Excerpt pp. 291 - 299



CATASAUQUA IS situated on the east bank of the river Lehigh, in Lehigh County, three miles above Allentown. The town takes its name from the creek which empties into the Lehigh River at that place. This stream is found on old maps by the name of "Mill Creek," which name was given it in consequence of the first mill in that part of the county being erected upon its head waters, in 1735, by Thomas Wilson. Allen Township also had the name of Mill Creek Township given to it by the Court at Newton, Bucks County, in 1748. The name Catasauqua is a compound Indian word, signifying "Dry Land."


Catasauqua was incorporated as a borough in 1853; the town is regularly laid out, extending about a mile in length, fronting the Lehigh Canal and Lehigh River, and extending eastward about a half mile to the Northampton County line. It has about 3000 inhabitants, 500 dwellings, 13 stores, 5 furnaces for making iron, 1 bank, 7 churches, 1 lumber yard, 1 foundry, 1 machine shop, 1 distillery, 1 flour-mill, 1 brick yard, 1 gasworks, 1 waterworks, 5 hotels, 10 public schools, 1 printing office, 1 band, 1 fire company.


The borough of Catasauqua is steadily enlarging, and filling up the vacant spots within its border limits. The splendid position which it occupies in the midst of a rich iron ore and limestone country; the facilities it possesses by railroad and canal for transporting its productions, and the constantly increasing trade which it commands, all tend to impress one with the belief that it is destined to become a place of great importance. Nature has been lavish, so to speak, in her endowment of this position, as the site for a vast manufacturing town. The railways and canals diverging in every direction afford facilities in great abundance for transporting the large amount of iron which is now being manufactured, and will be hereafter in larger quantities. The growth of the town has been rapid, considering its age. The sagacity and foresight of the men who first selected the site for a town upon which Catasauqua now stands is apparent in almost every particular. Beauty and economy, as well as health and convenience, are all promoted by the selection and the laying out of the town on a symmetrical and accurate plan. From the Lehigh, which flows along the entire front of the borough, it extends back on a gradual rise, affording an easy and gentle grade to the streets, carrying off all the accumulating filth, and keeping the town entirely free from even the semblance of a muddy pool. But few places can boast of so perfect a drainage, and when the necessary improvements in progress shall have been made the town will present an illustration of what foresight, industry, and art can do to produce a model town, combining the beautiful and substantial with that which promotes health and happiness.


The town is well supplied with a good quality of gas by the Catasauqua Gas Company, which was incorporated in 1856, with a capital of $15,000. The works were erected the same year. The officers are Joshua Hunt, President; John Williams, Secretary; Solomon Beiry, Treasurer.


The town is also well supplied with water from the waterworks erected by the Iron Company, for the benefit of the town, in 1846. During the present year these works have been considerably enlarged, and the pipes extended, so that Catasauqua can now boast of as good a supply of water as any place in the valley. Through the enterprise of Mr. James W. Fuller, Catasauqua has now a beautiful cemetery, called " Fairview Cemetery", it is beautifully located on an eminence on the western bank of the Lehigh opposite the borough. It commands a magnificent view of the town and surrounding country, and is in every respect suited to the purpose for which it has been designed.


The churches are neat and substantial edifices, most of them having burial-grounds attached to them. They are as follows:—


German Reformed and Lutheran, Cor. of Bridge Street and Howertown Road. Revs. J. Rath and Cyrus J. Baker, Pastors.

German Evangelical, cor. of Howertown Road and School Alley.

Methodist Church, Front Street. Rev. F. D. Egan, Pastor.

Old School Presbyterian, Bridge Street. Rev. Leslie Irwin, Pastor;

First Presbyterian (Near School), Second Street cor. of Walnut Street. Rev. C Earle, Pastor.

Irish Catholic, Second Street. Rev. L. V. Brennan, Priest.

German Catholic, Second Street and Howertown Road.


The public schools of the borough will compare favorably with any in the commonwealth. They comprise 4 primary, 3 secondary, 2 grammar, and 1 high school; the number of children attending school is about 400; the standard books are the most approved, and none but competent and experienced teachers are employed.


The school buildings are of brick, neatly enclosed, with fine large yards, surrounded with shade trees and shrubbery. The board of directors have just completed a new school edifice, 55 feet by 46 feet, three stories high, surmounted by a fine cupola. The building is a splendid specimen of architecture, and is a credit to the town. The following persons constitute the board of directors:—


Joshua Hunt, President; Charles G. Schneller, Treasurer; Melchior E. Horn, Secretary; John McIntire, Frederick Eberhard, William Miller.


Catasauqua has also a bank; the building is located on the north side of Front Street between Union and Wood Streets; the institution is known as the "Bank of Catasauqua," and was incorporated May 5th, 1857, with a capital of $400,000. The bank was organized on the 17th of September, of the same year, with the following officers and directors:—


Eli J. Seager,

John L. Hoffman,

C. A. Luckenbach,

J. P. Schall,

David Thomas,

Samuel Laubach,

David A. Tombler,

Joshua Hunt,

William Miller,

Jonas Beiry,

James W. Fuller,

Robert Oberly,

Jacob Fatzinger.


