Hellertown Historical Society News

Current News

NEW! - Fae (Eisenhart) Danner, a long-time volunteer and Life Member of Hellertown Historical Society, passed away on Thursday, June 29, 2017. She was the daughter of the late Floyd A. and Letha (Troy) Eisenhart. She was a member of First United Church of Christ in Hellertown and a volunteer at Phoebe Home in Richlandtown.

Fae served as Secretary of the Hellertown Historical Society for many years and was dedicated to the success of the organization.  While failing health prompted her resignation as secretary, she continued to be an ardent supporter of the Society’s efforts to preserve Hellertown’s heritage.

Fae‘s family suggests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Hellertown Historical Society.  Through these memorial donations, the family feels confident that Fae’s dedication and ongoing support will serve as inspiration to the Society’s officers, directors, and many volunteers.


The following is an article written by Hellertown Historical Society President, Stacie Torkos which was published in the Valley Voice October 14, 2016 and is reprinted here with their permission.

Hellertown Historical Society relies on volunteers, why are they so important to this group?

Monetary support is vital to our Organization, however, volunteer support is equally important for our Organization to survive. We are a small, dedicated group of volunteers who are passionate about preserving and sharing our beautiful historic site and Hellertown’s history. It is a fun and fulfilling experience to work with volunteers who can count on each other and who share the same commitment to our mission and to serving the Community.

Hellertown Historical Society is not a group, we are a family. As we grow and leave a bigger footprint in the Community, our need for volunteers has become more critical than ever. Volunteer and intern opportunities are available in all areas of HHS, come join us and make an impact.

Hellertown Historical Society preserves the memory of those who have built and enriched our collective history as a Community. It also assures those who are active today that their story will be preserved. Who was Dimmick Park named after? Where was Lerch Dairy located? Who were the Odd Fellows? These are the types of questions that make historical societies important. We create connections by putting those of us in the present in touch with the people of the past who shaped our landscape, named our landmarks and made the decisions that ultimately affect us today. For example, third graders from Saucon Valley come on a field trip to learn about the Grist Mill site and Hellertown’s history. When visiting the garden, the students learn hands-on what herbs were used for in Colonial times.

Why do you commit your free time to volunteer for this group? For me, history was just a bunch of dates and happenings that we had to memorize in grade school. It wasn’t until my grandparents passed away -- taking stories and family history with them -- that I started to discover and explore the innate appreciation and desire I had for history. Volunteerism and helping others is coded into my DNA, so it was only a matter of time that I would find myself with a historical organization.

I started by volunteering and later interning with Historic Bethlehem Museum & Sites and the Moravian Historical Society. Both of these organizations have solid foundations of education, support, collection management and outreach. I became a sponge and soaked up everything that I could.

Born and raised in Williams Township and Hellertown, I thought to myself, “Why are you not volunteering with the Hellertown Historical Society?” So, I reached to HHS to find out how I could help and learned that there were plenty of opportunities in all areas of the Organization. I became a volunteer and was excited to share that knowledge that I had obtained from working at the other historical societies. Next, I was invited to join the Board of Directors and later was elected President.

I have a full-time paid career in finance in addition to my full-time commitment as HHS President. My service is challenging and rewarding. I love history. It’s especially fun to discover something new in our archives. It is also mysterious as there are some pieces of history that we haven’t been able to confirm -- like where The Lost Tavern was located. I enjoy forming relationships with the people and the partners in our Community and I have a personal connection to Hellertown. I also take pleasure in hearing visitors share that they had a great experience with us or that our site is beautiful.

Highlight some accomplishments in the past 35 years. The lease for the Heller-Wagner Grist Mill property was granted to HHS in the early 1980’s and the Society cleaned out and restored the dilapidated Grist Mill. The restoration took six years and was made possible by volunteers, donations and Community support. Our Organization also reached out to the public for donations of items from Hellertown and built a collection of local archives and artifacts. Later, items were catalogued and were available for research or placed on display in the museum in the Grist Mill or the HHS barn. HHS was also gifted the deed to Hellertown’s first jail. HHS had begun working on the first phase of restoring the jail and is accepting donations for this effort.

In the past 10 years, HHS invested in office equipment, software and reference materials to preserve and care for our collections.

We brought new people into our Community through museum tours, special events, volunteer opportunities, student internships, educational programming and more. The Tavern Room was offered to the public as a site rental to help fund-raising efforts. In fact, the popularity of the Tavern Room has been a blessing and it breathed new life into our Organization by providing funds to support our mission and to maintain our historic site.

Over the years, HHS has become a destination for everyone in our Community. We implemented new outreach efforts to connect with people of all different ages and from all different places. Although we love history, you don’t have to love it to visit us.

