1897 - 1972
History is the recorded story of time, places, and people. It is the intention to portray here in a few words what has gone on before - the “Historical Highlights of Holy Trinity” - a church built on a solid foundation over the past years.
So many people were involved over the years that there will be no undue emphasis on personalities. However, we do honor and hold in sacred memory the pastors and members who have brought us to thispresent time.
At the turn of the century, the area, of which Northampton Borough is a part, enjoyed considerable industrial expansion with a concurrent population growth. To provide for the spiritual needs of this growth the following Lutherans, residents of Northampton, and Pastor Hiram J. Kuder met in the Central School House on the evening of September 13, 1897, for the purpose of founding a Lutheran church in the vicinity:
T. M. Lichtenwalner
Dr. E. J. Klotz
T. A. Kleppinger
Charles W. Kleppinger
F. I. Roeth]ine
P. N. Remmel, Secy., pro tempore
A site for the church was selected at this meeting and a ninety day option was taken by P. N. Remmel on the lots offered by Edward H. Laubach and P. J. Laubach, as follows:
“All that certain triangular piece of land in Allen Township, Northampton County, Pa., lying between the trolley or electric railway property and the public road leading from Northampton to Kreidersvile, and commencing at the point of intersection of the electric railway and the said public road (intersection of Main St. and Laubach Ave.), extending between said roads to within forty (40) feet of the southern boundary line of lot of William F. Sheiry, embracing all the land between said boundaries.”
The first church council was also elected. Holy Trinity was on its way. The period from 1897 to 1908 is designated as the “Beginning and Pioneering Era”.
The latter part of 1897 was a busy time for the pioneers. A constitution and by-laws were written and accepted. The district was canvassed for members and money. Various churches were visited to get ideas and plans for a church building. A plan was presented and adopted. On October 24, 1897, the laying of the cornerstone was celebrated. A choir was formed and arrangements made to obtain hymnals.
1898 was an equally active year. Construction had progressed well and dedication services were held on February 6, 1898. The following were members when the church was dedicated:
John P. Anthony
Ellen S. Klotz
Thomas A. Kleppinger
I. Jane Kleppinger
Win. A. Kunkle
Delia A. Kunkle
T. M. Lichtenwalner
Clara B. Lichtenwalner
Albert E. Swoyer
Emma M. Smith
Win. J. Miller
V. Calvin Beers
Mamie A. Miller
Peter N. Remmel
Charles F. Werner
Chas. H. Reiter
Mary A. Kleppinger
Frank J. Roethline
Mary A. Roethline
Dr. E. J. Klotz
A Sunday School and a Ladies’ Aid Society were formed. An oil chandelier for the church proper and oil bracket lamps for the pulpit were installed for illumination. An organist was elected. A gun metal church bell was procured and paid for by the Ladies’ Aid Society in May 1898. The congregation was accepted by the Lutheran Conference at a meeting held in West Bethlehem.
The members loved and wanted good music at their services. A reed organ was installed and dedicated on September 17, 1899.
There was an evident need for auditorium space in the south end of the Borough. The church building was frequently rented by many groups, including the schools.
The members and church council were progressive and believed that the then new-fangled electric lighting was superior to oil for illumination. In 1902 money was collected from the members and the church wired for lighting.
The stoves used up to this time were not the best heating system and somewhat in disfavor with the members. In 1907 a warm air heating system was installed by Hersh & Bros. at a cost of $225.00.
Pastor Hiram J. Kuder administered to two other congregations besides Holy Trinity. He felt that with three churches not enough time was being given to the needs of Holy Trinity. At a special congregational meeting in 1908, it was voted unanimously to obtain a new pastor for Holy Trinity only and separate from the Howertown parish. The Rev. Joseph Stump, President of the Lutheran Conference, advised they could separate when it could be proved to the Conference (now Synod) that they could support a pastor.
Accordingly, Pastor Kuder resigned on August 31, 1908, and Pastor Hiram F. Sieger was elected the new pastor on October 11, 1908. Thus began the second period in Holy Trinity’s history - “Firm Foundation Building and Expansion.” This was to continue until April 24, 1942, when Pastor Sieger passed on to his heavenly home.
When Pastor Sieger came on the scene, two German services per month were held; these were reduced to one a number of months later. By 1918 German services were discontinued except for the Easter and Fall communion services. In 1920 they were discontinued entirely.
