Monday, January 25, 2021

Helpful links for Northampton County, Pa.

*with Covid-19 restrictions make sure to call before going

Easton Area Public Library -www.eastonpl.org Local History tab
 
Northampton County Archives
Please contact our office at 610-829-1220 or by e-mail at rdrago@northamptoncounty.org prior to making your record request.
If visiting the archives in-person, all records must be handled with care. There is no fee for researching records during an in-person visit.
Costs  $5.00 per name search when requesting records by mail or e-mail.
  • $ .50 per page for copies when requesting records in-person, by mail, or e-mail.
  • For in-person requests: you may use cash or check made payable to the Northampton County Archives
  • No $50 bills or $100 bills will be accepted for payment
  • For mail and e-mail requests: checks may be made payable to the Northampton County Archives
    Please note: The archives staff may determine a document may not be safely copied due to the condition of the record. If a document is unable to be photocopied, you are always welcome to hand-transcribe.
·         Archives Building   
Forks Township
999 Conroy Place
Easton, PA 18040 Phone: (610) 829-1220
Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
 

Sigal Museum (Northampton County Historical & Genealogical Society)
Hours Wednesday – Friday:
10am – 2:30pm
Appointments are strongly recommended to ensure all materials are available to you when you visit.
Please contact the library at: 610-253-1222 or library@northamptonctymuseum.org
342 Northampton Street  |  Easton, PA 18042


Researcher for Fee

Richard Musselman –(610) 759-8378   ram@enter.net
Courthouse research, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton County research and more.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