Eli J. Seager, President.

John O. Lichtenwalner, Teller.

Melchior H. Horn, Cashier.

James W. Mickley, Clerk.


The bank commenced discounting September 22,1857, and has discounted regularly ever since that time. The character of this institution has always been of the best, having ridden through the stormy panic of 1857 without being obliged to suspend specie payments.


The Lehigh Crane Iron Company's Works are located here, and consist of five furnaces. The size of each and time of erection is as follows:—






No. 1


47 Feet

11 feet

 "    2


47  "

13  "

 "    3


47  "

16  "

  "   4


55  "

18  "

  "   5


55  "

18  "



With 6-1/2 pounds blast, the average yearly yield for the five furnaces is about 40,000 tons of No. 1 foundry iron. The blast and machinery of the. establishment are propelled by three steam engines, one of them of 800 horse power. The blowing cylinders for the furnaces are said to be the largest in the State. These works consume yearly some 90,000 tons of ore, 80,000 tons of coal, and 50,000 tons of limestone. The ore used is the hematite procured from the Company's mines in the neighborhood, on the Catasauqua and Foglesville Railroad, and the magnetic from Morris County, New Jersey.


The No. 1 furnace of this company was the first that used anthracite coal successfully in making pig-iron in the Lehigh Valley. The works are perhaps the most complete and extensive in the United States. There are railroad tracks running through all parts of the grounds, and to different parts of the furnace; and, by means of the two locomotives owned by the Company, the ore is brought direct from the mines, the limestone from the quarries, and the coal either by canal, which passes directly through the Company's grounds, or by the Lehigh Valley Railroad is switched on to the sideling belonging to the Iron Company.


Everything in connection with the furnace appears to have been arranged with a view to solidity, economy, and convenience. A foundry and machine-shop are also connected with the furnaces, in which most of thc casting and repairing for the furnaces are done.


The furnaces were built under the superintendence of Mr. David Thomas, who was also the superintendent for many years, but relinquished the superintendence some time since, when his son was appointed in his place.


These Iron Works were named in honor of Mr. George Crane, of Wales, who was the first to use anthracite coal in the manufacture of iron.


The officers of the Company and the Works are as follows: -


Theodore Mitchell, President, Philadelphia.

B. J. Leedom, Secretary, Philadelphia.

F. R. Backus, Treasurer, Philadelphia

David Thomas, Cashier.

John Thomas, Superintendent.

Joshua Hunt, Assistant Superintendent.

John Williams, Chief Clerk.


An extensive wire and rolling-mill is also about being erected here, the charter having been obtained during the last session of the legislature. It is said this establishment will be one of the largest of its kind in Pennsylvania.


In 1839, the site of the Catasauqua was nothing but woodland; and on it were but two houses, one at each extreme end of the town plot. During that year, a company of gentlemen in Philadelphia, consisting of Messrs. White, Hazard, Earp, Mitchell, McAllister, and several others, proposed the erection of an iron furnace for the purpose of making iron with anthracite coal, which had been successfully accomplished in Wales, a few years before, by Mr. George Crane. These gentlemen selected this location for the reason that the great iron and limestone beds of Lehigh County were in the immediate neighborhood; and, as the Lehigh Canal passed directly through the grounds, it would afford them the necessary water-power to drive their machinery (they have now discarded water-power entirely), and could supply them with coal direct from the mines, as well as convey their products to market. The next step was to obtain a competent person to take charge of the erection and superintendence of the furnace. Mr. Hazard, a member of the Company, proceeded to Wales for this purpose, and succeeded in securing the services of Mr. David Thomas, who was engaged there with George Crane, in the manufacture of anthracite iron. He arrived here in July, 1839, and immediately commenced operations, he himself being the first to break ground in the new village of Craneville, as it was then called. A large number of laborers shanties were erected, a fine residence for Mr. Thomas commenced.





In 1840, the first furnace was completed under the direction and superintendence of Messrs. Thomas & Mitchell; the remaining four furnaces were erected at the times stated as above. The village has steadily progressed until it has risen to the dignity of a borough.



There is an apparent comfort in the place very unusual in an iron manufacturing town. The dwellings of the workmen employed in the furnaces are not the low hovels usually found at such establishments, but, with a few exceptions, have an air of neatness and order which is pleasant to behold. There is also a large number of very handsome cottages and private residences, on which are displayed considerable taste in architectural design. The grounds. surrounding them are very prettily laid out, and planted with trees and shrubbery. Buildings of this kind give an air of beauty and refinement to a town. There are perhaps few manufacturing towns where so much intelligence is displayed by the working classes. It appears to have been one of the first efforts of Mr. Thomas to instill in the minds of his workmen the great necessity of sobriety and self-culture; and the truths inculcated in the minds of these men at that time appear to have spread and grown up with the place. There are several debating societies in the town, which are well attended, a temperance society, masonic lodge, and several literary and benevolent societies. A newspaper was established here in 1857 by Kelchner & Fry, and is still published; the present editor is Mr. A. C. Lewis; the paper is called The Catasauqua Herald.