In 1909, the year following Pastor Sieger’s arrival, the Luther League and the Men’s Bible Class were started.
The church was incorporated in 1910 and the building of a parsonage was begun. It was completed in 1911.
During 1912 renovations and the enlargement of the basement took place. This work was done and paid for by the Men’s Bible Class.
For the next several years, times were hard in the Lehigh Valley and much attention was given to devise ways to better the financial condition of the church. The weekly duplex envelope system came out of these discussions. The liberality of the members was not dampened by the existing economic conditions.
Then came 1917 and World War I was upon us. The 20th Anniversary of the church founding was observed on Sunday, September 16, 1917, with a morning and an evening service. It was decided to join the Ministers’ Pension Fund during the year, thus instituting the first minister’s pension for Holy Trinity’s pastors. The financial secretary was instructed to give quarterly payment statements to each member.
The scarcity of coal for heating the church and parsonage became more acute in 1918, and at least one church service was suspended due to the lack of fuel. Most organizations took part in patriotic endeavors, and together several Sunday School classes presented a flag to the church with appropriate ceremony. The 20th Anniversary of the Ladies’ Aid Society and the choir were celebrated the early part of the year.
The decade of the 1920’s was filled with progressive activity for Holy Trinity. The constitution was revised and in 1921 and 1922 plans were made to sell $50,000.00 of 6% bonds to do the following:
- Build a parish house with gymnasium and sectional classrooms.
- Enlarge the church building.
- Install a new front, belfry, and art glass windows.
- Install a new Baptismal font.
- Purchase new furniture.
- Purchase a pipe organ in Allentown, move it, and reinstall it.
- (The organ cost $1,500 in Allentown).
The dedication of this work took place the week of December 9-15, 1923. It was a joyous occasion for the pastor and members - the fruition of a dream brought to reality. During the first two years of the decade, the Athletic Association and a junior choir came into being.
During the middle of the 1920’s, the nation and its people were enjoying an unparalleled time of economic prosperity. A telephone was installed in the parsonage. The 30th Anniversary of the church founding took place during the week of October 23, 1927. Pastor Sieger observed his 20th Anniversary at Holy Trinity in December 1928.
Late 1929 and the stock market crash were just around the corner. The country was to be plunged into the worst depression ever experienced. The church indebtedness was about $47,000. The state of thechurch treasury was such the pastor could not attend the Synod meeting at Scranton and performed the custodial work without compensation. Men from the congregation gathered coke from the coke pile atthe Atlas Cement Plant and from along their railroad tracks to secure fuel to heat the church. Out of necessity, the preparation of monthly financial church statements was begun.
In 1932 the church council reduced the interest on its bonded indebtedness from 6% to 4-1/2%. During the summer of 1934 self-preservation dictated that the payment of bond interest should cease entirely. These were difficult days for Holy Trinity, but the members never wavered in their support of Pastor Sieger. With the help of God the church pushed on.
The year 1936 saw the beginning of the Women’s Missionary Society. In 1938 other church organizations had their origin:
- Daily Vacation Bible School
- Ladies’ Bible Class
- Young Ladies’ Bible Class
- Intermediate Bible Class
- Mothers’ Association
- Boy Scout Troop #13
The Ladies’ Aid Society was reorganized into the Women’s Missionary Society with Mrs. Hiram Sieger as the first president.
The 40th Anniversary of the church founding and the Sunday School was observed in 1937. The rumblings of war were discernible in the far corners of the globe and were soon to embroil our country. Pastor Sieger guided the church at the beginning of World War II, but his untimely call by the angel of death on April 24, 1942, ended 34 years of fruitful and faithful service. The “Firm Foundation and Expansion”that he had envisioned for the church had been completed.
These Historical Highlights would be remiss if they did not bring to light the “firsts” established during Pastor Sieger’s ministry:
- First church in the area to hold Sunday School in the morning.
- First church in the area to have an outdoor bulletin board. First church in the area to furnish news to its members with a mimeotype rotary press.
- First visual education - with slides and motion pictures - when they were thought to be out of place in a church.
Pastor Ralph R. Hartzell succeeded Pastor Sieger on October 1, 1942, and served until November 30, 1947. Church commercialism was done away with and plans for renovation instituted. Nave renovations were begun when Pastor Hartzell answered a call to another charge.