The German Reformed Burial Grounds

The German Reformed Burial Grounds was affiliated with the First Reformed Church located on North 3rd St. At the time of its start, North 5th St. was the “outskirts” of Easton. This cemetery was one of the oldest in Easton. Although the other sites (for a library) that were being considered by the School Board are not mentioned, one “Small Taxpayer” wrote to the Easton Express and thought the property at Fourth and Ferry Streets, next to St. John’s Lutheran Church, was a fine site to build the library. In 1897 for well over a year, Dr. Charles M. Colmar had been trying to secure a public park for Easton in a central portion of the city. He thought the German Reformed Burying Grounds were ideal. Interments in this cemetery had been prohibited by ordinance and condemned many years before and numerous people buried there had been taken to resting places in other cemeteries, most of them to the Easton Cemetery. By 1891 the need for another cemetery was needed and so the Easton Heights Cemetery was started. Although Rev. Condit really thought the most fitting place for a monument honoring William Parsons was in the Circle, he was behind the plans to remove William Parsons from the German Reformed Burying Grounds and build an appropriate monument at the new Easton Heights Cemetery in honor of his memory. The officers in charge of the old burying grounds denied the removal, stating that what little “dust” remained of him should stay with his surrounding loved ones. They also consulted doctors who told them that the remains of Easton’s “father” should not be removed, for the very good reason; that no remains would be left. The doctors said not a particle of bone or the coffin would be found.* They compared this to George Taylor who when some years before had been exhumed (at St. John’s Lutheran Church) and when removed to Easton Cemetery, hardly a trace, even of the coffin, could be found. Taylor died in 1781 and Parsons died 24 years before. Additionally in 1891, “A Lady” wrote in to the Easton Express and expressed the idea of instead of a monument, why not build a library and name it after Parsons? “It would seem that a man like William Parsons would feel himself more highly honored by the erection of such a library bearing his name and given through him, as it were, to the Easton of today than by the costliest marble a sculptor might chisel.” This would not have been an unusual idea as William Parsons was the first Librarian in Philadelphia in 1734. The Philadelphia library was known as The Library Company of Philadelphia. This library is still in existence. *In October 1903, William Parsons grave was the only one allowed to be undisturbed as the library was being built, however, when completion was nearing, it was necessary to sink the grave deeper. The slab covering the grave was removed and preserved. Parsons body had been interred for 146 years and ironically, the skeleton was found to be in a fairly good state of preservation. No coffin, no clothing remained, only a few nails and the coffin handles were found. The bones were carefully gathered together and placed in a box and were carried into the library building until the grave slab was restored. Afterwards the box containing the remains were put back into the ground and the heavy slab was put on top and has been there to this day. One of the main reasons this cemetery was being considered for a park and a library was its deplorable condition. The cemetery, described in a letter written to the Easton Daily Free Press on June 4, 1898 as a “jungle of weeds and briars and Easton’s standing disgrace.” This person mentioned how neglected the burial grounds were for the “resting place of the founders of the city.” Those included were the distinguished William Parsons “the founder and father of Easton”, Revolutionary War soldiers, “Father” Rev. Pomp (we find that he had been removed years before and his tombstone was left behind) and more. The writer blamed the First Reformed Church for the neglect and poor condition of the graveyard and the tumbling stone walls that surrounded it. On June 6, 1898, someone from the First Reform Church Consistory responded to the paper, followed by Rev. Kieffer (from this church) responding on June 7. Both vehemently denying it was the church’s responsibility to keep up the graveyard and that it was strictly the plot holders and their families that were responsible for the maintenance of plots. On October 9, 1901, the removing of the bodies from this site had already commenced. Jacob Rafferty, a stone mason and contractor, was chosen to oversee the project. Some of the remains were transferred to Easton Cemetery, Easton Heights Cemetery and if unclaimed, put into the vault that the cemetery had already. Depending on what newspaper you read in Easton, one in particular, described the exhuming of the bodies as reckless and devoid of any sentiment. Another news article said the removal of the bodies was done with the upmost respect. Some interesting notes. The editor of the Sunday Call did not approve the location of the library, calling it undesirable, and described the finished building as a piece of monumental ugliness. A notice was put in the Easton papers to come and remove your “loved ones”. Once construction started, only the remains that were in the area of the Carnegie building were moved to the vault. The remaining bodies were left as- is, on the yard, minus the tombstones. They remained to the east of the Carnegie building until the addition was started in 1966. A group of men were hired to take the remains that were uncovered and put them into the exposed old cemetery vault. The construction crew may have used the tombstones as part of the foundation. Some exposed stones in the front look to be tombstones. In July 1903, it was in the newspaper that “strange lights and ghosts were seen in the new library”. There is correspondence between Dr. Field and a woman from Philadelphia. She wanted to have her parents and brother remains. Supposedly, they were in the vault, but since she had waited too long, the names that were put on the boxes of remains had melted and they were illegible.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

History of the Carnegie Easton Library


 

A Carnegie Library is any library built with money donated by businessman and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. Between 1883 and 1929, 2,509 Carnegie libraries were being built, 1,689 of them were in the United States. Some are still being used as a library as is the Easton Area Public Library.

Andrew Carnegie
 

By 1900 most cities including Easton, were very eager to have a Free Public Library. This coincided with the rise of women groups, which were responsible for organizing efforts to establish free public libraries and in Easton’s case, the running of the Easton Library Association. The issue with the Easton Library Assn. was it was limited only to paying members, the Easton teachers, and pupils of the high school. The people of Easton were pleading for a free public library. A library that ALL people from ALL backgrounds could use. Quoting Wayne Wiegand, professor emeritus of library studies at Florida State University, “if you didn’t have a library, somehow you were not supporting culture.”

The first Easton library started in 1811 and named the Easton Library Company, followed by the Easton Library (when the Easton School took over) and finally the Easton Library Association, organized in 1896.  Mrs. Ellen M. Baum was named librarian with Mrs. Nellie Frances Warfield, President of the Association. The library was open to the public with membership $2.00 for the first year, dues $1.00 each year after and free if you were a school teacher, pupil of the high school, member of the Board of Control, or stockholder of the old Easton Library Company. Their goal was to have enough members to eventually become a free library. As it had been in the years before, the library was closely associated with the Easton High School, serving as the school’s library as it was located just across the street. (the High School was then on North Second St. as was the library.)

