States of America and created the Continental Army under General George Washington to fight the American Revolutionary War against Great Britain.


The famous painting ‘Surrender of Lord Cornwallis’ completed in 1820 by John Trumbull depicts the surrender of British forces to American troops under the leadership of George Washington following the Siege of Yorktown in 1781. Cornwallis’ surrender effectively brought a close to fighting during the Revolutionary Way and paved the way for America’s independence. (Credit: Public domain image)

The war’s first four years were a give-and-take struggle, but key American victories in 1780 and a decisive blow to the British at the Battle of Yorktown, Virginia, in October 1781, when Washington joined forces with French army troops and a French naval force, sealed the fate of the British. Peace negotiations began shortly after Washington’s victory at Yorktown and continued through 1782.

The war ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

On July 25, 1782, Washington was headed on horse to Continental Army headquarters in Newburgh in upstate New York. Although he had frequented many locations in Bucks County during the war and visited Bethlehem on more than one occasion prior to the war, there was previously no account of him traveling through Hellertown, even though the King’s Road (which today is Rt. 412) that connected Philadelphia and Bethlehem passed directly through the little village founded by Christopher Heller.

But toward evening on the 25th, Washington and two aides passed through Hellertown on their way to Bethlehem, where the general spent the night at the Sun Inn on the north side of the Lehigh River. Moravian Church diary entries indicate that Washington arrived unexpectedly late in the day, was entertained by the Moravian Trombone Choir and attended an evening worship service. The next day he was escorted by Moravian Bishop John Ettwein to Hope, N.J., a Moravian settlement, and from there made it to Newburgh by July 27.

The entry regarding Washington’s ride through Hellertown comes from a booklet printed for “Road Celebration and Old Home Day” held in the borough on July 4, 1925. The booklet also mentions that Washington’s wife, Martha, who would become the young nation’s First Lady, passed through Hellertown on June 16, 1779, on her way back to Virginia after visiting the Commander-in-Chief at Middlebrook Camp, N.J.

Whether Washington was in Hellertown at other times is either unknown or conjecture, but his appearance on July 25, 1782 in a hurried horse ride to Bethlehem gives Hellertown a right to say “George Washington was here!”

Happy birthday, President Washington.

This column is part of a new monthly series exploring borough history authored by Dennis Scholl, Chair of the Hellertown Historical Society’s Education Committee.


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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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