My first column in the Northampton Press was published in 1998. Since that first column, hundreds have been written with my trusty No. 2 Farber pencil.
I have always regarded the many people I have had the privilege to interview as not just columns, but friends.
Today, we go back and have memories from the birth of the Northampton Press. On this 20-year journey, my good friend Larry Oberly has taken thousands of photographs, a catalog of local history.
Volunteer fire companies are comprised of dedicated men and women who provide valuable services to our communities. They spend countless hours in training, preparing to protect our citizens from fire and natural disasters.
I was given some rare photographs of the Alliance Fire Company from one of my fine former students, Ruth Miller. Ruth, for years, has owned a well-known Northampton insurance agency. Both her father and mother were active in the Alliance Fire Company and the ladies auxiliary.
The Coplay Cement Company had a long and prestigious history. Founded by David Saylor, it operated in the Borough of Coplay from 1866 to 1978. As the years passed, the plant’s equipment slowly became obsolete. The company had to make a serious decision: Should they modernize, should they construct a new plant or should they sell to a company that could resurrect the aging facility?
In this eighth column, I continue to recall the days when the Allentown State Hospital Farm graced 800 acres in East Allen Township.
One of the former employees was the late Mr. Harold Yohn, of Walnut Street in Weaversville. Harold was a close friend of this writer. His daughters, Nancy Eberts of East Allen Township, and Edith, were fine students over at Northampton High School.
In today’s column, Mr. John McDevitt, former assistant manager of the Allentown State Hospital Farm in Weaversville, recalls its sad closing:
Today, I am continuing to look back over 25 years ago, when the Allentown State Hospital operated an 800-acre farm in East Allen Township. Mr. John McDevitt, the former assistant manager, is sharing information from an article he wrote years ago.
The farm started in 1919 to supply food and milk to a number of state institutions. It also provided therapy for a number of patients. But slowly, change brought an end to the farm operation — beginning with the Institutional Peonage Abolishment Act.
In this column, I am continuing to “remember” the Allentown State Hospital farm in Weaversville with Mr. John McDevitt, the former assistant manager.
In 1981, I placed my United States history book in the corner and worked with my former students Gary Krill and Bernie Cesanek on the farm, planting and harvesting during the spring and summer seasons.
Residents know John as a longtime, dedicated East Allen Township firemen.
John shared this history of the farm with me for my readers.
Recently, I had the pleasure of renewing an old friendship with a gentleman who I worked for 25 years ago at the Allentown State Hospital farm. Many East Allen residents know him as a dedicated fireman at the East Allen Township Fire Company. His name: Mr. John McDevitt.
John was raised in Feasterville, Bucks County, and graduated from Father Judge High School. He later earned an agricultural degree from Penn State University. The young man gained employment as assistant farm manager at the Weaversville farm.
In looking through my endless volumes of cement history, I found a photograph that will bring back memories to our loyal readers.
This is a flashback to the famous Dragon Cement Company. The plant anchored the former village of Siegfried, now Northampton’s first ward. What an era it was!
At one time, you were in walking distance to the Atlas Portland Cement Company Plants 2, 3 and 4, Whitehall Cement, Dragon, Coplay, Lehigh Portland in West Coplay, Giant, Egypt and Lehigh Portland in Ormrod. Thousands of men and women supported their families by working at the plants.
Today, I am speaking to Mr. Terry Reppert of Laurys Station, Lehigh County. Terry was born in Northampton and has a keen interest in local history. His grandmother Florence Kleppinger was a member of a prominent family who operated a flourishing market on Main Street in Northampton many years ago.
The family’s roots can be traced to the Palatinate area of Germany. John George and Margaretta Kleppinger came to America in 1739 in search of a better life. They first settled in Trappe, Montgomery County.