 

Easton Library Company on North 2nd Street
 

A year later, the Association was not doing well as they had a notice in the paper stating that patrons were complaining that they rarely got a new book. The problem of having 600 readers and only the income to purchase 20 to 25 volumes a month, left very few books to circulate.  Although there were 210 paying members, there were more than 400 teachers, pupils, Board of Control and life members that were paying nothing toward the purchase of new items. They had considered increasing the “funds” and hoping new members would sign up, mainly graduating students.

 

By January 1901, the men and women of Easton who were aiding the movement for a free public library decided to go to the Board of School Controllers and ask for a slight increase in the tax rate for the purpose of purchasing a site and erecting a building.  Mrs. Nellie Frances Warfield from the Library Association went before the School Board asking them to consider a new public library. She stated, “that from the very beginning the demand for books made by the High School pupils was far in excess of the supply. With South Easton recently being annexed to Easton, the demand was increased by nearly one hundred persons who were entitled to the free use of books. That a good library greatly adds to the efficiency of a school. She said that better and current reference books were needed for teachers as well as students, something the present management could not do.” Lastly, Mrs. Warfield stated, “ the need of a library as a permanent educational force in the community, perpetuating throughout life the work begun in the schools. Easton needed a library where every interest of this community can find the literature of its subject, and particularly the current literature to be found in magazines and periodicals. Not only a reference library is needed, but a free reading room is required most of all.”

 

February 1901 the School Board refused, mainly because of the cost.

 

After much discussion, a group of local clergy, were interested to see if Mr. Carnegie could help build this Free Public Library. Andrew Carnegie was already well known at this point and had already funded over 30 Free Public libraries worldwide.  It was decided that Rev. H. H. Sangree, of St. Mark’s Reformed Church would write the letter to Mr. Carnegie, with Rev. F. S.  Haines of the First Presbyterian Church and Rev. B. J. Davis of the Trinity Episcopal Church all signing it. They asked for $50,000 and Mr. Carnegie replied with a promise of that amount, provided the city would furnish the site and tax itself for support. see*1

 

The pleas for a new library came from many people. Rev. Davis preached to a large attendance at the Trinity Episcopal Church on the evening of February 17, 1901. The subject was “Shall Easton Accept Mr. Carnegie’s Gift of $50,000 for a Free Library?” This talk made the Easton Express newspaper on February 18, 1901.  A “Taxpayer” wrote in to the Easton Express on February 1901, with the headline saying, “Backward or Forward? Will Easton stand still while Bethlehem and Allentown forge ahead with free libraries? Another signed, “A Citizen”, wrote in on February 1901, explaining that a free public library is for EVERYONE, explaining it was not just for the privileged.

 

The school board, on March 14, 1901, voted to turn down Carnegie’s offer, mainly because any appropriate site in downtown Easton would cost well over $20,000 and the board considered this out of the question.

After the rejection by the school board of the proposition made by Mr. Carnegie, Rev. Sangree was sent for by H. J. Steele, ( Mr. Steele was a lawyer, on the school board and also had positions on local banks) along with Dr. E. M. Green (physician and Pres. of the School Board), Fred R. Drake ( local businessman), E. J. Richards ( Bank President), and Dr. B. Rush Field (physician ) also present, they concluded to raise by subscription, a fund of $10,000 with which to purchase a library site. The funds were easily raised and once again they went before the school board on April 11, 1901 and this time they accepted the proposition. There were many opposed to the tax levy, still believing the Library was going to be only for the “rich”, but in the end, it was “Resolved, that a tax of one-half mill is hereby levied for the maintenance of such library on the valuation of the property assessed for school purposes in the district, which tax shall be collected with the school taxes of the district at the time of collecting the same.” This would come out to approximately $5,000 a year.