Pastor Luther N. Schaeffer succeeded Pastor Hartzell. He arrived on the scene on June 1, 1948, and served until January 31, 1955. The renovations and repairs previously begun were completed. A massive campaign to free the church of debt was started under the dynamic leadership of Pastor Schaeffer. On December 31, 1950, we celebrated the freedom of debt for the first time since 1928. The “Improvement and Expansion” program for Holy Trinity was under way.
1954 saw the installation of a church office, the main Sunday School room refumished and redecorated, the basement and fellowship hail repainted, the parsonage and church exterior repainted, a new roof on the Sunday School building, the church masonry pointed, a concrete driveway laid, and the parsonage kitchen modernized. While all this good work for Holy Trinity was going along in good form, the Board of American Missions also saw in Pastor Schaeffer just the qualifications needed to develop missions and new churches in Florida. On January 31, 1955, he accepted that challenge. The first chapter of his pastorate at Holy Trinity had ended.
On June 1, 1956, Pastor John B. Bergstresser accepted a call to Holy Trinity and served until February 28, 1958. During his short pastorate a $10,000 Allen electric organ was installed, $5,000 of which was paid off by the time he left. The constitution was changed to provide for an alternating church counciL
On Palm Sunday 1958 the largest membership attending any regular service re-elected Pastor Schaeffer by a large majority and he was recalled to Holy Trinity. The second chapter of his pastorate was to begin, and the program of “Improvement and Expansion” was to continue. The remaining $5,000 organ debt was paid off, the new Service Book and Hymnal of the Lutheran Church in America was put into use, the picture for the nursery department, the vestments for both choirs, the altar service book, the tract rack, the lectern and pulpit Bible, the red choir anthem books, the tables and chairs for the nursery, the addition of steel folding chairs, the folding machine, the painting of the nave and chancel, the installation of the baptistry, new front doors, new front sidewalks and curbing, a storage shed, and the painting of the parsonage were completed. The weekday school program of Pastor Schaeffer was adopted and junior choir activities were organized.
The 65th Anniversary of the church founding was held on October 14, 1962. During this anniversary year the following renovations were completed: choir rooms, nursery, offices, meeting room, fellowship hail, rest rooms, new kitchen, stage and storage closets, and safety items required by the State of Pennsylvania.
During the early 1960’s a new church constitution was adopted, the church property appraised for replacement cost, adequate property and liability insurance provided, health benefit insurance and an updated pension plan for the pastor instituted.
In 1965 part of the parsonage interior was repaired and painted. On May 1, 1966, the mortgage burning ceremony took place - the church debt of $38,853 had been paid off.
In 1968 Holy Trinity was among the Protestant churches of Northampton that cooperated with the Roman Catholic churches in holding the first ecumenical service in the Borough. On June 5, Wednesday evening after Pentecost, the first Christian United Service was held in Our Lady of Hungary Roman Catholic Church. Our own Pastor Schaeffer preached the sermon. Eight ministers and priests conducted the service. A second Christian United Service was held on Reformation Sunday evening, October 27, 1968, in Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Very Reverend Monsignor Stephen Chehansky, St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church, preached the sermon, with ten ministers and priests leading the service. A third Christian United Service was held on Pentecost evening, May 25, 1969, in St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church. The Reverend Ralph Althouse of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ preached the sermon for two evening services (6:00 and 8:00 P.M.) and ten ministers and priests led the services. A fourth Christian United Service was held at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ on November 22, 1970, with the Right Reverend Monsignor Joseph F. May, Our Lady of Hungary Roman Catholic Church, preaching the sermon, and eight ministers and priests leading the service.
On Pentecost Sunday, May 21, 1972, the fifth Christian United Service was held in the auditorium of Our Lady of Hungary Roman Catholic School in which six ministers and priests participated. This was followed by a question and answer period by a panel of two clergymen and two laymen. Our own Pastor Schaeffer served on the panel and Father Thomas Kerestus was the moderator.
These services appeared to be well received by all church members and speak for the good feeling existing between the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches.
During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s the following improvements were made:
- The church parlor was completed.
- Fans for the church were provided.
- Some church exterior and parsonage painting took place.
- New lighting was installed in the classrooms.
- South side of the fellowship hall was painted.
- Renovations to first floor of the parsonage were made.
- A new heating boiler installed in the parsonage.
- New roofs were provided for the church building, Sunday School building and the parsonage.
The roofs for the buildings necessitated a $20,000 bank loan which was to be reduced to about $10,000 by the end of 1972. This was the only outstanding obligation the church had at this time.