Northwestern Lehigh County

By Kathryn Finegan Clark

It’s the Lehigh Valley’s answer to Montana’s Big Sky
—and it’s only minutes from busy Allentown.

If the Valley has a secret to keep, it is surely this gorgeous northwest corner of Lehigh County, America’s 18th Century frontier.

Climb a hill and see the fields spread before you, and it’s not difficult to imagine the boom of muskets, the cries of marauding Indians, even the howls of wolves outside a lonely log cabin.

The Lenni Lenapes had been peaceful until they became embittered by the infamous Walking Purchase of 1737 that cheated them of their land. They struck back in the 1750s, killing whole families in Lynn Township and forcing settlers to abandon their farms.

If the Valley has a secret to keep, it is surely this gorgeous northwest corner of Lehigh County, America’s 18th Century frontier.

It is an interesting footnote to history that Lynn Township, the place of a savage Indian massacre, is now the scene of the annual Intertribal Powwows held in mid-May at Ontelaunee Park.

Lynn, the county’s most remote and largest township, and its smallest, Lowhill, and their sister municipalities, Heidelberg and Weisenberg, have proud individual personalities but are bound together by the Germanic origin of the pioneers, their language, religion, culture and foods. A common church fundraiser still is a pig’s stomach dinner, a Pennsylvania Dutch farm favorite.

Lynn Township is the county’s most rural and least populated with only about 3,900 residents sharing its 42 square miles. Lynn has preserved 6,500 acres of land on 77 farms, the lion’s share of the four-township total of 14,000 acres on 160 farms.

Villages  in Lynn include Jacksonville, Lynnville, Lynnport, Mosserville, New Tripoli, Stines Corner, which lies partly in Weisenberg, and Wanamakers, the end of a scenic railroad, the Wanamaker, Kempton & Southern, which travels from Kempton in neighboring Berks County.

The area around New Tripoli, the easternmost metropolis, is home to Ontelaunee Park, Olde Homestead Golf Course, the Leaser Homestead and Blue Mountain Vineyards and Cellars Ltd. (These sites were explored in an article appearing in the May 2009 issue of Lehigh Valley Marketplace.)

In the center of Lynn, at the intersection of Kistler Valley and Hummingbird roads, stands a modern stone monument bearing the inscription:


John George Kistler and wife Dorothea came to America in 1737. He served in the French and Indian War and his five sons in the American Revolution.”

Anchored in that handsome valley, it’s a strangely stirring reminder this land had to be defended and won. Records in Weisenberg Township, just south of Lynn, show more than 68 of its men fought in the Revolutionary War.

In Heidelberg Township to the east the first immigrants arrived in the 1730s. A little later they were joined by others, most of whom were farmers torn from Germany’s Palatinate area when it was swept by warring princes.

They sought farmland similar to that of their homeland near the Rhine and  found it in Lehigh County in what was then called Allemangel, and they stayed. Even today German surnames crowd out all others. The English did not arrive until after 1800 and there were only a few.

Heidelberg Township is home to Lehigh County’s highest point.  It’s Bake Oven Knob, towering 1,585 feet above sea level where the Appalachian Trail winds through the Blue Mountains on the border of Lehigh and Carbon counties. Rising about 100 feet above the main ridge, it’s a place of sweeping views.

Heidelberg’s main villages are Saegersville, Germansville and Pleasant Valley. It’s not  surprising that they resemble the crossroad villages in Lynn because the municipalities shared a way of life. Historians say that until the middle of the 19th century the settlers kept to themselves and spoke only German, or what is commonly called Pennsylvania Dutch.  The first English school was started in Saegersville in 1823 and even then was faced with opposition by those who saw no need for a second language.

Heidelberg had more industry than Lynn; early records show a number of grist mills. Carriage and farm wagon factories operated during the 19th century as did a rifle factory, and several gunsmiths worked in the township. It’s reported a number of stills turned out fine apple brandy.

The terrain in Lowhill Township just south of Heidelberg is different—and its name indicates that. The wide sweeping fields of Lynn and Heidelberg give way here to lower hills and sharply defined deep, narrow valleys.

The Jordan Creek passes through the township on its way to the Lehigh River, smaller streams meander through the fertile valleys and springs pop up all over.

The Claussville one-room schoolhouse is a Pennsylvania German schoolhouse built in 1893. Used until 1956, it is furnished for that period and has a bell tower and a working outhouse. The schoolhouse is situated on busy and modern Route 100 that cuts south through Lowhill where once there were only Indian paths.

Now the children of Lowhill, along with students from the other three townships, attend Northwestern Lehigh schools.

Claussville is one of five villages in the township. The others are the quaint Leather Corner Post which lays claim to the oldest standing hotel in Lehigh Valley, built before the Revolutionary War, Lowhill, Lyon Valley and Weidasville. Otherwise, Lowhill is all fields and trees.

Weisenberg Township has only one major thoroughfare, Golden Key Road (Route 863) which is just off Route 78 south of the township and climbs north to the mountains, unfolding amazing vistas.

It, too, is dotted with handsome old stone buildings, hex-signed barns and antique villages, but in the south near the Weisenberg Elementary School, a small development, Hunt Meadows, awaits homeowners.

Not far from it is the Eguthius Grim Homestead. Thought to be the first settlers in the township, Peter and Eguthius Grim claimed the spot in 1733 and returned a year later with their families.

Old documents claim the township was formed from “the back parts of Macunjy,” (neighboring Upper Macungie.) It took its name from Weissenberg, a fortress and town in Alsace and home to most of the settlers.

Villages in Weisenberg include Seipstown, Hynemansville, Seiberlingsville, New Smithville, Werley’s Corner and Sweitzer, all small, neat, separate, but bound together by a common past, and totally charming.

Kathryn Finegan Clark is a National Press Club Award winner who has been writing “Because You Live Here” and other departments for Lehigh Valley Marketplace for several years.

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