 

 Various locations were suggested for the new library, including the lot at the corner of Fourth and Ferry Streets, but after looking at several sites, the Board concluded in June 1901, that none offered the advantages as of the old German Reformed burying grounds on Church Street, between Fifth and Sixth St. After negotiating with the First Reformed Church, the church decided to sell the property for $5,000. The remaining money that had been raised would be used to make the grounds ready for a building. The agreement made by the Board Committee and the First Reformed Church was that William Parsons would remain on the grounds and the only bodies that were to be removed were those found to be in places where the foundation walls of the library building were to be constructed. 

 The German Reformed Cemetery

 

They now had all requirements that Mr. Carnegie had asked for.

 

 Not all were enamored with Carnegie and his gifts of libraries.  In August of 1901, there was a movement among labor organizations of Easton to have the city reject the proposed offer of $50,000 made by Andrew Carnegie. The Central Labor Union adopted the following : “Resolved, That the 25 local unions affiliated with the Central Labor Union of Easton and vicinity, composed of a very large number of working men of Easton, do hereby protest against the building of a library in Easton from the money donated by Andrew Carnegie, and we consider the one half mill imposed upon our school taxes for the maintenance of the library as being unjust.” 3 The members of the labor unions said they were opposed to taking Carnegie’s money because he is a foe of labor. They also declared that if the library is built they would not visit it or permit the members of their families to do so.

 

In October 1901, bodies from the German Reformed Cemetery were being exhumed, followed by the grading of the property to prepare for the building. ****

 

On November 22, 1901, the Easton School Board’s Library Committee held a meeting and approved the plans presented by the New York firm of architects, Jardine, Kent & Jardine for the library building. “The structure is to be two stories in height, 90x70 feet. It is to be of Modern Renaissance style. On the first floor will be a fireproof vault ( the vault/safe still remains) in which to store books and documents of historic value, an auditorium with a seating capacity for 400 or 500 people, and several smaller rooms. The second story will contain a stock room large enough for the accommodation of 34,500 volumes, two large reading rooms, a large reference room and other apartments.” 

 
Blueprint of the Easton Public Library Main Floor

 

Mr. James Bertram was Andrew Carnegie’s personal secretary and all correspondence between the school board committee and Carnegie’s secretary were through written or typed letters. See *2 In January 1902, the library committee wrote to Carnegie asking for an additional $10,000, stating that they had collected $6,000 with the tax levy instead of the $5,000 originally asked.  The response back was a basic no, saying that they were already giving the full amount considering the size of Easton. A rebuttal was sent days later, explaining in detail why they thought $60,000 was now needed along with the promise of yearly $6,000 raised by taxes. Mr. Bertram wrote back twice stating empathically that a Resolution was required for the $6,000. Apparently, that did not come to be, as the amount given to build the library was $50,000.  Along with that denial, modifications of the building was needed to meet the given amount.

 

On April 8, 1902, the library committee awarded Steinmetz & Walter of Easton the building contract to erect the Carnegie Library.

Request for payments of $5,000 each, were sent to R. A. Franks, treasurer of the Carnegie Corporation.  The first request was made on April 23, 1902, with following dates, September 23, 1902, December 9, 1902, February 5, 1903, April 2, 1903, May 1903, August 1903, October 29, 1903 asking for twopayments as the building was near finished.  (Available dates add up to $45,000)

 On the evening of July 11, 1902, the Easton Library Trustees were chosen by the Easton School Board.

The following men were elected unanimously; H. J. Steele and E. J. Richards to serve until March 1905, Amos Turner and Dr. W. H McIhaney to serve until 1904, and Henry F. Marx and Fred R. Drake to serve until March 1903. These men through a resolution, would have the power to appoint all employees, purchase all books and adopt such rules and regulations for the government of the library as they saw fit, their actions however always being the subject to the approval of the School Board.

 

 August 5, 1903, the Trustees of the Easton Library selected four young women to various positions. Miss Carrie Louise Fehr was elected cataloguer at $20.00 a month, and Miss Lydia A. Koehler, Miss Blanche E. Rhoads, and Miss Velma Agnes Smith as assistant librarians to be paid $15.00 a month. Henry F. Marx was already elected Director of the new free Public Library at an October 6, 1902 Library Board meeting. According to the original ledger of the library, he received $125.00 a month. Andrew J., Shaneberger*3 was elected janitor and his pay was fixed at $50.00 a month.


