Preceded by Native Americans, Europeans were first documented in Bethlehem Township as early as 1730. The area became a part of Bucks County in 1737. It got its name from the village of Bethlehem, which at that time was within the Township boundaries. The name "Bethlehem" was originally chosen by German Moravians on Christmas Eve 1741.
[Photo pictured right] Said to be one of the oldest known artifacts in Bethlehem Township, this kiln was used to make lime
by calcining limestone and is dated from the late 1700's - early 1800's.
On March 10, 1746, thirteen spirited residents petitioned the Bucks County Court for the formation of the Township. The petition was accepted in Newtown and the Township of Bethlehem came into existence as a political division of Bucks County. At that time the Township included present-day Upper and Lower Nazareth Townships, and the Boroughs of Bethlehem and Freemansburg. It also included the Lehigh River, Monocacy Creek and several small streams, including the well-known "Nancy's Run" or Nancy Run Creek.
The population of Bethlehem Township in 1780 was 1,375. In 1806 George Butz built a grist mill along the Nancy Run. Soon after, a group of dwellings sprang up including the Butztown Hotel and the area became known as "Butztown". The mill was later sold to R.T. Schweitzer who continued to operate the mill. The mill and the hotel can be found on a map, dated 1870.
A local townsman poses in front of the Butztown Hotel (circa 1910)
A horse and buggy pass aside the Farmersville Hotel where it once stood on Easton Avenue (circa 1912)
In 1776, land in the Township was bought at 27 cents per acre. Industry - mostly milling and later a Blue Mt. Paint Mills - grew in the Township until the time of the Civil War. By this time the geographical area of Bethlehem Township was much the same as it is today. Areas of Nazareth separated in 1780 and 1807, Bethlehem Borough in 1845, and Freemansburg in 1856. By 1870 - and despite geographical shifts - the population was 2,230. Between 1910 and 1930, a wave of immigration spurred an increase in population and "Miller Heights" was started in the 1920s from former farm.
From about 1945 to 1954, an excess of what historians called "war babies" assured a steady increase in the Township's population as soldier returned from World War II. Throughout the 1950s the Township experienced substantial construction and expanded in population significantly. On January 1st, 1963 Bethlehem Township was incorporated as a first class township of Northampton County.
With the American flag in hand, this trolley conductor takes a few moments to pose for a picture with a few curious onlookers in front of the Butztown Hotel(circa 1910)
Bethlehem Township Recreation History - Willow Park
Below are some videos of Willow Park. This 20-acre park closed in 1969 after 38 years in operation. Despite it being the height of the Great Depression, Willow Park opened in 1931 as a small park that served as a community gathering place. One of the most popular attractions at the park was the swimming pool. The park also had a carousel, some kids rides, an arcade, and a Schiff Wild Mouse rollercoaster. This is where Willow Park Road gets its name.