Future Plans. The public will have greater access to connect with us and our collections as we implement new museum software and embrace offerings of new technology. Our goal is to create digitized collections and searchable databases. We will continue to expand public and educational programming. My dream is for the Mill to be operational, even if it is only a section. We can explain how the mill worked, but to see it in action would be the ultimate learning experience. Our Community connections and partnerships will grow. Through the popularity of the Tavern Room, we will continue to bring more people to Hellertown and introduce them to what our Community has to offer.

Our site will continue to be a destination that has something for everyone.


Society To Repair/Restore Hellertown’s First Jail - Remember the song from our younger days - possibly the early fifties - that went something like this…”time you’re a villain, time you’re a thief, time you stole your love from me and now I’m….” well…you get the idea.  Time is what the Society is all about…that is, preservation of all the many items and memories that collectively make up our historical past.

One of those items from our historical past is Hellertown’s first jail.  If today you took a survey of Hellertown residents and asked the question “Where is Hellertown’s first jail located?” you will probably receive either blank stares or a sheepish “I didn’t realize Hellertown’s first jail was still in existence.”  Of course if the same question was asked of older, native Hellertonians the percentage of those in the know would probably increase.  

The jail, which is over 100 years old, has an interesting history.  The following is an excerpt from an article written by Alice Lesoravage that appeared in the February 1984 issue of the Morning Call:

Hellertown’s first jail built in 1872 by Thomas R. Laubach, the first chief burgess, is being donated to the Hellertown Historical Society.  It will be the society’s first building acquisition.

The stone jailhouse structure, located just off Penn Street along Silver Creek, is being donated by Elizabeth Hess of Hellertown, widow of the late Howard Hess, a borough mayor who served from 1946 to 1949 and a descendent of Laubach.  Hess, who also served as a Northampton County Commissioner, restored the landmark building and maintained it until his death last July.

The property and approximately 12 by 14 foot structure which served as the town lock-up for 28 years will be deeded to the society after the property is surveyed later this year, according to a society member.  It is believed that the jail, which was replaced by cells in the borough municipal building, was used primarily by transients and others who paid the borough for their stay by working on streets.

Unfortunately in the 32 years since this article was written, time has been a “villain” and the old lock-up is suffering the ill effects of a leaking roof and other weather-related damages.  

Because the jail is physically located some distance from the society’s main campus, maintenance of the structure and grounds is an on-going challenge that needs to be addressed and solved.  While moving the jail to society grounds has been explored, the costs incurred in such a move would be prohibitive and well beyond the society’s financial resources.

During the October Board of Directors’ Meeting the Board voted to make emergency repairs to the structure as soon as possible; and, to seek estimates for permanent repairs and restoration during 2016.  The Board also instructed that funds be allocated in the 2016 budget to accomplish these tasks.

Hellertown’s first jail is an important part of our community’s history and heritage.  We will keep you posted on progress of repair and restoration efforts via www.hellertownhistoricalsociety.org and 2016 issues of this newsletter.


Our website is taking us ‘Back to the Future’ - No one knows for sure how many local historical societies and small museums exist in the United States today.  Debbie Ann Doyle, a staff member at the American Historical Association, places the number at 10,000.  The majority of the local historical societies have budgets of under $25,000 per year, and 15% of these are staffed solely by volunteers.  

Miss Doyle, has just described the Hellertown Historical Society.  Our budget is very close to that number but is expanding, and our society is staffed solely by dedicated and resourceful volunteers.

Small historical societies - like ours - play an important role in preserving and protecting historical records, memorabilia, and devising ways to present the past to the public.  For decades bricks and mortar buildings and museums with revolving displays were the answer.  However, a more mobile society has seen demographics change and many “born and raised” locals have scattered across the United States and the world.  

This change in demographics has occurred in the Hellertown area, too.  In fact, it is very important that new local residents feel connected and a part of their community’s past.  New outreach methods were proposed…and the most successful has turned out to be the society’s website!

Since the website was established less than four years ago, there have been nearly 10,000 visits!  

Don Mills, the Hellertown Historical Society’s Webmaster, has done an excellent job presenting the many facets of the society’s buildings, grounds, and museum displays in an interesting and educational manner.  For those who are unable to visit in person, making the trip through Hellertown’s historical buildings via the website is the next best thing.

Watch for expansion plans…more and more access to Hellertown’s past is on the drawing board.

The part of the Hellertown Historical Society that places it above and beyond other historical societies of its size is the Tavern Room.  The Tavern Room is available for parties, meetings, showers, etc and generates donations that help bolster the society’s challenging budget.  The Tavern Room is prominently displayed on the website and has yielded a growing number of reservations.  According to Earl Hill, Tavern Room coordinator, “I am constantly receiving email requests from website visitors who are interested in reserving the Tavern Room for their next event.  The website has helped take reservations to the next level.”