The first week the library was open, 500 library cards were taken out. The library was open every day of the week, including Sundays. The circulating department was open from 9-12 and 2-5. On Tuesdays and Saturday evenings, it was from 7-9 pm.  “Any taxpayer of the city will be entitled to borrow books for home use upon signing the proper application and agreement, and any non-taxpayer may borrow books upon signing such application and agreement and furnishing satisfactory reference.”

THIS is what a FREE Public Library meant. A library for EVERYONE. 





 * Some interesting notes

The Easton Power Co. offered the free service of installing the electric lighting connection through an underground cable. This was their contribution to the new library.

There was a Cornerstone put into the building on the southwest corner of the new building. The Marx Room has a list of what was put into this cornerstone. See *2

Cornerstone of Library

The same fall the library opened, the Traill Green School building was finished and ready for the new 1903 school year.

The label for the books of the library was designed by Kihn Bros. of New York City. 20,000 were ordered for the new books.

 Bookplate for the Library

As of February 1, 1904 it was stated in the ledger that there was at least 16,000 volumes in the library.

 

 

 

*1 Most of Carnegie’s libraries were being built using “the Carnegie formula”, which required financial commitments from the town or city that received the donation. Carnegie believed in public support rather than making endowments as this made sure the community was involved and taking part in the whole phase of the library and it being built. There were only six requirements that he asked for.

To demonstrate the need for a public library

Provide the building site

Pay the staff and maintain the library

Draw from public funds to run the library as to not use only private donations

Annually provide ten percent of the cost of the library’s construction to support its operation

To provide free service to all.

 

*2 The Marx Room houses all the correspondence and many details of the Carnegie building, including blueprints and more.

*3 Andrew Shaneberger was the father of Jane Moyer. Jane “grew up” in the library, becoming a librarian and eventually becoming the first woman Director of the Easton Area Public Library.

 

**** See story of First Reformed Cemetery

 

 

Some short bios on the men and woman that helped bring the Easton Public Library to fruition.

Congressman H. J. Steele was born in Easton in 1860. He opened a law office in Easton and became the President of the Northampton County Bar Association and Vice President of the State Bar Association. He was Director of the First National Bank and President of the Northampton Trust Company. He served as Easton City Council for 3 terms and on the Easton School Board for 4 terms.

Fred Raymond Drake was a prominent citizen born in Easton in 1865. He headed the wholesale grocery house, Drake & Company. He was Librarian of the Shakespeare Society of New York. He served as Director and President to many local businesses and societies.

Elijah John Richards was born in Easton in 1860. He was president of the Northampton National Bank for 40 years.

Amos Turner resided in South Easton and was master mechanic for the Lehigh Valley Railroad. He was former chief burgess of the old borough of South Easton.

Nellie Frances Tilton Warfield was born at Ashland, MA and was the wife of former Lafayette College President, Dr. Ethelbert Warfield. She was very active in a number of organizations, one being the Easton Library Association.

Mr. Henry Forster Marx was born in Allentown in 1865 and died in Easton in 1947.

He retired in 1936, serving 35 years as founding Director of the Andrew Carnegie Easton Public Library. He relentlessly advocated learning in the young people of Easton, being an English teacher first, in the Easton High School before becoming the first library director.  In his directorship, he was materially responsible for the library building that opened in late 1903 and was considered a pioneer among PA Public Libraries. He was a charter member of the Northampton County Historical and Genealogical Society. But most of all, Henry Marx was known for having what was thought of and still may be, the most complete local history and genealogical department, covering Easton and Northampton County. One of the projects that Mr. Marx took advantage of was the WPA (Works Progress Administration, the most ambitious American New Deal started by Franklin D. Roosevelt). Even after his retirement, Mr. Marx continued to do research and help bring history and records to the library. The Marx History Room is named after Henry Forster Marx.