The Lehigh River is crossed at Catasauqua by two wooden bridges; where the lower bridge now stands there was formerly a ferry known as Biery's Ferry. In 1824 a chain bridge was erected here, part of which was carried away by the freshet in 1841. It was repaired, and stood until 1853, when it was taken down, and the present structure, known as Biery's Bridge, erected in its place. In 1847 the Lehigh Crane Iron Company erected a bridge just above their works, which is also used as a railroad bridge. The Iron Company have also erected several bridges over the canal, one of them an iron bridge on an entirely new plan. On the Catasauqua Creek, not far from the town, stands the stone house where lived George Taylor, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The house and part of the farm once belonging to Mr. Taylor is now owned and occupied by Jacob Deily.


On the western bank of the river, near Biery's Bridge, is a small stone house which was used as a shelter and place of safety by the white inhabitants during the Indian wars. Tradition says this house wee often attacked by the Indians, and were as often repulsed by its inmates.


The Catasauqua and Foglesville Railroad connects at Catasauqua with the Lehigh Valley Railroad. This road was built in 1857 (a length of nine miles) at a cost of about $260,000, by the Lehigh Crane and Thomas Iron Companies. During the present year the road has been extended 26 miles further, to a place called Trexlertown, where it will connect with the Allentown and Port Clinton Railroad, now in course of construction. The road was built for the purpose of reaching the great iron ore beds belonging to these companies. The ore is now brought direct from the mines in the cars, and deposited at the mouth of the furnaces without a second handling. Heretofore it was carted entirely by mule teams, which was both slow and extremely expensive. The road has now two splendid locomotives. There are regular daily passenger and freight trains now on the road, which connect with the L. V. R. R. About 12,000 tons of ore are carried over the road every month. About five miles from Catasauqua this road crosses the Jordan Creek on a splendid iron bridge, said to be the largest iron bridge in America. The bridge is visited by thousands of persons from all parts of the country every year. The bridge is reputed to be the handsomest of the kind ever built, and what greatly adds to the attraction is the charming scenery by which it is surrounded. As far as the eye can reach is presented the grandest view that the most enthusiastic admirer of nature's beauties might long to gaze upon. The following description of the bridge, by Ellwood Morris, civil engineer, we extract from The Journal of the Franklin Institute:—


"The railroad extending into the interior from the Crane Iron Works, at Catasauqua, for the conveyance of iron ore from various beds in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, crosses the Jordan Creek where the Valley is nearly a quarter of a mile in width at grade, and about 1000 feet at the bottom.


"The grade level at this crossing is nearly 90 feet high above low water in the Jordan, and its valley formed a very serious obstacle to encounter upon a merely local road.


" Proposals for an iron bridge were finally invited by the company, and the contract assigned to F. C. Lowthorp, Esq., a civil engineer of great experience and skill.


"The extreme length of the bridge is 1165 feet, and the iron superstructure consists of 11 spans, of 100 feet each. These spans are of a suspension truss, each truss being 16 feet high, and the two trusses necessary to carry a single track railroad, being spaced 10 feet clear apart. The trusses are supported upon a group of cast iron pillars, of cruciform section, connected and braced together in stages, and firmly stayed laterally by heavy wrought iron bracing rods bolted to the masonry.


"These skeleton piers of cast and wrought iron stand upon low piers of solid masonry, raised above the line of flood, and pointed at both ends. The single track railway crosses upon the deck of the iron bridge in a straight continuous line.


"Early in July, this bridge, which is believed to be the longest iron structure in the United States, was tested to the entire satisfaction of the company, with a loaded train, drawn by a locomotive—the whole train weighing upon each span of 100 feet, 113 tons, or more than one ton to the foot lineal, which was the test load contracted for.


"The bridge is now in use, and attracts crowds of visitors. It presents a very light and graceful appearance.


"The first stone was laid August 27th, 1856, and the first locomotive crossed July 14,1857, the whole having been completed in less than a year. This is in every sense a remarkable work, and does the highest credit to the energy and ability of the engineer and contractor, F. C. Lowthrop, Esq. The small cost at which this wide and deep valley has been crossed will surprise many of our engineers as much as the very short time required for its construction. The entire cost has been less than $77 per foot run, or about $77,000 for the entire structure. This structure demonstrates conclusively the speed and economy with which iron bridges may be erected for railway purposes, and will do much to extend their use in this country."


We present a view of this beautiful structure.


The officers of the Catasauqua and Foglesville Railroad are David Thomas, President; John Thomas, Superintendent; Joshua Hunt, Secretary; John Williams, Treasurer.


Return to the Catasauqua Profiles Index


About The Hopkin Thomas Project


Rev.  September 2010