The society’s website is just one tool being used to improve services to the community.  In fact you could say that Hellertown Historical Society, through use of technology, is rapidly coming “Back to the Future.”  Tools such as Past Perfect software (complex software used to record and track donated artifacts, membership, etc. in process of being obtained and implemented), use of email addresses, etc., are helping small historical societies (such as ours) meet future challenges head on.


HHS Welcomes New Director - During the July 2017 Board of Directors Meeting the Directors unanimously voted to welcome Larry Sutton as the newest member of the Board. Larry, a staunch supporter of Hellertown Historical Society and a valued volunteer and advisor, will be officially installed during the August Board of Directors meeting.

Originally from Western Pennsylvania, Larry, and his wife Kathy, have lived in Hellertown for over three years.  Larry is semi-retired, working as a business consultant (he was a Chief Financial Officer prior to retirement).  They have a son, three daughters, and five grandchildren.

Larry is very pleased to be living in Hellertown, and says it feels like home.  Community matters to him, and he feels that preserving history and preserving community are very important.


Tavern Room Usage is Up - Word of mouth continues to spread, the Tavern Room at the Heller-Wagner Grist Mill is the perfect venue for intimate social gatherings. The 2016 calendar is filling fast. If you are considering an event and use of the Tavern Room, now is the time to reserve your date. It may not be available if you wait.

Additional caterers have signed on as preferred partners in this exquisite venue. Patrons are also permitted the comfort of self-catering their own food.

The Tavern Room consists of two heated/air-conditioned rooms and amenities including a service sink, refrigerator, projection screen and Wi-Fi.

Click here for more information pertaining to the Tavern Room.


Memorials in Lieu of Flowers - We have seen a trend toward families of deceased ones suggesting family and friends send a donation to the Hellertown Historical Society. This is sincerely appreciated by our Society members. Should you have questions concerning “memorials in lieu of flowers” for your loved one, please discuss them with your funeral director. Often the director will arrange for funds to go directly to the Society which relieves this burden for the family. You may also contact the Society at 610-838-1770. The funds received through memorials are used to maintain, refurbish and repair the various buildings, grounds and artifacts within the Society’s possession or these funds may be earmarked for a special purpose. The Society Staff will gladly discuss plans for these funds with you.


Members’ Help Desired - If you haven’t heard, there is a plea for Society members to help with our overwhelming Newsletter printing cost. The costs for printing and sending a quality newsletter can be downright expensive -- averaging about $400-$500 per issue -- with postage being the largest bulk of this cost. However, there is a 21st century alternative -- email. We can design, create and issue the same quality newsletter in electronic form and send it to you, in a mass email, to all members who provide their email address. This would not only save on the postage costs, but would nearly eliminate the entire cost of printing numerous issues.

All you need to do is send your email address to the general email address for the Historical Society which is info@hellertownhistoricalsociety.org and we will add it to our mass emailing list. Those who share their email address, and are on the email list, will receive an electronic copy of the newsletter, and all other Society communications, in their personal email box…quickly, easily, and efficiently! All the Society needs is your email address! It’s that easy. And, you’ll be helping the Historical Society save production costs…funds that can be better utilized to help preserve Hellertown’s heritage. Your heritage! The Hellertown Historical Society will never divulge or sell an email address to other entities, third parties, or solicitors. You can be assured your email address will remain private and will be used only for Hellertown Historical Society related activities.

Of course, those who do not have email addresses would continue to receive printed copies of the newsletter and other communications. However, the number of recipients would be dramatically lower, and production costs would then be correspondingly lower for the Society.

We thank you in advance for your cooperation with this matter.


Volunteer & Internship Opportunities

The Hellertown Historical Society maintains and shares the history of the Heller-Wagner Grist Mill property, museum collections, and archives related to Hellertown.

We are seeking volunteers and interns for various rewarding positions. Opportunities are available in the following areas:

Development/Administrative: Outreach, special events, fundraising, membership initiatives, grant writing,                                                 and general department tasks.

Marketing: Marketing efforts and materials, desktop publishing, website, social media, and general department                  tasks.

Museum/Curatorial: Guest services, research, design and installation of exhibitions, and general department                                 tasks.

Educational programming: Research, program design and implementation, and general department tasks.

We appreciate any time or talents you can contribute.

Please contact us at 610-838-1770 or info@hellertownhistoricalsociety.org

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© 2014 - Hellertown Historical Society                                                    8/5/2017