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In 1752, Easton was named a shire town of Northampton County. The courts of the area were present in Easton. Wills and deed were also recorder there. At this time there were only 12 families in the town. The town was growing rapidly and by 1763, there were 63 houses. The fact that Easton was a shire town helped draw people into the area. The location at the junction of the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers helped as well.

As Easton grew, businesses began to flourish, unlike Allentown which was highly pastoral in its early years. The first bank of the area was established in Easton in 1800. The first turnpike in the Lehigh Valley, the Easton-Wilkes-Barre Turnpike, helped add to the growth of Easton’s population. Easton is also known to be the birthplace of the iron industry in the Lehigh Valley, with its origins in the Durham furnace. Easton also led the Valley in higher education as well. In 1832, the development of Lafayette College was underway.

Towards the end of the 19th century, Easton’s industrial activities were surpassed by surrounding plants in Catasauqua, Allentown, and Bethlehem. The population growth was less than that of the nearby towns. One factor that led to this is Easton’s close proximity to Philadelphia. It served as a point through which goods were shipped on the way to and from Philadelphia. Another factor is that iron ore deposits were closer to other developing towns in the valley, such as Bethlehem. Therefore, it no longer had such a connection to the iron industry as it once had.
After 1930, the population of Easton actually began to decline. By 1960, most of the town was composed of older citizens whose families had moved away when they were old enough. The economy of Easton had once depended on the coal and transportation industries. After 1920, coal, railroads, and the canal began to decline in economic importance.

Today, the city of Easton is preserving its rich history. The National Canal Museum is located in historic Easton. Here we can learn how canals once influenced the Lehigh Valley and also how they are still important today. A shad ladder has also been installed which enables these fish to once again be found in the waters of the Lehigh River (Hall and Hall, 1982).


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