Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania Collection, 1741-1784

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, August 2011

Summary Information
Title: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania collection
Creator: William L. Clements Library
Inclusive dates: 1741-1784
Extent: 47 items
This collection contains letters and documents related to the early history and economic development of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1934, 1996, 1998. M-216; M-3208.4; M-3449.1.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged chronologically.


Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was founded in 1741 by Moravians, who settled on the banks of the Lehigh River in present-day Northampton County, Pennsylvania. After rapid growth, the town quickly became a focal point of local commerce, though the strong religious influence of Bethlehem's Moravian founders persisted throughout its history. During the American Revolution, several key figures in the Continental Army passed through the town, including George Washington. Today, Bethlehem is the site of Lehigh University and Moravian College.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection contains letters and documents related to the early history and economic development of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Most of the items originated in the town itself, though correspondence addressed to Bethlehem locals also forms a significant portion of the material. Examples of documents are a copy of the original indenture for the plot of land that became Bethlehem (July 18, 1741), an order to open a road through the town (June 7, 1755), and a number of receipts and financial documents. Of interest is a petition sent to the Pennsylvania General Assembly on behalf of a group of Bethlehem residents, who wrote, "...the said Brethren are willing and ready, to contribute whatever sums of Money shall be necessary for the Defence of his Majesty's Person and Government in such Proportion, as such sum is usually rated on other Persons residing in the said Northhampton County" (March 30, 1759). Moravian and other religious influences are apparent throughout the collection, which has a minute book kept by an anonymous religious society between 1745 and 1747. Other material includes a significant amount of correspondence focusing on financial matters, as well as a series of affectionate personal letters written by John Okely of Philadelphia to Heartzel Brownfield in Bethlehem. Also of note is a German-language letter from Peter Böhler to an unnamed group of brethren about Native Americans and treatment of Native Americans in Philadelphia at the close of the French and Indian War.

Subject Terms

    • Bethlehem (Pa.)--History.
    • Indians of North America--Pennsylvania.
    • Moravians--Pennsylvania.
    • Pennsylvania--History--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
    • United States--History--French and Indian War, 1755-1763.
    • Barton, Thomas, 1730-1780.
    • Bird, William.
    • Böhler, Peter.
    • Broadhead, Daniel.
    • Burnside, James.
    • Dupuis, Samuel.
    • Moore, Samuel Preston, 1710-1785.
    • Noble, Isaac.
    • Okely, John.
    • Patton, John.
    Genre Terms:
    • Indentures.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Minute books.
    • Petitions.
    • Receipts (financial records)
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Box   1  
    Bethlehem, Pennsylvania collection,  1741-1784 [series]:
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    Several collections at the Clements Library contain material related to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, including (but not limited to) the following:


    "History of Bethlehem." City of Bethlehem. 2011. Online